A Reaction to the Fine Print

The Gorge 2011 (G. Lucas)

When Phish dropped their second leg dates yesterday, I was immediately struck with mixed emotions. On one hand, the announcement of any Phish dates is a cause for immediate celebration, but something about these dates—and the fine print that followed—screamed “stagnancy” to me. If you didn’t catch the afterword, “No additional Phish dates will be announced for Summer or Fall of 2012,” leaving the band with exactly six weeks of the year to play together. One might say that Phish semi-formally announced that 2012 would be “light year” of touring, but in fact, the schedule is exactly same as last year minus a festival. And I would bet that 2013’s touring docket will look eerily similar— a month long tour in June, two weeks in August, and a Holiday Run at MSG. One might also say, look at all the new venues that they booked—it will be an exciting tour. My response to would be, “ I don’t care where Phish shows happen, I only care what they sound like.” And when the band takes such massive chunks of time off from playing together, they don’t always come back together so gracefully (see MSG 2011). While I still hold high hopes for what the guys will do this summer, that hope is tempered by a bit of wonderment about the current intent behind the Phish from Vermont.

12.28.98 Graham Lucas)

With no fall tour planned, this summer will be another standalone tour in which any real chance of musical progression feels inherently limited. Let’s look at 2011. The band built towards a new style of abstract / soundscape / “storage” jamming in the first half of the summer, infused it into some shows during leg two with mastery, and then all but dropped it come the holidays—the run where Phish traditionally showcases their accomplishments of the year. With no Fall 2011, the guys weren’t able to capitalize on their musical momentum and innovation they realized over the summer, resulting in a significant step backwards over the New Year’s Run. But let’s just give the band a pass for MSG. My concern is with such sporadic scheduling—six weeks of dates in a year covering the nation once—that this is pattern bound to repeat itself.

12.29.2011 Graham Lucas)

Three years into this era, Phish has played plenty of great shows and thrown down many jams that stand up to any era, but where are they “going” musically? Are they “going” anywhere? Can you remember the last time Phish played for three straight years without establishing a signature sound or improvisational focus of the era? Probably not, because it has never happened. Just as it felt like the band was finally on the brink of something with the Gorge’s “Rock and Roll,” Tahoe’s “Light,” and UIC’s Elements Set, they played three great shows in Denver—none, specifically, delving into this style—and took the rest of the year off. Something tells me that when the band gets back on stage in Worcester come June, they won’t exactly pick up where they left off nearly ten months ago in Denver. Perhaps I’m wrong—and I certainly hope so—but if I’m right, the band may spend another summer unearthing a compelling musical direction only to split come fall for Trey tour, Mike tour, and whatever else the band wants to do these days. It just doesn’t feel like Phish is of the utmost importance to the band members anymore, rather, the band seems more like a summer camp where they can get their jollies out before returning to more focused endeavors—orchestral, familial or otherwise. And while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, Phish has never been a casual affair.

12.28.11 (G.Lucas)

Another glaring absence as we move towards another summer of shows is the lack of new material. The band’s newest jam vehicles are still “Light” and “Number Line” from 2009’s Joy, and Trey is currently working on a new solo album. While I realize new material isn’t essential to the touring year, there is a certain creative process that goes into making an album that brings the band together in a way that a few weeks on the road cannot. And it enhances the group dynamic and overall flow of the band. The last time Phish did this was before they stepped on stage at Hampton. Where’s the dedication to pushing Phish forward that has been a hallmark of the band since their inception, and that we heard them speak of upon their return? You get my drift? It seems to me that we, the fans, care far more about Phish music than the band does these days. It never used to be that way. It simply feels odd. With leg two hitting a series of spread out small markets and small venues, tickets will sell out and regional fans will be excited regardless of how coherent the jams sound. Will these conditions breed the potential for complacency? One can only wonder.

The band has been back in action for three full years now, and the feeling of “we’re lucky to have them back” has worn off. While I am eternally grateful that the Phish is playing again, at this point in 2012, I feel like huddling them up like an overzealous football coach, urging them onto the same page, and chanting—as a team—“1…2…3…Let’s do this!”

A unified musical intent would be invaluable in Phish’s current landscape, but with Trey so often on his own musical trip, the single-mindedness that defined the band’s greatest eras has often been missing, and I’m not sure this sporadic scheduling will help the cause. As rock bands get older, so many tend to mellow out and play the hits for one tour a year to keep the wheels spinning. I never thought this is what Phish would become, and I am still holding out that they won’t, but this summer seems to be a critical time in determining the future of the band. What will happen? Well, that is the fun of it all. Come this summer, we shall see.

8/15 – Long Beach Auditorium, Long Beach, CA

8/17-19 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA

8/22 – Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, MO

8/24 – Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, Birmingham, AL

8/25 – Aaron’s Amphitheathre at Lakewood, Atlanta, GA

8/26 – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Charlotte, NC

8/28 – Chaifetz Arena, St Louis, MO

8/29 – Zoo Amphitheatre, Oklahoma City, OK

8/31 – 9/02 – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Denver, CO

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416 Responses to “A Reaction to the Fine Print”

  1. garretc Says:

    Just so you know dayman, if you eat that cake you can’t have it, too. Want to make sure you’re informed on the matter!

