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. bobby weird Says:

    Cant read back. Congrats Habs. Knew i should have gone to symphony hall.

  2. bobby weird Says:

    Ok I read back. Phishm is absurdly simple in his self absorbed over generalizations. Its either extremely lazy intellectual analysis or just phishm being phishm.

  3. phishm Says:

    You going to DTE bw? I’d love to meet you. Unfortunately only show I’m hitting during summer. If not DTE maybe fall? Should be fun either way.

  4. Dorn76 Says:

    Intellectually Lazy would kill as a band name.

  5. bobby weird Says:

    No summer for me except for a possible run off. Wife is due june 22. Fall it is brah. Book it.

  6. bobby weird Says:

    I want my royalties dorn!

  7. phishm Says:

    Congrats on the baby. I didn’t know. How would I? Nothing better.

  8. MiA Says:

    Isn’t Wozniak worth $250MM?

    Gave personal shares of his founders stock to guys that Jobs didn’t give stock to. Created the US Festival(s)

    Great millionaires and billionaires.

    Dr. Dre is now a billionaire I think?

  9. bobby weird Says:

    Phishm if you come to Great Woods I will make sure to be there. You too dorn.

  10. MiA Says:

    Millionaires against hunger

  11. bobby weird Says:

    MiA funny… I thought of Wozniak and Jobs in response to phishm. May be first ever time we have agreed. There is hope!

  12. garretcorncob Says:

    Speaking of rich people:

    Saw a nifty proposal online earlier today or yesterday that to clean up campaign finance we should insist on, instead of more transparency, even less. Make campaign donations entirely anonymous and you make quid pro quo a hell of a lot harder.

    “Senator, build me a bridge, I gave you $200 million.”

    “Prove it.”

    Not a miracle cure, surely, but sounds reasonable. Made me think, at least.

  13. Dorn76 Says:

    Get a hall pass ahead of time. Call Dr. Gabel.

    See you in Mansfield.

  14. bobby weird Says:

    Book it dorn.

  15. Stoney Case Says:

    Shrek with a little post game handshake meltdown

  16. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ‘This next song is radio unfriendly’
    ‘It’s radio unfriendly bc it’s really long & really slow’
    ‘They hate that’
    ‘Reeeeally long & reeeeeally slow’


  17. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Isn’t Wozniak worth $250MM?

    ^preferred nomenclature of $MM for millions = lunch is on me

  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    booby’s got a puddlin comin @ Xfinity phishm & I’m sure there’s some remnants for you. You’re not opposed to pay for Are You Not Entertained so my advice to you is to do what your parents did & go to Great Woods sir!

  19. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Island Ghost is on the GLP list floated around earlier is it not? I’m sure it is but I’m Intellectually Lazy. Royalty check is in the mail booby don’t get your jorts in a wad.

  20. MiA Says:

    Broke the BB again?

  21. MiA Says:

    Never mind. Stupid phone not refreshing. I slept so well my back hurts. :/

  22. ren Says:

    Yo! Such colorful commentary as of late.

    May showers while the BB smokes flowers

  23. Kaveh Says:

    Morning y’all…

  24. dorn76 Says:

    Spellcheck made a funny:

    George W. Kush Says:
    May 14th, 2014 at 1:18 pm
    ……”Not trying to stirring up in the progressive/nostalgic argument.. getting older, Im happy with some choice beers and stank nuts in my pocket.”

  25. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Lest ye forget the code nuts = nugs.

    Island Reba. Boom!

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