24 October 2009

All Things Reconsidered #1

Before I begin, along with letting myself off the hook for the whole Summer Tour recap thing, I've decided I'm going to post more often, i.e. whenever I effin' feel like it. Since I'm always experiencing bursts of garbled insight when listening to the Phish tunes I've gratefully reintroduced into my life, why not post whenever? To invoke Eddie Murphy, "It's my blog, and if you don't like it, you can get the eff out!"

It's a crappy Saturday morning, and I'm poring over the Festival 8 Work Exchange Team guidelines, e-signing the bits where I'm signing my life away (or 18 hours of it, anyhow) to Phish for three days. Sort of liberating, actually. It's all crawling closer to being an actuality, rather than a far-off fantasy. Worked last night on my costume a bit, which is going to be sorta hilarious. I'm glad I paid close attention to temperature-appropriateness for being in the boiling hot SoCal desert, so to assure the maximum boogie factor. All in all, it's gonna be APESHIT.

Also, I wanted to get a couple things off my chest:

1) Festival 8 is going to be my phirst Phish Halloween experience. Let's examine: 1994 was a Monday, and I think at the time I was taking a Tuesday 9AM English Lit class, so that wasn't going to work. I was pissed when I heard what they pulled. 1995 was a Tuesday in Illinois; and they did it again with the playing of another band's album thing. Dayyyumm...guess that's gonna be a thing they do, huh! Ingenious bastards. Don't even get me started on 1996; I almost pooped myself when I heard what they did that year. I was broke in rainy NYC that night, pathetically fumbling through my jangly pittance from post-collegiate slavery at The Strand bookstore; I also wanted to go to see moe. in Old Bridge, NJ that night, which didn't happen, either. By 1997, I didn't have school or abject poverty to use as an excuse anymore, so, naturally, they decided to eschew a Halloween show that year (bleeuuurrgh!).

It should be said, too, that between 1996 and 1998, I managed to stay sober through sheer bloody-minded will, after waking up every...uhh, afternoon...towards the end of my junior year in college with my liver in a sling from the perpetual keg I had in my apartment from the perpetual party I made sure was always happening. By Halloween 1998, my resolve had toppled, and, in some part due to the enormous sense of self-applied pressure from being recruited to write for Jambands.com, I swiffed down half a bottle of Bacardi White, while raking over an interview with Schleigho (remember those guys? they ruled!) with perfectionistic mania, and began a three-year downgrade to the bottom of the rabbit hole.

(FWIW, as it applies to me, the experience informed me I cannot stay sober by way of my unaided will...I need a lot of help, from other people with the same problems trying to do the same thing, and trained professionals...a veritable panel of experts, as it were. Today, I avail myself of that help [when I am humble enough -- or get myself into enough psychological pain -- to ask for help], which is good, and has helped me stay sober for 6 years & counting...today.)

Digression alert! To continue, 1998 was the Velvet Underground Loaded year. VU is not only a favorite, but a primary influence of what I humorously refer to as "My Real Favorite Band," Pavement, which is also a notable a fave of Mr. Trey, though the inception of my appreciation surely prefigures his, haaw haaw, aren't I cool. Again, livid pissyosity descended at the news. Either way, as a function of my renewed fervor for booze, which, despite three years of abstinence, seemed to pick right up as though it had never stopped, I don't even remember what I did for Halloween 1998! Much the same can be said for the Halloweens to follow. 1999 was spent seeing the Disco Biscuits at Hammerstein Ballroom, then a little bit of moe., for whom they opened (and I was so over by that point, excuuuuuse me). I probably promptly got more wasted than I likely was already. 2000 saw no Phish 'Ween, either, and the rest is sorta history.

Hmm! Having gone over the history of that, I don't feel so bad that Festival 8 marks my inaugural Phish Samhain. And I don't feel so bad I decided to work the festie, either. Truth of it is, I'm blessed to be in a position to have been able to afford the $240 for a three-day pass (which I had to submit as a bond to get my ass to work, for real). But I'm not doing it for the admission...it's 100% labor of love, which is, for me, without a granule of doubt going to make 2009 not only a memorable Halloween *period*, but one of my best Phish experiences ever.

...and 2) Though generally seeming to have an awful lot to say about them, with a great deal of detail, there's still SO MUCH about Phish that I still haven't absorbed, and am so consistently flummoxed and amused by, that each time I encounter them (lately, daily), it's like the first time. Thus, I end up feeling like a perpetual newb! Well! It stands to reason, doesn't it? A band one could see and listen to over and over and over again for years, with an enormous body of songs (something like 700, both originals and covers, that they've ever played live, according to Mike in the April 2009 issue of Relix magazine) is a never-ending font of unceasing pleasures of the senses. But, to get really honest, I've shied away from the Phish phan community, proper, in the past decade and change, because I've always been afraid of being ridiculed for missing, forgetting, failing to fully absorb or otherwise fudging some essential, well-known nugget of Phishtory that all the "Real Phans" know.

