The reunion of all four members of Phish on stage at the Jammy Awards, which took place last night (May 7) at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, was a stunning, albeit brief, highlight of the seventh — and final — edition of the event.
Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman had not shared a stage since their final show as Phish in August 2004, but came together at the Jammys to accept a lifetime achievement award.
Although the four did not play together — despite emphatic urging from the crowd — an emotional acceptance speech, highlighted by heartfelt comments from Gordon and a lengthy thank you from Anastasio, served as a reminder of the band’s commitment to its fans and brought the cheering audience to its feet.
Gordon, who was under the weather, said he struggled to make it to the awards ceremony, but realized he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be “on stage with my oldest and deepest brothers. This means so much.”
Anastasio said, “For the last five years I’ve wanted to convey to some degree what this all meant to me and to the other guys. It was so much bigger than the four of us. It was even bigger than our friends and the scene. It was a cultural thing, and we were like servants, there to express what was going on around us. It’s a wonderful feeling to do that … and that’s the feeling Phish gave us all those years. It’s an honor. Thank you so much for letting us be part of your experience.”
The band members made no indication of a possible reunion and exited the stage quickly after Anastasio wrapped his remarks.
The presentation of the lifetime achievement award came toward the end of the evening and capped a night of interesting one-off collaborations, including Anastasio — who’s been keeping a low performance profile since his 2006 arrest for driving while under the influence of drugs — making a surprise appearance on guitar during a mini-set by Beatles cover band the Fab Faux. The band followed Anastasio’s lead as he ripped through lengthy jams on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.”
McConnell took the stage to play keyboards several times throughout the night, most notably with a quartet of jazz musicians that included Christian McBride on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. He led the well-oiled group through meaty interpretations of two of his three recorded Phish originals: “Magilla” and “Cars Trucks Buses.”
Other highlights included Sharon Jones joining Galactic with Booker T. Jones on organ for a take on “Born Under a Bad Sign” and then Jurassic 5’s Charlie 2na and MC Doug E. Fresh joining Galactic for songs like “Hip Hug-Her” and “Think Back,” which inspired the crowd to throw its hands in the air.
Leslie West, backed by Rose Hill Drive, also got the audience worked up, especially during a rowdy take on “Mississippi Queen.” And co-host Warren Hayne’s collaboration with Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze on the latter’s classic “Tempted” also earned a strong audience reaction.
The Jammys, which ran more than four hours, was co-hosted by Grace Potter, who, along with her band the Nocturnals, appeared with several different musical lineups throughout the night.
The evening was closed-out by a jam super-group put together for the occasion and dubbed the HeadCount All-Stars, which included Disco Biscuits’ Marc Brownstein and Jon Gutwillig, String Cheese Incident’s Kyle Hollingsworth, Umphrey’s McGee’’s Jake Cinninger and Benevento Russo Duo’s Joe Russo. The group ran through a series of well-played Phish covers including “Wilson,” “Run Like An Antelope,” “2001” and an excellent, near 20-minute “Maze,” which also featured Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner.
Following the show, Jammys executive producer and co-founder Peter Shapiro announced that this would be the final edition of the Jammy Awards. “We accomplished our goals with the Jammys and it’s time to take this momentum in a new direction.”
The event will evolve into a larger celebration of live music.
Here is a complete list of Jammy award winners:
Live Album of the Year: Umphrey’s McGee, “Live at the Murat”
New Groove of the Year: Cornmeal
DVD of the Year: Disco Biscuits, “Progressions”
Download of the Year: Phish, “Headphones Jam”
Mimi Fishman Community Sservice Award: Rock the Earth
Song of the Year: Keller Williams, “Cadillac”
Tour of the Year: the Disco Biscuits/Umphrey’s McGee, “D.U.M.B Tour”
Grahmmy Jammy (Industry Award): Lee Crumpton, Homegrown Music Network
Archival Release of the Year: The Grateful Dead, “Three From The Vault”
Studio Album of the Year: moe., “The Conch”
Live Performance of the Year: Gov’t Mule and Guests, Bonnaroo
Lifetime Achievement Award: Phish