Phall without Fish

As the fickle Upstate New York weather transitions into the season we call “Fall”, a.k.a. the first 2 weeks of October before Mother Nature abruptly dumps three feet of snow on us, my nostalgia for Fall Tour 2010 is in full swing.  There’s nothing like packing into a tiny auditorium to see Phish after an afternoon of wandering Lot in the Northeast Autumn sunshine. (I apologize, that sounded painfully sappy… but sadly I cannot help myself.  Phish turns me into a giddy school girl who apparently can do nothing but blabber on about the beauty of a hippie-filled parking lot on a Fall day.  Yikes.)

This season-induced sentimentality, combined with my slight depression that Phish is not providing us with any musical entertainment for Fall 2011, got me listening back to some of the shows from their October run of last year.  And luckily for me, this rekindled my love for what is probably still my most favorite new cover of 3.0:  Night Nurse, from 10/26/10 at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.

While this was not one of the band’s most “raging” covers, which there have been plenty of in 3.0, I think it is the understated passion of the song that wins my heart.  I am slightly biased, because reggae has been my long-time favorite music genre, and Gregory Isaacs one of my favorite reggae artists, but I think anyone who gives this a listen would agree that Phish nailed it.  The  transition out of Makisupa is absolutely seamless (begins around 1:45); as they drop into the first few notes of Night Nurse, it is quite frankly “music chills”-inducing.  Not to mention that the execution itself is so on-point, and Trey’s vocals fit surprisingly well with the song, which really does justice to the original version.  When Phish is able to do reggae right, they really do it right.  It worked perfectly as a truly thoughtful tribute to the legendary Gregory Isaacs, who had passed away the previous night.  Phish did an amazing job of highlighting the simple beauty and subtle emotion of the song; I couldn’t have imagined a better way to honor the Cool Ruler.

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Pick on somebody else, brah.

I Recently came across this article, as I’m sure many of my fellow Phish junkies did, and was fairly annoyed, albeit entertained.

While I suppose this lady’s heart is in the right place, she is hilariously pompous and insanely patronizing, which in my eyes negates any argument she was trying to make.  Yes, Lauren Ober, you’re totally cool for buying into negative and outdated stereotypes, and attacking a group of people who are doing more to help Vermont simply by spending the money to see this show, than most others are at all.  Your assertions that you base the whole theme of your article on are comically off base; it’s pretty obvious (to anyone the slightest bit informed about the situation) that the vast majority of Phish fans do indeed have jobs, and aren’t just loitering in Vermont like bums for days before the show, like your bellyaching claims that they are.

Now, if you made it a little clearer that you were, in fact, joking in a well-meaning fashion, this wouldn’t be a problem, but I find it hard to see your arrogant statements as anything other than a hateful display of pessimism.  Of course it’s awesome to volunteer, but why pick on people who are already doing something to assist Vermont’s attempt to rebuild? What about all the people who haven’t contributed to the relief efforts at all? Why don’t you aim your snarky, condescending preaching at them.  Here’s an idea: try being grateful that these fans (who you are so kindly berating) are literally pouring money into your state’s economy, which will go miles in the recovery process, rather than moaning that it “isn’t enough”, or isn’t the “right kind” of help.  Big Picture here, honey.

And yes, I understand that this cold-blooded approach was also partly your attempt to get a laugh, but you truly failed by turning the article into a self righteous complaint-fest that mistakes maliciousness for humor.  It comes off as rude, bitter, illogical, and uninformed, to say the least.  Plus, didn’t the whole “hippie mocking” thing go out of style, like, twenty years ago?  Hate to burst your bubble, Lauren Ober, but all of your stilted “hey mannnnn lemme get a hit of that joint brahhh” jokes are contrived to the point of self-consciousness.  It’s fine with me though, because we’re the ones laughing at you by the end of the article.

Self’d.

“The ‘Breeze Hill’ CD packaging is made with all natural ingredients, including soy. So whatever I don’t sell, I can eat.” -Rick Danko

From what I’ve been able to find, this is one of the very few good quality videos of Rick performing “Sip the Wine” live (remember the studio version is featured for a brief minute in the Last Waltz during Scorsese’s solo interview with him?).  I love this video because you get to see Rick rocking the electric guitar rather than his signature flaily-armed bass. Wait for 2:00 when it really begins to take off. Killa.

Wooden Ships and Bobby Weir

Bizarre dreams: one of life’s entertaining ways of telling you how weird your subconscious is.  I had one of said bizarre dreams last week and it was a doozy.  First, let me preface by saying that my dreams have a habit of playing themselves out as movies, with theme songs, cameos by famous people, etc. (Example: One time I had a dream and during any “segue-ish” type part, “Superbad” by James Brown kept playing in the background.), and this one was no exception.  So, the general setting and plot of this particularly odd dream saga are as follows: It was mid-Revolutionary War era, and I was on a huge wooden ship with a bunch of American soldiers, and, Phil Lesh and Bobby Weir.  Yes that is correct.  Both of whom were in full Revolutionary War garb; blue coats, tricorner hats and the like.  Let me clarify: these were not 1970s Phil and Bobby, with long hair, coke bottle glasses, and shorts that would make Daisy Duke blush.  These were the guys in their current state.  Gray hair and fanny packs.  You get the picture.  So the three of us are running around the ship, doing the normal things one does on a pre-1800s wooden sailing vessel, striking up a few good conversations here and there. And whattaya know, up alongside us pulls: a British Ship! Behold, the enemy!  Basically what happens next is what one would call “treason”, given the situation, methinks.  Good ol’ Bob rips off his blue coat and underneath, what is he wearing? You guessed it, a red coat.  He proceeds to wave over his British buddies and lets them hop aboard as Phil and I and all the other American soldiers melt into giant babies and abandon ship, swimming for dry land.  Judas’d by none other than the Mr. Weir himself. Who woulda thunk it.

