Greener Pastures: To the Spheres and Back with Mike Gordon
Halfway through “Dig Further Down,” the second song of the night, I realize I’ve been duped. I have failed, and failed abysmally, to expect the unexpected. Having digested Moss, I had anticipated something way more precious—perhaps a certain world music politeness or studious quality to the band’s sound. Instead, I’m receiving a proper rock and roll rogering.
My wife tugs on my shirt sleeve approvingly, as if to say this band means business!
But Gordon’s demeanor is even more unexpected. Onstage with Phish, he is all economy of motion and often seems to fall almost perfectly still as if entranced. In this band, he is physically kinetic—squaring off alternately with each of the other players to make eye contact, smile, whoop with encouragement and even jump up and down spontaneously when moved by the groove. The end of each song brings eruptions of applause that seem to set him on his heels with gratitude.
In short, Mike’s bandleader shoes fit, well, like a glove.
Not that Gordon hogs the spotlight. On the contrary, he gives all of his bandmates ample opportunity to step out and shine.
Murawski’s frequent but tasteful solos entwine with the bass lines in much the same telepathic fashion as those of Gordon’s “other guitarist,” although, stylistically, there is no mistaking one for the other. Murawski nimbly navigates the furious fretting of “Sugar Shack” with little evident effort.
Cleary and Myers each deliver second set show stoppers. Cleary takes over vocal duties with his side-splittingly funny blues “Miss My Mind,” and Myers astonishes the audience during his instrumental “River Niger” with bliss-inducing tones from his n’goni (a harp-like African instrument that he crafted by hand and strung with high-test fishing line). During “River Niger,” lighting director Jason “Liggy” Liggett (Yonder Mountain String Band, Wilco) splashes thousands of green stars against the backdrop of the stage, suggesting a jungle at twilight. It’s a genuinely lovely moment.
The crowd reserves its most thunderous applause of the night for the band’s brash and greasy reading of Tower of Power’s “Down to the Nightclub.”
Hours before, while writing the set list, Gordon asked me if I knew the tune.
“I don’t,” I responded.
“Good,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything too obvious.”
As the crew breaks down the band’s gear and Gordon signs his last few autographs, I find myself lamenting the day’s end. If I were younger and freer, then I’d jump into a car and follow the band up to San Francisco.
However, I’m not. So I thank Gordon for being so unusually generous with his time and wish him a successful tour. By the time the day’s adrenaline wears off and I succumb to sleep, he’ll be halfway to San Francisco with 16 more gigs, thousands of miles and countless surprises still stretched out before him.
And, no doubt, a few unplanned stops among the spheres.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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