With The Right Device You Can Make A Pattern Grow – The Venue Project

For a while there has been a smaller project that I have wanted to take on, one that seems to get hinted at and asked about in the various Phish social media circles though I have yet to see a full breakdown of the idea in any one place. It is a notion that flows into many conversations that you hear about the band with broad statements like “they always play hot shows at Deer Creek” or “I cannot wait to get back to the Mothership” or “hands down, Dick’s is the best venue for Phish these days and they always slay it there” and the like being so common as to become part of the band’s folklore. But just how true are those statements?

 

In order to figure out a somewhat reasonable answer to this question I propose to take a look back at the venues where Phish has played most frequently and put together some form of summary/breakdown of the music that the band played to see if there really is a connection between the setting and the music as we often think. This endeavor will require some heavy lifting first in breaking down all of the various names both corporate and otherwise to figure out the correct number of times played at a particular place and then diving in headlong to try to make some sense of the history there. We will go about setting some criteria in a bit but some of the considerations that I am thinking about include:

  • setting a minimum number of times played as a baseline – this will obviously exclude some of the fantastic “one timer” venues and places where they might’ve only played a couple of shows but if we don’t cut it somewhere it will end up being a full history and a highly subjective undertaking at that
  • evaluating the music played – this is about as subjective as it can get but at a certain level all of this is so we will try to look at the relative “quantity of quality” in the performances including possibly using outside resources like PJJ to see how others have “valued” the music therein
  • special venues – while I could be swayed by a persuasive argument (nudge nudge, wink wink) otherwise my inclination is to keep festival settings out of the conversation though to be honest most will not qualify for the minimum number of shows if it ends up where I think it will
  • the venue-specific factors – what about a venue contributes to the whole experience? This could include acoustics, proximity of band to crowd and sightlines, slapback, whether they have good nachos or just that goopy fake cheese bullshit, and the like. While perhaps not as important on the surface, these factors can and do contribute to the overall experience.
  • intangibles – this is the stuff people point to that has no objective basis but has become part of the story. Stuff like the prevailing vibe of the crowd in a room, the hype surrounding the shows and venue itself, how hard a ticket might be to acquire, etc. There is some bleed between these factors and the venue-specific ones.

I’m not really looking to get too granular with it such that the overall intent is lost in the details so obviously the primary focus will be the music played. I think this can be a fun little project before heading into another full tour review and also so that I’m not overlapping my way back posts with the new stuff coming out on Fall Tour in just a few weeks. I’ll have another, more detailed post to set about establishing the criteria and putting together the list of venues in consideration but until then let me know what you think in the comments.

 

What is your pick for Phish’s best played venue throughout their history?

Crossword and Painless

First and foremost I want to thank everyone for reading along as I worked my way through the Fall 1996 Tour. While a lot of this was a personal journey in reconnecting with an important time in my life with Phish it was nice to see that folks were enjoying the reminisce themselves. Over the years this band has given us seemingly countless moments of eternal joy and splendor and it is often rewarding to go back and touch that feeling by recollecting what we can of those times. I have yet to decide what tour I might tackle next but I am enjoying this here three tours in and want to continue. So read along if you so choose; I’ll be here slinging bad prose and questionable takes on this wonderfully strange band that we cannot seem to stop following.

 

Now on to the puzzle!

 

I had never built my own crossword puzzle before but as a person who completes them at an unhealthy level of obsession I felt like it would be a fun thing to try and a neat way to kind of recap this tour review. There are some websites out there that help you build a puzzle without too much heavy lifting, mainly relying on you for the clues/answers with the format and structure being constructed by their program. So as I went along the tour I kept track of things that might make good crossword clues/answers and by the end of it I had a pretty healthy list of stuff to work with in putting it all together. I checked these clues more than once yet somehow seemed to miss a couple of things but based on the submissions I received it appears that my minor mistakes didn’t derail people too much in getting this figured out. Here now I post for you the answer key with the following notes regarding the ones that have been found to be not completely correct or somewhat misleading in some way:

34 Down – Clue says the answer was an encore in 4/5 times played but it was actually only two of the five (Johnny B Good, “JBG” in crossword)

50 Down – The clue is stated correctly but I misspelled the answer as “LEE” when it should be “LEIGH” as the then Lighting Tech’s name is Leigh Fordham which we would all become a lot more familiar with once the song 46 Days was written and performed

76 Across – Clue says the answer was played thrice but it was actually performed eight times (ACDC Bag, “BAG” in crossword)

Clearly, I need to hire a new proofreader because the one I have (me) kinda stinks at it…

 

The Answers!

