Mike Gordon Brings New Music to Two-Set Show at Webster Hall
June 19, 2023
Mike Gordon – Webster Hall – June 17, 2023
As Phish continue to deliver tour after tour of insanely good, how-are-these-guys-still-hitting-at-this-level shows, their side pursuits also continue to thrive, getting somehow richer and more interesting all the while. There’s more than enough musical spark and ideas to mess with to keep everyone hella busy, and Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band, which manages a tour every few years in between big Phish swings, is, in this 2023 incarnation, ever-quirkier, ever-more varied and ever-more intense, especially live.
This band now feels like a mutant version of earlier versions, hitting the spot that connects Phish-y esoterica, offbeat indie rock and groovy electro-pop, playing with a wider range of sounds than Gordon has had before and pushing into territory only hinted at on previous Gordon albums like 2017’s OGOGO and 2014’s Overstep. That would be the music on 2023’s Flying Games, which is go-for-it, spaghetti-against-the-wall stuff. Even its quiet songs are aggressive and flaunt their big sonics. (This is deliberate on the bassist’s part: In a recent interview on Cory Wong’s podcast, for example, Gordon talks about wanting a flow of exotic, weird sounds that aren’t weird for weird’s sake but push some envelopes — “check your tastefulness” at the door, as he said he’s been known to urge collaborators.)
You feel that abandon in this music, which dominated a two-set headline by Gordon’s band at Webster Hall on Saturday. The five-piece crawled all over the new material, leading off with a three-song sequence of “Connected,” “Haywire” and “Mull,” continuing throughout the rest of the show, layering in brainy-but-big-rhythm dance-rockers like “Sughn Never Sets,” “Revolution of the Mind” and “Pure Energy.” Drummer John Morgan Kimock and percussionist Craig Myers had a supple pocket with Gordon. Guitarist Scott Murawski brought his typically sinewy attack, and new-recruit Rachel Eckroth — aboard for this tour while Gordon regular Robert Walter is out with Roger Waters — shaded it all nicely from a stage-left island of keyboards, stepping out at one point to lead one of her own songs.
Around the new tunes came other Gordon chestnuts like “Say Something” and the shimmering, frayed-edge pop of “Steps,” and some natty covers, including Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing.” There were also a few tasteful borrows from Phish-land: the newer “A Wave of Hope” — done here with a more pronounced attack than Phish offers it — and the much older “Carini,” Phish’s classic “evil” rocker with Murawski well-minding its tooth-breaking crunches of guitar. Guests joined: Touchingly, Gordon’s teenage daughter, Tessa, who sang the first two tunes of a three-song encore that also included a gnarly three-piece horn section. It built toward that “Carini,” where a lot was going on in the span of about four minutes, but this band likes a lot going on in small spaces, and easily convinces you that you do, too. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | @Silvia_Saponaro