Wow… What a summer.

When Phish first announced their 2015 summer tour dates I could not believe it. Being a Bend, Oregon local, I could not believe it was finally happening. Years in the making. Years of us begging the band and its management to come play a couple of shows in our gorgeous little town. A bit of context; over the past few years, every single year, the “Phish is coming to Bend” rumors would gain a ton of steam, only to never materialize.

Once, I personally handed Trey a letter — at his symphony show in Portland — that said “Please come play Bend, your phamily loves you out there!” (among other things). The letter went on to explain the town, and how even though it’s a tiny venue that’s in the middle of nowhere, it was worth the additional effort. The magnitude of the Bend announcement was especially potent since the Gorge was inconspicuously left off of the summer 2015 tour schedule.

The Bend shows were an especially tough ticket. The locals here eat up good music when it rolls through town and Phish is an enormous draw for the Les Schwab Ampitheater. Unsurprisingly, the show set a record for the tiny venue’s quickest-sell-out-ever according to a few friends who work at the theater.

Chrissy (my wife) and I got a chance to visit with Chris Kuroda on his tour bus before the shows. He is such a warm, genuine and grateful fifth member of the band. It was interesting to hear his perspective about them playing in such a small town. The words “this feels like 1994” were echoed by all of us! That awesome, psychedelic, glowing owl you saw on stage during the webcast is owned by the venue. Even with the early curfew and with only a handful of songs being played in full darkness (after a breathtaking sunset on both nights), CK5 plugged his rig into the whole house lighting system and worked everything in beautifully. Perhaps not so ironically, a slew of the band’s tour artwork, merchandise and ticketing also had owls on it, so the stage was set perfectly. Buffalo Bill was around.

It was absolutely incredible for the band to unveil so much original material at a tiny venue on the opposite side of the country. I had no idea what to expect, let alone four Phish original pieces — Shade, Blaze On, No Men’s and the other-worldly Mercury — and three solo project debuts, Trey’s Scabbard, Mike’s How Many People Are You? and Page’s Heavy Rotation. The entire atmosphere had an exceptionally rare and exciting vibe to it. People were genuinely at peace to see the band in such high spirits. The venue’s security was happy and relaxed. The band was stoked and everyone could feel it!

Phish in Bend, Oregon • July 2015

The tour continued along through California with a nice stop at Shoreline and a beast of a show at The Forum in Los Angeles. Tons of people are clamoring for Phish to play a New Years run at The Forum in LA. The weather is nice, it’s a big city so the ticket sales would please management, and it’d be a bit easier for people in the West and Southwest to attend given that travel delays to and from the Northeast can be brutal around the end of December. While Madison Square Garden in New York is arguably one of the best places you could ever see the band, The Forum seems like a West Coast version of Hampton Coliseum. Look up some pictures and you’ll see how much fun Kuroda has with that place. Not to mention, a little change is good every once in a while. Nothing wrong with a New York > Miami > Los Angeles NYE Run rotation!

Phish’s summer tour next found them winding their way down South with two stops in Texas and one in Alabama. Then came the Nashville show. If you haven’t read about the significance behind the Second Jam in Mike’s Song please find the time to do so right away.

At this point, the band is truly firing on all cylinders. The interplay between Trey, Mike, Page and Fish has been astonishing all summer. When they are focused and deep within extended jams, nobody is repeatedly dominating the direction of the improvisation. They are all communicating in a way that can only emerge from thirty-one years of playing together, getting to know one another and organically progressing as a unit. Trey seems a lot more patient, while at the same time being a lot more aggressive and attacking when he feels the moment is ripe for the shredding. Mike seems to come in at just the right time, every time, with layered melodies and bass lines that set a beautiful foundation for Trey and Page. His creativity and tonality is forcing Page to use more complex chord progressions, and it’s forcing Trey to open specific scales with uncharacteristic interval patterns played in minor keys. They are all pushing melodic boundaries by testing the limits of certain scales and harmonies very deep within their improvisational jams. This is impressive stuff that can only be achieved through a lifetime of playing music together.

Page has continued to shine. His song Heavy Rotation hasn’t seen another appearance since the Bend shows, so hopefully they rework the tune, bring it back to its original key and give it another go. The jam has incredibly serious potential to become a true launching pad. Fishman continues to impress me. His speed, intensity and ferocity has picked up tremendously since 2009. It once again sounds like he’s got eight arms.

This all genuinely equates to the band simply blowing people’s minds again and again. Night after night. Old fans and new fans alike. People have been left speechless, picking their jaws up from the floor all summer long.

The tour continued to roar through Kansas City and then Blossom (always an incredible place to see Phish) followed by a two night stop at Alpine Valley. One of my favorite venues. I’ve heard first hand stories about Alpine Valley having a hard time competing with venues like Northerly Island in Chicago. As of last August, Alpine Valley was listed for sale with an asking price of $8.44 million dollars.

Management argues that Chicago is generally an easier gig to pull off when the weather agrees. Phish can fully sell-out at least one of the nights and the logistics are easier for them to plan. However, as evidenced by Trey’s extremely welcomed Forbin’s narration about it being the band’s 17th show at Alpine — and him being shit on by a bird which is what inspired him to play Forbin’s — Alpine Valley and the shitting bird will always hold a special place in Phish’s heart. There’s a pit up front now and it feels like a private show when you’re down there. If you haven’t seen Phish play a show at Alpine, make sure you do before its sold and torn down and turned into a strip mall.

Next up were some absolutely heater East Coast shows in Philadelphia, North Carolina and Maryland. The band was back on its home turf and everyone was gearing up for what would surely be a blowout at Magnaball.

The town of Watkins Glen is really quaint and nice. The whole time you’re there you’re surrounded by lush farm lands and rural settings. The region is known for great wine making and has a slew of vineyards sprinkled throughout. My kind of place. The locals were extremely kind and accommodating. I love when a town/city/county acknowledges the impact that Phish has on the local tourism industry. Phish’s circus brings millions of dollars to these communities. Magnaball was on the cover of the local paper every single day. Also, Phish Concerts Boost Bend Tourism was a massive front page headline in our local paper when they opened the tour.

