Happy Birthday Page McConnell: 10 Stellar Guest Appearances

By Andy Kahn May 17, 2016 8:21 am PDT

Affectionately known as “Leo” and “The Chairman Of The Boards” Phish keyboardist Page McConnell is 53-years-old today. A multi-tooled artist, McConnell’s songwriting, vocals and musicianship has drawn praise for decades as he and the group from Vermont steadily rose in popularity. Page’s place among the top keys players in the live concert setting is nearly indisputable, and for his birthday today here’s a look at when his talents have been lent to projects outside Phish.

McConnell made his debut with Phish on May 3, 1985, sitting-in with the group on keyboards during their appearance at Wilks/Davis/Wing Dormitory on University of Vermont’s Redstone Campus in Burlington. While that sit-in soon led to a permanent job with the band, McConnell has also stepped to the stage a number of times during his career to sit-in with an impressive roster of other fellow musicians. Below is a list of 10 stellar sit-ins made by Leo over the past several years presented chronologically from oldest to newest performance.

1. May 30, 1993 with Blues Traveler – “Mountain Cry” & “Gloria”

Phish was also on the bill for Laguna Seca Daze at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California in May 1993. Blues Traveler ended their set with Page helping out on “Mountain Cry” and he came back with for the encore with Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd And The Monsters also sitting-in on “Gloria.” Stream the set here:

2. November 11, 1993 with Widespread Panic – “The Low Spark Spark Of High Heeled Boys”

Anastasio was also with Page when the pair joined Widespread Panic in November 1993. Phish was in town working on what would become their Hoist LP and came out to sit-in with their old touring cohorts during the encore performance of the Traffic classic. Follow this link to stream the show.

3. May 11, 2001 with Gov’t Mule – “Jesus Just Left Chicago”

Another of McConnell’s mates in Phish, Mike Gordon was part of the collaboration at Gov’t Mule’s Roseland Ballroom show in New York City in May 2001. Another encore sit-in, this one featured a performance of ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” with Gordon replacing substitute bassist Dave Schools. Click here to stream the show.

4. September 28, 2001 with Tenacious D – “Flash,” “Wonderboy” & “The Beatles Medley”

McConnell was a primary contributor to Tenacious D’s 2001 self-titled debut album. When Jack Black and Kyle Gass were on tour in support of the album that fall they were joined by Page at their show at Higher Ground in Winooski, Vermont. Watch the trio cover “Flash” by Queen, the LP cut “Wonderboy” and a medley of songs by The Beatles including “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End”:

5. September 1, 2006 with moe. – “Buster,” “Mexico” & “Blue Jeans & Pizza”

At the September 2006 installment of moe.down in Turin, New York, Page was on the lineup fronting a group featuring his Phish band mate Jon Fishman along with Jared Slomoff, Adam Zimmon and Rob O’Dea. Fellow Phish member Mike Gordon also appeared with Ramble Dove as did hosts moe., who welcomed McConnell to sit-in on a number of songs. Listen to moe.’s set from Snow Ridge Ski Resort here:

6. January 26, 2008 with Euforquestra – “Soup”

Page was in Colorado in January 2008 for a pair of special Hurricane Katrina benefit concerts at the Boulder Theater in Boulder and at Cervantes Masterpiece in Denver. McConnell’s appearance at the two Big Easy Blowout events saw him playing alongside Russell Batiste, Papa Mali, Reed Mathis and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. The video below shows Leo and Scott Messersmith of the The Motet joining opening act Euforquestra at Cervantes, watch:

7. March 12, 2009 with The Allman Brothers Band – “I Know You Rider”

Anastasio and McConnell again shared the stage with another band back in March 2009 during The Allman Brothers Band’s 40th anniversary celebration run at New York City’s historic Beacon Theatre. Along with Buddy Guy they assisted on “Southbound” close the first set, and the two Phish members returned to open the second set with “I Know You Rider” and “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Watch “Rider” below:

8. January 10, 2010 with Little Feat – “Spanish Moon” & “Skin It Back”

On Halloween in 2010 Page and Phish covered Little Feat’s famed live album Waiting For Columbus as part of their musical costume tradition. In January of that year, McConnell got to try out a couple of tunes they played Halloween night when he joined Little Feat at Higher Ground in South Burlington, Vermont at a benefit for their since passed drummer Richie Hayward. Stream the sit-in right here:

9. September 15, 2012 with Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “Tush”

Covered just two known times by Phish in the years just after Page joined the band, McConnell sat-in on ZZ Top’s “Tush” with Vermonters Grace Potter & The Nocturnals at Waterfront Park in Burlington back in September 2012. The classic rock cover took place at the annual Grand Point North festival. Here’s video of Page & The Nocturnals:

10. April 6, 2014 with Mike Gordon – “555”

Lastly on the list is a sit-in that McConnell made with his Phish band mate Jon Fishman during a show by Mike Gordon and his band at Higher Ground. Fish and Leo helped out Cactus and his band on their first set rendition of Phish’s “555.” Check out three of the four members of Phish in action below:

Joe Adler
Mike Gordon (See 49 videos) , Jon Fishman (See 16 videos) and Page McConnell (See 26 videos)
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