by: Christopher Rockwell
In breaking with one of Rock and Roll’s greatest traditions, Phish’s Halloween spectacular comes up short….
Bucking what was perhaps the greatest tradition in all of Rock and Roll, Phish arrived to their Halloween concert this year sans their highly anticipated musical costume ((Over the course of numerous Halloween shows since 1994, Phish has established a tradition of donning a “musical costume” in which they perform a complete cover album in-between two full sets of their own material.)). Instead, they took the opportunity to “play an album from the future,” debuting a “bunch of material from their new album” ((Quotes are courtesy of the “Phishbill” handed out to fans on the 31st of October, a playbill that they distribute each Halloween night to enlighten the audience as to what they will be playing that evening.)) which they will be heading off to the studio to record following a three-day run in Atlantic City, NJ which concluded November 2nd. It was an interesting choice to forgo a cover album this Halloween, and one that left many of their fans in shock, including yours truly.
For anyone who’s an admirer of the incredible feat of musical strength that is Phish performing a classic album on Halloween ((In 1994 Phish performed The Beatles The White Album, in 1995 The Who’s Quadrophenia, in 1996 The Talking Heads’ Remain in the Light, in 1998 The Velvet Underground’s Loaded, in 2009 The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, and in 2010 Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus.)), then you are more than likely as disillusioned and disappointed as I am with they way the show unfolded. But if, just if, you are an admirer of a particular brand of Phish live; a concert where the energy and atmosphere of the performance dissolves into a lively social affair, where the people surrounding you become disengaged, angry even, and succumb to conversation over drinks while the band – who lost the audience the moment they struck their first note – gives their new material a test run…Well, then this was the night for you!
Yes, for those of you who were in attendance this Halloween in Atlantic City and fully took in what was going on around you, as Phish played a set of songs from their forthcoming album Wingsuit ((The tentative title of the yet to be released album, to be produced by Bob Ezrin.)), you most likely noted quite immediately that this experiment was a total failure. Phish shows are about many things, but one of the most crucial is the energy in the room, built through the band’s high octane jams and the audience’s hanging on every note – constructing together an euphoria that keeps devotees coming back. This Halloween, because of Phish’s decision to bail on tradition, to abandon the album covers that their fans adore, the crowd was tuned out, generally uninterested, and even somewhat annoyed. I have yet to see an audience at a Phish show react this way – and I have certainly seen my share. The energy at the show wasn’t just low, it was grim – and it took a tremendous third set rally to lift the audience’s spirits back to somewhere near where they should have been for this momentous affair.
I am hearing from many people how bold of a decision it was to play this new set of untested material in front of a voracious mass of hardcore fans, clad in inventive Halloween costumes, ready to rock, and expecting something completely different. I have even heard it described as brave. Well, I can think of another word that also stars with a ‘b’ to describe this decision, and that is – bad. Expecting the unexpected from Phish has always been part of the fun, but this time around the ball was dropped and the band, for some unknown reason, decided to lean towards trick, rather than musical treat. It is difficult to accept this decision as brave, or bold, when a certain sect of Phish’s die-hard fan base soaks in with pleasure anything the band sends their way. In fact, these types of fans relish these opportunities, ones in which a large number of fans are disappointed, seeing this as a chance for them to display to others just how deeply they love Phish. These fans take the stance that others don’t get it, highlighting a weird sort of elitism that many fans have, one where they act like they appreciate the music more than “lesser” fans. It’s like a contest, trying to prove that they love Phish more than the next guy. In reality, its mass denial.
Phish fans are many things. They are die-hard, loyal, and in love with a band that has given them so much over the years. They are also often judgmental and unreasonable, something that is to be somewhat expected from a sect that has been listening to the same band for decades, and some over-analyzation of the music is to be supposed. But what Phish fans certainly shouldn’t be are guinea pigs. They are not a test audience or a focus group. Phish, by premiering a volley of demo tracks that were more or less incomplete and not guaranteed to even be on their album, took advantage of their fans loyalty, and used this opportunity to work out the kinks in their new material on what usually is an extraordinary evening. More band practice than a Halloween show, Phish came off as insecure in their ability to put together a new album, so much so that they had to see how their songs work in a concert setting first. The Phishbill proclaimed that the band wanted to “dirty and mess up the songs a bit before they record them.” This normally wouldn’t be such a bad thing ((Debuting 12 new songs is nothing to scoff at! It just wasn’t the evening for it.)). In fact, hearing all these newfangled tracks, some of which have great potential ((Fuego, 555, and Wombat were particularly treats!)), on any other night would have been amazing, epic even. But this was Halloween! There was a concept in place, nay a tradition, for what occurs on this evening, and that concept was far from broken – and if it isn’t broke, as they say, don’t fix it. Especially when the proposed fix falls flat and comes off as more of a selfish gesture than anything – an opportunity to gauge the audience prior to entering the studio to record.
We learned from Phish lead guitarist and frontman Trey Anastasio the night after Halloween that it was likely the song Halfway to the Moon could be included on Wingsuit. I would be willing to wager that the fan-favorite Steam has a shot at the album also, and possibly a handful of other songs they have in the tuck. This fact, that songs not performed during Halloween’s second set will make the album, is puzzling however, and proves that what occurred was a farce, and drives home the point that what they played on Halloween night isn’t an album at all. Rather, it was a series of songs that they are working on, potential tracks for an upcoming album. These songs, also, weren’t written for this evening’s performance as some may suggest. These Wingsuit tracks were arranged prior to September, and sometime between then and Halloween the band decided to use these tracks for Halloween’s second set, in place of learning and performing an iconic album to the delight of their fans. I have heard critics describe this as lazy, and it is hard to argue that point. Especially in light of the fact that they have performed Halloween costume sets while working on albums in the past – and pulled both of with finesse.
Towards the end of the second set, and well into the third, Trey began to express his deep gratitude for the fans support, and for the evening as a whole. This sentiment was echoed again the following night’s performance. And, the more he harped on how thankful he was, the more his heartfelt appreciation began to sound like something else entirely. It began to sound like he was simply saying: “I’m sorry.” To state what occurred in the most simple of terms, and why so many fans are rightfully disappointed, it seemed as if Phish showed up to the Halloween party without their (musical) costume. Nobody wants to be that guy, and ultimately that guy isn’t that fun to be around. Actually it is worse than that, as they showed up to Halloween dressed as themselves. And dressing as yourself will always come off as both lazy and uninspired. Prior to a particularly uninteresting song entitled You Never Know, the final song performed during the Wingsuit set, Trey discussed what the song The Line, performed earlier in the set, was all about. He let the crowd know it was about Darius Washington Jr., a college basketball player who missed a couple of free throws during the Conference USA championship game (Trey said it was in the Final Four against Michigan State, but he is wrong.). He then went on to say, “we love him and we can relate.” And to their credit on this very evening they certainly could relate. But Phish didn’t simply miss two free throws to end the game; they showed up to the game unprepared and got run out the gym. Following that confession Trey said “I better stop talking before I get myself in trouble!” They knew. The entire venue stunk of failure.
The thing with being let down is that it is a function of expectation, and thus it is somewhat your fault in that you build up expectations to the point where they cannot be met. But in this case, the band is just as responsible. Never did they let it be known they would be breaking from tradition. Actually, quite the opposite. They allowed rumors about albums to spread wildly, even spreading some themselves during webcasts of their Fall concerts leading up to the Halloween spectacular, dropping hints that they could potentially play Huey Lewis’s album Sports. Thus, hordes of costume fans arrived with album expectations in place, walking eagerly towards boxes overstuffed with Phishbills (furthering the hope of an album), and it was then, as the Phishbill was opened, that dreams of Phish doing what they do better than any other band, were shattered.
Maybe there is a bright side to all of this. After all, there usually is. Maybe, just maybe, if I ever decide to attend another Phish Halloween celebration I will walk in with a whole new attitude about what album they are going to play. I will walk in with an open mind about whatever choice they make and devour with zest whatever it may be. I mean I already have a brand new appreciation for Waiting For Columbus ((Performed to mixed results in 2010 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ)), and every album I heard rumored for this year ((Eat a Peach, Sports, Rock of Ages, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, On the Road, A Night at the Opera, etc.)), in hindsight, would have been equally awesome. Because, whatever musical costume they decide to don is better than the alternative many had to bear this Halloween 2013, the day that Phish, who take risks so very often – usually to astounding results – took a risk that was more about themselves than anything. A day when 13,000 costumed fans stood together in mass confusion for multiple hours, wondering why the band didn’t simply stick to the mission at hand.
I was at this show along with many readers of this article. While this is a bit strongly worded, I cannot help but agree with most of it. Any other night, even any other set on this night, would have made for an incredible experience. Instead, an experience muddled with disappointment. Play Wingsuit set 1, cover album for set 2, and keep set 3 as is….instant all timer. This show was in the bottom 1/2 of phish shows I’ve attended despite the “bravery” exhibited.
I enjoyed reading this as much as it is painful. I have to think that the most disappointing aspect of this Halloween show is that people spent a whole lot of money (more than any other show NYE aside probably) on the basis of being treated to something that is truly inspired. Furthermore, the band opted to sell a webcast to this show at a higher cost, making this experiment a bit more painful to bear, as again, people are left shelling there money out for something based on an expectation.
I for one am willing to acknowledge to things, however. First, our own expectation that this fantastic band, who night in night out, treats its fans to long shows brimming with creativity, “owes” us some sort of cover album are probably a bit much. Let’s not forget that a Halloween costume cover has only been performed a limited number of times in the thirty year history. That being said, it doesn’t really ease the minds and wallets of those who paid dearly based on that precedent for a musical costume.
