The members of Phish have long been Prince fans, getting their start around the same time when Prince was peaking in his popularity during the 1980’s. While Phish has covered Prince’s “Purple Rain” many times over, and even “1999″ on New Year’s Eve 1998, the band’s ties to the Purple One run even deeper than covering his music.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Trey Anastasio recalls a singular night – November 11th, 1996 – that Phish and Prince crossed paths. The entire band was invited to Prince’s Paisley Park mansion when they were in town for a show in Minneapolis.
Anastasio recalls the intimate crowd, which included Ziggy Marley, Boyz II Men and a couple hundred others. “We were kind of standing in the corner,” said Anastasio. “One thing I remember is he didn’t serve cocktails, so in lieu of cocktails he served little Captain Crunch cereal boxes. I thought that was the coolest thing.”
At the party, Prince plugged in and played some tunes with his band. Anastasio recalls the music vividly. “It was really cool. He was such a great guitar player, but people don’t point out he was a great rhythm guitar player. The band was playing this funky stuff. He had a woman singing with him, a kind of gospel singer, and she stepped out and started killing it. He stepped back, and I remember thinking that everybody tries to play like James Brown’s rhythm guitar player. Jammy guys do it a lot, and they all get it wrong, myself included. He was playing the most badass little rhythms with the drummer as soon as he got out of the spotlight. I was so fascinated by what he was playing. That’s when I noticed what a great guitar player he was.”
He continued to muse over Prince’s musical abilities in the interview. “The guy had the best bands… They were unbelievable. And that’s a skill in itself. Zappa didn’t just stumble into having bands that good. Prince didn’t just stumble into having bands that good. Bandleading is an art form. I have a little bit of experience in this, and let me tell you, I always admire people who consistently have great bands. Prince had figured out a way to hire really unique, really talented, really tight bands. And it’s easy to get one. But try getting two or three. That’s different. It’s horrible that he’s gone. I was heartbroken. He was way, way too young.”
While Anastasio never got to meet Prince, he was certainly in awe of his talents. “I don’t think he would have known who I was, but it didn’t matter.” He also called it “an unforgettable night.” RIP, Prince.
On Sunday, April 30, Prince, and the many incredible artists that we lost in 2016, will be honored in New Orleans during Jazz Fest for a “Funk 2016: A Tribute To Musicians We Lost” tribute concert at the Howlin’ Wolf. Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Maurice White, Phife Dawg, and more will all be honored with musical collaborations from Michelangelo Carubba, Shira Elias, Sammi Garett, Craig Brodhead, and the entire horn section from Turkuaz, along with Joey Porter, Garrett Sayers, and Lyle Divinsky of The Motet, D.J. Williams of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Danny Mayer of the Eric Krasno Band, Steveland Swatkins of Allen Stone’s band, Khris Royal and Maurice “Mobetta” Brown.
The Revivalists side project RumpleSTEELskin will open the night, while Brooklyn’s own The London Souls will perform a special super-late-night performance in The Den immediately following the Fu*k 2016 tribute set. Make no mistake, this is sure to be one of the biggest throwdowns during Jazz Fest!
Tickets for this special late-night performance are on sale NOW at this link!