I have been waiting to write about Phish. Yes, maybe it will show my age or say something about me, but I have gone through many Phish stages in my life. I love them and think they are intelligent; I believe they are wicked and go after the ones who helped lift them to their platform in the sky, and I see a humbled band who is sentimental and appreciative. Maybe their dynamic relationship with their fans is something I am in love with as a writer and music lover. It might seem like I am all over the place, but I have to give some of the background before I get to the point. The path is never linear, especially with a band like Phish.
I am a Goddard College graduate, receiving my MFA in creative writing last July. From the moment I knew I needed to get my masters degree, I knew I was going to Goddard. The reason behind my decision was simple: Phish went to school there, and on its grounds, Trey created his legendary thesis and concept album, The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday. I will not get into a critical discussion on the album because I do not believe it is great. Let me revise how I state this. While I may not consider Trey Anastasio’s concept album great, greatness came from it. Seriously. Consider this. How many bands can tease a song from a thesis that includes music that at times sounds like soft, grocery store jazz, at an extremely large and famous venue like Madison Square Garden, and hear the screams from thousands of Phans?
Back to the reason for writing this. I miss Phish. My children have heard Phish at many points in their lives, including riding in the car, singing those deep and profound lyrics, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh Boooooyyyyyyyyyy. Man. God. Shit.”
“Don’t sing that when your grandma is around,” I said.
My children, whether they remember it or not, sang “Run Like an Antelope,” “My Knife,” “Weigh,” and “Rift.” (Rift is not necessarily my favorite Phish album. I also love Billy Breathe and Story of the Ghost, for its new Phish era sound.)
Phish has always been important for writing, the long extended jams that roll along like a train ride. The beat, the ticking, and clicking of the rails.
Cirus and I listened to 3/13/92 Campus Club, specifically “Run like a Big Black Furry Antelope,” to get pumped up for races.
And then I went to Goddard. I loved playing Phish on campus. “Come on,” I told my cohorts. “You have to respect some of the greatness that graduated from here.”
They didn’t feel the same way as me, so I had to find time to go to the music building by myself and dance to them. One of my Goddard rituals. “Bring to spirits. The energy. Let me drink from the cup of greatness.” Yes, I wrote that here and sent it out into the world.
As a touring band, they are geniuses. Their art of the setlist should be studied by bands for years to come. They can play a standard pop show. They can run through entire albums for a middle set. 8/31/12, They wrote out setlist so that the first letter of each song spelled out “Fuck Your Face,” and then they ended the second set with the song…wait for it…“Fuck Your Face.”
So, what’s my problem? It is like I wrote in “Why I am a Great Lover and Why You’ll Probably Hate Me Until You Don’t.” I become interested in other bands and grow distant. I ghost past loves until there is a trigger.
I sat down to write about Mark Cuddy, Humbert La Salle, Miss Shirley Hardie, and the town of Calm for my NaNoWriMo project, and I listened to Billie Eilish’s “dont smile at me.” (I love that album and Billie’s voice, by the way.) When it was done, I thought, damn, I need to get some of this novel done. I’m going to a long Phish show. The first album that popped up was Kasvot Vӓxt: í rokk (Live). I knew what it was and where it was from. For those of you who don’t know or don’t listen to Phish, they like to cover entire albums for Halloween. For 2018, they covered the non-existing Nordic prog rock band, Kasvot Vӓxt. That means they created the entire album, so they could unveil it for the Halloween show. Legends find a way. Yes. This is the reason I love Phish. They created an entire album to unveil it as an obscure album from 1981.
During a time when I have heard so many new albums that try to recreate energy from the past, the Eighties, the Nineties, post-this and post-that, Phish has schooled the industry. I am giving this album a 5 out of 5. Give it a listen. You might disagree, but it is going to stand out as one of the greatest album releases of all time. And on top of that, it is a fresh sound from the band. Phish is heard throughout it, but I imagine the band sitting in the studio.
Fishman was listening to some weird Scandinavian band. Trey said, “What that hell is this?”
“Nordic prog rock.”
“We should find an album and cover that for Halloween.”
However, after they listened to a couple, they realized it began showing up in their practice.
“Let’s make our own.”
“It has to sound legitimate.”
“But a little ridiculous.”
“We have to mock ourselves.”
It makes me think about something Deborah Brevoort, a Goddard advisor, said to one of my Goddard cohorts, Brad Bass. “Write the worst play you could write.” I may not be quoting everyone correctly, and for that, I apologize because I respect both people. However, as I thought about it, the idea seemed genius. “Write the worst play possible.” Then, there is no stress. You practice form, and you know what, you eventually find the story, or play, or music album. Do you see where I am getting at? Phish with little stress because í rokk is not their album. It was written by an obscure Nordic prog band.
I love this album. It has me excited about a band I have loved many times before. Give it a listen. Give it a chance. You’ll see. The songs are catchy and fresh. As time passes, more Phans are going to want to hear these songs played, and a Phish historian is going to mark the date of 10/31/18 as the door to a new and exciting Phish era.
Rating: 5 out of 5