Hot Licks and Good Vibes
I'm trying to come up with a clever or funny way to start this review, but my brain is just fried today. Cerebro frito! I think I actually punched my alarm clock right in the proverbial tits when it went off way too early this morning. I said Goddamn.
Despite having no real introduction to this post, let's get down on it. What a show we saw last night, what an incredible night of music. An eclectic mix of arteestes treated the small crowd at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden to nearly five solid hours of unique musical combinations and, in most cases, unbelievable performances.
Legendary Grateful Dead bassist and supreme nerd Phil Lesh -- the only man Bill Gates can accurately claim he's cooler than -- and Jambands.com head dork Dean Budnick hosted the 5th Annual Jammy Awards, aka the Patchouli Grammys, aka the One-for-Three & Two-for-Fives. Luckily for the crowd, in addition to dropping those bass bombs, Phil treated the audience to such fantastic phrases like the one in the title above: "This band is here to bring you hot licks and good vibes."
They gave out a bunch of awards last night, but aside from Phish taking home Best Tour for their worst tour ever, I'm not even really sure who won those awards. In honor of the show last night, though, I'm gonna give out the first ever (Non-Cable) Ace Awards.
Before I get to that, we have some Pheesh dirty laundry to sort out. The popular rock band Phish took home the award for Best Tour and bassist Mike Gordon came out to accept it. And he was a little salty, but as always sported that Mike sense of humor. First he said "This proves my old theory that we could have played for a few more decades. My new theory is play and have fun." The crowd liked that one quite a bit. Then he talked about the band's rules through the years and said something like "The first one was, don't piss off Paul, the sound man. The second one was, don't analyze. The third rule: don't die. And last year, we came up with the fourth rule: don't play."
He smiled after that one...then the last thing he said was something like, "Hey, at least we're still best friends," and to me it sounded like he kinda snickered at that. Way to go, Mike, sellin' Trey out like the redheaded fuckface he is. Now, onto the Ace Awards:
The Back to the Future Award (in more ways than one)
At one point I looked to the stage and thought I was watching a Farm-Aid concert from the mid-to-late '80s. Is that Huey Lewis? And a rare appearance by Sinead O'Connor? And Mavis Staples? What fucking year is this?
I'm a big fan of Umphrey's McGee, an up-and-coming band with a ton of potential. For one night only, though, they weren't UM, they were "The News." They backed up Huey on blues staple She Caught the Katy and then Heart and Soul. And I gotta tell you folks, this was brilliant. Huey's still got the pipes and the man plays a mean harmonica.
Then the group added Mavis Staples and Sinead O'Connor for Mavis' kickass version of The Weight (as accurately predicted by yours truly), which she sang on The Last Waltz with The Band. Finally they ended the set with Staple Singers Staple I'll Take You There.
Let me tell you...Mavis Staples and Huey Lewis (and Buddy Guy, too) stole this show. Especially Mavis, she was a barrel of fucking energy and coolness wrapped in a fat, black package.
The Flava Flav/Brigitte Nielsen Award
This one goes out to the strangest combination of people playing together...and it actually worked out pretty well. Chicago blues legend and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (and star of an awesome scene in Festival Express) Buddy Guy played with resident pretty boy John Mayer, Phil Lesh and The Roots (the non-Kunta Kinte kind) drummer ?uestlove.
Buddy Guy was incredible last night...he also played a tune with the North Mississippi All-Stars to start the show, but this foursome really had some magic. Buddy won the Lifetime Achievement Award, made a highly unintelligble speech with the words "aajfhif" and "ijrsafdi" and then jammed his bluesy ass off with three willing colloborators. By the way, John Mayer is pretty fuckin' good. Buddy Guy practically sucked his balls straight out of the sac on stage last night, so that endorsement ain't just mine.
The "Needs More Bass" Award
This segment alone was worth the price of admission...the three greatest living bass players all on the same stage, backed by the incomparable Benevento/Russo Duo on keys and drums and a Japanese chick with green hair on the sitar.
