Mickey Hart Band @ Stage 48 – May 10
Words: Chadbyrne Dickens
Photos: Vernon Webb
The devil is in the details. Mickey Hart, aka former member of Grateful Dead drum duo The Rhythm Devils, entertained a nearly sold-out Stage 48 venue in New York City last Friday night. Born in nearby Brooklyn, the consummate drummer, only months shy of his 70th birthday, Hart still knows how to satisfy his loyal fan base. In addition to his storied tenure as drummer for the world’s all-time greatest jam band, Hart is a multi-Grammy winner, a drum historian and successful author. Upon taking the stage he exclaimed with authority, “Let’s find places known and unknown together!”
[All Photos by Vernon Webb]
As Hart’s five-member band took the stage, the proceedings commenced with Hart’s lengthy cymbal smashing as if a symbolic start to the evening. The band blasted off into the saucy fan favorite, Shakedown Street, the dancing ditty about which Bobby Weir once said in 1979, “we tried to make a disco song.” The predominantly mature crowd paid tribute to Hart and company by clapping, singing and dancing throughout the joyous Shakedown Street romp and subsequent exploratory jam. Some people may have difficulty chewing gum and patting their head at the same time but Hart, hands adorned with white surgical gloves, snapped hard at his gum while working an elaborate varied drum kit that he stood at for the entire performance.
Hart mixed in material from his extensive repertoire while keeping ardent Grateful Dead fans happy by performing staples like Bertha, Fire on the Mountain and an exuberant encore of Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad including vocal lines alternated between Joe Bagale and Crystal Hall. Hall’s vocal added a soothing bluesy sound. Bagale’s guitar doesn’t attempt to emulate Jerry on these selections but rather follows his own lead and fills in within the original organized structure. Although Fire on the Mountain was strong and delivered with purpose, many fans clamored to hear the Mickey Hart Rap version that gained notoriety in 1974 although never formally released.
A highlight for those in the know, was the honor to hear Greatest Story Ever Told, a familiar Grateful Dead song, originally based on Hart’s Pump Song from his 1972 debut album, Rolling Thunder. Hart derived the song’s rhythm section from the sound of a pump.
At a time when his former colleagues are struggling with a myriad of issues, the only trouble Hart gets into is the kind he creates himself like the clever and hilarious picture of his being faux arrested last year that quickly went viral among fans due to its authentic look. Hart remains a man not complacent with his alternate and unique take on Grateful Dead classics, but shares his own original mind-bending compositions. The satisfying show ended in symmetrical fashion as it started, with Hart banging on the drum in finality. Fans came to see a famous rhythm devil do his thing and many left with a satiated smile.