Fall96AnswerKey.jpg

So how did you do? Admittedly, there are more than a few clues here that aren’t ones you might know off the top of your head without having either read my posts pretty closely or by using outside resources like PhishStats or all of the tracking information on phish.net but that’s totally fine by me as i think that is a part of how we digest Phish in this day and age.

 

I ended up getting seven complete or mostly complete entries for the contest and after checking them all I had three that were complete and 100% correct. From there I used the randomizing services of my in house accounting firm “Twin Two Year Olds, Ltd.” who monitored the proceedings and helped with the picking out of the hat for our winner. And that winner is…

 

Ari Metz! 

 

Congratulations, Ari, you will be receiving an email shortly from LivePhish with the Gift Certificate code for you to use in getting yourself a download.

 

Thanks again for all who submitted entries and for all of you who have been reading along. Let’s enjoy the weekend at Dick’s and then maybe y’all can help me figure out which tour to dive into as we head into the Fall…

Waiting, Calculating – Puzzling Our Visit to Fall 1996

Okay, let’s have some fun and do a little contest thingy. I’m kind of obsessed with crossword puzzles and phish (not necessarily in that order) and I thought it would be fun to bring the two together. Note that there are old threads on .net and other places where fans have made puzzles before so this isn’t exactly new ground being covered, just my take on the idea. All of the clues for this puzzle can be figured out if you have been following along on the Fall 1996 Tour and most even without that.

 

So here’s the contest.

 

  1. Download and print out the Fall96Crossword and clues.
  2. Complete the puzzle.
  3. By the deadline (more on that below), email me your completed puzzle.
  4. I will then pick one winner at random out of all 100% correct entries as the winner

 

The prize for this little game? A gift certificate redeemable at http://www.livephish.com for one Lossless Download of the show of your choice. That’s nearly a $13 retail value! If you want the HD version the upcharge is on you, bub. I’m already giving you the lossless you should be spinning anyway.

 

The deadline for submissions will be August 25th at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight time. That way I can have the winner announced and awarded prior to the next scheduled Phish shows in case that individual wants to grab one of them. Please email your completed entry to me at typeiiijpd at the gmail place.

 

UPDATE: Apparently I cannot spell certain people’s names correctly as the answer for 51 Down is the more common but incorrect spelling of that person’s name. The correct answer would be five letters which won’t fit in that three letter slot so if you think you know it but it will not fit there’s your reason. I have it incorrect. And if it fits for you, well, that probably means you have been spelling it incorrectly all these years.

 

The downloadable versions are linked above but here is the grid and clues for reference

Fall96Crossword

crossword clues text_Page_1

crossword clues text_Page_2

Okay, got all that? Now get to it!!

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours – My Final Fall 1996 Takeaways

Well, it has been a long and winding road to get here but today we finally get to the wrapping it up bit for our journey through the Phish Fall 1996 Tour. I have really enjoyed this entire thing and have gained an even bigger appreciation than I already had for this tour and year – and let’s face it, I was already a champion for it to begin with. We Phish fans like to throw around superlatives and proclamations about what era/year/tour/show/set/jam/run of notes is TEH BEST EVAR!!!! which gets to a whole ranking of art thing that is really not what I am about. That’s not to say that certain shows or songs don’t have versions that speak to us more directly (or more simply: that get our rocks off as hard). Personally, I find that getting too wrapped up in that way of thinking misses the point  though I understand the desire (need?) to do so. Avoiding all the obstacles that terrorize my view, I will instead give you a bit of where I am with this tour after putting in the considerable amount of time it has taken to get us here today. So without further ado, here are my personal thoughts and takeaways from this wonderfully entertaining run of thirty-five shows numbered here for list purposes but in no way ordered or ranked…

 

