Mike Talks Phish

mike_gordon-1As he prepares for his mini-New Years Run over the next three days with The Mike Gordon Band, Mike took a little time out on the day after Christmas to talk to The Burlington Free Press about his other band.  In the interview, Mike discussed several Phish-related topics from the guys motivation, their rehearsals, their new management, and their potential touring schedule.  Leave it to Mike to let us in on what is really going on behind the scenes in the world of Phish.

Returning to the studio, Phish spent five days rehearsing in New York City, musically reacquainting with each other and seeing what each member was “bringing to the table” after four years apart.  Gordon mentioned he also had some new songs this time around, implying that the rehearsals were not limited to older material.  With both Mike and Trey’s solo projects having developed in Phish’s time off, it is no surprise that new songs will make up part of Phish’s new repertoire.

Although Gordon noted that the “Phish-organization-got-too-big” reasoning was largely a scapegoat for Phish’s breakup, he also pointed to multiple ways that the band will try to minimize their bureaucratic and organizational involvement this time around.  Phish plans to take themselves out of many decisions, favoring a more corporate infrastructure.  When John Paluska, Phish’s former manager was at the helm for so long, he was integral in keeping Phish on their own path, independent of the larger music industry.  Part and parcel of Paluska’s path were the band’s renowned festivals for which 80,000 people would descend on location for nothing but six sets of Phish.  As Phish is now managed by Red Light Management in Charlottesville, VA, and music mogul Coran Capshaw, expect more of an entrance into music’s mainstream.  Red Light is bringing in a “whole new model,” as Gordon observed, “Maybe we don’t have to have our own festival to make great music. We don’t have to do that and maybe we can be even more a part of the music industry than we were before rather than separate from it.”  Ouch!  That does not sound good.  Based on this statement, Bonnaroo could be a sign of things to come.  Fingers-crossed!

mike-gordonAt the conclusion of the interview, Gordon mentioned the possibility of working with Steve Lillywhite on a new Phish album, and also said that while further dates around Hampton were still possible, his feeling was that we would not see Phish until the summer after their Virginia comeback.

All of this is very interesting.  Phish seems to be buying into Capshaw’s “new” music model after the band spent twenty-plus years forging their own model of self-sufficiency.  With Phish relinquishing the reins of their organization a bit, and Capshaw stepping in to steer their boat, one can only wonder what may be in store for Phish 3.0.  This certainly explains Phish’s Bonnaroo headlining slot and the rumors about Rothbury.  This news may signify the end of the Phish festival, as the band doesn’t seem prepared to undertake such an endeavor.

Yet, regardless of all of these changes in Phish’s management, once Phish hits the stage, things will return to normalcy.  With less to concern themselves with logistically, band members will have more time to focus on what is important– the music.  Hopefully, there is an upside to what seems like a compromise of Phish’s independent legacy.  Without the need to plan tours, devise ideas for festivals, and control their every move, Phish will have the freedom to explore their musical ideas and creativity.  By honing in on what is most important, band members will be able to dedicate themselves to their craft, something that benefits us all.  Let’s just hope that although Phish may be swimming in a larger pond, that our lily pad remains pure.


Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

SUMMER ’09 RUMOR MILL: In other news, dates for Red Rocks appear to be July 29 – August 2 = FIVE NIGHT STAND!

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25 Responses to “Mike Talks Phish”

  1. c0wfunk Says:

    very interesting article indeed. I wonder if it’s time for Phish’s “Touch of Grey” moment .. I just hope it doesn’t lead to stadium gigs! These guys deserve some recognition in the music biz though and I”d be all for seeing them get some “mainstream” success — as long as it doesn’t last too long! But to me, the more people that are exposed to these 4 guys and their music, the better!

