The Business of Writing

Yeah, so the last blog post I did in these parts that wasn’t about Phish was over a year ago. Not that I’m complaining. I like writing about Phish and their music and if this is more Kaufmak’s Lazy Phish Blog, then so be it. Might be a little more accurate these days. Of course, then I want to write about other things.

More to the point, I want to write more, but that just is about impossible these days. There are a lot of reasons, family, job, social life, video games, television, simple exhaustion, you get the idea.

But, I don’t want to just write more, I want to write…for a living? Yeah, I’m really not sure how that works. A big change needs to occur, one that I’ve been slowly circling like the water going down the worst drain ever. That change is a one of identity. I need to see myself as a writer, at least as part of my identity. I just can’t seem to mentally pull that trigger.

It’s not like getting a Ph. D. Someone told me, now I’m a historian. All you fuckers need to call me doctor. Some people have told me a I’m a good writer (some have said I suck.) But writer validation doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. I’m so glad my writing gets out to others, even if the numbers are small. I’ve even won a couple of “posts of the month” deals at the other blog. But I haven’t been paid to be a writer. Production is great, but production for free just doesn’t work in my head.

This is my hang up, by the way. I’m not say if you write a blog and aren’t getting paid for it you’re not a writer. However you define your “writer-ness” is entirely up to you. I’ve got this annoying notion about pay and validation, not you, you’re a sane, rationale person. Good on you! You writer!

What’s more, I’m seriously stuck in two places. It seems like the people who strike out and make a go of it, get further opportunities, and get to make a living at this stuff seem to have three things in common. They write, or started to write, about one thing, did it well and did it frequently. I’m not sure if I’m 0-3 in that last sentence, but in the light of optimism, let’s say 0-2. Time just needs to happen, either make it or not. It’s that other part, that “one thing and stick to it” thing that just doesn’t work. But if I don’t do that, then I’m just some dude with a blog writing about stuff. Why read it? I mean, I’m a nice guy and all, but yeah, why else? What makes me so damn special?

It’s the one thing, that niche that I can’t seem to find. I like to write about certain things more than others, but I get bored or discouraged or busy. Sometimes all at once. These last couple of months, it’s been a shitty place to be.

Conflicted About the Residency

I’ll state right from the beginning, I’ve already checked out airfare and Air BnB prices around New York. I’ll admit too that Madison Square Garden is a bucket list venue for me, especially when it comes to Phish. I’d love to see the Knicks play there as well, but it is right on the Mecca-level when it comes to Phish. So, it isn’t like I hate the idea of 13 shows at the Garden come this summer.

I get why the band is doing it as well. Trey is on record saying the band was going to take it a bit easier this summer and short of not touring at all (eek! bite my tongue!) staying put for the better part of a month, where at least Trey lives no less, seems pretty good to me. I also can’t imagine the money will be bad and if Phish is going to do a residency anywhere, New York is pretty much the most logical choice.

The truth is though, I can’t go, unless I hit the lottery. Even then I’m not sure. It isn’t just the money, though that’s a big part of it, no doubt. The time involved is kind of hard as well. Going to a local show is a lot less of a hassle. Also it isn’t just my life getting rearranged, but my wife and kids too.

Now there are rumors that there will be something of a summer tour in June and July and they almost assuredly will be coming to the Chicago area in that case. If they don’t, it will make for a less enjoyable summer. That’s probably what’s at the heart of all of this. Since 2009 and 3.0, Phish has been a part of the summer. A little nostalgia, a lot of good music and a predictable routine. If Phish prides itself on anything, however, it’s being unpredictable. There’s always couch tour.

(Wow. This really has become a bit of a Phish blog:-) could be worse.)

Phish Song Rankings As of Riviera Maya 2017

A nice way to end the season. Three shows in a tropical paradise. I haven’t listened to the Helping Friendly Podcast and their recap of the shows, but outside of that not a lot of buzz about the shows otherwise. These Maya shows are like the NFL Pro Bowl, or at least when the Pro Bowl was in Hawaii. It’s a nice trip for everyone, but it’s not the most intense moment of any given tour year, at least thus far. I also saw rumors floating around that sales were a bit slow this time around so it will be interesting to see if this adventure continues. Maybe they’ll switch it up. Do a cruise one year, a resort the next, a break the next to give us a chance to save up for the next big winter event.

As far as the shows and what was played, a good mix of old and new, with a little more weight being thrown toward older material by the look of things. Thinking about it, I need to readjust what is “old” and “new” in my thinking. Pre and post break up seems like a good, if arbitrary divider.

Of note there was a little moving and shaking in the rankings. Funky Bitch held strong to the top fifty with it’s 200th time played. Rocky Top will be joining the 200 times played with any extended tour. The other 200 hundred club, the 200th ranking got another member with A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.

