June 29, 2008

President Bush's Role in the Current U.S. Recession

There is a talk radio show out of Orlando, Florida called The Philips Phile that I listen to on a regular basis via XM Satellite Radio. Topics on the show range from the ridiculous (who is included in Donald Duck's family tree) to the sublime (Aaron Burr being charged with murder for shooting Alexander Hamilton in a duel but never being arrested for it), and usually serious discussions are balanced out by conversations so funny you laugh out loud by yourself, which is hard for me to do.

The other day, the discussion swung to the economy (actually, it's a common topic of late) and whether or not you can blame Republicans or Democrats for the current U.S. recession.

The host of the show, Jim Philips, received a rash of calls from listeners who were berating him for saying President Bush has basically sat around with his thumb up his ass through the mortgage and banking crisis, the downward spiral of the U.S. Dollar and backwards slide of the stock market, rising gasoline prices and spiking oil futures, etc. etc. etc. People called in identifying themselves as Republicans, asking Jim to give them an example of a policy decision The White House or the Republican Party made during the last seven years that had negative consequences for the U.S. economy.

Jim's argument was that he wasn't pointing fingers at either party, he was simply stating that the Republicans happen to hold The White House right now, therefore they are, or will be, getting the blame for the current economic recession. If history is any indicator, Jim is 100 percent correct -- the president ultimately is not able to directly change the economy one way or another by waving a magic wand (this is Adam Smith's principle of the Free Market System), but in any event he will be blamed, or praised, for the behavior of the economy.

But those callers are also overlooking the most important point about the current mess we're in . . .

The point is not that any policy of President Bush or the Republicans has led us into this economic mess (or the policies of Democrats, or better yet, anything President Clinton might have done 12 years ago, as one female caller intimated with a little Republican "oh-aren't-you-cute-you-don't-understand" laugh). The point is that President Bush, as the leader of the country, has not introduced any policies, or even a single idea for that matter, designed to steer the country out of recession and pull the dollar back from its inflationary climb.

Personally, I believe that doing nothing about a problem is worse than introducing solutions to it that don't work, especially when you are the person who voluntarily decided to be put in a position, and eventually to accept the responsibility, to lead to this country -- and lead is the key word and point here -- and help solve its problems.

Where is the leadership of The White House?
Where are the ideas?
Where are the talking points?

Now, there are going to be people who read this and think to themselves, "President Bush did too do something -- he cut rebate checks to everyone who paid income taxes in 2007 to encourage spending and stimulate the economy." Sorry, but anyone with half a brain knows that this approach to solving a major economic crisis is the equivalent of trying to put up sandbags along the Mississippi River to stop the flooding -- it may help briefly, better in some places than in others, but ultimately the pressure behind those patches will eventually wipe out any benefit it created.

As the President of the United States, the leader of the country, George Bush is responsible for generating new ideas and making decisions about the creation of new policies that eventually cause changes in the economy (or whatever the situation is) to occur. It is up to the occupant of The White House to introduce policies designed to cause ripple effects throughout the system that eventually lead to positive changes, like Reagan's "trickle down economics" approach, or Roosevelt's "New Deal" with the country. (I realize that both Reagan's and Roosevelt's approach had unintended negative consequences, but I would argue that they caused greater long-term good than bad.)

The president is the country's chief executive, and part of the responsibility of being a CEO is leading the company (in this case the company happens to be the United States) through difficult times by listening to the ideas and opinions of the staff (Congress) and the shareholders (U.S. citizens), and forming new strategies and new policies and new approaches to conducting business, eventually turning the company, or in this case the country, back around and into profitability and prosperity.

Republicans can point fingers all they want, but it happens to be their turn in the captain's chair and the person they nominated to be their captain is sitting on the bridge, watching the scenery pass by while the ship is starting to really take on water and lean to one side.

June 26, 2008

A Letter from Page Regarding Phish Reunion Rumors

And so it begins as it ended . . .

Almost four years to the date (well, a month off but kinda close considering how much time has passed) Page McConnell writes a letter to all of us, and posts it on Phish.com, addressing the rumors that have been swimming around about the possibility of a Phish reunion.

