Photos by Dino Perrucci

What a night of music, kicking off a week already filled with highlights and it’s only the end of Tuesday. The early show at NYC’s Mercury Lounge was a record label showcase for RCA/Victor Group and their forthcoming album release this Tuesday by the dynamic duo of Phish’s Mike Gordon and guitar guru Leo Kottke, entitled Clone. Most would have come to see that debut alone, but there was a late show, which was another story entirely. But first, the Mike and Leo show...

“This seems like a great way to get your act together, playing for the first time in front of the label,” began Leo Kottke, in his first public performance with his new partner in Clone, Mike Gordon. The steely glare and six-string mastery of Kottke played well off of the quirky, yet extremely talented five string bass lines from Gordon. “This song will be equally out of time” said Gordon. “But it doesn’t really matter,” added Kottke, whose wit made itself known between almost every song. Kottke told the story of a former record label release party in Los Angeles where he deliberately didn’t play a single song off of his release. Tonight they covered at least half of the album in a scant but pleasing hour-long set.

"Clone," the title track, has an extremely catchy melody, and tells a great story of a typical Gordon out of body experience, here visualizing himself cloned. The next tune was referred to as “deeply disturbing” by Kottke, as he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what the time signature was. Mike promised to tell him in a few months, and later let him know that it was 4½ 4. Leo told Mike there are people now in asylums because they tried too hard to play 24 beats in a measure. Not only was the set well played, but the interplay between the two guys was quite amusing too. Groovetographer Michael Weintrob noted that, “Even with only two instruments, there was a lot going on there.”

So when they had enough, Mike and Leo bowed out on the early side, making a vague departing reference to the explosiveness to come. The Ropeadope New Music Seminar took the record release party to another plane of existence almost immediately. The Mercury rose and rose with back to back sets by two of the many ropeadope recording artists, the phenomenal Tin Hat Trio and a set by the incomparable Sex Mob.

After the stroke of midnight, the main course had finally arrived. Assembled on stage were playas, in order, Warren Haynes, Vernon Reid, Mike Gordon, Skerik, Casey Benjamin, Deantoni Parks, and DJ Logic. They patiently spoke to each other in the complex language of music and as time passed, the discussions became heated as crowd reaction got louder. Warren Haynes played sharp as always, tucked away in the back of the stage, straight off his reported visit to TRL this afternoon, which featured Stefan Lessard (Dave Matthews Band) on bass.

After a few warm up jams, Vernon didn’t seem to be feeling it with all the players on stage, and left the stage for Haynes to step out of the shadows and be the man in black, shredding the red guitar mercilessly to get the sounds from his brain to ours. At the same point, Cactus Gordon passed the bass playing responsibilities onto Stefan. Through Stefan the group was able to find a more subtle and smooth groove, it is agreed that this kid has grown up. He really knows how to listen and play the bass guitar, and fit in with the jammiest jammers around. Vernon’s departure also opened the door for Casey Benjamin (Project Logic) to swap moves with the always unpredictable Skerik, one minute embedded in gorgeous gospel and the next screaming Satan’s wishes. The boy can play, whatever he chooses.

The next phase of the evening featured a tight spontaneous horn section, comprised of Sam Kininger (Soulive), Jessica Lurie (Living Daylights), Bryan Smith (Deep Banana Blackout). As well, Charlie Hunter showed up, Stanton Moore took over on the drums, and the first full NYC showing of Garage A Trois led the extended rock and roll finale of “Cissy Strut -> Back in Black,” for sure complete with Skerik yelling into the mic, bent over at the waist. Ropeadope Records chief Andy Hurwitz stood beaming at the bar afterwards, like the proud father he is. He likened it to a winning Eagles game, when all the fumbles just seem to go your way and turn into scores.

The Mike & Leo show was like a really tasty appetizer that doesn’t hurt your appetite for a full main course, which was superbly sautéed by Ropeadope. All in all it was amazing to see so many talented musicians bands large and small come together and show respect for one another’s abilities. There were no egos on the stage, just a group of musicians serving the music, showing the excitement of to be playing a small club gig in NYC. The surprisingly quirky and jammy night set the tone for the surprises to come at the Jammys awards and performances tonight. See you there.

Ted Kartzman & Don Buri
Walking The Streets Of NYC
Go See Live Music

[Published on: 10/2/02]

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