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 Phish.net 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!

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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:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2.09-Run-Like-an-Antelope.mp3] Tags: ,

545 Responses to “More Webcasts—Meh.”

  1. dognamedwilson Says:

    “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.”

    and

    “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?”

    ===============================================

    ^well said, miner.

    ~DNW, “dilutin’ the groove”

  2. Quibble_Grew Says:

    first time, long time

    not sure if I’ll get shot down like some other non regular-posters, but my feeling is that if the webcast bothers you that much it’s YOUR problem not the band’s. every time I’ve been at a show where there’s been a webcast going on I have totally forgotten about it until someone brings it up.

  3. Xpun Says:

    I’ve only watched 1-1-11 and Roo this year. Really enjoyed both. Roo was a festi set (something I do believe in) so you have to know that going in. I watched part of Vegas 00 and liked that they used that medium to address concerns of the fans about the hiatus. I caught about 12 minutes of Coventry and it happened to be velvet sea. I like that memory. Would have rather been there but life wouldn’t allow. I liked knowing that they were as torn as I was. Gave me some closure.

    I’ve never felt like I was truely a part of IT w any of these. Do you feel like you are at the super bowl because you watch it on tv. Do you think the outcome is any different because you watched it. I just can’t see the band trying to go out of their way to try to please an at home audience. They feed off the energy in the room.

    The dead did an FM broadcast where they tried to have mass numbers of people project images on screens using psychic abilities or something. It failed pretty bad. Stoner fucks.

    I always thought miner was against the idea of web cast effect. Did the shows of leg 1 change that?

  4. PigSong Says:

    Why do I have so much trouble downloading from livephish on an Apple, every single time.

  5. dognamedwilson Says:

    “I think webcasts suck on the basis that, out of the four I have ordered, I have never even been close to making it through the freeze fest.”

    ^this is like saying “Phish hates the west coast” or “yay leg 2 dates! boo my broke ass car. Phish hates me”

    ===============================================

    “How Epic would the Great Went have been without Todd Phillips following them around with Cameras everywhere?”

    ^I refuse to consider the Went from this perspective. I see your point, tho

  6. jerseyjim Says:

    I think the more often the band performs with webcasts, the less inhibited they will play together. Resist the Ripcast.

    my dark side keeps telling me i’m an optimist.

  7. kayatosh Says:

    great piece, miner.

    counter point: Unlike weather, venue composition, or crowd vibe, the webcast is more a mental variable, rather than a physical or spiritual one. And b/c the webcast is not a new phenomena and has become almost commonplace, perhaps it is weighing on their minds less and is having less and less effect on how the band plays.

  8. kayatosh Says:

    woah, jerseyjim beat me to it.

  9. dognamedwilson Says:

    “the cut edits to close up face shots, or hands on instruments can get real annoying.”

    ^whawhaWHA!? Along with 4′ tubes and no bathroom lines, the camerawork is one of the few things the webcast offers that you can’t get at the show. Its a cool little consolation gift for my money.

    ================================================

    Alpharetta is a tame venue. Nice and new, but comparatively tame. I also think we offended them last year by rushing the parking gates to force open the lots at 3 when they tried to announce lots at 5. The first year went ok and its a brand new venue so they let us come back. I don’t think its a coincidence that Alpharetta was left off the list this year. Ole’ grimy Lakewood will be a different scene, for better and for worse.

  10. dognamedwilson Says:

    “the cut edits to close up face shots, or hands on instruments can get real annoying.”

    ^whawhaWHA!? Along with 4′ tubes and no bathroom lines, the camerawork is one of the few things the webcast offers that you can’t get at the show. Its a cool little consolation gift for my money.

    ===============================================

    Alpharetta is a tame venue. Nice and new, but comparatively tame. I also think we offended them last year by rushing the parking gates to force open the lots at 3 when they tried to announce lots at 5. The first year went ok and its a brand new venue so they let us come back. I don’t think its a coincidence that Alpharetta was left off the list this year. Ole’ grimy Lakewood will be a different scene, for better and for worse.

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    I agree with this article (except forthr first San Fran shows since 94 part, pretty sure outside lands is in San Fran)

  12. dognamedwilson Says:

    1st double post fail. better calm down for awhile

  13. btb Says:

    It’s going to get melty in here…

    Since it’s such a historic run, I was kind of bummed that those were the shows to get webcast’d

    I’d be kind of pissed if they did that to a coveted run of Phish.

    Melt away BB’ers!!

  14. SillyWilly Says:

    I’m with Mr. Miner on the part about it being less intimate and less magical.

    I mean, quite literally, it IS less intimate when you have the knowledge that thousands of fans are seeing the band all around the world.

    We can talk about whether or not the magic lost by the webcast is enough to affect your show-going experience. And that of course depends on each show-goer.

    But an event where only 7000 people can see it live in the moment is more magical than an event where 7000 plus thousands of streamers can see it live.

    I also am anti-streamers and filmers and phone camera-ers.

    But, that being said, I’m still REALLY PUMPED about BGCA, and I can’t control Phish’s streaming policy, so I’m not going to let it bother me.

    If I managed Phish, no streams.
    But, I don’t, so my opinion isn’t worth much.

    Finally, one way to keep the tour kid vibe of Phish going is to eliminate the stream. Lot of luke warm Phish kids out there can settle on seeing a couple live shows a year and then stream a bunch of others. (nothing inherently wrong with luke warm phish kids. I’m not trying to say that. Just trying to point out details that affect the scene.)