Second, and perhaps the silver lining here, is that Phish played NEW material, which means, love it or hate it, we are probably going to be treated to some more years of this great band. I for one, having only been seeing shows since 09, am happy in the fact that they are making a new album. All the time spent between any albums and significant new material had me thinking that 30 years was the victory lap on a long and fantastic career in music.
Anyway, thanks again for the article, couldn’t agree more with the disappointment felt, but there might be something to look forward to beyond….
Unlike previous 3-set shows, the ticket was the same price as the other 2-set nights. If this wasn’t a giveaway that the tradition was being altered, that’s your bad, IMO. And I would suggest that anyone who felt slighted by the Set 2 go ahead and listen to the Set 3. Bliss….
Dave – We agree, the wording is a bit strong – especially since the night was made whole by such an amazing third set.
Pat – Really great comments. This article didn’t take the time to delve into how great it is they do indeed have new material and what that means for the band moving forward. It obviously harps on the lack of a cover album. But your point is solid and thank you for it. Its easy to think with how outstanding some of these Fall shows were that the future is bright!
I can relate to the author’s disappointment in the “break from tradition.” I also had the same thoughts about some of Trey’s comments – that it sounded as though he was offering a heartfelt apology for the set, and admitting that they took this one for themselves. It was also a little annoying to find out the next night that what we heard isn’t even the album – that there will be at least one song on it they didn’t play. So, in effect, we didn’t even hear an “album from the future.” We just heard a bunch of songs they’re considering for their next album.
So I can understand why this doesn’t sit well with fans. Let’s face it – a lot of people probably paid a couple hundred dollars to get in the door solely because they wanted that musical costume set, but were rather treated as a test audience – guinea pigs really – for their new material. On line before 11/1, I overheard someone who claimed to know crewmembers stating that what the band did on 10/31 sounded far better than what they had pieced together in rehearsals, and that prior to that set, those songs sounded very rough. Well, that doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies, either. And I can understand the thought that it was an act of sheer laziness.
Where I have to start disagreeing with the author is that it was an utter failure. I wouldn’t say Phish laid an egg or dropped a stinker on us. And I think looking back, it may end up being pretty cool or special that as these songs develop (and no doubt, a few of them will become mainstays for a few years) to say that Phish allowed us into their creative process for a bit. That they’re sort of sharing with us the birth of these new songs. Maybe that’s just optimism talking. But either way, I didn’t feel quite as angry or upset as the author. Disappointed, yes. Insulted, no.
I’m more surprised that there was no “treat” in the third set. I think the best “thank you” would’ve been to roll out a huge bustout, or long desired cover in the third set. The Carini jam was great, but I was still expecting some sort of tune that would really stand out in bold on a setlist. Maybe even a Harpua > Cover Song, or HYHU > Cover > HYHU. Heck, they didn’t even deliver a “Lizards” or Halloween themed Icculus. These guys know what people want to hear, and they delivered on half of it with the Carini jam, but for some reason, didn’t supplement it with one of those moments that really makes you drop your jaw. A Quinn the Eskimo encore was sort of salt in the wounds.
People have been clamoring for new music, so they wrote new music. They were supposed to learn another album on top of it?
People are being selfish, plain and simple. We had a blast.
I LOVED the album, and had a fucking blast, as did everyone in my section, including a lot of friends who I’ve seen plenty of shows with (halloween was my 113th)… you sir, have no clue
the thing that the author failed to take into consideration is: When you expect things from Phish, that is when they flip on you. It’s the oldest tradition that Phish has going. You expected a cover album, they instead turned around and played an entirely new album of mostly awesome music, and instead of finding this enjoyable and entertaining, you let your expectations ruin your evening… sucks for you, but you can’t speak for everyone.
Totally agree. who says covering an album on Halloween is tradition? is it tradition in that they’ve done it 6 times in 30 years? (obviously not all of those years were they on tour but consider the first time they did it was 1994. 6 times in 19 years – not counting Dark Side, which only goes to disprove “tradition” even more). this is the best batch of new music the boys have come up with in a loooong time. they are reinvented – and a band clearly not willing to settle for “what simple works” and is “tradition”.
what simply* works
I thought it was great – and they did put on a costume of sorts – it was their Wingsuit. I wasn’t in the building this night, I was on my couch – but I couldn’t help but be extremely jealous of those in attendance that were treated to brand new, never before heard music – I sure as hell enjoyed it from home and was stoked to be hearing them lay it out there for us. I think we need to remember that this band has done so much for us, created such high expectations, that at some point they need to be “selfish” and do something, experiment if you will, with uncharted territory. Bravo Phish – you surprised everyone – and I for one am glad you did. Looking forward to more Fuego.
Did Phish say they were covering an album this year? No. They did say before the shows in 2009 and 2010 that they were covering an album. Phish did what they wanted to do this year, which was play new music for phans. Music that fans were waiting and asking for. I’m not sure Christopher Rockwell “gets it.” You may want to get another writer to cover Phish in the future.
If someone enjoys a lot of different music, including Phish, but doesn’t like every single thing Phish has done, does he or she “get it,” or is that person banned from ever going to a show or sharing his or her opinion on Phish? I loved Yeasayer’s first record, for instance, and didn’t enjoy the second one, but I’d love to see them in concert. Do I not “get it”?
I couldn’t agree with Mike more. Phish is all about being unpredictable. That’s why we all love them in the first place. When we start predicting that they are going to do a musical costume, it’s time for them to do something different….kudos to them for doing what makes them happy and for continuing to break with tradition and push the envelope. Now maybe it won’t be so hard to get tickets to next years Halloween show…
Pat – your comment about the excitement of Phish playing NEW material is an excellent one. It shows that the band is not just “mailing it in,” but still working on trying to remain a creative force, as they alluded to in the Phishbill.
I just can’t help but wonder if it stings a bit for some fans who went to any of the other shows leading up to Halloween. Personally, I wouldn’t feel this way, but I could see how someone could be bitter that Phish had new material under their belt for the first two weeks of the tour, and didn’t reveal it to any of those paying customers. More of a devil’s advocate/raise-the-question post than anything.
good point. I will say I went to the Hampton shows (which were awesome), and watched Halloween via webcast. wasn’t disappointed in the least. Halloween is a special show and something special should be in store for those who can make it. I say good for you if you were there – I’d hope others would say the same thing to me.
I caught Hampton and Reading before the AC run, and I (for one) wasn’t disappointed they didn’t debut the new material sooner. However, those who went to Will Call before the Reading show were treated to a sneak-peek of several of the new songs.
Really, cause all of the long time die hard folks I spoke to who were in attendance, and even those of us on the home front, LOVED what phish did Halloween night! It renewed our faith that this band continues to be viable and creative. Must be awfully tragic for you to proceed through life on a roller coaster of expectation and subsequent diassapoint. Especially as a phish fan seeing how Phish is more about being unpredictable and quirky than they are about covering a sometimes stale album from the 70s.
I was toward the back of the room, section 110, and all I saw in front of me were people getting DOWN. I had the EXACT OPPOSITE observations. The crowd was stoked and full of energy. NEW PHISH! It’s about time! No wonder this entire tour has been such a barn burner! Phish are playing inspired and full of new energy from finally exercising their creative energies during writing sessions, private jams, etc. As far as the show goes, I think negativity only lets you see common negativity. If you were pissed there was no cover album, you convinced yourself everyone else was pissed as well. This is far from the truth. It was a massive Halloween party in awesometown.
And at pat spending money on something that is truly inspired??? And album full of new music that is arguably better than any of the new tunes they’ve churned out post hiatus IS the definition of truly inspired. It’s not like they came out and half assed the songs either. The majority are great songs and were obviously well rehearsed. God phish has the most entitled bunch of “fans” ever. People complain for months over no new tunes and when they get them they bitch bitch bitch. Any of you folks left disappointed wanna hook me up with your NYE seats? I’m sure that show is bound to leave you with a sour taste in your mouth as I’m sure some of the new songs will be played.
Probably a bad choice of words, I guess by “inspired” I meant that seeing the band pay homage to their own inspirations give us a great glimpse into where they draw ideas, who they listen to, and connects us in a way that is a little bit different than any other band. You are right that we as a fanbase have heaping expectations (definitely unfair). I think my disappointment in the initial lack of costume has been replaced by excitement and optimism (as I think my comment indicates)…
is this was passes as musical journalism. it’s hard to take this “review” seriously when it does not ONCE mention the quality of the music. surely, if phish debuts an entire album of unheard music in a single set (never in the history of music been down before, to my knowledge) AND that music is good – that can’t be a bad thing? not that we’d know based on your review, which oddly seeks to speak for an entire fan base and criticizes what is, at the very least, an incredibly unique show without once mentioning what you thought of the actual music… besides not being able to sing every word and high-five your bros.
weak review. you should be ashamed.
It seems like a lot of entitled fans have emerged since this Halloween. Without an official mention of Phish keeping to tradition how could one not think a curveball like this might thrown our way? I feel sorry for those who were so let down that Phish played an entire set of new music, something fans have been asking for for a long time.
Let me ask this- if you knew Phish was going to bless us with an entire set of new Phish music, would you have decided to forego the concert? I for one would have been even more excited than if they were sticking to their tradition of a cover. Learning to enter a concert without expectations will benefit the complainers greatly.
“These fans take the stance that others don’t get it, highlighting a weird sort of elitism that many fans have, one where they act like they appreciate the music more than “lesser” fans. It’s like a contest, trying to prove that they love Phish more than the next guy. In reality, its mass denial.”
Wrong. Not denial, it’s called acceptance of artistic freedom and elation that this band has not become the nostalgia act so many were calling them just a few short weeks ago. Way to generalize and speak for everyone in your stellar journalistic review. Can’t wait to see what “enfolds” in the future.
