The Mickey Hart Band jams, impresses MET

September 25, 2013

Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart’s Mickey Hart Band put on an excellent show Thursday evening at the Metropolitan Theatre.

Earlier that evening, before the performance even started, there was some fun going on outside the theater. A drum circle had gathered and was gracing the area with their tribal beats to entertain the gathering masses and show their support for Hart. It was a fitting precursor for an evening of musical bliss that featured percussion as the central theme.

Opening for The Mickey Hart Band was Tea Lea Trio, who went on around 7 p.m. This three-piece outfit consisted of a keys player, a bassist and a drummer, who all know how to put on a truly sensual performance. 

Sitting down the whole time, they played an expansively paced brand of soft rock with a decidedly experimental edge, but was still rife with emotion. 

The keys were the dominant instrument in this group. Keyboardist Trevor Garrod brought rolling, cascading riffs and dexterous melodies in great supply. Even more impressive was the fact he played these parts while delivering very nice, smooth, lead vocals. 

To accent those lines, bassist Reed Mathis served up not only thick bass patterns but also incorporated some very high register, almost lead-guitar-like sounds, which faded in and out. 

Drummer Cochrane McMillan played a primarily groove-based style with his own personal flair, whirling his arms and getting into the rhythmic motions he was making. Most of the time their songs were minimalist in nature, but they built up to moments of beautiful dissonance that brought to mind the more intense moments created by bands like Explosions in the Sky.

When it came time for the main event, there was a noticeable anticipation that gripped the room. When the Mickey Hart Band stepped on stage, they came in numbers, bringing a small horde of musicians. 

An eight-piece group that included Grammy and Tony Award winners, instruments of all kinds were gathered on the stage – guitars, basses, drums, keyboards, percussion instruments and mics. When they began to play, things started out very atmospheric and ethereal. Slowly, the music began to shape. As the whole picture became clear, it showed a palette of musical nuances that were beautifully interwoven. 

Hart’s own thudding percussion impacts were the force and weight behind the music. However, two very talented, soulful vocalists delivered excellent harmonies that stood out among the instrumentals. The result was groove-conscious music that was as relaxing as it was ensnaring. 

The songs were more mini-symphonies than songs, as they developed slowly and deliberately throughout a longer period of time, as though they had been written with an eye on detail. It was fitting the concert was taking place in a theater, because each song felt like the band was telling a musical story, despite having few wonderfully simplistic sing-along choruses. 

As the music reached a new height of dance-ability, the crowd – many of them much older than your average WVU student – poured into the aisles in droves. Crowd participation was at a very high level, likely due to the number of very seasoned concert attendees, who knew how to have a good time at a show. 

Hart himself was in on the action, waving his arms to the music in flowing motions while jamming in the pocket with the kit drummer. 

Leave it to a member of Grateful Dead to turn a sit-down show into a free-spirited dance-off.

- By Josh Ewers
The Daily Athenaeum