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.)


Sexual Harassment At Shows

We interrupt the regular Phishiness found at this blog to talk about something that really got my attention this past week, sexual harassment at Phish Shows. The wonderful podcast, The Helping Friendly Podcast turned my attention towards this topic.  I think, and if those involved want to correct me, please do, but the podcast was in reaction to Brian Colligan’s amazing bit of work investigating the problem and getting some kind of window into it. I’ll be honest, as a man, I feel like I still need education on this situation, especially being confronted with the reality and frequency that it happens.

Another community I’m a part of, well sort of anyway*, is the running community. This piece from Runner’s World was quite jarring to me. After listening to the podcast and reading Brian’s piece, I now feel doubly chastised. Not for sexually harassing someone, but for my complete obliviousness to how pervasive sexual harassment is in the lives of women, hell,  how unbelievably frequent.

*Truth is in all my interests, I never quite feel a part of said community, like Phish or running or many others. I mean I like things, but when I try and hang out with people with similar interests it always feels like they are REALLY into said interest and I feel like a poser.

What gets me, in both cases, running and Phish, is that for me, both are places of refuge, of quiet, of safety. I do both activities predominately alone, in fact I pretty much prefer it that way. When I run, I process. When I’m at Phish, I let go. Both are cathartic in their own way. One feels like atonement, the other freedom.

Hearing and reading about the amount of abuse that women take, and that’s what it is, in both venues angers me. Half of the population, some dear friends of mine don’t have the same access that I do to these events. It’s not to say that women don’t enjoy running or Phish or have a personal connection or whatever you want to plug in here. It’s that there is this other presence, this spectre that can and often does invade.

Colligan and the folks on the HFP offered some ideas to combat sexual harassment at shows and they are good suggestions, if a bit tricky in the moment. Most notably is the suggestion that if we see something, do something, especially if it is our friends doing the action. First, maybe you need better friends. Though I go to shows alone, I can’t imagine any of my friends groping a woman during a show. Second, and more to my situation at shows, is that when I tell the friend to stop something, nine times out of ten the other friends defend the perpetrator, that whole loyalty to a fault garbage.

The other thing that makes see something say something hard is that I don’t see anything much of the time. I either am focused on the band and the music or my eyes are closed. Admittedly, and now a bit sheepishly, I am not very aware of my surroundings.

One thing that Colligan suggests, if a bit weakly and the HFP panel pretty much eschewed was reporting the guy to security. I know that the relationship between security and fans isn’t always the greatest, but I’m going to betray a bit of bias here. I was a security guard at Wrigley Field for three years. Cubs fans, especially the bros and party folks in the bleachers, annoyed the crap out of me. However, when an issue was serious, like a guy harassing a woman, it was taken seriously, other feelings put aside. I would strongly urge women at shows that are harassed, especially physically, to bring in the venue’s security. They may still be jerks about other things, but I think most security personnel would take appropriate action.

One last bit of advice: If you are a woman at a show, especially alone and you feel threatened or unsafe I would highly recommend going to the Phellowship table. If you aren’t aware of the Phellowship, they are a group of Phish heads that choose to attend shows drug and alcohol free. I won’t say it’s perfect, but the table is removed from the seating area and if a woman isn’t among the staffers, there is almost always female members nearby. I would venture to guess that even as shows are relatively safe places which still need to improve, the folks at and around the Phellowship are even safer.

If I’ve taken anything out of all if this it’s that this problem falls on the men who go to Phish shows and interact online as fans. It isn’t the band’s problem, the venue’s problem and especially not the women’s problem. If the situation is going to change, we are the ones that need to make the change, no one else. Phish shows are such awesome events. It takes away from everyone if this kind of behavior persists. Let’s make sure everyone gets to share in the groove.

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 38 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

The Phish 52: A Jam A Week!

So, only three or so months after hatching the idea I’m finally getting around to trying my hand at discussing particular songs/jams performed by Phish. A few things you should know going forward:

  1. I have no actual background in music. I’m not a musicologist, musician or anything else related to the study or production of music. I know a few chords on a guitar and that’s about it. If you are looking for analysis of tonal changes, progression shifts and other such concepts, this series of blogs will be wholly inadequate.
  2. This is not a ranking.  These are just particular moments in Phish time that I happen to like. I might compare one to another, but I won’t be rating anything. There are no grades in this exercise.
  3. This is an exercise. Like I said, not a trained music guy. I’m just writing what I hear as best as I can. Why? Well, because I’ve always felt intimidated by those that can review the music and really explain it well. So, I’m getting out of my comfort zone a little bit and hopefully improving at something that I’ve long envied and admired.
  4. This is a bit personal. I mean that in the sense that the selections come from my little slice of the Phish universe. Most of the songs reviewed here will be from shows I attended.  There might be a personal note or two as well, We’ll see how it goes.
  5. This is a bit of a commitment. Yeah, kind of crazy, but I’d like to do this once a week. I’ve done a few things like this, but I don’t think for an entire year, so we’ll see.

