Page McConnell has been around a while—54 years to the day, to be exact. Born on May 17, 1963 in Philadelphia and raised in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, McConnell picked up the keys at an early age, playing in various bands throughout his teens before eventually landing in the music program at Vermont’s Goddard College where, in 1985, he joined fledgling rock band Phish. The addition of Page on the keys to replace original second guitarist Jeff Holdsworth proved to be a wise choice, solidifying the famed lineup that the now-legendary band plays with to this day (along with guitarist Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, and drummer Jon Fishman).
Usually, when we celebrate someone’s birthday, we’ll pick a cool video or interview to share. But with a musician as accomplished as Page McConnell, from a band as iconic as Phish, it was next to impossible to pick just one…so we didn’t. Here are just a few of the many reasons why we love Page:
Because he’s a man of many names. Some people call him Leo. Some call him the Chairman of the Boards. Here’s a clip from 12/31/12 at Madison Square Garden, where he runs through his names, then adds a new one to the list:
Because when Page gets up, you get down. McConnell’s keyboard chops have been known to inspire cut rugs and busted moves. When the man gets out of his seat and onto his feet, get ready for the sparks to fly:
Because he knows how to bring the funk. Page’s playing was a major part of the “Cow Funk” style that began to define Phish’s sound in late 1997. Check out this super-funky improv jam from 12/3/97 in Worcester, MA (starting at 39:17):
Because The Meters chose him to take over on keys. If you’re funky enough to play with The Meters, you’re funky enough for us.
Because he rocks the shit out of that shirt. Trey says it all (00:33):
Because he’s the Lawn Boy. Those olfactory hues don’t overwhelm just anybody…
Because he made Vida Blue happen. During Phish’s first hiatus, Page recruited Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit, and now Dead & Co) and Russell Batiste (The Meters) to form the all-star electronic trio Vida Blue. Led by McConnell, the group released a pair of albums and toured actively before disbanding in 2004.
Because he loves a good sandwich…so they say, anyway. Fans love to joke about Page’s love affair with sandwiches, though nobody seems to be able to agree on exactly where that reference came from or whether it’s even true at all. But one kind of sandwich that we all crave is a “setlist sandwich,” like this one from 12/30/15 featuring the debut of “Can’t Always Listen” (complete with “Leooo!” solo) between two slices of “Ghost”.
And because there’s no sweeter goodbye than a “Squirming Coil” piano solo. The band leaves the stage, the lights go down, and a single spotlight illuminates the piano as the one and only Page McConnell drives it home—there’s nothing quite like it. Play it, Leooooo:
Happy birthday, Page! Catch you on the Rage Side at MSG during the Baker’s Dozen residency this summer!
[Cover photo via Kristine Condon]