    Not commenting on whether that’s good or bad, but it comes with consequences to the overall feel of the community.

  15. naked guy Says:

    gee you really come off as an entitled asshole, par to course for phish phans in 3.0. ” i want to be at the MOST epic shows , and i dont want you to be there ” sucks to be you.

  16. Guyute711 Says:

    It’s my 19th anniversary of my first Phish show. Unfortunately I will have to celebrate with a heavy heart after finding out late last night my Grandfather has passed on.

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    I also love conversations about these because you can learn a lot about what makes Phish Phish.

    Why do we love this thing?

    How do we articulate the emotions surrounding a show?

    How do we articulate what we see in those dank dark venues with our best friends?

    What do we say to the kid at the gas station with the phish stickers who pulls up next to you, and who thinks he “saw” BGCA because he streamed it?

    Does it matter that he didn’t?
    If it does matter, why?
    Does it matter because the most important thing is the REAL human connection made in the flesh and blood with the person dancing next to you?

    What is reality?

    Is reality threatened by our technology?

    Can reality be…threatened?

    Who am I?

    Who are you?

    Yeah. Wait. Who am I?

  18. SillyWilly Says:

    All my support to you, Guyute.

    take the time you need, man, and feel what you need to.

    deepest condolences.

  19. Joe Says:

    Phish has always been about inclusiveness, which makes this whole conversation something of a bummer. It’s funny to see the ticket haves bitching that the have-nots will somehow ruin the event by watching it online. Sorry kids, but Phish is filming everything now, which means the difference for the band between a webcast night and non-webcast night shows up mostly in their paychecks and probably very little in their minds.

    As for the idea that webcasts generally suck: sorry, no. A few have been crap (Atlanta 11, for sure) many have been average, and a few have been absolutely fantastic. (I’ve got a one year old, I watch a lot of these things.) You know, just like a typical Phish tour.

    But to those who have tickets and feel that my watching on TV somehow cheapens your experience, I say I hope so. After all, you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in he country in a cool venue watching a comparatively intimate performance by the best live band on earth. Why shouldn’t a bunch of people having a good time at home totally ruin it for you?

  20. MiA Says:

    My post was sarcasm for those that missed the subtleness of it.

    I don’t like the ‘It cheapens the experience” statement by Miner above.

    No, not really. In fact. Just no. If your experience is related to people at home, then you’re doing it wrong.

    Something I’m not saying Miner is doing, but I don’t think anything cheapens a Phish experience if you don’t let it.

    I totally forgot people were watching a webcast of Tahoe, or watching the band in movie theaters at Coventry, etc. I can’t imagine perseverating on that.

  21. SillyWilly Says:

    @naked guy

    I think you’re misunderstanding, Mr. Miner. You can focus on the exclusion that comes when you kill the stream, but I think killing the stream is good because it values the purity of the live experience over accessibility.

    Mr. Miner has often argued for more shows, too. That’s not entitlement. That’s prizing the live show over all else. Miner is consistent, and I believe correct. Stop the streams. Tour 15-20 more shows a year. Do runs that people can easily see 3,4,5 shows without driving more than 6 or 8 hours. I think if it was up to Miner, Phish would play every single day. He’s all about getting people into shows.

    But that’s the thing: INTO SHOWS. Not streams.

    Has Phish ever really been about accessibilty anyway? Should they be?
    If Phish wanted to be more about accessibility shouldn’t they go back to making music videos for MTV? Shouldn’t they strive for the top 40 more often? Shouldn’t they work for FM play more often? More people would see/hear their stuff that way.

    I don’t think many of us want that.

    Finally, I think it probably doesn’t suck to be Mr. Miner and get to see every Phish show. And have a really cool family. And have a very kind and friendly personality to boot.

  22. dognamedwilson Says:

    vibes @guyute. sorry to hear that, man

    ================================================

    @silly, i don’t claim to know much but one thing i know for sure is it definitely doesn’t matter

  23. Forbin Says:

    Wow. I doubt JEMP even realize or care that the shows are being webcast once the lights go down. They’re not catering to the webcast and they’re certainly not playing to appease you and your expectations. What is wrong with a webcast? The super bowl is the greatest event in the world and MILLIONS watch around the WORLD. Does this make the experience less intimate?

    Phish is trying to tear down walls and you’re complaining. Everywhere is Here. Everyone is Us. Technology has made the world smaller and now people can get their own unique slice of a live phish show no matter where they are in the world and you have a problem with it…Its like sports, but music. Watching the olympics on tape delay at night isn’t as special because what you’re watching has already happened. Watching/listening to something live is where IT is at. But its becoming more and more obvious that you wouldn’t know IT if IT took a shit on your head

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    No wrong way to do Phish.

    Like so many other aspects of Phish, it’s subjective.

    If it doesn’t affect your experience, you’re better than me. I’m saying that and I concede that.

    But, if it does affect your experience. No reason not to be vocal about it.

    Trey troys a jam. Miner calls it out.
    Stream troys a show. Miner calls it out.

    i don’t really think Miner’s “doing it wrong.”

  25. MiA Says:

    “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. ”

    Ha ha ha.

    You anti bong hits and doritos kid? Watch the kettle. I was at those Warfield shows BTW. They were awesome. I don’t think BGCA is gonna be close. Warflield is a gorgeous venue. BGCA. Not so much.