Hydra :: 04.08.05 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

Hydra :: 04.16.05 :: Chicago
The thing about Particle is they have a lot of energy. They play with a clean, professional flair but often without many distinguishing characteristics save for hearty stamina. But just because you can ball all night that doesn't necessarily make you a great lover. The hope walking into The Fillmore was that something new might emerge with the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart joining them to form Hydra - that whatever tribal x-factor Hart might bring would make Particle into the "pioneering electronic/jam-rock band" they describe themselves as.

There's the quality of a one-night stand to Hydra. The music is big, messy, and overwhelming. If you surrender to it then you might have a good time (or at least good enough to make it into the wee hours of the morning), but if you stop and think about it for too long you may question whether it's a good idea. On the surface (a place where most of this music lives), this is a mash-up of one of the original jammers (Hart) with one of today's most celebrated, active jam acts. There's the potential blend of World Beat exoticism with electronica's vast possibilities. Unfortunately, potential and actuality are two different beasts.

Steve Molitz :: Hydra :: 04.16.05
As this was only the second night of the tour, there are still kinks for them to work out. The basic character of the music is grooves lacking in much compositional grace but buried in rhythm, not just from drummer Darren Pujalet and Hart but also from Eric Gould's amorphous, enveloping bass work and the largely rhythm guitar of Charlie Hitchcock. More than jam music, it comes off like a rave without a DJ, which worked well for the more heavily medicated or alcohol-soaked in the audience. This is a body band, experiential, but without much to examine beyond the momentary rush of loud, live music.

Most of the truly interesting bits came from the crazy quilt of keyboards of Steve Molitz, a Caucasian descendent of George Duke and Bernie Worrell. He steered the group into a piano slowness with roaring cosmic undertones or provided the enzyme that made the jets fire hotter than usual. I also like that he's not as well scrubbed as the rest of Particle, or Mickey Hart for that matter. There's a wild hair to him that emerges in the inspired randomness of his sonic choices. The problem, even with Molitz, who is a very talented cat, is that for all the pretty flutters and whirring strangeness, their music feels like an introduction to something bigger and more fleshed out that never really arrives. There is clearly something compelling about the layers of texture Molitz brings. His intense stare, even while soloing, feeds off the crowd's energy and frequently makes for some squiggly, in-the-moment fun. I just wish his gifts were harnessed to something more substantive. Even in his recent Phil Lesh and Friends appearances, he seems somewhat out of his depth - a talent in search of the right music to truly express his gifts.

Mickey Hart :: Hydra :: 04.16.05
One nice aspect of the Hydra pairing is how it mixed up the age groups. Road tested tie-dye warriors with silver manes mingled with candy necklace wearing, glow stick toting youngsters. The jam scene is often segmented, older fans sticking to what they know from the '60s and '70s and younger acts drawing an audience closer to their own age. There's a sprinkling of each group at every show, but this was nearly a 50/50 split between the pioneers and the new settlers, so to speak. Hydra seemed to go over well with most of the crowd, who didn't seem to mind this being mostly background to a night on the town. The mood was enough to sustain overall high spirits.

It's a bit strange to see Hart up there, finally able to satisfy those Dead fans who always thought just one "Drums" a night wasn't nearly enough. He seems turned on by the groovetastic nature of today's electronic music, though in fairness, Particle's sound is really the sound of electronic music from say 1995 - discrete parts of Morgan Geist, Transglobal Underground, Carl Craig, and more than a sprinkling of '80s electric fusion jazz. Hart jumped in randomly to beat some heat from his congas or step forward to pluck an African finger piano or shake a snarl of odd-looking parts for a rattling accent to what the lads were cooking. More than the main course, Hart seemed like a friendly spice, adding paprika to a jungle section or cumin to the spacey tangents. Even on his signature "Fire On The Mountain," he seemed sort of distant, watching the event unfold around him but not always directly engaged. Still, the elder statesman held his own and for the most part seemed like he was having a fine time.

