An Open Letter to Phish

Editor’s note: obviously the news of Phish’s reunion announcement is burning up the internets and it’s starting to really inspire a lot of our readers and fans to send in thoughts on this momentous and epic occasion. Our buddy Andrew Justice down in Texas wrote this up and sent it my way.

With today’s great news about the Hampton shows, it’s once again an exciting time to be a Phish fan. I can hardly wait for the tour announcement, and in anticipation of renewing one of my favorite musical experiences, I have a few suggestions.

These are by no means intended to put constraints on the band (I think we all rather enjoy not knowing what’s going to happen when the lights go down), but rather observations based on eight years away from seeing a show, doing a lot of listening to all eras of shows, and my own personal opinions as a professional musician and admirer of the band’s musical communication and ensemble sound.

1. Rehearse – (and this is by no means sarcastic)
It is clear that, due to the heavy touring in the late 1990′s, band rehearsals became scarce and/or nonexistent. As expected, this eventually had an adverse effect on overall tightness and ensemble, and strikes me as contrary to one of the band’s central tenets from the beginning: to listen to each other. Since that goal was at the core of the Phish sound, it would seem vital to a successful reunion for both band and audience. Perhaps a return to (or creation of new) exercises like Including Your Own Hey or Zen Language Ball would be a good way to jump-start this. Either way, preparation cannot but make the new shows even more intense and enjoyable.

2. Consider returning to the old stage arrangement of Page-Trey-Mike-Fish
We know that 1999′s change to the lineup was an attempt to bring Fish more physically into the sound, but had the unfortunate effect of separating Trey from the rest of the band. The exchange of Mike for Trey after the hiatus seemed to solve some of those problems, yet the fact remains that the musical interaction never appeared to recover from the original change. The old lineup was not only distinctive, it also directed the sound in a fantastic way, with Page and Fish book-ending the guitars and creating a focused flow of music from the stage that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.

3. Take it [the touring] easy
We know that the band isn’t going to do something without being totally passionate about it, and that’s really fine with us. Speaking for myself, I’d rather hear a well-rested, balanced Phish than one who is touring too hard and putting pressure on themselves to deliver too much. Perhaps varying venues as well as schedules is one way to do this – after rereading The Phish Book and watching the Walnut Creek DVD recently, it’s clear the band really benefited from the Europe tours…and so did the audience. I don’t see why including smaller (or different) venues in the tour plans should create problems, especially if it has such a positive effect on the band’s sound.

I’d like to point out that these are all musician-functionality suggestions, i.e. they’re from the perspective of someone who hears something and directly relates to their own experience as a performer. I have specifically not touched on areas such as personal lives or the actual musical content (song-writing and styles), because those are the band’s own territories and the audience really has little to do with them. What’s important is the communication; what made Phish special was the way they connected, with each other and with the audience. These suggestions are directly related to that phenomenon, because it made seeing Phish an experience unlike any other, and I think there are a lot of people interested in revisiting that.

Otherwise, welcome back guys – I know it’s going to be insanely fun and totally worth the wait.

  • http://www.scotty-greene.blogspot.com Scotty Greene

    The best suggestion I could possibly come up with is for them to write and perform new material, plain and simple.

    It’s the ONLY way this band can move forward.

  • http://www.scotty-greene.blogspot.com Scotty Greene

    The best suggestion I could possibly come up with is for them to write and perform new material, plain and simple.

    It’s the ONLY way this band can move forward.

  • http://downwithdisease.com EJ

    Nice write up, Andrew. On a side note, does anyone know if CR5 will be part of the reunion and subsequent tour?

  • http://downwithdisease.com EJ

    Nice write up, Andrew. On a side note, does anyone know if CR5 will be part of the reunion and subsequent tour?

  • http://www.tahuano.com/pixelpost/ Jano

    AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH

    Me and my friend are travelling all thwe way to Hamptons from Peru!

    Yeah!