I think some of these tunnel visioned “lesser” fans are going to change their view over time on this night when they finally get how special it was for phish to play/experiment a new “album” on them. Glad I was there up close and personal.
I totally agree with this review. I cannot say anything more than that — I have been to many, many shows and I have never been as disappointed as I was on Halloween.
I like this review a lot. It echoes a lot of my same feelings. As much as I try to pep talk my way into believing this was a cool move by phish, that is not how I feel. This wasn’t much fun to experience.
The comments on the energy are 100% accurate and have been largely ignored, so kudos for saying what most haven’t dared to say.
The energy dropped so dramatically it was a almost awkward to experience the second set. The volume of the acoustic songs was also too low, so it basically encouraged the crowd to engage in coversations. The whole experience was so strange. I thought it felt like a trainwreck in there and it kept getting worse as the material revealed itself to be generally mediocre.
This idea could have been a total homerun if they delivered some new classics, but the songwriting by comparison to either to higher quality phish material or other generally good music is not high quality. Nothing sounded particularly fresh and there are no songs that I can’t wait to hear them play again. Wombat is the closest thing, but even that feels quite familiar already. The proggy stuff is cool, but it’s not going to sit well in a set with any momentum.
There were moments where they hit a B+ here and there but there’s a lot more Cs and Ds.
I still don’t know what to make of it all. I liked the idea and really liked the risk – in fact I was totally excited when I saw the phishbill – but the problem is the material isn’t really very good.
If we are really invited to be part of the creative process and this album is meant to mean something to all us, I would recommend going back to the drawing board on about half of these songs and definitely on all of the lyrics.
completely agree…..they could have unveiled this at any other time and given the entire audience utter satisfaction, rather than selling tickets to those who came to see an ‘act’. i fucking love phish, but this decision was bunk as fuck.
Cracks me up Phishheads would actual rather hear covers then people showing vulnerability? Really? This is actually the first Halloween show I’m sorry i missed because they had the “audacity” to cover themselves, OMG! Please if you are bitchin and moanin that they didn’t play your requested setlist, why not stay home and let peeps who appreciate these special musicians get the tix instead, and lots more dance room. Just one other thought, Jerry Garcia, don’t whine too much, it could be gone in a moment!
Thoroughly, totally and completely u enjoyed myself! Thank you Phish..that will certainly tide me over until December! Thank you & Bravo!
I applaud you for writing thoughtfully and articulately about 10/31/2013 AC and taking a position that you undoubtedly realized would be unpopular with some people. Thank you.
I had to chime in, however, because as someone who has loved the band for decades and has been seeing them for almost 25 years, and who is also among the most critical of fans (and who like you has been personally attacked for his Phish opinions), you have said something, and also failed to say something, that I think must be said in this context.
First, by stating that Phish “took advantage of their fans[‘] loyalty, and used this opportunity to work out the kinks in their new material on what usually is an extraordinary evening”, you arguably attack the band on a personal level. Put yourself for a second in their shoes. As the album title “Wingsuit” makes clear, the band was well-aware of the risks they were taking in opting to play new music for an entire set, at a time when they were expected to perform the music of some other legendary band. Halloween also has always been an “extraordinary” night in Phish history, and 10/31/2013 is yet another example of Phish being extraordinary, period. Phish is the last band to unfairly exploit their fans!
Setting aside the fact that their ticket prices are still remarkably reasonable for the quality of the music and the lights and the sound at their shows, they love their fans and show as much by continuing to play a unique setlist each night and by taking risks improvisationally. I am extremely grateful that they continue to perform at all, and haven’t become stale.
Second, you strongly suggest in this piece that it would have been MORE risky for Phish to cover, say, “Eat A Peach” or some other band’s album, rather than their own new music that had never been performed live. I cannot disagree with this more strongly. They are professional musicians. Do you have any idea how scary it is to perform a new piece of music — that you created and that is near and dear to your heart — for the first time in front of a global audience!?
The far easier route for Phish would have been to continue the Halloween tradition of covering another band’s (undoubtedly legendary, and probably awesome) album. And I have never been more proud of them for, instead, taking the enormous risk of playing an entire set of brand new music LIVE for their fans, and for the world.
Well said Charlie.
I am definitely one of those fans/ critics who felt the decision was brave, bold, beautiful and successful. The groups of people I checked in on during the set were ecstatic and their energy remained high throughout.
That being said, I see and definitely feel the truth of what and importantly how the author of the piece related the above.
The decision to play themselves can be seen as lazy, as self-indulgent. I personally don’t think it was lazy but I do believe that Phish has earned the right, after 30 years, and as many mature artists often do, to occasionally indulge themselves.
This isn’t a scrapped together bit and piece of album, these were songs that have been worked and reworked for awhile now. And some of them are fantastic. I believe the title track, Fuego, 555, Wombat, Devotion, Winterqueen and You Never Know are all very close to completion. Add Yarmouth Road, Steam and Say Something perhaps and you’ve got QUITE an album already. That’s before they step into the studio in earnest.
I also believe that the language the author of this piece used does not at all fit the subject matter.
I can understand where the author is coming from but would simply add this. I am a lifelong fan of this band and was at Halloween in 09 and 10. I was extremely familiar with Exile (it’s one of my all time favorites) and basically had no idea what was going on during Waiting for Columbus. I have since become more educated and am huge fan of the latter album. Perhaps it was my perspective in 2010 but I felt like a lot of people were in the same boat then. To my eyes and ears there was a lot less “energy” in Boardwalk Hall that night in 2010 than at any point this past weekend, 2nd set 10/31 included. Even in 2009 there came a point, probably some time after Loving Cup, where everybody starts itching for the boys to come back to the stage and play their own material. Would I have preferred to hear Ok Computer, Sports or Graceland? Hell yeah! But would I have wanted to hear Eat a Peach or Rock of Ages? Meh not really. Not because I don’t love either of those bands or albums (which I do), but I would’ve thought picking those albums or a handful of others would’ve lazy. In my opinion, they’re both really similar to Waiting for Columbus. Point is that everyone has their expectations and there’s no way to satisfy everyone. I am not saying this to distinguish myself from a more critical subset of the community. The fact that we have these guys at all doing what they’re doing 30 years into a career that has seen its fair share of obstacles is the greatest gift of all. That the music, in so many ways, is as good as it is and in so many ways better than its ever been is an embarrassment of riches. Odd Couple theme tease in Tweezer? Thank you!!!!!!!!
I don’t really agree with Chris on this. I know a lot of people are disappointed with the lack of a cover album, but to then state in the article that, anyone who sticks up for the choice is simply playing an amateur game of “i like phish more than you” is straight offensive. You get to have your opinion, but also get to preemptively dismiss everyone else’s? I wasnt into all of the songs, but, I was really into others. I also don’t think Trey made all his comments to say in a roundabout way that they understand everyone hated it. I don’t think they would have given us the set 3 or night 2 they did if they felt like everyone hated it. To me that was them riding the high of getting to share the new stuff which they have been working really hard on. Maybe you should keep you reviews to PT – you will find good company there.
I guess I’m missing the part where fans were promised a musical costume. That’s NEVER been part of the deal, peeps….My advice? Don’t expect, just enjoy.
The way I see it, it took ALOT of balls for the boys to do what they did on Halloween, and the result was pretty amazing. It’s funny…people have been bitching about a tight song rotation for a while now, and when they get an entire set of new material, they STILL bitch.
hmmmm…Seems like my crew and the people surrounding us were at a very different show than you. We had a blast, and were impressed muscially at what they turned out with Wingsuit. To call their creative output “lazy” seems a rather limited interpretation. Seems like too many expectations were not met – by a band that has built a career on both exceeding expectations, and bucking them entirely. I am glad I had such a good time, and I am glad that I was not detracted nor distracted by people who did not, such as yourself. Glad you kept the talking to a minimum.
This article is spot on!!
It’s ok to admit the band missed the mark. The rest of the run was GREAT but Halloween just didn’t work! It’s ok. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a fan if u don’t love it all!!
The energy in the building was KILLED that night.
Whether they played a new album or a cover is not as profound to me as this: after playing over 1600 shows (more so if you take into account solo shows), this band that we love to death were very anxious and nervous when they played their second set (you can see it in their faces from the webcast). Then, once they were done, you could see the relief they had by tearing the roof off during the 3rd set. Forget about us and our expectations, these guys were trying something outside their comfort zones, and watching them go through that was more than I could ever ask for from my favorite band. Cheers.
A comment emailed to Across the Margin. Thank you.
I appreciate your article. Most of it I can completely relate to. You rung some great points and stated what we know to agree upon. I wish Wingsuit was donned in Glen Falls and we got to witness their mastery coined “musical costume”. Your line about our faults is the plane truth. The band and the audience have a relationship. It’s the greatest in music history. You and I are a part of that, but no one should ever get ahead of themselves. In fact, everyone upset should get over themselves. The band calls the shots and they do things we never thought of. It’s what they’ve been doing to me since I got obsessed with them 20 years ago. I was let down, but inside I knew they had dumbfounded me for a reason. This was a special year in the story so I give them a total pass to buck tradition for an exception on this 30th year of bandmanship. I’m an entitled fan, for sure, but they are entitled to make the plays. The Dead ended at year 30. The future is wide open and we are all going there.
The jams this year have been some of the greatest shit my mind could ever imagine. The experience now keeps me looking forward. It’s not nostalgia. I saw 3 Halloween costumes in my day and was honored. There will be more.
I have re-listened to Wingsuit like 5 times by now. I think it’s great. Some tracks I love, some much less, but it’s new Phish! Musical chemistry and a treat, not a trick. Phish gave us a set of music they have never played before and by going to Halloween or watching it from the couch that night, we all got taken on an adventure. Mystery set was embraced heart first.