The letter in its entirety is posted below, but I suggest you check out The Real McCoy anyway.


Given the volume of speculation and rumors that have bubbled up recently, I have been asked to make a statement…Here goes.

For me, the last four years have been great. I’ve spent quality time with my family and have watched my daughter grow. I took great pleasure and pride in writing and recording an album. I’m living a healthy lifestyle. I travel as little as possible and I sleep in my own bed. It took a couple of years after the break up to begin talking to my old band mates, but once the conversations began to flow it wasn’t long before the friendships were rekindled. And I can honestly say that I’m closer with all of them now then I’ve ever been in our 20-year relationship.

Recently the conversations have turned toward the possibility of spending some time together. Currently many of us have plans and projects already in the works, most notably Mike, who made a great album and is about to hit the road in support of it. Given that I might not even see some of the guys for the next six months, I would say that the announcement of a reunion is premature. However, later this year we hope to spend some time together and take a look at what possible futures we might enjoy. In fact the only real decision that has been made is that when we do get together, it will only be the four of us, hopefully with no distractions. I am really looking forward to that.

I want to say just a few more things. The prospect of Phish reuniting is something I consider very seriously, and I think about it a lot. And lastly, as always, there is plenty of misinformation floating around. Try not to focus too much on secondhand sources and random gossip. If there is anything real to announce, it will come from the four of us as a group.

Until then,


And we're glad glad glad that you're alive . . .

First of all, I have to admit, it makes me sad to read that the boys didn't speak to each other, in one form or another, for almost two years after Coventry. I knew there was a lot of shit that went down between the four of them, but I never pictured them being that irritated with each other; hats off to Phish for keeping the fighting quietly to themselves.

Second, it is, of course, incredibly good news to read about plans to get together later this year and "take a look at what possible futures we might enjoy" -- just Phish without any family, phamily or hangers-on. That's how it was in the beginning of it all, before Col. Forbin stepped through that door . . . just four guys with a dream and all the time in the world to rehearse, become stronger and tighter as a unit by playing gigs that slowly drew more and more people, and work on getting down all those intricate passages in songs so they could play them tight, like we all adore.

I don't know where they plan on getting together (The Barn, anyone?), but I can't picture them hanging out and not playing at least a little music. Or maybe that's the point -- just to spend some time trying to define what Phish is now, and who they've become in relation to one another.

Wouldn't it be nice if Trey happened to bring alone some sheet music for those songs he and Tom wrote? Ah, to be a fly in Fishman's soup . . .

Finally, Page flat out says he thinks about Phish getting back together, and thinks about it a lot. I don't know about you, but I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on things that aren't important in my life. (Right here I feel like I'm holding a Magic 8-Ball and the little blue dectagon floating around inside the window comes up "All signs point to yes."

All of us Phish-heads have waited for this day, or for something like it, for a long, long time; for me, at least, I have gone through so many life changes since August 2004 -- the birth of my son (first and only child); growing a new company and later exiting while it was still on top; getting divorced; moving from Raleigh, North Carolina to West Palm Beach, Florida to Orlando, Fla. to Eugene, Oregon and finally settling in Bend, Ore.

We now know that by the end of 2008 we will (almost) definitely have some news about the future of Phish, if there is one in store or not. That's more than we knew last Wednesday (June 25), and while it isn't exactly the news we all hoped for, isn't it great just knowing the guys decided to address us as Phish?

So, have sweet dreams people. Dust off those cassette tapes (I know some of you still have them - -I do!). The MultiBeast is stirring and looks as if it may awaken in the not-to-distant future.

June 24, 2008

George Carlin Dies at 71

George Carlin, my favorite comedian of all time, died late last Sunday night of a heart attack. He was 71 years old.

This is not news at this point, by any means, but George Carlin had such a profound impact on my life I can't let his passing go by without acknowledging the brilliance of this man's life, and the role he played in shaping the every day life of every single person living in the United States of America.