  1. While perhaps not as defined as other years, the prevailing sound and feel to 1996 and the Fall Tour in particular is unmistakable. This is a band in full control of their art doing what they do best while also working towards what will be perhaps the biggest evolution in their sound.
  2. If I had to give a name to the style of jamming Phish employs most regularly during this tour it would be “Percussive Groove” which is a term I have thrown into several posts. This type of jamming can but does not always include Trey hopping on the mini-kit.
  3. In this time period Phish was very open to having guests join them on stage, something they have been open about not wanting as much here and now. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it comes together in big ways resulting in unique takes on the music we know and love. And then sometimes it becomes something even more influential…
  4. The impact of Karl Perazzo’s “mini tour” with the band cannot be overstated. That first show in Tallahassee includes what I consider to be the first proto-cowfunk jam in Mike’s Song and by Coral Sky you can hear the excitement in their playing as they toy with this new found groove-based jamming. Obviously the practice and performance of Remain In Light is integral to this similar to how each Halloween album seems to fit with where the band is at that time and where they are headed.
  5. Speaking of Halloween, others have written about how covering the Talking Heads can be argued to be the most important of the costumes Phish has worn over the years in how it changed their sound. I definitely agree with this notion and all you have to do is listen to how this tour progresses to start nodding your head in support of that observation. Heck, they even as much as confirm it when talking to David Byrne himself.
  6. I’m not going to lie, I had a difficult time trimming the takeaways list down into a more manageable yet still pretty large final list. Some of this might be related to my personal preferences but I think it also speaks to just how well the band was playing throughout this tour.
  7. There is a pretty interesting argument to be made that parallels between 1996 and 2016 can be drawn. Huge high point the year prior, perceived slip “backwards” by some/many in the fanbase, notion that work on album has detracted from band’s live performances… which year am I referring to???
  8. Though I am not a ranker I do have some thoughts on end of tour awards. So here goes:
    1. My pick for Jam of the Tour goes to The Rupp Gin (11.07.1996). This multi-phased beast stands the test of time and combines all of the elements of the band in one wide-ranging piece of music.
    2. The song of the Tour is Simple. Each of the ten versions played has something worthwhile to take away (though you will see below that I did not include every one). I am very comfortable saying that this was the best tour for Simple in the band’s history. It really isn’t even close.
    3. Like Simple, a few other songs had notable highs for this tour. Disease, Hood, Reba, Mike’s, Tweezer, and even stuff like Ya Mar have multiple versions that are well worth your time. While the open psych jamming of 1995 is mostly missing on this tour where they take these songs is quite engaging and indicative of the larger points above regarding the band’s development and progression.
    4. The show of the Tour is a bit tougher to unravel. The easy answers are 10.31 (Atlanta) and 12.06 (Las Vegas) but depending on your favorite flavor of Phish I could understand arguments made for others like 11.02 (Coral Sky) or another of the PerazzoPhish shows, 11.07 (Rupp), or possibly even something like 11.15 (Kansas City) or 11.16 (Omaha). In the end you simply cannot deny the three sets of wonderful music they created on 10.31. As much as I laud 12.06 as a personal favorite that Halloween show stands out above the rest.
    5. Best sit-in of the tour is easy due to the PerazzoPhish thing but in terms of best sit-in song performance it has to be the Crosseyed from Coral Sky. I’m choosing that over perhaps one of my favorite one time covers they have ever done, The Great Curve, which should tell you something about what I think of that C&P.
    6. Biggest “holy crap I cannot believe what they just did” moment of the tour is The Note in the Omaha Hood. Just a shade under three minutes of Trey holding the sustain, egging the crowd on while the rest of the band goes off and elevates the thing to a ridiculous energy level. It might not be the objective ‘best’ Hood of the tour in a strong tour for the song but holy hell if you don’t get amped by that I’m not sure what to say.
    7. The runner up to The Note might be the wild ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ YEM from Kansas City. It wasn’t the first time they had done something like that in YEM but the way it develops explodes into that funkified dance party might just make you start laughing uncontrollably.
    8. Best bustout of the tour is All Along The Watchtower with Buddy Miles and Merl Saunders not just for the song but for the great version they played with those esteemed guests. As a reminder, do yourself the favor of watching the backstage videos that have popped up from that night. They are easily found on YouTube.
    9. Funniest on stage thing from the tour is a bit tougher to nail down simply because of the variances in what each person finds humorous. The entirety of the Harpua suite in Vegas tops the list for me but you might prefer the Fish stumbling through Bike in Lexington bit or the Mule->Catapult->Mule zaniness and that is perfectly okay.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s get to the final playlist that you might have espied over there in the sidebar player.

