Here we are at Madison Square Garden's Theater for the 7th Annual Jammy Awards. Never mind the fact that the 6th Annual Jammy Awards took place over two years ago. As I always say, the Jammys can be bold and adventurous, leading to moments of unexpected brilliance, or they can be extremely boring opportunities for B-list popstars to appear uncomfortable alongside talented improvisers.
As an added plus, we have Phish winning the Lifetime Achievement Award this year, and since we know that at least three of the band members will be in attendance, one has to wonder about a possible reunion. Of course, it's been rather surprising that very few people seem to think this reunion will happen, yet many are here tonight to see the show "just in case."
(NOTE: I wrote this as the show progressed, so in some instances, I may have gotten a songtitle or musician name incorrect. If that's the case please reply with the correction, and I'll try to take care of it as soon as I can. Also, feel free to reply with responses degrading me for grading something as subjective as music. I love that shit.)
The shows starts at 7:30 PM.
Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, Joe Russo, Booker T. Jones, and Will Lee - "Find The Cost of Freedom->Gold Dust Woman" - Wow. Usually this show starts out with a real dud, but hosts Warren and Grace are wailing through this one. Seated next to me is my financial advisor, who has already received a summons for having an open container in front of The Garden and is shaking uncontrollably. Grade: A-
"Take Me To The River" - Dear Mr. Cameraman, More close-ups on Grace Potter in that flapper dress, please. Regards, All The Men In The Audience. Grade: B+
Dean Budnick comes out and teases the looming Phish reunion a few times.
Pete Shapiro comes out and thanks sponsors, including Live Nation. Apathy has already set in, and no one in the crowd boos.
Live Album of the Year - Umphrey's McGee - Live at the Murat
Rose Hill Drive with Matisyahu, Rob Marscher (and someone on guitar) - "In the Morning of the Magicians" - I'm not entirely familiar with this Flaming Lips song, but I can tell you that it started out as the wussiest thing RHD has ever played... Matisyahu is now howling off-key and shouting unintelligible things. It's getting a little funky, aside from Matisyahu's rapping. And it's over. Grade: D+
Some dude shouts "More cowbell!"
Rose Hill Drive with Leslie West and Grace Potter (on keys) - "Goin' Down" - Awwww shit! This is nasty. I'm loving this and rockin' out, but most of the crowd is pretty stationary. Must be a lot of Umphrey's fans. I don't wanna ruffle any feathers, but I never thought I'd hear anyone rock this song harder than Gov't Mule, yet these guys are going way beyond the call of duty. Mr Haynes, the gauntlet hath been thrown down. Grade: A+
West makes a comment about how he's not used to having such a good looking organ player because the guy who originally did the song was an ugly fucker.
"Mississippi Queen" - Um...yes! This is killer stuff... Dammit, now I have to re-think my decision to skip Rose Hill Drive’s show tomorrow. Grade: A
Grace introduces Matisyahu. My financial advisor begins drunkenly taunting him.
Relix Man With the Moolah Steve Bernstein introduces a video of an 8 year-old Japanese kid shredding metal classics on a Flying V. The kid comes out and delights the audience with surprisingly good English.
New Groove Award: Cornmeal
Cornmeal's fiddler, Allie Kral, gives a nice, short speech.
Keller Williams - "Cadillac" - As he's introduced, there's a lot of excited wooing, showing this crowd is surprisingly filled with 19 year-old dreadlocked hippies who don’t believe in showers and the dogs they tour with. I like Keller without the electronics and loop toys, and this is okay but kind of boring and rather irrelevant. There's a lot of talking amongst the crowd, and people have stopped paying attention. Grade: C-
Keller Williams with Chevy Chase - "Natural Woman" - As he walks across the stage, I recall that I once saw a story on Chevy Chase that showed him to be an amazingly talented pianist. There's a long wait as Keller vamps before we finally hear Chevy play anything. Wow. Keller really has no soul and sounds whiter than a Grand Wizard. At least Chevy is providing humor with his backup singing and whistling. I guess this is a comedy number. I chuckle a little but cry inside. Grade: B-
"Sweet Home Alabama->Take The Money and Run->Sweet Home Alabama" - This jazzy and light version is actually kind of cool. My financial advisor leans over and says, "I hate myself for liking this." I wish we could hear more piano. Now my financial advisor says, "The novelty has worn off." My financial advisor is now so tanked that he has the attention span of a gnat. Grade: B+
DVD of the Year: Disco Biscuits - Progression
Download of the Year: Phish Headphones Jam
The crowd goes wild for Page. Drunks ignore the good things he has to say about the funds this download raised for charity and shout, "WHERE'S TREY!?"