The New York Times published the best obituary about George Carlin, and it should have. Not only was George Carlin (for some reason I feel the need to write, and say, his entire name every time it comes up rather than abbreviating it as George or Carlin) a native New Yorker -- Brooklyn born and raised -- but the New York Times writes obituaries of famous people years in advance of their death, so when the news breaks they have the article ready to go. In the case of George Carlin's death the Times had his obit posted within a couple of hours of his death.

This wasn't the first heart attack George Carlin had, although you wouldn't know it from the way the media discussed his passing. George Carlin had two prior heart attacks -- one in 1978 and one in 1982. He references the experience during his HBO Stand-Up Special "George Carlin: At Carnegie Hall," which in my opinion is the single best stand-up comedy performance of all time. Just about every segment is now a classic comedy bit, and anyone who is my age (37 years old this August) remembers staying up late to watch Carlin at Carnegie Hall late night on HBO after his or her parents went to sleep. Or, if you had parents who were cool about performing artists, like mine, they actually let you watch it, foul language and all.

Speaking of foul language, you really can't remember the life and times of George Carlin without mentioning cussing, and his infamous routine "The Seven Dirty Words," or whatever its official title came to be. Do you remember what they are? Easy:

Shit. Piss. Fuck. Cunt. Cock-Sucker. Mother Fucker. Tits.

And as George Carlin said, "Tits doesn't even belong on the list, man."

There was a lot more to George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" than simply being filthy. George Carlin's routine ended up changing the face of entertainment in the United States (I can't say with any degree of certainty how, or if at all, the routine influenced popular culture in Europe or other countries across The Pond).

Because of George Carlin's routine, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission decried a list of words considered obscene enough that they would never again be uttered on prime-time, and drive-time, television or radio, respectively. And the U.S. Supreme Court established a decency standard for public airwaves that remains in effect today -- the same rule that precipitated Howard Stern's move to satellite radio.

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cock-Sucker, Mother Fucker & Tits were considered to be the foulest words of them all, but as George Carlin said, there are more about 400,000 words in the English language and seven of them are to dirty to use on TV or radio. Pretty amazing if you think about it. Really, there are no bad words. They're just words, man. There are bad thoughts. Bad intentions. But no bad words.

George Carlin opened up the idea of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution -- you know, the one that guarantees Americans freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, the right to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances -- to public discussion during a period in history when it was important to do so, not for the sake of being crass, or for being able to appear on stage with a raunchy act, but for the sake of being able to speak your mind and say whatever it is you want to say without anyone telling you otherwise.

Because of "The Seven Dirty Words," I am willing to bet that history will remember George Carlin as one of the most important figures of the 20th Century, just as it should. He was a brilliant comedian, yes, but he was even better as a social satirist and commentator, and observer of mundane events in everyday life that, when brought to your attention, were funnier than just about anything you'd ever heard.

Rest in peace, George. You called yourself an atheist. I guess you now know if you were right or not.

As it now says on his website, the true seven famous words are:

. . . . . We Love You and We Miss You . . . . .

even though he would hate that as a send off. I can hear him now saying it sounds cheesy . . .

June 20, 2008

Trey Anastasio Graduates; Phish Releases The Storm Show

I'm going to warn you now, this is one of my longer posts, but I think you'll enjoy it . . .

The Phish Tank (all of us out here swimming around in a Phish-induced state of bliss, even though they have not played together in almost four years, if nothing comes down then I'm forced to swim up!!!) was awash in news this week with the revelation that Trey Anastasio "graduated" from drug court in Washington County, New York (home of Glens Falls), and that the band decided to release on DVD its 1997 show from Walnut Creek, Raleigh, North Carolina -- my home of seven years!

First off, here is the closed circuit video from the Washington County courtroom where Trey received what looks like a "diploma" of sorts, gave a little speech acknowledging that his wife, Sue, two daughters (Billy & Harry [I think his second daughter's nickname is Harry and Sue's nickname is The Captain, but I could be very wrong here. I know for sure his first daughter's nickname is Billy]) and his mother were all in the audience.

