Mickey Hart is a mad scientist, one that likes to pound on things. His genius is his ability to encircle himself with gadgets and drums and noise makers, call upon an amazing talent of musicians to back him, and take to the stage with the ferocity of a lion, yet centered like a Buddhist Monk.
The maestro of the evening came out on stage at a little before 9pm. With his supporting cast of talented musicians they gently eased into an ethereal jam that immediately set the tone for the night. It was the beginning to a soundtrack that would eventually ebb and flow from slow and surreal to fast and gospel. But there had to be a beginning and for this show it came not in the form of a Big Bang but rather a kaleidoscope of musical sounds and rhythms slowly building eventually into the song "Let There Be Light" from Mickey's latest Album: Mysterium Tremendum. Sharing lead vocals for the better part of the night was Crystal Monee Hall, who took this song to new highs as Dave Schools-Bass, Sikiru Adepoj-Talking Drum and Hart kept the rhythm section front and center throughout. After what seemed like a good fifteen minute opener the band once again took a stab at another new song, this one "Time Never Ends". With its drawing rhythmic beat and colorful notes- it came across clear and upbeat, the lyrics piercing and reminiscent of Peter Gabriel/ crossed with Pink Floyd. The keys painted beautifully across the backdrop of this song as singer Tim Hockenberry grabbed upon a faux leopard-skinned trombone and led the song into a spaced-out jam that included Mickey on the many instruments.
The night was not about the Grateful Dead. It was about where Mickey is today and the vibe throughout never felt "Dead-Esq" - it didn't need to. It was and is what Mickey has created, projected in his mind and now in the live setting. The show was at times an ethereal teetering between rock and roll and Electronica-West African Drumming. The "Samson and Delilah" that ended the first set felt almost gospel as it reached out in all directions taking on many forms but always in a forward moving direction. After an elongated 45 minute set-break Mickey and his Band returned to play the Instrumental "Heartbeat of the Sun" that melted into a fast paced "Bertha" and from here on out it was complete psychedelic madness.
With sweat dripping from his forehead and encapsulated amongst his instruments Mickey led the band into a tease of "The Other One" -Schools slapping at his Bass, waves of sound echoed around the old theater as the song faded in and out, slowly building strength until the time where the band dropped in unison and Crystal led the vocals to this Dead classic.
The jam that ensued left many smiling and dancing fans satisfaction across their face, it was the the cowbell jam that then erupted, fueled by the fans cheers and the pounding of the drums. Multiple planets and lights that acted as a back drop were well placed as this felt other-worldly. It was a trip in itself and these Eight Musicians played as one tight knit group- as if they had been together for years.
The concert was a joyous passage, a journey and a statement of how boundless music really is. The approach that Mickey takes to his song writing and performances encompasses rock, folk, gospel, blues, jazz all with a psychedelic touch. Playing to a very satisfied crowd for nearly three hours the band encored the show with the Motown classic, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and as you could guess Crystal took this song to new heights. The rhythm section was apparent and strong throughout the night, and one shouldn't have expected less, what one couldn't forsee was such a transcendental experience with such great songs performed in a manner that could never be compared to any post-Jerry Dead projects. Mickey doesn't own the stars, but he plays like he does as any mad-scientist should.
Words: Samuel Martin
Photos: Kevin Kenly
© Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication