Mike Gordon

Mike Gordon
Mike Gordon

Mike Gordon on stage at Port City Music Hall, Portland, ME - September 10, 2009
Background information
Birth name Michael Eliot Gordon
Also known as Cactus, Gordo
Born June 3, 1965 (1965-06-03) (age 46)
Sudbury, Massachusetts
Genres Rock, bluegrass, folk
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Bass guitar, guitar, banjo, piano, harmonica, percussion
Years active 1982–present
Labels Rounder
Associated acts Phish, Rhythm Devils, Benevento-Russo Duo, Ramble Dove, Leo Kottke, Grappa Boom, SerialPod, Joey Arkenstat, Tombstone Blues Band
Website Official website

Mike Gordon (born Michael Eliot Gordon June 3, 1965 in Sudbury, Massachusetts) is a bass guitar player and vocalist most noted for his work with the rock band Phish. Gordon is also an accomplished banjo player, and is proficient at piano, guitar, harmonica and percussion. He is also a filmmaker.



Gordon was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, the son of Marjorie Minkin, an abstract painter, and Robert Gordon, founder and former President and CEO of New England convenience store chain Store 24. Gordon attended the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston and Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.

Gordon met Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman and Jeff Holdsworth while attending college at University of Vermont, where the rock band Phish formed in 1983.

Musically, Gordon's influence is the most obvious in Phish's many different renditions of various bluegrass, calypso and even traditional Jewish songs (Gordon is Jewish). He also contributed by singing, as well as writing off-beat lyrics to amusing but thought-provoking songs.

Gordon played many roles in Phish. Until the band became too big for self-management, he dealt with practically all public relations and fan communication, such as answering fan mail, managing funds and booking gigs. Gordon wrote 19 original Phish songs and co-authored 22 additional Phish tracks. [2]

On August 11, 2003, Gordon was arrested following a performance by The Dead[1] and charged with child endangerment when he was found taking pictures of a nine-year-old girl. [2] A month later, Gordon was officially cleared of any wrongdoing.[3] In 2008, Gordon married Susan Schick, a Burlington lawyer. [4]


Like Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, Gordon plays custom-made bass guitars built by Paul Languedoc. Gordon played two Languedoc bass guitars, including a "dragon" bass. These bass guitars employed custom wound pickups from Mørch guitars of Denmark. For Phish's March 1, 1997, show at Markthalle in Hamburg, Germany, he switched to a Modulus Quantum 5 bass guitar (similar to the Quantam 6 played by Phil Lesh) with two EMG DC pickups. He later acquired a TBX model which is the neck through version of the same guitar. Mike explains "The story of how I wound up with my neck-through Q5TBX bass is pretty funny. I read a BASS PLAYER article on Phil Lesh that mentioned how Modulus had made him a custom bass, and that they were working on one for me. So I called them up and said, “Hey, where’s my bass?” They took another year or two because it’s so hard for them to construct a neck-through instrument. They have to glue the graphite onto the wood. It gets messy, and the oven has to be really hot. They eventually finished mine." This instrument is known for deep tones and a "futuristic" sound, largely attributable to a unique construction including a neck that is made entirely of a lightweight, extremely robust carbon-graphite compound, not dissimilar to a material selected by NASA for use on the Space Shuttle. Gordon plays with a pick (Jerry Dunlop 1.5mm triangular graphite picks).[5]

Gordon's signature sound is also attributable to an array of signal processing equipment including an ADA MB-1 pre-amp, an Ibanez flanger (used at the beginning of "Down with Disease"), a Lovetone Meatball envelope filter (also used at the beginning of "Down with Disease"), and Akai Deep Impact, an EHX Bass Micro-Synth, an EBS OctaBass and a Boss SYB-3, a Boss BF-2 flanger, an Eventide 4500 Harmonizer, an Eventide Eclipse and a Lexicon LXP-15.[6]

Gordon has used a variety of amplifier and speaker combinations including the SWR SM-900 amp/Goliath 4x10" enclosure but lately[when?] has been playing through Eden WT-800 amps, a Meyer Sound CP-10 parametric EQ, and onward toward a Meyer Sound powered speaker system (two 750P 2x18 cabs and two UPA-1Ps with 12" low frequency drivers and 3" compression drivers).[7]

He has played banjo since 1994, performing the instrument in concert with Phish and Phil Lesh (albeit an electric banjo) and in the studio on the 2007 Bernie Worrell album Improvisczario. Gordon played an Inferno Bass during "Frankenstein" at the East Troy, Wisconsin, show on 21 June 2009.