  2. SquidMonola Says:

    hmm.. interesting. but, i can’t say i like the sound of it. the end of the phish festival? that would be awful. limestone maine really is where it’s at. phish hasn’t played with other bands (on this whole bonnaroo note) since, well, to my knowledge, 92. and they haven’t needed too. i loved that 80,000 people would come together in the middle of nowhere for phish. it gave everyone involved a beautiful sense of connectedness that you don’t get at other festivals. phish is much to smart to allow anything too detremental to happen to them, especially after knowing they could sell out venues anywhere, so maybe it is for the best. lets hope so. it will be in my prayers. all and all, i just don’t understand why join mainstream music now? they have always been slightly underground, and i loved it that way. by headlining something like bonnaroo, the whole vibe will changed.. and they have stated over and over that they play best when all of us are grooving to it, but there are people at these mega-festivals for a plethorea or reasons, drugs, franti, and all kinds of non-phish garbage and then they head to the stage for phish.. i just think its a bad idea.. phish – if you read this – please reconsider. as for everyone else, i would really like to hear your thoughts/ideas.

  3. Chicago_Head Says:

    hmmm….a more commercialized PHISH? dog log. at least mix it in with smaller club-sized gigs, tons of them, all across the country. hah, ya right. there’s got to be a happy medium somewhere.

  4. empire Says:

    I think this is slap to the face for phish fans, they were able to keep it underground and be very successful at it because of the fans. Now they want
    to be more mainstream this is not what phish is about, what makes them different is that they always had their own scene and did not need anything mainstream. The phish festivals were a way of saying thank you to the fans allowing everyone to attend and be part of something huge. I understand that they do not need to be part of organizing the festivals and tours but it doesnt mean that they should abandon the phish fest because its easier and to join the shit circuit of commercialized festivals. This new tour manager might not understand that this is phish and not dmb, what now they are going to sell out with ticketmaster and ticketsnow and not give a shit about the fans that have been supporting them for years. I want to see phish do something about this bullshit ticket scam that is going on. its all about the music and the end and if it takes that to make it work then OK but I think that this new tour manager is full of shit and only cares about making $.

  5. Chicago_Head Says:

    all – they have been mainstream for quite some time now, that’s just it. think about how big they have gotten. it hasn’t been underground since 95. just trying to keep it real, don’t shoot the messenger. the phish-festies themselves had gotten out of control. just one big wookie drug-induced scene. maybe this new direction for festivals, while i don’t necessarily agree with it, is an attempt to control the chaos and negative energy. as long as they are still doing their reg shows (red rocks, alpine, deer creek, shoreline, gorge, etc), everything should be just fine. all i want is a taste for free.

  6. SquidMonola Says:

    joining other music festivals in an attempt to control the negative energy? no no no. IT had a better vibe than any other festival i was ever at. at AllGood and those, the vibes were awful and drugs controlled the festival, not the music. so if thats the plan they obviously haven’t thought it out. I just think this is a bad move – they need different management – they are working with phish, not franti. and if i ever see phish and franti booked together, it will be like a bad trip with no return.

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ Capshaw is the worst. Agreed

  8. eric Says:

    Hmm… this news is definitely not good. No Phish festival? Have you guys totally lost it? Well, I am getting less and less stoked by the reunion with each passing day. You will definitely NOT find me at Bonnaroo and I’m far more likely to win the Powerball jackpot then get tickets to my local shows at Red Rocks.

    As Miner has written about so eloquently in previous articles, the deep, epic communal experience is what separates Phish head and shoulders above all the rest. I feel the more “part of the music industry” Phish becomes, the less deep and profound the Phish experience will be. I hope my impression are way way off.

  9. Spate Says:

    Truly a slap in the face to all of us old phans. I would rather have Phish stay retired than have to watch this nonsense unfold.

  10. bunitingi Says:

    I respectfully disagree.

    I think all they want is an easier time going about touring. Less headaches, and simpler tours. If the giant festival is too much to consider at this point, drop it. Who really cares? I’d rather have Phish doing lighter tours and no Festival with a Bonnaroo here and there, than NO PHISH which is what the past 5 years have been.

    I am all for them figuring out how to have no headaches and keep their heads in the music making blow my socks through the roof game.