Tea Leaf Green with Allie Kral and Big Head Todd Park Mohr - "Taught To Be Proud" - People actually like this Tea Leaf Green? I have to admit that I don't get it. This song is so remarkably milquetoast. There's no jamming, either. The fiddler is adding a little interest, but it's still rather lame. Grade: D
"Sister Sweetly" - It begins kind of funky but soon becomes repetitive and tiresome before being briefly saved by 8 good bars of a guitar solo and some nice fiddle work. Whoops. Spoke too soon. It's mundane again. Grade: C-
"Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)" - I don't like this song. It reminds me why I think the ‘90s sucked. Nevertheless, it is inoffensive and better than the previous musical dosage of Ambian. Grade: C
Tea Leaf Green with Allie Kral, Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze, and Warren Haynes - "Tempted" - Now I really hate THIS song. Can Warren save it? Not if they don't do anything interesting with the arrangement. Warren sings but barely plays guitar. I have my eye on this Tilbrook character. He's having way too much fun, and even money says he's the guy who has no business being in the end of night jam session but will be so excited that he'll step all over everyone's toes. Grade: C+
Grace Potter changes outfits. I do not approve of this.
Jon Fishman and David Shulman are introduced, and the crows goes wild for David Shulman.
Mimi Fishman Memorial Award: Marc Ross and Rock The Earth
Marc is a great guy who has made plenty of sacrifices, and gives a good speech, but his speech goes on a little too long for the drunken New York crowd, and they let him know about it.
Ken Dashow and some other douchebag DJ from Q104 come out and shamelessly self-promote their shows, which, of course, do not feature jamband music. Somehow these two clowns escape being booed for the third year in a row.
Song of the Year - "Cadillac" Keller Williams
Chevy Chase accepts the award as Keller Williams, and it's rather amusing.
Tour of the Year: Disco Biscuits and Umphrey's McGee - D.U.M.B.
No, the above is not the punchline to a joke about the intelligence level of their audience but rather the actual name these bands gave to their tour.
Roy Haynes on drums, Christian McBride on bass, James Carter on sax, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Page McConnell on piano - "Magilla" - Hey, who let all of these world class musicians in here? Page is actually holding his own with the creme de la creme of the jazz world. Me like. Grade: A-
During the song, a guy using a flash camera walks onstage and gets right up close to the musicians and takes pictures, including self-portraits of him and the band. It's bizarre. He is soon escorted offstage.
People are now hassling other people around me for dancing. At present, this is the lamest crowd in the history of Jambandia.
"Cars, Trucks, and Busses" - McBride switches to electric. Something doesn't sound quite right, as if McBride and Haynes aren't entirely familiar with the song, which they probably aren't. On the other hand, Carter sounds like he knows it better than Page, and he scorches. Payton ain't too shabby, either. Now McBride is playing a wicked solo and laying down a thick groove. Forget what I said earlier. This is pretty good.
Grahmmy Jammy (The Industry Patting Itself on the Back Award) - Lee Crumpton, Homegrown Music Network
While presenter Ken Hays speaks, my financial advisor is just chanting "Fuck you" over and over again. I admire his style.
moe. gets booed when their name is mentioned as a nominee for Archival Album of the Year, and I’m fairly shocked by this. Right now, I sense that this must be a pro-String Cheese anti-moe. pro-Phish crowd.
Archival Album of the Year - Grateful Dead - Three From The Vault
Galactic with Booker T. Jones - "Hip Hug-Her" - Personally, I love this tune, but I wasn't wowed at the start, feeling that Stanton Moore was playing a bit too heavy and not as funky as normal. Thankfully, Ben Ellman and Rich Vogel threw some grit into the song and Galacticfied it. Grade: B+
Galactic with Booker T. Jones, Chali2na, and Sharon Jones - "Born Under A Bad Sign" - Oh, yes, my friend. This is fonkay. Grade: A-
Galactic with Booker T. Jones, Chali2na, Laidlow? - "Think Back" - It had a lot of energy, and I thought this performance had far more energy than the one I saw late-night First Saturday at Tipitina's. Grade: B+
Galactic with Doug E. Fresh and Chali2na- "The Show->La Di Da Di" - Guess what? 90% of the crowd is now up, groovin' along, and diggin' the 1980s call-and-response. Doug E. Fresh's beat-boxing is excellent, and he and Stanton get into an awesome beat box vs. drums showdown. Grade: A
Studio Album of the Year: moe. - The Conch
Everyone cheers. I guess they like moe. again.
