Pretty drained today, and I'm doing the Deadhead Movie Meet-up tonite, so rather than provide a detailed review, I'll just offer some general impressions & observations....
I haven't seen Mickey since Furthur Festival '98 or '99 when he was doing the Mystery Box, but his streamed performance a few weeks back at least gave me a good idea of his current project.
Pre-show consisted of some of Asheville's finest drummers in a circle on the floor thundering away with one dude sort of "conducting" the group - rather overly-enthusiastically in my book tho (forced audience-participation is not something I really enjoy; I'll clap along when I am moved to do so, thank you).
The Mickey Band came out to a beautifully raucous roar, Mickey with hand on heart proclaiming the joyous vibe of love in the room, almost sounding preacher-like which made complete sense as they began the Bo Diddly beat that became "Samson & Delilah." This set the celebratory vibe for the night! Huuuuuggge smiles onstage & off!
What struck me first, and stayed with me throughout the night was the glorious stage presence of Mickey's main singer. Her vocals rise & fall so effortlessly, sensually, and she brings so much emotion to Hunter's lyrics through her expressions & gesticulations; most of which were easy to pick out through the bottom-heavy mix due to her extremely clear & articulate vocals. She has a very obvious respect & love for the words she sings. And, oh my, many of those lyrics are simply beautiful; Hunter still knows what's up!
Mickey is literally surrounded by his percussion & other toys (including the Beam), guiding & directing the songs, alternating between concentration & smiling with the crowd. Many of those familiar drums/space sounds from the old days floated throughout the songs. At one spacey point, he did a sort of "solo" on the theremin which got many of us cheering (Asheville is the land of Moog, y'see).
Somewhere in there we got a "West L.A." and "Bertha" and the set-closing "Brokedown Palace." I emerged from a water refill to the "Brokedown" just giddy! I suppose some might have been struck by the extremely slow tempo of their take on it, but I found it to be a very heavy, meditative rendition, and the harmonies were spot-on.
Half-time lasted FOREVER while techies worked on Mickey's rig. *sigh* Technology can be both a tool and a crutch....
The crowd was a wonderful, mult-generational mix which I daresay was top-heavy with old-schoolers. No tension, no attitudes, no idiots. I greatly appreciated how supportive of the band everyone was; cheering on the guitarist, joyful hoots & hollers when the vocalists would get in the zone, clapping & singing along frequently.
The bands original material is very, very spacy on top of insanely tight grooves. Schools and the drummer totally lock-up together on a groove and drive it HARD! A lot of it struck me as deeply "Pink Floydian" with an undercurrent of someone like STS9. The guitarist was kicking some very fine solos at times, but was best when adding color & texture using wonderful delay-effects; he was making exceptionally trippy sounds all night long! We got a fine NFA, and the band's take on "Scarlet" has a super-bouncy groove to it that had me giggling! There was an "Other One" (1st verse only) and, of course, a great ''Fire on the Mountain" that crept out ever so gradually. We got a rocking GDTRFB encore to send us on our way, but not before it settled into a very moving "We Bid You Goodnite" instrumental groove flowing into two extremely heartfelt verses (complete w/ handclaps!).
As a Nit-Picking Deadhead, I find very little to gripe about, at least in terms of the band. The sound at the Orange Peel is notoriously muddy, so Dave Schools was often difficult to find within the din. But he's still a monster all the same! There were often moments of hearing a group of excellent musicians rather than a cohesive band, most often during the Dead tunes, where it was more like the songs holding the band together rather than otherwise. I was also hoping for a specific drumz/space sorta slot, but it never came up, but to be honest, that was actually going on beneath every song. And I was really looking forward to hearing how the NASA "space" sounds would be used, but I never really got it. I guess I was expecting a sort of "showcase" or something at some point. And I'd have liked being more familiar with the original material 'cause I'm sure that would make it all even more meaningful.
Overall, the bottom line is this is an amazing live experience, & I encourage ALL fans to check it out. Mickey and Co. bring a joyous vibe that is virtually impossible to find elsewhere. Those rhythms are healing, and the love is palpable, sincere and true!