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Nobody said they were handsome...

Nobody said they were handsome…

I’ve been a fan of Phish for many years, but I was a HUGE fan back in high school and college. I’ve seen the band live 36 times, and I actually feel like a bit of a noob because that number seems to be so much lower than the average Phan I encounter.

So that means I contributed to these astounding numbers… stats that completely defy the modern assumption of how to make a buck in the music business. Way to go, Phish.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent many of my formative musical years paying close attention to all things Phish. I’ve seen the band live 36 times, and at one point I owned just under 400 bootleg live concert tapes (yes, TAPES).

Anyway, for the gear geeks out there, check out this detailed photo tour of Phish’s current live setup… with info on everything from instruments to monitor boards and lighting consoles. It’s a pretty cool rig.

HT: DeVries

I already confessed that I’m a Phish fan, and I’m not ashamed of it. Upon featuring their final record as AOTW #16, I proceeded through a nostalgic listening of much of the rest of their catalog. I have since decided that Story Of The Ghost and A Live One are my favorites.

Anyway, I bring Phish up again because of today’s big summer tour announcement. This news is big because the band broke up 5 years ago, and swore they would never reunite. Subsequent interviews made it clear that the break-up was amicable on all sides – it seemed it was “just time to end it.” They thought they were becoming caricatures of themselves, and obviously wanted to avoid Brett Farve disease.

But, they’re back.  Phish will play a three-night stand this March in VA, and the ten dates booked for June.  There are also rumors swirling that Phish may even headline the Bonnaroo festival this year.

Check out the official tour announcement, seen on the band’s website this morning…

I dropped the ball on AOTW for two weeks in a row there.  Whoops.  Had a busy run for the first half of December I guess.

Anyway, I’m back at it with a great record for this week… and it’s a blast from the past for me.  That’s right, for all the haters out there… I’m putting Phish in the AOTW series, and I don’t feel bad about it.  When I was in high school I thought Phish was God’s gift to music… the perfect band that played the perfect songs and never did anything that shouldn’t be wholly praised.  Well, let’s just say I think a little differently now.  I’ve grown as a musician to the point where I see the legitimacy of much of the criticism commonly brought against the jam band giant, and I’ve not listened to them for more than a hour over the last 6 years.

521092And yet, this week I resurrected their last studio album, called Undermind.  Listen people… it’s good.  Ok?  Just accept it.  Phish made A LOT of good records in my opinion, but this final offer from them is undeniably good, and a record where I think they successfully shed a few of their immature habits from the early years, and in so doing they managed to actually put together a SERIOUS recording from the “Jam Band” genre.

A big part of Undermind’s coolness is the fact that it was produced by the fantastic Tchad Blake.  Blake has never produced anything that didn’t turn into complete awesomeness… and Phish is no exception.  It’s actually a testament to Phish’s ontological cool factor that Blake even agreed to do the record, because I’ve heard he’s prone to rejecting offers from serious bands if he thinks they aren’t hip enough… (rumor has it REM has been trying to get Blake to produce one of their records for 10 years, and he won’t even return their phone calls).  Blake took most of the things I’ve always disliked about Jon Fishman (Phish’s drummer) and “fixed” them, all while keeping Fishman in his element.  The guitar playing is incredible, which is nothing less than expected from band-leader Trey Anastasio (in fact, I highly recommend his self-titled solo album).  The songs are a great example of Phish’s aimless lyrics and smart harmonic composition.  The flow of the record is comfortable and natural.  And the improvising… well, that’s always been their greatest strength.

So, just indulge me and check out Undermind by Phish.  I think you will like it, and if you don’t… I don’t care.

PS.  Let me reiterate that Phish is not just a band with a cool record I’ve been listening to lately.  Phish’s music was the single-most dominant influence in my formative years of playing music.  I’ve seen them 36 times live, and I own over 400 bootleg tapes of their live shows.  That’s right… TAPES.  The band is an enormous link in the chain of my musical development, and although I don’t consider them to be musical divinity like I once did, I still think anyone/everyone who strives to be creative in making music will benefit from listening to Phish.

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