Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Non-Panic Fan’s Perspective on 9-14-06

Goaded by many of my friends and somewhat allured by the prospect of hearing Jimmy Herring on the Radio City Stage, I decided to press my luck and try for a freebie last night. I wound up biting early and took a ten dollar floor seat, which was fine by me.

I should preface what I have to say by admitting that I am anything but a Panic fan. Frankly, I don’t get this band, and I don’t understand the obsession with them. Any time someone has played a show for me, I’ve been bored. I’ve only seen them live once, and that was Night One of the first Bonnaroo, a show that bored me so much that I chose to sleep on the ground rather than continue listening. (I’m told the second night’s show, which I avoided, was the cat’s ass, but I have yet to hear that recording.) I nearly caught the Central Park show a few years ago, but when I asked friends about it afterwards, they all said, “It wasn’t that great…BUT IT WAS PANIC, MAN!!!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people describe Panic shows this way, and I don’t understand how people can get excited about mediocrity. Perhaps I needed to have spent significant time in a college frat or somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line in order to unlock this mystery.

So why even bother giving this band a shot? Well, everyone still raves about them, so I wanted to give them a chance. Plus, there have been times when I’ve wandered through a parking lot to discover some great jam on some random boombox, only to learn that the recording was from a Widespread Panic show. Thus, this band had to capable of some good stuff. Finally, I knew the ticket would cost next to nothing, so there would be minimal risk.

Before the show started, I moved from my seat, Jimmy-side in row L all the way down to the edge of the front section of the orchestra, where my progress was impeded by ushers and stanchions. I befriended a very friendly and soon-to-be-wealthy software engineer from Boulder named Diana, who was excited about the prospect of her company being acquired. She was in NYC for work purposes, and when I started asking her why she liked Panic, she let loose into a mile-a-minute rambling speech about how the band changed her life and affected her like no other. She was gushing on and on about Panic, but as soon as the house lights came down, she stopped, turned on a dime and told me point-blank, “I’m gonna need you to move because I need room to dance.” No problem. I backed up in the aisle so that I was slightly behind her seat. Then she said, “No. That’s not enough. I need more room than that.”

She wasn’t lying, as she began flailing herself across the aisle. Eventually, the usher let her have her own row (it wasn’t very crowded), so no one would get injured. I looked dumbfounded at her and the other people who were caught in the midst of orgasmic glee, and I thought, “This must be what it’s like for an outsider to go to a Phish show…minus the music-nerd intricacy and inside jokes…and without the disproportionate number of Jews.”

It was here where I think I began to understand some of the charm of Panic: It doesn’t necessarily matter what’s happening on stage because the crowd just wants to have a good fuckin’ time. The Bud Lite begins to flow and strangers make eye contact and smile. The tunes are familiar and people cheer songs they recognize, regardless of how they are played. It’s a scenario that’s true for so many bands, but the party element seems to be ramped up a few notches at a Panic show.

Oh, and what’s with the overabundance of blond-haired blue-eyed women? For a minute there, I thought I was in a Leni Riefenstahl film.

The sound from my vantage point was nestled somewhere between lousy and awful. Everyone in the band was playing loud, REAL LOUD—well, everyone that is except Jimmy Herring, who was barely audible for the first couple of tunes. I know he’s the new guy, but he’s an established musician and shouldn’t be treated like Vince Welnick. Eventually, he was a little more present in the mix.

Of course, the volume was still an issue. The real problem was the non-stop banging from nearly every instrumentalist, aside from Herring. Everyone seemed to be pounding their drum, keyboard, bass, or guitar, and there were no dynamics whatsoever. That was a little disappointing to me because the hallmark of a good band is its ability to vary the volume, but playing soft and intense did not seem to be Panic’s strong suit. They could probably learn a few lessons from Gov’t Mule in this department.

The pounding and the banging was boring me silly. That’s when I realized that I’m just not crazy about Panic’s songs. Based on recognition from other setlists, it seemed as though they trotted out a lot of their most popular numbers, but only about three or four tunes seemed original and interesting to me. This was compounded by the fact that Jimmy Herring’s solos were being crushed by the rest of the band. I found John Keane’s guitar contributions to be little more than window dressing, and unnecessary window dressing, at that. The sound was already a big pile of mush, and they didn’t need any more people on stage.

