Page McConnell, World Cafive, Philadelphia, PA- 3/30
The World Cafive is a gorgeous venue, a little theater wired for pristine sound, and for Page McConnell’s debut performance of his new album to be broadcast on WXPN, a loaded bar with four bartenders- it was, after all, quarter after eleven on a Friday morning. Page walked out right at the stroke of noon and could not suppress a big smile before launching into “Heavy Rotation” a tune with a funky intro and a hectic jam segment at the end. The instrumental “Back in the Basement” followed, a lively lurking number with nice builds and drops. By the end of “Maid Marian,” a ballad built on “I’m not falling through thin air again; I’m not going there again,” it was apparent that this was music in the Phish vein, much more so than Vida Blue’s odd, almost trance offerings.
It was, in fact, just what you might expect solo material from Page to sound like: a classic rock backbone teased with funk and some sappy lyrics that didn’t seem all that sappy in his voice. There were a number of weird pop culture references, to the runaway bride, Genghis Kahn and Michelangelo, among others, which may just be a distinguishing characteristic of Page’s writing, as similar images peppered Vida Blue’s material. There was also line after line about moving on, particularly in “Rules I Don’t Know,” which is to say he probably hasn’t. That’s not a knock; Trey, who’s been doing all he can to stay in the limelight, has been in the same boat for years now, but it does give a strangely melancholy taste to the post-Phish era, and cause one question for the millionth time this self-imposed exile- the missing Mike Gordon being the exception to the trend, both in his honky-tonk work and his master-grooving with Marco and Joe.
The show closed with a big rocker that just ached for Trey’s lead, although Adam Zimmon played it well. There were some great B-3 flashes near the end, and it’s noteworthy that the material, at least in these early stages, was band material, without too much room for real showboating from Page. Once the actual radio broadcast was over, the group returned for another barnburner as an encore; the band was more relaxed, and it seemed like there was potential for the group and the material to open up and take off.