Chrissy and I flew straight out of Bend, Oregon across the country to Elmira, New York. Ever since we opened our first Oregon state-licensed dispensary ( last January, life has been beautifully chaotic! This was a very welcomed vacation for us. We were elated to hear about all of the amenities that would be onsite.

The food and beverage options were incredible. There were bathrooms everywhere and for those of us that like to ride the rail up front, we had plenty of amenities very close by at all times. This was an extremely well planned layout.

The grounds at Magnaball were very inviting. Everything was within pretty close proximity to each other. The ferris wheel was lit up and ran well into the night. The security was generally very relaxed. Everyone was there to have a great time. Apparently Nascar was held at the same track in Watkins Glens the weekend prior to Magnaball — with Nascar drawing 100,000 people — so the staff was really happy with the Phish crowd and how polite everyone was being.

The weekend’s music started out with a BANG! Simple > The Dogs > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Free got the crowd fired up. Avenu Malkenu is always such a special treat. Getting to watch the Red Haired Jedi Ginger sing in Hebrew will never, ever get old! Especially on Shabbat at sundown! The hebrew prayer/chant has a very powerful meaning:

“Our Father, our King,” is repeatedly chanted to invoke the gracious favor of a God who is conceived of as both distant and approachable, both stern and merciful; whose powerful nature can be portrayed as both Ruler and Parent toward the people Israel, who view themselves during the High Holy Day season as both dependent and unworthy of favor – “Deal with us graciously for Your own sake, since we can plead little merit before You.” Encapsulated here are the ambivalent feelings of we mortals toward the power in the world outside us over which we have uncertain or little control.

Next up was Mock Song which hasn’t been played in over 300 shows. An exceptionally standout version of Bathtub Gin closed out the first set. I cannot say enough good things about this Gin. Arguably the best of 3.0. Just listen to it. On repeat.

A solid combination of non stop jamming in Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost > Rock and Roll > Harry Hood > Waste > No Men In No Man’s Land > Slave to the Traffic Light lit up the second set, and a raucous First Tube that had Trey drooling brought the show to a close. Boy, man, god, shit does he love that song!

The second day got off to a great start with a beautiful Divided Sky to open the daytime set. The clouds were parting perfectly for a gorgeous pause. This was Phish in all its glory, raging the enormous stage they built for themselves on their home turf in the middle of nowhere. (I love when there are no enormous screens right next to the stage). A great Moma Dance and Mound gave way to another attempt at the intensely intricate Trey composition Scabbard. The tune itself is very ambitious for them to play and I’m loving that its made its way into the regular rotation. Another go at the rocking Mike tune How Many People Are You?, a beautiful Circus and a stampeding Antelope closed out a very high energy daytime set.

The band hit the stage for the second set of the day and laid down a six song masterpiece; Wolfman’s Brother, Halley’s Comet > 46 Days > Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer > Prince Caspian. Listen to the Caspian that closes this set. It’s undeniable platinum age Phish.

For the third set the band seemed to be moving through transitions with ease. Everything was flowing like butter. An astonishing Blaze On > Possum > Cities combination made way for a resonating Walls of the Cave. Being in this part of the country, with the depth to this song, you could feel the energy in the air.

“Written during a dark time for the United States, “Walls of the Cave” simultaneously serves as a heartbreaking allegory and a source of comfort following 9/11. According to Tom, Trey agrees with fans whom interpret “Walls of the Cave” as a tribute for the World Trade Center. Tom says “WoTC” is probably a somber homage to the WTC attacks, but it was “unintentionally on purpose.” Either way, “Walls of the Cave” is another emotionally charged tune that has attempted to console fans in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy.” ~from Eli over at Online Phish Tour.

Next up was the late-night, not-so-secret set/drive in jam. Again, if for some reason you still haven’t listened to this, please do so. Immediately. This is primal Phish. This is why we love this band. I’ll spare you a nitty gritty description, but needless to say, this was one of the best sets of live music I have ever seen in my entire life.

Sunday’s show opened with a ferocious Punch > Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill hasn’t been played in over 100 shows and is one my favorite rarities. We were having a blast yelling along with the band on the rail. A beautiful Limb x Limb and a standout Reba made way for a hilarious moment in Phish history. I Didn’t Know started off like any other acapella version, except when Fishman came out to play his vacuum solo, Trey pulled out a piece of paper and starting reading off a list of heart felt Thank You’s to the crowd. Every time he came close to mentioning a name Fishman would take a huge suck from the vacuum. It was thoroughly entertaining. Trey was controlling Fish’s sucking by using hand gestures and telling him to “stop sucking ” or “suck it.” Interpret it however you want.

The final full set of the weekend was incredible. I’m really digging how much the band is enjoying Martian Monster. That song gets Page, Trey and Mike deep into effects loops and it gets everyone grooving. The Scents and Subtle Sounds > What’s the Use? > Dirt combination had me eating out of the palm of the band’s hands. That version of Scents and Subtle Sounds contains some of the most beautiful melodic harmonies you’ll ever hear Phish play. They turn the beautiful and gentle jam into a masterful piece played with intent and conviction. A stellar Mike’s Song > Fuego > Twist > Weekapaug and then back into Martian Monster brought the second set to an end.

The encore was pure Phish jubilation. A twenty minute You Enjoy Myself with a full blown Chris Kuroda lightstravaganza accompanied by what must have been a half-million dollar fireworks show that the band put on for us.

After the Sunday show and the final set of Phish music concluded, an absolutely epic dance party ensued at the second stage/drive-in screen. The Montreal-based DJ Freeworm and Franky Selector that ran the setlist after the Sunday show deserve a huge round of applause. Kuroda told me that they hired a French Canadian company to do the screen setup and to do some of the effects. I can only imagine the size of the parties held oversees with screens like this. I’ve seen some pictures of enormous dance parties and raves in Israel, Canada, Brazil, Germany, etc. The whole place was getting down while some beautiful Pollock Phish prints with psychedelic effects were being projected onto the enormous screen in the background.

