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Archive for the ‘Mike Gordon’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GroundUP FAMILY DINNER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #103 (October 27, 2020).

This is a sort of family affair Tiny Desk (multiple Home) concert.  The family is the GroundUP label.

This three-act, 18-person Tiny Desk (home) concert was conceived by Michael League, Snarky Puppy’s composer and bandleader. He and his cadre of artists on the GroundUP record label believe in two important points: that music and politics are inextricably linked, and the best way to connect people is through song.

The first song, “Heather’s Letters To Her Mother.” is a beautiful folk song that’s mostly Becca Steven and her guitar.  But there’s some beautiful subtle  piano from Brad Mehldau and simple but very effective bass from Chris Tordini.  I really liked this song with its ever so true refrain “This is not the America I know” and I liked it even more when I heard what it was all about.

The concert features three distinct ensembles, beginning with Becca Stevens and her song “Heather’s Letters To Her Mother.” “I wrote this for Heather Heyer, who was killed on August 12, 2017, while peacefully protesting the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville,” she says. “In my heart this song has always been a rallying cry to come from a place of compassion in our actions and reactions. It’s a reminder to continue the fight for equality from a determined and compassionate stance regardless of what is happening around us. And it’s a reminder to stay grounded in love because without a foundation of love we are truly lost.”

I was surprised that the second song was in a language I didn’t know.

The second song features League’s world music group Bokanté performing the Creole song “Réparasyon,” meaning “reparations.” Bokanté vocalist Malika Tirolien wrote the song, which appears on the band’s Grammy-nominated album What Heat. “With the rise of black liberation movements around the world, this is a crucial time to remind everyone that people of African descent need the slave trade officially recognized as a crime against humanity and need reparations and restitutions of stolen goods,” Tirolien says. “Getting justice is the only way we can begin a process of forgiveness and healing.”

This song is amazing with some absolutely fantastic solos throughout. The song starts out with four, yes four, percussionists playing a pumping rhythm: Keita Ogawa, Jamey Haddad, André Ferrari, and Weedie Braimah.

Then bassist Michael League follows the same rhythm making it a melody.  Three guitars join in.  A lap steel from Roosevelt Collier and more guitars from Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bob Lanzetti and Chris McQueen one of whom plays a fantastic ethereal solo in the middle of the song.  It’s followed by a hand drum solo After a little bass solo one of the frummers (the one with the full kit) amusingly hits a tiny cymbal to get the song moving again.

Alina Engibaryan introduces the final song “We Are.”    She explains that the song

strives to bring people together, “I wanted to write a song that has a message about people, where regardless of our beliefs, our political views, our race, color, we are all human beings and made of the same thing,” Engibaryan says. “I hope people will understand that one day and will learn to love, respect and accept one another.”

It’s a time when hate has reached its limits.

It opens with gentle piano from Taylor Eigsti and some soft but complex drumming from Eric Harland. Chris Potter plays an introductory saxophone melody.  Alina Engibaryan playing Rhodes and Moog bass sings the first verse (and is backed up by Michael League).  Then in a surprise, Gregory Porter jumps in to sing the middle verse.

Whether or not this was meant as an introduction to the bands on the label, it is a terrific way to experience them in a short time with great songs.

[READ: December 5, 2020] “Fast Hands, Fast Feet”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 5. Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of We Cast a Shadow, refuses to part with his cassette collection.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This is the kind of story that I knew I wouldn’t like because of the way it started.

Sentences like “Who still on cassettes, anyway? What year they think this is, 1980?” made me knew it wasn’t really meant for me.

But still, the story was engaging.

A young girl (woman?) has been breaking into cars, looking for something valuable.  A man spies her and tells her it’s cool, but she’s not about to wait and see what he’s all about.

She runs (“fast feet”) for the underpass where she and Queen Elizabeth Two call home.  But while she is settling in, a hand grabs her.  It’s the same man.  She panics but he calms her down. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LEO KOTTKE AND MIKE GORDON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #100 (October 21, 2020).

