The four members of Phish stood onstage together for the first time since Coventry last night to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 7th Jammy Awards. The surprise reunion followed an emotional speech from longtime Phish photographer (and Relix contributor) Danny Clinch, who stressed the importance of family both on and off the stage throughout the Phish community. Clinch also entertained fans with a quick slideshow, focusing on backstage shots of Phishs rehearsals with special guests Kid Rock and Jay-Z, the latter of whom happened to be simultaneously performing upstairs in Madison Square Gardens arena.
All four members of Phish addressed the audience from the stage, beginning with Mike Gordon, who said that he was actually sick in bed until shortly before arriving at the venue. Both Page McConnell and Jon Fishman also delivered quick acceptance speeches, before handing over the microphone to Trey Anastasio, who thanked a number of key members in the Phish organization by name and described his former bandmates as his oldest friends. He also talked at length about the strength and importance of the Phish community, before bowing alongside his bandmates and quietly exiting the stage. Anastasios appearance marked his first public showing outside upstate New York since entering a drug rehabilitation program in the spring of 2007.
Phishs emotional speech arrived near the end of an action packed Jammy Awards, which featured the unique collaborations the ceremony has become known for over the years. Co-hosts Warren Haynes and Grace Potter, who have spent the past few weeks on the road together, opened the evening with a band that consisted of Stax keyboardist Booker T. Jones, bassist Will Lee (Fab Faux, Late Show With David Letterman) and drummer Joe Russo, who recently spent time on the road with Potter along with his Duo partner Marco Benevento. The supergroup ran through a number of classic rock covers, including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Youngs ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ (a song Jones is no doubt familiar with after touring as part of CSNY), Fleetwood Macs ‘Gold Dust Woman’ (a staple on Potters tour with Govt Mule) and Al Greens anthem, ‘Take Me to the River.’ Former New Groove of the Month Rose Hill Drive took the stage next with special guest Matisyahu and his bandmates Aaron Dugan and Rob Marscher (formerly of 2001 Jammy nominees Addison Groove Project).
The strange bedfellows ran through a cover of The Flaming Lips In the Morning of the Magicians, before Mountain guitarist Leslie West took the stage with Rose Hill Drive for the evenings loudest offerings. The hard-rock guitarist jammed with Rose Hill Drive and Potter on a version of ‘I’m Going Down’ that included ‘Close Encounters, before offering his signature song, ‘Mississippi Queen. West also joked that Potter was far more attractive than the members of his testosterone-filled band. Soon after, Matisyahu returned to the stage to talk about finding Phish as a high school student growing up in suburban New York and ultimately meeting and performing with Anastasio at Bonnaroo 2005, before the reggae-star jetted across town to perform at Radio City Music Hall as part of a celebration of Israels 60th anniversary.
Next up, festival favorite Keller Williams took the stage to perform a solo version of his Jammy nominated song Cadillac. He was quickly joined onstage by comedian/actor Chevy Chase, who unbenownst to most played drums with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in one of their bands that preceded Steely Dan.. On this occasion Chase opted to play piano alongside Williams on a rearranged version of ‘(You Made Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ and a medley of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and Take the Money and Run that earned some of the evenings loudest cheers. The pair apparently bonded backstage and when Williams later took top honors in the Song on the Year category , he sent Chase onstage in his place for a humorous speech that included the line I want to thank Clive Davis just because I feel like I should.
As the show went on Tea Leaf Green made its Jammys debut with guest bassist Steve Adams (ALO) and fiddler Allie Kral (New Groove winner Cornmeal) for a rendition of their 2006 Jammy winning number, ‘Taught to be Proud.’ Big Head Todds Todd Park Mohr and Squeezes Glen Tilbrook also sat in with the expanded group on their songs ‘Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)‘and ‘Tempted,’ respectively, the latter of which featured some choice guitar work by Haynes himself.
McConnell, who was the only member of Phish confirmed to play the Jammys in the weeks leading up to the event, appeared early on to accept Phishs award in Download of the Year category for the charity track the Headphones Jam. He also led a all-star jazz combo that included drummer Roy Haynes, saxophonist James Carter, trumpeter and former Anastasio collaborator Nicholas Payton and bassist Christian McBride through two of his three recorded Phish originals: ‘Magilla’ and ‘Cars Trucks Buses. The performance followed an appearance by Jon Fishman, who presented the Mimi Fishman Memorial Award on behalf of his late mother with David Shulman to the non-profit Rock the Earth.
While Jay-Z rattled the roof upstairs, Galactic balanced its jazz/funk past with its hip-hop present, inviting out a slew of guests, including Booker T. Jones, Sharon Jones, Jurassic 5s Chali 2na and MC Doug E. Fresh for songs like ‘Hip Hug-Her, ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and ‘Think Back, ‘ among others.
The evenings surprise guests really started coming out in force when Beatles tribute act the Fab Faux took the stage with stealth performer Joan Osborne for a rendition of ‘Come Together.’ The Fab Faux then busted into ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps,’ a number Phish has covered regularly after learning the track as part of their Halloween, 1994 cover of The White Album on Halloween. Anastasio emerged partway through the song to thunderous applause to take an extended solo, before leading the group into a jam uncharacteristic of the cover act. He remained onstage for the rest of the groups segment, which included a tease ‘Bungalow Bill’ and ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.’
The rest of the night focused on Phish, both before and after the four members of the group took the stage to accept their award. After the quartet slipped into the wings, Disco Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein led Disco Biscuits guitarist Jon Gutwillig, String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, Umphreys McGee guitarist Jake Cinninger and Russo through a series of Phish covers under the name the HeadCount All Stars. Brownstein, who has shied away from covering Phish over the years, described the group as his favorite band and led the charge through spot-on renditions of Wilson, Run Like An Antelope, 2001, and Maze, ‘ the latter of which also featured Disco Biscuits keyboardist Aron Magner. Throughout the performance, moe. lighting director, and former News Editor, Jeff Waful manned the board from the rear of the house.
A number of other popular performers were seen milling about throughout the evening, both on and off the stage, including Phish lyricist Tom Marshall, Assembly of Dust frontman Reid Genauer, Umphreys McGee bassist Ryan Stasik, moe. drummer Vinnie Amico, Guster guitarist Ryan Miller, Steel Train bassist Evan Winiker, Disco Biscuits drummer Allen Aucoin, Deep Banana Blackout/Tom Tom Club guitarist (and onetime Jammys Orchestra leader) Fuzz, American Babies guitarists Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger, Dr. Dog drummer Juston Stens, Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno and singer/songwriter Jonah Smith, along with the people behind Bonnaroo, Sirius Jam_On, the Rock Band video games, Q104, Rock the Earth, the Homegrown Music Network, HeadCount and JamBase, among many, many others. During the evening, Zenbu Media president Steve Bernstein also introduced the audience to 8-year old Japanese guitar prodigy Yuto Miyazawa, who is able to deliver note-perfect readings of Black Sabbath and Eric Clapton songs on a guitar the size of his small frame (Miyazaw later performed with Galactic at the Jammys post-party).
Look fore additional interviews and online exclusives in the coming days.
Report by Mike Greenhaus with Randy Ray