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Published: 2008/05/23
by Randy Ray

A Momentary Lapse of Retirement

Side 1:
Track 1: Past is Prologue
And there they were, just standing thereall four who helped build this scene from the ground up, with the help of a few thousand friends and a burgeoning Internet back in the early 1990s, the waning days of the American Century, in the time before this country became a nation consumed with debt, dread and despair, and in the years when performing improvisation, reborn as jamband music, would help seal the elusive mystical bond between performer and audience. Now banished to the pages of music history, Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Page McConnell stood as one to accept their Lifetime Achievement Award at the 7th (and, appropriately, final) Jammy Awards.

Track 2: Batman & Wonder Woman
Warren Haynes and Grace Potter served as co-hosts for the award and jam ceremonies as they continued a dynamic musical partnership that had begun on a brief spring tour leading to dates on the West Coast, including a co-headlining gig at Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Music Festival in late April. And to be sure, Haynes’ controlled restraint on vocals and guitar are an easy fit in the Potter vocal pocket as both have such fine chops that their musical chemistry can create splendid results. The duo began the show with Will Lee from Late Show with David Letterman on bass, Joe Russo on drums, and the legendary Booker T. Jones on keyboards, which he also shared with Potter.

Track 3: Birds of a Different Feather
This inspired pairing of musicians who normallyoutside of Russo who has played a few dates with the Dynamic Duoare not sharing the same stage has been a hallmark of the Jammys since 2001, and it is also what always gave them their unique twist. Why don’t we throw together opposing forces from different genres on classic material and see how far they can stretch the boundaries? 2008 continued and solidified this ingenious idea, and was quite apparent from the outset as the band tore into covers by CSNY, Fleetwood Mac and Al Green. “Gold Dust Woman” by the Mac, was an especially good choice as Haynes and Potter matched the required internal tension of the song’s history for a fine performance, emphasizing the deep soul music roots of both performers.

Track 4: When Guitars Ruled the Earth
And as soon as you’re getting comfortable with THAT bit of magic, out stomps Rose Hill Drive with Mountain’s Leslie West on guitar and Grace Potter on keyboards and backing vocals. West had a ball blasting out the old pipes on “I’m Goin’ Down” and “Mississippi Queen,” while displaying some guitar hero theatrics and song teases along the way. Perhaps, more telling, the rollicking boogie blues rock of this set was controlled with appropriate rigor by the Drive guitarists as the rollicking freight train of this music never veered off into misplaced sludge or a down tempo without a premisesimply, the band rode the back of the guitar-led monster attack. Oh, lest I forgetone of the best pairings
of the night happened before all of this shreddery as Matisyahuwith his band members Aaron Dugan and Rob Marscherfronted Rose Hill Drive with a rousing version of the Flaming Lips’ “In the Morning of the Magicians,” that paved the way for an emotional speech by the singer post-set regarding his own personal history with Phish, a band still lingering over the entire music scene, let alone the evening at the Theater at MSG.

Track 5: Camel Jog
Pacing in improvisation and bizarrely wonderful collaborations during a live event is key, so out came Keller Williams on acoustic guitar and vocals with Chevy Chaselate night television pioneer, film star, and 1960s pre-Steely Dan drummeron piano for a cool Keller original (and Jammy’ed) “Cadillac” and choice covers by Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Steve Millerwith the former bending gender on “Natural Woman,” which was a witty prelude to seeing Chase accepting Williams’ Song of the Year award while the guitarist howled with delight just backstage near where I was standing as we watched a television monitor. Chase offered his own brand of improvisation which didn’t miss a beat in humor and relevance. And kudos to the pair as they also soundchecked a reading of Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” for good measure, which sounded fairly potent.

Hidden track at the end of Side 1: I AM IRON MAN
For additional narrative flavor, it was like being backstage at the NBA All-Star Game during one hilarious moment as I stood speaking with Phish lyricist Tom Marshall and Chase walked by, exchanging witticisms. I am not shorton a good day, I’m still 6’1”but next to the artistic Twin TowersGoliathian Marshall and the Chase Shaqitudeone felt like Mini Me for a brief spell of “will Kobe Bryant, also, be just around the corner, tonight, ready to team with Marco Benevento for a version of Sabbath’s “Iron Man?”