And so we are to the end of another Phish year. Sure the calendar rolled over from 2016 to 2017, but this really feels like the end until the next big announcement. I’m not thrilled about the residency idea, but more on that later. I mentioned a post or two ago that I’d love a full blown fall tour, and that might be happening, so good with the bad. Anyway, I’ve got a some deep diving to do on the song rankings and I’ll do an inventory post here as soon as I’m able. Until then, some jam posts will be coming out and just your general pining for news of what is going to happen in 2017! Here is your top twenty:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 578
2    Possum – 516
3    Mike’s Song – 491
4   Weekapaug Groove – 460
5   Bouncing Around the Room – 458
6    Golgi Apparatus – 455
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 453
8    Cavern – 441
8   Run Like an Antelope – 441
8   David Bowie – 441

11   Suzy Greenberg – 418
12   Stash – 410
12   Divided Sky – 410
14   Reba – 374
14   Runaway Jim – 374
16   Harry Hood – 367
17   Tweezer – 357
18   The Squirming Coil – 348
19   Foam – 344
20   I Am Hydrogen – 335

Phish Song Rankings New Year’s Eve 2016

I had plans to couch tour at least one of the NYE shows, but it just didn’t work itself out. There were some fantastic bust outs at the shows and I’m particularly sorry I missed the first Peaches in a long time. I am glad team Phish posted a video from the Petrichor performance. I have trouble calling it a gag because it was no joke! I found it particularly moving and it added to the depth of the song. Kind of like Time Turns Elastic, I think when I see Petrichor live it will be kind of meh. But this version is worth remembering. It was also great to hear horns again. I think every special occasion show should have some horns. Festivals, Mexico, Dicks, New Year’s, at least one show with horns. They just add so much to the sound.

As far as rankings go, bust outs don’t move the needle much really. Take my personal fave, Peaches En Regalia. It has now been played all of 82 times, moving up a spot to 118, not that big. Don’t Bogart That Joint? 2 times played works it into a 75-way tie for 432nd place. Fun to see and hear I’m sure, but on this list, just another song moving from the bottom to the not-so bottom.

I won’t call it a year until Mexico, though I know the calendar has changed. I am interested to see if the high-placed ties remain in place, namely David Bowie and Antelope at number 9 and Stash and Divided Sky at 12th. Also I’m most interested to see if we get a Reba. It hasn’t been played since Chula Vista this summer. That is a pretty long break. I’m sure Phish Stats has a way to see if this is the longest Reba drought, but even so an entire Fall tour and no Reba? Odd. See you after Mexico. Your Top Twenty:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 578
2    Possum – 515
3    Mike’s Song – 491
4   Weekapaug Groove – 460
5   Bouncing Around the Room – 458
6    Golgi Apparatus – 454
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 452
8    Cavern – 441
9   David Bowie – 440
9   Run Like an Antelope – 440
 
11   Suzy Greenberg – 418
12   Stash – 410
12   Divided Sky – 410
14   Reba – 374
14   Runaway Jim – 374
16   Harry Hood – 366
17   Tweezer – 356
18   The Squirming Coil – 348
19   Foam – 344
20   I Am Hydrogen – 335

Phish Song Rankings Vegas Fall 2016

Talk about under the wire! I wanted to be caught up through fall before the New Year’s Eve run got started and here I am, about an hour or so before showtime! By all accounts Vegas was a great run of shows, capped off with a brilliant Halloween costume of Ziggy Stardust. Of all of the Halloween shows, my favorite is still Quadrophenia is still my favorite. Not only because I was there but of all of the records covered, that was one of the most significant to my own personal rock and roll history. David Bowie falls under those artists that I wish I would have gotten into more, but I pretty satisfied with the greatest hits version of their respective cannons. Even so, it was an inspired choice and I don’t think anyone was disappointed.

As far as the rankings go, some interesting moves and shakes. The fall ended with a three way tie at the eighth spot, and it leaves me to wonder if any one of those songs will break ahead. If I had to choose I’d say Antelope would be the one.

In a bit of the rarified air, a bit of big news, Rocky Top fell out of the top 50. I would expect it to continue to fall, perhaps even during NYE. Also an expected fall, Love You slipped out of the Top 100. Again, it will probably continue to sink, especially with such common songs like Carini, 46 Days and First Tube nipping at Love You’s heels.

What seemed to be a rarity, What’s the Use? has made it into the Top 200, so not as rare as I perhaps thought. Also not particularly rare of late are a pair of songs making it to twenty individual plays are No Men In No Mans Land and Shine A Light. And finally a couple of newer songs crack the top 300 Breath and Burning and The Dogs.

Well I made it! If you are on your way to your first of four NYE shows be safe and have fun. Your Top 20!

