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A First-Hand Account Of How A Member Of Phish Came To Sit In With Twiddle

Last weekend, the worlds of Vermont jam bands Twiddle and Phish crossed paths at Twiddle’s inaugural Tumble Down festival. During the second night of the festival, Phish keyboardist Page McConnell emerged during the second set, joining Twiddle for a rendition of their original song “When It Rains It Poors.” The band also had pianist Holly Bowling on stage with them, who had been performing between sets, and who continued to compliment Twiddle’s music when they returned to the stage.

The Phish/Twiddle cross-over was certainly a surprise to many. Ryan Dempsey, the keyboardist of Twiddle, told us the story of how this came to be. We also spoke to Holly Bowling, who told us just how blown away she was by the experience. You can read their stories below:

Ryan Dempsey: We had heard that Page might be on the guest list, and he showed up 20-30 minutes before the show. I actually met him while I was wearing a tutu!

The fans made a bet that if they got this many likes, this many comments, blah blah blah, that I’d have to wear a tutu on stage. So I was like “OK, I gotta do that now.” So I had just left my trailer out back, and my manager’s like “Ryan, this is Mr. Page McConnell, would you like to meet him?” And I was like, “Hey Page…. I’ve wanted to meet you my whole life, and its funny that it happens to be with me in a tutu.” And he’s like “Dude, you are rocking that tutu!” So I’m like ok, he’s cool, he’s cool.

I had rules—like don’t ask for a picture, and just leave him to his space, give him the room, and don’t get too up in his face or anything. But I was like well, now that we’ve met, do you mind if my photographer takes a picture of us? And he said, “Hell yea.” I said, “Page it was really nice meeting you,” and then I left him alone.

So we played our first set, and he was coming out back, and he came to me and said, “Hey, that was really good, I liked the sounds you were using on the Moog and stuff.” He said, “I’m staying for Holly, and maybe one or two more songs and I gotta head out, but it was really nice meeting you…”

Holly was playing in our intermission, and she had no idea Page was there. So she ends with “Squirming Coil,” you know, with Page’s huge solo that she had written out completely. Page goes up on the stage and starts filming her, and she doesn’t even know it. And he’s filming her taking his solo, big smile on his face. When she was done with “Squirming Coil,” he came back down. I went over and said, “I have to ask this, but IF you would like to sit in, it’s totally cool. I know you just got off tour, and you’re relaxing, but that would mean the world to us.” And he’s said, “Yea, yea, absolutely I’ll sit in.” And I was like, “oh my god.” The band’s like “I probably broke the rules on that one”, but you know what… if I hadn’t have said anything, he wouldn’t have sat in!

So he asked “What song do you wanna do?” I jokingly responded with “Harry Hood,” but he starts laughing and says “no, no, what about one of your songs?” I said, “Well the first one on the list is ‘When It Rains It Poors,’ which is our most popular song,” He asked “What key?” and I said, “C,” and he goes “Ahh all the white keys!” So I said, “it’s C E Am F, but the E has…” and he says “the A-flat”, just comes right in and finishes my words, and he’s like “Ok, I got that.”

And then when we were doing the song, I went up to Holly—she started the song—and I went up behind her and I’m like “Page is coming out to play with us right now.” She gives me this look that’s like “shut the fuck up.” So yeah, during the solo portion we gave it to Page, and yea—it was pretty amazing.

We also had a chance to chat with Holly Bowling about her experience playing with Page McConnell. Here’s what she had to say:

I had no idea it was going to happen. I ran into Page earlier in the day backstage and got to meet him, which I was pretty psyched about. So I knew he was around but he had mentioned he wasn’t sure how long he was staying so I wasn’t sure if he was going to be there during my set.

I haven’t been nervous onstage in a long time, but I was surprised to feel a little bit of that last night. Only during the Phish songs! But I kept wondering if Page was still around and wondering how he’d feel about hearing his music played and whether he’d like it or not. Especially during Squirming Coil! As I was playing that one, it kind of hit me that Page might be out there somewhere listening and I had to try not to think about it and just stay in the music. Little did I know he was standing side stage!

When Mihali came up to join me onstage, he came over and whispered “I have a surprise for you!” so at that point I’m wondering what’s going on but I still don’t know and we’re in the middle of a song so I can’t try that hard to figure it out. Then when Ryan came up he whispered to me too, “I think Page is gonna come up and play with us.”

Not sure if I kept a straight face at that point or broke into a huge grin, but I was obviously pretty excited.

Phish has been such a huge part of my life both musically and personally over the years. So to not only get to play their music while Page is listening but then to realize he’s about to walk onstage and sit down behind the keys… Yeah. I’m still smiling.

Thanks Page!

Watch the pro-shot video of this exciting collaboration below, courtesy of Frendly Presents!

[Photos courtesy of Dave DeCrescente and Greg Horowitz’s Tumble Down Gallery]