Last night, just a week after Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio took the same stage, bassist Mike Gordon brought the funk to the Ogden Theatre with a little help from Ian Neville's Dumpstaphunk. Unlike Anastasio, Gordon doesn't pepper his set list with Phish covers. Instead, he uses his solo tours and concerts as an opportunity to highlight the music he writes away from Phish. The shows are also an opportunity for Gordon, who admittedly plays a supporting role in Phish, to take center stage with a band.
Gordon -- backed by Scott Murawski on guitar, Todd Isler on drums, Tom Cleary on keys and Craig Myers on percussion -- took the stage just after 8:30 p.m. and started the bouncy, bass-heavy funk of "Andelman's Yard." After the tune was over, Gordon gave a shout out to local promoter Chuck Morris, who was in the balcony, and dedicated "Balloon," a song off of Gordon's album with Leo Kotke, to Morris. Gordon was chatty throughout the show, making comments to the crowd between nearly every song. This is a sharp contrast to his quiet, no-nonsense approach on stage with Phish.
The set started to take off during the dark and clavinet-heavy groove of "Black Tambourine." Cleary was strong throughout the night, adding texture with the electric organ at times, as well as stepping up and taking over lead roles over Gordon's thumping basslines. After a lengthy take on J.J. Cale's "Ain't Love Funny," a song that Phish has also played live, the band brought out the guys from Dumpstaphunk to close out the set.
The jamming between the two bands was loose and, at times, sloppy, but that's what makes good funk music. Bassist Tony Hall has played with Anastasio in the past, though he looked somewhat out of place during the first tune together, "Jaded." By the time the band moved on to Gordon's "Alphabet Street," though, Hall had found his place in the pocket.
Drummer Raymond Webber took over duties from Isler for the rest of the set, easily finding his way through the Gordon originals. The set closed with "Down to the Night Club," with Hall taking over guitar duties from Murawski, laying down chanky, Meters-style guitar lines over Gordon's heavy low end.
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In the second set, Gordon and crew stretched out. Opening with "Sound," a strangely tempo'd tune with a stuttery drumbeat that, to me, is a great example of Gordon's unique approach to music. Gordon's always been known as a quirky guy, and his songs are often whimsical while at the same time holding down a solid groove. The band moved into the boogie of "Suskind Hotel," showcasing Murawski's solid guitar playing. That melted into an Eastern-style jam, with Myers plucking along a melody an African stringed gourd instrument, while Gordon and Murawski beat on a strange steel-drum-type instrument. That dark and spacey jam led into a verse or two of the David Essex tune "Rock On" before transitioning back into "Suskind Hotel."
The band closed out the second set with Phish's "Mound," with the intro drumbeat and guitar line throwing all of the Phish heads in the audience into a frenzy. As the pace of the song picked up, so did the frantic dancing around me. Murawski's take on Anastasio's playing was strong, though more subdued to give Gordon room to play. The band closed out the show with Dumpstaphunk back on stage playing the Gordon tune "Jones" before taking us all straight back to the mid-'90s with a cover of C+C Music Factory's "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm," with Myers rapping the lyrics.
Having the Dumpstaphunk guys on stage was fun, though having them play on Gordon originals seemed like somewhat of a waste of their talents. I was really hoping the band would pull out an old Meters cover or even some P-Funk, but that never happened. Still, it was great to see Gordon on stage having a blast as a bandleader.
Page through for the Setlist and Critic's Notebook
Mike Gordon 03.14.11 | Ogden Theatre
Set I Andelmans' Yard Balloon Black Tambourine Willow Tree Fire From A Stick Ain't Love Funny > Kryermaten > Ain't Love Funny Jaded* Alphabet Street* Down To The Night Club*
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Set II Sound Suskind Hotel > River Niger > Rock On > Suskind Hotel I Miss My Mind Hap Nappy Got Away Hand in Pocket Mound
Encore Jones* Things That Make You Go Hmm*
* with Dumpstaphunk
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I'm a Phish nerd. Random Detail: Gordon said seeing Dumpstaphunk for the first time was like having a musical revelation. By The Way: Before the show even started, some asshat had puked all over the front of the bar. To combat the stench, the bar staff lit incense sticks. The result was a patchouli-puke mix that was borderline unbearable.