Bassist Mike Gordon of Phish tackled an impressive tour, promoting his latest album Overstep all over the country – plus a show in Canada – all within a month before returning to Upstate New York to the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock. Nestled in the Catskills, the venue holds less than 500 people with multiple viewing areas of the stage in what feels like a luxurious half barn, half log cabin. The cold and damp spring evening didn’t keep fans away who know better than to miss a Sunday night show. As the lights dimmed, Mike Gordon took the stage with guitarist Scott Murawksi, keyboardist Tom Cleary, percussionist Craig Myers and drummer Todd Isler.
The lighting effects were ideal in an otherwise intimately dark setting. The lighting changed throughout the night, either synchronized with the music or completely off to focus a dramatic spotlight on Gordon and Murawksi. Everything on stage was used as an instrument, whether it was the actual instrument itself or the microphone stands, they all played a key role in a unique sound for the show. A mind game of shadows questioning your sight and perception, a recurring theme with Phish shows, of which Gordon is a master. Cleary led the way with vocals and strong keys for “Pretty Boy Floyd” that built up rockin’ harmonies along with a stand out, strung out, hi-bred Sitar solo from Myers.
Mike took a moment to encourage the crowd to start a mosh-pit; a “friendly, Ska one [and] not the one resulting in blood everywhere,” he joked.
After a brief intermission, the band was back on to start with a newer Phish song “555” with a recognizable melody that charged the crowd. One of the highlights of the second set was the jammed out versions of “Ether” and “Yarmouth Road” that had Gordon jogging and bouncing in place with a deep bass rhythm and alternating tempo. One of the coolest backgrounds was the scrolling city scape during the encore of “Cities”, clearly a big fan favorite. The entire show felt like a music video for an episode of the Twilight Zone with experimental jams that were unpredictable and forced the crowd’s attention to every detail. There was an eclectic blend of genres covered for everyone’s entertainment, with a variety of bluegrass, cosmic poetry and sci-fi jazz. Mike Gordon’s shows aren’t dance-crazed parties; they are a chance to appreciate the bizarre twist he and his band create on old and new songs alike. Gordon’s tour will end this week with stops at Tarrytown, Mass MoCa and finally, the sold out show at Higher Ground in VT. Try very hard to get tickets to any of these shows.
Set One: Couch Lady, Face, Peel, Mrs. Peel, Dig Further Down, Pretty Boy Floyd, Spock’s Brain, I’m Deranged > Take Me to The River Jam> Tiny Little World
Set Two: 555, Jones, Sailin’ Shoes> Ether, Yarmouth Road, Barton Hollow, Long Black Line
Encore: I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate, Cities