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)

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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!

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Winged-music-note

Jam of the Day:

Wingsuit > Fuego” 10.31.13 II

The future of Phish. I mean…

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2.02-Wingsuit.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2.03-Fuego.mp3]
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1,018 Responses to “What’s Old is Gone”

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  1. ThatsSoPage Says:

    Wingsuits up

  2. legs diamond Says:

    verdicts out for me on a new tunes, but i agree with the spirit of your comments regarding The Halloween choice, Miner

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    Miner, fantastic article. Such a different flair when you write during these waking hours.

    Truth be told, I skipped the BM excerpt. You’re forgiven for posting it.

    Figured when Halloween was announced we would get their new tunes. Only thing that made sense to me. Classic/blues rock been done and done well by Phish already. ‘Eat A Peach’ with DT? Really? Pray tell no one actually thought that…. Zappa? Zero chance. That ship sailed. In 1995.

    Spun the album twice. Excited to see where songs go. Joy became a bit of a tease. With so few tunes going or staying big. With ‘Say Something’ and ‘Halfway’ the future looks and sounds bright.

    With webcasts and sbds, no more need to travel and spend so much $$$.

    #winning

  4. chris Says:

    i liked miners article although the other guy’s article made me want to throw up a bit…too much of that ‘on this night the most epic band in the world did the most epic thing possible, in the most impossibly possible fashion …yes, indeed the band of phish of 30 years did the unthinka… sheeeeuut up already!shut the fuck up!!shut up! shut the fuck. up!!

    it was really cool what they did and some of the songs are really good. Most are not the greatest pieces of art ever though and we should be able to call a spade a spade. Loved this tour though. One last thing about the album is that i’m not convinced they’re brimming with creativity. Remember, these were the best choices out of forty something songs they wrote…it makes me wonder just how bad some of the other songs are that were left off the album.

    I love this band and have been faithfully following them for the past 5 years. Each year has gotten better and i’ve derived great pleasure from quality portions of shows. The fact that my favorite band is producing new music and making a statement that they’re going to be around for a while longer is the best aspect of Wingsuit.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    40 songs?! Hadn’t heard that. ‘Nuff said.

  6. chris Says:

    yeah Mr Miner it was in the playbill article section ..

  7. halcyon Says:

    Put your wingsuits on….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRqnTODwvEA

    Cheers Miner

    Cheers BB

    Off to Breckenridge today, 1st runs of the season

    To the Veterans’s out there (Col Joy, anyone else) Happy Veteran’s Day.

  8. Shred Says:

    ‘Nuff said.

    Please. @miner and Chris. You guys both have valid points. I don’t think learning their own album was a choice. They need to learn these songs. Looking forward to seeing where they go. I see it more as a cop out. They could’ve done both like game hoist. But Those days are gone. Enjoy the new album.

  9. the Baker Says:

    WOW!
    that video is Way WILD!!!
    enjoy the mountain

    Mr.Miner,
    thanx for the reaffirmation& the “mental picture” of the 10’s of thousands of us Listening to WINGSUIT everyday!
    …i’m guilty as charged
    –amongst relistening to new, Great pieces from that AMAZING Fortnight–

    i also sense a Real possibility for multiple SINGLES being “released” for FM radio…a couple/few could really get the Masses with some “catchy” lyrics.

    another sure sign the apocalypse is upon us…YOUR children are going to be singing “SING MONICA” in the shower, at the breakfast table, in the hallways, at the mall, etc., etc.

    I FUCKING LOVE IT…ha! PHull Circle

    peace&dough,
    your exhausted Baker

  10. Goerge W. Kush Says:

    Spot on writeup Miner. SO stoked on fresh Phish. Wingsuit has some legs for sure. Some of the best new music since Round Room or earlier.

  11. George W. Kush Says:

    Spot on writeup Miner. SO stoked on fresh Phish. Wingsuit has some legs for sure. Some of the best new music since Round Room or earlier…

  12. RicksFork Says:

    Great piece Miner. Great summary of how many of us feel. Loving Wingsuit all the way through. Cant wait for MSG!

  13. the Baker Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o01cjlRVbDg

    …cuz IT feeeels GOOD…

  14. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Thanks a bunch for the thoughtful write-up Miner. I am not surprised about the the mixed reactions on their decision. Expectations will get ya every time. Phish kids love to bitch, etc.. The fun is in seeing what happens next, in my book at least.

  15. jdub Says:

    Wow, that wingsuit video with Wingsuit as a musical backdrop is stellar. People are crazy.

    And I am rolling through the album again this morning. I didn’t think I would like it this much after watching the stream. Took me a few days to listen back. But this music has grown on me big time, the sign of great music.

  16. vapebraham Says:

    nice article, miner. well-written and honest. I agree with the sentiment as well. Put me in the camp that loves a few of the new tunes: wingsuit, 555, wombat, waiting all night, you never know.

  17. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Devotion to a Dream has been a grower for me..

    That tune will be closing first sets in the near future. Little ripper.

  18. JerZ Says:

    I loved the set. Thank you for writing this up Miner. I’m probably a dozen times into the new album and keep noticing new things that I like. I really like the title song. I think its beautiful, and very Billy Breathes-ish

  19. jdub Says:

    Anyone else reminded of Elvis Costello’s Veronica while listening to Monica? Not really a musical connection, more of a similar vibe. And of course Monica rhymes with Veronica. Stretching a bit, but I find Monica to be a Phishy attempt at hipster folk pop. Whatever that means. I like the tune though.

  20. Kaveh Says:

    @Miner: nice article; after letting the songs settle I’ve been spinning these songs more and more, lots of great tunes.

  21. 4thDimension Says:

    Superb article Miner, thank you.
    Back right side of floor this fall — thank you for your passion and focus.

  22. marcoesq Says:

    Great piece Miner, well thought out. Phish certainly took a big risk with covering themselves but the proof is in the pudding, I don’t remember peeps talking about WFC tracks this far after Halloween.

    Only hiccup for me was the Baby’s excerpt with the phrase “Phish spread out a page of their carefully coiled papyrus”, yikes. 4 months ago I had never heard of these guys, read one article and kinda dug it. But since then it’s been a lot of self indulgence, rambling and a whole lotta selfies on twittah.

    This NYE run will smoke, no doubt. Too bad I will not be in attendance but I’ll be sure to stream in my new basement.

  23. marcoesq Says:

    I just rolled over the the BM twitter page and the page that Twitter recommended for me based on this preference? Stone cold Steve Austin. Nice

  24. BingosBrother Says:

    BabysAss?

    #sitehasgone…

  25. Kaveh Says:

    Fellas…is it me or does Devotion to a Dream musical backbone sound a lot like Shine or Air Said to Me?

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