More Webcasts—Meh.

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

One of the most anticipated runs of summer just got a little less intimate, as Phish announced that they will offer official webcasts for all three sold-out shows at San Francisco’s historic Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. No longer will the shows take place behind closed doors for the 7000 lucky souls in the building, but they are now pay-per-view commodities that can be purchased and watched with any Internet connection. When I speak of my distaste for webcasts, the most common retort is, “But what about all the fans who can’t make it to the west coast?” Well, what about all the west coast fans during Atlantic City? What about all southern fans during Deer Creek and Alpine? What about the Midwestern fans during Long Beach? That’s life! The point of a Phish concert has never been to allow as many people as possible to “tune in.” The fact that shows happen in small arenas in random cities across the country, inaccessible to those not in the building, is actually part of the magic! Phish just spent a month touring the east coast and Midwest, and they will provide soundboard downloads within an hour of every show’s conclusion—is that not good enough? Is nothing sacred anymore? The Phish experience once represented a personal quest one had to undertake to reap the spiritual spoils of the live experience. Now anyone can eat Doritos and take bong hits on their couch while watching the first Phish shows in San Francisco since 1994 (less the ‘98 Fillmore show) like a TV sitcom—and that cheapens what Phish is all about. It is one thing to webcast high key shows like the New Year’s Run, Bonnaroo or the Vermont Flood Benefit, but leave the regular tour stops for the fans on tour. What’s next, a month-long subscription where one doesn’t have to leave the confines of his own home to witness what goes down on stage for an entire tour? I sure as hell hope not, even as I face the impending reality of not seeing every show.

6.20.12 (M. Stein)

Beyond cheapening the Phish experience, webcast shows, more often than not, don’t hold up, musically, to the rest of the shows of tour. Take Leg One as our most recent evidence. Phish webcasted the Portsmouth and Jones Beach shows, and three of those four were among the weakest of tour. Both Portsmouth shows and July 4th illustrated a propensity for a lot of songs and very little jamming. In these three shows—combined—the only out-of the-box improv came in 6/20’s “Hood -> What’s the Use?”, 7/4’s “Twist,” and the very ends of 7/4’s “Tweezer” and 6/20’s “Rock and Roll.” That’s it. Other than those passages, the band cranked out never-ending setlists that did little to engage the psyche of the audience. Was there quality playing and tight, “type I” jamming? Of course! This is 3.0—there is always quality playing and tight, “type I” jamming. But those elements don’t make a show or we’d all be heralding the first night of Portsmouth as the best show of tour.

In webcasts of this era, it’s fair to say that the band has tended towards more more songs and less jamming than other shows of tour. In 2011, the first night of Tahoe and Dick’s stellar three-pack—the ultimate counter-example to any “webcast effect”—appeared to put this theory to rest after it had gained momentum over ’09 and ’10. But with six of the last eight webcast shows being suspect, perhaps the idea bears reexamination. There are often standalone highlights in webcast shows, for example, 7/4’s “Twist,” 12/30/11’s “Piper,” or Alpharetta ’11’s “Disease -> Maze., but more often than not, these uber-public performances pale in comparison to their surrounding shows. I am far beyond the point of trying to figure out why webcast shows don’t always explode, but going on empirical evidence gathered in this era, they usually carry a different vibe.

(Terrell Shaw)

Yesterday, in an extended, multi-party Twitter debate on this very subject, long-time fan, critic, and guru, Charlie Dirksen tweeted: “no doubt that Phish is self-aware that their webcasted gig’s audience is larger than they can ever fully know.” And it’s this enhanced self-awareness—potentially taking the guys out of the moment and altering the course of setlists and shows—that is all I’ve ever hypothesized (and been derided for). Perhaps the guys “play to the webcast,” or maybe they just think about it at times, but something about these shows often feels a little different. In all circumstances, Phish’s music reflects the environment in which it was created, responding to such variables as venue size, weather, location, and crowd vibe. How is a webcast to an unknown audience of thousands not another similar variable?

There is no doubt that webcasts benefit the community by allowing a greater audience to share in the groove—but is that groove diluted? Wouldn’t one rather listen to a mind-numbing show an hour after it ended than watch a mediocre one? Almost every other show of Leg One, besides Portsmouth and July 4th, absolutely smoked. In case you forgot, they included, Worcester, AC, Riverbend, Star Lake, Blossom, Deer Creek, Alpine and SPAC. The one glaring exception? A gimmicky Saturday night affair with virtually no second set jamming at SPAC that was broadcast on Sirius. Is this just another in a long line of coincidences? Maybe so, maybe not.

What is the take away from all this? Who knows, but get your ass to Long Beach at all costs!


Jam of the Day:

Run Like An Antelope” 7.3 II, Jones Beach

A nugget from the only high-quality, webcast show during Leg One.