My experience this weekend was the time of my life and the band was still the giving tree.
Phish created the “tradition” of donning a musical costume. They can reframe that tradition however they want. The only thing that you should ever “expect” from Phish is that they will walk on stage and play music. Im sure there were lots of fans assuming the band would play Eat A Peach or Sports or whatever the rumor mill churned out. However, if you are remotely familiar with this band, you are aware of their pranqster tendencies. Granted, Halloween is a high holiday in the Phish calendar so what bigger of a risk than to put your new music on your sleeve to a sold out crowd? Many of the new stuff sounded great and was obviously heavily practiced in the weeks before fall tour. Good for the band for flipping the script once again and in typical Phishy style. Sucks your expectations ruined the night for you. BTW, 3rd set was absurdly good as a treat for fans’ patience and open ears throughout the 2nd set. Perhaps you should rethink your Phish-going experience. Many go because Phish has a “tradition” of breaking the mold of a normal musical concert experience. Guess what? They did it again. Happy Halloween, joke is on you. In the words of guitarist Trey Anastasio, “You Paid Us!!!”
“HAHAHA you paid us” These haters would have cranked up thriller. Andrew’s gettin’ pitted YEW
I guess I AM an ‘elitist’. What better gift than to hear NEW? Exactly what I wanted & NEEDED outta my experience..any other album would have disappointed me on some level. Wingsuit did NOT. Bravo bravo.. I too have been seeing them for decades and when someone brings something fresh and delicious to the table..I say THANK YOU!!!!!!!
I go to Phish shows to hear new music each time. Hopefully a new jam. A new inspiration. If they put together 5 songs in a second set, and each jam was completely different and unheard, that is exactly why I go. I see no difference with hearing new lyrics. At some time when you go to Phish shows, all the songs are new. So what if that happens to be on Halloween?
Plenty of room on the bandwagon with Farag and the UM boys.
Well written article, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but I take issue with a few points you made.
1. To start with, I watched on the webcast, so my POV is at a distance to begin with, though it may be enlightening. You start by claiming the band ‘lost the audience from the first note.’ To my ears, both on the cast and listening afterwards, there are cheers evident throughout both Fuego and Wombat, produced by the band’s playing (unless something was happening in the crowd i’m not privy to), hardly a ‘lost audience’. The same cheers lead me to believe that the show was neither “a total failure” or leading to an audience that was ” crowd was tuned out, generally uninterested, and even somewhat annoyed.” Though I don’t doubt this was your reaction and perhaps the reactions of your friends as well, the recordings don’t seem to support your claim across the entire audience.
2. You argue that phish fans shouldn’t be guinea pigs, however, phish has, on numerous occasions debuted swaths of new material at shows, so i’m not sure what changed between lowell ’95 and now, other than them using the occasion of halloween to do it.
3. “I better stop talking…” was related to naming the people whom the songs were written about, not any opinion of how the evening went, in my opinion.
4. Having watched quite a few webcasts, essentially nothing said by the “computer”(beth) has ever been accurate, with the possible exception of it’s sexual yearnings for the refrigerator.
5. Had the band followed the ‘if it ain’t broke’ theory, there’d have been no fall ’97, since they were humming pretty good in ’95.
I think my point is most fans will acknowledge that beyond anything else, this band is known for taking risks, and pulling pranks. In that context, I have no issues with what they did. In the context of Phish being the only band i’d even consider indulging in covering an entire album, and having it not happen this year, yes, that in and of itself is disappointing, but i’m also perfectly satisfied with them doing something different (as long as I enjoyed it, and I did), and while you’re both perfectly entitled to your opinion and I’m sure not alone in it, I do think you’re probably in the minority.
Respek for creating the conversation!
Just 2 quick points:
There are very valid arguments to make on why this night was a mixed bag, but blanket assertions that everyone there hated it, or was bored, or thought it was a horrible decision, just serve no purpose, and do nothing but undermine the article’s legitimacy. If there is one thing about the Phish community, it’s that there are always a billion things about the Phish community. Don’t generalize your own reaction to “everyone” else just because it makes it seem more believable or correct.
More importantly, if you’re going to say things like “The venue stunk of failure”, then you need to do more than just say that the *decision* not to cover another album was disappointing. Sure, it was arguably a bad call to play Wingsuit, but technically speaking, the whole album went off without a hitch. They freaking killed it. A fan’s bitterness over having their expectations crushed (even if totally legitimate) does not mean failure. I’m probably nit-picking diction here, but hey, it’s important.
That said, I agree that as a concert, this didn’t really work. In the long term, I’m extremely happy that they gave us 12 new songs to listen to and get acquainted with, but as a live show, it was a (gusty, ballsy, and totally Phishy) mistake.
I think what they did was amazing. I go each and every time to see them create new music in front of my eyes…and that night I saw and took in more than ever. The best part for me is that it erased that little doubt in my mind that they may stop again. I’ll go to the beacon 5 times this year to hear eat a peach to make up for it. All who are upset they didn’t hear it are welcome to join me.
Phish has spent years and years building expectations about certain days, events and shows. Halloween is one of those “monumental” shows. Whether or not you think it’s fair, the band clearly recognized the expectation existed or else they would not have defended their actions in the Playbill and subsequently apologized to their fans over the next 2 nights. This knowledge – and clear foresight as evidenced by the Playbill – suggests that the band fully recognized this was deceit. Obviously not with malice, but organized, coordinated deceit. Every fan has a right to celebrate this ruse, just as they have a right to feel like someone they love has taken advantage of a historical situation. As with all bell curves, many of us will fall to either end of the spectrum with a majority somewhere near the middle. You cannot fault someone for being disappointed, but you should also not feel compelled to defend the band. This was not a case in which the band “never announced a cover album” and just coincidentally played an unreleased album. They methodically went about planning this event, knowing how it would be received across the spectrum.
My personal opinion – this was more of a New Years Eve gag second set and should have been saved for that night….after all, NYE is just 4 shows away.
“Phish fans are judgmental and unreasonable” you are obviously both. Jaded vet syndrome to the max. I actually called that they were going to play a new album for the 2nd set. Wasn’t happy about it but I thought it was going to happen. If you couldn’t find yourself liking at least fuego, then you should rethink your phandom. I know it’s your opinion, but your
Opinion in this case is wrong. If you can’t appreciate Phish playing Phish than you are really not a true fan
“But what Phish fans certainly shouldn’t be are guinea pigs. They are not a test audience or a focus group.”
I think you’re misunderstanding the spirit of debuting and testing unreleased material in front of a live audience. I’m frankly surprised that you didn’t refer to (or are unaware of) MMW’s “Radiolarians” triptych of albums; not only is there well-established precedent for this kind of thing — there’s precedent in the “jam-band” world!
For a while, it was “Phish tradition” to play chess with the audience. For a while, it was “Phish tradition” to communicate some secret language at the start of Bowie. For a while, it was “Phish tradition” to explain the vibration of life. It was “Phish tradition” to cover some jazz standards. The more shows I’ve attended, the more I’ve come to realize that you can’t have any expectations going into one. This is doubly true for a Halloween show.
As you can clearly tell, I disagree (vehemently) with the opinion piece above, but at least it’s started a good discussion.
This Halloween set has more replay value then any other Halloween set that Phish has ever played.
I can only imagine the author has never been to any of the other Halloween shows. I’ve been to three, and this year was the best.
What you may have viewed as disappointment in the crowd’s mellow vibe is exactly how a crowd behaves when being exposed to brand new music. This happens in Set II of every Phish Halloween show. If you don’t know the music, you are required to pay a little more attention than you might if you do.
You can rock out and dance like a maniac to Piper when you’ve seen it/heard it a bunch of times.
But you can’t do that the first time you hear a song.
I was in section 205, and everyone around we was happy as a clam.
I admit I was disappointed when I was handed my PhishBill. I was even worried. I had spent the last two months boning up on 15 albums I’d never heard before in hopes of being more familiar with whatever choice they made. All of that effort was for naught. And still this year was the best Halloween show I ever saw.
I like how you just blanketly say that anyone who says they liked the choice is just pretending to be a better Phish fan than the rest of them. How ridiculous!
You can have your opinion, but your blanket dismissal of anyone who disagrees with you is totally uncalled for. Weak sauce, Mr. Rockwell. Weak sauce.
The one thing i’m surprised none of you are alluding to is the obvious age of the reviewer: you are a young man and things will get better for you. Keep reading, keep thinking, and keep loving and things will get better man. God bless
While i was looking forward to (ok, excited for) a musical costume, i keep reminding myself of the two tenets of Phish that make them such a unique and special bands with an amazingly loyal following:
1: expect the unexpected
2: once you know what to expect…see #1
Moral for me is that while i may not have been overly excited about this particular choice of theirs, tthis IS why i continue to follow them after nearly 20 years
I really enjoyed reading this article; well thought out argument and I understand where you’re coming from. Having said that, I think that what they did was brilliant simply for the fact that we’re all still talking about it. Had they played Eat a Peach or Sports, or any cover album really, it’d be another bullet on the Phish Halloween album list and we’d all move on. The fact that there’s this much debate shows that they’ve still got surprises for their fans and for themselves.
I also think the next halloween will be outrageous.
Writer was right. He may have actually havebeen more kind than me. I hated the album and i am after 20 years and 400 shows done with them. The jokes on me trey? No the jokes on your wallet when people stop buying tickets because you suck so bad. That album might not sell a single copy…
Sweet, more dancing room, later crispy
“and it took a tremendous third set rally to lift the audience’s spirits…”
Oh…so you got THREE FULL SETS of music that night? How awful that must have been. Especially that “tremendous” THIRD FULL SET. This is a band on top of their game after 30 years. Instead of whining about not having your expectations met maybe appreciate that these guys are at the age where most bands are shallow shells of themselves yet Phish is arguably better and more vital than ever.