  2. thedayman Says:

    LLFA, you slay me man. you are just spitting hot fiyah!


  3. garretc Says:

    I would watch that video, but I’m in the library and MY HEADPHONES ARE FUCKING BROKEN GOD DAMMIT!!!!

    Sorry for yelling (so to speak), I’m not mad at you about this, I’m just mad, and happened to direct it at you. Those things are like my lifeblood… *sniff*

    Plus I don’t really want to shell out the cash for new ones… Grrr.

    So, uh… Anybody have any recs on over-ear headphones in the less than $100 range?

  4. thedayman Says:

    bummer dude, sorry to hear it. i hear klipsch makes great products. won some skull candy in ear ones that aint dat bad, so i haven’t purchased in a while.

  5. butter Says:

    yea, great thoughts on here today

    Miner, great piece today, again

    the boys have 33 chances to come out swinging and shut us up

    lets see how this pans out


  6. Selector J Says:

    Head’s up to Thursday reggae fans:

    Bad news. No internet stream tomorrow morning due to some BMI royalties audit issue. I don’t quite understand the big deal but the suits* say no broadcasting on the tronz for the next couple of days.
    ::sad clown::
    Pretty sure ‘the suits’ have no legal training and are making a big deal out of nothing because they don’t understand the rules.
    Fiyah pon yuh poor legal advice deh!

  7. voopa Says:

    That’s bullshit J. The publishers get their airplay info from streams 24/7 anyway.

  8. Robear Says:


    wow. so young. $14 / day. no wonder AAPL is so profitable. what a world.

    the next video needs to show the people that mine the minerals that go into the electronic components.

  9. Selector J Says:

    Exactly, voops. For some reason, the station is still required to do this licensing audit every year for both ASCAP and BMI. Why? I don’t know. I blame those bloodsucking SillyWilly lawyers.

    The grown-ups at the station are freaking because the website doesn’t update the “now playing” during some parts of the internet-only broadcast (ie during DJ iTunes’ show) but that’s a Sound Exchange rule, not a BMI one.

    BMI only needs title/artist/album/start time/duration. Make a playlist in iTunes for the hours without a live DJ and we’re good. The only thing that would take some figuring out is the start time. Not exactly rocket science. We could use calculators and stuff, too.

    Regardless, it makes no sense to nuke the internet broadcast during the times that it is being updated.

    We’re launching a new website design on 4/20 that will update the “now playing” automatically. You know, like every other radio station’s website has had since 2002. (Amateurs.)

  10. Robear Says:

    I’m okay with 4/20.

  11. MiA Says:

    This week went by too fast. I woke up wondering if today was Wednesday or Thursday.

    At least I have 91.7

  12. plord Says:

    First couple of days back at work after a vacation always suck.

    Happy to learn that there is a new Mark Leyner book, “The Sugar Frosted Nutsack”. But still in the middle of Gleick’s _The Information_ which is awesome and completely different in every possible way.

  13. plord Says:

    and oh look! I’m on yesterday’s post! #fail

  14. Brooks Says:

    Play 40min jams like 03… play cow funk like 97… play 150 shows like 93… play small bars like 88… these are all unfair expectations. You can’t blame them for aging, or wanting to be involved husbands and dads, or having more than one creative outlet? They’re not musical slot machines… let’s be grateful if they play 30 shows a year for the next 20 years.

    And I honestly think Phish is going to continue evolving with new jamming styles, old jamming styles, longer jams, shorter jams, new songs, old songs, longer tours, shorter tours… you get the point.

  15. Mountain Mama Says:

    If the “I’m just happy their back” feeling has worn off for you…then stay home. Your using up tickets that could be in the hands of the fans who want to be there.

  16. Shammy Says:

    It’s funny how quickly our opinions can do a complete 180. Just a hair over 8 months ago, me and all my friends were raving about how the 2011 Summer Tour had the best selection of music probably since 1998. We were looking at the 3 years that they had been back together; 2009 was a year in which they were re-finding their bearings, 2010 was much better, and then 2011 absolutely slayed. At the end of tour last year, all we could talk about was how we couldn’t wait to see how they would progress into 2012. What happened between then and now that has us doubting them so much? ONE mediocre run (one that was a result of several months without practice) that happened to be magnified because expectations for NYE are so high for these guys (and honestly, just the beautiful Piper on 12/30 made those four shows worth it to me.). I guess my perspective is that this article brings up a lot if really insightful points, and I agree with most of them, but none of that necessarily equates to Summer 2012 being a let down.
    A year ago, I was pretty nervous about how Summer 2011 would shape up. My thoughts pretty closely echoed the same concerns that were voiced in this article. 2010 was good, but to be fair, it didn’t (for the most part) stand up to to any of the stellar years 2003 and earlier. How, I wondered, would Phish progress past this? At the time, it looked like they may have a creative plateau, and possibly even struggling with a lower ceiling of technical ability. Long story short, they shut me and the rest of the doubters up by DESTROYING Bethel on the first run of the tour.
    I know it’s been a long off-season, and everyone is itching to hear some new music, and to honest, what would be worse than Phish coming out flat for a Summer? After building the momentum they have, it would suck. . . . But let’s give them a chance to play before we analyze it too much. Personally, I’m looking forward to another fantastic summer.

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