The Big Mix with Bob Weir, Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley, CA – 11/14
Photo by Bob Minkin via Sweetwater’s Facebook page
The Big Mix puts on a good show – good enough to get Bob Weir roaring like a lion.
On a quiet Wednesday night in Mill Valley, poet Michael McClure took to the the stage at Sweetwater Music Hall with his act known as The Big Mix, which includes keyboardist Ray Manzarek of Doors fame, drummer Jay Lane, of RatDog and Primus, and bassist and German composer Kai Eckhardt, known for his work with the John McLaughlin Trio.
The show kicked off with a solo McClure seated on stage and delivering his “Hymn to Kwannon” poem with such verses as “have pity on everything” and “be kind to yourself as Allen says.” It was mid-stream during this poem when the “mystery guest” Bob Weir came in through the emergency exit of his music venue.
McClure was then joined by saxophonist and composer George Brooks who blew moody and sorrowful notes to the recitation of “Double Moiré for Francis Crick.”
Then the full membership of The Big Mix came onto the stage and they launched into “Action Philosophy,” with such verses as “that government is best which governs least” and “what’s liberty when one class starves another.”
The pace and excitement of the show picked up with “Maybe Mama Lion.” Brooks began blowing his horn more wildly and Weir came out offering his accentuations here and there, which he would for the remainder of the show.
The act paid a tender homage to Jim Morrison with McClure’s “In Memoriam for Jim Morrison” set to Manzarek’s “Riders on the Storm” music, which happens to be the last song Morrison recorded with the Doors before heading to Paris where soon thereafter he would die. The work includes such verses as “I am the silhouette that moves in black.”
McClure delivered his poetry smoothly, carefully and purposefully. The format was loose enough to allow the musicians to explore amongst themselves in between his verses. The music complimented the words, wove around them and, at times, used them as a launching pad.
Manzarek’s keys were the most prominent companion to McClure’s words as they danced within and off them while Lane provided a strong backbone of jazzy beats carefully watching his volume, sometimes laying aside his drum sticks to just use his hands.
Weir masterfully painted within the space between the haikus read by McClure in “Haiku Edge,” and laughed, along with others, over this one: “What soft brown eyes the dog has as she shits on the deer’s hoof print.”
McClure, who turned 80 on Oct. 20, exhibited energy and vigor during the hour and twenty minute show, which included 13 compositions, including a reading of Jack Kerouac and his famous line: “Safe in heaven dead.”
The show concluded with the “The God I Worship Is a Lion,” which was first performed at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in 1967. It was towards the end of this song when McClure offered his mic to Weir to imitate the lion, which he did three times with his final roar concluding the show amid cheers from the audience.