photo by Vic Brazen
The latest episode of the new Long May They Run podcast—whose first season is dedicated to the history and cultural impact of Phish and is hosted/narrated by author and Relix editor-in-chief Dean Budnick—focuses on the band’s collaborative improvisational spirit, embodied by the phrase “Yes, And,” which is frequently cited as the basis of improv comedy as well. One of the stories shared on the episode, which was released today, comes from bassist Karina Rykman, who leads her own group along with touring in Marco Benevento’s trio.
Rykman explains that she and Phish bassist Mike Gordon have crossed paths several times on the road, when his solo band and Benevento’s group were both booked on the same venue bill or festival lineup. Gordon, who repeatedly told his fellow bassist that she needed to check out his onstage rig, ended up texting Rykman one afternoon in late December 2018 during Phish’s annual New Year’s Eve run at New York’s Madison Square Garden, asking if she wanted to meet up with him at the venue.
Despite having just woken up after playing a late-night after-party following her 100th Phish show the previous evening, Rykman hurried to MSG and found herself on stage with Gordon and his bass tech during soundcheck, playing his bass and inspecting his pedal setup with Gordon explaining, as she puts it, “really mind-boggling gear-nerd things.”
The story picks up when a familiar face joins them on the stage: “All of a sudden, after 20 minutes Trey [Anastasio] walks on stage! And he’s like, ‘Karina?’ And I’m like, ‘Trey!'” Rykman grew up in the same NYC circles as Anastasio’s daughters, and Anastasio noted that she was friends with his daughter Bella’s boyfriend, to whom Anastasio had recently gifted an effects pedal that Gordon happened to have on his onstage rig.
“[Anastasio] walks over to it, and the bass is still on my back, you know, and he hits [the pedal] with his hand. And then all of a sudden there’s this super awesome tone that comes out. And I’m noodling around on the bass for like three seconds like, ‘This is great.’ And then his face lights up. He runs to the other end of the stage, picks up the guitar and then, all of a sudden, you know, starts being Trey. And then like on note one, [Jon] Fishman is on that. he comes up and he starts playing. And I accept the key—I just started jamming in A, and they all kind of followed me if anything. And Mike’s filming it on the side of the stage. And then, 15 seconds later, Page [McConnell] comes up and starts playing the organ. And I’m like, ‘Holy shit, I think I’m playing with Phish right now at the World’s Most Famous Arena! And I kind of set the tone of it, from the get go, playing in A, and they all kind of followed suit. And it was the most… jubilation is the word. I don’t even know what the word is. There aren’t enough words.”
Below, watch a clip of Rykman’s impromptu jam with Anastasio, Fishman and McConnell at MSG from her Instagram, and listen to today’s full episode of Long May They Run here. Also check out Rykman on Relix‘s weekly 3 From The 7 podcast with Assistant Editor Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta here.
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In between my 100th and 101st Phish shows, after my sold out gig last night at @nublunyc, I got to test Mike’s rig, and then before I knew it….well, this happened at @thegarden. A dream, it’s true. I have no words and I am endlessly grateful. I don’t know what to say or do but I got to play with my favorite band at the world’s most famous arena and I am ready to collapse. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.