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2/28/2013 7:45:00 PM
The rhythm never stopped: The Mickey Hart Band is truckin' back to Flagstaff
John Werner/Courtesy photo
The Mickey Hart Band, featuring original Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, fourth from left, and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, third from left, play the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff this Monday night.
John Werner/Courtesy photo
The Mickey Hart Band, featuring original Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, fourth from left, and Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, third from left, play the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff this Monday night.
When: Monday, March 4. Doors open at 7; show starts at 8

Who: The Mickey Hart Band with African Showboyz

Where: The Orpheum Theater, Flagstaff

Tickets: $16-25 in advance (http://orpheumpresents.inticketing.com/events); $28 day of show.


The Mickey Hart Band beams into Flagstaff during its current Worlds Within Tour this Monday night. Like Hart himself, the band's pitch is the ultimate in holistic healing.

"When the music stops, life is over. You must keep the music going, you must keep the vibrations going, you must keep the rhythms going," Hart, the Grateful Dead's original drummer, said in September 2012, when he and a friend went walking one night in New Orleans' Congo Square and came upon a local band playing outdoors. As fate would have it, the band at that moment was well into a groove on the Dead classic "Fire on the Mountain."

Mickey walked up on stage for some impromptu drumming, singing and preaching.

"That is life. When the rhythm is good, life is good."

His band's 17-date tour opened Feb. 15 near Lake Tahoe and takes an Arizona turn next week. A Monday show at the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff at 8 p.m. features special guest African Showboyz - five brothers from West Africa - and a killer 12-piece band that includes no fewer than seven percussionists. Holding the sound together is Hart, best known as the Dead's drummer since 1967 and, on his solo band's tour, as the pied piper of jam-band musicianship and the keeper of international percussion's flame.

"Mickey would tell you it all starts with the clave, the basic beat," said Mickey Hart Band bassist Dave Schools, moonlighting from his regular role as bassist with jam-band extraordinaire Widespread Panic. Schools has been with Hart's band since 2011, meshing a freeform rhythm section that drives a band as eclectic as it is inspired.

"Kind of a 'Not Fade Away' beat... and you build on it. You repeat patterns, you alter patterns. You add more people into the mix. But the more people you add, the less each of them can play. And that's the key. This band works like a well-oiled machine on its best nights, with everybody tossing the ball and everybody leaving a hole for someone else to play, and everyone staying away from the obvious stuff. That's where the magic happens."

The band is fresh off its release of "Jersey Shore," a song born last fall out of Hurricane Sandy's devastating effects. All net proceeds of "Jersey Shore" benefit Clean Ocean Action, which has organized more than 3,800 volunteers since last November to aid Sandy relief.

"I was a kid from Coney Island, Atlantic Beach and Far Rockaway," Hart, a 1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with the Dead, said in a news release. "The Shore was the totem, the centerpiece, a physical representation of community spirit for many generations.... It was a deep loss, not just property, but so much more.

"The song was born in five minutes. It is a tribute to the people and to the place we call The Jersey Shore. It's a song of victory over adversity. A song of hardship, of hope, tears, and smiles - but above all survival. It's time to rebuild what we've lost. Let's bring back the beauty. Your help is needed now, more than ever. Please give what you can."

Hart and the band are busier than ever. In April 2012, they released "Mysterium Tremendum," Hart's first studio album in five years, and the follow-up to his 2007 Grammy-winning "Global Drum Project."

The Mickey Hart Band consists of Schools, Grammy winning percussionist and longtime band mate Sikiru Adepoju, Tony Award winning vocalist Crystal Monee Hall, singer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Bagale, drummer Ian "Inx" Herman, guitarist Gawain Matthews, and keyboardist / producer, Ben Yonas.

Monday night's stop is also the Hart Band's second stop at the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff in the past two years.

"The Orpheum's a great sounding room. They treat us great there," Schools said in a phone interview with the Courier on Feb. 15 before an evening soundcheck for the band's first show of the tour after almost a week of rehearsing at Hart's barn in Sonoma County." I've always enjoyed Flagstaff and that theater. And it does sound good. To me that's a recipe for a really good night of music."

Schools, who works up each show's setlist with Hart, says fans can expect everything from new material to Dead classics, though he wouldn't come clean with just which selections from the Dead catalog.

"I can't tell you," he laughed. "But there's a lot of them and a lot are pretty obscure, you might not expect them to come. And with the vocalists and the musicians we have in this band, anything goes. It's a lot of fun to play those songs and dress them up how they work with this band."

The band also stays true to its improvisational roots. "Happy accidents," Schools calls them, which "leave spaces for something special to happen that you can't plan for and you can't map out."

After the Flagstaff stop, the Mickey Hart Band will play the next night in Tucson before wrapping the tour with final stops in California in Solana Beach and Berkeley.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: huh huh

In the last year George Thorogood, Jimmy Cliff, The Persuasions and Dropkick Murphys have played at the Orpheum in Flag. Is there any reason we can't get similar acts here? Wouldn't the Elks Theater be a good venue? I don't know, just asking.

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