Ladies and gentlemen…

This summer was one for the ages. The band has been building some serious momentum since 2009 and it’s clearly showing in the way they’re playing. Two years ago at MSG — after a handful of us reached out to the band amid growing concerns that they would potentially split up again — we were assured that we had nothing to worry about. The band had the image below created and hilariously projected it on the overhead screen at Madison Square Garden during their 2013, 30th Anniversary New Year’s Eve run. The calm this has brought the entire scene is really magnificent.

The band inviting phans to a show in 2043.

At this point, Phish sounds as good as I can ever recall them sounding. The debates between fans are spirited and positive! The intricacy, musicianship and communication the band exhibits on stage is astonishing. And the simple fact that they’re having so much fun together is reason enough to drop everything you’re doing and make it out to Colorado next week for the fifth annual Phamily Reunion. Anything is possible at this point.

This is a magical time folks.

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 26th, 2015. Comments Off on Phish 2015: A Moment to Reflect.

It’s no secret how I feel about Phish. After the incredible display of masterful musicianship witnessed in Vegas on Halloween, I thought the band deserved a well-articulated Thank You from the Phish community. So, here we are exalted and shouting a collective Thank You Phish!!!! 🙂

Vegas 2014 was everything we could have asked for. While the MGM venue itself could have been a little more organized, in general, the grounds were welcoming and our triumphant return to Sin City was a resounding success. The Halloween set was absolutely incredible and the way you guys orchestrated that entire shindig was awww-inspiring. It looked like all four of you were truly having a blast together! Still! After all of this time! Again… Thank You!!!

As fans of your music, we are just so lucky. We cannot fucking wait to do it all over again next year!

Now, let’s talk a little bit about your Phish ticketing system. After all of these years, the current system is debilitating for the true fans among us. I’m being serious when I say the old days of filling out envelopes and sending off checks and waiting for our paper tickets was a better system than the spam-rigged, Stubhub/Ticketmaster disaster that currently runs the marketplace. For an innovative band like Phish — a band that has already pioneered countless technologies (HD streaming of shows, app services and catalog access, etc.) — the next big project should be to disrupt the Scalper/Stubhub/Ticketmaster stranglehold. The whole situation is an awful mess that us true fans have to consistently navigate every time we want to simply snag a few tickets, for a few friends and family, to a few Phish shows.

Let’s see if we can change this… Here are some ideas we’ve been tossing around.

First, develop a system called “True Phan Priority”, or something like that.

a) Since you just unveiled a brand new version of your Live Phish iPhone/mobile app — that allows for fans to sign up for a monthly subscription to the entire Phish catalog from 2003 – 2014) — one could venture to guess that those that sign up for that service are true loyal fans.

b) Some of us have been using the same email address for our tickets and accounts since before the first breakup. Seriously. I’m sure your Database administrator can look up the age of our email addresses + the amount of show tickets that we originally purchased. Then, develop an intelligent algorithm that could weight our email addresses or accounts with a point system or some value. Shit, I have genius friends that can even help here, but seeing where you’ve taken streaming lately, I’m sure you guys can figure it out.

c) In essence, simply give us true fans a way to have at least some priority over the current Scalpers/Stubhub/Ticketmaster fiasco. Why are we still having to navigate through either a broken lottery system or a scalping mess? This isn’t fair to do to those of us that enjoy planning ahead of time.

At this point, you guys have been touring for five years straight again. For many of your tours (which are getting shorter and shorter), it’s becoming more common for a very large percentage of the crowd to know each other. We all just want to see Phish and dance together.

You see, the constant stories of how hard it is to simply snag a few tickets is turning people off from even trying to come to shows. It’s turning people off from even trying to get tickets. Which is the part that frustrates me most. When ticket on-sale days come around, and some of my dear friends and family say “What’s the use, the whole system is rigged,” I know something has gone terribly wrong.

In case you guys are currently a little too removed from how it’s going down for us, here’s how it’s working in 2014 for the true fan:

1) Phish announces a tour. Yay!

2) We put in for the lottery (most times it’s as many tickets as possible for as many shows as possible). Thousands and thousands of dollars that we are expected to have just “waiting” in our account to be charged.

3) Most of the time, very few of us get what we originally requested. Since a large portion of the fan base is becoming closer as time goes on (again), it’s harder and harder for the true fans to get in to the shows.

4) Next, we have to navigate a system that is clearly setup for us to lose. There are literally software applications that professional scalpers are using that Phish fans are battling. It’s a huge uphill battle. A win is usually the result of simply getting lucky.

Scalpers are deploying scalping applications that clog up all of the bandwidth that websites — like Ticketmaster, Live Nation and local auditorium websites — preemptively setup to handle the onslaught of traffic, on days where expected high ticket sales will take place. This still does nothing for on-sale times of Phish shows. The systems always crash for us fans. And somehow, no matter what, there are immediately hundreds of General Admission tickets (if there is a GA/floor) and premium seats available on Stubhub right as the shows sell-out.

This raises a lot of red flags to me. It seems like the online ticket sales marketplace is going unregulated and true Phish fans are suffering as a result.

Phish, it’s time to step in and help us.

The lottery does not work anymore and scalpers are winning. Some of your true fans simply cannot get tickets to shows when they become available and that’s affecting the amount of music they get to enjoy. Then, a lot of the time, tickets are either $20 or free right outside the door. This creates a scenario where true fans that may be a bit older these days, have real careers or families, that weren’t able to snag tickets directly when the tickets went on sale, just don’t go to the shows. Only to hear that tickets were readily available outside the venue.

This is what we call a broken system. Again, what you guys have done for all of us continues to reverberate in a powerful way on a daily basis. We have a beautiful new Live Phish mobile app. We can access your entire catalog on demand. We can stream, buffer and play songs. You provide us with glorious HD webcasts to a lot of your shows. You have updated your website. Given us a music/track download manager. Let’s fix this ticketing issue.