At setbreak, I considered leaving, but I wanted to give the band one final shot.

Set Two came from a different band. They actually jammed. At times, they even got quiet. The players listened to and fed off of one another. I liked this version of Panic a thousand times better than the migraine headache of the first set. While there were no jams that reached transcendental status, there were little peaks, and when they chose to fly without a net, the band held my interest. The second set definitely redeemed them, although, admittedly, I can only describe what I heard as enjoyable, at best. This morning, I looked online and saw superlatives being tossed around like a black stripper in a Duke frathouse, and I just don’t get it. As far as I can tell, people seem to be more in love with the familiarity of Panic’s music than its originality, or lack thereof.

My guess is that Panic is an unwitting nostalgia act for many of their fans. This is the music and the bevy of good times they remember from their youth. Everyone wants to re-visit those days in hopes of capturing lightening in a bottle, but if you weren’t on board in the formative years, I can’t see how anyone would listen to last night’s show and then quit their day job to sell molly on tour.

After seeing this show, there are two questions I have for Panic fans:

1) Do you really think that Sunny adds anything to this band besides dead weight?

Every time I’d turn around, he’d be doing his best to drag the tempo into a sludge pit, often fighting against Schools’ best effort to get the show moving. There were also times where he was just not on the beat, which is inexcusable for any professional musician, let alone a percussionist. And when it comes to needless banging, he was the worst offender. He was incessantly crushing a cymbal, pounding the crap out of it on every single downbeat, creating an annoyingly monotonous counterpoint to Nance’s work on the kit. Was last night an aberration, is he always this bad, or is this off-tempo banging part of the allure of Panic?

2) People rave about Widespread Panic having the best transitions between songs, transitions that supposedly surpass that of the Grateful Dead, Phish, Phil Lesh & Friends, etc. Did last night provide any evidence of these hallowed transitions?

If so, do think that slowing the tempo down until someone starts the riff for the next song should be considered impressive?

On the whole, this show was worth ten bucks, but I wouldn’t pay much more than that. That’s gonna piss off a lot of a lot of people, but I just don’t think they played anything that was truly noteworthy. In the second set, the highlights were there but the jaw-dropping moments were AWOL. If you don’t have a history with this band, you don’t have the nostalgia for their music. Without nostalgia, there’s not much to get excited about here, aside from a Herring solo or two. Perhaps that will change as Jimmy gets integrated into the band, but until then, I’ll stay at home.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Little Feat, Little Passion

I went to see Little Feat, or what little is left of Little
Feat, play for free yesterday in Battery Park. The show was free
and I still want my money back.

From having seen Paul Barrere and Billy Payne crap all over the
stage and ruin Phil Lesh's shows a couple of years ago, I had a
feeling that these guys were little more than hacks who were
still trying to cash in on things they did over thirty years
ago. I suspected they weren't worth one nickel, and I was right.
The show was incredibly mediocre.

Of course, the crowd loved it. If you play the lemmings a song
they recognize, they'll jump and clap like a bunch of retarded
seals, and yesterday was like Flowers For Algernon in Sea World.
Of course, Little Feat have become masters of pandering to the
audience, tossing out teases and snippets of songs in a effort
to mask their soulless, empty, and ultimately boring
performance. It was really sad when they broke up a monotonous
"Dixie Chicken" to play a half-assed "Dark Star" tease which was
later followed by a very lame "Tennessee Jed." Note to Paul
Barrere and Fred Tackett: one of you needs to grow a set of
balls and play lead guitar. I'm not talking about taking an
8-bar solo; I want you to play an actual lead line instead of
staring at each other while the band vamps endlessly as I wait
for Jack Kevorkian to prep the sodium pentathol.

It was driving me nuts how they'd repeatedly stop to say, "Kenny
Gradney on the bass, ladies and gentlemen! Give it up for Kenny
Gradney on the bass!...(Uninspiring chick) on the (horribly
pedestrian) vocals. Let's hear it for (uninspiring chick) on the
(horribly pedestrian) vocals!" They continued to stop in the
middle of each song to deliver these messages, but the worst
part was during their incessant breaks before each "singalong."
Did we really need a three minute advertisment for their
Jamaican shows in the middle of "Don't Bogart That Joint"?
Speaking of, if there was anything "subversive" happening in
Battery Park, bogarting was the theme of the day. I think every
damn park service cop in Lower Manhattan was at the concert,
sweeping the grounds repeatedly, snatching beers and
(presumably) writing lots of tickets.