Here's to you Trey for following through, and not fucking up and landing in prison, like so many people do who enter a court mandated program. Those things are expensive to attend, the classes are long (three hours per night), tedious and boring -- and I think the court makes it that way, forcing the recovering addict to commit themselves to something that takes serious effort to get through -- and it's very easy, especially during the first couple of weeks, to go about your daily business, forget you have a class to attend (they often start at funky hours during a weekday) and get kicked out of the program for failing to attend.

Unfortunately, not everyone out there is rooting for the hero of our story.

Before I watched the video for a second time and heard him pointing out his family in the back of the room, I had to look twice to see if he still had his wedding ring on. I've gotta admit, I felt happy when I saw that gold band still wrapped around the finger on his left hand. Sue must be one incredible woman to put up with the shit that Trey has gone through over the last, well, eight to 10 years, really (I've read where Trey says the "bad drugs" started infiltrating Phish's backstage scene circa 1998).

Also, on a funny side note, check out the dudes sitting in the jury box. I'm pretty sure those are the guys he went through his drug classes with! Something about seeing those guys and thinking about them sitting in a counseling session talking about drug abuse with Trey strikes me as humorous, in a Rod Serling sort of way . . .

Incidentally, why don't we ever hear anything about Trey's dad? The one and only time I heard him mentioned was when I saw the Trey Anastasio Band -- the big band with Russ Lawton, Tony Markellis and Jennifer Hartswick -- at the Merriweather Post Pavillion in Maryland back during Summer Tour 2001. Trey came out for his encore, and it was either just before he started into Ether Sunday -- one of my favorite TAB songs of that band's entire repertoire -- or while the band was vamping on the intro, when Trey was thanking people, talking about when he first went to Burlington to check out the University of Vermont, went into a local bar/club and saw Tony's band playing.

He said he decided right then and there that if there were musicians who were that good living and playing in Burlington that that was the place where he was going to enroll in college. Trey said something like, "So, give it up for Tony, because if it wasn't for him we wouldn't be here right now." Then he went on to point out his dad was sitting somewhere down front, saying, "And I can say for sure that if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here right now." (Check the FLACs . . . he says it!)

Second, the new DVD coming out this August -- July 22, 1997, Walnut Creek -- documents one of my favorite shows to listen to of all time -- it's better listening back than it was being there; one of those shows. The best part about that night is that during the first set, a good ol' summertime, Southeastern thunderstorm was brewing over the Triangle, headed straight for Walnut Creek. Now, keep in mind if you've never been to Walnut Creek (it's one of the better, aesthetically, outdoor sheds in the U.S.) the venue is surrounded by trees, so when you are standing inside looking out over the edge of the man-made bump, all you can see are pine trees, weeping willows and massive magnolias billowing in the breeze.

Well, on this particular night the wind started blowing hard at the front of that storm -- so hard that leaves were being ripped from those trees, spinning through the air, giving off a distinct Wizard of Oz feeling. (In fact, I remember this girl from up north who happened to be standing next to me on the lawn leaned into my ear and said, "Do you think a tornado is coming?")

Anyway, by the time they got into Taste, the storm was beyond brewing and into a nice, rolling boil, and it kept raining and blowing harder and harder as the song went on; the more intense the storm became, the more intense the band played -- or was it the other way around? Depends whom you ask, but I do distinctly remember Trey watching the storm, and the lighting it spawned by this point, when they got to the "Arabian" section of the Taste jam, and at one point he and Mike gave each other a long look.

I remember thinking at the time they were either trying to decide whether Phish should keep going or stop playing for safety's sake-- well, they kept going, and when the song peaked so did the storm, and when the jam reached it's distinct, tight ending, the storm let up immensely, to the point where it was no longer a little stressful standing outside on the lawn watching lighting bolts hit all around us.

So, this DVD is well worth the price of admission. Judging by the information on Phish.com it looks as if the video comes from the cameras they used to project footage on the two screens at the top of the shed's roof that give everyone on the lawn at Walnut Creek a better view of the band. (It's a better view of the action, man, as Florida Joe used to say, cracking me up.)

