The Influence of Webcasts?

PNC- 5.31.11 ( (C.LaJaunie)

Phish announced yesterday that they will be webcasting their two sold-out shows from Lake Tahoe on Monday and Tuesday next week. Fans from across the nation—and the world—will be able to tune in to the twin bill for only $24.99, exponentially increasing the 7,000 person audience with a virtual cast of thousands. But is this a good thing for the integrity of the show? Does a show being webcasted alter the band’s performance? Does it change the way Trey arranges the setlist in his mind? Maybe so, maybe not.

One thing we know for sure is that thousands of Phish fans get to enjoy a pimped-out couch tour experience when Phish drops a webcast, and that is certainly a huge positive—that much is a given in this discussion. But is the show that fans watch on widescreens at home the same show that would have gone down were they not wired in? One would hope that the band wouldn’t “play to the webcast,” but at times, it seems that this happens. Often favoring anthems, bustouts, and a moving setlist, webcasts in this modern era don’t always translate to huge jams.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

The last two webcasted shows—Alpharetta’s two-night stand—didn’t turn out so great. Though the first night boasted some highlights, the only musical adventure over two shows came in “Disease,” and the only other jam that moved outside the box over four sets was “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” Fun shows? Sure, but dwarfed by most nights of tour. “What about MSG?,” one might ask? Well, there were some jams here and there, but other than “Tweezer,” “Sand,” “Ghost” and “Simple,” there wasn’t a hell of a lot left to go over. But in that case, the webcast and the inherently planned-out nature of a New Year’s Run, collided in some glossy—though entertaining—sets.

The issue with webcasted shows during this era of sobriety is that the band has yet to truly let themselves go—without caring what might come out—in front of a pay-per-view audience. Aside from 12/30’s “Tweezer” and 1/1’s “Simple,” just about every jam from MSG possessed a certain linear quality, only seldom flirting with transcendence. Trey, we all know, still battles his mind (and band members) cutting off jams through this past tour (albeit far less often). Do webcasts just add something else to think about, causing him to consider what the people at home want to hear? I don’t know, but when he cut “Tweezer” for “Julius” after a monsoon in Alpharetta, one had to wonder if he wanted to get in more songs and why.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Perhaps all of these conjectures have no bearing in reality. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that the past five webcasted shows weren’t exactly drenched in improvisational adventure. Or, perhaps there would have been a jam in the first or third set of New Year’s Eve were it not for the pay-per-view performance. Hopefully, the Tahoe shows will blow up and  dispel any connection between webcasts and mediocrity. I’ll be the first to admit it and cheering them on. But all of a sudden, the intimate 7,000 person Lake Tahoe shows don’t feel so intimate, especially when your buddies from the east coast blow up your phone with texts as they watch along with the show that you traveled across the country to attend.

Even if the webast never affected the music, does it not effect what is sacred about a Phish show? Shows are irreplaceable experiences that happen at one time in one place. Should people be washing dishes and putting babies to sleep at setbreak? Trust me, I support the inclusive feature of the webcast, but does it cut into what is cherished about a Phish show if kids across the country are ripping tubes while watching “Tweezer” with a soundboard feed? The technology of the future is great. Or is it?


Jam of the Day:

Harry Hood” 9.11.99 II

Another Gorge highlight to bring us through the week.


1,898 Responses to “The Influence of Webcasts?”

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  1. lumpyhead Says:

    late night reviews the past couple…all of which I’ve dug btw.

  2. Matso Says:

    Mmm… respectfully, I think it’s too early to say whether there is a “webcast effect”.

    Would we have expected the MSG run to play out differently had the shows not been broadcast? I find it hard to answer that question affirmatively. The only webcast I caught was 1/1/11 and I don’t think it had any adverse effect on the playing at all. Sure, the jams mostly stayed in the box (aside from Simple), but that was the Fall 2010 trend. I still thought (and common consenus is that) this was a super tight, top-notch show. The fact that people were peeping into MSG from all corners of the USA and beyond didn’t seem to change the focus or intensity of it at all.

    As for Alpharetta, this could have been as much a mid-tour dip in form as anything to do with the webcast. There are as many non-webcast shows with the same flaws, so you can’t point to the streaming as being a determinative factor.

    Finally, as for the “sacredness” argument, as long as the webcasts are limited to one set of shows per tour, I have no problem with them (and in fact, welcome them). The reality is that a lot of fans (the vast majority really) can only afford to hit maybe a couple of shows per tour nowadays for financial and personal reasons, or, if they live overseas like me, none at all for entire years. Except for the uber-obsessives among us, I suspect most people who are actually at the shows will tend to forget that they are being webcast (I can’t imagine anyone though the webcast took away from 12/31 set II).

  3. rocketfuelisthekey Says:

    I hope the previous casts aren’t an indication of what’s in store for us at Tahoe. It is a relief that the Gorge isn’t the chosen venue to spread love over the web. Don’t mess with my Gorge, please!