First, Mike and the Duo played two excellent instrumentals that I could have just eaten up with a spoon. Arghh, I can't even begin to describe how much I like these guys. After those two songs, out came former Primus tall-man Les Claypool in a pig mask with a cool stand-up bass I'd never seen, Phil Lesh and his tallness and the green-haired slipples chick with the sitar. They played some non-sensical Les tune called Dee's Diner that fucking rocked, all leading into a cool jam where all three bassists went to town. Not sure I can stress enough how cool this was.
The Sheer Coolness Award
Maybe I'm a bit late to the party, but Keller Williams might be the greatest musician in the universe. Solo, with people, with a lot of people, it doesn't matter...every performance I've seen has been off the charts. We need new charts for Keller. After playing acoustic guitar by himself for a couple songs, K-Dub called out some awful sounding chick on the organ -- Nellie McKay, I think -- who did a tune that sounded like a combination of bad dinner theatre and a Dennis Miller rant.
Thankfully she left, and Keller picked up the bass as ?uestlove came back out to hit the drums. Another note: You haven't lived until you've heard Keller and ?uestlove play a bass and drums jam while Keller makes horns sounds with his mouth on Stevie's Superstition, the O-Jays For the Love of Money and Cameo's Word Up, among others. In fact, I'd go so far to say that this was the ultimate musical highlight of the night for me. Watching these two guys go at it was practically jaw-dropping.
The They Should Do This For Real Award
Bruce Hornsby and the Yonder Mountain String Band played together near the top of the show, and it was a great way to get things going. I mentioned Hornsby's greatness in a February post and he did not disappoint last night by any means...plus YMSB is an incredibly talented group of musicians, and I see no reason in hell these guys shouldn't tour together and play together. None whatsoever. Do it.
The Lone Disappointment Award
We have a tie! Well then, it wouldn't really be a "lone" disappointment then. I see.
Ryan Adams sucks. I couldn't have been less impressed in my life by an artist I heard was good and tried to like. His band featured a dude with a pony tail and sideburns and a mustache in a black suit with a white guitar. I mean, that's bad enough. But Adams really sucked. First of all, he didn't even play Summer of '69. Big disppointment. Actually, the only part of his mini-set that i liked was when he begged Phil to come out and they played Wharf Rat and Bird Song (although the Wharf Rat ended abruptly).
Then the Disco Biscuits played with Travis Tritt. Country superstar Travis Tritt (sans cowboy hat)? That was weird to say the least. But more importantly, it wasn't great. The Biscuits are good, but their drummer, who is leaving the band, wasn't there and that took away from their performance. But that was 20 minutes of my life I could have done without.
The Best Finale Award
Well, there was only one finale...but it was the best one. For the fourth time in 2005, I caught John Medeski in action, always an Ace favorite. Medeski, Martin and Wood played with the Antibalas Horns, reggae dude Burning Spear (ja, rastafariii) and new reggae dudette Sinead O'Connor, who I think ripped up a picture of Pope Benedict XVI. Their set was decent, although Sinead and Burning Spear dude had to stop and re-start a song in the right key ala Trey in Flubentry. That was kinda embarassing, but it was late and only half the crowd was still there.
At the end of the set, Marco Benevento came out to play the keys with Medeski and Aron Magner of the Biscuits, ?uestlove came back out, Bisco's Jon Gutwillig joined the group, a handful of other folks too, and they all jammed to Bob Marley's Lively Up Yourself. But the icing on the cake, they finished off the show with a 20-person rockout of Crosstown Traffic, and they all nailed it. A perfect ending to a fucking awesome show.
The one letdown was that Warren Haynes was in the building and yet never took the stage to play...what's that shit all about? That was offset by the fact that the real life Dude, Jeff Dowd, the character Lebowski was based on, presented an award and threw one of Leftover Salmon member Vince Herman's joints into the crowd. That was very un-Dude.
Since we missed the Umphrey's late night show that started at 1 AM, I'll leave you with their Jammy Award-winning Song of the Year: In the Kitchen. Now go get a job, ya hippie.
(All photos courtesy of Jambands.com, who provides comprehensive coverage of just about everything they cover.)