(l to r) Hitchcock, Gould, Hart
Hydra :: 04.16.05
The weak link in Hydra (and Particle) is guitarist Charlie Hitchcock. Even when the field opened up for him to burn, as on the aforementioned "Fire," he had little to offer. Trust me, I do not like saying something like this about any musician, but I've been listening to Hitchcock for four years and hoping that the endless touring would eventually bring out something unique or powerful. It has not. He plays with a heartless cleanliness that appeals to readers of Guitar Player and other six-string technical rags. He's not untalented, but he's also not very individual in his talents. Hitchcock reminds me of guys like Dokken's George Lynch or Frank Gambale, who played with Chick Corea's Elektric Band. There's a smattering of pyrotechnics, and he can run scales like a mad man, but energy does not make character.

An attempt at a Pink Floyd type thing after "Fire" came off as New Age rather than Gilmour graceful. It actually brought to mind Ozric Tentacles' raver prog-rock, which may well be what Hydra was aiming for. When it turned suddenly and unexpectedly into a disco-meets-horror-movie bounce, things took off and sent the sizeable, though not sold out crowd, into jumping spasms.

This stripe of robotic boogie does possess a gentle freakiness that helps cleanse the mind - a clear-headed chug that saturates one's pores. If they could find this place more often, the lack of depth in their music wouldn't be as obvious. There's something to be said for the thudding abandon of the drum circle or the chant, and Hydra occasionally touched upon it but not enough to make me stay past the set break. Nothing I'd heard in the first half compelled me onward. As with many Particle shows I'd seen, Hydra lays out their stuff early on and doesn't venture too far from known territory afterwards.

Words by: Dennis Cook
Images by: Adam George
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 5/4/05]

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Max starstarstarstar Wed 5/4/2005 05:43PM
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Pretty harsh on Hitchcock, but it seems everybody thinks the same way.

phishead818 starstarstarstar Wed 5/4/2005 08:47PM
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I saw only one show (the rave)... say what you want about the rave, i hate it too... but I loved every second of that hydra show. I was 100% sober, which is not always the case, but loving and dancing to every minute of a show completely sober says a lot IMO. Perhaps I dont have the musical background to start nagging on the musicians, but I feel that what they play is incredibly energetic, enjoyable, and a great show. I certainly would never leave a hydra show at setbreak before its over. Just my thoughts...

It is good to see somebody not afraid to write what they feel though, and not always just stories of praise.

Del starstarstarstar Wed 5/4/2005 09:00PM
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That's a great take, but it's a bit too long. Once I realized you thought they were average I was ready to move on. However, piece by piece, very descriptive, and very good. Now I'm positive I don't need to see this show.

Especially since I'll be seeing TLG on a motherfuggin' boat!!!!!!!!

vida421 Thu 5/5/2005 05:42AM
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Not harsh enough. What a waste of time, both Hydra and Particle. I don't know how people are can dig it without being "heavily medicated or alcohol-soaked". I got to see Particle hack up Floyd's "One of These Days", they should be lumberjacks.

ProfessorBooty starstarstarstar Thu 5/5/2005 06:58AM
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I saw them in Florida and they made eight songs last three hours, including the encore. The pace was a little slower than I was expecting but Dennis hit it right on about building up to something that never happens. I do disagree about Hitchcock though. With Hydra, he does seem restrained, but with Particle, I think he is usually the most energetic member of the group and all I want to hear are his masterful solos.

Prometheus starstarstar Thu 5/5/2005 07:46AM
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I get the review on Hitchcock, as I've felt the same way at numerous Particle shows. However, he finally impressed me on the Cajun Queen at Jazzfest this past Friday in leading a highly successful jam early in the night. As far as Hydra, your review of their show is similar to my experience at Jazzfest on Sunday. Molitz is where the talent is, and he seemed a bit more subdued in his Hydra role, which I thought unfortunate. Still an enjoyable show though, especially the Rider to cap it.

Greenjah star Thu 5/5/2005 08:24AM
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Saw Hydra in Ft. Lauderdale last week and they rocked the house for 3 hours. Dennis Cook is an idiot.

hrc333 star Thu 5/5/2005 08:51AM
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It is a little sad that people who are reviewing the show can not stay past set break. I have seen many bands who were not very good in the first set to only have a smoking second set.

