Legendary Phish bassist Mike Gordon knows his strengths.
“I thought I’d do what I do best,” he said. “Which is to spew about stuff I don’t understand.”
Gordon sat down with about 35 people at a Davenport College Master’s Tea Tuesday to discuss his philosophy on music, the nature of dualistic thought, and his career in music and other creative arenas.
The focus of Gordon’s prepared lecture was the central importance of balance within every aspect of his experiences with music.
“There are only two things that have gone wrong at Phish gigs over the years,” he said. “Either someone wasn’t listening, or there was a lack of solidness, where you weren’t hooking up with the drums, or the bass line. There has to be some kind of coexistence between the two; you need both.”
Gordon professed his belief that dualistic thought is a western construct, particularly as it pertains to music.
“I can’t just be ‘a little solid’ and ‘a little listening’ — I have to be listening 100 percent and be 100 percent solid and do them both at the same time,” he said.
Other dualities that Gordon touched on included the balance between relaxation and force, constancy and change, and acceptance and responsibility.
“Acceptance is the big one for me,” he said. “I back myself into a corner so much by thinking about my responsibilities in the future that when I free myself by accepting the moment, it’s a real joy.”
Such acceptance, Gordon said, brings with it an “incredibly cathartic feeling.”
The talk was announced on short notice, but so many fans showed up that eventually Davenport Master Richard Schottenfeld simply put them on a waiting list. Those who were admitted to the event were reluctant to leave their seats, even to get hors d’oeuvres.
Students said they were excited that Davenport was hosting a talk with a musician of Gordon’s caliber.
“I’ve been to a few Master’s Teas with professors and journalists, but it’s amazing that the master could get someone like this,” Anny Gaul ’07, a self-professed Phish fan, said.
Gordon’s visit to Davenport was coordinated by Andrew Roach ’04, Schottenfeld said.
“I just talked to his publicist, since he was playing Toad’s here anyway,” Roach said. “It was short notice, but it came together; Mike was really good about it.”
Roach is a music writer for the Yale Daily News.
Todd Lippincott ’04 said he was impressed by Gordon’s willingness to speak to Yale students.
“Phish, these guys are absolute superstars,” he said. “They drive for hours, tour for weeks, don’t shower, and [Gordon] was still willing to talk to us. He was really humble and down-to-earth.”
Andrew Klaber ’04 said he was surprised that the bassist would speak so deeply and honestly.
“You always see Mike Gordon onstage just playing and bobbing his head,” Klaber said.. “When he has a solo, he steps forward, bobbing his head, and when he’s done, he steps back. He’s always seemed really shy to me, but he came in here and basically spilled his guts; he’s clearly very comfortable with who he is.”
While he has been a member of Phish since the band’s inception in 1985, Gordon has directed two films — 2000’s “Outside Out” and 2002’s “Rising Low” — and is completing the final week of the promotion tour for his new solo album, “Inside In.” “Prioritizing is another balance,” he said with a grin, “and I’ve learned that I need to limit myself.”
Gordon performed Tuesday at Toad’s Place on York Street. His solo tour, which began on Oct. 5, will continue tonight at the Avalon in Boston and conclude on Thursday night following a performance at Irving Plaza in New York City.
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