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.