Matt from You Ain’t No Picasso on Phish @ Bonnaroo

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© youaintnopicasso.com
© youaintnopicasso.com

I thought I’d post a link to something I just read and commented on and (naturally) feel quite passionate about, but I do this to explain a point and not bring any further unnecessary scrutiny on someone that wasn’t really, well, prepared for the experience of Phish headlining Bonnaroo.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying all the Bonnaroo photos and live downloads posted over at You Ain’t No Picasso, especially the Janelle Monae shots and writeup and the Beastie Boys fluff-fest. Every post I read I just kept thinking, “man I feel like I’m right there with ya…” But his post on the Phish set at Bonnaroo left me a bit perturbed, if only for the reason that I feel like way too many people have expectations of music that is just ridiculously over-the-top.

If I try to write anything more than a paragraph on Phish, I’m going to open myself up to more scrutiny than I’d like. I’ll be brief. Yes, this band has been a punchline to me for the better part of a decade now. No, I’ve never listened to them any more than that episode where Homer gets addicted to “medical” marijuana on the Simpsons (”The vote was yesterday? Aww man!”). But I wasn’t bored/repulsed/angered by the three Phish songs I heard at Bonnaroo. As I told Amrit the next day, to me it just sounded like really noodley classic rock. I wasn’t really into it, but it wasn’t bad by any stretch. But did we stay around to see any of their show on Sunday? No, we did not. We hit the road early, my friend, and we didn’t regret it at all.

One of the lamest things about trying to cover a festival for a music blog is the notion that as media you get to shoot bands from the press pit right in the front of the stage, but for the first three songs only. This is a standard industry practice. But it’s hardly a way to enjoy the festival and/or music you’re witnessing. You’re surrounded by a bunch of photographers basically running around trying to get every possible angle of every shot their lenses will allow in just those three songs, meanwhile avoiding the stage security and your fellow photogs. But it’s hardly a judge of what a band is capable of or what you’re missing out on by not sitting through and letting your musical ears chill out a bit.

Which brings us to the thoughts on the tour in general — everyone just needs to check their expectations at the door. I thought the first leg of the Phish Summer Tour was absolutely incredible from where I sat, especially considering the sheer notion that this band has not done a tour of this size in a very long time. As much as there is rehearsing in a practice space to nail all the parts in “David Bowie,” the experience of doing this in front of a festival crowd is something that you need to respect and consider. And expect mistakes, because that’s what real musicians do if they’re focused on making music and not so focused on being this perfect specimen.

At any rate, I love and respect everything Matt does on that blog and he’s a better music blogger than me for more reasons I can list. That’s why I was bummed he didn’t fluff my favorite band in the world. That’s all. Call me an idealist, but I really thought some of the indie kids would feel the crossover pull of one of the most innovative and interesting bands this world has ever seen. I mean, come on…who really would not like seeing this jam live? You’ve got to be a friggin’ zombie if this doesn’t get your ears perked up, your head bobbing, and your feet moving.

Phish live at Bonnaroo 6-12-2009 – 2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra) [YouTube]

  • heyitsmejenni

    I often find it odd that so many Phish fans are able to bridge the gap and enjoy a variety of musical styles (especially the multi-faceted indie genre), yet music fans who start on the other side of the gap (not Phish fans) take much longer to get it….if they ever do. For one thing, I’ve noticed so many people can’t let go of “I’ve heard they sound just like the Grateful Dead,” “if you listen to them you’ll turn into a hippie,” and “My FM radio conditioned brain will explode if a song last more than 4 minutes.” All of these erroneous beliefs keep many a music lover from ever opening up to the greatest rock n’ roll band of our time. Also really being into Phish requires a lot of work. It’s as much about the culture, the trivia, and the inside jokes as it is about the music. While I think most indie fans appreciate a band with a “back story,” Phish’s is long and involved. You’re not really going to get it one show in. I think the only “best” way to experience a Phish show is to go with a group of people who’ve been in to the band for a long time and will enthusiastically answer your many questions such as, “Who is this Wilson guy I’ve heard so much about?”, “Why did that guy just hand me an Uno card?”, and “What’s with the keytar?” My husband experienced Phish this way over the weekend, and though he’ll probably never be as hardcore as I am about the band, he really had a great time and walked away with a new appreciation for the music and scene.

    • jon

      i handed you that uno card at bonnaroo during/before phish.

