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.


rebeculus said...

yeah i agree they wouldn't reunite at a festival. but i don't agree that it would be better to see the "reunion show" in an intimate venue with 200 fans. well... i mean yes that would be much, much preferred over seeing it with tens of thousands of people, but the chances of me getting a ticket/invite to this theoretical intimate reunion show are pretty much nil, and that's why i'd prefer the larger venue.

that being said, i still am not convinced i would go at all. after 1999 they just didn't play as well as consistently, the fans got more and more annoying, and it wasn't worth it as much for me...

Anonymous said...

close enough at rothbury. its the best we can get for now. only one song and no page

Anonymous said...

hahaha when was this post made.... you were dead wrong on alot of stuff... but now that they are back I really hope they upstage bob dylan on sunday lol... YEAHHHHH PHISHIN AT ROTHBURY GOT MYSELF SOME NEW BAIT>>> WORKS EVERY TIME