(Published in Jackson Hole Weekly)
Let’s take a little inventory of the Mike Dillon projects that have passed through the Knotty Pine since 2006: Mike Dillon’s GoGo Jungle, Hairy Apes BMX, Critter’s Buggin’, Garage A Trois, The Dead Kenny G’s, and now the Mike Dillon Band. This doesn’t account for the pile of other bands that he’s collaborated with (Ani DiFranco and Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade) since his first successful Texas-based project in the 90’s, Billy Goat.
“When Billy Goat happened that band was never ever supposed to be anything other than like a one-time event,” Dillon told Jambands.com last year. “It was like, ‘a friend of mine’s got a gig and he needs an opening band.’ So we did it, and the next thing you know people freaked out and within six months we were drawing 1,500 people in Dallas. It was an anomaly. It never happened in my career since.”
One of the most free-spirited, dynamic and erratic percussionists in the country, Dillon is a vibraphone-whacking madman that was been described by the Village Voice as “a brutal, yet meticulously deranged blast of raw, jazz-rock power.” His heroes Black Sabbath, The Minutemen and Bad Brains have internalized a punk ethos into a rage-against-the-machine spirit—punk to funk, rap to rock. It’s worth mentioning that he is also classically trained. Dillon spoke highly of the comprehensive jazz program at University of North Texas and the life lessons that accompanied.
“The percussion instructor there, a guy name Dr. Robert Schietroma, he was very well-rounded and had you learn everything…African, Gamelan, Brazilian, Indian. I played hand percussion and steel drum, gamelan, tabla,” Dillon said. “He taught us that you’re going to learn for the rest of your life, you’re never done learning. That was the foundation of the lifelong pursuit of percussion and musical knowledge.”
After a brief hiatus as bandleader, the prolific songster is back at the driving wheel and a dance party is inevitable. Dillon’s latest musical context is being shaped by Adam Gertner (drums), Cliff Hines (guitar, bass, keyboards) and Carly Meyers (trombone, vocals). Dillon is known for his stage antics and organic, high-energy performances, and while seemingly a work-a-holic giving it his all under the singular cape of punk jazz, he’s able to get into the zone of not taking himself seriously and maintaining spontaneity.
“Whether it’s Garage A Trois or Dead Kennedy G’s, at some point in the evening we are here to entertain people and get it going,” Dillon said. “Miles Davis, he’d have his crowd to his back but he knew how to entertain people. So, no matter what kind of music you’re playing…having that to bring is just another tool, really, whether it’s playing rhythm changes or talking shit on the microphone. It’s all good to me.”
In that spirit, his latest solo album, Urn, hit the streets in September and pushes the envelope even further towards the experimental and occasionally absurd. The results are vibrational: “DVS” and “Ding Dong The Party Is Over” radiate with a ska pulse and surf punk abandon, “Leather On” is a definitive post-modern freak anthem, and “Saturn Returns” shows why Dillon was Claypool’s perfect foil all those years in the Frog Brigade.
Balls-to-the-wall and largely indefinable, the Mike Dillon Band represents the energy and abnormality that swirls in New Orleans culture.
Mike Dillon Band, 10 p.m., Tuesday, at the Knotty Pine in Victor. Free. 208-787-2866.