What’s Old is Gone

Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

There was no greater risk that Phish could have taken on Halloween that to buck tradition and deliver a full set of new original songs. Many Phish fans have a notorious reputation for hating on new music as Trey explained in this striking anecdote from Wingsuit’s Phishbill: “Every time we’ve put out a new Phish album —literally every time—a certain contingent of fans has felt that the band they know and love is coming to an end. It’s never true.” He then went to recall how he was heckled in 1990 after debuting “Reba,” one of his fans’ longtime, most coveted compositions. Needless to say, Phish didn’t expect their audience to lap up their newest offerings in Atlantic City, but they put their wingsuits on and did it anyway. And in doing so, they shocked a fan base that thought it had virtually seen it all. Though I never saw this, I heard that many fans were disappointed with the band’s decision. But why? Their reaction made no sense to me. Phish has always used their Halloween sets to guide their playing—a sort of litmus test for where they have been and where they are going. And if the songs of Wingsuit are any indication, we are headed for another intensely creative era of Phish music. Isn’t that we are all looking for?

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

One of the most notable aspects of the songs tentatively comprising Wingsuit is their diversity. This will not be a simplistic Phish album. Most of the selections were scribed in four-minded collaboration and reflect a thoughtful and intricate songwriting approach. Strewn with lyrical themes of self-loyalty, making peace with the past, and soaring anew, the title track “Wingsuit” provided the perfect introduction to Phish’s future album, as it opened set two. And from there, the band simply went for it, for there was “nothing to lose.”

Phish didn’t have to take such an audacious risk. They didn’t have to play Wingsuit. The guys could have easily memorized another album from the past and crushed it. It probably would have been easier for them, and far more stress-free. But by choosing the path of least resistance, they would cease to be Phish. Secondly, I bet we wouldn’t all have been listening to Eat a Peach on repeat for a week straight, while allowing the tapes of the most glorious tour in the modern era to lay in waiting. But that is exactly what so many fans have been doing with Wingsuit! And there is no end in sight.

There is nothing quite like new Phish music, and being introduced to Wingsuit on Halloween transformed us into innocent, childlike fans; expectations were an impossibility. This element was one of the coolest part of the Halloween set—collective discovery with zero reference points whatsoever. We—the audience—were discovering the power of these new songs with the band. This was a collaborative exercise; an unprecedented gesture in live music in which—most often—fans come to hear the familiar. How many other bands could step on stage and please their audience with 90 minutes of brand new music? Maybe…zero?

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

The Wingsuit set was Phish—dramatically—opening the studio doors to their adoring fans, allowing us to actually be a part of the creative process. This was a dream come true! Out of all the crazy things we had seen this band do over the past 30 years, they had never before played an entire set of new songs. Never. And these songs were written for keeps; a powerful infusion of high-quality music into Phish’s mix in this, their 30th year. Pieces like “Fuego,” “The Line,” “Waiting all Night,” “Wombat” and “Devotion to a Dream” reflect stylistic tangents for the guys, taking them in different sonic directions. Phish didn’t only preview their future album on Halloween, they paved the way for the next prolific era their career.

And now we wait. Not only for MSG’s Holiday Run (which will, likely, include several Wingsuit songs), but for the album, itself, to see which will selections make the cut and in what form. Beyond these upcoming events, however, we wait for the Phish’s next full-fledged tour—seemingly Summer 2014—in which the songs of Wingsuit will come into their own, carry improvisational significance, and begin to find their niche in the annals of Phish history.

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

“Wombat” w/ Abe Vigoda, 10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)


More Thoughts on Wingsuit:

My friends over at PleaseMeHaveNoRegrets.com have written a beautiful, long-form essay on Wingsuit. It resonated with me immediately, and I agree with its content in full. I’ve excerpted the beginning of the piece below and provided a link so you can read it in its entirety:

I. Phish headed into Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall for their three-night, Fall tour ending run with enough momentum from a banner year on the road, and enough confidence in the current state of their now 30-year old artistic enterprise, to step to the line and take a giant leap of faith into the unknown.

