By: Chason Heins
Photos By: Andrew Blackstein
After nearly two years off, the Mike Gordon Band is finally back on the road, touring nationally in support of their newest album “Overstep.” This five-piece band led by a man who may be best known for his powerful bass lines as a founding member of the legendary jam band Phish, seems to have picked up right where they left off. Made up of Todd Isler, Craig Myers, Tom Cleary and Scott Murawski this is a band who fully loves being up on the stage and it’s apparently clear throughout the evening. Lead by Gordon, this crew seems capable of playing anything they want, whenever they want and doing so effortlessly.
Rolling into New York City’s Webster Hall with only one show under their belts, I was curious to see how the evening would unfold and was extremely satisfied with what took place. The band wasted little time getting the crowd into the evening starting off with the beautifully flowing base line and quirky lyrics of “Tiny Little World.” Played for the first time, this new tune delivers a welcoming little groove that seemed to be the perfect choice to draw the crowd in and start off the show. One of my favorite moments of the first set happened to be the second song in “Yarmouth Road” also off the new album. This reggae infused ditty which has already made several appearances on Phish tour fit well in this second spot, filling the dancing crowd with an energy and vibe that held throughout the evening. The first set was a well delivered mixture of new and old offering exceptional versions of new tunes such as “Surface” which delivered a strong syncopated ending to this powerful tune. Older tunes such as “Radar Blip” off of Green Sparrow, included driving bass which was eagerly welcomed by the audience. The band delivered a highlight to the first set with a beautifully rendered cover of “Are You a Hypnotist,” a Flaming Lips tune that could have been written just for this band with it’s fitting bass lines and unique vocals.
The second set continued on with the theme of the evening mixing it up evenly including “Morphing Again” also off the Green Sparrow album. This song seemed to take off giving the band a chance to stretch their legs and jam this one out much to the delight of the crowd. This set also managed to deliver two Phish tunes, the first being a long shelved “Spock’s Brain” which sent those who were aware of what they were hearing into an excited frenzy. The second being a song debuted over Halloween named “555.” This tune which will likely found on the bands upcoming studio release was my favorite of the evening, taking a deep rather dark approach to this jam allowing the song to truly shine leaving me wanting more before it was even finished.
Seeing Gordon fronting a band is a role that fits him very well. Gordon took full advantage of this as he thanked the folks at ATO records for their help in releasing this album and even took a moment to discuss his new lighting set up that is centered on moiré patterns. Mike and his band bring a whole new flair to the stage offering up everything from light up bass and guitars to a fully interactive percussion rig located on the front of the stage. This rig looked like a large keyboard that spread from end to end of the stage, allowing fans to hit or tap on the individual keys as they lit up creating percussion based sounds along with the band. This is not something I have ever witnessed before allowing for a whole new level of crowd participation and just adding to the overall appeal of the evening. This band finds a way to make their overall show as enjoyable and entertaining as the music they create. Promising an evening full of fun for all in attendance night after night, making me want to just hop in the car and follow this tour as it travels the US.
Check out more of Andrew Blackstein’s phenomenal photography here.