After a few technical difficulties, our full review of the Jammys. Better late than never.
Had I studied Cultural Anthropology in school rather than Architecture I would have been fascinated by the scene outside Madison Square Garden last Wednesday night as the hippy masses and Jay-Z fans stormed the gates. Actually I was fascinated by it, but I didn’t have time to revel in the moment because the Jammys were set to start at 7:30.
And start on time they did. By the time LMB photographer extraordinaire Paul and I made it inside, Jammy hosts Grace Potter and Warren Haynes were already on stage playing with an all-star group including Joe Russo on drums, Will Lee on bass and the legendary Booker T on the keys. On television they call it a cold open but it was a pretty hot open for the 7th Jammys. As the musicians on stage wrapped up “Take Me To The River,” I settled in towards the back of the floor and prepared for my first awards show.
Calling the Jammys an awards show is a bit of a misnomer. Where as most awards ceremonies focus on the awards, at the Jammys the performances are the big ticket item, and there was quite a list of musicians lined up. And yet, despite all the amazing pre-announced performers, the buzz in the room was surrounding the unannounced performers, the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Phish. Indeed the whole night felt a bit like a build up; at least to the award, and maybe, just possibly, to a long-awaited reunion. But I’m getting ahead of myself. There were a number of awards and a lot, a lot of live music to go before any possible historic moments.
When you see a four and a half hour long show filled with musicians collaborating for the first time you’re going to get your peaks and valleys, but only in that way the Jammys are the perfect microcosm of the jamband scene as a whole. Not every noodly interlude is going to kill, but sometimes the right ingredients will come together to create an incredible, original moment in time and music.
I don’t think the 7th Jammy Awards held any of those truly incredible moments (though the folks around me who may or may not have been in “altered states” seemed to think otherwise), but there definitely were some fine collaborations. Early on in the evening, Lesley West brought the old fashioned rock ‘n roll with Rose Hill Drive on the Mountain classic “Mississippi Queen.” Warren Haynes joined Tea Leaf Green for a sweet take on “Tempted” with some great fiddle playing from Cornmeal’s Allie Kral.
Two definite highlights for me came when the Jammys began to explore the scene’s musical influences. Page McConnell led a fantastic jazz group featuring Roy Haines, Christian McBride, Nickolas Payton and James Carter through two of his Phish originals, “Magilla” and “Cars Trucks Buses.” Honestly I wasn’t familiar with the songs (a common occurrence for me at the Jammys), but the band sounded great.
Galactic brought their particular brand of funk by backing Sharon Jones on “Born On A Bad Sign” and playing with Doug E. Fresh, who might have been the most dynamic performer on the stage that night. Earlier in the night we were treated to some beat-boxing by Matisyahu when he accompanied Rose Hill Drive on a cover of The Flaming Lips’ “In the Morning of the Magicians,” and it didn’t do very much for me. I still haven’t figured out the growing Matisyahu bandwagon, and this performance didn’t make me a convert. Doug E. Fresh was a whole different ball game. His breakdowns with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore were phenomenal, and his stage presence lit up the room.
With one more performance before the Lifetime Achievement Award the Fab Faux hit the stage. I had received some pre-Jammys hype from Paul about the Fab Faux — a Beatles cover band led by Will Lee, bassist for The Late Show with David Letterman, and Jimmy Vivino, guitarist for Late Night with Conan O’Brien. I do know the Beatles catalog pretty well, so I was ready for some familiar fun. Joan Osbourne sang “Come Together,” before the band broke into “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Halfway through the take, Trey Anastasio appeared from the wings to take a great solo and lead the Faux through a jam including “Buffalo Bill” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.”
As Trey left the stage, the buzz was reaching its peak. Photographer Danny Clinch (whose work for Pearl Jam I’ve long admired) came out to give the final award. He told a few stories about the Phish family, and then the long awaited Phish reunion hit the stage. All four members stood together to receive their awards and give thanks to an effusive crowd, the first time they had all appeared together in four years.
Finally the crowd got to hear their “Phish,” or rather their Phish songs. Because it was not the night for a Phish musical reunion. Instead a group billed as the HeadCount All-stars played a set featuring “Wilson,” “Run Like An Antelope,” “2001,” and “Maze.” They weren’t kidding when they billed them as all-stars either. Disco Biscuit’s Marc Brownstein and Jon Gutwillig joined Umphrey’s guitarist Jake Cinninger, String Cheese’s Kyle Hollingsworth and Joe Russo. It was a strong ending to a long but solid and nearly historic night.
And the Winners Are:
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 Award: Rock the Earth
Song of the Year: Keller Williams, “Cadillac”
Tour of the Year: Disco Biscuits/Umphrey’s McGee, D.U.M.B
Grahmmy Jammy: 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