Finally, I wanted to say that today is June 19, 2008 -- exactly four years since the last time I saw Phish perform, which happened to be at Saratoga Springs, New York (better known as SPAC). My now ex-wife, Rachel, and I drove up from Raleigh (home of Walnut Creek -- like my transition?) to catch the shows in Brooklyn and SPAC before calling it a life. At the time, she was seven months pregnant and looked about ready to pop; she was huge!!!

In fact, we were just talking about this show this morning while we listened to it in her car on the way to get coffee here in Bend, Oregon. She was amazing on that trip. We left Raleigh and drove straight to Virginia Beach, Virginia to catch the first night of the Brooklyn run at the local movie theater. (Virginia Beach, about three hours away and just over the bridge from The Spaceship, was the closest theater to Raleigh screening the show.) The next morning we arrived in New York City just in time to catch the subway to Coney Island for the second night of Brooklyn, and just in time for one of our touring posse to get caught up in the undercover police sting operation busting people for selling drugs in the parking lot adjacent to Keystone Park.

The day after that we took our time driving up to Saratoga . . . anyway, the point is she was terribly pregnant and it was hotter than hell that summer, meaning she was about as comfortable as a nun at a Marilyn Manson concert. She was a trooper, and I'll never forget that. She could have complained the whole time and made our last run of shows a horrible experience, but she managed the entire tour with a smile on her face. She did, however, sleep for just about the entire 10-hour drive back to Raleigh, completely exhausted, dreaming about Phish shows past, I'm sure.

Saratoga marked a huge change in my life. Not only was it going to be my last run of Phish shows, most likely forever (although recent news has me hoping they'll be back in the foreseeable future), but it was Father's Day weekend -- my "first" Father's Day. So, on this Phish "weekend" in 2004, I literally stepped through a door that closed on my past and opened on my future. Phish, which had been such a huge part of my life for the past 12 years (1992-2004) was over for good, and my son, Layne, was coming into this world, and he would become a bigger part of my life than anything before and most likely anything after.

That was one of my favorite things about Phish -- no matter what happened in your life you could always count on them to be there when you needed it the most.

Here's to good Phish memories and hopefully more to come, even if it's only one more memory or two.

It's soooooo sad that here are "No more Phish, in the sea."

-- Wag

June 16, 2008

Trey Anastasio Sits in with Robert Randolph & The Family Band

As he gradually awakens from his year-and-a-half-long slumber, we find our hero, Trey Anastasio sitting in with Robert Randolph & The Family Band at the Jones Beach Amphitheater in Wantagh, Long Island, New York.

The sound is kind of muddy, and the picture is more than a little fuzzy, but it is Lawn Boy . . . in the flesh, doing what he does best -- playing a Languedoc hollow body electric guitar. (Paul has developed a new Languedoc. It looks different, but super sweet! Interesting that one of the cutouts is so small. You can see it here on his website.)

The long, late Spring 2008 dethawing of Mr. Anastasio -- who seems to be methodically drifting back towards center stage, ramping up to his upcoming summer performances -- brings him into the path of Robert Randolph, who was opening up for Eric Clapton at the time.


Wait a minute, didn't Slowhand decide to retire (ahem) from performing live, or at least from touring, a few years back? What happened there? Well, at least his retirement lasted longer than Roger Clemens' decision to bow out after the 2003 season, which culminated in his New York Yankees losing to the Florida Marlins in the World Series.

Oh, what wonderful memories that invokes . . .


Anyway, back at Jones Beach on June 5, unfortunately, Trey either didn't get an invitation to sit in with Slowhand or . . . actually, I doubt there is an or to this story. Most likely, Clapton didn't invite our hero to join him for an impromptu jam on stage. Perhaps because so many people have said over the years that Trey looks a lot like Clapton, and Trey can, at the very least, keep up with Clapton. I would even be so bold as to argue that Trey could actually shred ol' Del on the right night under the right circumstances . . . OK, it might have to be a very special evening, but still, it is within the realm of possibility simply by playing the odds; if the two played together night after night, eventually, it would happen, just like . . . just like . . . ah . . . just like . . . in my dreams?

My point here is this:

It's good to see Big Red back on stage, playing Bo Diddley (or any other tune in the known universe for that matter) just a couple of days after the great rock'n'roll pioneer's death.

Enjoy the clip, which is posted over at Jamtopia. And please forward on to The Wagger anything and everything you find on Trey's re-emergence into the public eye. I would hate to miss even a single note of the ongoing warm-up. . .

More Real Quotes from President Bush

I can't make these up folks. Here is another round of quotes from the one and only President George W. Bush. You can read the first post of quotes here.

So much for the tradition of the President of the United States being a great orator. At least he only has 218 days left in office, according to my calendar.

"I want to thank my friend, Senator Bill Frist, for joining us today. He married a Texas girl, I want you to know. Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me." -- Nashville, Tenn., 2004

"I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me." -- To Bob Woodward on 60 Minutes, about the war in Iraq.

"I'm the master of low expectations." -- Aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003

"This is a nation that loves our freedom, loves our country." -- Washington, D.C., 2002

"I think - tide turning - see, as I remember - I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of - it's easy to see a tide turn - did I say those words?" -- June 14, 2006, Washington D.C.

"Can't living with the bill means it won't become law." -- Brussels, Belgium, June 2001

I just post 'em as I see 'em. I'm sure I will find more words he spewed and post them later here at The Wagger.

June 13, 2008

Phish Selects Lillywhite to Produce New Album

The latest in the Phish reunion rumor mill comes to us from Jamtopia.

This one claims that an e-mail sent to the moderator of that Blog originated from Jon Fishman himself -- Henrietta didn't send him the e-mail but it was somehow intercepted and forwarded on to Jamtopia.

The blog post says Grammy Award-Winning Producer Steve Lillywhite, who worked with Phish on Billy Breathes back in 1996 and has produced albums for some of the biggest rock'n'roll bands on the planet, including U2, the Talking Heads, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Morrissey, The Pogues, The Smiths, The Rolling Stones, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Simple Minds, The Counting Crows and Crowded House -- just a partial list, mind you -- was picked to produce a new Phish album.

Supposedly, the album will contain much of the material Tom Marshall and Trey Anastasio have been working on in recent times, as discussed here at The Wagger earlier this month.

I'm still skeptical, but I have to admit: the frequency that information is coming out about Phish getting back together to blow shit up again has me salivating.

We're getting very optimistic over here at The Wagger . . . stay tuned.

June 6, 2008

Phish Reunion Now A Reality?

Phish lyricist Tom Marshall was quoted by PopMatters.com, a website that covers pop culture around the world, as saying the following:

"Trey wants Phish to come back." and "No one wants Phish back more than Trey."

Now, before we get all excited and start "bouncing around the room," let's take a collective deep breath, exhale, and think about this for a second . . .

OK, I'm excited as hell!!!

Unless PopMatters.com misquoted Tom, used his words out of context or simply made them up National Enquirer-style, we seem to have some legitimate news straight from the Phish's mouth.

Let's consider the facts:
  • Tom is more or less a member of Phish as much as Robert Hunter is/was a member of the Grateful Dead, and anything he says about Phish can more or less be construed as truth.
  • Tom Marshall and Trey Anastasio have been writing music again “for the past four months,” according to the article, this time at Trey's own Rubber Jungle studios in Saratoga Springs, New York, rather than on some tropical island as they have done in the past (eg. Cayman Review).
  • Trey, or anyone else from the Phish tank for that matter, has not come out against this quote to say that there is no truth to it, or that the quote was fabricated in any way.
  • Phish.net reports that Phish had its first conference call in four years last Friday.
  • Trey recently announced he is putting the original Trey Anastasio Band back together, a group he now refers to as The Dectet, including Russ Lawton and Tony Markellis, which is, by far, the best incarnation of TAB.
  • This decision shows Trey is in fact thinking clearly and making choices that put him in a position to create and perform music to the best of his ability. (Not to knock the musicians in 70 Volt Parade, but the TAB with Russ and Tony was the shit, and nothing else Trey has done since can even hold a candle to it).
  • All reports point to Trey being 100% clean again.
  • A call to Madison Square Garden confirms that the venue is in fact booked for New Year's Eve 2008, but no performer has been announced. (I did call MSG to find out, but the possibility of Phish performing there on NYE is pure innuendo fabricated here at The Wagger. Still, is it possible? Perhaps . . . )
The article also quotes Tom saying: "We’re extremely productive and got the drive again. I have the old Trey back, which is incredible." Reading the words "I have the old Trey back" is music to the ears of every Phish-head in the world.