Maybe it won’t solve the entire online ticketing marketplace issues we always see… Or maybe it will… Perhaps it will simply alleviate some issues the core fan base has.

And that may just be all that is needed.


Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish, Thank me later at November 8th, 2014. Comments Off on Thank You Phish! (Oh, and your ticketing system needs some work).

On October 29th, 2013, Phish dropped a legendary show in Reading, Pennsylvania. Being the band’s inaugural performance here, it was a historic night with an old-school vibe. Shenanigans ensued.

Arriving in Reading you could feel that something special was brewing. The town itself is tiny and entrenched in urban blight. Historically Phish loves these little towns in despair. Not to mention, any chance to avoid Philadelphia is probably a plus in their eyes. Perhaps most well known for carrying the nation’s “Poorest City” moniker in a ranking from the Census Bureau, Reading seemed like a good fit for the Phish from Vermont.

As showtime neared, the anticipation grew. This was a tiny, indoor, East-coast Phish show and everyone really wanted to let loose before Atlantic City. Even before the band played a single note, the walls were sweating. The venue truly feels like a high-school gymnasium. Upon first glancing the stage the intimate setting comes alive. There was only one way down to the floor. And generally while I dislike venues that enforce this crap, the place was small enough that it didn’t really matter. In fact, the dance space we had on the floor was dreamy. That people didn’t feel the need to sneak down to the floor emphasized the quality and size of this venue. The band sounded good from anywhere in the room, and in a space this size, Phish knows how to destroy.

Coming out swinging with a classic Page tune, Cars Trucks Buses really got things cooking. Just a few minutes into the sizzling instrumental tune and the band was firing on all cylinders. Stealing Time always feels right at the beginning of a first set and Ginseng Sullivan was a really nice treat. The first true highlight of the show was Wolfman’s Brother. Easily one of the best Wolfman’s in recent memory, we were treated to some refreshing, hard-thumping grooves. Trey’s guitar peddles were completely dialed in and he was throwing down some really addictive funk-delay-loops. Mike and Fish set a heavy rhythmic foundation. Next thing we knew the band was fully engulfed in a beautiful, wah-wah driven funk jam. Mike was thundering the bottom as Page tickled the top. Fish and Trey were communicating brilliantly. Snare and wah-wah snaps. Truly a masterful version of this song. As everyone looked around and realized how small this venue felt, Sparkle made us all smile and laugh. Walk Away was incredibly solid, yet things really were just getting started.

Divided Sky commands so much attention in a tiny, indoor venue. These days many newer fans have yet to travel out East to catch the band where they feel most at home. Divided Sky may seem most at home in an enormous, outdoor summer venue like Alpine Valley or The Gorge, but it’s hard to beat a sweaty, screaming indoor version of the tune that feels like it was plucked from 1994. Trey took more than a few deep breaths during the long pause. The crowd stared up at the rafters, imagined a sky and held up lighters. It seemed like forever, but the pause was beautiful, natural, and exactly what everyone needed at the time.

As the hugs continued and friends shared rumblings about how much fun the whole Phish organization was having, the band shifted into the sinister with an extremely heavy version of Split Open and Melt. In my opinion, with all variables considered, this is the best version of Split Open and Melt that the band has played since reuniting in 2009. This version of Melt deserves its own article. It is incredibly dark and twisted. The time signatures are complex. The jam gets so heavy that the band literally lifts off into another dimension, yet all four of them remain attached at the hip. Since the band reunited in 2009, every attempt at this song has led to the version played in Reading. Moving straight into Julius was not only understandable, it was a breath of fresh air. Shit was getting really, really dark. And while that’s exactly how we like our Melts, Trey knew we all needed to move on. Julius did his job and ushered us into another much needed setbreak.

Visibly excited the band hit the stage for the second set. A really nostalgic Pop Goes the Weasel tease from Mike gave way to one of the best versions of Down with Disease played since the band’s 2009 reunion (a common theme). A monstrous jam with multiple themes and peaks, this version stood out instantly. Touching upon some anthemic similarities with the Tahoe Tweezer, this Disease was captivating, dark and dirty, beautiful and filled with joy at the same time. Morphing into a thrashing rendition of Taste, the band was feeling good. Taste is a very complex arrangement. To see it emerge after a 21 minute Disease — placed as the second set pearl — demonstrates how confident the band was feeling.

As the crowd collectively caught its breath, Trey ominously started playing the opening notes to Twenty Years Later. An introspective Anastasio/Marshall tune, Twenty Years Later takes its listener on a gorgeous journey. Stories of peaks and valleys resonated through the venue. Some in the crowd grew nostalgic, others grew more intrigued. Then BOOM. In the middle of a fifteen minute version of Twenty Years Later Phish threw down a straight dopamine filled funk jam. A time-shifting Free-esque groove emerged and Trey threw down a supple lick that forced the whole room to move as one unit.

At this point, Phish had won. The band had all of us eating out of the palms of their hands. This is what we all wanted. Piper was up next and that red worm didn’t disappoint. Backwards Down the Number Line has grown into a song that I love. Another round of smiles and hugs gave way to yet another enormous surprise.

YEM. Out of all the shows, in all the states, and all of the venues. Here in Reading. Holy Shit! is what everyone collectively exhaled. We buckled our seat belts and tightened our grip. YEM, in such a tiny, indoor venue, at the end of a raging (and rare) Fall Tour, during Phish’s 30th anniversary year, at the end of a show of this caliber. It started clicking that they probably wouldn’t be playing a YEM in Atlantic City after dropping this one here in Reading. People hugged, people rejoiced, and then we all got down. The dance party was so intense, such controlled chaos. This was a prime Phish crowd. When Mike grabbed a hold of the jam towards the end, Trey nearly hit his face on the microphone as he completely lost himself to his bandmate’s earth-shattering talent. To see Trey dance like that just feels so, so good. Kuroda nearly stole the show with his work during the vocal jam and everyone laughed in hysteria as the band wrapped up a monumental version of YEM. Grind was a comical, tasteful closer to an other-worldly set.

