STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Ride the "Lunatic Express" with Mike Dillon


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This week, let's check out some videos of the Mike Dillon Band, who will be in St. Louis to play on Thursday, June 27 at The Demo.

The group features Dillon on vibraphone, percussion and vocals, Carly Meyers on trombone and bass pedals, Cliff Hines on guitar, bass and keyboards, and Adam Gertner on drums. They played here most recently back in February, when they opened for Umphrey's McGee at The Pageant.

Dillon, a prolific collaborator and relentless live performer, also has played St. Louis in recent years with both Garage A Trois and The Dead Kenny Gs, and the MDB shares to an certain extent what might be called the “punk/jazz" sensibility of those two bands.

All three are high-energy, generally high-volume ensembles that rely most on driving, danceable rhythms with occasional quiet interludes and/or bursts of odd time signatures. In addition, given the MDB's trombone and mallet percussion; frequent use of fast, angular unison melodies; and penchant for cryptic or tongue-in-cheek song titles, some listeners of a certain age might be tempted to use the adjective “Zappaesque" to describe their music.

That impression is further reinforced visually by Meyers, whose interpretive-dance stage moves seem like they'd fit right in next to those of famously rubber-legged former FZ sideman Napoleon Murphy Brock and Zappa Plays Zappa keyboardist/saxophonist Scheila Gonzalez.

Though Dillon has recorded extensively with a number of different bands, his 2012 solo album Um seems to be the source of much of the MDB's current live repertoire. And while comparisons can be useful as shorthand or a starting point, there's really no substitute for actually hearing the music. So, let's get to that...

The first video up above is of a tune called “Hafta" and was recorded right here in St. Louis in the studios of KDHX (88.1 FM) during Dillon's last visit here in February.

Down below are two songs, “DVS" and “Ding Dong (The Party's Over)," recorded in September 2012 at Mezo's Juke Joint in Ocean Springs, MS. Below that is a version of “Lunatic Express" captured in May of last year at Keg Lounge in Orange Beach, AL.

The fifth clip, date and place of origin unknown, features a tune called Harris “Harris County." The sixth video is of a tune called “Omar," recorded at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans, with New Orleans native (and Dillon's fellow Garage A Trois member) Stanton Moore sitting in for Gertner on drums.

You can hear more audio of the Mike Dillon Band recorded during their visit to KDHX here. For more about Dillon, check out this 2011 interview with Drum magazine.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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