Finally, so what would be your reaction if they actually did a cover album and it was an obscure album of a band you never listened to? Would you be upset then? Is there a rule that they only costume “cool” albums that you like? How many kids were totally unfamiliar with The Velvet Underground and the songs from LOADED? Or the deep cuts from The Talking Heads REMAIN IN LIGHT? There were a lot of confused people those nights too. What exactly is the formula for what a proper Phish Halloween Costume should be?
And again…what is so horrible about THREE FULL SETS OF PHISH MUSIC?
I stopped going to Phish shows years ago becuase they kept recycling the same old songs, so I don’t see why people are so upset that they are actually trying new material. Isn’t that what sold you on the band in the first place? Let’s be real here; they haven’t written any music worth listening to since Ghost, so for them to try something new, what nerve! And before you get all, “what about Farmhouse, or Round Room?!”, stop yourself. You sound just as silly as the author of this article.
I was there, I have heard most of the jams in all the new songs over the last 20 years or so. It was good to see the boys back in form. If this is what it takes for them to practice and play, then so be it. And to not mention the awesomeness of night 2 is just crazy. Hands down some of the best Phish I have witnessed in over 20 years and 250 Phish shows.
Anyone who didn’t appreciate this show shouldn’t call themselves a phan.
I finally made it to my first ever Halloween show – bucket list show for me. Spent many hours sewing my costumer – Lawn Boy out of Astro Turf!!! With every expectation I wanted to hear an album live, and was very excited for this opportunity. That being said, I was confused at first when I read the bill. Then it dawned on me – I was going to be there the night that Phish was going to do something no one has ever done before. Play a cover of their own album that was not even an album yet! Who’s to say that you would have liked the album they covered? What if you just didn’t care for that band or album? For those of you that did not enjoy the second set, that is for you to live with. For me, and any one else that actually appreciates the chance that Phish took and made it clear that we will have many more years of enjoying their music, I am glad that I was there. Thank you for 30 years. I look forward to being there for many more to come!
first of all they never ever said that they were gonna do an album by another band. That is assumed by what they did in the past. The thing that no one is mentioning is that thousands of Phish fans around the world were able to listen to new material all at the same time, we as phish phans were able to listen to this together as a community. enjoy it, some day it will be gone, just like the dead, led zepplen, the beatles ETC.
What needs to be factored in here is the role the Phishbill itself plays in killing Halloween show energy. I was there on Thursday and also saw ’10, ’98, ’96 and ’95. I missed ’94 and ’09, but I can unequivocally say that the best energy I’ve EVER seen at a show was during set one, and as set 2 began of the ’95 Quadrophenia show. Not knowing what was to come made it so much more special than these last 5 Halloweens where they handed out the “spoiler” right as you walk into the venue. I never understood why they bailed on the trickery (speak to me tease in ’94 and wanna be startin’ somethin’ in ’95) that went over so perfectly for the first two musical costume sets.
Just imagine if there were no Phishbill and they had played Wingsuit. I doubt very much that there would’ve been much disappointment if we had all spent some or much of the 2nd set trying to figure out what the hell we were even listening to. I mean THAT woulda been pretty fucking exciting and cool.
So yeah, I get the disappointment at this break from tradition. I was disappointed too. The energy was low low low. But the mystery and trickery and ensuing frenetic anticipation have been missing from Halloween shows for a while now….
Agreed, They really should keep it a total surprise and ditch the Phishbill
Sounds like we have an awful lot of woo-ers commenting here. Glad you all had a great time, and the people in your crew did too. But to deny that it an overwhelming portion of the crowd was not enjoying the evening would be insanity.
Quite frankly the level of response this post has gotten has done one thing indeed; it supports the authors position that we are all judgmental.
Stop hating on the author of this article This set was a Coventry level disaster I was in section 114 and the entire section was sitting for three of the last for songs at least half those songs won’t make it phish isn’t about new music just take a listen to undermind if you want to listen to a bunch of shitty Phish songs. They stopped between every song for for ever, obviously they knew it sucked but they were committed to it so they had to finish it and hey if your going to have dancers do that song last.
Consider watching the show Lost and see if they still have an opening, you are ready for a leading role.
Wow, you are just the most ungrateful fan ever. Seriously, stop going to shows because you are killing the vibe.
Last time Phish played at Boardwalk Hall there was a newspaper article circulating stating that Phish would not cover an album on Halloween anymore. The Halloween show was my 160th show and I enjoyed all of the new songs and am happy they felt comfortable enough with their audience to debut them on Halloween. I bet a majority of the haters were high,drunk or talking during the show, therefore probably don’t even remember much of the music. We are very lucky that each band member is still alive considering the scene that surrounds the band. More often than not, I see people paying less attention to the music and more energy on getting drunk/and or high. Instead of calling the band selfish I would call the complainers selfish.
I completely agree and think this article sums it up perfectly. I’m usually a cool aid drinker when it comes to phish, and had a great time the other 6 sets in A.C. But there was some something was broken from the moment I grabbed 2013 phishbill and I can’t help to think that it effected the mood of the entire weekend. If they had done WS at any other show it would have been memorable and joyous, but it boggles my mind how they didn’t see this as bad timing. At least at Coventry, there was an excuse, Trey needed to get better. Everyone knew it and it was sad to see. Wingsuit was a flat out delusional perspective from a band who should know better than to take advantage of the most passionate fan base in rock. Thanks for writing this article and for letting phans know that it’s ok to be disappointed. It doesn’t change my mind that they are a great, if not the greatest live band of all time. But this was like walking into the Superbowl and being told that it’s actually going to be the 4th preseason game before they cut to the 55 man roster. Let’s see if this new LB’er can make the team. Oh and it’s $300 b/c it’s impossible to get a ticket.
What a terribly written article.
“Bucking what was perhaps the greatest tradition in all of Rock and Roll…”
Phish has played 2 hallowen costume covers in the past 15 years, and 6 in 30 years.
How do you call yourself a writer and not understand the meaning of tradition?
and the comments of how I shouldn’t be called a phan b/c I am angry at this decision? That’s completely insulting. Don’t spin this on me. It’s not about me. Like the author just said, they could have warned us and gave us the choice before I paid for the ticket.
So you wouldn’t have gone to the show if you knew it was going to be all Phish originals…instead of Huey Lewis, Seger, or some other artist???????? Because that’s what it sounds like you’re saying.
“I mean I already have a brand new appreciation for Waiting For Columbus, and every album I heard rumored for this year”
Like Huey Lewis and Bob Seger?
But Wingsuit was bad? Right….
Lol, stop writing about shit you clearly don’t understand and stop being a jaded noob. The acceptance seeking behavior exhibited in this article is nothing short of pathetic.
My crew was made up of 14 vets that date back to first seeing Phish in the early and mid-90s. 12 of us absolutely loved it, 1 bitched a bit, and 1 left. Small sample size? Maybe. Should author reconsider his life? Absolutely.
Now this is funny. On point.
I have seen the band since 94, in 97 they broke rock barriers and it was jaw dropping “no one can touch jams”, ive seen every festival but Oswego, and i am very critical when it comes to the music. So, lets be adults about this and keep the name calling out. What they did was a break from tradition and i don’t think it was the right choice for Halloween. I’m glad to know that many enjoyed the second set and no one should allow this to make them hate the band. I think they will learn from this experiecne because believe me they are hearing the fans. What im more upset about is that this might be the last Halloween show and that was one of the things i loved the most about the band and for those that have not seen that experience its not phish, its phish reliving rocks Gods that takes rehearsal, studying, time, energy, sweat, blood, and tears; and should end in utter exhaustion and pleasure. So, when you see this live then maybe you will understand why other people were disappointed with their decision. It can be a life changing event and cause the earliest phan to be hooked for life instantly. I think everyones comments should be listened to and that shows whether pleased or disappointed we really do care. I thought this fall tour was splendid and this band could very well play into their 70’s and break barriers of rock n roll as we know it
I’m so sick of people whining about one of their favorite bands playing what was essentially a bonus set of their brand-new music. Is Phish not who you went to go see in the first place? They could have played 2 sets and made it a standard show that night. If they had covered an album, more than half the people would have been bitching about that, too, whether it was Radiohead, Allman Brothers, The Band, or Elton John. For the record, my section had a blast on Halloween. Yes, I can understand how some people were disappointed, but get over it already. This was one of the best tours Phish has done since before 2.0. Get excited about THAT.
This new age of Phish apologists and water carriers is polluted by plans who have no historic compass. Those who have seen a bulk of their shows post 2002 have a much rosier view of the 2013 Troy world mostly, not always. Frankly for the water carriers saying no album was announced is a strawman argument and perhaps they missed the marketing of said show or the video on the jumbo tron at Glenn Falls. Either way this guy has it spot on from every single person from 21-40 I know that went. Seems like many of you miss also amidst your clammoring how sloppy Troy was this tour. Try the Hartford Gluffhead or Worcester Mikes. Those making much of 2013 aren’t attentive using the bands whole catalog. To me it is all one huge archive like The Greatful Dead. Good years bad years ups and downs, but you can’t shine shit with a rag full of disappointment. I think it is fair to say this has been a very mild to weak year of 3.0 Phish. The sloppiness and lack of set list creativity has been a disaster. It can’t be made up for by the Tahoe Tweezer or Hollywood Hood or Reading DWD or any of the numerous cool stock Carini jams. 2009-2012 exhibited a far more focused product like 1.0 where creativity launched from instrumental mastery of their catalog and jams like 11/28/09 come out. Nothing like that is going on now and 2010 and 2011 blow away 2009. Reality is what it is, but hey you won’t see Wingsuit ever be mentioned with the White Album or Exile in any context besides this. So you got that going for you.