    Bring the energy phans! It’s ON!

    (another great read M, btw)

  4. sumodie Says:

    boarding the plane for seattle shortly, even remembered my gorge tix

    webcasts? theyre not even on my radar, dont care either way

    hopefully trza feels the same

  5. eljefe Says:

    Love the webcast. More please.

  6. alf Says:

    safe travels sumo, i’m about to do the same

    dear BB, try not to talk about anything interesting over the next 2 weeks, ok? thanks.

    see ya at the gorge.


  7. eljefe Says:

    Alf- You heading out w/ Trza Thurs?

  8. eljefe Says:

    RE: Gorge Camping. I believe the price includes Thurs, Fri, and Sat.

    Soundgarden camping were $50. A lot of people got there the night b4 so Fri and Sat night on those.

  9. sumodie Says:

    safe travels, alf

    leg2, here we come!

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Safe travels all. See some of you in a few weeks.

  11. Mr. Palmer Says:

    “does it not effect what is sacred about a Phish show? ”

    ^^ only if you allow it to. I know many of you have the ability to shut the outside world, and its issues, completely out when at a show. Personally, i struggle with this at times, but thats on me, not a webcast.

  12. ThePigSong Says:

    how dare this be your opinion mr miner!

    that, and why did you have to remind me of the /Julius?

  13. ThePigSong Says:

    just called off of work for the day – what the hell am I going to do all day?

    Oh, listen to these ’69 Filmore recordings? Okay.

  14. phoammhead Says:

    yes, safe travels everybody . . . one more day at work for me . . . flying out tomorrow morning. can. not. wait.

  15. ThePigSong Says:

    *got called off, I don’t typically play hookie so I can listen to music at home. 🙂

  16. gvizz Says:

    I think Miner’s has been reading too many crappy trend pieces on the NYTimes lately.

    *This thing is great!* OR IS IT???

  17. phoammhead Says:

    ned alert . . . it’s a TRAP!

  18. st8 of mind Says:

    Anything that the band is conscious of is definitely going to affect their playing. So, yes, knowing that a completely different crowd is watching/hearing a show has some impact on the song choices and playing in that show. Just like Phish has always dropped gems in the most out-of-the-way places where it feels like nobody is watching, or during sound-check where they play some of their best improvisation. I would say that is still one of the issues that they struggle with, trying to please everybody. I think this will be less of a factor as they gain confidence in their ability and start playing well every night. As long as there are off-nights, the webcasts are most likely to be hit by self conscious Phish.

  19. albert walker Says:

    Miner never seemed to dig 1/1 but I still feel its hands down one of the top 3.0 2 set affairs since the return and 12/31 II is a massive set but I ref see the streams fuckin with treys head.

    Personally I’m against streams. I hate videos. It’s all about the music for me. So first id prefer a audio stream only. This new wave of video collecting seems silly to me. Never watch even the official video releases during tour.

    Plus the soundboards come out that night anyway. Keep the live experience pure. Fuck streams.

    Could care less they are streaming tahoe though. Predicting treys behavior seems futile.

    Laterz kids

  20. albert walker Says:

    How can miner answer a ? Only Trey knows the answer to?

    Presenting fans opinions and thoughts on the manner in order to spark a dialogue seems like a logical format for this piece

    Damn new York times influence custifying miners writing

  21. Admiral Ackbar Says:

    Did SOMEBODY say TRAP!?

  22. Mike in Austin Says:

    I think Miner meant Tuesday Wednesday in his post, but beyond that nitpicking, I think whether the cameras are “on” feeding or not they have been there recording.

    I don’t buy that Trey has some “jan” complex (Brady bunch) when the red light turns on.

    Maybe an upside is scalpers now have more pressure on the “rarity” of the show and stubhub prices fall for those that realize there is a lot of additional experience that comes with seeing Phish live.

  23. Birddog Says:

    “Even if the webcast never affected the music, does it not affect what is sacred about a Phish show?”

    FTFY Miner

  24. Luther T. Justice Says:

    “I don’t buy that Trey has some “jan” complex (Brady bunch) when the red light turns on.”

    ^Nice reference MiA! The red light gave Jan trouble. Red Light gives Trey trouble. Coincidence?

  25. Cable Hogue Says:

    I think the fact that the cameras have been present on stage at every show for a while now should mean that the band isn’t playing to the audience at home at any point really.

    I mean, the Alpharetta shows were disappointingly “in the box” for the most part, but they were hardly the only suspects in that department from leg one.

    Plus, for Superball I listened to a crystal clear stream of all the sets live at home, the band had cameras in their face the whole time, that didn’t seem to particularly effect setlist choices or anything.

    Much ado about nothing IMO. Webcast is good, especially for shows like Tahoe where people got shut out.

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