I had hung out there for almost an hour and 45 minutes, and I
was only staying to hear "Fat Man in The Bathtub." They finally
went into it but almost immediately began a "jam" that lacked
passion, direction, or theme, and I had had enough. I made my
way to the exit, and as soon as I heard them pull out a very sad
"Get Up Stand Up," I started running to escape. I'm just glad I
got out before they played something truly awful, like "Sample
In a Jar."

These guys should let Lowell George rest in peace and give up
touring. If they want to earn money, I think their hackneyed
sets might play well at the El Cortez casino on Fremont St. in
Vegas, but they don't belong in any place where music fans have

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Robert Plant: Master of the Universe

As a fan of late ‘60s psychedelic music, I’ve read a lot about the band Love, but for some reason, I’ve never heard a single one of their songs. Love seems to be one of those bands that were the shit in their day, revered by critics but not quite popular enough to have staying power once the pop scene moved on to the next big thing. In their brief heyday, Love were bigger than The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and The Grateful Dead, but all three of those bands (and a lot more) soon surpassed them in popularity once the record labels cashed in on the budding West Coast psychedelic scene. Nevertheless, Love remains an important footnote in musical history, often cited as an inspiration for many of the great rock musicians of the last forty years.

Two days ago, I learned that there was a big benefit show at The Beacon Theater for Love frontman Arthur Lee. Apparently Lee is battling “acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” which doesn’t sound fun. He’s been receiving chemotherapy treatments and may be getting a bone marrow transplant in the near future, all without any health insurance. This benefit was going to raise money for his escalating health costs, which wouldn’t be an issue if America had universal health care. On the other hand, should our government really be following Jesus’ teachings in helping the poor and downtrodden? After all, doesn’t the Statue of Liberty say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and let them entertain us, work essential jobs for laughably low wages, and then die painful deaths as we swim in our money bin”?

Anyway, the benefit lineup included Flashy Python & The Body Snatchers (featuring Alec Ounsworth from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!), Garland Jefferies, Johnny Echols, Yo La Tengo, Nils Lofgren, Ian Hunter, and the one and only Robert Plant. Unfortunately, the pre-show publicity was poor and the promoter out-priced his audience by charging in excess of $100 for tickets, so sales were very slow…so slow that the promoter was forced to turn to papering services to fill the theater with warm bodies. I’m a member of one of these papering services, so I was more than happy to nab a pair of tickets for 9 bucks total. My ticket money wouldn’t go to Arthur Lee, so I made a donation to the collection box inside.

I called a friend of mine, who I knew would dig this show, and he had three freebies to unload. It’s not often that it’s a challenge to get rid of three free tickets to see Robert Plant, but that’s how it is during a New York summer, where there are countless competing free gigs every night. After I picked up my tickets at the venue, I could have actually grabbed numerous extras, but I didn’t see anyone outside who was even looking for a ticket! It was a nightmare for the Beacon scalpers, and I felt really really sorry for them. Sniff.

Rather than catch the beginning of what was sure to be a long show, I opted to meet up with my friends for some beers at Dive 75. We finally entered the Beacon around 9:15, and the crew was in the midst of one of many laborious set changes. People around us said that this particular change had lasted close to thirty minutes, as we had missed Yo La Tengo and that Python act (neither received good reviews from those seated nearby). Eventually, Gavin DeGraw made an unexpected appearance to play solo piano. He played Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and then he did another tune. Maybe he played his “Chariot” song. I don’t know, and I didn’t really care because his name wasn’t Robert Plant.

When his set ended, Q104 DJ Ken Dashow came onstage to let us know there would be another break to get the stage setup. This break was just stupid. Was there even a stage manager for this gig? Roadies came on to tinker with a guitar amp that was on the opposite site of the stage from the piano. Since they made no noise, this work could have easily been done while DeGraw was playing. That’s why you mix soloists with bands on a large bill. It’s called planning, people.