I too was at the fillmore this night. I think the first set started off pretty slow but ended on a high note and the second set was much better. That being said, it was basically Particle with Mickey Hart. If you don't like Particle, you will not like Hydra. Dennis appears to be expecting something different than I think the band wants to offer. Bands like Particle or STS9 or creating a sound space. I place for you to loose yourself for a few hours and dance. They are not there to wow you their soloing ability, but rather create a musical landscape. It does not matter if it is the computer samples of STS9 or the "heartless" guitar of Charlie, the point is never to stand out but rather create a musical fabric. I realize that main people still don't get this, that they want the lead guitarist to "burn" it up, but with bands like Hydra, Particle or STS9 that is not the point. It is just a shame that these people are review the show.

The Glick starstarstarstarstar Thu 5/5/2005 10:12AM
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The Glick

It's time for Particle to be Particle again. YMSB was down the street that night and they were FANTASTIC!

marquard Thu 5/5/2005 11:04AM
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I agree with the review....Particle has seemed pretty lame. I saw Hydra at jazzfest and felt the same way.

as for the previous poster...i agree about the sound space/landscape issue. But i urge you to listen to the DUO. they also create such sound spaces without lead guitars burning it up, but their spaces are not heartbreakingly hollow and devoid of all spirit like Hydra and Particle.

roberts star Thu 5/5/2005 06:02PM
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geez dennis, what instrument do you play and what band do you play in to give such a negative view on charlie. i caught the rave show and the vic theatre show and both were smokin. also as an inspiring music maker myself i find it just plain rude to leave a show at set break. it tough to get on stage and play any kind of music. maybe molitz was just hitting on your girlfriend some nigt and thats why you dont like particle. i've seen particle countless times and every show they gets nuts for four straight hours, it was finally nice to see them add some slowed down harnmonies and some tracny aspects.(which micky dropped in just perfect) great shows, bad review and even worse attitude of the writer

Charlie2Toke star Fri 5/6/2005 07:12AM
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i had the privilege of catching HYDRA at the Revolution in Ft. Lauderdale and it was f@#!ing amazing. steve molitz is mind blowing. he blew me away. at one point he looked like jesus christ with dark sunglasses sipping a beer. it was great. the music was intense and the energy level never faltered. mickey hart was great. i had a bit of a hard time HEARING him at the beginning of the first set but all that was fixed and he was jamming. very nice. and as far as this dude, dennis cook, why bash an artist? granted, it's his opinion, but where's his album? when did he jam with mickey hart or anyone else for that matter? just my two cents.

hyrda rocked and i would gladly pay to see them again. bring particle back in 2006 for LANGERADO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

peace and hair grease...

adamweinberg starstarstarstar Fri 5/6/2005 11:15AM
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Your review could have gone on and on, and perhaps it should have. I don't get Particle. They sound like a bunch of teenageres jamming a basement with no intention of ever making the music lasting or meaningful. Hydra comes off the same way. If you want to practice noodling around for 3 hours, without any real attempt at crafting songs (which in my opinion makes the improvisation tremendously more meaningful) than do it in a basement, not on a tour.

