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Published: 2001/10/15
by Steve Dolley

A Tribute to Mimi Fishman, Landmark Theater, Syracuse, New York- 10/5

Sand Bear
Col. Bruce Hampton & the Code Talkers
Merl Saunders
Special guest: Jon Fishman

Mimi Fishman, Phish phan emeritus and mother of drummer Jon Fishman, always
loved a grooving show and a great party, and her tribute concert on October
5 in Syracuse was both. It's too bad more people didn't attend, but the
intimate crowd allowed anyone to walk right up front and boogie. And the
Landmark Theater is staggeringly beautiful, a la San Francisco's Warfield
or even Radio City Music Hall. Vintage guilded eye candy and shimmering
chandeliers were everywhere.

The evening opened with an eloquent tribute to Mimi, who passed away last
January. A slideshow was set to the Junta version of "Divided Sky" (her
favorite Phish song). Syracuse trio Sand Bear followed, performing a brief
set of promising if somewhat slow-tempo, contemplative ballads for a
receptive local crowd. The guitarist, while pursuing his own style, has
certainly listened to a lot of Trey. Their final tune featured a fine sax
player who should have played the entire set.

Col. Bruce Hampton & the Codetalkers picked up the pace, cranking out
plenty of high-octane old-school R&B rock. Col. Bruce has a bluesy,
powerful foghorn baritone you could probably hear in the back even without
the PA. He really knows how to sell a song and win a crowd. And how on
earth does
he make that tiny Fender practice amp SCREAM like a huge 4×12 stack?

Merl Saunders was fantastic, boogie-woogie bluesing it up on grand piano
and jamming out jazz with an amazing young soprano sax player, Adam Vasquez, with
unbelievable chops.

As for Jonny B. Fishman, he's clean-shaven, looking and sounding great. Jon
sat in on drums a few times during the evening, the highlight being a long
transcendent jam with Merl & his sax player that morphed into a
Latin-flavored rendition of "Fire on the Mountain."

It was a true joy to our hearts to see Jon start out rather tentative on
the kit, then watch that huge smile gradually break over his face as he
totally got into it. From then on, it was "Weaver-mania"!

At the end, Fish gave a short but extremely moving tribute speech about his
mom. He also took a few verses on the group encore rendition of "The
Weight," including the final verse which invoked Mimi's memory: "You know
she's the only one/Who sends me here with her regards for everyone."

During the finale, all the evening's musicians performed a rave-up "Turn On
Your Lovelight." Col. Bruce's vocals tracked Bobby Blue Bland's original
version rather than Pigpen's, but Pig would have surely dug it. (It's
really Vegas, I know, but I loved the Colonel's little mic-stand-kick trick.)

Later that evening, at a funky club a few blocks away, Merl Saunders sat in
on a few tunes with local bayou blues-rockers Los Blancos. Merl also took
some time to personally greet his many fans in the crowd. reports that the benefit raised over $3,000 for the
American Red Cross. Way to go Mimi & Friends!

If you weren't there, be sure to send a donation for whatever you can.->.

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