It’s 4:30 P.M. and I’m inside NBC’s 30 Rock building feverishly posting a photo to facebook with the caption: “I’ve got a golden ticket.” And, it’s true. That’s exactly how I feel waiting to get into the taping of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” to see Phish perform. Everyone wanted to get into this show. Questlove even tweeted that he “Never got a “absolutely 0 guests” memo for a show b4. But it’s understandable: its friggin Phish! #rollingstonesweek.”
The guy behind me, Matt, works at NBC and is clearly stoked to be here. He can’t wait to rub it in to his 41-year-old brother, who used to hang at The Wetlands, that he scored a way to get in. Behind him a curly mop top interrupts to ask if we’ve heard anything about a rumored surprise Phish gig. He swears it’s happening–it’s all over the web boards and Phantasy Tour. He’s convinced, without a doubt that this is definitely happening. We burst out laughing. I tell him I’ll see him at Roseland later.
We file into the studio an hour later. There’s a beautiful buzz all around us. Is everyone here a Phish fan? I spot taper Mike Salvo, who I met on Mike Gordon’s March tour, sitting on the second to last bench. It’s not one of the original (and recycled) red and cushion-y Radio City Music Hall chairs, but he’d get to move to the Band Bench, which would put him spitting distance to Fishman for the performance. Another friend, Keith, is also back there and would give me a fist bump as he made his way down the aisle.
We’re warned pretty frequently by the NBC pages and suits with rainbow peacock pins to “Turn your cell phones off! No cameras!!” and there are plenty of them to enforce the law and direct people to their seats. The studio is smaller than expected. Maybe 200 phans? Sweet, this is my smallest Phish show ever. Wait, does this count as a show? My stats.
The warm-up guy can’t believe his luck. He’d get to rib us on every hippy connotation he could muster. “How many of you are here to see Phish?” he says with an all-knowing nod. 80% of the crowd hoots and hollers and basically goes nuts–but politely quiets back down. “You guys were here early, right? Out in the parking lot.” Yeah, yeah, we all agree and someone yells “Shakedown.” Warm-up guy clues us in that Fallon will come into the studio audience for some crowd participation. If Fallon picks on the guy in front of you, “don’t put your ugly mug in the shot and say ‘hey, yeah man…I look good’ cause, guess what? You’re ruining the shot!!”
We’re pumped. It’s time for Jimmy Fallon to come out. His desk is straightforward to my left, a big open space in the middle of the floor, and to my right are The Roots. Since it’s Stones week on Jimmy Fallon they’ve hosted some killer sit-ins. Our special guest, and we’re quickly told there will be more, is New Orleans zydeco-boogie woogie-blues-and sweet jelly roll styl-y piano player Dr. John. Between segments he and the Roots totally jam out “Right Place Wrong Time.” All the lead ins and outs of the segments are done by the Roots and Dr. John and they’re pretty smokin’.
Jimmy Fallon With Page, Trey, Jon, and Mike
There are hi-def screens everywhere and we can watch along with the taping. I count at least six audience mics hanging and the sound in the studio is really good. In the very back of the studio behind us a DJ spins tracks off of “Exile” but quickly skipped past “Loving Cup” at the end of the night.
Fallon is totally on the level with the demographic of his audience. When it’s time for him to announce the evening’s musical performance for Stone’s week the word PHISH is barely audible over all the CHEERING. It’s deafening. We’re ridiculous.
Mike Gordon Holds Down the Groove With Jon Fishman
Someone starts pounding their feet on the floor and we all follow suit. It’s a RUMBLE and Fallon’s eyes totally light up. We’ve impressed him. The Roots have never reckoned with a flock like us. This is going to be fun. I turn to my friend Melissa and say, “We get to see Phish!” I almost forgot that there would be an actual performance still to come.
There were some do-overs. A few of them of course. Sam Rockwell came out at least three times because Fallon was tripping up. “Can we do that again? It’s like a riddle,” he said referring to the Broadway show “Behanding in Spokane,” that both Rockwell and Christopher Walken are in. Actually, on the third try–and the take that aired–Rockwell came out and busted a few moves with Fallon on the floor….and ended up in a split.
That's Me and My Boy Fallon!
Now the order of guests that we saw, was different than the one that was aired. LL Cool J came first, then Sam Rockwell, and then the ultimate of surprise guests for the evening, Keith Richards. From my perch in the third row I could see producers Lorne Michaels strolling in and out–checking in on what has probably been the biggest and most publicized week and show for Jimmy Fallon.
During one break, and there were quite a few, Seth Myers came out and gave a high-five to a guy sitting diagonal from me. The seat was definitely saved for this VIP, and if I had to guess I would say that he was a writer. Total guess tho.
FINALLY it was time for PHISH. The curtain pulls back, the Crew pushes all the gear forward. Page, Fish, Mike, and Trey file out and wave to the audience. One camera is on Fallon and Keith Richards—they are standing off to the left in front of a screen and Phish is ready and armed with their instruments.
They start off “Loving Cup” a little bit faster than usual—but it’s a celebration. Could be the happiest of the LC’s that I’ve seen, they absolutely nailed it with the look of total professionalism. Well, everyone but Fish…he traded his signature donut dress for a Ren and Stimpy shirt. Classic!!
Trey Belting Out "Loving Cup" With Band Bench Behind HIm
What the home TV audience didn’t see and we were privy to, was the extra song, “Kill Devil Falls.” After a quick onstage discussion with the stage manager Fallon announced that he would be right back after changing his suit and tie. The crowd was obviously stoked that another song was on the way. Once back, Fallon announced that Phish start their summer tour in Chicago on June 11th—and he held up the cover of Joy for the camera.
We were such a good audience that Fallon delivered on his promise to have munchies for us–bags of Funyons were waiting for us as we exited the studio. He made sure to mention more than once or twice that we were awesome (aww, thanks Jimmy! Feeling’s mutual!). Well, almost everyone was awesome…two girls got kicked out at the very end for yelling (while the tape was rolling) SHOW US YOUR FALLON!! Oh wait, that’s totally awesome!! We win anyway!!