just my thoughts

bucketg15 starstarstar Fri 5/6/2005 02:21PM
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The review was honest, and like someone earlier said, it's good to see people unafraid to voice criticism because one person loving Hydra or Particle or whoever doesn't mean everyone will. I also agree about Hitchcock because I've seen him live, heard him on live recordings, and heard his contributions on Launchpad, and he never grips me the way other guitarists can. Also, Particle, which I believe is a pretty damn good band in its own right, slaps energy in your face non-stop. This creates a perpetual crest of sound, with no troughs, which, as long as I've listened to Particle, has always been why I thought they lacked that extra umph, or as Cook puts it "lack of depth in their music". With all energy and no build-up or crescendo, it's tough to achieve that pivotal, raging climax. Regardless of this, though, Particle does deliver an amazingly cool in-your-face funk/house-type groove that has yet to be imitated in the jam world (except for maybe some songs by signal path or the "live trance" of nikulydin). What they create, I believe, deserves more respect from Cook than he gives them, despite his disappointment with the music.
Also, the review, in my opinion, uses way too many stupid metaphors, " a one night stand?" That's a little bit of a stretch. Furthermore, I think the writer's assumption that Hydra/Particle's rave-type music only "worked well for the more heavily medicated or alcohol-soaked in the audience" is a gross and imprecise extrapolation of his one experience. I can tell you, I'm usually sober as hell and also one of the hardest dancers, especially at a concert with as much intensity as a Particle concert, and I would also consider myself part of the "glow-stick" youth culture. Lastly, Cook's belief that stopping and thinking about Particle's music might make you think it's not a good idea (in his wonderfully descriptive comparison of Hydra to a one-night stand) could be true. But if you think about it, (as the writer obviously did- too much), what is there to THINK about music at all? I would rather be so engrossed in the music of the moment so as to react to it than to be so distant and pensive as to worry about whether going to a show was like my last late-night episode with some girl who's name was Lindsey(or was it Mickey)...sorry, I can't remember, I must have been on heavy medication.

hendog1 starstarstarstarstar Sat 5/7/2005 07:08PM
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I'm 29 and have seen 40+ phish shows and 10+ dead shows. I caught Hydra at the Jazzfest this year (my 11th jazzfest in 12 years) and I was amazed. I disagree with this review. These guys rocked the house. I was 100% sober and they rocked far harder than Trey or any other band second weekend. I don't understand why there is so much negative attitude. HYDRA KICKS ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jamy starstarstar Sun 5/8/2005 10:27AM
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Well, I just saw Hydra at their last tour performance at the New Orleans Jazzfest and have to say that I strongly disagree with most of the reviews here.
Maybe earlier performances weren't as good and powerful but for me this show without any doubt ranks among the best that came out of the post-Jerry Dead camp.
It was one of only and handful of performances of any Dead related projects in the last ten years where the crowd actually got thrown in that "Nirvana-like" state that bends time and space and we all remember from a mindblowing Grateful Dead show.
Of course the music was techno/rave. Anyone who expected any different probably never stayed for the drum section of a GD show and went to the restroom instead.
C'mon guys, give Mickey credit for what he does. In almost all his projects (besides the short-lived 'Mickey Hart Band')he is the only member of the GD that actually goes out and seeks new ground and STILL explores.
More power to Mickey for that reason!!
For anyone lingering in nostalgia maybe the rumors about yet another 'The Dead' incarnation this summer to celebrate 40 years of THE(Grateful)DEAD will come true.
My vote goes to Hydra instead.

Sueshi starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/9/2005 09:51AM
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Reviewers like Dennis are not afraid to voice their opinions, good or bad. And that's what he did here. Hydra and Particle are obviously not for everyone, but to personally bash a reviewer who delivers an eloquent and honest review just because you don't agree is not cool and unconstructive.

Ciet starstarstarstar Sun 5/22/2005 08:43AM
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I was really pleased to read this review, it nailed down for me precisely what my dissatisfaction was at this show, which I had trouble articulating myself. It was wonderful to hear Mickey in action again and to see him with his percussion toys - it definitely added something to Particle that was a bit exciting. I like the trance-dance thing for a while, and then, I'd look up and be utterly bored. The idea that the music was leading to something that never happened is exactly the way the show seemed to me. I appreciate that some people just want the music to be their "background fabric", as stated above - but for me, that's not why I go hear music live. Also, Dennis Cook wasn't afraid to be critical (in a thoughtful way), which I appreciate seeing on this website. Well written article!

dvanscoten starstarstarstar Tue 5/24/2005 04:07PM
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finally, a review about particle that shows constructive criticism. the jam scene could use more it...

perpetual starstarstar Tue 8/30/2005 08:49AM
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I saw Hydra when they came to Asheville, NC..that was a great show! Mickey Hart is a little wierd, but when collaborated with particle, it's a nice outcome. and yes, i stayed for both sets. Britta