Happy Birthday Mike Gordon: 10 Cactus-Led Phish One-Timers

By Andy Kahn Jun 3, 2016 1:59 pm PDT

Phish bassist Mike Gordon was born on this date in 1965, making today the enigmatic musician’s 51st birthday. The man known as Cactus by friends and fans alike, Gordon’s groove-setting approach to his instrument is part of what makes Phish among the best at improvisational rock music. To honor Mike on his birthday, below is a list of 10 times he’s fronted Phish during a performance of a song played just one time by the quartet.

1. “Yer Blues” October 31, 1994

The first entry in the list is one of several that went down on Halloween. Below is video from the first “musical costume” concert at Glens Falls Civic Center in Glens Falls, New York during which Phish played The Beatles White Album in its entirety. Watch Mike lead the group through their sole performance of “Yer Blues”:

2. “I’ll Come Running” May 16, 1995

Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Massachusetts hosted a Voters for Choice benefit concert that included a performance by Phish who were introduced by host Gloria Steinem. The show featured a number of Phish debuts including “Ha Ha Ha,” “Spock’s Brain,” “Strange Design,” “Theme From the Bottom,” and “Free.” They also played the only Brian Eno cover to date, as Gordon took them through the Another Green World track to begin the encore. Listen to the debut of “I’ll Come Running” starting at the 1:45:55 mark below:

3. “Seen And Not Seen” October 31, 1996

Mike sat in an easy chair onstage at The Omni in Atlanta on Halloween in 1996 during the band’s only performance of Talking Heads’ “Seen And Not Seen.” With Trey Anastasio holding down bass duties, Cactus leisurely and comfortably delivered the Remain in Light song. Here’s video of Gordon sitting down to handle lead vocals:

4. “Clone” February 26, 2003

Phish’s show at the Worcester Centrum Centre in Worcester, Massachusetts shortly after returning from their first hiatus was filled with songs from the individual members’ solo efforts. Ananastaio’s “Drifting,” Page McConnell’s “Final Flight” and Jon Fishman’s Pork Tornado cut “Blue Skies” all made their debuts that night. Mike’s contribution was the title track from his 2002 collaborative record with Leo Kottke Clone, stream it here:

5. “Shake Your Hips” October 31, 2009

While a number of songs from Phish’s musical costume covering of The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street have stayed in the band’s repertoire, “Shake Your Hips” has not been seen since its first performance at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. Here’s audience-shot footage via nate53202, watch:

6. “Invisible” November 1, 2009

The day after the Exile show, Phish played an afternoon acoustic set as part of Festival 8. Mike and Leo Kottke issued a second joint album in 2005 that included the original “Invisible.” Here’s the stripped down performance of the Mike & Leo original under the hot California sun captured by McNastyShasta:

7. “Free Man in Paris” June 25, 2010

The summer of 2010 saw Phish debut several new cover songs during their June run of shows. The Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, New Jersey was the site of two-night stand that saw a number of those debuts. Mid first set Mike took lead vocals on “Free Man In Paris” a song written by the legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Here’s a look at “Free Man” via runme69, watch:

8. “The Way It Goes” September 4, 2011

Gordon was the lead vocalist on the one-timer rendition of Gillian Welch’s “The Way It Goes.” An audience-shot video of the performance from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado captured by shinepigeon can be viewed here:

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9. “Garden Party” December 31, 2012

Mike was taped to sing Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” to open Phish’s New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden in 2012. Having entered to an astroturf-covered MSG, the Gordo-sung singular performance was a fitting selection to welcome attendees to the evening’s festivities. Footage was also shot by shinepigeon, watch below:

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10. “The Last Step” August 5, 2015

One of the song’s included on Mike’s five-song solo EP The Last Step release in early 2015 was the closing title track. Gordon and Phish have thus far played “The Last Step” just once, at Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre last summer. Here’s video of “The Last Step” once again via shinepigeon:

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