Phish is the greatest band ever. Wingsuit is the best album since story of the ghost. I can’t believe how many of you don’t want to see Phish evolve with new awesome music… If you want a cover show, go see Furthur or some other busted fakeful dead project. I was there and this stuff was raging… No energy lost…. For those haters out there, you probably shouldn’t eat the brown acid before next Halloween, or better yet, just don’t show up at all, cuz the greates band ever isn’t gonna stop evolving anytime soon and Wingsuit is testament to that…. I loved the show from start to finish. Thanks Phish.
Definitely not an elitist, but sorry you don’t get the future of Phish.
so you didn’t dance during Fuego, Wombat or 555?
All I know is this: there are as many show experiences for a givenn show as their are fans in attendance. I’ve been at shows where the energy was modest and then walked 60 yeards in one direction and it transformed into a ripper. Don;t presume your experience is that of others, it makes you sound like a fucking asshole.
BTW, if they had pulled that Hoist when it was released, everyone would have hated it… and everyone still hates hoist, despite loving 80% of the songs on it.
I am unenthusiastic about the vibe of people being upset when they don’t get what they casme for. What you came for was to surrender to what the band wanted… some days it hits, some days it doesn’t. That is life on the road with Phish.
Don’t like the last show? Go to another one.
WSP—-why see Phish.
This is a great article and much more honest than another phish blogger that will go unnamed, as I feel he falls into the camp of fans that are constantly trying to prove they get IT while others don’t.
In response, I do think you overstate the case a bit. But, as a writer, you have accomplished your goal of stirring something in people, after all, I am responding. Having watched the webcast and talked with friends in attendance, it does not sound as though they completely “lost” the audience. Many of us, myself included, were disappointed that we would not be “treated” to watching Phish take on a cover album. However, I think we are very happy to see that our favorite band does not also want to be remembered as a revival act or the world’s greatest cover band. Which, if you have been paying attention for the last couple years, they were quickly becoming.
I have been seeing Phish since ’92 and after 20 plus years and hundreds of shows, I am eager for anything new and fresh from the band. So, Halloween was bittersweet in that seeing them take on Eat a Peach would have been cool, but, the prospect of new and interesting Phish music is very exciting for this fan! Plus, I have the added benefit of knowing that I saw the White Album and Remain in Light. My Halloween fantasies were fulfilled a long time ago.
If you can go through that Wombat, ignore the Abe Vigota cameo (which is still cracking me up), and say they stunk the place up, don’t ever ever ever ever take a ticket away from a real phan again. Sit at home on the couch and stew. Those tickets can be hard to come by (sometimes) and some of us think you should have to be the one to pay $500 for a 3 night pass on stubhub, instead of those of us who have been on the train for 20 years. Go listen to Beiber
I would much rather hear Phish play their own new stuff than some other band’s album. I see Wingsuit as “Free” meets Pink Floyd’s “Learning to Fly”. What could be better than that. The second song, “Fuego” has “Harpua”-like qualities. “Wombat” is like “Moma Dance” meets “YEM”. Granted some of the new songs are more in vein of “Heavy Things” or Trey solo material, what is not to like about hearing Phish moving forward and breaking out new stuff?
I suppose the expression “Tradition is the illusion of permanence” rings true here. Well I want to believe in the illusion! Great piece I whole hardheartedly agree with this criticism. The comments provided above further reinforce your description of the Phish fans various stances described in the 4th and 5th paragraphs.
Halloween was not the occasion to introduce Wingsuit.
I have seen every Halloween show since 1991. This year’s Halloween show was my 340th show (or around there). While I understand your position to a certain degree (you’re obviously entitled to your own opinion), I disagree. It’s subjective and your opinion is a valid as another persons but it seems like you lump the whole crowd into being on your side of the fence. I have friends that were disappointed, but everyone in my section (the floor) was digging it. People weren’t standing around talking, they were jamming. Some of the material is stronger than other but I like the majority of it, and I am always in favor of new Phish music over a re-hash of another band’s 30 year old album….
All they had to do was play Gamehendge if they really didn’t want to put the time into learning a whole album to cover. Phans have been biting their nails to hear a “LIVE” since Great Woods of 94′ from my recollection?!?
IMHO this ONLY about time consumption and just being lazy for lack of a better term. They all have families (except for Cactus) and busy lives, music is not their top priority anymore as it shouldn’t be. Definitely a disappointment to phans that traveled and spent a lot of skrilla to be there I’m sure, glad I wasn’t one of them!
Lazy…I wonder how much effort it takes to write music collaboratively, then practice it to performance level. I’m sure they could’ve chopped out another cover album with ease…this we an endeavor that took effort and sacrifice.
Lots of comments with little time to sort through them. But I just wanted to say thank you for this commentary. This took a tremendous amount of personal and internal honesty, which is sorely lacking when it comes to being critical of Phish – this band “we” all know and love – no matter what. There is a running thread that I have always encountered in the Phish community: a sort of denial. This goes beyond whether a show was good or bad (we have all seen good, bad, phenomenal performances by this band, but on the whole, mostly good). Rather, this denial is a denial of individual thought on anything Phish related: ‘no one wants to go against the consensus’ and the like – many will do everything to rationalize the way events or moments turned out one way or the other, and you get at this with “expectations.” While we might all “love to take a bath” group-think is not the same as “unity,” and in the democratic sense is anathema to the ethos of democracy – all voices and thoughts need to be heard to make what we reason to be a “consensus” – in other words, what we come to know as “truth” about history for those in charge of writing it.
No doubt you will be in the minority. Thanks to Mr. Miner and other rabid die hards, Phish can literally “piss in the ear of the listener” and we would lap it up. I acknowledge this, but still love it. Admittedly, I was shocked as I couched tour 10/31, almost frantic to read the posted Phishbill and figure out what was going on. The quotes from the band do not necessarily signal the comparison of ‘showing up without a costume,’but it can be interpreted that way. While I have come around to the “bravery” argument, I will not deny the deflation of expectations (especially after that first set) learning that it would not be Pet Sounds, Sports, or Eat a Peach. It did seem rather half-assed. But that is a cynical perspective, and while that must be acknowledged, I suggest we should try to fight that, not just for Phish or the community, but in all things. I think there are more positive arguments to be made than negative ones, although the latter is evidently strong and you articulate well it here. Thank you again for this.
Read the first five sentences and bailed. Oh well for this guy and whoever was around him. I had a phenomenal listening experience and would rather have heard the new harmonies, chord changes, textures, rhythms, lyrics over ANYTHING else.
Good artists create controversy, know who they are, and stick to it. Good thing Phish finally stepped up to the plate after several years of resting on their laurels and already established talents. You’re either evolving or dying. They showed that they know this – and made a damn good choice.
Is it the greatest album of all time – nah. But, it’s good – sometimes sick – and it’s Phish. Did their jamming, writing, and playing sound 100x more inspired and refined* than the same songs and jam patterns I’ve heard a zillion times over the past few years? By a mile.
It’s wacky to me that people who truly love Phish would rather hear them play other band’s tunes than to hear them write and play their own brand new original music. It makes me wonder what they really love about Phish.
The old songs are old – they are spent. Which means new musical ideas will crop up occasionally in jams as a lucky mutation. But, if you want real new ideas then the band – any band – has to WRITE. They have to practice new concepts, new structures, play over new progressions and rhythms – stay challenged to stay interested – and interesting.
I understand that a lot of fans don’t get this and I believe them when they say they are disappointed. We all have our own ears and agendas. I respect that. Too bad for this guy, because the sound I heard when the band broke into the album was like taking a hot shower in a rainbow.
*For what I meant by refined: What I mean is I’ve been listening to them play sloppy live renditions of what should be great material for a long time now. Take for example the end of 20 Years Later – which as written, is a sick piece of music. But, played live it sounds like garbage. A cool tune shamelessly performed poorly at so many shows (unrefined, unpracticed, never brought up to form for a live show). Sugar Shack is another of many examples, and that’s just naming newer compositions.
This album was practiced and really thought about for live presentation. You could tell immediately in the opening verse of the first tune, the way the sound was crafted. They picked out specific tones they wanted for all their parts and the blend is extra sweet. They learned how to lock them together – thoughtfully – wrote them with cool angular counterpoint against each other instead of everyone just playing standard rhythm parts. Even the fills are well orchestrated. They took a super slow song like Wingsuit and played it tight as nails. Trey’s solos don’t meander, they cook over the changes. The mix throughout the entire album is really quite good. It has a studio feel in a live setting. Finally, taboot, Fuego is one of the best performed compositions these brilliant boys have ever played.
Just wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who took the time to read and comment. The fact that such strong feelings were invoked by one man’s take on Halloween’s second set proves what we all know to be true – that Phish has the most passionate fans on the planet. I don’t have time to respond to all the comments here but one in particular struck me – one that discussed the possibility that this set will be looked at more fondly as time moves by. Very possible, and I am intrigued by the thought. Time does wondrous things.
Contrary to what is claimed in many of the more outlandish comments, I love Phish. I have been going to see them for nearly two decades (including many Halloween shows for those wondering) and I think this Fall tour was spectacular. They are still going strong and this pleases me as much as anyone. My problem with the evening, as noted, was the choice to debut these songs (some of which have legs!) this night. Just don’t think it worked and regardless of what many claim there is no doubt the energy in the room was dreadfully low during set 2. But it is great to hear so many enjoyed – more power to you of course!
Although many of you have called for me to stop seeing shows, that isn’t going to happen. I am going to be right there with you guys rocking for years to come.
Again, thank you all for your feedback and passion!