With the crowd left reeling in outer space, Phish completely nailed the vibe with a Bouncin’ encore opener. That YEM vocal jam was a masterful piece of evil art and we all really needed to link back up in a similar groove.

And then. BOOM. Reba. A beautiful, delicate version that forced a few security guards to shed a couple of tears. This was something special. An epic, delightful treat at the end of a scorching show. We lost ourselves to the warm and fuzzy Reba jam and all was right in the world. The band then kicked into Good Times, Bad Times, and those of us with some fight left gave them a run for their money.

The crowd was left completely stunned and the band left the stage. I am honestly surprised that the place is still upright.

Photograph by my bud Jeremy Renda

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 • The Santander Arena, Reading, Pennsylvania

Set 1: Cars Trucks Buses, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Ginseng Sullivan, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle > Walk Away, Divided Sky, Split Open and Melt[1] > Julius
Set 2: Down with Disease[2] > Taste, Twenty Years Later > Piper > Backwards Down the Number Line, You Enjoy Myself, Grind
Encore: Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Good Times Bad Times
[1] Unfinished.
[2] Unfinished; Pop Goes the Weasel tease from Mike during intro.
· Pop Goes the Weasel tease in Down with Disease
· Dave’s Energy Guide tease in Taste
Setlist from
Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at November 30th, 2013. Comments Off on My Long Overdue Reading Review.

Back in September, fresh on the heels of a raging summer tour and a third straight blow-out year in Colorado, I wrote an Open Letter to Trey. I explained some thoughts that had been percolating within the nucleus of my inner-most (and extended) Phish crew. In a nutshell, my letter was an attempt to reveal to Trey the significance that The Hiatus and The Breakup has played in all of our personal relationships with Phish.

Flash forward to Halloween 2013… A head-banging Fall Tour and a Thirtieth Anniversary Year filled with unbelievable music and positive energy. And what does the band do for us? They play us their own music. They trick and treat us all at once. They make an incredibly powerful statement; To us, nobody’s music is more important than our own.

Hey Phish, just a heads up… To many of us in the crowd, that statement echoes true, deep, all the way through to our soul.

What happened on Halloween 2013 in Atlantic City will go down in Phish history as one of the most special, emphatic nights in the band’s celebrated thirty years. Debuting more original material on this single night than any other night in the band’s career, each member was clearly demonstrating his own personal ambitions and desires for Phish. Some of those songs may never get played again.

The band has been delivering powerful messages all year. At this point, if you’re still complaining, if you’re still bitching, if you still think Phish isn’t as good as they once were… Stay at home. There are plenty of us who are ready to do this all over again.

In a huge way, it is absolutely clear that Phish is here to stay. I can confidently stop wondering if any individual show will be the last time I get to see these guys play together. That energy has been removed from the room.

The Phish I experienced in Atlantic City in 2013 reminded me of why I fell in love with this band. After a year filled with monumental jams and earth-shattering visceral moments of joy, the band blew my brains out this Fall Tour. They looked young, healthy and refreshed. They all have a spring in their step, they seem happy and genuinely stoked to be working on new material together. The debut of Wingsuit couldn’t have answered my questions any more clearly.

Personally, I’ll be following this energy to New York City come this December. There is no way I’m missing the upcoming New Year’s Run given what’s been happening so far this year. The band is on fire, they’ll be coming out of intimate tracking sessions in the studio and they are proud, confident and exalted.

See you in NYC.

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at November 6th, 2013. Comments Off on Phish: Wingsuit: Nectar From the Gods.

I have been doing a lot of listening and analyzing lately. I’ve spent time combing over Phish’s recent summer tour. I’ve compared all of the previous Halloween shows, from The Beatles ’94 to Little Feat 2010. I’ve tried to pull out any teases or clues as to what they could possibly play this year in Atlantic City.

Even with all of the rumors swirling around — Graceland, Chocolate & Cheese, Hunky Dory — I still just have no idea what Phish is going to play.

Personally, I would really like to hear them play Band of Gypsys, the live album released by the band Jimi Hendrix put together after he disbanded the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I think it’s perfect for 2013 Phish. Hendrix himself called it a “jam” album. The entire LP is fused together by complex guitar and bass melodies that weave in and out of each other in psychedelic harmony. It’s raw, dark, mind-bending Rock & Roll at its finest. Incredible drumming by Buddy Miles and passionate bass playing by Billy Cox. Tons of raw energy. Seems like an album the whole band could really get behind.

The official LP track listing lends itself well to a Phish Halloween set. The songs are all of reasonable length and the deep compositional sections all give way to potentially incredible jam launching pads. With a total running time of 45 minutes and 48 seconds, Phish could break-out some really intense improvisational work throughout the entire album. This could be legendary.

Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, Official LP Track Listing:

1. Who Knows 9:39
2. Machine Gun 12:41
3. Changes 5:14
4. Power to Love 6:58
5. Message to Love 5:26
6. We Gotta Live Together 5:50

Previous Phish Musical Costumes:

1994: The Beatles, The White Album
1995: The Who, Quadrophenia
1996: Talking Heads, Remain In Light
1998: The Velvet Underground, Loaded
1998: Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (unofficial)
2009: The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main St.
2010: Little Feat, Waiting For Columbus
2013: Jimi Hendrix, Band of Gypsys?

A guy can dream.

Posted in Opinions, Phish at September 22nd, 2013. Comments Off on Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys: Perfect for Phish Halloween 2013.

Dear Trey,

Nobody loves Phish more than you. This we know. The band you started, the places Phish has taken us — both in this physical world and beyond — are hard to describe in words. The countless pure moments we have all shared together. The past thirty years have been bigger than any one of us individually. Bigger than you, Fish, Mike or Page.

Phish is a universal energy and we are all a part of it. The way you four came together so many years ago. It’s not an accident or a coincidence. It was meant to be. And we — your phans, your army — are meant to dance for as long as you keep playing that beautiful, indescribable music.