  • heyitsmejenni

    I often find it odd that so many Phish fans are able to bridge the gap and enjoy a variety of musical styles (especially the multi-faceted indie genre), yet music fans who start on the other side of the gap (not Phish fans) take much longer to get it….if they ever do. For one thing, I’ve noticed so many people can’t let go of “I’ve heard they sound just like the Grateful Dead,” “if you listen to them you’ll turn into a hippie,” and “My FM radio conditioned brain will explode if a song last more than 4 minutes.” All of these erroneous beliefs keep many a music lover from ever opening up to the greatest rock n’ roll band of our time. Also really being into Phish requires a lot of work. It’s as much about the culture, the trivia, and the inside jokes as it is about the music. While I think most indie fans appreciate a band with a “back story,” Phish’s is long and involved. You’re not really going to get it one show in. I think the only “best” way to experience a Phish show is to go with a group of people who’ve been in to the band for a long time and will enthusiastically answer your many questions such as, “Who is this Wilson guy I’ve heard so much about?”, “Why did that guy just hand me an Uno card?”, and “What’s with the keytar?” My husband experienced Phish this way over the weekend, and though he’ll probably never be as hardcore as I am about the band, he really had a great time and walked away with a new appreciation for the music and scene.

    • jon

      i handed you that uno card at bonnaroo during/before phish.

  • Paul

    Justin, you make a great point about being in the photo pit.

    I love shooting in the pit and getting such a close perspective. That said, you can’t really enjoy a show from there. You get jostled and shoved and are so focused on getting your shots in the alloted time, that you don’t really have a chance to actually listen to the music.

    Plus, the sound can be awful. You generally hear the amp that you’re standing in front of. Shooting The Hold Steady, I was standing in front of Tad Kubler, the guitarist. I could not hear a lick of the keys which were on the other side of the stage.

    Three songs from the pit are no way to judge a band. Go back, have a beer and take it in with the fans.

  • Paul

    Justin, you make a great point about being in the photo pit.

    I love shooting in the pit and getting such a close perspective. That said, you can’t really enjoy a show from there. You get jostled and shoved and are so focused on getting your shots in the alloted time, that you don’t really have a chance to actually listen to the music.

    Plus, the sound can be awful. You generally hear the amp that you’re standing in front of. Shooting The Hold Steady, I was standing in front of Tad Kubler, the guitarist. I could not hear a lick of the keys which were on the other side of the stage.

    Three songs from the pit are no way to judge a band. Go back, have a beer and take it in with the fans.

  • nelsorp

    having listened to almost all of this leg of summer tour, some of every night, and seeing the knoxville show, here is my two cents. each night things got a little better. the two best shows from this run were camden & knoxville, in my opinion. every night has its highlights, but from front to back these were the best. some nights they messed up parts or flubbed lyrics & transitions. other nights they nailed them dead on. but each night they improved in some way. this is the first tour in 5 years and there is some rust in the gears. the last show i saw prior to knoxville was coventry. i watched them play in the mud & shared in the laughter & tears. it wasn’t the best music, but it was one of the best weekends ive ever had. but i was sad when it all had to end. i agree with lots of what the previous posts have said. phish has been lots of things to me at lots of different times. in the past month i have listened to more phish than i have in the last 5 years since coventry, and i have loved every minute of rediscovering lost gems of shows long gone. the band is definitely not the band of 5, 10, or 15 years ago, but im not the same person i was then either. having phish back playing live even if i can’t be there makes me happy. i can’t wait for red rocks. hearing the first few notes of Punch You In The Eye in knoxville still gave me goose bumps, and that makes me smile. see you out there.

  • nelsorp

    having listened to almost all of this leg of summer tour, some of every night, and seeing the knoxville show, here is my two cents. each night things got a little better. the two best shows from this run were camden & knoxville, in my opinion. every night has its highlights, but from front to back these were the best. some nights they messed up parts or flubbed lyrics & transitions. other nights they nailed them dead on. but each night they improved in some way. this is the first tour in 5 years and there is some rust in the gears. the last show i saw prior to knoxville was coventry. i watched them play in the mud & shared in the laughter & tears. it wasn’t the best music, but it was one of the best weekends ive ever had. but i was sad when it all had to end. i agree with lots of what the previous posts have said. phish has been lots of things to me at lots of different times. in the past month i have listened to more phish than i have in the last 5 years since coventry, and i have loved every minute of rediscovering lost gems of shows long gone. the band is definitely not the band of 5, 10, or 15 years ago, but im not the same person i was then either. having phish back playing live even if i can’t be there makes me happy. i can’t wait for red rocks. hearing the first few notes of Punch You In The Eye in knoxville still gave me goose bumps, and that makes me smile. see you out there.

  • http://www.youtube.com/capturedalive Dan

    Enjoyed the post! Thanks. Also glad to see you included one of my videos from youtube. I’m working on getting a few more songs posted, but here’s First Tube from the 6/14 show at Bonnaroo.

  • http://www.youtube.com/capturedalive Dan

    Enjoyed the post! Thanks. Also glad to see you included one of my videos from youtube. I’m working on getting a few more songs posted, but here’s First Tube from the 6/14 show at Bonnaroo.

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