Finally, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals came out and played for about 20-30 minutes. The sound at my seats in the right side of the balcony wasn’t so good, and their set sounded like a big pile of mush. I haven’t seen much of Ryan Adams, but I do know some of his songs, and I wasn’t too impressed with this performance. He did seem sober, so maybe that was the problem.

Guess what? Their set ended, and we took another friggin’ break, but this time Dashow came onstage to inform us that this break would be a genuine intermission. Oh, goodie! An extra-long break! Dashow also said, “And then we’ll back and move right on through until the end.” Everyone clapped at the thought of seeing more music and less roadies.

The setbreak ended, and Dashow introduced the band for the second set. I didn’t know any of them, but they all proved to be capable, if not noteworthy. (Dashow did say the drummer played for Wings, and I’m not sure if that was a compliment or an insult.) I have been told that this was Ian Hunter's band, but I'm not really sure that Ian Hunter has a regular touring band, so the jury's out on that one. After the band intro, Nils Lofgren played a three or four song set. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into his bland brand of Jersey rock. He closed with “Because the Night,” which was tolerable. You’ll never guess what happened next.

We took a break.

Yes, even though the only musician changing was the frontman, everyone had to leave the stage for another interminable break. The roadies never came onstage. Nothing was changed. We just had to sit and wait. In hopes of lighting a flare under the crew’s asses, I yelled, “Arthur Lee is dying while we wait! If you don’t hustle up, he’ll never get a transplant!”

Ian Hunter was up next, and finally, someone stepped up and was ready to rock. He opened with “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” which made my Great White-loving friend’s day. I especially enjoyed it when he strutted to the front of the stage past the monitors and struck a true rock star straddle pose down center as he played pedestrian rhythms while a lesser known guitarist discreetly played a solo in the shadow of his massive ego. The rest of 25 minute set included some boogieing rockers, with Hunter switching between piano and acoustic guitar. Finally, he closed with the Mott The Hoople chestnut, “All The Young Dudes.” A good old fashioned audience singalong emerged, and everyone was finally having fun.

And then there was yet another break.

This time, they needed to clear the stage left keyboard, but in all honesty, it wasn’t in anyone’s way. Perhaps they wanted the stage clear out of fear of Robert Plant unleashing some wild karate kicks, but honestly, it was yet another unnecessary changeover, especially considering the fact that we were now sitting at midnight with a 12:30 curfew looming ahead.

Then the big moment arrived, and Dashow introduced the final performer by describing him as “a man who needs no introduction.” As the band played the atmospheric opening tones of “In the Evening,” the entire theater was transformed into a temple. The guru calmly strode onstage and preached to his flock. The flock rose out of their seats and responded with enthusiasm. Within seconds, Commander Robert Plant had lifted Airship Beacon into the stratosphere.

It was clear from the get-go that we were in the presence of a bonafide rock ‘n roll god. He was in phenomenal shape, especially when you consider the fact that he’s 58, and his voice sounded perfect. The deity was so cool and slick, kicking the mic stand up in the air to punctuate the cymbal crash and moving like a snake charmer to coax some love out of each guitar solo. As my friend, Jessica, said, “What do you think goes through the mind of the unknown guitarist when Robert Plant gets in his face and yells ‘Do it! Do it!’?” This man was unleashing signature maneuvers that you just can’t learn at Rock ‘N Roll Fantasy Camp. Plant certainly has a PhD in showmanship and a master’s degree in charisma.

After a killer rendition of “What Is and What Should Never Be,” Mr. Plant invited Ian Hunter back onstage, remarking how this was the first time the two ever had the opportunity to sing together. Unfortunately, good ol’ Ian was lost backstage, probably doing tequila shots off of someone’s ass. Plant kept the audience laughing during the delay before they finally changed gears and started into a unique rendition of “For What It’s Worth.” In the middle of the tune, Hunter wandered onstage absentmindedly before realizing where he was and then running back off. For a few minutes, Hunter’s handler tried to convince him to go back onstage, but he was very reluctant. Eventually, he strolled onstage to play his acoustic guitar in the background. Unfortunately, no one told Hunter that he was completely unplugged and inaudible. Plant’s desired vocal duet finally materialized when he and Hunter teamed up for a great turn on the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved.”

