Mike Dillon is a percussionist by trade. He’s also a nomad. These two things landed him his most notable gigs in music. A member of Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade and Ani DiFranco’s touring band, Dillon has been a key element in the Texas funk scene since the heyday of his first bands, Billy Goat and Hairy Apes BMX. The fact that Dillon’s newest project is led by vibraphone is not entirely out of the blue. After a morphine binge lasting half a year and leaving him with only his vibraphone yet to be pawned, Dillon began Go-Go Jungle.
Learning Thelonious Monk songs and improvising in bands such as Garage a Trois worked out for a while, but it was teaming with bassist JJ “Jungle” Richards and drummer “Go-Go” Ray Pollard that Dillon’s blend of soul jazz and funk began to spark. Along with tenor saxophonist Mark Southerland, the acid-tinged sounds of the vibraphone smacked headlong into punk, metal and old-school jam-band sensibility.
Dillon is a son of punk rock and such metal monsters as Black Sabbath. To see him tattooed-up and disheveled in front of a vibraphone, it’s hard to decide which to join: the mosh pit or the drum circle. The Go-Go Jungle are propelled through Dillon’s vibe, and his subtle changes will move the band in any direction. From Waits to Zappa, the eclectic interplay is the band’s best feature.
Now, in their first U.S. tour, the Go-Go Jungle play the Black Cat Bar in Penngrove on Feb. 4. Their debut album, Battery Milk, out on Hyena Records, is a medley of sounds played with irreverence and tongue-in-cheek humor. The manic arrangements complement improvisation on songs like “Stupid Americans” and “Lunatic Express.” The happy grooves of “Bad Man” mix in George W. Bush sound bites, making for a sinister political statement. “Harris County” is a tribute to the late Eddie Harris that spits and flames out in the end. The album is a shining example of musical unpredictability.
Mike Dillon’s Go-Go Jungle shake up the Black Cat Bar on Sunday, Feb. 4. 10056 Main St., Penngrove. 8pm. 707.793.9480.