1   You Enjoy Myself – 577
2    Possum – 514
3    Mike’s Song – 491
4   Weekapaug Groove – 460
5   Bouncing Around the Room – 458
6    Golgi Apparatus – 454
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 451
8    David Bowie – 440
8    Cavern – 440
8   Run Like an Antelope – 440

11   Suzy Greenberg – 417
12   Divided Sky – 409
12   Stash – 409
14   Reba – 374
14   Runaway Jim – 374
16   Harry Hood – 366
17   Tweezer – 355
18   The Squirming Coil – 348
19   Foam – 342
20   I Am Hydrogen – 335

Phish Song Rankings as of Grand Prairie Fall 2016

Another two night stop on the Fall tour. As much as I pine for a throwback style fall tour with indoor venues and cold winter nights, these two night stops through the more clement weather is a vicarious way to extend the summer to those of us fighting off the cold. Though that is about impossible right now here at Kaufmak Central, negative digits abound the last few days.  After listening to the Helping Friendly Podcast reflect on December 1997, I can’t help but think of those great shows and wish for a chance to see something similar.

It might not be as far off as all of that though. The rumor mill seems to be under the impression that Fishman is in need of shoulder surgery and it could impact Summer 2017. Perhaps making way for a killer Fall 2017? A twenty year anniversary of sort of 1997 and Phish Destroying America? Though, I don’t think they could book the college campuses of yore, nor do I think large arenas like Auburn Hills are in the offing anymore. I think those days are gone for good. But maybe smaller venues, say of the 1994 vintage. Slightly larger than theaters, but not professional basketball arenas either. I must admit, a return to the UIC Pavilion (yes, ironic, college and basketball, but not the United Center and more of a Chicago venue than say, State College PA) would be fantastic.

But that is conjecture and very wishful thinking on my part. In the here and almost now, Phish played a couple of shows in Texas and judging by the reviews, especially night two, not the best shows of tour. I won’t be joining in those debates, just the numbers for now. The most interesting number is 100. That is how many times Backward Down the Number Line has been played. It is, if memory serves, the first post breakup song to hit that mark. It also gives me another note to investigate in the winter/spring project after this year’s Mexico sets. Stay tuned.

Of note from these two shows is that Breath and Burning has moved up into the top 300, pretty quick for such a new song. Two stalwarts of Phish, Chalk Dust Torture and Poor Heart reached milestones 450 and 300 times played respectively.  That three-way tie I mentioned last time? Yeah, it’s over as David Bowie moved up to sole possession of eighth place. Next up: Vegas and a lot of new songs. For now, your Top 20:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 577
2    Possum – 513
3    Mike’s Song – 491
4   Weekapaug Groove – 460
5   Bouncing Around the Room – 457
6    Golgi Apparatus – 453
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 450 450 times played!
8    David Bowie – 440
9    Cavern – 439
9   Run Like an Antelope – 439

 

11   Suzy Greenberg – 416
12   Divided Sky – 409
13   Stash – 408
14   Reba – 374
14   Runaway Jim – 374
16   Harry Hood – 365
17   Tweezer – 354
18   The Squirming Coil – 347
19   Foam – 342
20   I Am Hydrogen – 335

Phish Song Rankings as of Alpharetta Fall 2016

Trying to beat the rush toward the New Year’s Eve run and I still have Vegas coming up! I’ve also come up with a silly idea as it comes to Phish, yet another one. You know. like my idea of reviewing 52 jams in 52 weeks. Might try to recommit to that in 2017, we’ll see.

Anyway, the new idea comes on the heels of seeing the Grateful Dead book out by Dave Browne. You may know that I’m a historian, like for reals with a Ph. D. and everything. In my heart, that’s where I’m at, not in the administrative wing where I currently reside. And while I have a lot of ideas and places I’d like to research, I’d really like to add to the Phish community in some way as well. What that looks like right now, I’m not quite sure. I think it starts with a lit review, like every other project that I’ve done. We’ll see from there.

As far as the stop in Georgia is concerned, not a lot of earth-shattering news. That’s part of the fun of this project though, isn’t it? Seeing the pace of change, sometimes slowly and how things move on the ranking chart from show to to show. One of those interesting nuggets is that for the first time in a long time, there is a three-way tie in the top ten. David Bowie, Cavern and Run Like An Antelope are all tied for 8th with 439 times played. I’m sure by the time I get to Vegas it will sort itself out, but a bit of fun nonetheless.

Moving down the rankings but in rarefied air of the top 25 is AC/DC Bag with its 306 times played, opening a 3 times played gap between itself and Maze. Making its way back to the Top 50 is one of those songs I love live, Funky Bitch, but I can take or leave on re-listens. It has always puzzled me why some songs work in the moment, but just don’t make me want to listen to much after that. Your Top 20 after Alpharetta:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 577
2    Possum – 513
3    Mike’s Song – 491
4   Weekapaug Groove – 460
5   Bouncing Around the Room – 457
6    Golgi Apparatus – 453
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 449
8    David Bowie – 439
8    Cavern – 439
8   Run Like an Antelope – 439A three-way at the top!
 
11   Suzy Greenberg – 416
12   Divided Sky – 408
12   Stash – 408
14   Reba – 374
14   Runaway Jim – 374
16   Harry Hood – 365
17   Tweezer – 354
18   The Squirming Coil – 347
19   Foam – 341 (22%)
20   I Am Hydrogen – 335