Saturday, January 2, 2010

(This Is Not A) Concert Review: Phish (12.31.09)

I have allowed myself a little a bit of time to process, categorize, calculate, and spit up my New Year's weekend in Miami, FL. I figured in interest of time, relevance, and archival efficiency, this write-up would serve better in the Muzjiks server space than simply floating around my spastic skull.

I was not the world's best concert-goer. I took in this foreign enviornement in stride--there was no need to seek out visual spectacle. I did not assume an active disposition. I did very little research into the band before the concert. I was largely unfamiliar with 95% of the band's catalog of over 200 songs. I was unfamiliar with the anecdotal aspect of the band's stage antics and live traditions. Here, I tried to be a sponge and allow myself to look for things that would potentially spark my interest in the Phish Kingdom, and make no mistake--it is a kingdom. To further understand my history of resistance to the band, I will provide a small anecdote of my own.

A typical weekday in university life calls for a host of mundane chores. However, an advantage to having a car on campus is that you constantly have access to a high quality box of speakers on wheels--a car, in my opinion, is the optimal place to test new and adventurous music. During one of these said mundane trips to the market or gas station or gym, I tested my Phish-head friend's musical bounds. The song I selected on my iPod on that chilly November day was Animal Collective's ingeniously ethereal and acidic "Bluish." Arguably one of my favorite songs of 2009, "Bluish" is a brilliantly constructed folk song with layers upon layers of Animal Collective's magic smear (also known as Panda Bear). The song played and my friend said to me, "it's trippy, but its too thick." I though about this for a good long while. I think I finally know what he means.

Animal Collective: "Bluish"

The music of Phish, in my experience, seems to "move" differently. It seems to progress in such a linear fashion that your (as in my...) mind never stops to consider individual stacks of sounds--points in a song where instrumentation and melody build to a combustible head. I believe this is where me and Phish miss. I listen again and again to "Bluish" and consider it's "thickness," and to me, this is what I love. That being said, I believe I am starting to understand these differences as simply auditory preference. There is something burrowed inside the ear of every Phish fan and every Dead Head. There is something that is tickled whenever those melodies dance across the mix, maybe we call it some kind of "nomadic auditory perception"--its something that constantly wants to chase those cascading strings of notes around the amphitheater. Juxtapose these fleeting phrases with exemplary pieces like the aforementioned "Bluish," Radiohead's brilliant "Up On The Ladder," and Menomena's mind shattering "My My." These songs simply move with a heavier stride. They seem to leave a crater sized footprint in my skull when I peel off my headphones at the conclusion of each track. Again, I don't know what intrinsic instinct the "weight" of our favorite music appeals to. What I do know is that it is a critical breaking point of your musical preference whether you like it or not.

Radiohead: "Up On The Ladder"
Menomena: "My My"

This was some kind of personal revelation this New Year's weekend. Great but perplexing way to start a new decade. Furthermore, this is not a concert review. A concert review would have highlighted the uniqueness of the set-list, the absurdity of the arena-ready light show, the immensity of the New Year's ball drop and numberous light-hearted stage antics. But again, this is not a concert review. This is a New Year's Revelation.

Mull it over and end it with a smile. The last song I listened to in the new millenium's first decade...


Shampayne543 said...

I agree with everything you have said except for one point - "...There is something burrowed inside the ear of every Phish fan and every Dead head..." - To lump Phish together with the Dead is to admit you're nearly total ignorance of both bands. You have submitted to the will of countless Phish critics who attempt to dismiss the band as "the next generation of the Dead." Yes, they are both considered "jam bands," but the similarities end here. Truly listen to both bands - not just a few songs here and there and a show that you sleep through - and it quickly becomes clear that grouping these bands together is a serious error.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he wasn't saying that the "something" that is "burrowed inside the ear of every Phish fan and every Dead head" is the same "something."
And even if he were "grouping these bands together," he already admitted his ignorance of Phish, so chill, brah.

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