Speaking of love, the most unique aspect of Plant’s set was his genuine tribute to Arthur Lee and Love. As far as I could tell, he was the first artist of the night to even mention Arthur Lee, and he spoke about Love in reverential tones. Apparently Love and Arthur Lee were major influences on him when he was a young lad, and it showed in his setlist, which was heavy on Love covers. He brought out Love’s original guitarist, Johnny Echols, who wailed away on some of Love’s psychedelic tunes of yesteryear, including “A House Is Not a Motel,” “Seven & Seven Is,” and an extremely trippy take on “Hey Joe.” Beyond that, Plant seemed to be making “love” the theme of his set, also pulling out a great cover of “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” This last number could have been incredibly cheesy, as not many people can pull off an Elvis song, but Plant’s vocals were amazingly sincere. At the risk of sounding like a big wuss, I will go out on a limb and call his rendition touching.

“Ramble On” was a killer end to the set. With dueling acoustic and electric guitars, moody keyboards, grooving bass, and thunderous drums, the five-piece backing band pulled this song off in a way that must have been beyond Zep’s technical capabilities back in the day. (Within seconds, I’ll surely be bombarded by Zeppelin fans touting some killer version of “Ramble On” from ’74.) This song was really a microcosm of the entire set, mixing gentle tones and balls-to-the-wall rock. It’s long been one of my favorite Zep tunes because of its odd combination of rockstar bravura and nerdy Tolkien obsession. Plant simply wailed, and the backup band was up to the task, tearing the crap out of the explosive chorus. Fists were pumping in the loge, and it was one massive finale at 1:15.

Plant offered some heartfelt thanks to the crowd, as well as his backing band whom he had first met a few days ago, claiming they were the first American band he’d ever sung with. Then he and his cohorts exited the stage. Because we had shattered the assumed 12:30 curfew, the houselights came up instantly. The universal sign for “Go the fuck home, people” was on, and the crowd began to exit, sated from a stirring set from the man who made zucchinis and tight pants go together like peanut butter and jelly. Dashow came onstage to ask for applause “one more time” to thank the artists. The audience enthusiastically responded, and then Plant proved his status as a God of Rock. I’ve seen a lot of concerts, but I’ve never seen the houselights come back down for a final number long after curfew. Sure enough, the man walked back onstage, and the houselights faded to black. People started running back to their seats. The preacher had one more sermon to deliver.

There are countless Led Zeppelin tunes that would make for a great encore, but after such a thrilling and emotional set, there was only one choice, and Plant nailed it: “Thank You.” Words really won’t do it justice, but this was one heartfelt capper to a riveting performance. Everything about his delivery was so genuine, and he had the entire crowd wrapped around his pinky finger. A silence swept the room as he sang to us, and when he closed by blowing kisses to the audience, I thought, “If Robert Plant had a pair of tits, I’d be in love.”

Like I said, I’ve seen a lot of live music in my relatively brief time on this planet, but it’s been a long while since I’ve been so moved by one musician. His performance and persona were just one captivating dichotomy: masculine and feminine, lustful and emotional, blue collar and intellectual, confident and humble. Robert Plant was all of these contrasts rolled into one, and he radiated this incredible warmth that felt so inviting. I guess I was most taken aback by his Eastern, selfless attitude and true appreciation of the audience. I figured that the man who once referred to himself as a “Golden God” would just show up, squeeze his ego through the door, punch the clock, rock out, and then quickly get the Hell outta there, but he seemed to be honestly thankful for this opportunity to pay homage to one of his boyhood idols. I exited the theater bug-eyed and shaken, as chills ran up and down my spine. This wasn’t at all what I had expected, but Robert Plant definitely touched something inside of the audience. As I looked around, I realized I wasn’t the only one who had been moved. A lot of people sported this strange look of shell-shocked joy, and the crowd quietly sauntered out of the theatre. One of my friends asked me if I wanted to grab a drink, but we decided that it was unnecessary. I was riding on a natural high, and I just wanted to go home and reflect on the awesome power of Robert Plant, messenger of love.

