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.