 

I mentioned in my initial post about takeaways that I had pulled 176 tracks out as either ‘tier I’ or ‘tier II’ highlights from all of the shows for the tour. Well, as I started to go back through it I added in two more tracks to the list so it grew to 178. With this list in hand I went back and listened to every song on it again, taking notes along the way and bucketing songs into “yes” “no” and “maybe” for inclusion (or not) in the final list. After the first pass I still had 150+ tracks at either “yes” or “maybe” so I went back and cut it further to the list you will find below which comprises the 109 tracks that I feel are worthy of inclusion.

 

Before moving on I’ll just give the typical disclaimer that given 99 Phish fans there would be 99 different lists because we all listen to the same shows but hear the music differently based on where we come from, how that shapes us as listeners, and where we are in that moment. There should be no judgement of a person’s personal take on the music and no proclamations of certainty with respect to this art as both reactions serve nothing but the selfish aims of the judge and/or proclaimer. Trying to make objective claims about the subjective is fruitless and undermines our ability to find connection with others in discussing this wonderful music. You may not agree with what I value in this art and I may not agree with you but the fact that we are both engaged by it should be the basis for finding ways to engage with each other.

 

Okay, we good? Here’s my list with the scribblings I put for each just so you can see some of how I got to where I am on these.

fall 96 takeaways_Page_1fall 96 takeaways_Page_2fall 96 takeaways_Page_3

It’s a big list, I won’t lie. And there are several songs for which I included multiple versions for one reason or another. But this list to me gives you a good glimpse of what Fall 1996 Phish was all about from the big jams to the sit-ins to the bustouts to the crisply played standard stuff and beyond. If you are interested in listening to this outside of the player on this site I have uploaded it for you to take away yourself. Note please that I have included my spreadsheet of the culling for your referral and potential amusement in getting into my head on this. The two files break down such that PH.Fall96.Final.1.zip has everything through Sat. Louis (and includes the spreadsheet) while PH.Fall96.Final.2.zip has the rest of the tour starting in Omaha. All of the tracks here are mp3 auds from the sources on The Spreadsheet but if you like what you hear and are itching for sbds there are a few shows from this tour available for purchase at www.livephish.com, namely 10.31.1996, 11.02.1996, 11.07.96, and 12.06.1996. If you do grab the mp3 files linked here please note that there are a couple with id tagging errors due to where I pulled them from. This includes the two tracks from 11.03.1996 Gainesville not having any band/album info included and the 11.16.1996 Kansas City tracks being tagged as Nashville, TN for some reason.

 

Fall 1996 1 (Lake Placid through St. Louis)

Fall 1996 2 (Omaha through Las Vegas)

 

So there you have it! I’d love to hear what others took away from this tour so please feel welcome to comment here as I am certain that my musings on this tour are far from the only opinions out there.

 

I have one last Fall 1996 thing to post once I have it ready but that’s for another day. I’ll tease you by saying it is contest with a real live prize and everything but in order to win you will need to know your stuff about this tour. Start studying!

Seven Years On…

I think I share the view of most of us when I say that my life would be a lot different if Phish had not gotten back together in March of 2009. I was never comfortable with how it all ended in 2004 (spending the night on that highway and then getting turned away without ever having gotten within 25 miles of the venue didn’t help but I’m not here to dredge up that particular set of feelings or all of the circumstances that caused it to end in that way for me…) so I was left in an odd place having lost one of the things I loved to do most in my life. Now, I didn’t exactly sit around wallowing in misery as at the time I was quite busy with l-i-v-i-n’ but it did leave a hole. Granted, by the time that all happened I had moved on a bit from the singular obsession that was my life with Phish from about 1993 to 1999 as Hiatus showed us all that this wasn’t permanent and was going to end eventually. I guess we all just didn’t expect (i.e. want) it to end the way it had.

 

We all endured The Long Wait in our own ways and that is not what this post is supposed to be about but I will say that for me it was an opportunity to broaden my musical horizons a bit looking both forward to newer forms of music I had then yet to explore while also going back to music that I loved from even before my many years with Phish. Some of us used this time to get serious about careers, family, personal growth, and other endeavors. Some of us used it to get clean. Whatever you did during those four plus years I hope that like me it gave you a more full appreciation for what having Phish in your meant for you.