As we all grow older and more mature, the role Phish has played and continues to play in our lives has become a lot more clear and well defined. Phish is a beautiful, pure being that we have all created together. A true release from society’s stifling ways. Phish is an other-worldly launching pad for like-minded people to come together. A place for us to celebrate in the oneness of the universe. A place where we can embrace in each other’s common beliefs. A place where our souls can unite. A place we call home.

A Phish show transcends time and place. A single moment is all it takes for us. One small glimpse into the metaphysical energy that is released when you four walk on stage is all we need. Nothing else brings us such supreme happiness, peace and delight. To some, a Phish show may still just be an excuse to party. But for the real phans — those of us that want to see this train thunder-on well into our golden years — Phish is a beautiful, clean, honest and pure living organism. In an otherwise complicated and dishonest world driven by politics, greed and material possessions, a Phish show is perhaps the pure antithesis of all of that garbage.

So, perhaps we can make an arrangement. Maybe a small little deal.

Twice we have all let each other down. Twice, all of us have let the scene balloon out of control. Certain people (and groups of people) prioritized other things ahead of the music and everyone lost control. The organism got sick and it had to take a break to get healthy. No single person is to blame. And after all these years, for anybody to still be putting the blame on you individually would be pure insanity. This is an attempt to alleviate you from the pressures that (twice now) have caused hairline fractures in Phish’s otherwise rock-solid foundation. This letter is an attempt to put the past behind us and unite old and new phans alike. For all of us to enjoy in this very moment, in these happy and healthy times. And for us all to absorb the positivity being released by the Phish organism in this very moment.

This letter is an attempt to capture that, and for us all to keep this going for as long as possible.

Every year that goes by, I find myself truly wondering if this year’s shows will be the last time I’ll get a chance to see you guys play and share in that magical divinity. It’s a tough mentality to wrestle with given the joy and peace that Phish provides in this warmongering world.

We want to build Phish into our lives, into our careers, into the lives of our children. We all want to grow old together. We cannot imagine a world without the purity that Phish brings us. It’s depressing to even think about.

All of us, in this moment, have a chance to set a course for the future together. Let’s learn from those before us and not make the same mistakes we have made in the past. Let’s learn from the two previous break-ups. Let’s mature together. For we, the phans, and you the band, are really just a reflection of each other. Let’s continue listening to each other. Let’s continue charging through uncharted territory together. Only this time, with a wisdom and appreciation for the living organism we are all responsible for.

Phish breaking up is a dark and lonely place. Let’s stay away from there. Let’s give each other a little nod and remember that we are all in this for the long haul.

You keep playing and we will keep showing up to dance.


Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish, Thank me later at September 12th, 2013. Comments Off on An Open Letter to Trey.

Thirteen Shows Attended:

Chicago: July 19th
Chicago: July 20th
Chicago: July 21st
Gorge: July 26th
Gorge: July 27th (My 100th show)
Lake Tahoe: July 30th
Lake Tahoe: July 31st
San Francisco: August 2nd
San Francisco: August 3rd
San Francisco: August 4th
Colorado: August 30th
Colorado: August 31st
Colorado: September 1st
Read More…

Posted in Opinions, Phish at September 6th, 2013. Comments Off on Phish: 2013 Summer Tour Recap.

UPDATE: I was contacted again to clarify some facts about the Chicago Harpua. For what it’s worth I think the Phish community deserves to know, so I’m sharing the information I have. See updates below in the facts section.
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Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at July 24th, 2013. Comments Off on Chicago Harpua: The Truth [UPDATED].

I’ve been meaning to share these thoughts for a couple of days…

Song names are secondary. Phish has again reached a creative level that rivals any era from their past. The level at which they’re communicating on stage reduces song names to nothing more than a way to keep count. Whether they sing here-or-there for a few minutes, their voices are really just being used as a fifth instrument. This is Phish at its purest form. Remember this next time you find yourself judging a show based on songs played or not played.
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Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 29th, 2012. Comments Off on A Couple of Random Phish Thoughts.

The way certain people complain about Phish continues to astonish me. In particular, you, Mr. Miner. A relatively authoritative voice in the “online” Phish community, you run a very well known, highly respected weblog — where among other things — you reviews Phish shows.
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Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 21st, 2012. Comments Off on No Thank You Mr. Miner.

Every single Phish show is chock-full of expectations. Some shows bring a lot more hype and excitement than others, yet more often than not, fans start buzzing with anticipation, hopes and expectations long before the band ever sets foot on stage. However, too much pre-show hype surrounding any single Phish show (or run of shows) often leads to a good amount of collective disappointment.
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Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 8th, 2012. Comments Off on Expectations, Expectations, Expectations.

Quite possibly the best commercial ever made. “Shot 100% on the Go Pro HD HERO. Watch as Kayaker Ben Brown masterfully rules an epic waterfall and enjoy one of GoPro’s summer commercials airing on national TV.”
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Posted in Insanity, lifeisawesome, Opinions, Thank me later, Ze-awwn-line-inter-toob at February 7th, 2012. Comments Off on The Best Commercial Ever Made?.

Until Super Ball, I was still skeptical that Phish was heading in the right direction. A handful of bad show experiences, Trey’s impatience, and the general crowd-pleasing nature of the band was turning me off. This has officially changed.

After the Gorge and Tahoe, I’m completely confident we’re witnessing the magic emerge once again. For the first time since Phish started playing together again in 2009, I’m getting glimpses of the creative fire Phish exhibited in the past. It may take a while to get there, but the direction we’re heading in is glorious.

For the sake of expressing my point, there are five specific musical examples that I’d like to focus on: The Rock and Roll from the first night at the Gorge (2011), Light from the first night in Tahoe (2011), the end of Mound from Super Ball (2011), the transition back into Split Open and Melt, and the Have Mercy from Utica (2011). All of these musical moments are prime examples of why I started following Phish around the country so many years ago. (The Waves soundcheck from Bethel almost made the list, but it deserves its own post.)

Grab some headphones or turn on your speakers and try to follow along with the analysis below.

