Mike Dillons Go-Go Jungle, Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA 2/08
"Have we been in Seattle before? Fuck. We were just here two months ago."
Opening for Primus that is.
Thank the musical gods that Mike Dillon hasn't completely forgotten about his ol' hometown of Seattle. He visits frequently, whether it's with Critters Buggin', Garage A Trois or some other random configuration that probably involves Skerik. While Dillon's Go-Go Jungle was indeed in Seattle in November, this return trip found the group in a much smaller setting, with two-plus hours set aside for its Go-Go sound, and of course, with Skerik sitting in.
The majority of Dillon's recent projects find the snarly vibraphonist at the back of the stage, not out of sight but not in the limelight either. However he certainly knows how to lead the pack. Standing stage right, Dillon took charge orchestrating a cacophony of garbage can beats, calling out transitions ("Alright, shuffle time"), screaming to keep things moving. And underneath his tough-guy demeanor was a playfulness that kinda made you want to hug someone, kinda made you want to mosh.
It makes sense that a percussionist like Dillon would select a fine drummer for his band; but Go-Go Ray is exceptional. Not just anyone behind a kit could accurately keep up with Dillon's pace as his arms are nothing but a tattooed blur (it's a wonder he doesn't make himself dizzy). It seemed Ray didn't even have to try. The entire night was a near competition for the two percussionists, a quickness game, a battle to see who had the fastest draw with his stick. Dillon would lay down a beat then shoot Ray (who was situated stage left, directly across from Dillon) a smart-ass look like, "try and top that." Talk about fun to watch.
The recipe for the Jungle's sound begins with a little jazz and a little funk as its base, throws in some breakbeat, tosses hip-hop on the side and then drizzles complex punk over it all. Many flavors, I know, but consistently fierce, powerful and tight. The surprise ingredient, vocals, enables songs to go old skool with lines like "I'd rather be a janitor in outer space than a millionaire in this fucked up place." While Dillon has more recently spent time with instrumental outfits, the vibraphonist sings in a low, guttural, spoken-word sort of way and his lyrics are entertaining if not clever too.
Starting relatively basic the trio didn’t take long to mix it up, Ray's hard-hitting drums juxtaposing Dillon's congas before giving way to a samba sound in one number, a spy beat in another. When the group began "The Voyeur" Dillon had the lights dimmed, an appropriate move given the song’s sexy stylings, following up with "Your Mother Was My Teacher," which had more than a trace of Les Claypool at his creepiest. Dillon then invited Maurice Caldwell an icon of sorts in the Seattle scene to the stage for a "birthday rant of his choice." Completely improvisational, the following rap carried aspects reminiscent of Gil Scott-Heron, Maurice saying, "Mike D why don't we trade off some philosophical witticisms." Swapping lines the two covered everything from Paul Newman on crack to something about William S. Burroughs. When Maurice made his exit Dillon continued with, "I said Go-Go Ray come out and play" and into a percussion jam they went.
After eight songs Skerik appeared and the mood shifted a bit, as the now quartet drew things out, turned a little darker and more complex, with Dillon finally approaching his tablas and bassist J.J. "Jungle" Richards employing more effects, Skerik too. Richards took lead vocals on the group's cover of Aaron Neville's "Hercules," a slinky number that put an orgasmic expression on Dillon's face.
The final tune of the night found Dillon screaming into his mic in punk fashion, punk accompanied by sax and his own vibes, ending on a perfectly Dillon note.
All in all? A mighty tasty dish.