Side 2:
Track 1: CaliBrit Jam Nation
Former Jammy winners Tea Leaf Green flew in from their own blurry-eyed spring tour, sharing the stage with fellow Northern Californians ALOer Steve Adams on bass and me on downstage-right jocular-journalist duties as New Groove winner Cornmeal offered Allie Kral on violin, with Glenn Tilbrook from 80s mega-band Squeeze on two of his own choice selections“Muscles in Shells” and “Tempted”while Big Head Todd & the Monsters’ Todd Park Mohr delivered some cool guitar crunch, as well. What was especially moving about this set was how well the Squeeze hooks, perfectly crafted on the two timeless chestnuts, fit into the sturdy mechanisms of TLGa band that writes strong melodies of their own, easily sliding into the grooves from the 80s without a hitch.

Track 2: My Friend, My Friend, He’s Got Some Keys
And there he was, just sitting thereso began the “Phish is here” segment of the program as suddenly every friend/forum member/NYC resident/American citizen was text-messaging/calling me (?!)uh, I can barely hear in the best of circumstances, only managed a polite “Hi,” to one of my beloved and beleaguered editors, so I’m certainly not going to be able to hear “Is Fish there, too? Fluffhead, dude!!” during THIS madness.

Some of my favorite text messages from this moment of the show from those who stayed at home due to things likeoh, they live 3,000 miles awaywere “THE BOARDS ARE BLOWING UP!” “Is Gordo there?” “Are they together?” “When is Phish on?” and “It’s hilarious. Everyone is going insane on the net.” Yeah, welldid you think they wouldn’t show up? I floated this possibility months ago out into the net netherworld, but, perhaps, it was too subtle of a hint that people should check the Jammys out one more (last?) time. Anyway, the first official Phish sighting was when Page McConnell picked up the Best Download award for Phish’s “Headphones Jam,” with a gracious speech. And yesthe man still has the best shirts in the business, which was classic as some things just never change as Fish arrived in the shirt I’d use to mow the lawn, but hey, he’s Fishman, loved by thousands of people, and wellno one gives a rat’s about our landscape attire, right?

Track 3: Mimi, Page, Jammy Jazz & Billy Breathes
Fish and David Shulman presented the Mimi Fishman Award to Rock the Earth for their many fine contributions to the non-profit scene. The always entertaining and informative Marc Ross accepted the award with a passionate speech and this led to a great jam session fronted by Page McConnell on keyboards with James Carter on saxophone, Christian McBride on bass, Roy Haynes on drums, and Nicholas Payton on trumpet (himself a one-time Trey Anastasio collaborator) on McConnell’s Phish songs “Magilla” from 1992’s A Picture of Nectar and “Cars Trucks Buses” from 1996’s Billy Breathes.

Track 4: N’awlins Shake em down Street
Galactic DESTROYED the stage in the last non-Phish section of the program (O.K. Call off the FDNY. They didn’t literally burn up the stage.) The New Orleans band, along with Booker T. Jones, Sharon Jones, Chali 2na and Doug E. Fresh, stomped through numerous songs that I didn’t even bother to write down. I was having WAY too much fun jamming with them while watching the crowd reach a mid-evening peak as the thought that hip-hop, rock and jam could not co-exist on the same block, let alone the same stage, was completely thrown out after their set. This shit needs to be heard. EPIC.

Side 3:
Track 1: I’m Going Down to the Central Part of Town
The roar was deafening. You read that sentence in sports stories, show reviews, and cheesy novelsno, I’ve never used that one, thanksbut that’s the best I can say: “The roar was deafening.” For all the crap this man has endured in print and on-line sincewell, since he missed a lyric in 1993, or slipped on “Golgi Appartus” in Europe orrecently, with the overwhelming negativity that he endured after releasing _Shine_an album ofgasp_confessional_ songs with memorable hooksand fronting a band called 70 Volt Paradeperhaps a more accurate (yet not ALWAYS) bit of criticismanyway, Trey Anastasio has provoked a wide variety of anger from fans who couldn’t see why he broke up the beloved PHISH to pursue solo work. At the Jammys, it was amazing how all that was forgotten when he walked on stage during Fab Faux’s set, right in the middle of an emotionally-charged “When My Guitar Gently Weeps” and shred for the ages. Rehab almost complete; chops still great; forgiveness has ensued.

