Phish heads all over the New York area are on cloud nine today, after being treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jam with Mike Gordon last night at the Mossery, the release party for his album Moss, which came out today.
After enduring a line that seemed to stretch through the entire West Village, attendees entered a version of Kenny’s Castaways that had been transformed for the free event. Between the moss-taches that were given out at the door, the live owl photo booth, and the walls and pillars covered in moss, it was clear that Mike & co. had gone all out.
But the big draw of the evening was the lineup: Mike on bass, Scott Murawski on rhythm guitar, Joe Russo/Todd Isler rotating in on drums, and, of course, the fans on the rest of the instruments.
There was much speculation in line about what exactly we were about to witness. Would a bunch of amateurish n00bs get on stage and embarrass themselves in front of their hero? Would a guitarist come along who was so good that Mike would kick Trey out of the band?
My feeling going in was that this was a bit like if your favorite pornstar turned to prostitution: Your fantasies are being fulfilled, sure, but how good can you feel about yourself when you know you haven’t earned it?
The answer, it turned out, was pretty good. Far from whoring himself out, Mike was truly sharing the stage, not only pushing the crowd to make noise for every performer, but really listening to and complementing each guest’s playing.
For example: I am an amateur guitarist; I practice many hours a week, but don’t play in a band, and am far less skillful than many of the others who played last night. But at one point while I was on stage, I played a lick and, to my amazement, Mike played it right back. “Holy shit,” I thought, “Mike Gordon is playing off of me.” Looking at Mike, I played a variation on the lick, and we went back and forth over the course of what instantly became five of the more memorable seconds of my life. (In the video at the bottom, these 5 seconds start about 27 seconds in.)
The whole event had a very surreal, slightly Guitar Hero-ish vibe to it, but it was an incredibly upbeat and memorable night, and one that happened to include some moments of musical brilliance. A few of those are embedded below.
Tom Tompkins shredding on guitar:
Josh Hoffman in a cowbell battle with Joe Russo:
Mike Levitt going all rock star:
Last but not least, me: