Perspectives on Phish

MSG '13 (Ken Scelfo)

MSG ’13 (Ken Scelfo)

I see two dominant schools of thought in analyzing Phish history—the “classicist” and the “progressivist.” Allow me to elaborate. The classicist school believes a certain historical period represents the band’s best work. They believe that Phish caught lightning in a bottle during this era, and that the rest of their career simply doesn’t hold up to the playing in this one. Maybe the year is 93? Maybe ’95? Maybe ’97? But the argument is that there are are tangible boundaries of time that bookened the band’s most proficient era. The progressivist sees things on a continuum, and views the changing of Phish music as an evolutionary process. This evolution entails retaining improvisational elements of the past while integrating new ones to form a more advanced whole-group ethos. The progressivist sees 3.0 Phish as the culmination of this process, an era in which the band has integrated their entire past with new elements in forming some of the most virtuosic music of all-time. The classcicist will argue that the modern era is nothing but a watered down version of the band’s glory days in which Trey could play more notes per second and melt-faces with his more technically proficient guitar playing. The progressivist will see Trey’s step back in ’97 and discovery of rhythm guitar as a huge advancement of the group ethos, and a stepping stone towards Phish’s more free-flowing, communicative jams of the late ‘90s and beyond. The classcisist attaches to his past era as if represents an age that can never be matched—energetically, musically, scene-wise—you name it; it was better then. The progressivist sees the evolution of Phish as continuous through 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. He believes that the modern era represents the full realization of Phish’s hall of fame career. The classicist comes to modern shows for nostalgia and flashes of what used to be. I think you see the difference by now. In fact, I’m sure you have already thought of five friends that fall into each camp. There is that much of an unspoken—and spoken—divide in the Phish scene in relation to the past. And this divide represents the proverbial elephant in the room in so many unproductive Phish debates.

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

This is not a new rift in the community. It has always been there. In ’97 there was a camp of fans who became disenchanted with Phish’s change of pace—literally and figuratively. These fans longed for the speedier, guitar-led jams that they had grown up with and couldn’t wrap their head around the fact that this change could actually represent evolution and not destruction. Many of these fans missed ’97, ’98 and ’99 only to kick themselves later. Many stayed away until 3.0! If one is so caught up in glorifying an era or style of the past—or the past at all—he will, necessarily, not value the present nearly as much as someone who believes (read: understands) that the past has led Phish to their more evolved music dynamic of toaday. Many of these fans still see the 3.0 era as nostalgia and whatever-era-in-the-past as inherently untouchable. But that’s a fool’s perspective. Listen to the jams of 2012 and 2013 and try to tell me that they aren’t the among the most egoless, democratic conversations of the band’s 30 year career. You can’t. Everything has led to now.

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

Phish’s improvisational skills are at an all-time high. They may not play the fastest or the funkiest that they ever have, but their jam-to-jam diversity, creativity and consistency is unmatched at any other point in their career. The guys routinely code-switch between improvisational feels, refuse to get stuck in any stylistic rut, and jam with an unparalleled level of democracy. Simply put—Phish are the smartest musicians they have ever been. One would be hard-pressed to argue that point. Perhaps they don’t practice like they used to and don’t nail all their compositions (though they’ve been doing better in this area), perhaps they don’t play with the speed and ferocity of 25-year olds at age 50, and maybe they jam slightly less than they did once did. Phish’s improvisational ideas, however, are as creative as ever and when they do open things up, the results—as proven over the past couple years—are most often sublime. Perhaps modern Phish isn’t one’s favorite era, but anyone would be hard-pressed to argue against the evolutionary thread that is evident throughout the band’s career; a thread that has led us to another high-water mark for the legendary quartet from Vermont.


Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Twenty Years Later” 10.29.13 II

[audio:] Tags:

1,261 Responses to “Perspectives on Phish”

  1. Gavinsdad Says:

    I disagree because you are making sweeping generalizations. In reality we know as little about Phish the businessmen as we do about the purportedly myopic and non-human serving billionaires. Chaps me to think that you know these billionaires beyond some news clippings.

    Nba owners = businessmen in the entertainment biz
    Red light/coran c = businessmen in the entertainment biz

    Just don’t see how there is less evil because of a few less zeroes.

  2. Gavinsdad Says:

    Your caught in a bit of crossfire too @phishm I think people are conveniently dense when it comes to how big a business Phish is.

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    Another point:

    The taping and release of the convo follows on the footsteps of all these surveillance related revelations and confirmations. The publics lock step acceptance of this chain of events shows the effects of conditioning already taking hold bruh’s

  4. phishm Says:

    I agree about the generalizations as I noted. I also feel the same way about politicians if that makes me look even more clueless. I trust no politician. Not for the fact that I know them or take value in the truths that they supposedly tell me, but the sheer fact that they were charismatic enough to make it past the other scum bags that they had to run against. I know how cutthroat the world is and feel if someone was able to make that amount of money or gain that much power then they can’t be a truthful person. Hence a piece of shit in my book.
    As far as how big a business Phish is. I don’t care. I love their music.

