Photographs by Steven Philips, story by Lillymaura Lamour
The African Showboyz, discovered in West Africa by Mickey, added an upbeat, colorful flavor to start off the show. They played homemade instruments with REAL python skins. They are four brothers, all from the same mother, out of 54 siblings total (from the same father); quite prolific as is their music! Two of them alternated back and forth between the djembe and a short, stout drum with a big sound called the calabash. The ensemble was completed by the other two who played a bango-type instrument with two strings and a large shaker. They looked very authentic in beautiful, traditional African garb. One or two band members got up periodically and astounded the audience with their extremely energetic and animated African dancing. They put on quite a show. Mickey definitely knew what he was doing when he added these amazing musical gems to the show.
Then Mickey Hart and the rest of his band drifted on stage gradually and overlapped with the African Showboyz, who left the stage just as gradually. It was orchestrated quite beautifully. They started the first set with “Aiko” and ended the night with “We Bid You Goodnight,” with several Grateful Dead songs and percussion originals in between. The crowd went wild singing along to many of the songs and dancing and dancing some more. We all appreciated the sights and sounds of this percussion master, playing and guiding the entire time. All band members’ eyes were on Mickey. They coordinated perfectly. Mickey is quite the director and the otherworldly, healing sounds he produced from the percussion instruments, which completely surrounded him, were enough to put everyone to drift into an altered state of consciousness. Especially when he played his custom string instrument, bowing it, and sending the sound through the thermin. Mickey even played an entire song on the cowbell.
This whole experience from beginning to end was breathtaking. The level of professionalism was impeccable and the venue, one of my favorites, was a perfect setting for this masterpiece. I look forward to seeing this act again as often as possible.