So, that’s the plan. To those that follow me on twitter because of our mutual obsession, your feed back is most welcome and I have a feeling needed when I’m hard up for songs/jams to write about. For those of you that read my blog for other reasons…sorry. Feel free to move along.

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 18 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

Phish Song Rankings: As of Dick’s

Yes, we love Dick’s.  Since the three night stand in Denver became the tour closer it has yet to disappoint.  2015 was no different, perhaps the best Dick’s ever, but I’ll leave that to others to debate.  I’ll also leave it up for debate if this was the greatest Harpua ever, but it has to be in the discussion.

As for the Top 20, there really wasn’t a big change from Magnaball.  While the festival in New York saw a big representation of Top 20 songs, Dick’s was much more about the rarities and bust outs.  We saw first Bike since 2012, the first Keyboard Army since 1995 and the first Landlady since 1994.

It is interesting that Phish harkened back to those years, 1994 and 1995.  Many of the songs that are in the Top 20 that have become less frequent in 3.0 were staples in the mid-1990s. Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus and Foam just to name a few were in a pretty heavy rotation, now they just don’t pop up.

Looking further down the list and evidence of something encouraging to me is that newer songs keep rising, some of the most recent as a matter of fact.  No Men in No Man’s Land and Martian Monster have each broken into the top 300, which might not seem like much, but I think it is. While the novelty factor of Martian might see its play diminish by next tour, I’m guessing No Men and Blaze On for that matter, becoming staples for a while.  I think those songs among some of the others really point to a more mature songwriting style.  Not saying it’s better or worse, just more in line with 50 year old men.

I think it was a documentary I watched about Genesis when one of the guys, I think it was Phil Collins, asked the rhetorical question, “Do you know a lot of middle-aged men doing the same thing they were doing when they were 18?” I get it. It’s not to say that Phish is done with those old songs, but I wouldn’t doubt if they are more interested in doing something new.   Unlike so many bands that have 30+ years under their belts, Phish isn’t a slave to their past, or their fans for that matter.  I don’t think, I truly hope that the band knows we will gladly go along wherever they go.  If ever a member of Phish says something like “we have to play YEM because it wouldn’t be fair to the fans” I would be more disappointed in that notion than if the band decided to retire the song for good.

Here is your unofficial Top 20. I’ll go through the numbers one more time before New Year’s.  I’m sure there is some bad addition, typos and the like in there.

1   You Enjoy Myself – 572
2    Possum – 502
3    Mike’s Song – 481
4    Bouncing Around the Room – 451
5    Golgi Apparatus – 450
5    Weekapaug Groove – 450  
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 437
8    David Bowie – 435
9    Cavern – 434
10   Run Like an Antelope – 430
11   Suzy Greenberg – 411
12   Divided Sky – 402
13   Stash – 400
14   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)
14   Reba – 371
16   Harry Hood – 353
17   Tweezer – 346
18   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)
19   Foam – 341 (22%)
20   I Am Hydrogen – 332 (21%)

Phish Song Rankings: Post-Alpine

I’ll write more about Alpine a little later in the week, but as far as the numbers go a few interesting bits.  The most impressive number to come out of the weekend is that Possum has reached 500 plays.  For a band that doesn’t repeat set lists from show to show, that really is something, a lot of shows at the very least.  An interesting perspective on that number, consider that after Alpine, Mike’s Son has been played 479 times.  At the earliest, if Mike’s was played at the next 21 shows, given that the number of dates is relatively similar, It wouldn’t be until mid summer 2016 that Mike’s would reach 500. And we know that won’t happen, so it may very well be 2018 or later before this happens again.

As far as the rest of the top 20 is concerned, not much has changed even though six songs from the list were played.  And while there were a lot of bust outs on the second night, as far as great changes within the standings, nothing moved that far along.  I do like that Colonel Forbin and Mockingbird are attached at the hip.  So many pairings that we see actually have been played independently of each other.  Looking at the songs that really got the crowd swooning, they are pretty much in that sweet spot of being played enough, say over 20 times, for even a more casual, yet into, fan to know the song.  Debuts and new songs are rare only by their newness. As I get more into this and these numbers, the amount of songs tried and pretty much abandoned is pretty staggering.  This doesn’t even include the Halloween songs played once and never again, but Phish compositions that just didn’t click with the band for some reason.

