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Mike Gordon - Mod Club - Review


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Review by Todd Snelgrove

Photo by Heather Phorbes

Mike Gordon

Mike Gordon at Mod Club

Toronto’s Mod Club was host to a legion of hippies Friday night, as

Phish’s bottom end brought his solo act to town. After spending the

summer playing to sold-out amphitheatres as Phish pulled off their

hugely successful reunion tour, Mike Gordon has spent the last month on

the road fronting his own band in more intimate venues, and the southern

Ontario crowd was out in full force.

Behind the venue before the show Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey had to rush

through their pre-show preparations to hit the stage in time for their

absurdly early opening set, which began before a mostly empty house

before 7pm.

The air was thick with smoke from too much caramel-tinged incense, as

JFJO launched into a short but intense set of thinking-man’s groove

music as the burgeoning crowd vied for good sight lines. The quartet of

organ, drums, double bass, and lap-steel guitar lays down instrumental

vibes that beg comparison to MMW; not as cerebral but a whole lot

jammier. These guys brought the time signatures and still got downright

heavy at times, riding that big fat blurred line that lies between jam

and jazz all the way. It’s too bad their set was only about a half-hour,

especially with all the trouble (and fines) they had to deal with to

cross the border into Canada, given one member’s DUI record.

By the time Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey finished their set the crowd had

grown significantly, though the room all but completely cleared for some

fresh air between acts.

When Mike and his band hit the stage the 400 or so in attendance

screamed their appreciation for one of the bona fide champions of the

genre, and he delivered big time. Gordo was at the top of his game, and

his game is being one of the world’s great pick-wielding bass players.

While most bass players eventually turn their noses up at plectrum

playing as their skills advance, Mike has stuck to his guns and the

result is a percussive style of weaving harmony that is all his own.

Again, a player that resides firmly in the shaky ground between jazz and

jam, but where JFJO seems to stand facing the jazz side of the fence,

Mike is firmly planted facing the other direction.

Turn up the low end on the best of the jambands and you’ll find that the

bass players are the ones that are really driving the bus, and Friday

night was a low frequency fiesta. When one finds themselves at a Phish

show one can start to feel guilty focussing too much on the bass –

there’s three other heroes up there playing their asses off too – but at

a Mike Gordon show the freedom to get lost in the underlying

complexities that lie in the underbelly of the frequency spectrum for

the whole night was liberating. Sure there were some acceptable forays

to the rest of the band, the highlights of which included a ngoni solo

from the percussion player and some great soloing from Scott Murawski on

guitar (unfortunately playing a Languedoc giving him a Trey tone without

the chops), but really, the bass was the thing.

Encoring with the Beatles She Said She Said was a closing nod to all

things bottom end, given that Paul McCartney pretty much invented

relevant rock bass playing. Sticking to what Gordon described as “a very

strict curfew” at the venue, the crowd surged into the drizzling night

around 10pm. This left plenty of time to stagger to any number of

‘official’ afterparties, and from the packed house at the Diesel Dog

show it was clear plenty staggered there.

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Great review Velvet – “a low frequency fiesta†- I love your way with words!

I too was very impressed with Mike Gordon’s show on Friday. Having done absolutely no research on what he’s been sounding like lately (other than watching most of Collecting Firewood with MG, the “making-of†animation on Andelmans Yard) I anticipated the show to be totally bass-centric. I didn’t expect it to sound like a Les Claypool show but I assumed that the group would have the same structure of a bass front-man with Gordon being the dominant sounds throughout. I was surprised (pleasantly) that it was a more conventional configuration, with Gordon clearly playing the roll of band-leader.

I really liked the guitarist’s sunshiny-pop jams and I’m a sucker for keys in any situation (although I could have done without hearing the keyboardist sing Crumbling Bones – fun song but only so-so vocals IMO). I liked Andelmans Yard but after hearing portions of it played so repetitively in the making-of animation my brain had categorized the tune in the category of advertisement jiggles. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a bad song – but listening to the on-line animation earlier that week gave me an overdose on the riff.

Now, if you’ll allow me a digression, an arguably shallow digression, I would like to comment on Mike Gordon’s fashion choices for the evening. Often times when playing with Phish, Gordon will wear a sleeveless T-shirt. Now I much as I love the band, there isn’t all that much eye-candy on stage at a Phish show. You can hardly see McConnell and Fishman, and Trey is a little nerdy and scrawny for my liking (again – I’m solely referring to appearances here, not talent). In my opinion, Gordon’s arms are the hottest thing on stage. Not that his pipes should be featured in a playgirl publication, but given previously-mentioned lack of competition on the stage I enjoy his choice of sleeveless shirts. (Please note: I certainly don’t go to Phish shows to check-out the musicians’ appearance and I can assure you that I spend more time watching how they play there instruments than I spend oogling at Gordon’s arms). In all promotional materials I saw for his current tour Mike Gordon was wearing long sleeve button-ups. And, as advertised, he graced the stage wearing a very nice, long-sleeved, black button-up shirt. But, as jayr’s pics in this post reveal, after one or two songs Gordon scurried off stage to delayer…revealing, yes, a sleeveless t-shirt! I was already grinning from the great tunes but that mid-set costume change made me smile a little extra.

I love the idea of a show that starts and ends early (and I really appreciated having received a facebook message reminding me of that, which prevented any potentially disastrous tardiness). That enabled me to see two great shows in one night (thanks Diesel Dog!).

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My favourite quote of this

Encoring with the Beatles She Said She Said was a closing nod to all things bottom end, given that Paul McCartney pretty much invented relevant rock bass playing

Relevant rock bass playing is quite a deserving thing to give Paul. I should hope that Macca reads this someday.

I also shall hope that Gordo reads this someday.

Gordon’s arms are the hottest thing on stage.
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Going to Toronto for the weekend was a last minute decision and I feel I chose wisely. I got really drunk and a little bit weird, spent a lot of time in a near coma and didn't spend nearly as much time with you nice folk as I would have liked.

I also have learned not to submit a first draft when asked to submit a review. Sorry about that, it won't happen again.

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I also deeply appreciated Gordo's, clearly deeply informed, choice of sleeveless t-shirt.

I would also love to see the setlist because I don't have a clue.

Wanted to add as well that I thought some of the keyboard runs were truly inspired and that some of the jams got into some seriously murky funk textures (I remember thinking there was almost a Kool and the Gang vibe at one point). Also while I was expecting a set full of pokey Texarkana style Gordo tunes accented by poignant jams I was overjoyed that he opened with an 'out' jam (hand drum and k-os pad?) and proceeded to intersperse tunes into the wash of heavier and heavier jams. That said I was highly impressed with how melodic and even thoughtfully pop a number of his tunes actually were. Makes me think that Gordo solo has a serious edge on Trey solo but maybe that's no surprise.

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Thanks so much for the reviews guys. I was dissapointed to have missed this show. Between preparing for my comps exams and tending to my little monkey of a son that still doesn't believe in sleeping through the night, it just wasn't in the cards.

Would have been nice to reconnect with some folks, and meet some of you skanks on here that I probably should have met a long time ago.

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