Noodling to Mediocrity: Trey @ Jones Beach

Either I’m regressing in my Trey Fluffdom or the former Phish geetarist’s new band has regressed in talent. I’m guessing it’s a little bit of both, although I’m not sure it’s totally the band’s fault as much as it’s the decline in the quality of songwriting.

After the Cincy show in May, I wrote a glowing, positive review of 70 Volt Parade, citing gobs of potential and the ol’ Benefit of the Doubt theorum. But after this weekend’s show at Jones Beach, I feel like eating those words with an oversized spoonful of some Hoping It Gets Infinitely Better, Fast special sauce.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some incredible musical highlights from Saturday night’s show, and I came home with a huge smile on my face. But most of what I enjoyed was not 70 Volt Parade — it was Trey playing with Gov’t Mule on Jerry’s That’s What Love Will Make You Do, it was Warren Haynes playing 46 Days and Push On ‘Til the Day with 70VP and it was Trey’s impromptu three-song acoustic set (and hysterical Slayer anecdote) instead of taking a “short break.”


I don’t mind Trey’s old, new stuff, songs like Cayman Review, Alive Again and Night Speaks to a Woman, the latter of which was clearly the highlight of the night and high point of every solo show at which he’s played it. And I’ll admit I even really like Shine, a song that will definitely be played on the radio when the album debuts. But several of the man’s new, new songs are just terrible. Flat-out awful. Unpassable, inexcusable garbage that should make him ashamed to keep writing songs.

New tunes like Air Said To Me, Invisible and Wherever You Find It — these are all songs that should be shelved immediately. I used to joke about all the covers he played on the last tour; now, I’d take an entire set of covers over this crop of uninspiring originals. And he had been playing so well with Warren on stage right before Wherever You Find It, only to shake his hand, point him offstage and make a raucous crowd sit back in their chairs.

I mean, can’t we forcibly sit this guy down and play him Reba or You Enjoy Myself or David Bowie, then play him one of these newer, more atrocious pop ditties? Wouldn’t he have to look us in the eyes and truthfully confess his sins? I used to think Secret Smile was a bad Phish song, but after hearing this current crop of fresh Trey tunes, that song is a masterful opus by comparison. It’s amazing to me the same man that wrote The Curtain With and Fluffhead as a dorky teenager is writing such dreck as an experienced and accomplished musician.

And maybe it is the band as well. After all, Trey traded in three uber-skilled musicians for a bunch of minor leaguers and two back-up singers. And while it’s great to see Jen back in the band, adding her impressive pipes to the mix, and it’s great to see the dead weight on bass replaced by a better musician in Tony Hall, I can’t shake the feeling that Trey is messing around with these scrubs for no good reason when he could be doing so much more. It’s no coincidence the best parts of the night came when Warren joined him on stage, the only time he was obviously pushed by comparable talent.

These guys are good, but they’re nowhere near greatness. As such, I’ll see them in New York, but I won’t travel for them. My buddy Lukas said it best: “There was a reason that the entire upper deck (and even the upper corners of the lower deck) were empty on Saturday night in New York, and there was a pack of fans outside the gate at 7:15 begging us to buy their tickets – in the orchestra, no less – for $20 or less. 70VP is a band that plenty of people are enjoying, but not a band that’s compelling people to tour or reach Phish-levels of geeky obsession.”

With all that said, I still had an incredible time and consider the show to be well worth the price of admission: We got out of New York City in the summer, we sat on the beach for an hour or so, parked ourselves in the lot for another two and we saw many enjoyable and dance-able songs like Gotta Jiboo, Goodbye Head, a kick-ass Sledgehammer and the ones mentioned positively above.

But for four or five songs I actually felt compelled to sit down in my seat, and sit down I did. Forty-plus Phish shows and never once did I park my ass in the seat, never once did it cross my mind. I’m not getting older, I’m just getting bored.

And now, for lack of anything better to do, I think it’s time to give 70 Volt Parade a new name. Pick one of the following or add your own:

1. Top 40 Volt Parade
2. Trey Anastasio’s Affirmative Action Funtime Band
3. Ernie & The Equal Opportunity Employers
4. Rachel Phelps and The Still Shitty Cleveland Indians
5. Dave Matthews Band North
6. Look at Me Solo and The Back-Up Boys
7. The Why Are All These Kids Sitting Down Sextet
8. 7 Fan Parade
9. Big Red & The Imposters
10. Caffeine-free Diet Processed Phish-like Substitute Lite with Splenda.

