Mickey Hart Band at The National

Mickey Hart Band
The National
Richmond, VA
September 2

Some people are galactic gazers, a lucky few find themselves physical travelers of space, and Mickey Hart (in a partnership with NASA) has discovered a passion for simply listening to the pulses of the universe. Thankfully, Hart has the background and skills to convert those cosmic whispers into magnetic sound textures and the Mickey Hart Band's 2012 release, Mysterium Tremendum was inspired by his recent work. A mix of songs penned by Hart and Robert Hunter, these new tracks form the core of the band's set list on their current tour. Braided with songs from the Grateful Dead's own lore, Hart is forwarding his band's music through an admirable message; he is reminding us that, we all are one.

The Mickey Hart Band is creating its own musical roads, and Richmond, VA was lucky enough to encounter the band on an East Coast homecoming night. Dave Schools (bass), of Widespread Panic, and Crystal Monee Hall (vocalist), a singer with a long list of credits of her own, are Richmond, VA natives. Both had family and friends in the house, and who doesn't find inspiration in the presence of one's most beloved souls? Hall's vocals (sometimes through a clean microphone – others through a microphone colored by synth effects) soared. Schools' adept playing bloomed through the fuel of a moment back on his childhood soil.

The night was full of heavy interplay between Hart on percussion, Ian "Inkx" Herman's on the drum kit, and talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju, all of this under the riffing of Gawain Mathews (guitar) and keyboardist Ben Yonas. Touring on the waves of their new release, Mysterium Tremendum selections included the relationship-pondering "Cut the Deck" and mind-bending versions of "Supersonic Vision" and "Time Never Ends."

Of course, any Grateful Dead fan worth his/her patches is waiting for a golden nugget or two from the Dead's canon. The show began with "Samson and Delilah," and we later found ourselves within a creeping "West L.A. Fadeaway," and a funky, bass-heavy "China Cat Sunflower" that blended into "I Know you Rider." "Scarlet Begonias" began the second set (Hart promised that things happen in the second set that do not happen in the first set) and segued into a chucking and nasty "Fire on the Mountain." Vocalist Joe Bagale has a wonderful voice all his own, but he did sound particularly like Jerry during "Fire." "That's it for the Other One," a honky tonk blooded "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad," and an organ-cooing "And we Bid you Goodnight" rounded out the Grateful Dead staples during the night's two sets.

The encore opened with "Brokedown Palace," and the singing of a search for home no doubt resonated with Hall and Schools. This was followed by an explosive version of Cream's "White Room," which served as a great final heave to close out the two-part encore.

Communicating to the audience that this wasn't like a regular concert, Hart also reminded us that, "This world is on fire." He went on to ask that we take the night's energy into the world and do something good with it, adding productively to a cycle we all share. Hart's current goal seems to be a mission of conveyance, the transmission of the knowledge of an all-inclusive connection that began moving eons ago and continues to ring for those still willing to hear.

By – Jeremy Sanchez