Rock and Roll • August 5th, 2011 – Gorge

At the 11:10 mark of the jam, Trey finds a darker upscale lick that he likes. Mike responds with some downward arpeggios, Page is layering on top and Fishman is listening for Mike to find the groove he wants to settle in on. At 11:48 the magic happens. Mike gives the go-ahead to Fishman and the entire band settles in on an incredible groove. The only way they could’ve found this uncharted territory is through extensive improvisation. All of them have such a focused ear at this point in the jam, listening to precisely what the other band members are laying down. This is a prime example of the Phish I fell in love with.

Light • August 8th, 2011 – Tahoe

At the 9:05 mark Page emerges with a Piano melody that inspires the rest of the band to find themselves. In what seems like a premeditated thought, Page finds himself in the driver’s seat at the the 9:20 mark. The jam heavily progresses forward, allowing Mike to emerge with a thundering bomb at the 10:20 mark. While the rest of the band backs him up, he finds the magic at the 10:30 mark. The rest of the jam is a shining example of what made Phish’s second set pearl choices so important. At the 15:22 mark, Mike finds a downright scary synth driven line. The rest of the band responds with a mediterranean-psychedelia inspired foundation. Close your eyes, it sounds like 1996.

Mound • July 3rd, 2011 – Super Ball

After the incredible interplay between Mike and Trey between the 2:05 and the 2:40 marks, the band is clearly feeling this version of Mound. They nail the composed sections of the song, and when the ending draws near, Trey decides to take the final solo instead of Page. In what could be a classic “Thank you Trey” moment, he absolutely shreds it into oblivion. It all starts at the 6:15 mark when Trey hops in with some minor notes over the psychedelic bluegrass foundation the band is throwing down behind him. Trey continues to lay down some beautiful notes while the rest of the band is clearly paying attention to him. At the 6:57 mark Fishman and Page lock in on a three-note rhythm that fills in Trey’s holes, and it makes for a gloriously enlightening feeling. This leads to an uptick, which in turn leads Mike to a thundering jazzy bluegrass scale at the 7:05 mark. Mike continues to meet Trey’s peak notes with fiery intensity. At 7:17 the entire band locks in on that fundamental bluegrass movement while racing towards the finish line. An instant classic in Mound history.

Split Open and Melt (and Have Mercy) • October 12th, 2010 – Utica

After a great Split Open and Melt to start the magic, the band moves into a beautiful rendition of Have Mercy. At the 2:54 mark, a very pleasing jam emerges. Fishman does a great job of using the rim of his snare here to provide depth. Trey leads the way as the driving force behind the beat, letting Mike play around in the background until he finds something he likes. At 3:54 Trey and Mike trade places, allowing the groove to turn into a classic soaring melody driven romp.

The piper deserves its own post, so for the sake of these examples, let’s move to the end of the jam. At the 8:51 mark of Piper, Mike starts hinting at a minor dissonance with an arpeggio. Fishman picks up on it and moves into the beginning of the end of Split Open and Melt. At the 9:20 mark of Piper, Mike throws down some off-key bombs that clearly signify the beginning of something special. Page is layering some very thick psychedelia on top of it and Trey is mimicking Mike’s one-off movements. As the track listing moves into Split Open and Melt, Trey throws down a “here I am” lick at the 0:08 mark that invokes a feeling of pure glory. Mike emerges with the original baseline as they nail the first three-hit transition back into the ending of SOAM at the 0:17 mark. Trey then channels his early-nineties self and shreds the rest of the tune apart. Simply stunning.

In closing, I disagree with most analysis that floats around, painting Phish’s musical evolution as one large movement, hoping they can be better than they once were. Instead, I like to dissect Phish’s music on technical and creative levels, with specific examples. When I’m comparing recent Phish shows to past shows, I am specifically comparing the levels of creativity showcased within the band, the way they listen to each other as musicians, the talent exhibited during an improvisational jam, and the overall energy they are putting out there.

At this point, I truly believe Phish is capable of being better than they have ever been. We are witnessing something magical here. For the first time in years, I’m noticing the band seriously try to impress its fans. The nostalgia act is officially over. You may have to see every single show on any one tour to catch a moment like I’ve explained above, but hopefully that won’t be the case in 2015. If Phish keeps moving in the direction they have been, I fully expect the old-school, non-stop creativity that dropped my jaw at every other show, to emerge once again.

This is a beautiful time. Phish sounds great again. Life is good.

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at August 13th, 2011. Comments Off on Phish: Signs of Glory Emerging Once Again.

Phish’s music has taken on a variety of shapes over the years. What started as a group of goofy-looking white guys playing music in Vermont, has turned into one of the most successful and impressive musical acts in history.

For over half of my life, Phish has held a very special place in my heart. The band, its music and the surrounding culture have helped shape my beliefs and turn me into the person I am today. For this, I am eternally grateful. For the monumental shows that Phish has played, and the ones I’ve been lucky enough to experience, these are memories I will cherish forever. For those that haven’t experienced Phish first-hand, I don’t expect you to understand the thoughts I’m about to express with specificity to Phish. However, as a fan of talented musicians, try to empathize.

I’m currently on a flight back to Portland, Oregon after making the trek to Alpharetta, Georgia to see Phish play a pair of sold-out shows in a gorgeous, accommodating venue. The shows were a lot of fun, the crowd was full of energy, and even though the second night’s show was paused due to severe thunderstorms and a flooded pit section, the entire experience was absolutely monumental.

These days, the overall experience is all that seems to matter to most people, including the band members. The entire musical landscape that Phish originally helped shape — complex musical compositions, lengthy and emotional improvisation, thrashing musical mind-fucks, totally unpredictable shows night after night — has all but disappeared. Nowadays, people don’t walk out of shows talking about how Trey turned their brain into mush with a flurry of incomprehensible guitar licks. The days of being able to critique the music on a scale of complexity and improvisational craftsmanship are long gone. Instead, the entire show is grouped together as one experience. Either it was good, or it wasn’t. This isn’t the Phish that I remember, and quite frankly it’s a Phish that scares me for the future.

