Mihali w/ Grubby Bean - Gateway City Arts Holyoke, MA - December 15, 2018
Mihali w/ Grubby Bean - Gateway City Arts Holyoke, MA - December 15, 2018

Gateway City Arts Holyoke, MA – December 15, 2018

Not that it is impossible to describe a Mihali show, but it’s not easy, either. You are going to find yourself using a lot of words like ‘amazing’ and ‘awesome’ just to start getting somewhere near the descriptive neighborhood. This has always been true for this guy; I have recommended the experience to any guitarist friends for years now -never mind their usual tastes.  “Just relax and let your mind be blown- or your face melted.” Mihali’s skill on six-string is pretty spectacular on its own, and the integration of technology would be downright wizardry if it weren’t for the scientific proof of live, right-before-the-eyes performance. Together, the output from this infinitely more than one man band is nothing short of mind-boggling.

By ‘technology,’ we’re talking creative contrivances in recording and playback, not synths, electronics or computer-generated audio affectations. Everything this guy plays is real, spontaneous, physical, “organically based” instrumentation- not a whisper of sound issues forth but what the one-man maestro indicates and orchestrates with his guitar and voice, plus staggering utilization of devices. All this could, and might, have been said five or six years ago- in fact, I’m sure it was… by me… a lot.

It all started with a beat-box or some such, and what Mihali achieved just by way of looping was a show worth seeing. Now, here we are a few years farther along; technology has come along… well… how far? About as far as an ambitious, creative and fearless young man could run with it.  And all that goes without even including the bits of human help from an intermittently-appearing stage-hand.

First,  there is the guitar. The dude has a bunch of different tricks under his hat nowadays. First out the gate tonight was some o’ that “poom-chicka-shhh-chika-poom” vocalizations that makes entertaining embellishment for a short pass, then becomes functional as well as impressive.  Mihali then slipped in a couple rounds of six-string strumming; there’s some fleshed-out fullness behaving as backdrop, even as Mihali places his paws up on the newest addition to his audio toy-box, a drum-thingie.

This thing can’t be whatcha call a ‘drum-machine’ per se. For one thing it’s not a case of triggering a syncopated program and letting it run; the dude actually plays on whatever he’s got for pads on that tallywhacker, and what comes out is by turns rhythm and back-beat here, and/or percussive embellishment there, all swapped around. And then starts summing up to a mountain of sound, one more layer goes over the top of this sonic tiramisu, as ba-whumpa-thumpa bass drum pounds out from the system. It might have been manual, or it may have been oral and amplified; who can keep track?

Did I mention this was just the first song?

Well ok- maybe what you’re getting now, after the fact, is more like a composite picture, constructed from dazed and amazed memory, but that really is pretty much the way it happened. I just don’t want to make a mistake in the order-of-operations. All kinds of combinations: each and every one was pulled up, laid down and put out in ways that were all amazing. 

Grubby Bean’s opening set was righteous, too. Mandalino was perfect accompaniment. Bean’s voice is more sure and solid than I was expecting, with my only other exposure being his “Water” CD from like five years back. I liked it a lot when he shared it, and now it’s easy to see that he has been working, progressing, and improving his sound. 

The finale was really a treat. The pairing of Mihali with Grubby Bean is worthy of note,  like when Gubbilidis got going at Nectar’s, or Monsta’ Party, that was HUGE for those of us lucky enough to follow. And how ’bout Gubbilidis as Mihali & Friends with Ryan Claussen on drums… and Jayden, remember that holiday season? This all makes for Bonus Fun, the frills to be had for a fanboy. Grubby Bean is another step, not far removed, in the Twiddle-verse.

The Grubby guy and his accompanist came out for Mickey’s finale. They did “Friend of the Devil,” and for once I got my ass, camera and all, right into the right place at the right time. Mihali’s encore got pretty wild, too. It was such a great demonstration of all the aforementioned amazing antics. In both cases, for a good ten minute chunk of time- I had the old vibe up my spine that comes with thrill and excitement. There was an energy that Grubby Bean had described as “palpable” just a short time before; “you could feel it in the room” … to which I replied, a little bit smart-assed but a whole lotta sincere, too: “yep- the Twiddle vibe.”

This was in fact my first time to Gateway City Arts and it is impressive.  The room, the facilities, the bistro next door which had an espresso bar were all great.  The production was also excellent with great sound, which for this show was really appreciated.

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