11. Mr. Lost It Completely
12. Crosseyed and Painful
13. Johnny Covers and The One Original
14. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better
15. Ernest Goes to Crap

(Special thanks to the always-merciless fans on Phantasy Tour for the last handful of new band name suggestions.)

  • http://slacklalane.blogspot.com Ace Cowboy

    “I can’t wait till he comes full circle, and realizes his potential once again. Do you think that day will ever come?”

    Of course I do…he’ll be back. In a big way. I don’t think Trey has lost his talent, but I do think he’s temporarily lost his way. And he’ll find it.

    And as you said, I ask you please not to lump me in with the negativity…I really can’t stand the mob mentality of hating Trey for breaking up Phish and starting a new group. I wrote a very nice review of his first tour, and I was ready to lap it up on this tour.

    But I just couldn’t walk out of there giving him a glowing review when he didn’t deserve it. And that’s the reason for the back and forth, Scotty. Some parts were very cool, but as a whole, it just didn’t live up to what I know he can do. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high…but in reality, they really weren’t. I know they weren’t. I had a great time, but I want a great band.

  • http://slacklalane.blogspot.com Ace Cowboy

    “I can’t wait till he comes full circle, and realizes his potential once again. Do you think that day will ever come?”

    Of course I do…he’ll be back. In a big way. I don’t think Trey has lost his talent, but I do think he’s temporarily lost his way. And he’ll find it.

    And as you said, I ask you please not to lump me in with the negativity…I really can’t stand the mob mentality of hating Trey for breaking up Phish and starting a new group. I wrote a very nice review of his first tour, and I was ready to lap it up on this tour.

    But I just couldn’t walk out of there giving him a glowing review when he didn’t deserve it. And that’s the reason for the back and forth, Scotty. Some parts were very cool, but as a whole, it just didn’t live up to what I know he can do. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high…but in reality, they really weren’t. I know they weren’t. I had a great time, but I want a great band.

  • Scotty G

    ” but I want a great band.”

    That makes 2 of us, Ace.

    And I’ll be there during his struggles and I’ll certainly be there when he triumphs!!! – hopefully before I’m in a wheelchair with dentures!!!

    Until then, let’s keep prodding him and letting him know we’re there but we’re waiting, patiently.

    You’ve made me understand what’s going down with Trey and for that, I am truly thankful. Keep up the good work, Ace!!!

  • Scotty G

    ” but I want a great band.”

    That makes 2 of us, Ace.

    And I’ll be there during his struggles and I’ll certainly be there when he triumphs!!! – hopefully before I’m in a wheelchair with dentures!!!

    Until then, let’s keep prodding him and letting him know we’re there but we’re waiting, patiently.

    You’ve made me understand what’s going down with Trey and for that, I am truly thankful. Keep up the good work, Ace!!!

  • http://slacklalane.blogspot.com Ace Cowboy

    Scotty, I just talk out of my ass, and sometimes it makes sense. Don’t flatter the idiot!

  • http://slacklalane.blogspot.com Ace Cowboy

    Scotty, I just talk out of my ass, and sometimes it makes sense. Don’t flatter the idiot!

  • Scotty G

    I don’t normally succumb to anyone else’s point of view(almost never), but in this case, I must say, you’ve got me thinking.

    At $40/show, who wants to be sitting down?

  • Scotty G

    I don’t normally succumb to anyone else’s point of view(almost never), but in this case, I must say, you’ve got me thinking.

    At $40/show, who wants to be sitting down?

  • Paul

    The deal here is that Trey is now in a Rock/Pop band. His good shows with this band are going to be at best fun and entertaining, but not incredible and amazing like Phish shows were. And that is because in my opinion, Rock/Pop shows, even at their best, aren’t incredible and amazing.

  • Paul

    The deal here is that Trey is now in a Rock/Pop band. His good shows with this band are going to be at best fun and entertaining, but not incredible and amazing like Phish shows were. And that is because in my opinion, Rock/Pop shows, even at their best, aren’t incredible and amazing.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Paul: you hit the nail on the head with that thought. I’m going to do a full write up off the Chicago show last night, and I fully understand exactly how Ace feels.

  • http://www.livemusicblog.com Justin

    Paul: you hit the nail on the head with that thought. I’m going to do a full write up off the Chicago show last night, and I fully understand exactly how Ace feels.

  • Jason

    Phish songs aren’t poppy? Have you heard Hoist or Farmhouse?

  • Jason

    Phish songs aren’t poppy? Have you heard Hoist or Farmhouse?