[audio:] Tags: ,

545 Responses to “More Webcasts—Meh.”

  1. viola Says:

    knockin webcast is like the fans who hated dwd music video in 95. the secret was out in 93, going to shows and being there is all 1.0. if you were there then you know. webcasts are in the same league as troys wardrobe designer. makes you wonder if he could even cut his hair like he did in 2003 without breaking some kind of contract on “the look” his handlers want.

    :::the times they are a changing:::

    being there still trumps my living room but a live stream completely destroys no spoilers taper download.

  2. Robear Says:

    I started the webcast after he left. Shower is sweet. No excuse.

    Slick, no doubt. Might be the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard from an adult supposed to be a professional.

  3. MiA Says:

    Yeah, anyone saying they will “call the authorities” probably has a lot to hide themselves.

    What a d-bag.

  4. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Santa Barbara wine country…kaya’d AND rooster’d

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    I am glad the scalpers get fucked by webcasts though. Scalper at Lollapalooza got stabbed on Friday and all his tix stolen. Put a smile on my face all day. at least he had the balls to do it face to face though, unlike these internet scalping pussies. Stab more scalpers yo.

  6. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Call him again and record convo. Or tell him you already did record first time. Bait that piece of fecal matter

  7. Dr Pronoia Says:

    For 19.99 you can watch a live stream of me trying to drive the next leg of rte 1

    Guaranteed improv

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Tons of people on this board I’d love to meet, share a puff and a beer with. Stapes and Poop being two of ’em.

    Could pull a Bill Clinton in Palestine deal joining the hands of Arafat and Barak.

    Poop is Arafat, definitely the bomb thrower.

  9. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Freezer stocked w fresh halibut and king salmon . Gotta love Gods country after we made our limit we spent an hour w a pod of about twenty humpback whales . I thought of you Troy and how I can’t wait for a deep Cali ASIHTOS

  10. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Dr p you pass big sur yet? Nepenthe is one of my fave restaraunts. Also check out ventana and or the Buddhist temple there . Beautiful area . Either way

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Every day I’m reshufflin. Ba ba ba ba birndaba

  12. garretc Says:

    Good rec Slick, just went backpacking out in Ventana a couple weekends ago. Had been before, but still, lovely country that, and great weather taboot.

  13. poop goblin Says:

    Not a chance dorn

    I’m a pro of judging kids in a minute and stapes is not my kinda peeps. Met him at dicks.

    Too kangish. Kids like stapes are actually why I left that state in the late 90s.

  14. IrieWalton Says:

    Looks like SF is getting both a webcast and Trey has new material, too, to bust out on you fools.

    This is gonna put Summer of ’89 to shame.

  15. tzara's Says:

    Big Sur is one of the Meccas of American mythology. Definitely a mystical place.

  16. William H. Bonney Says:

    So they r web casting the SF shows. Very sinister of them, trying to cash in on their music….seems like a non issue to me. Not even sure how web cast equals more pressure or whatever leads to a sub-par show in someones eye..In the end just playing for more phish fans, not like is being broadcast on network TV or a austin city limits type performance….good problems to have worrying about the merits of a stream vs non stream vs webcast vs a buddy calling you from the lot telling you about bobby’s new song burrito or whatever…….

    fact fact fact fact fiction fiction fiction and fact

  17. joe Says:

    this antelope was going real well till the marco polo stuff

  18. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Ventana wilderness is magical place , and original home of big sur holy weed . Smells like temple incense.

  19. tzara's Says:

    And Henry Miller and Kerouac (esp Miller) wrote seminal works there.

  20. BingosBrother Says:

    From what I heard of Scabbard, i dug. Summer of 89 can only be shamed by Shine. FACT

  21. peter Says:

    Not sure if this has been mentioned, but:

    “the first Phish shows in San Francisco since 1994 (less the ‘98 Fillmore show)”

    You’re forgetting about Outside Lands last year (or maybe you aren’t?). The only reason I mention it is because that was my first hometown Phish show…

  22. bobby weird Says:

    I def agree webcasts maximize revenue generation, enabling band to keep to minimal show/tour basis, which we all agree is the most important thing. Also agree that over time they will more seamlessly blend into the band fabric and be less noticeable generally. Regardless of what anyone thinks, they are definitely here to stay.

  23. phoammhead Says:

    this bison organic ipa suits me fine . . . how’s about that

  24. phoammhead Says:

    why is this you must have the latest java runtime chapping my ass

  25. snow Says:

    @Robear – The joke was that your contractor was webcasting his own work and hence fucked it up due to the webcast. Good joke.

    @PooG did you start partying early? you are still tripping over two lines of insults. And yes, we do think you are crazy.

    But as @Palms pointed out, we are all crazy.

    I think this whole kerfuffle helped. 24hrs later, I don’t really give a shit if the shows are going to be webcasted. Pretty sure they will still slay.