Side 4:
Track 1: A Momentary Lapse of Retirement (or Past is Prologue Reprise)
And there they were, just standing thereall four who helped build this scene from the ground up, with the help of a few thousand friends and a burgeoning Internet back in the early 1990s, the waning days of the American Century, in the time before this country became a nation consumed with debt, dread and despair, and in the years when performing improvisation, reborn as jamband music, would help seal the elusive mystical bond between performer and audience. Now banished to the pages of music history, Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Page McConnell stood as one to accept their Lifetime Achievement Award at the 7th (and, appropriately, final) Jammy Awards. If the crowd was a little loud when Trey came out to play on The White Album’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me & My Monkey,” it is now appropriate to write that the crowd went completely ape-shit berserk when the Phab Phour walked out to receive their awards. I can interpret what Trey said in his particular speech until the cows return home to Vermont from a trip to Floridahis insightful comments about Phish occupying a specific cultural moment in time and the fact that the audience was a huge part of their whole phenomenonbut let’s let the man speak for himself, shall we? Here is a link to the speechthe longest of the four .

Track 2: HeadCount All-Stars
HeadCount gets people to vote. In a democracy, that is the single most important thing that past generations fought foras tyranny and corruption cannot endure if the population rises up to let its voice be heard. HeadCount also offered their own jamband for the evening on a particularly torrid and incendiary set of Phish songs which seamlessly segued from one to the other in a beautiful Zen blend of Disco Biscuit hipster techno magic and Phish timeless tension-and-release improvisation: “Wilson>Run Like An Antelope>2001>Maze.” The band closed the evening on a very high note, and, appropriately enough, consisted of HeadCount and tDBer Marc Brownstein on bass, Bisco band mates Jon Gutwillig on guitar and Aron Magner on keyboards, SCIer Kyle Hollingsworth, also on keys, Sir Joe Russo on drums, returning again, bookending the Jammys in fine fashion after his opening highlights with co-hosts Warren Haynes and Grace Potter, and one of the scene’s best guitarists, Umphrey’s McGee axeman Jake Cinninger. The set was both melancholyalas, this wasn’t Phish_and_ spectacularbut, hey, these were some of the best musicians on the planet and the combination of so many collaborative elementstechno, classic rock, R&B, prog, and good ole jamband musicmade for a fitting cap to a historic evening of music and words.

Hidden track: News Item Thursday, May 22, 2008
I struggled to finish my Jammys feature because I knew that I did not have a conclusion. Alas, what goes unwritten on the site is how much time we spend together on-line sharing information, ideas, and good will. In many ways, the story of the Jammys and the site itself, is a story about friends finding common ground in a worldespecially musicwhere similar interests can not always be found. Cheers to that continuing concept as we, also, strive to continue celebrating collaboration. A tip of the hat to Dean Budnick and Mike Greenhaus, who make my daily life that much more enjoyable by delivering all the news that just sounds right, five times a week, 52 weeks out of the year, and 10 years running. Appropriately enough, another talented man who helped shape the news, Jeff Waful, current moe. Lighting Director, also ran the lights during the closing HeadCount All-Stars set. Here is today’s News Item and a fitting conclusion to the warm Jammys afterglow:

Anastasio Receives Reduced Sentence
The Associated Press has shared some good news regarding Trey Anastasio. According to an article published today, “Anastasio received a reduced sentence of three years’ probation for a drug conviction after he successfully completed a counseling and treatment program.” The article goes on to say that Anastasio’s plea “was reduced to a misdemeanor Wednesday because he’ll graduate from the drug program next month and has completed community service.” Anastasio is scheduled to play a rare solo acoustic show at Rhode Island’s Newport Folk Festival on August 2. Fans can also preview tracks off his forthcoming live album Original Boardwalk Style on his MySpace page.

_- Randy Ray stores his Phishery and other products at

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