After Alpine and bust out central, I’m not sure what to expect as the band moves to the east coast and the home base, let along the festival at Watkins Glen.  As last night proved, however, Phish is still full of surprises.  Your Top 20 as of 8.9.2015:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 570 (37%)
2    Possum – 500 the big 500!
3    Mike’s Song – 479
4    Golgi Apparatus – 449 (29%)
4    Bouncing Around the Room – 449 (29%)
6    Weekapaug Groove – 448
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 434
8    David Bowie – 433 (28%)
8    Cavern – 433 (28%)
10   Run Like an Antelope – 427
11   Suzy Greenberg – 410 (26%)
12   Divided Sky – 401 (26%)
13   Stash – 397 (26%)
14   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)
15   Reba – 369 (24%)
16   Harry Hood – 350
17   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)
18   Tweezer – 343
19   Foam – 341 (22%)
20   I Am Hydrogen – 329 (21%)

Phish Song Standings: And So It Goes

Blossom didn’t really alter very much in the standings. Harry Hood reached 350 plays and Chalk Dust Torture moved into sole possession of seventh place.  That pretty much wraps up the top 20.  Ghost continues to climb and in a couple more years I wouldn’t be surprised if it reaches the top 50.

Speaking of the top 50, probably unnoticed by many is the 38th placed song, My Sweet One.  It isn’t a song I would think most people seek out, won’t make or break a show, except maybe for me.  As of this tour I have been to 52 shows spanning 20 years. I have never seen a MSO.  According to ZZYZX it is the most common song not to be played in that many shows.  It has become my unlikely white whale.  As this tour winds its way across the country, I was getting more and more excited that I would finally get a My Sweet One. And then, right out of the box, second song at Blossom.  What adds to the sting this time is that Blossom was my younger days venue.  In high school I saw the Kinks there, Roger Waters, Bob Seeger and Phish’s first appearance in 1995. It is one of the best outdoor venues you’ll ever see.

What’s more, for the first time in a long time I’m going on the road to see Phish this year.  In addition to the home shows at Alpine, I’m headed to Magna Ball.  If ever I was going to get a My Sweet One, this was the year. Alas, my watch continues.  After the Alpine weekend, I’ll update the standings.  Here’s the Top Twenty after Blossom:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 570
2    Possum – 499
3    Mike’s Song – 478
4    Golgi Apparatus – 449
4    Bouncing Around the Room – 449
6    Weekapaug Groove – 447
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 434 (sole possession of seventh)
8    David Bowie – 433
8    Cavern – 433
10   Run Like an Antelope – 426
11   Suzy Greenberg – 410
12   Divided Sky – 401
13   Stash – 397
14   Runaway Jim – 371
15   Reba – 368
16   Harry Hood – 350 (hits 350!)
17   The Squirming Coil – 345
18   Tweezer – 342
19   Foam – 341
20   I Am Hydrogen – 329


And that is that. Made it through Lent with my fasts mostly intact.  I must admit I stumbled a few times, once when there was some awesome bread left over in the kitchenette and once on Twitter when a kerfuffle went down with a couple of my favorite radio hosts.  As you might guess, I wasn’t particularly pleased with myself in either case, but overall, all areas were a good exercise.  Did it strengthen or inform my faith? Not that much I suppose, but that might be asking a lot of the absence of Twitter and Facebook.

What I’ve found surprising a week or so back to social media is how low my threshold has become for stuff I don’t particularly want to read, especially on Twitter. Rejoining Twitter and baseball coming back coincided quite nicely, but when I signed in and started reading through my time line, there was a huge bitchfest going on regarding the strike zone, led mostly by Joe Sheehan. I get it, good calls, accuracy, blah, blah, blah. It was the first game of the year, can’t we just enjoy baseball for baseball? At some point the constant critique just becomes more noise to filter out.  Which is what I did. I turned off my phone and just watched the game. No, I don’t think statistics have ruined the game, or Twitter is ruining the game. Nothing is ruining the game. Sometimes the over analysis is ruining the experience.  What’s more, I really agree with Nick Hornby when he wrote:

I don’t want my children growing up in a world where refereeing mistakes have been eliminated. Kids have already spent too much time being told by broadcasters that professional sport is deadly serious, that the teams and players are at war.  I grew up watching fat players and slow players whose first touch took it farther than I could kick it; I watched a lot of drunk players too…They’ve all gone now, and the game is, of course better for it, faster more athletic and more technically accomplished. But it really isn’t as funny and if we are denied the chance to see goals like the one Juan Mata didn’t score, it will be less funny still.

As far as Facebook goes, I’m pretty much where I was before Lent began. It’s nice to catch up with old friends and hear how family members are doing around the country.  Other than that, I don’t do much on Facebook. I don’t take quizzes, rarely click on links, or play any games.  I’ve seen the screeds from time to time of people getting pissed about being asked to play games. I’m not that committed to my Facebook feed.  I just scroll on through.

Like the last few Lents, the practice of season has had a lasting impact. It has altered my behavior in a positive way. After 40 days, I’m pretty sure I’ll be spending less time on social media going forward. Does it translate to more spiritual and religious behavior? probably not. I have found however, (this week not included) that I’m more productive, especially when it comes to writing. While not religious per se I do feel that when I’m writing, really getting to it every day or so, I’m acting in accordance with God’s will. Writing is what lights my soul, it’s what I would do (and in fact do!) for no money. I’m not sure if this message is what was intended from Lent, but it’s a good lesson all the same. Happy Easter everybody!