An Open Letter to Phish

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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.

  • 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.

  • mark

    i just want phish to urinate in my ears

  • mark

    i just want phish to urinate in my ears

  • Pingback: Phish — LMB’s Open Letter « Musical Stew Daily

  • http://www.turnthescrew.com/ TurntheScrew

    After seeing 387 shows, I’d love nothing more than to make Hampton my 88th, 89th, and 90th. Who’s got my miracle?

  • http://www.turnthescrew.com/ TurntheScrew

    After seeing 387 shows, I’d love nothing more than to make Hampton my 88th, 89th, and 90th. Who’s got my miracle?

  • http://www.benvigoda.com game-boy

    Do you know the rules to “Zen Language Game” or “Including Your Own Hey”? Or any other games? Can you post them?

    Thanks,
    Ben

  • http://www.benvigoda.com game-boy

    Do you know the rules to “Zen Language Game” or “Including Your Own Hey”? Or any other games? Can you post them?

    Thanks,
    Ben

  • JacquesOmo

    The only condition under which phish should get back together is if they completely change their sound and instrumentation, maybe bring in some turntables. And oh yeah, kick Trey out of the band. After watching the Bittersweet Motel documentary, I realized that he’s really no better a person than James Hetfield. It’s hard to care about such self-absorbed musicians.

  • JacquesOmo

    The only condition under which phish should get back together is if they completely change their sound and instrumentation, maybe bring in some turntables. And oh yeah, kick Trey out of the band. After watching the Bittersweet Motel documentary, I realized that he’s really no better a person than James Hetfield. It’s hard to care about such self-absorbed musicians.

  • Hillel

    I just wanna tell all the phish kids to take it easy and try to have some perspective. I just heard about some kid canceling doing a semester abroad so he can have access to phish shows in 09. Life does exist beyond phish…

  • Hillel

    I just wanna tell all the phish kids to take it easy and try to have some perspective. I just heard about some kid canceling doing a semester abroad so he can have access to phish shows in 09. Life does exist beyond phish…

  • tar

    I hope this doesn’t suck as much as the last 5 years that they were playing. Or even worse, Coventry! I’ll get suckered into going again and again.

    Booooooo…

  • tar

    I hope this doesn’t suck as much as the last 5 years that they were playing. Or even worse, Coventry! I’ll get suckered into going again and again.

    Booooooo…

  • SwirvinIT

    everyone needs to chill out and get ready to enjoy a hell of year of good tunes. This is the best good news that I’ve heard in a while. It’s always been and always will be about the experience, seeing kids from show to show in the lots and the lawn, checkin out all the local camp ground at Deer Creek (not Verizon), tearin up the gooballs and vegie wraps and most importantly… the music. There’s no need for bogus opinions and “lets hope not” attitudes. It’s all about getting away from everything to have a good time. I dig the article Andrew. Good stuff, and see you at the show.

  • SwirvinIT

    everyone needs to chill out and get ready to enjoy a hell of year of good tunes. This is the best good news that I’ve heard in a while. It’s always been and always will be about the experience, seeing kids from show to show in the lots and the lawn, checkin out all the local camp ground at Deer Creek (not Verizon), tearin up the gooballs and vegie wraps and most importantly… the music. There’s no need for bogus opinions and “lets hope not” attitudes. It’s all about getting away from everything to have a good time. I dig the article Andrew. Good stuff, and see you at the show.

  • Kdog

    Hey kids.. KEEP THE GLOWSTICKS AT HOME. I got so friggin tired of being pelted by those things. And a note to the lot rats, stay out of my car.

  • Kdog

    Hey kids.. KEEP THE GLOWSTICKS AT HOME. I got so friggin tired of being pelted by those things. And a note to the lot rats, stay out of my car.

  • http://www.ConcertPosterArt.com jacob grossi

    so great to see all the different perspective on the music and the scene…after being an uptight deadhead during their touring days believing it was “all about the music”, I’ve changed my mind. it’s as much about the scen as the music. Great too have a big’ ol rock and roll band back in the USA.

    Jacob
    http://www.ConcertPosterArt.com
    “Over 4000 Original Concert Posters, Flyers and Vintage Ads”

  • http://www.ConcertPosterArt.com jacob grossi

    so great to see all the different perspective on the music and the scene…after being an uptight deadhead during their touring days believing it was “all about the music”, I’ve changed my mind. it’s as much about the scen as the music. Great too have a big’ ol rock and roll band back in the USA.

    Jacob
    http://www.ConcertPosterArt.com
    “Over 4000 Original Concert Posters, Flyers and Vintage Ads”