Robert Plant 6-23-06

In The Evening
Bummer in the Summer
What Is and What Should Never Be
The Old Man
For What It's Worth
When Will I Be Loved (with Ian Hunter)
A House Is Not A Motel
Can't Help Falling In Love
Hey Joe
Seven & Seven Is
Ramble On

encore: Thank You

Some pictures are posted here:

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Sixth Annual Jammys Report Card

The Jammys are typically a bloated mess, having jumped the shark three years ago. The lineup tends to create odd blends of pop artists with improvisers, often resulting in no jamming, whatsoever. But occasionally there have been ingeniously bold pairings who threw caution to the wind and risked it all in a wild free-for-all. Anyone who saw Robert Randolph and DJ Logic sit in with the Del McCoury Band (at the second Jammys) knows what I’m talking about. The look on McCoury’s face when he turned to watch DJ Logic take a turntable solo in a ripping cut of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” well, that about sums it all up. Risks can lead to greatness or failure, but improvisational music is all about risk and reward, so I always hope The Jammys will offer bold combos who aren’t afraid to fall on their face.

For the last couple of years, The Jammys’ lineup seemed to underwhelm more and more, and this year continued the downward trend. A lack of plentiful A-list names caused little to no enthusiasm in hipper NYC circles, and after a friend bailed pre-show, I struggled mightily to find someone to take my extra ticket for free. Unable to find anyone who needed a ticket minutes before the show, I wound up giving it away to a guy in the long Will Call line because he wanted to leave the venue and have a way of getting back inside.

This year, thanks to the magic of the Treo650, I decided to write my review as I watched the show, and after making a couple of edits, it's being posted here. If names or songtitles are incorrect, feel free to suggest corrections, and I will change them throughout the day. Also, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on the show, but if you're going to email me about the inane nature of grading subjective musical performances, just blow it out your ass.

The Sixth Annual Jammys began at 8:04 on April 20, 2006. If you weren’t aware that the day was 4/20, you were reminded several times throughout the evening by a several individuals with an apparent passion for the Roman calendar. The early-ish start played to a theater that was 2/3 empty.

Initially, it was hard to overlook the sponsorship of TimeOutNY, a magazine that enjoys ripping on the jamband scene in their catty homosexual-indie-snob style. Now they were suddenly sponsoring the very music they claim to hate. I guess they're little more than bitchy whores.

On with the music and the report card.

Richie Havens with The Mutaytor - Opening with "Freedom" was predictable, but with the aid of 9 or ten musicians (including 6 percussionists) behind him, the old codger locked everyone into a climactic tribal groove. The thunderous finish was punctuated by Mr. Havens' surprisingly agile karate kick.
Grade: B

The Mutaytor - During a sonically montonous, percussion-led jam, performers came onstage and belly danced, fire-danced, and did odd things with hula hoops. In “Montonous Jam#2,” 6 additional djembe players came out along with a Chinese Dragon. Eh. At least the eye candy prevented me from falling asleep.
Grade: C+

Blues Traveler with DJ Logic
- This band should be renamed John Popper and His Mediocre Backup Band, and their “NY Prophesie” was dull. Was DJ Logic even doing anything? Would it have made a difference? This band answers an old algebraic equation: Heavy Metal + Bad Songwriting + Unintelligible Lyrics + Mildly Interesting Harmonica = Sheer Boredom.
Grade: D

Blues Traveler, DJ Logic, and Bettye LaVette - Bettye LaVette sang about wanting her joy back. Funny. I wanted the same thing. I decided to leave and go try to find my joy in a Jameson & Ginger. Unfortunately, the sound of the band followed me into the concourse, preventing me from finding said joy. When I returned, they did a short version of "Magic Carpet Ride." At least the composition was good.
Grade: C-

When introduced as hosts, Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann received a nice ovation.

New Groove of the Year: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, McCoy Tyner, & Savion Glover - At last! One of those weird-ass combos that you only find at The Jammys. It took them a while to get going with only Fleck's solos being of any interest before Victor Wooten and Glover engaged in a strange bass-tap dance duel. With everyone being spread out onstage and somewhat unfamiliar with each other, no one was exactly sure when to step up and and take the lead. The second number was a much more bouncy swing that was highlighted by Tyner's counterpoint against Jeff Coffin's double saxed (ala Rahsaan Roland Kirk) horn lines. There were some genuine go-for-broke moments in this number with Tyner seemingly having a blast. It was sometimes ragged but always risky.
Grade: A-

Ken Dashow and some other DJ from Q104 came out and were booed mercilessly for the second year in a row.

