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Photos by Brad Kuntz
Mike Gordon came to Asheville recently. The mere mention gathers hoards of Phish and Jamband fans alike to a single room, at the nearly sold out show at The Orange Peel. A snowy night made way for Mike and his band. Mike Gordon has been shoring up the details of a new solo album and a five-week tour. On this Thursday night, those months of preparation coalesced. Gordon greeted the shoulder-to-shoulder fans with his flock of seagulls-esque haircut before diving into a nearly two-hour set comprised almost entirely of solo work. It wasn’t until about halfway through the set that he threw in a dark rendition of “Spock’s Brain” penned by Gordon- a long-shelved rarity filled with prog-rock twists and changes that seemed to fit right in for Gordon and his band.
But while many fans came dressed in lot wear from Gordon’s influential jam band, it was clear they weren’t expecting a Phish-infused show. Throughout much of the first set, the band seemed to be playing around with new ideas and material, treating the crowd as its own personal petri dish.
The group patiently felt itself out for the first few songs as it struggled with minor sound issues on stage. But by the time they roared into “Only a Dream” halfway through the set, any apprehension had vanished.
“555,” a new Phish song, went the opposite route, Murawksi leading a darker funk-rock excursion with a distorted-wah tone—and “Long Black Line.” But for the Phish fans in the room, the surprise of the night was a bust out of the aforementioned “Spock’s Brain.”
Overstep, gave way for new visual technologies which were used throughout the two-set show. The former included a “Surface” with a syncopated-jam section and a show-closing “Long Black Line” with a long improvisation that settled on many themes between Gordon, guitarist Scott Murawksi and keyboard player Tom Cleary. It also included light-up guitars and a set of depth perception plaything with lighting. While all of these toys were great to hear and fun to look at, it was clear watching the Phish bassist guide his solo project throughout the night that the band was one big plaything for Gordon.
The set list with its myriad jams and straight bouncers coexist with equal dexterity. And the highlight cover of the night was a rendition of the “Hand in my Pocket” by Alanis Morisette was a perfect fit for the band with its bass-driven, off-center melody, and high female vocals.
While “Nap Happy” had serious “Sandman” teases.
Mike Gordon, Scott Murawski, Craig Myers, Tom Cleary, and Todd Isler are a smorgasbord of unrelenting talent. Mike joined by Phish is another thing in its entirety, and once you see him out of context, his true talent is revealed.
The crowd ate it up as they had all night, clearly thankful that Gordon is the kind of kid who shares his toys with others. I can’t wait for another Mike tour and look forward to seeing the fans he adores so much.
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