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Link Mike Gordon, Thursday, 09/04/2008
Park West, Chicago, IL

Notes: This gig was billed as "Mike Gordon's Magic Hat Summer Variety Show."

Musicians: Mike Gordon, Scott Murawski, Craig Myers, Tom Cleary, Todd Isler

markah , attached to 2008-09-04 Permalink
The Circus Came to My Town! (Mike Gordon 9/3/2008 - Park West - Chicago, IL)

Last night I participated in a spectacle of sight and sound the likes of which I have never experienced. And drank Magic Hat beer. I had made dinner reservations for 6 p.m., but the leftover hurricane Gustav nastiness and resulting traffic got us to Lincoln Park around 7:15. We pressed on undeterred, and began the night with a fantastic meal at Sushi-O-Sushi, two doors down from the venue, and actually were seated right next to the band (to be fair, it would have been impossible not to have been -- the restaurant had a capacity of about 20, and Mike and his entourage occupied about half of the space of the room). As I shook the rainwater off, I looked over, obviously a bit surprised, and said "hi, Mike." He said "hello..." and apparently did not recognize me from the 7 minute chat my buddy Steve and I had with him at Necto's in Ann Arbor three years ago. The nerve! ;-)

All filled with raw fish, Mike played a really great show, which was punctuated by fake phone calls between a girl playing his wife on stage left (and maybe really was his wife?). Mostly the calls were about dreams Mike'd had. The whole concept was that the show we were at was a big dream, and the dream was Andelman's Yard (track 6 on the new album). So they opened the show with Andelman's Yard, but only sang the first verse. Then some crazy looking clowns on stilts came out holding marionette apparati -- and handing live marionettes. After a few minutes of oddly realistic-looking, marionettesque moves, the puppets wrestled the apparati from their "captors" and leapt off the stage, disappearing into the crowd. Mike's band then meandered through a nearly 3-hour set, including several new songs on the album and a cover of "Things that Make you go Hmm" which was complimented by a hula-hooping stripper. While twirling (up to 20, maybe?) hula hoops, she stripped down to panties and sparkly heart pasties. Other performers during the various songs included contortionists in red pleather outfits, acrobats hanging from an over sized birdcage suspended over the audience, contortionist/acrobats spinning on rings (a-la Cirque de Soleil), dancer-type fabric twirlers, jugglers, plate spinners, a dominatrix-style whipmistress, and dancers with miniture orbs of light (think glowstick noodle ravers, but more elegant and actually quite beautiful!). I'm probably missing some -- it was a non-stop parade of embaffled nuttiness.

There were various people selected as audience volunteers for many of these antics -- at one point, the whipmistress placed a long-stem rose in an audience member's hand, then snapped off the rosebud to great applause. She then beckoned to Mike, donned him with goggles and gloves, placed a rose in her teeth, passed it to his mouth (without the use of her hands), then whipped the rosebud from in front of his face.

Some of the interstitial "phone calls" actually featured Mike taking off his bass and laying down behind a curtain -- then the another band member would answer the phone, and say Mike was sleeping. Mike would then talk to her "from inside his non-dreaming part of sleep." During one of these, Scott (the tall, thin, long gray-haired guitarist) held up vaudeville style signs instructing the audience to make noises like "cars going by," "children playing on a nearby playground," "a construction site," etc. Mike then brought up a volunteer from the audience to bark like a dog during the ensuing jam. He took off his bass a lot last night...taking care of a lot of logistical issues, it would seem...one of which included him going backstage to get Chris Friday, the tour manager, and apparently told him to tell the venue security to let the people in the front rows, whom venue security had pushed 10 feet back from the stage, to let them come on back up to the front of the stage...which they did, and the people rejoiced). Sadly, we could not hear a lot of what was said on these "phone calls," but the conversations seemed mostly ad-libbed, in contrast to the rest of the carefully choreographed evening.

The Andelman's Yard theme was interwoven throughout the night -- they kept returning to the song (not quite as smooth as the famous 1995 Orlando "Stashfest," but you get the idea) and even featured a smaller acoustic setup (with guitars, a guiro -- the latin percussion scratchy-sounding thing, an accordion and a bodhran -- the trad. Irish drum) and finally completed the remaining verses throughout the set.

"Travelled too Far" and "Voices" were certainly among the highlights for me. I was commenting last night that never before have I been so hard-pressed to remember actual *musical* highlights from a show. There were some great jams by the band, Mike funked the hell out of "Things that Make you Go Hmm" to be sure, and the Encore was excellent! But the theatrics of the night, IMHO, vastly overshadowed the music. Mind you, this is not a complaint -- it was an over-the-top, no-holds-barred entertaining evening with some fantastically creative artists. The Circus Came to Town, indeed. It appeared to have been video taped with at least a 4-camera setup, so watch out for a multi-angle DVD (that, or Mike has some crazy obsession about personal archiving).

Again, theatrics aside the band tore the roof off the dump. So, if you live in, or can get to Cleveland or Boston, go see his band!

Thanks for reading,

- Mark
Score: 0
attackonthebass , attached to 2008-09-04 Permalink
I've seen quite a few side project shows, but this one will always stand out for me the set list speaks for itself

Thursday, August 4th, 2008
Park West, Chicago, IL- SOLD OUT
Mike Gordon, Scott Murawski, Todd Isler, Tom Cleary, Craig Myers
09/05/2008 2:30AM EST. Setlist by Julia Mordaunt
Electric Set One
Andelmans' Yard >
Dream Jam* >
Dig Futher Down** >
Cruel World
Ain't Love Funny >
Dog Jam^ >
Kryermaten^ >
Plate Jam$
Andelmans' Yard
Acoustic Set
Andelmans' Yard# >
Morphing Again#
Electric Set One
Andelmans' Yard >
Traveled Too Far
Things That Make You Go Hmm%
Sound
Andelmans' Yard+ >
Bird Jam*** >
Crumblin Bones >
She Said, She Said
Voices >
Tango Jam++ >
Andelmans' Yard >
Another Door&

Encore:
Andelmans' Yard >
Alphabet Street

Show Notes:

Mike Gordon's Magic Hat Summer Variety Show
* with stilt dancers
** with flag dancers/spinners
^ with jugglers
$ with plate spinner
# with shadow puppet show
% with Dizzy Lizzy on Hula Hoop
+ with 4 acrobatic dancers on stage
*** with acrobatic dancers in elevated cage
++ Mike has a rose placed in mouth and it gets sliced off with a bullwhip
& with 2 aeralists above stage
Score: 0

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