This whole melodrama got me thinking:  is this my brain’s not-so-subtle way of telling me that I’m a Bobby-Hater?  You know, that sub-sect of Dead fans who can’t stand him, think he’s a talentless attention hog, and say Jerry should have permanently kicked him out of the band when he had the chance.  It’s strange, because I always thought of myself as a defender of the Bobby; while occasionally obnoxious, he brings an irreplaceable element to the musical makeup of the band- there’s something I love about the messy, almost juvenile energy and excitement that he plays with.  I draw certain parallels between Bob Weir and Robbie Robertson of The Band: while not necessarily the most talented of the group, and perhaps the most divisive, you absolutely cannot say that their respective bands would have been close to what they are today without them.

Personally I have always been a huge fan of most compositions in which Bobby has lead vocals.  I wouldn’t say this is because he has lead vocals.  I don’t think I even actively enjoy his voice that much, to be honest.  It’s more the character of the songs themselves, and the perfect fit of his performance technique with the way the songs are arranged and written (so I guess a lot of credit would be owed to John Perry Barlow in that case).  I’ve discerned that the ones I enjoy most have an element of angst and tenseness in them that is presented in a “build-and-release” type fashion which meshes perfectly with Bobby’s vocal approach and makes the songs absolutely striking.  Of course Pig Pen was the king of the wailing, soul-crushing blues piece, but the Bobby songs are something different than that all together.  They have a feeling of franticness and complete reckless abandon that lends itself to the emotionality of the songs.  “Black-Throated Wind” (a song featured on Bobby’s first solo album, although I’m sure anyone taking the time to read this mumbo-jumbo already knows that) is just one of my most favorite examples of this, and I would find it hard to argue that it isn’t one of the most achingly gorgeous songs in the Dead’s rotation from ’72 to ’74.  It’s slow, melodic build combined with a shrieking peak full of raw energy is practically heart wrenching . (See the version off of Dick’s Picks 14 for a good example of this.)

But the one song that I always have to harp on when defending the musical chops of Mr. Weir is “Estimated Prophet”.  To me, Estimated is quintessential Dead (an air of strangeness, haunting lyrics, and the ability to be a fantastic jam vehicle), and at the same time, quintessential Bob Weir.  It’s too disconcerting to look back and try to imagine the Dead repertoire without it, and just as weird to think of anyone else singing it besides Bobby, not to mention the fact that the musical arrangement itself was his doing. I have to hold firm that, despite (or maybe because of?) his sloppiness both instrumentally and vocally, he is absolutely crucial and completely inseparable from the Grateful Dead identity.

Had to include the classic Estimated, New Haven ’77, for all intents and purposes:

Phantasy Terr

is a phenomenon that continues to amaze and amuse me.  It’s like one huge, extended episode of Family Guy, with more references to Phish and less angry monkeys hiding in closets. (I was going to say less pedophile-themed jokes, but anyone familiar with the site and The Phish knows this isn’t true.)  A constant influx of lewd humor, offensive themes, recurring inside jokes, and absurdly immature quarrels that serve as a laughing stock for the non-participants are just a few of the characteristics of PT that make it what we know, love, and love to hate.

Yet one thing that I find to be strangely unique, and even baffling, about Phantasy Tour is the surprising lack of utter stupidity that is typical of most other fan forums, or forums of any kind for that matter.  Anyway, you know what I’m talking about- you’re searching something online and somehow find yourself in a creepy Myspace-esque fan forum on said subject, deep in the dark depths of the interweb, where the majority of posts lack any coherent structure or normal spelling and basically look like an ADHD 7 year old wrote them.  Now on the flip side, anyone who spends a little time in the Phantasy Tour Phish Forum (more commonly know as “The Green Board” by PTers, due to it’s pea soup-y hue), will come to notice that– Gasp! The large majority of posts are actually fairly well written and grasp basic rules of the English language, and those that don’t do so get crapped on by everybody.  And on top of it all, they are often extremely funny taboot.

Now, am I arguing that we Phish fans are smarter than your average human being? Hell no.  The idiotic thread topics that you see on PT on a daily basis would be enough to refute that argument completely.  For example, right now there’s a quite popular thread on the Green Board titled “All girls should be required to take a BJ class” (insert “Phish fans are 90 percent males” joke here). Hardy-har-har. But what I find interesting about PT is that such threads almost always have a certain element of sarcasm, or at least unseriousness to them, that is unique to the site itself.  There is a constant feeling of self-mocking, irony, and tongue-in-cheek that permeates the vibe of PT.  The number of completely hilarious and wittily wry comments you can find on the board with just a little effort is amazing; finding a sentence written completely in earnest is next to impossible. Why is this? I have no idea. But, it is definitely what makes Phantasy Tour the one thing I can rely on, day in, day out, to bring “oh-god-I-just-broke-my-keyboard-because-I-spit-water-all-over-it-I’m-laughing-so-hard”  moments.

The comically cutthroat nature of PT is also very intriguing; the occasional person who does post an incoherent, poorly punctuated, terribly spelled thread is routinely laughed at and berated by everyone who reads it.  Didn’t feel like putting paragraphs into your story about that time you got arrested on ’99 summer tour?  “WALL OF TEXT. TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ” is probably what you’ll be met with.  Even the super hippie-dippies who post about heady crystals, kickdowns, and karma without any air of sarcasm or humor get mocked until the end of time.  Phantasy Tour is unbelievably cynical, yet not to the point where it deprives the reader of constant laughs.  Or is it the cynicism that makes all the laughs happen? It’s difficult to say.  Regardless, it has gotten me through many a boring work day, and for that, I thank you, PT.

Yea I know, sweet blahg’d.