Archives For Phish

From the Twitter:
#Phish is playing some crappy Little Feat album for Halloween and I wasted over $1000 to see the shitty album. Fuckers” –THE_RICK

Since 1994, every time that a Phish concert falls on Halloween, they put on a musical costume by playing one of their favorite albums in its entirety. To date they have played The Beatles’ White Album, The Who’s Quadrophenia, The Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, Velvet Underground’s Loaded, and The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. They also surprised the hell out of an under attended Salt Lake City crowd with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon just two days after playing Loaded in Vegas in 1998.

So far Phish has chosen some heavy hitting crowd pleasers. Any fan not thrilled to witness any of those albums performed live would be insane. However, I recall that there was a ton of online negativity and WTF sentiment in regards to Loaded. After all it was 1998, still three years before the massive VU revival brought on by The Strokes and other NYC & LA bands.  At the time I remember that I wasn’t too familiar with Velvet Underground’s final proper and Lou Reed fronted album either. I had heard and loved “Heroin” and various other tracks but never dove into their catalogue. Thankfully, Phish hipped me to the Velvets before the hipster vampires began to feed and made Loaded one my absolute favorites.

Fast forward to this year. When early spoilers were tweeted last Sunday that Phish would cover Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus I thought that they had finally made a horrible decision and were about to completely alienate the majority of their fan base. Little Feat? Nope. Never listened to them and never thought that I would. Obviously, based on the tweet at the top of the page, I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. I had never been more grateful to have not been at a Phish show.

But that feeling was temporary.

They did it again. Waiting for Columbus makes sense on so many levels and Phish played the hell out of it. The influence that it had on Trey, Page, Mike and Fish is so incredibly noticeable that if you walked into Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall unaware of Phish’s Halloween history, you would’ve believed it to be their own. It’s funky. It’s fun. And it is all around fantastic!

No kidding, I have since listened to Waiting for Columbus in its entirety or in pieces, every day since Halloween. Seriously! if you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and check it out.

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Rising prices for concert tickets is kind of a no brainer for artists.  The fact that it has become incredibly easy to freely acquire or ‘steal’ albums and hence decrease sales, offers an easy out when asked as to why the ticket price for their shows has increased by up to 40% in the past two years.  That is understandable.  However, I suggest that people will stop going to see you’re expensive show if you don’t switch things up a bit.

Surely not many in this economical climate have the extra money lying around to see the exact same set that you played in our city last winter.  Right. You are a great band with a great catalogue of music that plays your songs perfectly but please, change more than three songs on your setlist if you’re going to charge me $60-100 after I just paid $40-70 last year.

There are certain bands that I’ve expressed my love for on this blog that I will skip the next time they come around because the set will be EXACTLY the same with the possibility of a few new songs mixed in.  They won’t stretch them out and they won’t dip into their rarities……. I could only imagine that it would get incredibly boring to play the same songs night in and night out.

It sounds kind of weird but bands playing the same amazing show has gotten a bit old.  Each time they’re great and flawless but there’s no suspense.  No surprise.  Each show will be as good as the last but it won’t be any different.  You know exactly what you’re going to get and it’s hard to get excited about that.

In this case, for me, absence makes the heart grow fonder.   So, maybe wait a bit longer before you come back.  Play a smaller more intimate venue the next time you’re here.  Shit, talk a little.  I’ve been to plenty of shows that were made memorable by stage banter.

I think there has been some effort by the way of justifying the hike.  Springsteen and others have played full albums to break up the normalcy of their  sets; Tom Petty ticket prices included a copy of his latest album; starting in fall all Phish tickets will include an MP3 download of the show you attended.  While these bands are leading the way by explaining the reasons it costs so much to see them, is it enough?

PS: if bands have any control over any of this, see what you can do about lowering the price of a beer at these corporate sponsored amphitheaters and arenas.  $9 for a 12oz can of Fat Tire is almost as absurd as $13 for 24oz can of Coors Light.