Chris – way to respond.
I think your point about a quieter crowd for set 2 is VERY interesting. It is a symptom of the fact that Phish has two sides. One side is Trey goes up the scale and hits the high note on the 1 as the white lights flash on and the crowd roars. Add in: loud volume and usually fast playing. We’ll call this first side ‘head for the peak’ playing.
The other side is thoughtfully composed, imaginative phrasing, and interwoven textures that can be more subtle and don’t have to fit into the frame of delivering “a peak.” This type of writing and playing also doesn’t have to be fast or loud. We’ll call this next side ‘reach your potential’ playing.
Phish performs in either of these “sides” on a high level unlike any other band. But the former, head for the peak playing, while initially given a new standard by Phish, has long become gratuitous and rarely (but sometimes) produces really outstanding jams. The latter, reach your potential playing, is striving for genius and gives the band on the whole, and the jams in the moment, plenty of room to grow.
The thing is, it’s tough to get over 10 thousand people in a room to appreciate ‘reach your potential’ playing. Just ask really talented jazz musicians. Seen any performing at MSG lately? Phish loves people and crowd energy so much, that whether they realize it or not, they have always used large doses of ‘head for the peak’ playing to keep big chunks of the audience happy who would otherwise be bored. The pro side of this is you get a huge extra boost of crowd energy from these people. The downside is when you go to play something really good, more subtle, it will fly right over their heads. See: the quiet people around you for set 2.
The go for the peak playing is also needed because they use it to conserve mental energy during the show and they can also get lots of crowd delight from it for minimum practice time. The reach your potential playing requires something different: intensely focused preparation and true excitement to play inspired writing, the kind we got to see in set 2 of Halloween.
I agree with the premise of the article but not the emotion. Calm down dude you will live. I might not say that if I was there but I wasn’t. It was very disappointing to me that they chose to play new tunes during the most anticipated set of the year.
I also took all the Trey thanking as apologizing. It was ballsy of them to do this but that’s not always a good idea. I wasn’t there but on the recording during the acoustic songs you can hear people chatting at full volume. When does that ever happen at a Phish show? That proves to me the energy was damn low. Energy is all that matters to me at a show. If the energy is high and I have a blast and then find out the show has terrible reviews it was still a great show foe me. Which is all that matters.
What really really annoys me is the people who say fans are entitled or aren’t real fans if they don’t love the new material and love Halloween. That is high level bullshit. There is NO right way to like Phish. Some people want to criticize them and that’s ok! Some people love Phish so much and felt genuinely hurt over the choice of Wingsuit for second set. Don’t think you are better than them just because you didn’t feel hurt.
This article is absolutely valid and the comments definitely made me re-think my position. I didn’t see the show or even listen to it yet but I was in AC and got shut out of the sat night show (first time ever but I didn’t care to pay over face value). When I was in AC no one complained but NO ONE even mentioned Halloween or anything about the new material which leads me to believe it was not well received. As you prolly know, I fall more on the side of the critic who has particular disgust of “homer” fans that praise ANYTHING the band ever does. People’s opinions are meant to be heard and the band ultimately has the final say. No one is forced to go to the shows or listen to them or pay anything at all. I firmly believe Phish’s best concert days are long gone at this point and although any night could still be a GREAT night or at least QUALITY night, the cause of unfulfilled expectations has to fall on the phan and not the band at this point. Phish earned the right to do what they think is right even if they are lazy or self-absorbed. Ticket and album sales can be the ultimate judge…
Custeeee!!!! You’;re worse than Wilson dude. I’ve seen like 30 shows and this one was awesomzzzz. Next time couch tour it. BO-ZOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
How old are you? No one wears 30 shows like a badge of honor.
Hartwell you’re a douche. I seen a Dave’s Energy Guideeeeeeeeee!!!
See Adam’s comment below. Stop taking LSD. Look up the definition of the word Custee. Get off the internet, get a job, and grow the hell up, kid.
“all they had to do was play Gamehenge” i think perfectly sums up the mentality of those unwilling or unable to accept new material.
And sure thing fella- no practice necessary to play those inticate songs. Sheesh.
And not sure where you get your information but Mr. Gordon is indeed married and has a child… Cmon!!!
Intricate songs, sry.
If you look at the picture at the top accompanying Chris’s essay, I think you’ll realize the true reason why he was so disappointed. Kidding, I agree with a lot of his points, definitely agreed with them when I was there, my heart has softened as the pain has subsided. Well-written.
Thank you for putting into words my exact feelings and thoughts, almost 100%.
Another thought I just had was wayyyyyyy back when Halloween went on sale, a friend of mine who usually gets good intel told me that he’d heard they weren’t going to do an album. I, of course, called BS. But when you think about it, they really had two choices: learn an album (lots of work) or get in the studio in between Halloween and NYE run to knock out a new album (also lots of work). They couldn’t have reasonably done both. They needed to be focusing on the new songs that they’ll be recording so that they can make a great album and I’m sure it seemed like a great and logical idea to make the “costume” the new album.
If nothing else, this band has earned the right to play whatever the fuck they want. If they want to spend the Halloween show farting into microphones, they can do it. Jaded fans like you and your “expectations” and demands of the band are the jaded fools who helped bring them down before the break.
This is probably the most accurate thing written about a moment of Phish’s post 2004 career that I’ve ever read.
Just be honest with yourselves, for once.
Phish doesn’t spend a lot of time together. The time they did spend, they worked on a new album, and then they didn’t put much time into a Halloween album. They’re the band, as mentioned, came without the costume to their own Halloween party. “Waiting for Columbus” is merely a GOOD album, but it’s also simple. At least that year they decided to throw white sheets over their heads.
This year? They gave you NOTHING.
And they know it.
Bravo for this piece.
For it’s much less harsh than mine:
fuck man. if i knew they were gonna play wingnuts i would stayed in my hotel room and crushed gas to that new lorde joint.
We were thrilled to receive this well thought out and well written comment from Adam via email. Thank you Adam.
The polarizing jamband Phish, which formed in Vermont 30 years ago, is arguably more famous for its spontaneity than its songwriting. From performing inside a flying hotdog in Madison Square Garden to playing a set of improvisational music atop an Airforce control tower in Maine to pretending to shoot its drummer through the roof of an arena in Miami, Phish has attracted fans at least as much for the quality of its music – which is genuinely amazing at times – as for the chance of witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime concert, such as Phish’s Halloween 1994 performance of the Beatles’ “White Album.”
Phish’s music, in its early days, was based in both classical music and classic rock such as Santana, the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, whose legacy Phish carried on, in some ways, after Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995. The band’s most memorable and most impressive compositions – “Divided Sky,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Harry Hood,” “David Bowie,” et al – brilliantly juxtapose nonsense lyrics with sweeping, complex prog-rock workouts that found a way to mesh the languid jamming of the Dead and the Allmans with the “look ma, I can do this” pyrotechnical musicality of Zappa and Yes. Essentially, for its first 20 years Phish – although it struck gold with Billy Breathes in 1996 by bringing a bit of Pavement and the Beatles to jam rock – ranged from the mesmerizing to the laughable in its original compositions, sometimes choosing one (“The Curtain”) or the other (“Icculus”), or mixing the two (“Stash”). And in the last decade Phish, whose members are now all either 50 years old or close, in my opinion has not aged well in the realm of creating original music. While innovation and achievement in the world of rock music thrive all around it, Phish has been churning out nearly adult-contemporary ditties about shirtless bike rides and secret smiles, only occasionally combining edge with depth, as on the powerful “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan.”
But – although there are certainly a few dreadlocked exceptions to this rule – Phish’s cult following does not attend their concerts, let alone drive around the country attending dozens if not hundreds of the band’s concerts, hoping to hear its most recent compositions. A dream setlist for most fans most likely includes only pre-2000 Phish material – in other words, songs from before the first time Phish broke up.
So what happened on Thursday night sent shockwaves through the band’s fanbase, which now includes several generations of mostly white, suburban-raised, middle-class American dudes. The fans who follow their favorite band because “every night is different” got a pie in the face this Halloween when Phish, which has performed, in its entirety, another band’s classic album (from “The White Album” to Exile on Main St.) every time a gig has fallen on Halloween since 1994, chose instead to essentially workshop songs from its as-yet-unrecorded LPWingsuit.
Watching in person or via an online stream, Phish fans who hadn’t got the pre-show memo in Atlantic City clamored for search engines as the second set began on Thursday night, trying in vain to see what band’s album Phish was covering. Turns out it was just songs no one had heard before, and in most cases songs no one would want to hear again. Not that it was all truly horrible; but let’s just be honest, here. Phish has not written and recorded a memorable album in nearly 15 years, and may not ever again. Hundreds if not thousands of musical artists release good to great albums each year, and I review many; Phish is simply not one of them anymore. Which doesn’t make buying a ticket to one of the group’s shows necessarily a bad idea, because sometimes they pull off amazing performances of classic songs, or simply an improvisation that shines somewhere between Hot Rats and Marquee Moon.
What’s most interesting, though, is not the arguing going on over whether the songs Phish played on Thursday night were quality works of music, or whetherWingsuit will crack the top 200 best albums of 2014 when it’s released. What’s interesting isn’t even how many fans feel betrayed by Phish’s decision to throw a wrench into its Halloween tradition, i.e. its fans’ expectations, and effectively show up to its own Halloween party sans costume. That the same people who answer the question “Why do you like Phish?” with “because I never know what to expect” are angry with the jam-rock quartet for destroying their expectations last week is pretty boring, and predictable.