Other musical projects

Gordon with Phish at Red Rocks
July 30, 2009 Photo: Dan Shinneman

Gordon has played in several side-projects apart from Phish, including Grappa Boom with Jamie Masefield of the Jazz Mandolin Project, The Chieftains with Rosanne Cash, and Doug Perkins of Smokin' Grass. Gordon formed his own solo band featuring Josh Roseman, Scott Murawski, Julee Avallone, James Harvey, Gordon Stone, Jeannie Hill and Doug Belote in 2003 and released Inside In based loosely on his film Outside Out.

In summer 2004 Gordon produced musician Joey Arkenstat's first album, Bane. Gordon is also credited with providing vocals and shofar accompaniment.

In December 2005, Gordon formed SerialPod with Anastasio and Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. The group debuted at the 17th annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville, North Carolina.

In early 2006, Gordon teamed up with his mother, artist Marjorie Minkin, to present Another Side of In — a visual and audio art show featuring interactive sculptures created by Minkin and set to the music of Inside In. The interactive show appeared at the Boston Children's Museum beginning in January 2010.

In August 2006, Gordon joined the Rhythm Devils - a group featuring Kreutzmann, The Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, guitarist Steve Kimock and a host of backup players.

On January 2, 2007, Gordon appeared with a group billed as The House Band containing many former members of The Grateful Dead playing at a party in honor of the new leadership of the United States House of Representatives hosted by Nancy Pelosi. The group included Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby and Warren Haynes.

Gordon performed at a concert in Hawaii on September 21 with Kimock and Kreutzmann and, on November 2, appeared during the second set of a Ratdog concert at the Memorial Auditorium in Burlington, Vermont, joining the band on the songs "Stuff", "Bird Song" and "Cassidy". On January 5, Gordon again teamed with Kreutzmann and Scott Murawski in Jaco, Costa Rica, for a performance at Doce Lunas, playing a range of covers and originals including "Keep On Growing" "Estimated Prophet" "Twist" and "Intensified". After this showg, Gordon began a year-long retreat from public performance to focus his time on writing and recording a new album, and forming a new touring band.

He joined Trey Anastasio at the first annual Rothbury Music Festival in July during his solo acoustic set. Anastasio and Phish drummer Jon Fishman joined Gordon for part of his set the same day. Gordon released an album entitled The Green Sparrow on Rounder Records on August 5, 2008.

On March 6, 2009, Mike reunited with Phish] at the Hampton Coliseum. The band has toured regularly since Summer 2009.

Gordon finished writing and recording his next solo album, Moss, at his home studio in Vermont in May 2010. The album was released by Rounder Records on October 19.[8]

He explains that many of the songs on the new album "began as bass and drum jams" adding that it is "kind of bass-oriented. Not in that the bass is the lead, but that the rhythms and the patterns are bass centric. The uniqueness is centered on the bass. So the bass is the key instrument. On Inside In, the pedal steel is the key instrument and if you had to say it for Green Sparrow, maybe electric guitar. But this time it’s the bass."[9]

Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke

In 2002, Gordon recorded the critically acclaimed Clone album with acoustic guitar master Leo Kottke. The duo reunited in 2005 for Sixty Six Steps, followed by a supporting tour.