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PHISH 3.0

June 29, 2010 — Leave a comment

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I can still remember August 14th, 2004 like it was yesterday.  In preparation for a major event to be held at my Wauwatosa, WI apartment, I had procured a fridge packed to the gills with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, and two bottles of Shiraz to go with the two giant steaks that I would make for my wife and I on that Saturday evening.  I woke up early, turned on my newly acquired XM Radio that softly serenaded me with Yo La Tengo’s “Tears are in your Eyes” and got ready to go out to breakfast with my older brother and his wife.  It was to be a major day in my life. My first conversation went something like this:

 

“What’s up man?” You’re all smiles. What’s going on?” my brother asked. 

“Phish show tonight, buddy.”

“Really? I thought you guys went to that it June?”

“Right. We did. It’s not here man. It’s in Vermont.”

“So. What’s that have to do with you?”

“It’s being broadcast on XM. I’m going to grill some steaks, drink some beers, and listen to it in my living room.”

“When’d you get satellite radio?”

“Yesterday.”

When the announcement came down that the band that was responsible for helping me to an infinite amount of fantastic experiences, took me to places that I’d have never gone without following their lead, and gifted me a relationship with music that will remain unbreakable until my final breath, was calling it quits after their August 14th & 15th shows in their home state of Vermont I dragged my feet.  Why? Easy. I had been there before. In 2000 they did the same exact thing by telling fans that the October shows at Mountain View, CA’s Shoreline Amphitheater were going to be their last for an unknown amount of time. And at this point in time I was ok with this. 

 

While Phish may have been at the top of their game, the jamband scene and the music that shook everyone in it was starting to deflate.  Other sounds picked up steam, got more interesting, and began to take control of the tasteseekers.  When I read that a new day was dawning, I was ready to awaken from the multi year dream that had kept me in a smiling and somewhat irresponsible haze.  I was ready to wipe the sleep from my eyes, wash the patchouli out of my hair, and put to work what I had learned from those years of bliss.  And it was a fairly easy transition.  Sure I missed the smiles that I had traded in for the twang, twee and philosophy that now graced my headphones but I embraced the change that acted as soundtrack to the end of my youth.  And even though those once glowing smiles were becoming smaller and less frequent, I was too entrenched in life to notice. But still I never forgot.

 

Fast forward to July 2002. Elation erupts in a Madison, WI apartment as the headline on a popular Phish webpage reads, HIATUS OVER.  Phones rang, emails were sent, jigs were jigged, and this guy couldn’t have been happier as the stone enclosing my countenance began to break.  The shows in New York and Hampton, VA that would ring in 2003 would be a fitting way to shake the shadow of adulthood that had tailed me since I left town.  Sadly, I didn’t get tickets and we didn’t go mill around town searching for entry.  Worse, I didn’t get tickets for the February show at the old Rosemont Horizon either.  But, I still gladly downloaded and burned sets from campus computers and enjoyed every minute in anticipation for that Summer’s shows at Alpine. 

 

And we went. It was sort of like old times. My wife, trooper that she is, went along even though she didn’t care for the music (on her birthday). However, the shift in scenes, music, was a trauma that made me worry that I was a caped crusader at these, to me, reunion shows. Was I putting on a costume? Did my body still house the DNA that would allow me to semi soberly enjoy this seemingly foreign thing that had once carried me to new heights? Sure, Phish still represented all that it was supposed to but it was just different. Phish had been frozen for two years and then thawed and thrown at me at a completely different stage of life. I still told myself that I loved it. And deep down I did. 

 

Another year goes by only this time I have got my bearings back. I’m ready for whatever they throw at me. I’m back in Milwaukee, loving life, and ready for Phish to command my musical universe for as long they’ll do it for me.  I spend hours downloading, burning and listening to my ever-growing collection of live shows.  Summer 2004, I am now as dialed in as I was when I was in the eye of the storm.  Alpine shows announced. Alpine tickets ordered.  Anticipation is high and adrenaline is on the rise.  And. Then. The. Announcement:

 

Last Friday night, I got together with Mike, Page and Fish to talk

openly about the strong feelings I’ve been having that Phish has run its

course and that we should end it now while it’s still on a high note.

