Mike Gordon | 10.07.03 | Fox Theatre | Boulder, CO

As part of his short but sweet nine date tour, Mike Gordon and his band recently spent two nights at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO. The tour is expected to draw heavily upon his critically acclaimed solo album, Inside In, which itself draws upon his solo film, Outside Out. Ruminate on that dichotomy for a minute and be sure to check out Andy Gadiel's excellent discussion on JamBase with Mike about his endeavors.

Opening for Gordon was Kaki King, a performer who, within a relatively few number of performances, has drawn tremendous attention for her disciplined, complex, and groovy original compositions on the acoustic guitar. Her songs--all instrumentals--often meld multiple styles that can involve powerful chords, percussive pouncing on the body of her instrument, and frenetic picking by both hands up and down the neck of her guitar, producing progressions that demonstrate a classical training.

The intimacy of this show worked well for Kaki's charmingly shy demeanor. She engaged with the crowd between songs in earnest efforts to let us know where her head was. It was a pleasant surprise to hear such powerful and absorbing songs emerge from this petite solo performer.

Given their complexity, her songs could benefit from more recognizable structures. Certain songs seemed to begin and end without a common thread. With so many diverse phrases within a given song, I found it difficult to ascertain the primal mood that the artist was seeking to express. At the same time, however, this style lends itself to more personal interpretations by the listener, which itself is an artistic goal. Regardless of how her songs affect you, Kaki is a virtuoso whose performances should not be missed.

Mike Gordon and his eight-piece band took the stage to a packed house. Their eclectic lineup of instruments included an electric pedal steel guitar, flute, bass clarinet, and tap shoes. Each was played with tremendous talent and precision this night.

The opening songs, "Take Me Out" and "The Beltless Buckler," featured Gordon Stone's eerie pedal steel, which instilled a country/western flavor to these numbers. Scott Murawski's electric guitar added rocking solos and some jazzy free-form jamming throughout the set. "Stillwater," a song not found on either of Gordon's solo albums, was played with a loopy, fun spirit that Murawski blew into a full jam, highlighted with a tap dance solo.

Jeannie Hill delivered warm vocals on several songs, but her tap dancing was the more unique instrumental contribution. Near as I could tell, the floor under Hill's feet was miked so that her syncopation was as strong a voice as Doug Belote's drums.

The following sibling pieces, "Inside Out" and "Outside Out," were epic, driven by Josh Roseman's infectious groove on trombone and James Harvey's keyboards. At one point Gordon's bass dueled back and forth with Hill's tap riffs. "If You Ask Me" followed with yet another amazing jam.

In the songs that followed, like "The Lesson" and its unique horn composition, "Car Carrier Blues" (from Gordon's album with Leo Kottke) and its reggae induced frivolity, or "Soulfood" and its funky horn and flute play, the audience was treated to jams that transcend genres but had a healthy dash of Phishy flavor. "Couch Lady" rounded out the set with a bluegrass flair and some nifty guitar solos from Murawski. Encores of "Sunday Driver" and "Take Me Outro" featured Gordon Stone's electric banjo that weaved the bluegrass thread around reggae beats and Mike's sinuous bass. With eclectic instruments and schizophrenic musical styles, each song had a fresh feel that made for a satisfying collective whole.

This was a thoroughly entertaining show from a great artist. Mike Gordon's exploits have seemingly blossomed beyond the construct that Phish offers him. As the director of this night's musical soundscape, Mike and his vibrant instrumental voice was the highlight. His bass seems to play a larger, more commanding role within this band than it does with Phish. Perhaps it's a case of an artist finding his voice. Through his filmmaking, writing, and musical experiments, he is building a compelling portfolio that reflects his unique perspectives on life, his extraordinary talent, and the musical freedoms all artists seek to attain.

Words: Haig Assadourian
Images: Tony Stack
JamBase | Colorado
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[Published on: 10/20/03]

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