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.)