I’ve enjoyed Mike Gordon’s playing with Phish and his solo records for years. But I’ve never really explored his recordings with Leo Kottke.

It’s been 15 years since the legendary guitarist Leo Kottke put out a new recording, and it’s no coincidence that his new music is with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. The two have a history of making albums together, but that hit a hiatus in 2005 with their Sixty Six Steps projectThey’re back with a 2020 album, Noon, and Phish drummer Jon Fishman joins the duo.

They open with “Flat Top,” a fantastic instrumental with lots of melodic runs.

They begin with what fans of Leo Kottke fell in love with 50 years ago, the sound of his acoustic guitar fingerpicking. Mike Gordon punctuates the opening song “Flat Top,” which at moments feels like a musical chase.

Mike plays his five string bass like a lead instrument, either playing a kind of counterpoint to Leo’s guitar melodies or even following them along beautifully.

Jon Fishman is a tasteful addition. Mike and Jon have played over 2,000 shows together, so there’s telepathy there. Still, he also finds ways into the music that isn’t merely rhythmic; he adds aural atmospherics with brushes in hand. There are some fun visual tricks but — musically speaking — not a moment of trickery. Just pure magic.

Before “The Only One” Leo’s phone rings and he talks about his friend Sam.  He met Sam when they played poker.  Sam told Leo his two pair beat Leo’s three of a kind.  “On such rip-offs life long friendships are made.”  Mike introduces Fish (“he’s my hero”) who is playing in the studio downstairs from Mike.

Introducing the song, Leo says, the name “The Only One” sounds better than “How to Be an Asshole,” I gotta admit.

There’s plenty of picking in this song as we’l, but its also got some gentle singing from Kottke, harmonies from MIke and gentle drumming from Fish.  The middle solo section is a wonderful moment where both Leo and Mike play complementary solos.

And while they’re miles apart for this Tiny Desk (home) concert, Leo at Creation Audio in Minneapolis and Mike and Jon at Tank Recording Studio in Burlington, Vt., there’s plenty of humor and spirit traversing the wires.

They do an amusing visual joke of them throwing a water bottle through the cameras frames–it’s lined up perfectly.

Mike tells a story that might have inspired “Sheets,” but Leo says,

I don’t know why I wrote this tune.  I don’t know why I write any of them.  I’ve always got my guitar–annoy the neighbors.  I have to hear the guitar.  And every now and them something will come up.   This song uses some of Mike lowest bass notes–they really resonate with Leo’s pretty guitar and gentle singing.

The final song is clearly written by Mike.  He introduces “I Am Random” by saying

This is a song that’s not about being a person standing in a room doing something … ever.

Then he says

it’s about people who came to our country from Kiev in 1885–they took a bell out of a church tower and rode it on out of town.

Who knows what the truth is. This song has a great funky bass line and Mike’s lead vocals.  There’s all kinds of weird (random?) things going on in the song.  Bass slides, time changes and a wonderfully chaotic denouement from all three.

This is a fantastic introduction to what this dup can do and a great introduction to Kottke’s music for me.

[READ: December 3, 2020] “A Famous Man”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 3. Kathryn Scanlan, author of The Dominant Animal, doesn’t need to pay admission if she’s just visiting the gift shop.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

Yesterday’s story was told in first person plural. This one is told (in part) in second person singular.

“You” follow the life of a famous man. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 29, 2019] Phish

I blew off two of the three Phish shows I had tickets to this summer.  (I really should have gone to that Sunday show).  Camden is such a hassle.

Somehow, I find getting to Madison Square Garden much less of a hassle–which makes literally no sense.  These were my fourth and fifth times seeing them at MSG (compared to two in Camden).  But this MSG trip involved driving into the city ($15 tunnel toll?) and then getting a garage.  And, because I planned to go to an after party at Le Poisson Rouge with Marco Benevento, I decided to park in the village and subway it up.  That’s actually a lot of hassle.