Trey, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman all have dates booked this summer with plans to perform at various festivals across the U.S., with Mike being the only Phish member so far to announce a full-on summer tour. I'll bet Trey will have a string of dates put together sometime soon here, and I am also willing to bet that we will hear a ton of new music when Trey hits the road again.

Will Phish tour again? Will the band start recording a bunch of new music in the style of Round Room (recorded with almost no rehearsal, giving it that raw, live sound)? Will the band start playing several shows in three or four locations rather than going out on the road for months at a time? Will Trey and Page be able to play together again without getting on each other's nerves so bad? Will Fishman continue to wear the Mu'u Mu'u? Will we ever get to hear Gamehenge in its entirety again? Will they ever perform Fluffhead again?

I have a feeling these questions and more will be answered in the very near future, so stay tuned to The Wagger for all of your Phish updates. We're all holding our breath down here at the bottom, living upon morsels they happen to drop!

On a side note . . .

I remember very distinctly standing on the grass inside the amphitheater at Antioch, Tenn. during Summer Tour 2000. The entire scene, including the band, still had a hangover from Big Cypress, and for the first time there wasn't an expectant buzz permeating the air.

My little group of touring buddies, which included Florida Joe, who I saw 20-some-odd Grateful Dead shows with in the early 1990s, as well as our first Phish show in Miami Beach back in 1992, and my now ex-wife, Rachel, were discussing where Phish could possibly go from here.

They had grown to the point where every show everywhere they went was sold out; they finally figured out how to make studio albums that truly captured the band's sound (Farmhouse), but it would be a couple of years before they figured out how to capture their energy on record (Round Room); they proved that they could play for eight straight hours and keep it interesting -- something we all suspected for several years; they were finally being recognized by the press, including Entertainment magazine (I think that was the name) putting out an edition with four different covers, each one an individual photo of Trey, Mike, Jon and Page; and they had fulfilled the 10-album contractual deal they signed with Elektra Records back in 1991, freeing them to do whatever they wanted with future recordings.

I turned to my group of friends and said, "Well, every time I've ever gone to see Phish they have always had some new music written and introduced that I had never heard before. As long as they keep writing new music, everything will be all right."

Of course, Summer Tour 2000 was distinct for not having any new breakouts. In fact, no new Phish music (well, not much at least) had been written since 1998, and even then those songs that appeared as new material on Farmhouse two years later Trey originally wrote and performed with the first version of TAB -- the three piece consisting of Trey, Russ and Tony.

So, I stand by my assertion that new music means things are going to be all right. And I can't imagine Trey writing music with Tom that is not intended for Phish. Something is going to happen here, my friends, and it's going to happen sooner than later.


June 5, 2008

Classic T.A.B. in New Jersey

The original Trey Anastasio Band, with Russ on drums, big Tony on bass, and Ray on keyboards, horn section including Jennifer, is performing in New Jersey on Aug. 10.

This is great news, and a great move in the right direction, Trey! Keep on Growin'!!!

June 3, 2008

Why a Phish Reunion Won't Happen at Rothbury

There has been a lot of discussion in newsgroups about Phish reuniting following Trey Anastasio's recent quote in Rolling Stone, discussed earlier this week here at The Wagger.

People are debating how and when it could/would happen, and as usual these discussions seem to be perpetuated by people who: A) don't know very much about Phish and the way they go about doing things; B) live in a dreamworld; C) are legitimate fans of the band, maybe not quite Phish-heads, who almost get it but naht quite (missed it by that much!); D) are either really early in their teen years or just seriously immature; E) have been tripping since Coventry.
(Sorry that's so brash, but I'm getting cynical.)