    “Bernie, we wanna do some shows in July.”

    “Okay boys, i’ll get yoos Hampton, Nutter and Albany”

    “Great Bernie. Wow, that was easy. I feel so hassle free, i think i’ll go out and play 3 sets of face melting music. What do you say, Fishman?”

    “Gosh, i’m not feeling burnt out at all. Hey, let’s do 5 nights at red rocks!”

    It isn’t about mainstream success. They are already enormously successful, are not looking to increase that, and simply want to play hassle free small tours. They have no choice but to play large venues and haven’t for years. (My Gd, if you think tickets are hard to get NOW…) It is about ease of approach.

    I don’t care about a Festival if they will just keep playing.

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    Bunitingi, You hit the nail on the head my friend. At this point it’s all about keeping the tires off the line.

    Squid- what’s with the franti hate? He’s one of the most positive acts around – john paul jones personally requested to sit in on his set at.the warren haynes xmas jam this year and he had that whole room rockin with an acoustic act.

  12. SquidMonola Says:

    i have looked into this whole red rocks thing and found a lot that says otherwise. well, with all the dates..
    things iv heard.
    1. red rocks has bad acoustics
    2. red rocks is small!
    3. the following i found on another discussion board.. makes some good points.

    1st Vegas, MGM isn’t big enough, nor would MGM even want them there. If they are in Vegas it will be Thomas and Mac Center, OR Sam Boyd Arena. But probably T & M

    For Denver the only day that would work would be the 14th because Pepsi Center is already in use the other days. There is no way they would play a show in Denver, and then 2 days later in Philly, but the dead give away there is that They would not book concerts right now for multiple days in April/May in places like the Spectrum or MSG because of chance of Knicks/Rangers/76ers/Flyers play off games.

    the June runs seems sort of ok, but I find it hard to believe they would leave out Star Lake, Lakewood and Satatoga. Also I’m 99.99999% sure they have been banned from Hartford

    Busch Stadium will never happen. They would need completely different equipment and stage set up for there, they wouldn’t do that for 1 show.

    Staples Center in August won’t happen wither, and Hollywood Bowl is too small.

    — i thought this was worth posting..

  13. Jer Says:

    Humm…it puzzles me that four guys from Burlington, VT would want to embrace a more ‘corporate’ philosophy (anyone who has been there knows that Burlington is the antithesis to corporate America…hell, last time I was in VT [2004], they didn’t even have billboards) to running their business. Maybe this is helping to provide more efficiency from a logistical and economic standpoint? Or maybe they just want to make as much money as possible while they still can?

    The good thing about Phish is their music doesn’t lie. If they come back and end up touring just for the sake of making money it will certainly be reflected in their music. I’m not going to rush to judgment regarding their business decisions, and I fully expect the Hampton shows to be average musically, so we’ll just have to wait and see what is cooking once they get a few more shows under their belt.

    Also, keep in mind that Trey will be putting himself into a very vulnerable situation by going back on tour with Phish. If this new direction was in any way made to help provide him with peace of mind, then I say do whatever you need to do to stay straight.


  14. Matso Says:

    “Now it’s like MAYBE we don’t have to have our own festival to make great music. We don’t have to do that and MAYBE we can be even more a part of the music industry than we were before rather than separate from it. ”

    CAPS mine.

    Mike isn’t saying that they definitely aren’t going to have their own fest, but that they don’t need to. We as phans recognise this implicitly, so I’m not sure why everyone is so up in arms. There would be a lot of pressue on the band if the whole machine got back up to full speed during the first year they come back after such a long break. They don’t necessarily have a clear sense of how many people they might pull out to Limestone at this point (Ticket requests for Hampton is no indicator of how many will be willing to make that drive, especially with an economy in the toilet for the foreseeable future). Once they’ve gone back out there, seen who and how many come to the shows, the feeling might change again. Remember, it took years to build up to Clifford Ball. Let’s wait and see – it might not happen in Summer 2009, which would be ok, but I’m also certain if the music and the vibe is right, we’ll see one in the coming years; it might even be more special if it’s a rarity than if it’s a regular every year occurence.

