Words and photos by Joe Janiak:
Hart is still beating out the rhythm of his brain, and fans continue to feed off of the powerful energy that is manufactured in the process. Mickey Hart’s latest album Superorganism was released on Tuesday which happened to be the same night he made a tour stop in Buffalo. Vibes in the room were on high from the beginning and never came down.
Tea Leaf Trio opened up with a short but solid set and then the Mickey Hart Band played two excellent sets of soul energizing, lyrical and percussion-heavy music.
To set the tone for a party, Mickey and the band opened up with an excellent version of the Dead disco era song,”Shakedown Street.” Right away I was impressed by the performance of Gawain Matthews on guitar and the singing of, Joe Bagale.
Although Hart is celebrating his seventieth birthday in September, he is surrounded by a youthful group of musicians and the outcome is a musically fresh sound on classic songs. Hart is in no way trying to make this a Grateful Dead cover band. His new music, with lyrics by Robert Hunter, fits right into the realm of the Dead, but it doesn’t feel old and recycled in any way. He also knows when to dig into the Grateful Dead catalogue and so the setlist is a flowing stream of timeless songs, new and old interwoven.
Reed Mathis (also in the Tea Leaf Trio) was layin’ it down on bass and the voice of Crystal Monee added a great quality to the songs, new and old. From there you have Sikiru Adepoju on percussion, Greg Schutte on drums and together with Hart they give the music its tribal and worldly, at times, other worldly sound. Some of the newer music was surely space inspired, with synth vocal calls and long drawn out notes.
Meanwhile you have all of this pounding rhythm reverberating throughout the room, Mickey rotating and hammering away in his circular fortress of percussion. The music takes you through the depths of space and mind. It is separate from time and boundary, and so, therapeutic, as it removes you from everything besides the here and now.
The highlights of song selection were obviously the well known Grateful Dead songs, but what makes Mickey Hart still a relevant and excellent act to see is the fact that he has not stopped exploring and breaking down barriers that stand in the way of this. The flow of songs was near perfect. “Mountains of the Moon,” with its haunting sound, transitioned perfectly into, I believe, “Ghost Rider” a spacey one from the new album, and then into the beautiful guitar leads of “Franklin’s Tower.” The second set gained momentum toward the end with a ripping “China Cat > I Know You Rider” in which Crystal was belting out the lyrics, and then the evening ended with a heartfelt and joyful, “Ramble on Rose” that had the crowd ecstatic.
Mickey thanked everyone for a great evening, expressed his excitement over the new album, and told the fans to take all of this energy home and create something great with it.
Highlights from the Tea Leaf Trio were an cool take on, “America,” by Simon and Garfunkel followed up by the Grateful Dead’s “Mexicalli Blues.”