But it was worth it.

This was my eighth Phish show (I could be in double digits by now if I didn’t sell those Camden tickets).

The theory is that the Sunday night of the New Year’s Eve run is always great.  And boy howdy was it. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 20, 2019] Vida Blue

I had seen two of the Phish guys’ side (or solo) projects, which meant I actually got to see them, and not just see them from a mile away.  Mike Gordon did a solo tour which I caught, and I’ve seen Trey Anastasio with his band and solo.  I assumed that would be it for small projects.  Fish has a band, Pork Tornado, but it’s been on hiatus since 2002 and Page McConnell has released a couple of solo albums, but his band Vida Blue stopped touring in 2004.

Until now.

Page announced that Vida Blue was going to reunite for THREE shows (although possibly more now).  And one of those three shows was in Philadelphia.  So of course I bought a ticket to see Page up close.

Driving into Philly has become something of a nightmare now that Girard Avenue is closed.  Especially if you want to get to the Fillmore.  Traffic and detours add at least ten minutes.  I had left early but still managed to get to the parking lot after 8 for an 8PM show with no opening band.  I was furious.  So I ran into the place and found out that they hadn’t started yet, phew.  Also, everyone seemed to be milling about, so I wended my way up near the front and got an amazing spot.  My only regret is that I didn’t keep going into that one last free spot in front of that one because it turned out the people around me were the worst people in Philadelphia. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 28, 2019] Trey Anastasio @ Newport Folk Festival

I have seen many variations of the Phish band.  I’ve seen Phish a number of times, I’ve seen Mike Gordon solo, I have also seen the Trey Anastasio Band and soon I’ll be seeing Vida Blue.  So here was my opportunity to see Trey solo.  I’d heard that his solo shows were terrific.  And this was terrific.

His show was the one I was most excited for on this day, even if there were a few other bands I wanted to check out.  I was happy to have gotten pretty close to the stage (again, if I ever go back, stand on the other side, with the sun at my back).

Unlike at a Phish show where Trey barely says anything (usually not even hello), Trey is very chatty solo.

This shows feel very intimate (even in an outdoor venue with thousands of people).  I know he has a lot of solo music out so I was pretty thrilled at how much Phish he played. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 29, 2018] Phish

I was very excited to see Phish again this summer.  I bought tickets for all three shows at the BB&T Pavillion.

But then my week had turned very busy with shows and other commitments.  When I heard Cate Le Bon was playing at Boot & Saddle on the Friday night, I decided to sell Friday’s ticket.  I mean, let’s be honest, BB&T is a pain in the ass to get to (and parking is insane and expensive).   (I wound up not even going to Cate Le Bon either, boo).   I also decided to sell Sunday’s ticket because Saturday was a long night and I had had enough of the late nights for a time.

But for the Saturday show I had originally bought two tickets so that S. could go to her first Phish show.  I was bummed that they were lawn seats, although I think she felt this added to the experience because she got to see all of the people dancing and milling about.  We were supposed to meet my friend Armando, which would have made the whole night really fun, but he had car trouble and wound up not making it.  (boo).

So it was just S. and I.  Traffic sucked, parking sucked and the weather was questionable.   We arrived literally as “Mike’s Song” started.  So we found a somewhat unused spot on the lawn and settled in.  Phish fans are very friendly but for some reason the group around us wasn’t very inclusive.  In what has to be a first, no one offered either of us a joint the whole night!  They must have thought we were narcs. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 21, 2017] Phish

I have wanted to see a Phish New Year’s Eve show for years.  But one should welcome in the New Year with people you love, so I will never go to a show on New Year’s Eve.  But this year I decided to try for a ticket for the night before New Year’s Eve.  Once I got my ticket I learned that many people feel like the 12/30 show is ultimately better than the 12/31 show–in terms of music, not theatricality naturally.

