Thanksgiving. A time to sit back, eat, watch some football, eat some more, and spend time at home with family and friends. It is also one of my favorite weekends of the year to see some live music.
In the music world, the weekend and days surrounding the holiday offer a similar sense of community and celebration. This tradition was started long back, and most notably documented in The Last Waltz, The Band’s star-studded, farewell concert on Thanksgiving night in 1976. While that show took place on the West Coast, its effects have been felt for decades to come all over, especially here in my home of New York City. In fact, last year saw a performance of The Complete Last Waltz by a laundry list of musicians at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, a very short drive or train ride from Manhattan, showing that live music around this joyous, reflective weekend is still alive and well. It is also extremely important to point out the significance of The Last Waltz concert, as it will forever be synonymous with Thanksgiving in the musical world.
For many other jam acts, Thanksgiving weekend runs have become as reliable as other holidays like New Year’s Eve and Halloween. I have fond memories of seeing God Street Wine, Blues Traveler, moe., The Disco Biscuits, and all sorts of collaborative efforts over the years in and around NYC during my post-Thanksgiving weekend world of belly-blissfulness. This upcoming Thanksgiving will also see a plethora of choices for local New Yorkers, highlighted by My Morning Jacket’s four night run at The Beacon Theater and what has become a staple, Dark Star Orchestra’s annual weekend shindig at the Playstation Theater in Times Square.
But in my mind, there’s one band that cemented the Turkey Day Tradition: Phish. They played a total of seven shows at The Capitol Theatre from 1990-1992. Four of these shows were right around Thanksgiving, culminating in a still much-lauded set of shows over the Thanksgiving weekend in ’92. Phish continued their Thanksgiving tradition in years to come, with a ludicrous trio of shows in Worcester in 1998, including the infamous “Wipeout” show, showing that there’s a few ways to shake off the extra pounds added at the dinner table.
No matter where you live, or what type of music you may choose to see, a common theme is there over Thanksgiving and the days that it lingers on into afterwards. There’s a sense of ease and relaxation about seeing some shows over that weekend, often times close to the hometown that you grew up in, where your most important and defining memories of getting into the live music scene come flooding back into your mind. Chances are you will also get to see some old friends and faces at these shows, as they’ve decided to come home due to the proximity to home and the collective state of togetherness that the holiday exudes. While the shows may be part of a larger tour, they too also seem to take on a relaxed vibe of stopping for a moment amongst all of the craziness and madness of life and the road and say: “We are thankful.” Both the bands and fans alike seem to share this sentiment. It’s for these reasons above that this weekend was, and is, always one of my favorites.
So, no matter where you live, my point is to get off the couch on Friday and Saturday when you are home, make some plans with old friends, and go out and see some music. The memories that will be made, and the thankfulness that we get to celebrate a bright and vibrant scene, borne out of all that came before it, will be something to truly be thankful for, for years to come.