Mike Gordon Review

1.30.16 at The Observatory in San Diego, CA

by Vid West


The plan was to go down to the Observatory and check out Mike Gordon and his band. The place used to be called the North Park Theater. Yeah, it sits there on University Ave one block off 30th, or maybe it’s two blocks.  North Park is the hipster heart of town with a glowing sign that serves a beacon for those who like to get lost. The locals say it was a dump 15 years ago. Now the restaurants have vegan selections, pubs push craft beer, and hipsters bob their way from door to door playing the who do you know game.  On Saturday nights the area is alive with people chasing a good time.


Before the show I stopped by Waypoint Local, the uterine bear. It was packed. Golf was on TV, some corporate shit was sponsoring a game in town and someone thought it would be cool to play it at the bar. See, what happened is the neighborhood was exceeding its allotted amount of cool and someone had to take it down a notch. Golf has no soul. I found my buddy elbowed up to the bar drinking a beer.  The bar keeper slides up on the other side and asks me what I want.  I grabbed a Breaking Bud from Knee Deep. I asked my buddy what he as drinking, an Alesmith 394. We chat about life and love, drink our beer then head out.

The venue was one block over from the bars but we got to get our head on before going in so we take a detour through the residential section to breath in some of that West Coast California Air. It had a Northern California vibe.  The streets surrounding the main drag are dark and lined with houses built near 100 years ago. 


The Observatory gives a good pat down at the door. They grab your arms legs and stroke you front and back. We try to erase the experience from our minds and grabbed a drink from the bar then headed up to the stage. There were about 40 people who staked out their space in front of the stage. We went and started up with them.


Hey, how’s it going? Are you from around here? Have you heard these guys before?  One dude had been going to dead shows since 74. This other chick had been to Phish but never seen Mike’s band. Another chick hadn’t seen any of it but her friends had talked it up and she was looking forward to hearing what was to come. They were all from San Diego County had never seen Mike’s project but had done some youtube research to get acquainted with the sound. I found someone familiar with the project. He predicted Spock’s Brain. I looked around the growing crowd. Everyone had a drink, there were a lot of smiles. The attire was casual, flannel, fish and the faceless indicated it was a heady crowd. I talked to the deadhead some more. He said something about being a different person back then. I asked him what he meant and somehow he never answered. The conversation turned to “I went to this show” and “have you ever seen Zappa.”  I saw someone I knew and went to say hi.


When the band came out someone boomed MIKE like they are old buddies. The band, they didn’t acknowledge the audience, they didn’t smile, they took their places and started playing. This was Mike’s deal. Yeah, he is a member of the big band but he is out here now calling the shots. The show opened with Don’t Chin The Dog. I’m not familiar with Greyboy, but Walter’s organ reminded me of Galactic. The music was funky rock with some ambiance and deep room quaking submarine bass. You know the kind. There is always yelling during the spacy bits. You’ve heard the dude before. He wears a lot of faces but he is at every show. Yeah, this is rock and roll! People were getting down and having a good time and there were more smiles from stage. During the second set 555 gave the Phish fans would they play some Phish relief. Everyone got down a bit more, taking comfort in the arms of the familiar. Next came Spock’s Brain, I looked around for the grin of Nostradamus. Eclipse was played for the first time.


All night long, riding the rail center stage, in front a purple stage light was this chick that was wearing every beat on her hips, every note was accounted for with a twist and a poke. She was in the groove all night. Mike proclaimed the purple light was the epicenter of energy. It was the gal with the shine eyes. After the show I saw the dancer talking with a friend so I said hi. They were on Mike Tour and had traveled from New York and Portland, Oregon. Right on ladies. Keep finding that groove.


Set 1: Don’t Chin The Dog, Babylon Baby, Jones > Voices > Normal Phoebe, Looking for Clues, Crazy Sometimes -> Another Door

Set 2: Horizon Line, Daisy Hill Grove, 555, Spock’s Brain, Eclipse, Sleep to Dream, Arngatta > Face

Encore: How Do I Know


The band left, the staff tried to do the roundup, the audience lingered. What’d you think. Yeah man, that was good. Yeah, that was good. Cool, what are you going to do now? I hear Mike hangs at the Merch table, let’s check it out. I nod, yeah.

We stop by. Mike was there. Some fans walked by and professed their adoration. Yeah Mike! He gave them a look and a smile taking in their praise. Other fans waited in line to get a signature on a poster or ticket stub. When I got up to him and asked if he was vegan. Being a head is a lifestyle. The seemed to appreciate the question and took time to answer. I’ll paraphrase. I am a cheating vegan, I don’t drink milk but I do eat cheese. I’m a chegan