Page McConnell Recalls Early Phish Rehearsals to The Meters

November 8, 2012

Photo by Dino Perrucci

Phish keyboardist Page McConnell recently wrapped up a brief run of dates with The Meter Men. These shows saw him perform with three founding Meters members: guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Ziggy Modeliste. McConnell, Porter and Nocentelli all sat down for an interview together before one of their shows at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York City for a conversation with Mike Greenhaus and Amy Jacques. Among many stories the three musicians share is McConnell’s account of Phish rehearsing to the Meters’ song “Pungee” back in the mid 1980s.

McConnell recalls, "We all learned the parts and we would start with the record, or the tape back in those days, and we’d start playing with it, and I’d reach over and turn the volume down so we’d be playing along but we wouldn’t be able to hear it. Then, we’d get to the end of the song and see how far away we got from what the Meters were doing. These guys were a big influence. We’re a four-piece band with the same instrumentation. We all think of ourselves in some ways as instrumentalists and vocalists too but we started focusing on the instruments early, as did you guys, the vocals came along and developed as it went along. We’ve tried to continue to develop it. People always say, “Oh, Phish is so heavily influenced by the Dead” or some say Allman Brothers or [Frank] Zappa. I think the Meters are as important as any of those bands to the way we play. And when we’re playing the way we like to play, I’m feeling that same kind of energy and connection and playing sparsely and really getting the tightest grooves we can with the least amount of effort. That’s when I think we’re playing at our best."

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