Song of the Year: Tea Leaf Green "Taught To Be Proud"

Live Album of the Year: Widespread Panic - Live at Myrtle Beach (Thanks to corporate sponsor, Vonage, Todd Nance accepted via telephone. However, the bad reception of his call was the worst possible commercial for a phone service.)

Steve Kimock, Joe Satriani, Stephen Perkins, Willy Waldman, and Reed Mathis
- Who doesn't love ear-splitting heavy metal guitar wankfests where everyone plays as loud as possible and no one listens to each other? Oh, that's right-- I don't.
Grade: C (and I'm being generous)

Steve Kimock, Joe Satriani, Stephen Perkins, Willy Waldman, Reed Mathis, and Grace Potter - Holy shit, this Grace Potter has one helluva set of pipes! She came out and wailed her ass off on "Cortez the Killer." Satriani and Kimock had some great solos and Waldman tried to play his trumpet over everyone and then jumped around, pumping his fist in the air, looking like a jackass. Trumpet playing douche aside, this one was far too short.
Grade: A-

Chick Corea presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Frank Zappa and drew big cheers for saluting Frank's tireless quest to defend freedom of expression.

Zappa Plays Zappa - Opening with Dweezil doing a nice riff about needing the soundman to turn up the vibrophone, it was clear that this segment would be an authentic tribute to the humorous nature of Frank. "Inca Roads" was sounding lush and perfectly enjoyable with Napoleon Murphy Brock sounding very smooth until Chick Corea snuck into the band, playing cowbell. As he shifted into the keyboard seat, Corea took things to another level. Chick Corea just put on a goddamn clinic. He created weird sounds with his nimble fingers that dove and plunged across odd clusters of blacks and whites. Hands skipping across various keyboards with hyper delight, he displayed a veritable zest for life in his playing. His solos were easily the tops for the night. "Florentine Pogen" featured guest guitarist Jake Cinninger unleashing a very nasty solo. It resulted in a ferocious tension-and-release duel with Dweezil that certainly ripped but didn't quite peak. Dweezil's technique was pretty solid, and this aggregation played crisply. They won't make anyone forget about the original, but this is complex music, and they performed it well, even bringing the Zappa trademark sense of humor to the performance. The tribute formed a nice soundtrack for my first post-Passover beer. Yeast never tasted so good.
Grade: A

Archival Live Album of the Year - Phish - Live at Madison Square Garden 1995 (Mike Gordon accepted in a funny speech that talked about hearing the album for the first time through a P.A. system at the release party at BB King's. It being his first Phish experience from the audience, he repeatedly texted Trey throughout the night to tell him how great this band sounded.)

Manute Bol gave a rambling, barely intelligible speech in which he thanked America and said "America, you are good" over and over so many times that I felt like I was at the Republican National Convention. Relix' Steve Bernstein meekly tried to get Bol to wrap it up, but Bernstein clearly feared the man who towered a solid two-and-a-half feet above him. Somehow this was an intro for Babba Maal winning Global Rhythm World Music Award.

Peter Frampton and Guster - They did some inoffensive poppy yawner. Was I supposed to be impressed? Blah.
Grade: B-

Peter Frampton, Guster,and Martin Sexton - "Do You Feel Like We Do?" Fuck yeah, man! This was the night’s first reason to stand up and get on our feet. You know, there's a certain feeling you get the first time you see a legend perform his major hit live. It's as if you're crossing them off your Lifetime Musical Goals List. Frampton shredded up his classic and did that funky thing with the talk-box microphone in his mouth that reminded me of how cool it was to be nineteen years of age to hearing song for the first time while stoned.
Grade: A

Studio Album of the Year: Mike Gordon & Leo Kottke – Sixty Six Steps

The First Green Apple Music Award (for environmental causes) - Jack Johnson

moe. - The Clash's "The Guns of Brixton" was a nice and dark reggae groove which went for a while and then shifted right into "Buster," which was both invigorating and beautiful. The lengthy song was aided by The Mad Professor, who tweaked dials and created assorted sounds from a barely visible position inside the audience soundboard.
Grade: A+

During the presentation for the Industry Insider Award (formerly the Grahamy Jammy), Jake Szufnarowski introduced Wetlands Preserve founder Larry Bloch by saying something like "I think it's a crime that the Benevento-Russo Duo didn't win a single award. It’s fixed! If Joe and Marco had been here, they would tear this fucking place down."