    There’s also nothing in having a different management company which suggests that they wouldn’t have the means to do their own fest. One of the things Mike says in the interview is that John Paluska “wanted more to control”. Perhaps what Mike is suggesting here is that the band got pushed into doing stuff which they might not otherwise have done if they had a bit more distance between themselves and their management company. If they outsource this service now, what I hope is that they will call the shots a bit more and it will be about them playing when and where they want to play, and not where the organisation demands. I suspect that if Phish play Bonnarroo (still a rumour the last time I checked), it’s because they want to and not because the management company suggested it was a good idea.

    All of this is about taking pressure off the band. I think it’s in the Charlie Rose interview where Trey mentions that the drug problems were in part a result of having to go out there every night and live up to the huge expectations that people had. In the earlier years, the fire was there naturally, but in the later years they had to coke themselves up to the eyeballs to play with that kind of energy. If Phish’s audience can see them as slightly less than gods, the band won’t be under the same pressure and the hopefully won’t feel the same need to escape or control that pressure with hard drugs (One slightly concerning quote in the interview: “As we had hoped, we got together after these years and people kind of got healthier, everyone did.” – Only ‘kind of got healther’? Why not ‘totally got healthier’? Let’s hope that’s just a figure of speech…)

    Anyway, remember too that Phish has always been a lot of talk, some of which turned out to be true, some of which didn’t. It’s usually Trey who says something and then 4 years later, goes back on it (“I don’t want to play YEM for the rest of my life” -> “I’d give my left nut to play YEM”). This time maybe it’s Mike.

    Until the tourdates are announced, it’s all just rumour and conjecture.

  15. AbePhroman Says:

    Capshaw is a piece of dog log. But in the end, it would be Phish’s move to do whatever they want, including start selling out.

  16. Jeff Says:

    i am not in any way pleased with this news. i’ll wait to see how it all plays out, but i fear a DMB type of path. My biggest concern is does this mean their shows will be different musically? Are we going to get more straight up rock shows with more standard setlists? And more Mike contributions via his solo band is not music to my ears because that shit was/is garbage. I don;t know, I just feel disappointed with this news.

  17. MP Says:

    Does this mean we might get to see Trey on ‘Cribz’ someday?


  18. Mr.Miner Says:

    In the end, with the band not needing to deal with a lot of crap, this will be a good thing….nothing is going to change about how they perform (as someone suggested up there)…..just relax…..nothing is going to be that different to us…I think Matso puts it all in perspective very well……

  19. Jeff Says:

    i think matso does put it into good perspective, but i still don’t like the sounds of this new coporate direction. but what’s most important to me is the music and if they are able to focus 100% on that, then all should be ok.

  20. brandofunk Says:

    Mr. Minor

    Why no posts on the Mike shows like you did with Trey’s?

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^^ Not at the Mike shows. I went to all the Trey shows.

  22. tbarelaxer Says:

    Paluska was pushing them towards stadiums, sorry to break it to people. He was also a pompous greedy asshole, who often tried to talk Phish out of the west and into big eastern shows. One time in 90′ he forgot every will call ticket to Keene, boy that was fun cash broke trying to talk my buddy and me into the show for free as my ticket was will call with a 100 kids behind me going no you are out of luck. Boy that sucked. I did get in, but that’s cause I got lucky and things were still small enough. So Paluska calls and tells me I’ll be on The Hampshire show list, and then forgets that, so I get shut out my first Phish show after like 50 or so at Nectars, The Front, and Finn bars. As for phish festivals, The first one in Platt was cool, BC ruled but seems like a one time nagical event, but Coventry sssucked. Maybe having this guy will allow them to have the upfront money, and more importantly connections to do 6 night runs in NY and Boston. Paluska did not have the key connections. That means plenty of tix for all, and still not a football stadium. As long as they don’t do stadiums, I’m down with this. As for The touch of Grey comment, Phish is not the fucking Dead, please stop comparing. That kind of came out as an insult, sorry, I just meant they are SOooo different. If Phish scored a top 10 hit, I’d be happy as shit for them. They deserve it. Actually that might cut down on the crowd, as many kids go to be rebellious not for the tunes. And look at Hampton, that’s GA, and tix could not have been harder. Regardless of who they sign as a promoter, all promoters are scummy to a point, they have to be. Tix will be hard as shit for a few years at least. But like I said if the new guy’s influence helps get Phish multiple night stands YESSS. They should do 5 at The gorge not red rocks, but they can’t make money there. Too bad cause the GA scene is a real GA scene where you can walk where you want within reason.