 

When that announcement video for the comeback dropped on 10.01.2008 it was a something I never expected to happen. I had moved on and expected that the only Phish I would have in my future was already in the past. Here was this band that I had devoted so much time and energy to coming back from the dead and offering the chance for redemption, both for them and the fans. This wasn’t Trey playing a tour in his newly found sobriety (though those Fall 2008 shows were pretty fun…) or two band members being in the same room for a night or something, this was PHISH! And they were coming back! Pretty much immediately I knew that I needed to be there to see the return and to reconnect with the scene I had been a part of for so many years.

 

Luckily for me, my wife is also a fan of Phish. Well, maybe not always lucky due to it complicating the ease of finding tickets or deciding on a whim to drive five hours to catch a single show but at least she gets it. Being a few years younger than me her start with the band was a bit later than mine (my first couple of shows were as a teen in 1990, hers were also as a teen but in 1995) and we never knew each other in either of our prime show going days but we have triangulated a pretty large number of shows that we both have attended which is fun when you think about how close we were to meeting but never having that occur. It really makes you realize how small one’s circle within the greater Phish world can be. I bring this up to say that obviously we would both be trying to go which meant securing a pair of tickets for each night to what would easily be the toughest Phish tickets ever.

 

You may be wondering why I am writing this here on March 7th instead of yesterday which is the day that marks the triumphant return for the band. It is relevant for me because I missed that first show though honestly it really doesn’t change anything for me having caught #2 instead of #1. You see, along with everyone else we tried to do mail order (fail!), we tried to do the general onsale (fail!), and we scoured the then unsophisticated online ticket resources in search of our pair. At that stage I was not active online on any of the Phish community sites that had developed over the early years of the internet so I didn’t have those connections to go to to try to make it happen. And even though we didn’t yet have kids in our life we were not in a financial position to shell out the many-times-face-value asking prices of the hundreds of people scalping tickets to these shows. We tried to get creative, putting up craigslists posts about how we were huge phans (yes, we probably used the dreaded ‘ph’ too. ugh) and we really wanted to go and blah blah blah but so did everyone else. I even bought the Clifford Ball DVD set early when they had that raffle for a pair of tickets to the shows and entered some of the more questionable ebay and craigslist raffles to increase our odds hoping that might be a way to hit on getting our pair. The real gut-punching part of it was that my best friends had hit big time in the lottery, scoring a pair for all three nights which just made it more depressing that they would be able to go and we wouldn’t be able to share this together as we had so many other adventures around the world. And so at a certain point in the months leading up to the show I resigned myself to the fact that this probably wasn’t going to happen. We live in New England and with the shows about 600 miles to the southwest the prospect of driving down there ticketless to fight it out with all the other people from the region (and country, honestly) looking to do the exact same thing wasn’t exactly looking too enticing. It appeared that I would miss out on this epic event just as I had missed Big Cypress (friends bailed on me a month before the trip was to happen and I wasn’t about to drive almost 1,300 miles alone) and Coventry (already covered, won’t go into the gory details) making this just one more big Phish event I had not been able to experience in person and in the moment.

 

And here is where it gets fun. We continued to work the secondary market to try to get tickets, giving ourselves a cap on what we would spend above face in order to make it happen. My friends also worked hard for us, looking at anything and everything with pretty constant text traffic going on between us as we worked the system of the time. My wife went all in here, emailing and calling dozens of people who had posted anything remotely promising to try to get some tickets. Finally we had a bit of luck as there was someone local who had tickets due to being an old friend of Trey’s from high school or something but who couldn’t go to all three shows because it would probably have caused a divorce with his wife so he had a pair for the final night that he was willing to part with. Okay, that’s a start! We can build from there. Now being able to focus on two nights instead of three we doubled down our efforts aaaaaaand struck out. Royally. Like it seemed that every avenue had closed and being only a couple of weeks prior to the shows the already dry well had gone over to dust. This was depressing. For only the last show it didn’t really make too much sense to make the massive trek (even if I had done similar things in years past).