Really, I shit you not. This is the kind of thinking that has kept me off r.m.p, Phish.net, and all the old-school communiques, though I've been on the Internet since a little bit after I first saw Phish (1993), and would go onto getting pretty damn far into the jamband scene. I read r.m.p back in 1994! Why didn't I just post, when I did later post (and post, and post, and pooooost) on the moe-L so far as to be plucked from its pages for my Jambands.com stint? One reason may have been that I started seeing moe. when they were still playing shite bars like Old City Hall in Oswego, NY. I was an Amy Skelton-like figure on their scene, though I didn't have a pot to piss in, or a porthole to toss it from, much less an effin' farm...I lived in a drafty Upstate NY lakeside college-student shanty (but had an oven, and a recipe for great vegan banana bread, though ;-).

Another thing is I can be self-absorbed, stubborn, and sometimes (maybe mostly inwardly) tend towards arrogance and know-it-all-ism: i.e. the same thing I was afraid of encountering in others, go fig! I like to hoard bands I love, so I can love them in my own way, and not be interrupted by your opinions, which I have been sensitive enough to in the past, to allow to shade my own, both darker and lighter. This is odd with Phish, given the rabidity and volume of their fans, and the viscosity of their following. How could I manage to avoid being subsumed by the greater torrent of ardent communal phandom this whole time? But if anyone would manage to pull off such a feat of isolation, it would be me.

One of my college housemates caught the fever in 1995, and got fiercely into Phish. So touchy was I that her fervor eventually rankled me to the point of lividity, though I did enjoy having someone else to go shows with other than my good buddy, Nile (such as my first show at SPAC). I dunno what it is. At the time, I was almost more willing to step back and "Let her have them," than to share. It's a little bit nutty. I never promised you a rose garden, but there are sure lots of thorns.

Having grown up a little (a lot, in some ways) since those days, and been given the gift of perspective, I'm better able to accept now that I am just another bozo on the bus, neither bigger nor smaller than anyone else who loves Phish, who goes on Phish tour, on r.m.p. or whatever. I am who I am, and heaven knows the Phish circus tent is big enough to allow a little dry patch beneath for little ol' me, from the terrible storms of "The Real World" (LOL!). We are, as it says, all in this together. And hey, do you love to take a bath? Whaddya know? So do I!

I'm taking it slow. The glorious 140-character limit of #Phish (the "room" or "tweet stream") on Twitter has been my preferred outlet of choice since Summer Tour began; signal-to-noise is high, just what I need, in order to maintain a life and do my stressful job, while still staying phully inphormed. Big up, technology! I also (FUH-INAL-LY?) signed up for r.m.p (wow, amazing) and have been lurking.

Actually (no offense r.m.p'ers), it reminds me why I didn't choose to participate in the first place. Whereas with moe. I desired the community, conversation and confabulation (probably because I was growing with them), entering the Phish stream at a crucial turning point of their existence from regional cult to growing sensation, I (wrongly and rightly) imagined the phanbase to be a gnarly battleground of sweltering music acumen and heady opinions. From the very beginning, I came to realize I didn't enjoy talking about Phish with just anyone (and the same, for the most part, remains true).

This brings nothing to bear on a particular person; it's more about the conversation, and the angle of trajectory behind it. If it's coming from a sensibility that thinks, knows and feels the same about Phish as I do, then it works. If not, then it doesn't, and I can get anywhere from sleepy and bored, to irritated and even wrathful. Irrational, I know...hey, it's why I started a blog about them. This way, I can just talk to myself, and if you want to listen in on the conversation, then it means you and me will probably become great friends...hit me up! (LOL!)

The Phish.net (which was indeed utilized for setlists in the past, but not much for communing with the glides) now has me signed up, which is good, because now you can sign up on it! See? It's all evolving, and so am I. That's how I console myself that I'm getting better, less afraid of others, more open to change and participation.

Finally, despite whatever, and with no offense to the many, many "jambands" (there's that WORD again!) I've supported in the past, but Phish has, with their reunion quite frankly changing my life, proven once again to be the "Alpha and Omega" (as I remarked recently to Dean Budnick) of my involvement with the modern improvisational music scene. All the interest rose out of Phish, and now all the interest is pouring back into Phish. I've been around to some local shows since the reunion, to see some other of the "scene" bands. But it hits me every time...this is where it started, and this is where it's ending...but this "ending" is actually an incredible, exciting, delicious new beginning that has been long in coming.

(*sigh*) Finally, to return to the relatively brief original point of today's segment, I will now begin a (hopefully) long tradition of eating my own words. Walking through Soho in the rain last night, I got a sudden hankering to listen to "If I Could," so I dialed up 6/2/09 Jones Beach I on my iPhone. In Intermezzo, my post-Trey-at-Carnegie installment, I haughtily intoned about how Anastasio/Marshall's more dulcet tunes would be best eschewed from Phish shows, in favor of permanent installment in a symphonic context.

What?! This particular "If I Could" contains a soaring, swelling, extended...whatever you call a "jam" that happens in a ballad. Whatever it is, it's orchestrated beautifully by Phish, in an exceptionally tasteful update on the "arena rock" slow song. Though totally not a raging coil of bombast, it is warm, touching, vigorous, powerful and, thus, very Phish-appropriate in its own right. Naturally, the quotient of impatient punters on line for the bathroom while this quietly stormy Trey-fest was occurring was likely much higher than those in the amphitheater, but it's not my fault some people miss the wealth of nuanced opportunities for a variety of Phish enjoyment. (*sniff*)

What the hell was I thinking about with the whole, "Take it to the orchestra!" commentary? I dunno. It's All Things Reconsidered...


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