Friday, August 15, 2008

Bass Phishing: Mike Gordon At The HighLine Ballroom

By: David Schultz

Bassists generally don’t attract much of a crowd on their own. Other than Paul McCartney and Sting and possibly Victor Wooten, bassists usually don’t have the star power to front a band on their own. Phish fans would include Mike Gordon in that category and for the most part, they are probably right. With a diverse solo repertoire that includes devoted honky-tonk rambles and skillful collaborations with Leo Kottke, you may not know exactly what you’re going to get with a Gordon show except that it will be pretty damn good. You can also get really excited every time they bring out a microphone or guitar stand cause you think Trey might be showing up. This past Wednesday night, Mike Gordon moved his way into the solo bassist pantheon with a variegated set at New York City’s HighLine Ballroom.

Playing before a packed to the rafters HighLine, Gordon kept the set lively, focusing on selections from his recently released Green Sparrow. His band, featuring frequent bandmate Scott Murawski (guitar), Tom Cleary (keyboards), Todd Isler (drums) and Craig Myers (percussion), helped Gordon keep the new tunes moving along with a typical Phishy bounce and when they locked into a groove really got the crowd moving. In contrast, they lost the feel at the fringes of the jams with the music wandering as if looking for a nesting spot. During the early parts of the night, Isler had the audience in his sway but yielded as the show expectedly drifted more towards string based tunes.

Gordon kept the night fresh by sprinkling some covers throughout the set. In addition to a quick perfunctory run through The Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It To The Streets,” Gordon trotted out his cover of “She Said, She Said” but saved the real whimsy for a lengthy take on “Things That Make You Go Mmmmm.” It takes a good band to give life to studio creations like those created by the C&C Music Factory and Gordon and his mates were quite up to the task, receiving a hand from The Bridge’s Kenny Liner in the process.

The bassist devoted a decent part of the show to featuring members of The Bridge, the night’s opening band. In the middle of the show, Gordon brought out guitarist Cris Jacobs as well as banjo player Andy Cartoun for a pair of songs reminiscent of Gordon’s Ramble Dove project. For the encore, the entire band joined Gordon’s for a run through Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon.” Although it was nice to showcase The Bridge in such a large role, the set started to lose its focus once Gordon tried to spread the field.

Gordon will be taking this band on the road for the next month playing shows across the United States. Afterwards - as long as he has nothing announced – he’ll help fuel rumors of the heavily-awaited, psychotically-anticipated Phish reunion.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!