Friday, September 5, 2008

Mike Gordon and PHIX in Colorado

This weekend, Angie and I went to a couple of awesome shows featuring Mike Gordon and Phix at the Mishawaka Ampitheatre, near Fort Collins, Colo. With rumors of a Phish reunion swarming heavily, this weekend was a great indicator of how Gordon is playing (he's the former bass player of Phish) and a reminder of all of those favorite Phish tunes, played by top-notch all-Phish cover band, Phix.

Mike Gordon and his new band, touring to support their newest album, The Green Sparrow, was nothing short of amazing, inventive and intoxicating all at the same time. We pulled up at the Mishawaka Ampitheatre and parked next to the rippling Cache La Poudre River. The stage is located right next to the river and you can hang out on a rocky embankment of the river while grooving to the tunes.

After a few technical difficulties, the sound system was set up and ready to go. The band walked onto the stage and after a quick apology from Gordon, they busted into "Dig Further Down," a new song off Green Sparrow. They then played "Morphing Again," a truly unique yet catchy song off the new album. They played mostly songs off the new album and though I wasn't farmilar with all of the songs, I thouroughly enjoyed the night.

The setlist: Dig Further Down, Morphing Again, Jaded, Ain't Love Funny >Kryermaten >Ain't Love Funny, Voices >River Niger, Another Door, I Got Loaded. Encore: Alphabet Street.

According to, Gordon auditioned a multitude of musicians during the six months leading up to the tour. The band is made up of longtime collaborator Scott Murawski on guitar, Vermont musicians Craig Myers on percussion and Tom Cleary on keyboards and Brooklyn drummer Todd Isler.

The new band worked well, blending together to make a very full sound, with many improviasational trips to mars and back that one would expect from this all-electric four piece put together by Gordon, who is well known for his experimental music, lyrics and all-around ecentricness.

The group was definilty grounded by Gordon's ever-present bass line that hopped around from thick long thumps to quick arrpegios, each right in the pocket and very interesting musically. On top of Gordo's bass, Murawski took plenty of well-played solos and the playing of Isler and Cleary sent a wall of sound forward that kept the packed ampitheatre grooving all night.

Gordon has been in several musical ensembles since Phish disbanded in 2004, and this new band and album ranks in the top three for me. My other favorites have been Mike's collaborations with accomplished guitarist Leo Kottke (released an album in 2005 and toured, also worked together on an album and tour, Clone, in 2002) and his work with the Benevento-Russo Duo. Gordon filled in on bass and added a bottom end and a third dimension to the already-inventive sound of organist Marco Benevento and drummer Joe Russo. The duo, then trio, became a quartet in 2006 when they joined former Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio to co-headline a 10-date tour with Phil Lesh and Friends.

We went away to our campsite satisfied and anxious for the next day of music.

PHIX began their set earlier in the day, around 2 p.m. The vibe was much more relaxed, with several phamilies and younger kids dancing around the gravel ground. It was good to see a younger generation being turned on to the music of Phish. There were also a few people there to see PHIX that we recognized from the night before.

I didn't note the setlist, but I remember a great Stash, Maze, Run Like an Antelope, The Curtain With and a Tube closer. These are some of my favorite Phish tunes and the musicians of PHIX did a great job to keep the spirit of the music intact.

They didn't skimp, either. Band members played relentlessly accurate versions of some really complicated and composed Phish songs and added their own voice and emotion, playing in the moment and improvising with passion. Hat's off to the band, Paul Murin - guitar and vocals, Derek Berg - keyboards and vocals, Chris Sheldon - drums and vocals, Brian Adams - bass and vocals, for keeping the music alive. I found myself enjoying the music and occasionally thinking about Phish someday playing together again, wondering what Page or Fishman would be playing right now...

We returned home satisfied. Both bands were great, our first time at Mishawaka was a great experience, and Fort Collins is a very cool place to hang out and tour for the day. If you get a chance to check out either of these bands, I would recomend it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking about writing a very comparable post over the last couple of weeks, I’ll probably keep it short and sweet and link to this instead if thats cool. Thanks. phix