Once we started talking, it quickly became apparent that the other guys’

feelings, while not all the same as mine, were similar in many ways —

most importantly, that we all love and respect Phish and the Phish

audience far too much to stand by and allow it to drag on beyond the

point of vibrancy and health. We don’t want to become caricatures of

ourselves, or worse yet, a nostalgia act. By the end of the meeting, we

realized that after almost twenty-one years together we were faced with

the opportunity to graciously step away in unison, as a group, united in

our friendship and our feelings of gratitude.

 

So Coventry will be the final Phish show. We are proud and thrilled

that it will be in our home state of Vermont. We’re also excited for the

June and August shows, our last tour together. For the sake of clarity,

I should say that this is not like the hiatus, which was our last

attempt to revitalize ourselves. We’re done. It’s been an amazing and

incredible journey. We thank you all for the love and support that

you’ve shown us.

 

 

n   Trey Anastasio

 

Deflated again, and more depressed now, possibly weeping as I read the words of a man that has meant so much to me over the years. They were done.  DONE.  And now I couldn’t hold on to the possibility that they may be back. A hiatus is one thing, but if Trey says they’re done. They’re done.  So, after the tears dried and the once racing memories slowed to a crawl, I again came to terms with the decision.  There was nothing I could do but see them that June, dance my ass off and try to burn the feelings and images of that last night into my synapses forever. And. It was a damn great night of music.  So damn good that it forced me to do everything from finagling with ticket brokers, to designing a t-shirt, to writing my favorite Phish memory in an attempt to get tickets to those final two shows. And if you remember the beginning of this post, all of them failed.

 

So, on August 14th and 15th of 2004, I did exactly what I had told my brother I was going to do.  I grilled steaks, drank some beers (& wine on Sunday), burned sticks of nagchampa, and listened to every single fucking note that was played on a small XM boom box. I barely moved for those six sets except during breaks.  I don’t think I ever listened more intently in my entire life.  And when they cried on stage on that final night, I cried with them (must’ve been the wine). And when the “The Curtain With” faded to its beautiful ending, that second and final chapter of my book of Phishstory was going to be closed, ready or not, as well. 

 

So, I calloused up, packed away my memories and went back to my daily life.  Like before, never really missing them but always still thinking about them in some capacity.  Years went by, rumors (that I continually bought into) started to spread, all the while I stayed toward the back.  Never diving in headfirst, but always trying to stay abreast of the smallest possibility. And then this:

 

Phish To Play Three Concerts

Phish returns to the stage for three concerts at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia on March 6, 7 and 8, 2009.

 

 What? They were done. Weren’t they? WTF? I never actually expected this to happen, so I was hyped, but not super hyped. Excited but not overjoyed.  So, when I got my rejection letter for tickets I didn’t feel the least bit burned by the rash of noobs that would be allowed into the Hampton Coliseum on those three glorious nights.  I deleted the email and got up early on a Saturday morning in order to get tickets for Phish’s return to Alpine Valley.  Well, Live Nation didn’t make that the easiest task in the world, but I secured myself admission. 

 

Since that day, money getting lighter, other bands coming around that I HAVE to see, I have thought about ditching my tickets and giving someone else the opportunity to spend the evening with my once upon time dream weavers.  Then, Friday March 6 comes around.  I start to follow @Phish on Twitter.  “phish fluffhead” reads their first tweet and I smile at the Laundromat.  “phish Divided Sky” reads the next, as my smile gets bigger.  With each song played I start to get happier and happier, thinking that the tapes of this show cannot come fast enough.  I download the show Saturday afternoon, listen to it Sunday morning and bring a replacement for it Monday.  I told myself Monday morning that I wanted to listen to something else, fact is, when I got into my car, and Page’s solo at the end of “The Squirming Coil” hits my ears my body is completely paralyzed and unable to move.  I couldn’t come to replace Phish in my cd player Tuesday either.  I still love them.  And no matter what anyone thinks of them or the brand of music they play, they are still a large part of who I am and I wouldn’t trade any of my travels with them for the world. And I can promise that the thought of selling those tickets will never cross my mind again. 

Stop Making Sense!?!