And so on an unseasonably warm All Hallow’s Eve on the Jersey Shore, Phish spread out a page of their carefully coiled papyrus, dutifully replaced their quills, dipped them deep into the ink of their creative wellspring and penned an entirely fresh chapter in the epic poem of their career. 

As a band known for keeping their audiences on the edge of their seats, Phish once again zigged where so many expected them to zag. Eschewing their 20-year old Halloween tradition of covering an album by a musical forebear, they instead used the Wagnerian backdrop of Boardwalk Hall to preview their future. In place of covering an album by Led Zeppelin, Elton John, The Band or even contemporary’s like Radiohead or TV on the Radio, Phish played through their own unreleased, in-progress album entitled “Wingsuit.”

Read the rest here!



Jam of the Day:

Wingsuit > Fuego” 10.31.13 II

The future of Phish. I mean…

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1,018 Responses to “What’s Old is Gone”

  1. MiA Says:

    Nobody thinks Winterqueen’s “solo” sounds like Ocelot with a fluffier Page on piano instead of Oregon?

  2. ren Says:

    @Stoney- I agree that Wingsuit may not be the best way to open a set in the future….but there wasn’t a more perfect song in the actual moment IMO….but I was also eating L for the 1st time in 15 years or so that night so that whole night just fit me perfect in general. I come close to welling up each time I spin that shit. Also looking for some new direction in my life….again couldn’t really be more apt. for this guy.

    From the couch with doritos and tube socks…I’d probably be agreeing with you

  3. George W. Kush Says:

    re: expectations

    tough to go into a show w/o them nomatter how much you try to downplay them. These days its so easy to get online and read about and spin the previous nights. I see hot reviews here from previous shows to one that I am going to see and I sort of naturally expect what I always desire from Phish: fluid/tight playing, setlist flow, some goofiness, some shred, some face-meltage. Hard not to desire/expect things from this band that you have come to understand as the hallmarks of their playing style. When some of those elements don’t line up correctly (everyone is different obv), people get bummed.

    For example, this year at MSG, I expect great playing coming off such a hottt fall, new tunes, and holiday merriment. The rest is up to the cosmos. Hoping that this is the MSG NYE we have been waiting for for 4 years. However, will not be disappointed bc I know it will be a better run than 2011. No ifs ands or butts about it.

    Expectations for something like a Halloween set is completely on another level and perhaps too specific a thing to be harping on. You should expect that Phish is going to walk on stage and play music. Its all uphill from there as far as 3 set shows and special occasions are concerned. There are haters and people that drop off every single era/sound change. Not gonna change. Should we consider this occasion a thinning of the heard (herd)? Survival of the fittest (fluffer-ist)?

    Phish is juiced to the hilt right now. Brimming with fresh energy, jams, and songs. Band is healthy and happy. Like Miner said, isn’t that what we are all looking for? If not, maybe reconsider why you go?…


  4. butter Says:

    Good article Miner

    I feel the music is at a really high level, and obviously the element of surprise is fully in play

    I say just let everyone have their opinion. No need to convince anyone whose disappointed in Wingsuit or the decision to play it, that it was some musical revelation. It’s artwork after all. Eye of beholder blah blah

    Spring tour is a pipe dream. 6 months off has been keeping this thing sustainable and fresh, and got them back to this high water mark.

    The coolest most endearing facet of Wingsuit for me is the guys letting us in on their process of recording a new album. (And the music is pretty great too)

  5. jdub Says:

    What are you saying George W. Kush? Phish music is designed to be digested live and while on the vehicle?

  6. ren Says:

    Things are right as rain in the world of Phish. There are some lizards hanging to cliffs at times that need to work their own shit out and stop projecting their issues on the band.

    I am one of those lizards from time to time. Key is not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

  7. vapebraham Says:

    ^^^ listen to this pres. he speaks the truth. time to put your wingsuit on. nothing to lose and nothing to say.