As a musician I personally would not charge people to see my concert and then, after they’ve arrived, surprise them by trying out an entire set of unfinished material. And certainly not on Halloween. But Phish has the right to play anything it wants, as does everyone who calls him or herself an artist, and it took guts to do what they did on Halloween. What’s really interesting to me stems from a conversation I read online. One Phish fan wrote that Wingsuit was “hilariously bad.” The first person to reply to his opinion wrote, “I hope you don’t wake up tomorrow,” and was followed by a Phish fan concurring: “I second this and ask that you please go to bed immediately.” On another website, many Phish fans responded to criticism of Wingsuit by pleading with people who didn’t like Phish’s new songs to avoid ever coming to a Phish concert again. Funny – I love Dr. Dog, for instance, although the Philly band’s last LP was my least favorite of its marvelous catalog; but in conversations about Dr. Dog recently, my dissatisfaction with Be the Void hasn’t prompted any of the group’s fans to request that I never go to another Dr. Dog show, or request that I die.
These pesky interactions with Phish fans clearly aren’t about music. Like the Grateful Dead, Phish does not just have a cult following, as did Sonic Youth or the Ramones. Phish literally has a cult following it. That is something entirely different, and it must be both heaven and hell getting almost no respect or attention from your given industry while playing for 20,000 people every night who worship you and feverishly strive to convey your infallibility to unbelievers. Many of the people I’ve spoken to at Phish concerts only listen to Phish, and in many cases love some of the terrific covers Phish does, such as “Peaches en Regalia” or “Frankenstein,” but don’t realize that they’re covers. I find it maddening, frustrating and deeply interesting sociologically that if you criticize Phish, many of their fans feel, and react, as if you are criticizing their religion, and in essence, their selves.
In 2010 I had a fabulous time in Telluride writing about Phish for Boulder Weekly, seeing two shows in a gorgeous setting with San Francisco friends I don’t get to be around often. I wrote in my review that some of the music was great, some good, some downright awful, and the myriad comments I received online ranged from insulting to threatening, with only a handful of reasonable commenters asking why people were so upset with a review that wasn’t all bad. None of the angry Phish fans realized, of course, that as both a writer and musician I get almost as much shit from many writers and musicians for liking some of what Phish plays as I get from many Phish fans for not liking every single note Phish plays.
One has to wonder what this mighty sensitivity from Phish fans stems from, psychologically. When you purposefully fail to expose yourself to the great new music of your time and forcefully insult, or even wish death upon, people who like some of what your favorite band plays but not every single note, something is wrong. And really, the ignorance with which you’re behaving is not unlike Christians who could not accept Native Americans who wanted to integrate Jesus as one of their gods but not their only god. And it surely doesn’t make outsiders more apt to take a minute and see whether they might find some of what Phish does appealing.
So, may lightning strike down upon me at this very moment for saying it: I think some of what Phish does is great. I think some of it’s good. I think some of it is pretty shitty. And I’m glad Phish is around.
Excellent article. I had the misfortune of being in attendance in AC that night. It was also my first Halloween show. I’ve been a fan of the band since 1991, so I was very excited to hear the cover album for the first time while at the show. I just listened to the Wingsuit material for the third time on my Ipod and I have to say that my initial impressions of the music were correct: this is, on the whole, pretty weak stuff. Of course, the stronger songs could improve over time. I expect that they will. But too many of these songs should probably never get performed again.
Really, there are different issues involved here.
FIRST, there is whether or not this experiment was appropriate, regardless of how good the songs were. And the answer to this is, plainly, that this was not appropriate. Phish performs cover albums on Halloween, period. They’ve done this every Halloween show since 1994. Consequently, Halloween shows become hotly anticipated and the ticket prices soar on the secondary market. I don’t pay inflated prices for tickets, which is one of the reasons why this was my first Halloween show: I won the ticket lottery and got it that way. But plenty of people do pay these prices and, due to AC being a three-show weekend (no coincidence, I’d expect, to bundle the Halloween show with two more at the same venue). Phish knew that there would be no cover this year and they did absolutely nothing to warn people that it wouldn’t be happening this year. Very bad job by the band. And I say this without any regard to how good the music on Wingsuit is – even if it was the greatest Phish album yet, this was a dick move by the band. Also, as mentioned in the blog, Halloween shows (and Phish shows in general) are about the ENERGY in the crowd. Instead of experiencing that, I was “treated” to half a concert hall of people who were talking to friends, taking bathroom breaks, watching their phones, etc. The ambient noise in the arena of people doing something other than not paying attention to the music was painfully audible. I had a knee-jerk reaction to feel embarrassed for the band, but then I set myself straight – this was 100%, squarely, Phish’s own fault. They deserved the inattention and frustration they were receiving from a large portion of the crowd.
SECOND, is the issue of Wingsuit itself, divorced from the situation. Would Wingsuit being great at least assauage the situation? Of course. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s not even close. As stated above, there are some songs with potential and they may even become fan favorites. Great; but that’s for someday down the line. On that night, nothing in that second set was great. And a few of those songs – like Wombat, for example – were so bad, it was hard to believe that it was Phish responsible for them. If the recent tours hadn’t been so excellent, this new material might have forced me to re-consider whether or not the band is still even any good.
So, to recap: bad and unfair idea – a bait and switch of the highest order – which nevertheless could have been tempered by good execution. Unfortunately, the execution wasn’t any better.
I couldn’t possibly care less what “phans” with no critical facility to evaluate music care about this post. Whine all you like about “not being owed anything,” and all that. You are simply wrong. And, also, I was grooving to AC/DC Bag and Squirming Coil back when you were still in diapers or kindergarten so don’t tell me about being a “phan.” Being a fan does not mean unconditionally accepting everything that a band does. That’s being a sheep.
yes. fucking sheep. they blew totally blew it.
I was highly impressed by all the comments here and it was fun reading them all on my bus rides to work this week. One thing I didn’t really see touched on in the comments was how difficult it must have been in this day and age to keep this whole thing a secret from what are obviously such a active, intense, enormous group of fans. In 2010 I was at a summer Phish show at Deer Creek and the next tour dates hadn’t been announced. A guy standing next to me shared intel that they would be playing a fall tour that would include dates in Broomfield, Colo., right near where I live. He had a friend on the road crew who let him in on what was a big secret at the time. He was right, they did wind up playing in Broomfield a few months later.
There have been numerous other examples where stuff Phish has planned gets leaked. I heard of no leaks anywhere with this one. The only clues I heard — and I admit I read lots of blogs about Phish’s activities — was before the summer tour Trey said in an NPR interview that the whole band was writing new songs together as a group, or was going to. Then over the summer none of those songs emerged. Then nothing new in the fall tour. So I figured those songs maybe hadn’t really worked out or they just hadn’t gotten around to writing them yet. Although there were a few new Mike Gordon additions, I felt this year like they really needed some new original music to play with.
I had a momentary thought when trying to predict the Halloween Set 2 album that they would do an album of their own new songs. But the thought quickly passed — there was no intel about any new songs anywhere. No soundchecks of new songs.
They hid this well as a band, and a lot of people close to them and in their road crew had to know about it.
Well done, Phish. This was a stunner to me and tons of other Phish heads. I adored the move purely for the fact that they pulled it off exactly how they wanted to despite Twitter and the crazy Phish rumor mill.
The Phishbill also if you read it closely mentions that the band knows a portion of their fan base always hates new music of theirs. But it always seems to grow on people. I think it’s probably best to wait on saying whether I love or hate the tunes until I’ve heard them played live a few times, or I hear them in the studio.
It all comes down to expectations. Phish took a chance, knowing that 95% of those in attendance believed that another musical costume was upon them. I watched from the couch with friends and, while none of us were entirely impressed with the majority of songs, we hadn’t traveled hundreds of miles or spend hundreds of dollars to get to the show. When they started playing a clunker, we continued conversations, got a beer, took a piss, etc. For those who did take pains to get there, who expected the costume, sure there was some disappointment. However, for all of the hyperbole in the comments, I don’t think the people sulking in their seats and not paying attention was at all specific to Halloween ’13. Heck, when I was at the 95 Quadrophenia show, a fair amount of people tuned out and the energy level may have suffered – point being that, depending on the musical costume, there will be some fans who a) don’t know the album or artist, b) don’t like the album/artist, or c) are unfamiliar enough with the music that they can’t fully enjoy it.
So, yes, everyone can agree it was ballsy of Phish to do what they did. Furthermore, everyone can have their own opinion of whether it was a success or a failure, likely colored by things wholly independent from the music (where they were, what they were on, sense of entitlement, etc.).
I did sense a level of uneasiness from the band, as if they (Trey in particular) knew how far out on a limb they were going. His “thank you’s” bordering on apologies didn’t do anything to mitigate that. In closing, I those that were disappointed should be happy that their favorite band is still together, has the creative juice flowing, and, by most accounts (and certainly to these ears) played a lot of inspired music this fall. Their music is meant to elate and inspire and, if it’s not doing it for you any more, why not take a step back and listen to the bottomless well of other amazing music that exists – and just maybe you can grow a deeper appreciation of where their creative fires comes from. One last note: if it was up to me (and it isn’t/wasnt), I would’ve used the 8/5/96 show as a template for introducing new material. Like, a 3-4 chunk of new songs each night for three nights.
i feel as if i would have written the exact same thing if i had sat down to write an article about that night. maybe with even more critical wording, as i believe you were very tactful here. i was absolutely crushed on halloween, i felt so disappointed and betrayed. and thank you for adding that part about the “elitists”, i couldn’t have said it better myself. i love phish and have never had any expectations or been disappointed by any show before, but halloween is supposed to be special and different. that chance to be someone else, and in that there is a magical feeling that doesn’t exist on any other night. they broke the one rule of halloween, and it ruined the whole feeling. they blew it. thanks for taking a public platform to point that out, because someone had to say it. they need to know that they really dropped the ball on this one.
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