Phish bassist Mike Gordon continually evolves as an artist, and his solo project that lit up the crowd at Emo’s proves that change can be good. Two years ago, his show at this venue was uneven and wandering. I had plenty of chances to get a drink or use the restroom. Not so this time. His quintet has gelled, preserving the quirky and eclectic style of its leader in a more appealing package.
And it seems to give him great joy. He smiled, laughed, and jumped—without the aid of trampolines—throughout the two-plus hour show. Resplendent in blue-and-white patterned pants, turquoise high-tops, and a large gold necklace, Gordon led the band through a show featuring material from OGOGO, his latest album.
A solid “Victim” gave way to guitarist Scott Murawski taking over vocals for “Cruel World,” a Santana-sounding song from his days with Max Creek. Next came “Meat,” the lone Phish song of the night. Instead of the light, funky Phish version, this “Meat” had a dark edge and distorted vocals that dissolved into a deep jam. The jam may have been dark, but Gordon’s bass and Murawski’s guitar exploded in LED light for the first of many times.
The only lacking moment of the show was the live debut of “So Far Gone.” Gordon joked that they hadn’t played it before because it was so hard. The song is classic Mike Gordon whimsy, sounding like a short piece of a rock opera—my friend Scott called it a Broadway musical number.
After that hiccup, the show barreled on with the disco-infused “Steps” before wrapping up the first set with a wall of lights and ‘80s sound on “Go Away.”
The second set delivered more of the same. A long jam introduced “Victim 3D” and finished “Pendulum.”
Gordon, Murawski, drummer John Kimock, keyboardist Robert Walter, and percussionist Craig Myers communicated well, keeping things tight even during extended solos. It’s not the otherworldly level of communication that Gordon and his Phish bandmates enjoy, but there’s enough trust and talent in the group to give Gordon a safe place to experiment.
The reggae-laced “Peel” saw the REEL passed to the audience. As the wheel-like device surfed over the crowd, people slapped its lighted side panels to trigger synth sounds as the band played. After all the experimentation, Gordon brought his band back to old-school rock for the closer, Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” which triggered a wave of excitement in the crowd. Gordon stuck with his own material for the encore, launching into a funky “How Many People Are You?”
When the house lights came up and the band took its bows, they didn’t look tired. They looked joyous and energized. The few hundred of us in attendance wished they could’ve kept playing.