  • Josh

    Just play. I had to fight back tears when I saw that this aspect that has been missing from my life has returned. I have been googling Phish news at least once a week just hoping and praying that I might see this. Unbelievable news.

  • Josh

    Just play. I had to fight back tears when I saw that this aspect that has been missing from my life has returned. I have been googling Phish news at least once a week just hoping and praying that I might see this. Unbelievable news.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/oliversarmy/ Paul

    Nice piece Andrew.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/oliversarmy/ Paul

    Nice piece Andrew.

  • No Smack

    And while you’re at it, stay off the smack please.

  • No Smack

    And while you’re at it, stay off the smack please.

  • Tea Leafer

    I disagree with the amount of touring. They should make touring as comfortable and family friendly as possible. They will make enough scratch to do that. Phish needs to get out there and play. a lot. 5 out of 7 nights each week for about three months. Then, once they’re tight, they can do the shorter 3-4 week tours. Professionals have to do what they do all the time in order to maintain a high level of success. The new rules: 1)Stay healthy and 2)Play out all the time.

  • Tea Leafer

    I disagree with the amount of touring. They should make touring as comfortable and family friendly as possible. They will make enough scratch to do that. Phish needs to get out there and play. a lot. 5 out of 7 nights each week for about three months. Then, once they’re tight, they can do the shorter 3-4 week tours. Professionals have to do what they do all the time in order to maintain a high level of success. The new rules: 1)Stay healthy and 2)Play out all the time.

  • Tony

    I agree with rehearsals. nothing better than a nice tight divided sky.

  • Tony

    I agree with rehearsals. nothing better than a nice tight divided sky.

  • jake

    First off…what do you do for a living? Advise bands on how to reunite? You are just stating the obvious. Unfortunately it’s your kind of high minded, I know what’s best for this band, that was part of the issue in the past. Save your advice, look in the mirror and apply the same level of devotion to your own life. I’m happy to have Phish back, life was interesting and full without them, but the future holds great music for us. I know this band and my guess is, once they get in the studio, they will record new material. Release a new CD. They will run thru the old stuff at least once or twice and get the changes down, but Trey is a changed man…and Antelope is 4 chords….We are all a bit older and better for the break. Get off your soapbox and use your energy to fix your life. I think the guys have a handle on it and I for one am willing to give them another shot. Even after Coventry.

  • jake

    First off…what do you do for a living? Advise bands on how to reunite? You are just stating the obvious. Unfortunately it’s your kind of high minded, I know what’s best for this band, that was part of the issue in the past. Save your advice, look in the mirror and apply the same level of devotion to your own life. I’m happy to have Phish back, life was interesting and full without them, but the future holds great music for us. I know this band and my guess is, once they get in the studio, they will record new material. Release a new CD. They will run thru the old stuff at least once or twice and get the changes down, but Trey is a changed man…and Antelope is 4 chords….We are all a bit older and better for the break. Get off your soapbox and use your energy to fix your life. I think the guys have a handle on it and I for one am willing to give them another shot. Even after Coventry.

  • jps

    I just hope that Trey’s giant ego doesn’t get in the way again this time.

  • jps

    I just hope that Trey’s giant ego doesn’t get in the way again this time.

  • Andrew

    Jake:

    I’m a music librarian and a professional violist – and I’m pretty sure I made it clear that my suggestions were just that: suggestions. I wrote the letter because I love what the band does and know what they’re capable of, and the points I made were purposefully pragmatic from a performer’s point of view – they had nothing to do with motivation or creativity or anything subjective like that.

    I disagree with your statement that the “high-mindedness” was problematic for the band, especially since Trey has said (in Bittersweet Motel, for instance) that he knows and is proud that the audience has high standards for the band. He didn’t specifically say the latter, but he certainly doesn’t seem annoyed by that fact.

    I do, however, agree with your excitement about the future – we are definitely in store for some great times.

    And my life is just fine, thanks.