The latest discussions seem to center around whether or not the band will "play their reunion show at ROTHBURY," like it's already a done deal that there will be a reunion, it's just a matter of working out the logistics and deciding the summer festival to do it.

If and when Phish ever plays together again as Phish (there has been some discussion amongst the band about reforming and playing entirely new music -- nothing from the Phish repertoire at all -- under a new moniker) they most likely would do a one-off somewhere, and it would be completely unannounced. Either it would be unannounced or they would announce ticket sales three days before the show, or something like that, and put them on sale through local ticket vendors only, like they did at The Roseland in NYC back during Summer Tour 2000 -- the show that ended up on VH1 and as a DVD.

It's not a matter of "no, not unannounced; they wouldn't do that to their fans;" you see, keeping the show hush-hush would actually make it a better experience for those fans who are able to attend. The Grateful Dead used to do the same thing, playing stealthy shows as Phil & Friends way back before Phil had his own band. The Dead used to do this around the Bay Area, and usually played an acoustic set taboot.

Think about it; would you rather see a Phish reunion show at a small, intimate venue with a few hundred, or a couple of thousand, people where you can be sure the sound quality of the theater is excellent, everyone will have a good seat and there won't be that crush of humanity that tends to ensue whenever they show up, well, anywhere? Or would you rather see them play in a basketball/hockey arena, or one of the summer tour sheds (outdoor amphitheaters), with 18,000 to 20,000-or-so people in attendance, a discobobulated lot scene outside and a lot of people there for the party and "the scene" rather than being there solely for the music and the once-in-a-lifetime event?

Personally, I'd take the small, get-a-ticket-if-your-lucky show as opposed to the huge, play-the-arena-so-as-many-people-as-possible-can-get-in show any day, any time, anywhere.

Anyway, back to the issue. If they ever decide to play together again, Phish is not going to play their comeback show unannounced at a huge festival. First of all, it would upstage whomever was listed on the bill as the headliner that day, and that's not their style. (Now that is something they would not do to their fans.) Second of all, it's also not their style to do something that would end up being so high profile. Third of all, they are not going to lug all of their gear somewhere just to perform one set, or a few songs, which is more likely in such a scenario, unannounced. (Never mind bringing the light show and all that, just setting up their music equipment is a huge undertaking. Remember how much of the stage it used to take up?) Fourth, they wouldn't play a surprise show while borrowing someone else's equipment just because it is already setup on stage ready to go (it's kind of rude in music circles to do something like that anyway).

And finally (fifth of all, for those of you keeping track), Phish is not getting back together -- at least not any time soon.

It's taken me a long time to accept this as fact, but I believe it now. The reason I finally accepted this is because Fishman has said more than once he is not into it, and that he is more than happy spending time at home raising his daughters than being on the road with Phish. I know what Trey told Rolling Stone he would give his left nut to play You Enjoy Myself five times in a row until the day he dies, but I think he was just being nostalgic, not hinting at a comeback.

I think the band ceased to exist because the guys in Phish simply grew older and their tastes and desires for things in life changed, including wanting to be in the same band playing the same songs together they'd been playing since they were kids. I'm a songwriter, and I know I don't play many songs that I wrote when I was 18, 19, 20, 21 years old. Besides, that's basically what Page was saying in the letter he wrote to all of us and posted on Phish.com

Now, I do know (well, at least my gut and 16 years of listening to Phish -- my first show was in 1992 -- tells me) that if and when that glorious day ever comes, it won't happen with Phish as a surprise guest at a huge summer festival, especially not ROTHBURY. Maybe I'm dead wrong about everything I'm speculating about here, but I don't think Phish is going to spend a lot of time plotting and planning their comeback only to make it a stealth appearance at some massive concert with dozens of other bands on the bill.

Now, having said all of this and that, I hope to God I am dead wrong and Phish will bust out somewhere sometime soon ... like at ROTHBURY.