  8. jtran Says:

    page is my favorite oregon player

  9. ren Says:

    ^Thats it right there George W!!!

  10. butter Says:

    Yea I’ve decided the jack n Jill song is worse than Snow

    Snow is a harmless little track of album filler that kinda resets the vibe

    That jack n Jill malarkey, come on. Is it really about Tom Marshall not being as rich as the rest of the band and having to live a drone life while watching the others laugh and be rich?

  11. butter Says:

    We keep it trolling

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Just shut up, put your Wingsuit on, and fucking dance!

  13. jtran Says:

    wingsuit as an album opener is great

    wingsuit as a set opener while not knowing what is to come – I see the fear

  14. Joe Says:

    We’re a funny lot. I talked to a kid at set break right before wingsuit set that was still holding out hope that they were actually going to play a cover still and that the playbill was a joke.

  15. jtran Says:

    We Keep It Rollin’ ‏@TheBabysMouth 5s
    You can hear how Wingsuit came together. Collaged. Each voice. Each musical preference and decision gestating from its primary author.

  16. jtran Says:

    We Keep It Rollin’ ‏@TheBabysMouth 6m
    We lose something in democratic phish. In a phish that is flatter than we’ve ever known.

    We Keep It Rollin’ ‏@TheBabysMouth 5m
    But we also gain. Possibly much more than we ever could lose.


  17. Joe Says:

    For any of my thoughts on wingsuit, see butter. He’s pretty much stated exactly what I think about it already.

  18. butter Says:

    Since we use the term Phish crack around here

    AC Carini is Phish opiates

  19. ren Says:

    “What are you saying George W. Kush? Phish music is designed to be digested live and while on the vehicle?”

    Doesn’t have to be while on the vehicle. IMO Phish is best enjoyed and the experience is made more diverse with different levels or “presence”. A show is what you bring to it.

    Sometimes you bring no expectations and none of your own issues and YOU BECOME the vehicle itself.

    Other times you enjoy shows more or less because of what you brought along with you: a bad week at work, a good week at work, a pretty phish wife, a case of the lonely sads…etc.

    Some can control their mental states of their own mental prowess…and sometimes a little “help” doesn’t hurt. If you think L is the key, then you probably haven’t had a trip go poorly at a show…way more distracting than being showber…but again, IMO would also be adding to the diversity/unexpected/surprise factor which a lot of people seek.


  20. Joe Says:

    Waiting all night is my favorite of the new tunes. Maybe not a jam vehicle, though

  21. ren Says:

    That said, we’re turining a corner in 3.0 as we enter the back stretch. Its going to get harder to play along as a spectator.

    Get to shows with your friends. Take L and enjoy every minute of the experience. This part of Phish evolution only comes along every so often. Some will be emblazoned on a new path traveling into the bands future….others will be scratching their heads wondering what they are missing and may even defect. Pretty sure thats what happens when there is a legit shift in “eras”….being open or close minded really the only deciding factor

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Palmers top 5 jams of Fall 2013

    1. Ac Twist

    2. Woosta Drowned

    3. AC Carini

    4. Hartford GA

    5. Reading Disease

  23. Elihu Says:

    I watched the webcast and had no idea they were playing their own album until Trey said something about it at the end. I loved every single tune. (Haven’t relistened yet.) At first I was trying hard to place what they were playing: during Fuego I was thinking it might have been Yo La Tengo, or Ozomatli or something. Then eventually I stopped worrying about who they might be covering and just listened to the songs. And like I said everything worked for me in the moment. I wonder if I would have been more critical had I known I was listening to phish songs. Maybe so.

  24. jtran Says:

    everyone’s forgetting about hampton tweezerage too quickly

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    true to his concern, bingos’ life insurance comment seems to have broken the comments. new ones are showing up above his. you are a jinx, sir, and a menace. I say good day to you.

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