Concert Recap: Mickey Hart Band @ Tipitina’s French Quarter – 4/27/12

Review by John Stephens

The night began an anxious mystery, with the Mickey Hart Band coming on a bit later than planned (in grand NOLA style), leaving us patrons of Tipitina’s French Quarter to wonder how on earth the multitude of strange electronics, wires and boxes and amps, would be tamed by the oncoming masters of sound. Not to mention the leopard-skin trumpet, which, in all cases, points to primordial weirdness, to the harnessing of instinctual splendor. There were folk of all ages, those sincere, tie-dye veterans of the Dead era, and then plenty of youthful cadets curious and enthralled with the approaching performance of legendary magnitude. As the crowd amassed, a blissful, grey-haired lady came onto the venue floor, twirling and grinning and celebrating the delight of a timeless spirit – here, we left our ages at the door.

Then the lights went down, and, after a brief-yet-endearing greeting from Mickey, on came the aural bombardment of pure joy, beginning with “Not Fade Away,” a treasure piece. Hockenberry, behind his zebra-print keyboard, howled at the crowd, “I wanna tell you how it’s gonna be, you’re gonna give your love to me,” and, god bless, he was right. From the moment their instruments rang, our love was for the taking. As set seamless foundations with his gently thunderous bass, entwined with the motion-demanding percussive reckonings, the band took us from the most monumentally bright sensations of classic Dead ecstasy, to and through the harrowing, mind-capturing realms of Mysterium Tremendum, and then back into immortal ballads of the Grateful Dead. From “Franklin’s Tower” to “Time Never Ends” (we wished it wouldn’t), we were weaving in and out of the past and future, flawlessly to and fro to the pure vibrations of Mickey and his crew.

Guitarist Gawain Matthews was as genuine as it could get, controlling the fret board like an effortless fanatic as he knitted all emotions into our hearts, from melancholic, wailful bends to the smooth, cheerful scales that sent the room time and time again into soul-felt sensations. And beautiful Crystal Monee, with her intoxicating vocals, sang like a goddess the language of planets, moving from microphone to microphone and sending her voice throughout astral reverbs and delays. As a group, the band was untouchable – their presence was like some feverous black hole, a mystifying vacuum pulling us towards them, enticing a one-in-a-lifetime journey. As fellow space-traveler Michael Wren said, while starring at the stage, “They say novelty is the spice of life – this is novelty.”

Further into the night, another highly enthused patron (and a veteran of nearly a dozen Dead shows) bore his soul to me, explaining that, while the classics that the band was playing were incredible and heartfelt, he enjoyed the new stuff even better. “[Mickey] is on to something,” he told me, and he couldn’t have been more accurate. The Mickey Hart Band had it all, from the crowd-rousing rendition of “Fire on the Mountain” (which I must say was one of the most inspiring performances of any song I have ever heard in my life), to Mysterium Tremendum’s totally far out musical representations of the universe, this was a show for the ages. From behind his control panel of puzzling percussive instruments, Hart orchestrated the outward odyssey, throwing his arms in all directions, grinning and laughing with the band, compelling their magnetic invitation to celebrate the infinite energy of life.

SET LIST:

Not Fade Away
Let There be Light (M.T.)
Franklin’s Tower
Who Stole the Show (M.T.)
This One Hour (M.T.)
Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
Heartbeat (M.T.)
Scarlet Begonias
Train
Fire on the Mountain
Supersonic Vision (M.T.)
Slow Joe (M.T.)
Cut the Deck (M.Y.)
Bertha