 

Then something happened that I will never forget and never be able to fully express my appreciation for to the people who did it. My friends traded their pair of tickets for the first night to get a pair of tickets for the second night to get us in the building. I still can’t believe it writing these words seven years on. They had given up seeing the return for us so that the four of us could share the weekend together. This was (and is) one of the most selfless things I had ever had happen to me. I was so incredulous that I asked my friend over and over whether he really wanted to do that and his answer every single time was a simple “yes”. Now that I think back on what they did for us it speaks not only about the very close friendship that I have shared with these wonderful people for now more than 23 years but also to what this whole community really can be for us. Yes, in a lot of ways this Phish obsession of ours is a largely selfish (or at least self-centered) thing as we spend thousands of dollars and spend so much time trying to get to shows at the risk of potentially alienating loved ones, derailing careers, and other not-so-forward-looking behaviors but at the root of it (get ready for the cheesy lyrical reference!) it only works when we are ‘sharing in the groove’ and not when we are only thinking of ourselves.

 

This really opened up a big thing for me personally as I guess up until that point I had primarily looked at Phish as an escape from my life rather than an integral influence on it. For most of my time in 1.0 traveling all over to catch shows I had almost been embarrassed to share that information with my coworkers and non-fan friends (family understood well as both of my older brothers had steeped me in the Dead tradition at an early age and our parents were open to our excursions as part of our life experience), instead ‘hiding’ it under half-truth descriptions of my trips or simply deflecting to other conversation. But here was the touch point for me in really bringing home the point that the shared experience had greater impact than something wholly individual. Conceptually it was something I already had bought into – particularly with these friends who I had traveled through Europe with amongst many other very memorable times over our life together – but in the Phish context I had never really put all of that together in this way. Sure, I had had many moments of losing myself in the sea of people that make up the Phish crowd (I had a particularly introspective moment atop the hill at the Clifford Ball but that is a story for another time) but never had it coalesced that I was anything more than just another ticket holding fan who was really into this weird band.

 

So we followed the lines headed south, picking our friends up along the way, and arriving in Hampton about the time the band was coming out for their encore on 03.06.2009 and made our way to our hotel to get settled for the two shows to come. We first hit the lots during the day of that second show and all of those feelings returned once more as we exhaled our normal lives once more and breathed in this new life for Phish. When the band came out and opened up with Back On The Train  (oddly enough that video is filed from pretty close to where we had camped out that night) it was yet another example that the band was connected with us as that was pretty well the perfect sort of opener for me in that moment. The balance of those two shows were invigorating in a way I had forgotten Phish could be and left me wanting more in that way you all know. Our band was back!

 

Wishing to keep that going in some way I now looked outward to find connection with the like-minded folk I had missed so much without ever realizing it. And with that my Phish internet life began, first in lurking dribs and drabs and then eventually as a contributing commenter, and eventually leading to you reading this today. So many things have happened for me in the years since Phish has returned that it is hard to imagine my life now without that as part of the story. Thankfully, with the current state of the band being as positive as it is I don’t have to imagine that. My life is enriched by Phish and the exposure it has given me to all of these amazing people who follow them just as I do. These days at shows I find myself observing all of those connections that occur between seemingly disparate people who this band has brought together and that does almost as much to fill my cup as the music. Almost. I jest, but that aspect of the Phish experience is something I cherish now more than ever and what I take forward with me when the show is over. It influences my mood, my attitude, and my outlook and helps me to work to find connection wherever I can in all aspects of my life. And that? That is really what IT is really all about…

Nervously She Fumbled For The Pouch: An Important PSA

Hello friends.

 

I am here today to speak with you about a terrible affliction that has plagued members of the concert-going public for practically as long as there has been music. I speak, of course, of Pockets Syndrome, a malady so infernal that each show tens if not dozens of addle-headed fans of live music succumb to the effects of this horrible scourge. While perhaps not a “deadly” disease or something with long lasting outward effects, Pockets Syndrome can severely impact a person’s ability to lose themselves in the music due to the invasive symptoms that manifest once the onset of the disorder has begun. There are other residual impacts that can be psychological, spiritual, or even metaphysical in nature depending on the prevailing mindset of the afflicted both during and after the onset of the attack. Our goal here is to shine the light of awareness on Pockets Syndrome so that you can be better prepared to avoid its grasp, recognize the symptoms in members of your crew to enact early intervention protocols, and also so that we can all help to spread the message of support to those who may be susceptible to this dreaded condition.