    As for Red Rocks, I’m just speaking for me, and for me 96 can never be topped, so I’ll pass. I’m all about Shoreline -Gorge. If you don’t get in line at Red Rocks five hour early, you sit 50 yards away, no thanks. Then again I’ve been lucky to have already been there.

    Whatever, as for selling out to 0ld school fans, anyone who says that, well, maybe they are not even really really old school, and what the fuck is old school anyway. A fan is a fan, whether it’s a fresh faced kid or an old man like me (40). I doubt many people have seen an earlier Phish show than me, but who the fuck cares, a new person has just the right to a ticket if they love the music.. That’s why the 10 club form PJ sucks, if you signed up after 2000, no way to get anything good as it is done on seniority. Maybe some special shows OK, but everyone. Kids should not be punished for being young. That said hopefully kids will not rush the stage like was becoming the norm. A club is one thing, a huge shed is another, space is key. Any old school fan hopefully, while still loving Phish, has a family now, and life does not revolve around tour. So if a mainstream guy can pull multiple night dates, makes it easier to pick out a city and get your fill. I am actually excited about a new management team, change is good. Just no Jennifer dances :<)

  23. Lou Says:

    I have been to every phish festival and at least 20 other shows. I’m a bit older a bit wiser and a bit more hesitant to pop a ten strip. The festivals for me were the icing on the cake. the real chance for the community to come together as one. Of course there were people there for the drugs, the scene, but to have 80,000 people come together, no worries will I be able to get a ticket stub in my hand, three days of joy and intensity and one of the all time greatest things about phish, what will they come up with this time? It is understandable that they may feel “we don’t want to try to top ourselves anymore and hey we would like some comercial success”. But to condense the festivals into stadium shows, not the same thing. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those elitists that thinks that as soon as somone goes commercial their music sucks. Music that appeals to the masses is some of the best there is. It will also get more people to look into their older albums. God it makes me feel old to call their first albums which I listened to at 13 yo as their early albulms. All I know is I love phish, always have always wil and would be happy for their music to be intoduced to the masses, I just hate the idea of no more festivals.

  24. Heady Says:

    Just wanted to point out that Im pretty sure Chris Kuroda WILL be working the lights for the boys but I dont know about whether Paul Languedoc will be at the soundboard or not at this point.

    Also, I dont think that this is the end of phish festivals. They may end up playing Bonneroo but Im sure they will be smart enough to see how much better the vibe is at their own gig. Im pretty sure that Big Cypress (for example) was the best experience of their (and mine) lives and they will quickly see that. Plus we all know how Trey feels about sharing mics with other people…..

  25. Alex Says:

    Listen, Trey knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to go on a tour and play music without energy, (THATS WHY THEY TOOK THE HIATUS, to restore the fresh energy the band had.) so saying that, I have complete faith in Phish. I know they aren’t going to go mainstream or anything, sometimes we have to instill faith in Phish, because everything they’re doing is for the greater good for Phishs’ music and the band in general. They hired a manager to manage some things so they could focus on playing, and not the extra things they weigh them down. That doesn’t mean the manager will dictate the bands music. If Phish doesn’t wanna go to mainstream concerts they won’t.

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