  • jon

    “Phish songs aren’t poppy? Have you heard Hoist or Farmhouse?”

    First of all those two things are albums, and we’ve all only heard Trey’s new song live, which is much different, for Hoist at least, most of the songs seem like live versions cut down to make an album, whereas in Trey’s new thing he seems like he is playing the songs right from the album.

    With that said, I went to the Boston show, which kicked off the tour and I have all the other shows, and there was a lot of energy at the show I went to and it seems the same for the others. Remember when new things start up it takes time for them to get rolling, and I think that the band will begin to feel more comfortable.

    Also to address the comment that Trey should play in a band where he’s the worst or whatever, I agree with that, but Trey is the best guitarist alive today, and I mean that. So I think it would be very hard for him to be in a band where he was not the lead figure. And the otehr guys in 70VP need to get used to his tendencies before they start to really jam (if you look back on the TAB, they were real tight at the beginning before they were able to get used to one another). But I do agree that they only played their written parts to the songs, even Tony Hall who sounds great isn’t doing anything amazing he’s just hitting his bass notes with authority.

    70VP does in fact seem to conform to the more popular themes, but it seems like it needs to. I think more then ever, because Trey wrote all of the lyrics himself (for the first time ever w/o TM’s help) and they mean a lot to him, because he explains his feelings about Phish and why they needed to break up. So he’s using the lyrics as more then just a fill, i mean seriously the words to Stash have very little meaning, and that song is all about the classic Phish composition, but Trey is coming around to try and tell everyone in the Phish world why they broke up and he’s doing it through music .

    And finally can you really say that Air Said to Me is a bad song, I mean I get it it’s no chalkdust, but its still better then 99.9% of everything available today. Give Trey some time, he’ll make us proud, he just needs his Abby Road, or at least an attempt at a studio album that captures public appeal without selling out, which all of the songs do. And even phish didn’t usually start jamming on new songs, I mean when they started playing the Hoist songs non of them had more then the composed section and then the solo, i mean come on Sample never left that stage. But I have faith in Trey’s abilities and his decision making so if you don’t like it, listen to old Phish shows while I see Trey.

  • jon

    “Phish songs aren’t poppy? Have you heard Hoist or Farmhouse?”

    First of all those two things are albums, and we’ve all only heard Trey’s new song live, which is much different, for Hoist at least, most of the songs seem like live versions cut down to make an album, whereas in Trey’s new thing he seems like he is playing the songs right from the album.

    With that said, I went to the Boston show, which kicked off the tour and I have all the other shows, and there was a lot of energy at the show I went to and it seems the same for the others. Remember when new things start up it takes time for them to get rolling, and I think that the band will begin to feel more comfortable.

    Also to address the comment that Trey should play in a band where he’s the worst or whatever, I agree with that, but Trey is the best guitarist alive today, and I mean that. So I think it would be very hard for him to be in a band where he was not the lead figure. And the otehr guys in 70VP need to get used to his tendencies before they start to really jam (if you look back on the TAB, they were real tight at the beginning before they were able to get used to one another). But I do agree that they only played their written parts to the songs, even Tony Hall who sounds great isn’t doing anything amazing he’s just hitting his bass notes with authority.

    70VP does in fact seem to conform to the more popular themes, but it seems like it needs to. I think more then ever, because Trey wrote all of the lyrics himself (for the first time ever w/o TM’s help) and they mean a lot to him, because he explains his feelings about Phish and why they needed to break up. So he’s using the lyrics as more then just a fill, i mean seriously the words to Stash have very little meaning, and that song is all about the classic Phish composition, but Trey is coming around to try and tell everyone in the Phish world why they broke up and he’s doing it through music .

    And finally can you really say that Air Said to Me is a bad song, I mean I get it it’s no chalkdust, but its still better then 99.9% of everything available today. Give Trey some time, he’ll make us proud, he just needs his Abby Road, or at least an attempt at a studio album that captures public appeal without selling out, which all of the songs do. And even phish didn’t usually start jamming on new songs, I mean when they started playing the Hoist songs non of them had more then the composed section and then the solo, i mean come on Sample never left that stage. But I have faith in Trey’s abilities and his decision making so if you don’t like it, listen to old Phish shows while I see Trey.

  • http://slacklalane.blogspot.com Ace Cowboy

    I hear ya, Jon. You make good points. I think you can see that just about everybody is confused about this new turn in his career.

  • http://slacklalane.blogspot.com Ace Cowboy

    I hear ya, Jon. You make good points. I think you can see that just about everybody is confused about this new turn in his career.