Jeff “The Dude” Dowd introduced The DVD of the Year as if he were on speed - Bob Dylan's No Direction Home was the winner.

Rhythm Devils with Mike Gordon, Charlie Musselwhite, Baaba Maal, Angelique Kidjo, Steven Perkins, Steve Kimock, Bettye LaVette, two guys on iMacs, five hand clappers/vocalists, a lot of The Mutaytor, a shitload of percussionists, etc. - Mike Gordon's omnipresent basslines were the major standout of this lengthy, techno-ized Afrobeat jam. It segued seamlessly into a thrilling "Jingo," which Hart led with tremendous flair. This was followed by a funkier "Voodoo Chile" that featured a very sexy, limber dancer. I wish I could tell you more about the song, but I can't because the dancer was very, very hot. "Iko Iko" was a fun closer, and this was the first time that I can remember Mickey Hart delivering tolerable vocals...perhaps that's because his mic was off for most of the first verse.
Grade: A

Tour of the Year: Big Summer Classic (Bill Nershi accepted the award. Oddly enough, he never played any music throughout the evening's festivities, but he did lead the crowd in a Group Hoot, which got a better than expected response from the audience.)

Live Performance of the Year: moe. Tsunami Benefit at Roseland Ballroom, NYC, 2/10/05 (with Trey Anastasio, Sam Bush, Jennifer Hartswick, John Medeski and Ray Paczkowski) , a performance that raised $150,000

Mickey Hart provided the best comedic moment of the night by attempting to shush the crowd and them seriously telling the us that the biggest threat to our lives is global warning. He admonished everyone to "see this movie about global warning. It's's called...what's it called?...Well, you'll know it when you see it." Three cheers for burned out hippies!

Little Feat with Hubert Sumlin and Charlie Musselwhite - "Apolitical Blues" was bluesy but nothing to write home about. It sauntered into "The Sky Is Crying." There was nothing special about these standard blues grooves, aside from the fact that they sounded as if they needed the late Lowell George.
Grade: C+

Little Feat with Charlie Musselwhite, Steve Kimock, Ky-Mani Marley, Stephen Marley, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Bela Fleck - Bob Marley's "Jammin'" did what "Jammin'" does and went nowhere but had a fun time traveling in a circle.

At 12:13A.M., Pete Shapiro came out to announce that the show was supposed to end, but it was going to now continue thanks to some last-minute additional sponsorship from American Spirit.

Thank God for the tobacco industry.

DJ Logic then joined the fray but wasn't really audible. "Dixie Chicken" was short and quickly segued into "One Love." For the second year in a row, an overzealous vocalist did their best to destroy the final jam. However, this time the perpetrator/rapper Consequence was foiled, disappointed by his inability to get the crowd to chant "Hell yeah!" He continued to freestyle interminably over everyone's playing. It was a shame because he started out tasteful, but I guess he ran out of ideas, and instead of stopping, he decided to be irritating. Satriani, Frampton, Kimock, and Fleck highlighted the "jam" with a little round. Just like that, it was all she wrote.
Grade: B-

Suddenly, The Jammys were over at 12:23. American Spirit's cancer-causing generosity had only bought ten more minutes. With the show ending 7 minutes before an even cut-off point (12:30), and with the knowledge that last year's show ran until 12:45, it sure seemed as though Shapiro had lied. Either that or American Spirit made the worst business deal in New York history since the Lenape Indians received 24 bucks and a box of trinkets from Peter Minuit.

This Sixth Annual Jammys featured even less true jamming and risk taking than that of years’ past. Most acts played it safe, and while that caused most of the acts to be at least decent, no one was overwhelmingly brilliant (although moe. was pretty impressive). Nevertheless, it was primarily an enjoyable evening with few real duds.
Overall Grade: B