  5. sumodie Says:

    Stoney, Sterling’s wife (not the mistress from the recorded convo) wants to fight to retain ownership as she’s also part owner. The plot thickens…

    I agree that publicly releasing Sterling’s convo is an invasion of privacy. But that’s irrelevant now given the content of the convo and the ongoing public reaction. What’s done can’t be undone. Even if the persons responsible were taken to court for releasing the recorded convo, the fallout from the convo still has to be dealt with

    I like studio WAN, and I still think those MMW+C shows and album are the best music I’ve heard thus far in 2014. I could care less what anybody else thinks

  6. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    Waiting All Night – beautiful.
    production is great.
    psyched for the album.

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    Well that’s an interesting outlook @phishm and obviously one we don’t share.

    With the exception of Phish. I too love them as a band (i dont think of them often as individuals….like mikes haircut….i could give a shit). I go seen them when and where I can but I have an extremely personal modus operandi. I truly believe that they are a portal to transcendence and I literally believe that they are the only band left that I can see that will take me to the place I want to go. I’ve seen hundreds of bands and nothing opens the door for me anymore. So it’s always a catch22 for me. I see the business milestones (make merch, sell merch; make album, sell album; book tour, play tour) but I still go cause I’m getting the goods.

    Can’t say I get that psychic connection from any billionaire backed businesses at the moment but I, without digging much deeper, have been inspired by the annual report of the Bill gates foundation. I don’t think that he is a “piece of shit”

  8. Random Poster...Nutbag Says:

    I like WAN. Something mellow and hypnotic about it. I also like Monica cuz my little 3.5 year old totally loves it. So yeah, I guess dad rock FTW? Yikes.


  9. poop goblin Says:

    Hate WAN
    Love dancin to Tweezer

    Hated Talk And Waste
    Live dancin to tweezer

    some things never change


  10. poop goblin Says:

    can’t even type

    treys high harmony in WAN cheesiest Troy ever? possibly

  11. phishm Says:

    I too travel to see Phish for the same type of experience. Sure it’s different as we are different people, but from my reading on this site I feel like we may of on occasion had similar experiences. That will keep any person coming back for more. Best marketing scheme ever. Get to the point in your talent that you can play the entire audience and have the definition of hose changed in the dictionary to include Trey’s guitar and they will keep coming. I know Phish is big business. They are big business for all the right reasons IMO however.

  12. Gavinsdad Says:

    I have to pay for the art and for the experience. Which chafes me when I spend too much time thinking about it.

    At one point you could pay nothing to attend a Rainbow Gathering, definitely achieve a higher state of existence but those drum circles simply don’t have the depth, breadth and interplay of Phishs music. So shell out the dough for tix I will.

    (It is probably clear to anyone reading this that I applied this same approach/thinking to Jerry led GD concerts)

  13. phishm Says:

    You wouldn’t have to pay for it if you could create it. We pay for our thrills.

  14. Stoney Case Says:

    Sumo, I get ‘what’s done is done’. I’m just concerned about a future where that type of invasion will become more and more prevalent. And mob rule picking and choosing ‘battles’ depending on a perceived outcome.

    Let me ponder why the owners aren’t moving very fast on the issue. Not nearly as fast as the media or the cry of the players: how many of them are worried their mistress/dealer/pimp/bookie/mobbuddy been taping convos.

    What has a negative effect on minorities? States allowing private companies to build prisons with minimum occupancy agreements.

    What doesn’t have a negative effect on minorities? The bigoted, jealous rambling a of a bitter old man to his mistress.

  15. Dorn76 Says:

    Big Brother is watching, but he had to turn of the sound halfway through Winterqueen.

  16. Gavinsdad Says:

    Thats PR in the social media age @stoney.

    Only thing we’re missing is the AC/DC Bag in our town squares.

  17. Gavinsdad Says:

    Crowdsourcing (your fate)

  18. phishm Says:

    Last thing on that gdad is that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I have no idea how big business Phish is compared to another successful band. I know that individuals that are able to entertain other folks make a killing in this world. People are so bored that they pay big dollar to be entertained. I’m no exception. I have no issues with anyone making money entertaining someone. I have issues with someone making money shitting all over someone. Always have and always will.

  19. Stoney Case Says:

    G’Dad!! Literal lol! Crowdsourcing(your fate) $$$$

  20. Dorn76 Says:

    Maybe a stretch but I think words certainly can hurt…they can damage reputations and reinforce cultural norms, regardless of how the private ramblings became public.

    I see Phishm’s beloved billionaires running the show here in the olde USA, not the mob. I surely do see the danger in these PR witch hunts, but Sterling is facing what, to gain hundreds of millions $$?

  21. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Great shit last few pgs. rl’s dabb’d review of WAN has restored my faith in humanity. Ha! Love it. jtran’s one liner straight gold.

    Fuck it Dude. Sculpin’d Mr Nice Guy’d & 4/4/98’d. Classicist stylee.

    My theme song for today both personally & Phish world related:

  22. poop goblin Says:

    you should hear what I say about Troy and WAN in the privacy if my own home

    def wouldn’t want it taped and made public

  23. garretcorncob Says:

    And yet you’re willing to let your girl be seen in public with Trey.

    Or at least in the same room as him.

  24. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Island Bitch hitting my sweet spot

  25. Jerome Garcia Says:

    4/4/98 hitting that sweet spot quite matter of factly #gladgladglad

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