14 May 2010

Backwards Down the 2009:
A Right-on-Time 3.0.1 Recap (Part I)

[It's made out of people!!! From Phish's Official Summer Tour site.]

When I started this here blog, I spent a lot of time wrestling with myself over whether I'm just a mindless cheerleader, or, rather, an *epicure* of nuanced discussion of the *critical dialectic* of Phish. (Yeah, take that, emo hipsters!)

I quickly grasped that one who starts a blog about a band cannot, in any way, simply be a cheerleader. The conversation would get boring pretty quick.

However, critiques (mostly) aside for now, there's much good aphoot on the Phish agenda. The piece regarding my three-month absence is forming up much slower than I'd like, and may be expanded in more depth as a piece about the general phenomenon of musical obsession -- addiction, if you will -- over at my new, very slowly evolving, Phish-phree blog, Wade Between the Lines. Well, that's if someone with a blog about a band can keep things so clearly separated. Oy vey! I never said I was a kosher blogger! (::rolls eyes::)

So, as I suppose is worthy of a blog, I'm going to deposit here a recent discourse with a phriend of mine, regarding the current state of Phish. And why not? The crest of their wave has risen again and the hot, heady Summer vibe is again climbing. Awash with public exposure after last night's first post-reunion, full-band TV appearance (on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, as part of his "Exile on Main Street Week" festivities), they're on the minds of both the dyed-in-wool and uninitiated, too. 

Yeah, I know what it's like when tour is nigh, people...it's happening for me as well. Invisible money is flying outta purses and pockets, rational explanations for "normal living" are wearing thin, and longing for the sweet smell of fresh-pressed Groove Juice -- that undefinable, intoxicating nectar -- is haunting dreams and (seemingly endless) work hours alike.

But, if you're a phan that hasn't yet gotten back on the bandwagon, you may be jaded, bummed, resentful, mistrustful, or just plain unable to *get into* Phish 3.0. It's gotta be tough. And, for many old-schoolers among us, there simply isn't enough time in the day, and all sorts of factors to deal with; kids, mortgages, rent, responsibilities. For the youngers, the song remains the same; cash, school, parents, cash, transportation, "hooch" (umm...), cash, finding phriends, cash...

(An aside...I'll tell you one thing; for me, sober touring definitely knocks a few more brain cells back into the equation. Gearing up for spending a lot of the summer on the road myself, I honestly couldn't -- and didn't over many years, mainly from paranoia -- make tour happen any other way. Thing is; I won't be by myself...I've got phriends in "naturally high" places. FYI, kids: yep, still sober. Made 7 years in February. Why? You don't wanna know what happens otherwise. And if that ain't a mother-flippin' miracle, I'm gonna walk on the Good Lord's bathwater.)

But I digress. Why is Summer Tour (a/k/a Phish 3.0.2, for you dorques in the audience...) worth making the effort? Hell if I know, for you, anyway. For ME, though, it's worth it because I have dedicated myself to having the time to make it worth it. You figure: a band such as Phish stays in the picture for more than two decades, it's something to pay attention to. All way-too-easy and buffoonish comparisons aside (*coughs* Jerry *coughs*), love 'em or hate 'em, they're one of the most important American bands around.

That said, I recently had a a conversation with an old-skool phriend and partner in Crimes of the Mind from way back. He's among the most staunchly discerning a-Phish-ionados I've known. Though he's scarcely the same high-strung, rangy cat he was 10 years ago (all growed up with wife and daughter), he expressed ambivalence about upcoming tour:

"If they could replicate the Seven Below from Albany [i.e. 11/28/09, the now-legend Expansion Module jam] just once, I might consider seeing them again," he said. "But their brilliance has been too far in between. It's really not their fault. In 1997 they were our age, at their peak creative abilities. They've mellowed out due to old age and their songs and straight jams and solos just don't do it for me anymore..."

Pshaw! I'm really not a fan of the "they're old" get outta jail free card, when it comes to writing Phish off as no longer a going concern as musical performers, entertainers, and innovators. And nor am I in the convincing business. But, however you slice it, I'm a PHAN, goddammit. Thus inspired by such nescience, I rattled off a few "Well have you heard..."s from between November and New Year's 2009 that I think stack up well enough to (in my estimation) make a case for some serious shizz to look forward to.

Here's the first part of my "Glad I Didn't Write This Sooner" review of Phish Greatest Bits 2009, starting with those four examples I mentioned to my grumpy ol' pal. Take a listen; comments welcome. My next piece will be a "Most Popular Letters of the Alphabet"-ical rundown of Best Versions of Songs from last year (at least as many as jump off the top of my head: in progress).

In the meantime, though, dig the sound of the just-crashed wake, bearing a promise of oncoming surf. And again, I mean it...comments welcome!

11/18/09 "46 Days" jam: The first day of Fall Tour had this not-incredibly-jammable (-seeming) tune hauled out near the end of the first set. In Hoodstream.com chat, there were banal e-groans from those present, regarding the song choice. However, as we squinted with our ears to the grungy stream, no video to be seen, when the verses ended, something
happened, and it went a little something like this... The jam's a little pokey, perhaps, but spacey enough that, by the end of the song (which just floats in like nebular fog), some celestial transportation has surely occurred. Also, check out this Chris Kuroda "WTF"-style light show during the "46 Days" jam, as an example of how CK5's influence as "5th Phish" may indeed effect overall improvisational outcomes, and vicey-versey...)

12/29/09 "Tweezer" jam: I was working the table the first two nights of the Miami run, taking turns jogging in and out of the stands to catch bits of the show, on rotation with my other sober phellows. When the Tweezer began, we were kind of "meh." But again, when the main element had fired, and we stopped paying attention, soon, someone stood blinking and said, "Are you hearing what's happening in there...?"

(later that set) 12/29/09 "Gotta Jibboo > Wilson > Gotta Jibboo"
: Okay, okay folks...this is just what we were used to back in the day, 50-minute "Tweezer"s and setlist gymnastics of the most consistently irie variety. Things have changed. But what slays me is how people seem to think a) they don't still have it in 'em, or b) Rome was fabricated of popsicle sticks on Jehovah's lunch break. Not at all perfect in execution, the cartoon anvil of the aforementioned segue (as you'll hear) hit the crowd like a sock full of pennies. Yes! Keep on keeping us guessing! Mush, mush, more!!


12/30/09 "Boogie On Reggae Woman > Run Like an Antelope" (or, as I'm fond of calling it, the "Boogie Antelope"): The pre-NYE barnburner of December 30, 2009 was so powerful, it contributed to my disappearing off the blogosphere for three months. The sheer magnitude of this last-blast of Phish brilliance for the year (no offense 12/31; you wuz aiight) knocked my flippin' flip-flops off; I was still wearing them, and South Beach sand, by the time I, err, "engineered" my way onto the floor, where I floated around for most of the show. Wearing green shorts and an orange Phish "Citrus" Miami t-shirt (bought at setbreak because my still-damp bathing suit + 1st set sweat soaked my first shirt), I planted myself messily down front in the Fish-Mike pocket, just in time for this bit of insanity to emerge. "Lost my shit" (audibly) kinda covers the sentiment in most of those in attendance...



Anonymous said...

How any Jaded fan can listen to the last three miami shows and not be impressed is beyond me. A true return to form, we witnessed something magical down there. Several jams from 12/28 are also worthy *cough*ROGGAE*cough*

you cannot go wrong with 12/29-30-31/2009. You just can't. When I hear "fans" downplaying these shows i think: 1) they wern't there and they are pissed they missed it...thus adding to their jadedness. 2)they are just crazy and can never be satisfied even when the boys are firing on all cylinders again. I wish some folks would just move on instead of the constant bitching or negative nancies. No time to hate in 2010. This summer will absolutely be the fucking heat!

Carol Wade said...

Ya might be onto something there, brethren. Not sure why I am a little hard on 12/31/09; I practically blew my larynx out screaming. For me, though, 12/30 was the crusher. That show redefined me. Yeah, what.

Jake said...

I'm curious as to the etymology of your term "Expansion Module jam" for the 11/28/09 Seven Below>Ghost. Is it because the jam, and this style in general of jamming, finds what seems to be an independent harmonic, melodic, and affective segment, plays around with it, and then moves to another one of these segments with basically block juxtaposition? I'm guessing that's what you mean with the term "module," since it's a more modular style rather than a smooth progression towards an end goal (like Hood or Slave), or the very crazy, abrupt juxtapositions of old-school '92-'93 era jams (like the 8/28/93 Antelope). I'd suggest that the SPAC 6/19/04 Piper is a great example of this "modular" style jamming. 5 distinct jam segments, including a heavy Tweeprise jam.

I missed NYE run this year, caught all of MSG, and saw only one night of the Thanksgiving weekend stand. Guess which night I caught ;)? I lucked out so hard to pick 11/28/09 as my only show of that weekend - but what really blew me away about that night was how the audience responded to the 7 Below>Ghost. There's a point during the Ghost jam, after Fishman has already sped up to his breakneck tempo, about 2/3 of the way in when Trey blasts open the rather closed playing he had been doing with a big open chord. At that moment, Kuroda hit the bright white lights illuminating the entire arena. And everyone knew IT was on. Those 50 minutes in Albany, the MSG First Tube, the Gorge Gin>Hood and Sally>Cavern are enough reason to get me to see this band as much as possible this summer.

Mars said...

Hey dammit, that says "to be continued". :)

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