Words & Images by: Jesse Borrell
Agents of Mayhem :: 08.24.08 :: Spiegelworld :: New York, NY
I couldn't believe my eyes as Jon Gutwillig was put in hand cuffs by a NYPD police officer. As I looked around, others seemed either transfixed at the scene or totally unaware of what was going on. "Fuck the police!" somebody behind me yelled. Then there was a massive push. "Let go of Barber!" a tall dreadlocked kid screamed as he and his friends flew past me towards stage right.
|Agents of Mayhem :: 08.24.08 :: Spiegelworld :: NYC|
For a moment, it seemed all hell was going to break loose. There was no reason for this. He did nothing wrong. Somehow the music played on, and a vague image went through my head of an event that happened on this day 41 years earlier. I pictured a bushy haired Abbie Hoffman and a group of Yippies bustling down the hallways of the New York Stock exchange. From the viewing deck above, the group revealed handfuls of money, both real and fake, and sent them soaring into the air below. To the group, their intention was transparent - a pure metaphorical act. The bills rhythmically floated downward in a simple form of protest to the state of the world in 1967.
Snap back to reality and there I stood in Spiegelworld, a strange traveling circus of sorts located at the end of NYC's South Street Seaport. The Agents of Mayhem were upon us, and we were all pawns in their game.
Comprised of Steve Molitz (Phil Lesh & Friends, Particle), Jon Gutwillig (The Disco Biscuits), Michael Travis and Jason Hann (The String Cheese Incident, EOTO) and DJ Logic, the Agents of Mayhem were set to perform in a venue that imitated a gigantic Ferris Wheel.
Jason Kibler, aka DJ Logic, was a perfect choice to warm up the crowd. Blending hip-hop with fast paced trance hooks, DJ Logic effectively foreshadowed what was to come. After a late start, the dance hall became energized as willing spectators trickled in. The peak of Logic's set coincided with the appearance of Travis and Hann from backstage. Beginning their night as EOTO, Travis and Hann capitalized on Logic's exit by seamlessly transitioning the two sets at around 11:15 p.m.
|DJ Logic - Agents of Mayhem :: 08.24 :: Spiegelworld|
With Travis playing a wide range of sounds on the keyboards and Hann filling in the rest on drums, EOTO is a righteous incarnation. A wide range of improvisations and vocal jams got the crowd moving, including an obscure version of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." At times it felt as if the floor was going to give way, flexing and bending outward from the center of the room, just feet above the East River. As the clock struck midnight, Molitz and Gutwillig appeared and the night officially began. Better yet, the morning officially took over.
To describe the ensuing music, imagine the various sounds of each performer's full time act separately. Put the distinguishing styles in a pulsating blender. Add some sort of cohesive agent. Mix with a small amount of booze. Then enjoy the chemical reaction created between these improv wizards.
Gutwillig started off showing his grungy/power chord side as he eased into EOTO's thick beat. Molitz added synth textures for a smooth transition as he scoped the crowd with a mischievous eye. As the theme progressed, Molitz's space-porn-funk keyboard style added a playful dimension, while Gutwillig's circular note patterning and long-sustains exposed how this group of artists seemed to have limitless potential. That is until the fuzz arrived.
|Michael Travis - Agents of Mayhem :: 08.24 :: Spiegelworld|
A police officer by the name of Lynch came up to the stage with a very serious look on his face - many in the rather smoky crowd mirrored his expression - and he attempted to take the guitar from Gutwillig's hands mid-groove. Molitz tried to interject but to no avail. "Let me see what's going on," he announced before walking backstage. The crowd surged forward, but EOTO kept furiously in time as if they were harnessing the crowd's potential energy. "Fuck the police! Fuck the police!" the masses yelled over and over in tempo with the beat.
When Molitz reemerged, he conveniently explained that the cop was in fact a huge "Bisco Head" and would enjoy sitting in with the band in return for releasing his detainee. This little bit of musical theater culminated with "Officer Lynch" playing a Fender Strat for a rocking version of "Come Together." It seems that the dancing freaks, the radical musicians and "The Man" can get along after all.
Officer Lynch took the lead for "Come Together" and did the solo justice. After a little motivation from the audience, Barber re-claimed the stage with an infuriated counter that took the night to a high that reminded me very much of the Disco Biscuits. As the intensity swelled and Officer Lynch made his exit, the Agents of Mayhem performed well into Monday morning. Closing with a cover of MGMT's "Time To Pretend," the motley crew left us with a song that seemed to promote a somewhat apathetic worldview but left smiles upon all of our faces nonetheless.
The concert was well worth the price of admission, but I suspect that Mr. Hoffman would have rather had it at an arena where ideas could be exchanged, where the only toll upon entrance would be an open mind, and where an act of civil disobedience could be seen not as total rebellion but as self-expression. Whether ironic or not, the Agents of Mayhem gave a strong effort to embody the revolutionary spirits of the past.
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