Benevento/Russo Duo and GRAB (2004-2006)

In 2004, Gordon performed with The Benevento-Russo Duo for several shows benefiting Headcount, a voter registration organization. The trio played a number of dates in late 2004 and 2005 including the Bonnaroo Music Festival in June 2005 and a New Year's Eve series of shows in Florida and the northeastern United States.

In summer 2006, Gordon, along with Phish bandmate Trey Anastasio, again joined the Benevento-Russo Duo for a co-headlining tour with Phil Lesh and Friends[10] before finishing the final leg of the tour on their own. The group performed various songs from each members' catalog, as well as a handful of brand new originals. The quartet parted ways after the tour ended in July.

Ramble Dove (2006)

Later in 2006, Gordon formed a honky-tonk band called Ramble Dove, consisting of himself, Brett Hughes, Neil Cleary, Marie Claire and Scott Murawski. The band came into fruition after Gordon's long-time stint as bass guitar player in a honky-tonk band led by Brett Hughes that performed each Tuesday night at the Burlington, Vermont, club, Radio Bean. The group performs a number of classic country songs and a few Gordon originals, such as "Ramble Dove", "Loosening Up The Rules" and the rare Phish song "Weekly Time".

Mike Gordon (2008-present)

His current touring band (and longest running touring project), includes Scott Murawski on guitar, Brooklyn drummer Todd Isler, keyboard player Tom Cleary and percussionist Craig Myers. Gordon emerged from touring hibernation in 2008 and performed with this solo band for the first time since 2003 at The Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts, on June 30, 2008.

Gordon completed a 25-date supporting tour across the US with this band in summer 2008 and a short four-night stint in December of that year. They ventured on a 22-date US tour on September 8, 2009, and again in March 2010.[11] On September 7, the band announced a 17-date November tour, from the 5th to the 27th of the month, with more than half of the dates completely sold out.

In January 2011, the band announced a 17-date March 2011 headlining club tour, including its first sold out double-header event at Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, New York.[12] The band made its debut late night talk-show television appearance on February 11, as musical guests on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, promoting Gordon's album Moss.[13] They will return to the road for a small handful of dates in New England (and one date in Albany) in November and December 2011.

Mike Gordon will be part of the "Jam in the Dam VI", at the Melkweg, Amsterdam, NL, from 3/14-3/16/2012.


Official live releases

  • 08/29/2008 - Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO (Released at LivePhish.com)
  • 10/03/2009 - Town Ballroom, Buffalo, NY (Released at LivePhish.com)
  • 11/26/2010 - Port City Music Hall, Portland, ME (Released March 4, 2011 at LivePhish.com)
  • 11/16/2010 - The Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis, MN (Released March 4, 2011 at LivePhish.com)




  • Sixty Six Steps won album of the year at the 2006 Jammy Awards.
  • Rising Low was the winner of the Joe Jarvis Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the 2002 Newport International Film Festival.
  • Outside Out received the audience award at the South by Southwest festival.


  1. ^ http://www.ronfez.net/forums/showthread.php?t=31461
  2. ^ Bassist booked for child endangerment Bassist booked for child endangerment; August 23, 2003
  3. ^ Phish Bassist Gordon Cleared Prosecutors drop charges; RollingStone.com; September 19, 2003
  4. ^ Interview with Mike Gordon What I'm Into: Mike Gordon; December 26, 2008
  5. ^ Mike Gordon's Bass Rig mike-gordon.com
  6. ^ Mike Gordon's Bass Rig mike-gordon.com
  7. ^ Mike Gordon's Bass Rig mike-gordon.com
  8. ^ Order Moss at Mike's Online Store mike-gordon.com
  9. ^ Reel Time with Mike Gordon Relix.com
  10. ^ [1] Phil Lesh & Friends, Trey Anastasio & Mike Gordon, Benvento/Russo Duo: Goin' Down the Road]
  11. ^ Phish’s Mike Gordon Primes Fans for Solo Disc With Double Live LP Rollingstone.com
  12. ^ Mike Gordon March 2011 Tour Announced mike-gordon.com
  13. ^ Mike Gordon on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Phish.com

External links

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