Mike Gordon @ State Theatre, Falls Church, VA 8/12/08

This guest post is by Aaron Baum, who went to see Mike Gordon’s new project and got a ton of great photos (see his full gallery here).

I didn’t have much of a bias going into the night, I was just hoping for some good music and Mike Gordon was just what the doctor ordered. I have not picked up a copy of Green Sparrow as of yet, so all the new songs I was hearing for the first time. I am happy to see the direction that Gordo has been heading lately. His previous incarnations of bluegrass (Ramble Dove), folk (tour w/ Leo Kottke), and experimental jazz (The Duo w/ Gordo) all were missing the fun element that he was able to convey last night at the State Theater.

With his fellow bandmates, Cactus was able to paint a fun, cheery soundscape that kept the crowd into it from the first note to the last. During the first jam, he shared some banter with the audience about how he wanted this to be an interactive show. He proceeded to instruct us on how we were to use hand signals to change the tempo and octaves and move the music in the direction that the audience wanted the music to go. As the night progressed, Mike and his band delved deeper into complicated layers of groove.

The chemistry is right with this group of musicians and they played their perspective roles brilliantly onstage. About halfway through the set, the moment we were all there to witness, finally came to fruition. The jam went from a jam-rock vibe into the stacatto of a reggae jam and the band busted into “Makisupa Policeman.” This was not your typical Makisupa that we are familiar with, but rather a faster, cleaner one. There were actual lyrics after “woke up this morning” rather than just a weed-related keyword and the band proceeded to keep this fun, bouncy feeling thoughout the song.

The rest of the set was filled with tasty moments where individual members of the band had their time in the spotlight, all the while knowing their role and respecting the fact that the audience was truly here to see Mike Gordon as the bandleader. Quite a weird site, to see Mike actually lead a band instead of just play in the pocket, but he managed to pull this off in his weird, nervous, egoless way that we all have come to know and love. By the end of the night, the audience was left wondering if this was just a launchpad into a new chapter in Mike’s musical career or simply a way for him to shape up his musical chops in preparation for the much anticipated Phish reuinion that everyone is now convinced is bound to happen. Whatever the case may be, it was a pleasure to be there to witness this moment and I look forward to seeing what direction this musical exploration will continue moving in.