 

Pockets Syndrome, or “profunda loculos inordinatio” as it is known in certain research circles, is a mainly mental affectation where the sufferer perceives that items placed in pockets (or other holding devices on or near the person’s body) during a concert — typically a rock and roll concert that leans more towards the open jamming, psychedelic sort — can appear, disappear, and move between various catchments. Symptoms may include but are not limited to:  stress, anxiety, confusion, wonderment, thirst/dry mouth, loss of marbles, disconnection with the music being performed, disbelief, the condition known as ‘hot dog fingers’, shock, sadness, anger, befuddlement, fidgeting, and more. Side effects include: inability to communicate with others, lost sense of time and place, total lack of awareness for surroundings, lack of available funds, at a loss for words when buddy asks “hey, man, where’s the weed?”, incapable of helping out the dude who needs a light, potentially mentally scarring deep dives into introspective questions about the nature of objective existence, and being the temporary laughing stock of your friends and section mates.

 

It should be noted that Pockets Syndrome should not be confused with the similarly named Pocket Syndrome (“Piriformis Syndrome” — sciatic pain caused by having a ‘Costanza’ sized wallet in your back pocket all day) or Phantom Pocket Vibration Syndrome (that feeling that your phone is buzzing away in your pocket even when it is not even in your pocket. maybe put your phone down for once?). While both of these disorders can be related to Pockets Syndrome and often occur simultaneous with it no direct link between these has yet been found. However, if you find that you are experiencing symptoms consistent with either of these debilities it is highly recommended that you check with your doctor, shaman, or at least consult reference materials a bit more real than this.

 

Pockets Syndrome most commonly impacts individuals who are not necessarily in what medical doctor types might call a “sober state” though there have been reported cases of individuals who are so overcome by the music as to exhibit the tell tale signs. Generally, it manifests once the lights go down and the music is getting everyone moving. The subject decides he or she (while predominantly a disorder associated with males there are numerous case studies of females and persons of other gender types who have been inflicted) has something desirable in his or her pocket(s) and therefore decides to take that item out of said pocket(s). However, upon placing hand in pocket(s) to grab the item the subject is unable to locate it, resulting in some if not all of the symptoms and side effects listed above. In some cases these symptoms can be further exacerbated by the subject knowing that the item is in a particular pocket only to locate it in a different pocket OR checking all pockets without successfully obtaining the item and then rechecking pocket(s) and having the item be easily accessed where the subject thought it was in the first place.

 

Now, you may be reading this and thinking to yourself that you would never allow yourself to get to the point of lysergic susceptibility that often precedes the onset of Pockets Syndrome. And I was once in your shoes as I thought — nay knew — that it could never happen to me. But it can. And I am here today speaking to you only by the grace of the house lights coming back up at the end of each set and my hands and mind finally working together with my eyes to allow me to find those lost items that had disappeared into my infernal pockets. But even having experienced this malady several times in the past does not keep me from being another potential victim at my next show.

 

Perhaps you will be able to avoid Pockets Syndrome by wearing clothing that requires another person to tote your belongings for the evening, like these classy Dickies pants or these lovely ladies’ jeans in which case I feel bad for whoever you get haul your crap because no one should have to be your sherpa during jam time. Or maybe you stay healthy by removing the influences that contribute to it by not bringing in anything with you to the show because you really don’t need to have anything with you inside the venue to which I would respond you are either quite fastidious, well disciplined, or just lying to yourself. This person is the type who will ask friends for whatever it is they “forgot” to bring but you aren’t fooling anyone, mister. We pocketed people are on to your shenanigans. The reality is that all of us can contract Pockets Syndrome without warning. And with that in mind I’d like to provide some tips on how to live with Pockets Syndrome and how to identify the signs in your friends so that we can attempt to rise above this menace.

