The concept of this album has Hart wearing a special cap with electrodes on it that pick up his brainwaves and turn them into sound. In the live setting, Hart’s cap has a live feed on a large screen behind the band. The screen visualizes Hart’s brainwaves lighting up in different colors on a brain that bounces back and forth across the screen. During the show, Hart only wore the cap for a single song [Mind Your Head], but it was an entirely unique experience. Hart played his entire new album less two songs at the Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture in Bozeman, MT.
While Hart could easily draw crowds by playing formulaic Grateful Dead covers, that would never satiate his desire to push the limits, and would likely feel more like a jail sentence to him. While he does tip his cap to his roots, he makes his Dead covers very much his own, they are not the focus of his show. In Bozeman, he played “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Scarlet > Fire,” “Samson and Delilah”, and encored with “Not Fade Away.” This may sound like he plays a good amount of Dead tunes, but in terms of his show, they are a small fraction of what he has to offer.
While the lineup of the Mickey Hart Band periodically goes through changes, their current incarnation features the recent addition of bass player Reed Mathis [of Tea Leaf Green.] Mathis has really made a difference in the overall sound. In previous years, the position was held by Dave Schools [of Widespread Panic] and comparing his style to that of Mathis is apples and oranges. Personally, I prefer them with Mathis, his style lead to prolonged melodic grooves, and moments of ambient bliss.
Vocalists Crystal Monee Hall and Joe Bagale also put no stress on what the songs should sound like, they sang the words the way that came naturally to them, and made each song unique and hauntingly beautiful.
Highlights of this show included the show book-ending version of “Drone”, a Hart original on no album, a first set cover of The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “Mind Your Head” with Hart in the brain cap, and a driven take on “Samson and Delilah” in the second set.
Before the encore, Hart took an opportunity to talk with the crowd about his use of the brain electrode cap, and he explained that he hopes to influence scientists to research the brain’s reaction to sound. Through this research, Hart hopes that someday sound therapy will become a successful form of medicine.
The jury is still out on whether Hart is from this world, or if he is an extraterrestrial lifeform from Planet Drum. After his recent show in Bozeman, MT, the question remains unanswered with little hope of a conclusion in the near future.
Superorganism is due to be released for sale on August 13, 2013, but you can currently stream the album for free on Rolling Stone’s website.
Set I - Drone > Supersonic, The Sermon > Chabadas, The Greatest Story Ever Told, I Want it Back, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain
Set II - Mind Your Head* > Djinn Djinn, Samson and Delilah, Bully Boy, Don’t Let Down Your God, Rage On > Falling Stars > Drone
E: Not Fade Away
* = Wearing Brain Electrode Cap
Words and Photos: Kevin Kenly
© Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication