written yesterday 11.4.08:
With everyone’s mind occupied with the monumental presidential election going on today, I figure I’d play off the political theme. As the future of our nation hangs in the balance, the future of Phish is not quite as nebulous. Imagine this multi-colored Phish scene as representative of this maddening American democracy. The band, as president, must be responsive to their multiple constituencies in their legislation, or set lists. Needing the votes of the newbies, the jaded veterans, the weekend warriors, the custies, the tour heads, and the local draw, this four-headed chief executive has some consistently challenging policy decisions to make.
Needing to shape each show with just enough of each facet of their sound to please all of their constituencies, the president always struggles to keep everyone happy all of the time. While including enough large psychedelic jams to please the vets and the tour heads, they need to spice their show with enough non-improvised “singles” to keep the locals and custies from getting bored. Considering where they are on their tour, maybe they’ll throw in a little more bluegrass for the red-staters in the south or some stoned out reggae for the liberals out west- its all a big cat and mouse game. With an audience ready and willing to trash shows as easily as FOX news and tabloids trash presidential decisions, these are not the elections of yore. The landscape has dramatically changed since the inception of the Internet, and everyone has the ability post whatever they want about shows, but this tool of democracy can often be used in overly-negative ways. Include one too many ballad in the second set, and it will be sprawled across Phantasy Tour as “the world’s longest piss break.” Jam with exploration, and the casual fans will post that the show was “boring and directionless.”
You see, whatever Phish does, or whatever these presidential candidates do, there will always be people there to knock them down. Whether it is jaded veterans trashing new material due to its more mature and melodic feel, or pundits bashing Obama because his pastor speaks with excessively blunt passion, people relish in the opportunity to be negative and to criticize. Whether it is the tour head complaining about the repetition of “Jibboo” or a liberal knocking McCain because he owns ten houses, people seem to bask in ability to say, “That sucks!”, often to soothe their own damaged ego. It is the same, regardless of political or musical milieu.
And then you have your special interest groups and your lobbyists, all trying to get a piece of the action. Between Ticketmaster and ticket brokers, you have the evil Washington insiders crushing the dreams of the people with commodities that are too highly priced to afford. This all leads to mortgage foreclosures, the loss of houses, unemployment and an inability for most to effect their own destiny. What’s the difference after all? You’ve also got all of the hangers on, trying to ride into the backstage of Washington, DC on the coattails of who they know and what type of pass they can get their hands on. All of this just to huddle around a table in a crowded room and have meaningless conversation while feeling more important than everyone else. Hey, they were chosen to be there after all, not just anyone can drink from that keg!
The lot; the masses, the populace. Within the lot you have your different “classes” of people, each looking for something a little different from their government. Some are simply looking to capitalize in the free market economy, caring very little about anyone or anything musical. Some are looking to feed the economy, picking up products that they can’t find in their local strip malls. Before long, a system of supply and demand arises; market value comes into play, and a vibrant cash-only economy comes to life. The market has decided that most commodities should cost $3 for one, or two for $5. From burritos to balloons, this genius mathematical equation seems to be universally applicable. Except when discussing high end products of the pavement- the clothing, the crystals, the drugs. With a distinctly “laissez-faire” stance from the Republic’s Heads of State, the market tends to steadily fluctuate with the number of people and the geography of the nation.
Change. It is the word of the moment. Even McCain has begun to promise change. Who wouldn’t promise change after such a tumultuous eight years? The same paradigm applies to our favorite band. Turmoil is what drove them apart, and change is what is bringing them back together. After a full four-year presidential term, this change will not only effect the how they play, but it will also effect what they play. Your conservatives will speak up now, clamoring for “more of the same”- 20-minute Bowies, Tweezers, and YEMs. Huge Reba’s and Antelopes, Splits and Diseases. Comfort is wonderful, and it is hard for people to step outside their comfort zone and vote for a black president- but it is happening in record numbers. In the same trend of change you can expect to hear a lot of new songs by Phish in the upcoming years. While they will clearly not leave their storied past behind them and move out of the White House, they will continue to move forward. Here’s where Phish liberals embrace change, and don’t understand why their more conservative acquaintances called “Scents and Subtle Sounds”, “Sparks > Hood” for the first two weeks of its existence, refusing to admit the legitimacy of Phish’s new epic. Change is not always easy to accept, but it there is never any point in resisting it. “Tweezer” was a new song once, too.
Those who think Phish will come back and jump into their old setlist and tour pattern are simply not being realistic. There are reasons why they ended Phish as it existed, and there are reasons why they are coming back now. There will be guaranteed haters online after Hampton, ripping on all the new songs they heard, but it is time to lift ourselves- and our brothers and sisters- above the hate. There is no more room for it. With the privilege of seeing Phish craft nights of music once again, we must accept that these nights will go where our four-headed president elect will take them. Resisting or fighting their policy decisions will be futile and leave no one but you upset.
The focus in this upcoming era must be on celebration of all that Phish has meant to us and all that they will still become. With no set timetable, or term limit, this comeback could last one year or we could be talking about Phish 2012 and beyond. Without any way to predict the course of our great nation, it is time to stand up, heads held high, and pledge our allegiance to the United Republic of Phish, the best state in this galaxy.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
Squeezing a visit to the classic venue right at the end of their hallowed month of August ’93, Phish lit up the East Bay amphitheatre with some fiery playing. Highlighted by a Maze > Fluffhead > Stash in the first set, and a great second set through and through, this SBD will make a nice addition to the collection.
I: Llama, Bouncing Around the Room, Foam, Ginseng Sullivan, Maze > Fluffhead > Stash, The Squirming Coil, Crimes of the Mind*
II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Rift, Run Like an Antelope**, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Sparkle, It’s Ice> Big Ball Jam, Purple Rain^ > HYHU, You Enjoy Myself#, Contact, Chalk Dust Torture
E: Daniel, Amazing Grace
With J.J. Cale opening. *With the Dude of Life. **With “Brady Bunch” theme beginning. ^With vacuum. #With “Oye Como Va” (Santana) jam.Tags: Comeback, Culture