Agents of Mayhem, Spiegelworld, South Street Seaport, New York, NY- 8/24
Irony for the Masses
The fittingly-named Agents of Mayhem, took the stage on the anniversary of the fateful day in 1967 when Abbie Hoffman stormed the Stock Exchange. Hoffman likely would have appreciated their performance, which featured some drama of its own.
It was a beautiful night on the East River in NYC in a traveling tent named Spiegelworld. Here the Agents of Mayhem: Steve Molitz (Particle, Phil Lesh), DJ Logic (Project Logic, MMW), Michael Travis (String Cheese Incident), Jason Hann (SCI) and Jon Gutwillig (The Disco Biscuits) played tribute to the icon of rebellion.
The night opened up with a set by DJ Logic, who mixed his standard wide array of music, from jazz to hip-hop, to jamband and funk. Next came the live looping of EOTO, comprised of drummer Michael Travis and percussionist Jason Hann from The String Cheese Incident, whose breakbeat, drum n bass, trip hop style of live improvised music, kept the audience in steady motion. Molitz and Gutwillig then joined the duo on stage for the final phase of the night, and the most exciting one as well. The Agents of Mayhem, mainly played improvised songs with a few covers thrown in. Simple, yes, yet so much more.
The nod to Hoffman came in the middle of the show. During a fluid jam, a crew member jumped onto the stage with a worried look on his face. Gutwillig was smiling, digging in on guitar and paying slight attention to the crew guy as he hurried over to Molitz and immediately pointed to stage right. The whole crowd glanced over to see that the finger was pointing at a policeman decked out with a shiny hat and tight uniform, standing very close to Gutwillig.
At this point Molitz left his keyboards, while the rest of the group (Logic had returned to the stage very sneakily), continued to play on. Next thing you knew, like a flash before your eyes, the cop said something to Gutwillig, as if to incite him. Gutwillig had a mischievous grin, and within seconds the cop jumped up onto the stage, yelling in his face, trying to push him back with his body. The crew guy immediately grabbed the guitar from Gutwillig so it didn’t drop, since it was held between the musician and the cop as a shield. Gutwillig jumped back and mouthed "Don’t touch me!" The policeman then tried to take Gutwillig's flailing arms and body into custody, but the guitarist, in true Hoffman form, met the cop with resistance. Then before you know it, Gutwillig was taken away as the crowd chanted, “Fuck the police!”
At this point, the audience gained another few minutes of an EOTO jam, which in essence, was pretty cool. The few hundred people who attended were unable to stop moving out of excitement, fear, and genuine confusion. Then, Molitz returned to say, "We don’t really know for sure what is going on right now, but Jon is handling it because as it turns out, the cop is a fan of The Disco Biscuits. But, we are not going to stop playing." And so Gutwillig returned, announcing, "It turns out this cop is a Biscohead, and instead of me spending a night in jail, he is going to jam with us." Laughter and surprise filled the tiny tent.
Sure enough the cop appeared on guitar, as the sextet went into “Come Together.” Ironically perfect. I think the best part was the end, when Molitz, being as polite as possible, told him that they would have to continue the show and pushed the cop farther and farther off the stage, while the rest of the members already had transitioned to another song.
So was it staged? Well the closing song, a cover of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” offered the lesson that looks can be deceiving, and what things represent aren’t always what they seem. But isn’t that what Abbie Hoffman would have wanted to convey if he were still alive?