February 2, 2009 — 4 Comments

While cleaning out my childhood bedroom I came across a box of treasures that made me as elated as Beck’s “Debra” showing up on random this morning.  Review clippings from shows I had been to as a youngster, random things handed out at those shows, and ticket stubs from every concert I attended from 1995-2001 were stashed away in a Converse All-Stars box in the back of my closet.  Sure, all of these items were great to reminisce with, but the most important nugget to this post specifically was a bundle of scribbled in notebooks that I had used as journals during those years.

There was the the typical drawn and doodled names of girls that I secretly crushed on. Failed prose mimicking my favorite poets and artists. And WRITTEN OUT, word for word, lyrics to songs that made me feel cool, hip, individualistic, and like none of my friends.  Dyaln, the Dead, Lou Reed, Van Morrison, etc… The list goes on and on.  Upon seeing this I was shocked. Remembering writing them down but also wondering what in the hell I was thinking.  There is no way that I would do something like that now.  I wouldn’t even think of it.

And then I realized that my relationship with music has changed drastically since then.  While I used hang on every lyric that made me feel intertwined with the loners, lovers, and losers that populated my favorite songs, I simply don’t do that anymore.

Why?

Is it that artists nowadays fall short of producing glittering fodder to feed our minds?  I often think this is the case when a friend’ll quote interesting or relatable song lyrics to whatever it is we’re rapping about.  Most if not all were penned some 30 years ago. Can’t really see anyone throwing a line from Brandon Flowers and Co. out there. Unless of course we really end up being alien dancers

Or is it that I was naive to think that the ambiguous hero in a Lou Reed narrative and I had something in common? (maybe-probably) Too fried to think that Syd Barrett and I shared an emotion?

Or is it that it is nearly impossible to make out just what is being sung.  I love me some MMJ and so much as a breath into the microphone from lead singer Jim James gives me chills.  But man is he hard to understand sometimes.  True, it is fun to make up your own lyrics to his songs, but also embarrassing if you were to quote asinine made-up lyrics in front of a die hard.

I’m pretty sure that there is not a universal answer suitable for such a question. Maybe people still invest all of their attention on lyrical content.  Alter meanings to fit their own situations. Maybe it’s just me. I can’t do it. Not completely anyway.

Years and years  of listening to and following Phish could have contributed to my current state.  Let’s face it, their sounds and grooves annihilate even the prettiest words that Tom Marshall or Mike Gordon put on paper.

Or maybe it was my studying of literature for almost a decade.  Being forced to pay attention to every inkblot on a page has forced me to pay more attention to the white spaces around them.

Now it’s the sound of harmonies that get me. You could string all of the harmonic vocalizations from Pet Sounds together and I could transport myself to a much happier place.  A nice bass line may do the same thing.  A nice bass line mixed a steady piano and a driving drum beat have been know to throw me into a  convulsive frenzy.  Think Joe Cocker light.  There is also nothing better than a chunky guitar riff that is filthier than an Andrew Dice Clay routine falling on the ears of a virginal youth.

To get a feel for what I’m talking about, check out LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” from Sound of Silver or the guitar work of Mick Taylor on “Sympathy for the Devil” from the Stones 1969 live release Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out.  Both are absolute head shakers.  The entire LCDS track grooves from start to finish. Be prepared, you’re gonna move.  James Murphy’s lyrics are an asset to the song but can only be considered a runner up to the pulsating beats and grooves that fill the speakers, your ears, and your soul.

The Stones track, on the other hand, is a builder and a slow burner.  Most people know and like the studio track of this song.  I’ll admit, I like it a lot too but this live version absolutely kills.  Most of the song stays true to form, but when that solo hits and Mick’s guitar starts to whine and punish, you’re blanketed by it’s nastiness.  You’re eyes close a little, you’re head starts to move from side to side and you find yourself tracking back to start the solo over and over again.  This version will induce a swagger.  You maybe never be able to get to the end of it.  Can’t recall if I have.

So while I still have an ear for good lyrics, the actual music and sounds that accompany them does it for me a little more.  Maybe it won’t always be the case and I’ll end up jotting down Craig Finn’s latest tale about Catholicism and alcohol abuse if I begin to lose touch. But for now, I’ll keep flooding my buds with atmospheric mood changers.

What gets you going? A 12 minute lyrical journey like Dylan’s “Desolation Row?” Or 64 minute noise affair fueled by feedback like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music?