There was a time when it simply didn’t matter where (geographically) Phish was playing. Often times, the most epic and memorable shows took place in the most rundown of venues, in the most unfriendly of neighborhoods. With downright disgusting lot-scenes and relentless harassment from local authorities, we traveled to these places to see Phish play because the music was simply unrivaled and unabashed. These days, I can’t whole-heartedly say the same thing. Aside from the obvious reasons (you live nearby, you’ve never seen the band live, you were invited to a show for free), I couldn’t recommend going to see Phish at some of their favorite and historically successful venues anymore.

It saddens me to write these words, but they’ve been festering in my mind for far too long now.

The band refuses to take musical risks on a regular basis. They are settling for insultingly predictable setlists night after night. Fans that hop on tour for strings of 4 or 5 shows are being treated with multiple repeats. When Phish finally jams and enters some improvisational territory, people are surprised, and after the show you hear things like, “wow, I’m so happy they jammed tonight.” How is this the band we fell in love with so many years back?

It’s no doubt that Trey’s sobriety is massively stifling his creativity. He is clearly thinking about the notes he’s going to play, and is less-and-less becoming a “vessel for improvisational music,” like he used to describe himself. This leaves the band without an experimental, psychedelic leader who’s willing to take risks and fall flat on his face, in the hopes of reaching true musical bliss. The Trey that leaves my jaw on the floor simply isn’t in the building anymore. This isn’t a bad thing. Trey has a substance abuse problem. Him being sober means he gets to be a better father, a better husband, a better son and a better friend. If the music must suffer in order for him to lead a happy and healthy life, so be it.

Some of this can be attributed to father time as well. People get older, fingers move slower. Still, Phish’s ultimate success wasn’t brought about because they could shred Donna Lee at the drop of a dime. There are plenty of Jazz musicians out there that destroy insanely complex compositions, who are much older than any of Phish’s members.

Not surprisingly, Phish has a whole new legion of fans. At any given show you’ll have folks that are clamoring for old Gamehendge material (thus detaining the band in the past), folks yelling for new material (irking the fans that want to hear old tunes), folks yelling for Mike’s “funk” synth-bass bombs (which many fans think of as a pure gimmick), and folks who simply want to see Trey make his “O” face while he stares out into the crowd. They have so many people to please and so many different fans that are consistently traveling extensive distances to see them play, they don’t want to let anyone down. So, we end up getting shows like they have been playing on this 2011 summer tour.

Five minute 2001’s, nearly no Gamehendge material, consistently repeated Fluffhead’s, Possum’s, Down with Disease’s, and very minimal risk taking, if any at all. Songs that used to be special are now seemingly played to please crowds. Yes, every once in a while a show will stand out from the norm, but, that norm has become monotony, and the standout shows are a small glimpse of what used to fundamentally define Phish.

These days, going to see Phish is about having a good time, and enjoying the experience. It’s not about going to see something different night after night. It’s not about releasing all of your expectations and allowing the band to take you on a magical journey. As reluctant as I am to say it, unless Phish does things differently in the near future, they risk turning into exactly what they wanted to avoid… A purely nostalgic act that allows some of us to feel like we’re 18 again.

I’d love to see Phish mix things up once they’re done with this summer tour. While I doubt any of this will happen, I believe it would be in the band’s best interest to do some of the following.

They need to start playing smaller venues. Look at what happened in Utica last year. This is a prime example of how a small venue can bring about a truly creative, intimate energy. These days, that energy seems much harder for them to find at places like Madison Square Garden, in Atlantic City, or Camden. These huge, themed shows are some of the funnest parties on the planet, and the entire experience is sure to be a blast, but musically, they are generally forgettable. I’d love to see Phish skip some of these huge shows that gross millions of dollars, in favor of smaller shows, where there’s a chance that musical enlightenment will happen.

Phish has a chance to repeat something that most musicians will never get a chance to do even once in their lifetime. The musically-genius, creative journey that propelled them into international stardom in the mid-nineties, has a chance to be recreated here and now. But only if the band shifts gears. Otherwise, they truly risk becoming caricatures of themselves. And we know for a fact that nobody wants that. This isn’t about technical chops, or the speed of which Trey can play a certain solo. It’s not 1994 anymore, he just isn’t the same musician he was back then. I’m talking about creativity. If Phish were to take some time and focus on creativity within their music, they could potentially enter a glorious place of passion and inspiration for their (new or old) music. Either way, this is how we may ever have a chance to rival anything that happened in the nineties. Otherwise, we’re just heading down a road of even shorter songs, twenty song second sets, more judgmental Phish crowds, a wider set of people the band has to please at every show, and a musical act that seems to care more about the money than the music.

While you can still feel the phamily, these days Phish is also a large corporation. The big shows bring in the big bucks. Management makes more of a decision on when tour dates are announced, and ticket sales weigh heavily into future plans. For all we know, they may not even want to reach new musically creative territory anymore. Perhaps they’re simply content grossing millions and millions of dollars playing the same songs year after year.

Whatever happens, I’ll always be grateful for what Phish has given me. If there’s ever been a band that can transcend musical conventionality, it’s Phish… Let’s just hope they want to do it too.

Posted in Life, Opinions, Phish at June 16th, 2011. Comments Off on Phish: A Personal Reflection.

They live in terrifying conditions, constantly being abused by the people who torture them. They’re never given praise, never told that they are good dogs. They have no love in their lives, no happiness, no joy. Their worlds merely consist of pain, anxiety, agony and suffering.

Be grateful for Apple’s App Store review process.

Dog fighting is not a game.

Posted in Insanity, Opinions at April 24th, 2011. Comments Off on Never in the iPhone App Store.

Some good friends of mine run a site called, “Featuring people with good ideas from all over the Internet.” . It’s a great site with some great potential… My interview went live today. You can check it out here.

Posted in Life, News, Opinions, Ze-awwn-line-inter-toob at February 23rd, 2010. Comments Off on My Interview with