Just as Phishmas at YEMSG got underway last night, so too did after party season. Night one’s offerings were numerous, highlighted by the one-off supergroup of John Medeski (keys), Billy Martin (drums), Scott Metzger (guitar, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead), and Nels Cline (guitar, Wilco) at Sony Hall. Not to discount the draws of Metzger and Cline, but MMW’s acid jazz has been intertwined with the Phish scene since 1995 and this highly anticipated show would eventually sell out in the hours before its 1:00 am start, leaving many fans outside on the sidewalk.
Sony Hall occupies the footprint of The Diamond Horseshoe, a celebrated and historic Times Square dinner theater with a standing room capacity of 1,000. The room is trimmed with gold paint, coffered ceilings and a disco ball, and lounge seating around the perimeter, lending to its historic feel. The room sounded great, although overcrowding was a serious deterrent for many.
Medeski, Cline, Metzger, and Martin were arranged audience left to right respectively, and began their two hour improvisational journey just before 1:00 a.m. Medeski would contribute the evening’s bass lines on his keys, as he and Martin provided the anchoring rhythm section for guitarists Cline and Metzger to explore in, on, and around. There were gorgeous moments of Metzger shred amidst a backdrop of effects heavy psychedelic exploration from Cline. The tempo was deliberate and purposeful and, coupled with the intense crowding, didn’t create much of a dancing atmosphere. At times the music felt almost transcendent, as Medeski and Martin created an ambient space for guitarists Metzger and Cline to play, their guitar work totally dictated by the tempo and beat of the drums and keys.
These musicians clearly enjoyed playing with one another as they treated those who braved the crowds and the late hours to a two hour set of improvisation that ended at 3:00 a.m. Sony Hall will host after shows on nights two and three as well, with Star Kitchen on 12/29 and Ghost Note plays Prince on 12/30.