Everyone knows that I like to keep things positive on Phish Thoughts, but there is one disappointing aspect to this summer’s Phish that needs to be addressed- the soundboards. What has caused the degradation of LivePhish releases, making many virtually unlistenable? Many fans have chimed in on this topic since spending upwards of $10 for each show they purchased, only to be greeted by a recording- well, that often sounds like a trio! The result of these inadequate releases is that anyone relying on them to listen to the shows is actually missing most their musical dynamic. Let’s look a little closer.
The main gripe from fans across the country has been the relative absence of bass in the LivePhish mix. While varying from show to show, Mike has often been so low in the mix that his eclectic- and essential- offerings can barely be heard. Because Trey and Mike play so closely off each other, enhancing each other’s lines, this causes Trey’s playing to make much less sense in the context of a “three piece band.” It wasn’t until I listened to various audience tapes, matrix mixes, and “remastered” soundboards, that I realized how much the boards were lacking. A lot of these jams were much better than reflected by the band’s own releases!
When listening to these different sources, one can hear the furious interplay between Mike and Trey, as their musical ideas constantly bounce off and wrap around each other. This is my favorite aspect of Phish- when Mike and Trey play like they are glued at the brain- responding to each other’s subtleties coherently and masterfully. Yet if one were to solely listen to Live Phish releases, they would miss this entire dynamic- completely diluting the music and prompting theories of whether Mike is now the one on drugs. Truth be told- the band sounds great; the soundboards sound like shit. But why?
When we think back to post-hiatus, when Phish still had the same crew (Languedoc et al) running the ship, the LivePhish releases sounded infinitely better. Without knowing the exact process used to get these releases to the web, we can all tell there is a severe learning curve. Phish now does an amazing job at getting their shows online within an hour of the final note- but at what cost? Would it not be better if they took another few hours, or- gasp- a day to make sure that they are releasing a professional product worthy of listening for an audiophile? As Speed Stick once advertised, “Anything else would be uncivilized!” Especially in today’s uber-technologicalal age.
Suffice it to say, these soundboard releases have not reflected the dynamic playing of the band in any room or pavilion. Without any seeming adjustments or remixing, we are getting flat soundboard mixes that comes off as amateur for a band of Phish’s stature. I don’t know if there was a different process back in ’03, or simply a more knowledgeable employee running the show, but the difference in quality is palpable. Some fans have been so disenchanted that they have written petitions to the band asking for refunds on their purchases. Their point has weight, as the official band that releases that are sold, are some of the lesser quality versions of the shows that are available for free all over the web.
In addition to a relative absence of Mike- something fans have brought up in the actual live mix as well- Trey and Page are often so loud that they are all you can hear. I love Trey- and Page is playing as well as ever- but to hear the two without the backing of a thick rhythmic pocket is only half the picture. Imagine if Michaelangelo had only painted half of the Sistine Chapel? It wouldn’t quite have the same effect. With a hypercritical fan base that has always looked to analyze the band’s every move, it is doing a disservice to the organization and to the fans, to continue releasing inferior mixes.
But one silver-lining in all of this is that people are listening to audience recordings again; genuine replications of how you experienced the show. And a great audience recording will smoke a soundboard any day of the week. With a fuller feel, more crowd ambiance and an authentic sound, audience tapes have come back with a vengeance this summer. With the help of No Spoilers and the copious sources of every single show posted on etree , people have more than enough choices to sift through before deciding on what sounds best.
While this was only the first tour back, and things will inevitably get dialed in, it would behoove the organization to reconcile this issue with this coming August run. Without being a sound engineer myself, I can’t make any definitive suggestions, but couldn’t someone create a separate live mix for the tapes each night, or would that be too difficult? Honestly, I don’t know. But with crazy fans that are willing to go to a show, drive directly home and buy it online, the product Phish offers should be the one of the best available options.
The music is great and only getting better- now let us hear it!
What do you think about the recent soundboard releases? Do you have any insight as to why there has been such a downgrade in quality? Share your thoughts in Comments!
NEW “DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY” RSS SUBSCRIPTION!
Why wait and see what show is up for download each day on Phish Thoughts, when you can have it waiting for you to bump during your morning coffee, drop onto your iPod, and head out the door?! Following the popular No Spoilers RSS feed, we will now be starting a “Download of the Day” RSS subscription as well.
The idea is that you use your torrent program to subscribe to “Downloads of the Day.” Soon after I upload the show, your program starts downloading it automagically!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
6.5.2009 Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY < TORRENT
6.5.2009 Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY < MEGAUPLOAD
Saving their best effort for the conclusion of the Jones Beach run, Phish blew out this second set in a rainstorm, crafting the finest frame of the tour to that point. A sublime “2001 > Slave” capped off the night.
I: Wilson, Buried Alive, Kill Devil Falls, AC/DC Bag, I Didn’t Know, My Friend My Friend, Ya Mar, Theme from the Bottom, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Split Open and Melt
II: Down With Disease > Twist* > Piper > Backwards Down the Number Line, Free, Twenty Years Later > 2001 > Slave to the Traffic Light
E: A Day in the Life
* w/ “Oye Como Va” jam
Source: Telefunken m260Tags: 2009, Culture