Live Performance of the Year: Gov't Mule and guests at Bonnaroo
Fab Faux with Joan Osborne - "Come Together" - Joan turns this into a slinky and sultry moan. Ouch. I'm told the lead guitarist is not Jimmy Vivino, but I think he is. Whomever he is, he is smokin'. This is hot. Grade: A
Fab Faux - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - I've seen them nail this before, and they nail it again, but I feel like they need to do something different here...Holy shit. Right as I thought that, Trey comes on stage, and the crowd goes wild. He shreds like he's been dying to do this for a long time, and he and Vivino/Mystery Guitarist duel ferociously. This definitely qualifies as something different. Grade: A fucking +
"Everybody's Got Something To Hide (Except For Me and My Monkey)" - More of the same brilliance. Anastasio and Vivino/Mystery Guitarist are perfect guitar foils. Grade: A+
They play a cool video montage in tribute to Phish.
Danny Clinch gives his tribute to Phish with a brief slideshow.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Phish
All four guys speak with Mike talking about how he wasn’t feeling well but realized it would be great to get out of bed and come down here to be with all of his friends, Fishman asking if we knew “The Prison Joke,” informing us that he would not tell us “The Prison Joke,” and then bizarrely walking away, Page genuinely thanking the fans, and then there’s Trey. Trey gives a trademark rambling speech, and the room gets completely silent. The silence doesn’t last long, as drunks and assholes start shouting things. He’s losing the crowd (as he usually does when he talks at the Jammys), but his speech is actually quite good, particularly the part about enjoying watching us dance and take the cultural phenomenon of Phish to another level. He also tells everyone that on the way to the show, he learned that his composing mentor, Ernie Stires, passed away a few days ago, and he wants to pay tribute to the man who was influential in the development of Phish's sound.
Judging from the ovation, people seem to be really into this here Phish band. It's quite a contrast from a few years ago when Phish was booed by the crowd for winning an award.
Afterwards, Phish all walk off the stage, and everyone in the crowd looks less than pleased with this non-musical reunion-like development.
Joe Russo, Kyle Hollingsworth, Jake Cinninger, Marc Brownstein, Jon Gutwillig "The Headcount All-Stars" - "Wilson" - Someone in the audience throws a bunch of glowsticks. The All-Stars make a couple of mistakes, but it sounds pretty good, thanks to Russo, who is really pounding the kit. I really wish Marco Benevento were here because I think he'd do a lot more than Hollingsworth, who ain't doin' much right now. Grade: A-
While I would hope that this is going to be some sort of tribute where an all-star band plays the honoree's songs before the honoree comes up and joins and eventually is left to play alone for the audience's delight and I hit the lottery and buy a small island where I establish my own nation-state and create a new system of autocratic rule that yields a higher gross domestic product and ends poverty and vastly improves infrastructure and builds a feeling of euphoria and unbridled joy in the general populace which eventually leads me to bring this ingenious system of governance to other countries in an ultimately successful movement to usher in an eternal era of world peace, it's becoming obvious that this dream is somewhat unlikely.
"Run Like an Antelope->Also Sprach Zarathrustra" Barber and Brownie really shine on this. I wonder if these guys sound better doing this stuff than Phish would right now. No one in the crowd is complaining during 2001. Grade: A
Joe Russo, Kyle Hollingsworth, Jake Cinninger, Marc Brownstein, Jon Gutwillig, and Aron Magner - "Maze" Russo is chugging along well, and Cinninger and Barber sound great dueling with Cinninger really ripping up the tension-and-release solo. My financial advisor says, "I saw Phish 4 times. They were never this good.” My financial advisor is drunk. Grade: A
Wait. That's it? No jam session? Just that little bomp-a-domp-domp-domp ending of "Maze"? Houselights up and not even a "Thank you"? Well, it's hard not to feel a tad disappointed even though this was a pretty good show.
Overall: I think this was a very good, very entertaining program, although it lacked in the real bold and adventurous pairings of Jammys past. I also would have liked to have seen host Warren Haynes sit in more than once and play more of a leading role. That said, I appreciated the way they made the evening revolve around the Lifetime Achievement Winner, and while Phish obviously did not want to play, I thought the "Headcount All-Stars'" tribute to them was a very smart and enjoyable way to resolve that dilemma. It was also a plus that very little this evening truly sucked. Overall Grade: A-