Live: Chatting with Phish's Mike Gordon | Music

Live: Chatting with Phish's Mike Gordon


"Oh, hey, thanks for coming to my show!"
  • "Oh, hey, thanks for coming to my show!"

Mike Gordon

Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh

Monday, Sept. 14

In a gravely, commanding voice, Phish bassist Mike Gordon encouraged his fans to do away with the dull and "get bassed" during his month-long club tour. At $20 a head, no one was, to pun, free-bassing it at Lincoln Theatre Monday. Still, considering Gordon is fresh off the summer Phish reunion tour where three-figure bidding wars and "Buddy, I need a miracle" signs were common, it sure felt that way.

For Gordon, who leads a drum, percussion, keyboard and guitar ensemble, the tour gives him a chance for a much more personal show: "It's really fun to get to hang out with people on stage," he said after the show, a line of 30 waiting to meet him at the merch table. "The sound is all tight. The walls are closer. I like big venues, too, but I like mixing it up. It's a whole different experience."

Aside from the right-on-top-of-you crowd, there were several other key differences between tonight's gig and a summer Phish bill. Consider the number of glowing objects, for instance: At the Lincoln, only one guy with a blue rope-light-like pair of glasses glowed, rather than the thousands generally engaged in a glow stick war. And instead of playing lookout with grass-stained jeans, concertgoers were greeted at the door by Gordon. No pictures, as that would have taken forever, but ticket stubs were signed by the plenty. Sure, the segues weren't as crisp, and the guitar solos not as invigorating, but that's to be expected when stacked up against the modern leaders of jam. Hey, Wings wasn't The Beatles...

Once the levels were corrected, Gordon's group offered the familiar head-rolling space trance that fans of the genre have come to expect. Gordon and guitarist Scott Murawski energized the crowd with synchronized heels-to-ass jumps. Keyboard player Tom Cleary was the band's anchor all night. In fact, despite the name, "Mike Gordon" was far less Gordon-centered that one might expect. Murawski and Cleary sang lead vocals for more than half of the couple-hour-long, one-set show. Gordon wants to use a different name soon.

"I have a list about 1,000 band names, and 50 are good ones. Most of them are taken," he said, his graying hair mushrooming over his brow. "I really want to find one that resonates. I'd like it to be a band, not just in a sense. To have a name united."

The jams offered a mix of ominous, sinister sounds and Paul Simon-esque vocals. Gordon's bass varied from his typical, in- the-background crunchy time keeping to a synthesized version that sounded as if Peter Frampton came alive as a bassist.

Openers Rubblebucket Orchestra—which featured a brass section along with two drummers, a bass, guitar, and a keyboard—were an early treat. A high-energy, funky group with a trumpet player sporting a Bebop and Rocksteady-style mullet, they even hopped off stage, marching with horns and circling the bar. The group is doing two shows with Gordon, who shares a percussionist with the Orchestra. Cleary taught members of the orchestra at the University of Vermont. For lead vocalist and saxophone player Kalmia Traver, getting the "good show guys" commendation from Gordon was humbling.

"It's awesome to have that," she said, beaming. "I'm just so proud of my state and so proud of Phish for making a market for it."


Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh

Monday, Sept. 14


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