I was also pretty happy to find out that my friend Armando and his girlfriend were going.  So we wound up making an evening out of it.  They live near the train station, so I drove to their house and we walked to the train.  It was nice meeting his girlfriend (she is famous from his blog) and we all got along very well.  When we got into the City, he told me we were going to a great Peruvian restaurant really close to the arena.   And what a great find it was.  Rather than pizza or a hot dog we were able to eat a yummy (and filling meal) and it was quite fast as well.

Although, perhaps it could have been faster.  When we walked across the street to MSG, the line to get in was massive.  We never found out exactly what was going on, but they were holding everyone back at a barrier while the line thinned out.  We were running very tight to show time.  But the arena must have known that because the band did not go on as early as they usually do. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 8, 2018] Phish

I have never seen a band two nights in a row in the same place before (I have seen Tori Amos three times in four days but that was at different locations).  I knew that Phish always mixed up their sets so that two nights in the same place never contained the same songs.  This was a great way to hear even more different stuff.

Tonight’s show was very different for me though.  My daughter was in the 4H Fair play before the show (she was a wicked stepsister in Cinderella).  I certainly wanted to see that.  It was super fun, although pro-tip…she needs to exaggerate her on-stage behavior more.

I was afraid I’d be late for the show (4H traffic is shocking!), but traffic was light and I made it to Camden in okay  time.  I had to park over a mile away (and still pay $30).  It was a 15-minute brisk walk to the stadium during which time I was feeling kind of down about the whole event.  There were lots of drunk people and scalpers and hawkers and ugly sights abounded.  Plus it was hot and I was in a hurry and then I got to the gates and the line was huge.

I also knew that I was much later than the night before so I wouldn’t get a choice spot at the railing like the night before.

I bought a corn dog (yum) and walked up to the lawn.  I decided to purposely pick a different part of the lawn tonight (Page’s side).  And just as I climbed the stairs I saw Armando, my friend from the night before.  I was hoping to see him and was kicking myself for not coordinating with him.  But I love the serendipity of running into him like that.  He was talking to a woman who turned out to be his mom!  She lives closer to the venue than he does so he was staying with her for the night and he invited her along. She had been to many concerts with him (how cool is that) but had never seen Phish so she was excited for something new.  She was great to hang with.

He had a spot along the railing again and got ready for Night #2. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 7, 2018] Phish

Having enjoyed two Phish shows at Madison Square Garden, and really seeing what it’s like to go to multiple shows by the same band when they mix up the setlists so much, I was pretty psyched to hear that Phish were coming back to NJ for two shows on a short summer tour.

After the immense spectacle of the Baker’s Dozen, in which they repeated no over thirteen shows (thereby messing up every statistic-driven fan who likes to recount the last time a song was played, this tour was shaping up to be a more traditional fan favorites (or not) package.  This was actually perfect for me because as I start keeping tracks of the songs I need to see live, I realize that I need a lot of the staples to fill out my chart. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 21, 2017] Phish [I’ll be attaching some video clips later]

I had imagined going to all 13 shows at MSG.  I knew it would never happen (maybe if I was single and lived closer to NYC).  I saw a number of people who did go to all 13 shows.  Some looked pretty good.  Others looked pretty beat.   Last night I sat next to a guy who went to 10 and a woman who went to 8–she looked much better than he did.

Each night on this run has been pretty spectacular.  The sets have been great, the band has sounded fantastic and their energy never flagged.  There were several shows in the run that in retrospect I would have loved to have been at.  But I assumed first and last night would be a fun way to go.

As soon as I saw that they weren’t repeating any songs, I decided to keep track of what had been played to see what was left.  I don’t normally like to “know” what a band is going to play so I wasn’t trying to guess the setlist, but I wanted to make sure that I was going to get some songs that I wanted to hear.  I joked that if they kept playing my “top rated” songs, the show would be a 45 minute “Minkin” with dips into “No2” and “Riker’s Mailbox” [Phish jokes… nevermind]. (more…)

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