 

Tips For The Pockets Syndrome Sufferer

  • Before you head into the show, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Am I wearing clothing with pockets?
    • Do I have too many pockets?
    • What do I have in my pockets right now?
    • Can any of these items be left behind?
    • Are there any items that I may come across this evening that would “need” to be added to my pocket inventory and am I ready for that added baggage?
    • Is my SLF or any of my friends going to ask me to hold anything in my pockets for them and can I accommodate that without added PS stress?
  • Once in the show, do a quick pocket check to identify what you have on your person — and where. Having information on where items should be can help to minimize the lasting impact of seemingly lost items.
  • If time and mental state permits, mentally catalog where each item resides. For example, if you have a cell phone, wallet, ticket stub, lighter, some prerolls, a setlist notebook, and a pack of gum try to determine which pocket each item is in currently so that you can quickly ask answer your internal monologue with “yes! my setlist book is in the left butt cheek pocket of my jeans and shall go back there every time I intend to replace it in my pockets”
  • Whenever possible, place any items that 99% of people would consider trash into an appropriate receptacle as soon as possible, removing that item from your pocket inventory forever. This includes empty packaging for… stuff…
  • For paper money, try to return it to your wallet/money clip/stash bag rather than just cramming it into your pocket. Pocket clutter is a major contributor to Pockets Syndrome onset and crumpled money is one of the most common instigators in this regard.
  • If you start to feel anxious or at all concerned that an item you know you had with you via your preshow inventory is now not present, stop and take a deep breath. Rather than dig your giant meaty hand into that small pocket and root around to try to feel it remove all of the pocket’s contents into your hand (if possible, I have no idea how big your hands and pockets are, man) and visually confirm that the item is no longer there. Repeat as needed for all pockets until the item is located.
  • In the event that searching all pockets thoroughly still does not produce the item, do a scan of the floor, seats, and other areas around you if possible. If you have a coat, well, now you have even more pockets to search, buddy. You should have thought of that before you went with the whole need-to-stay-warm plan of attack for this night.
  • Assuming the item still eludes you, quiz your friends to make sure they didn’t receive it from you at some point. This is most commonly related to lighters, packs of smokes, “stuff”, and other stuff. NOTE: unless it is an emergency (and I mean a real emergency, not some tripper nonsense) avoid having such conversations during jams at all costs so as to not impact the enjoyment of said music by your friends and neighbors.
  • Still can’t find it? Fuck it, man, just close your eyes and get back to dancing. It’ll all work itself out post show during the time when you and your friends want to sit and chill in the seats but the venue staff is really trying to get you to leave because it is now close to midnight and their shift captain told them they aren’t getting any overtime so clear those damned hippies outta here like right now. Be respectful and only brush them off like once or twice because they have families too, spunion.

 

How To Spot Pockets Syndrome And Assist Your Friends

  • Has your friend taken drugs? Like, psychedelic drugs? If so, your friend may be at risk. Note: if you or your friend has rainbows spouting forth from their forehead, you can assume that Pockets Syndrome is a definite risk to begin at any time.
  • Is your friend in control of any items that you may want to have access to throughout the show? If so, you may put your friend at risk for onset symptoms by asking for such items.
  • Does your friend like to smoke/drink/eat/write down setlists at shows? These are inherently risky behaviors that could beget Pockets Syndrome.
  • In the middle of a particularly heavy bit of jamming, while you are rocking the fuck out take a look at your friend. Is he/she getting down as hard as you are or are they patting pockets, rooting around wrist-deep in every fold of fabric of their outfit, and possibly holding a lighter or cell phone down near the floor? If so, your friend is experiencing Pockets Syndrome.

But you can help.

  • If you and/or your friends partake in mind-expanding journeys, have a frank discussion about the dangers of in show pocket use before you go.
  • Know you and your friends’ pocket choices. The well informed comment in the ear of a Pocket Syndrome sufferer can guide them out of the fit and back to the path of musical surrender.
  • Offer to hold anything your whacked out pal might need during the show including that random tallboy swilly beer you brought him at setbreak that he totally is not going to drink but has yet to understand does not need to be in his hand all show. This aha moment will be revelatory to him and humorous to you.
  • Do not contribute to the risk factors by asking a friend to carry items for you.
  • If your friend starts “losing his pockets” try to help by asking what it is they seek. Offer to hold any items removed from pockets during the search and assist in replacement activities. Please note that this intervention can and should be reserved to between songs (or at the very least during crap like Sample or some other pee break tune) and during lights up times. Talking and pocket maintenance during jams is a major show faux pas.
  • Under no circumstances should you allow a friend who is known to exhibit symptoms to wear cargo pants/shorts, old school Banana Republic photo journalist vests, or other garments known to be heavy on the pockets. Limiting the number of available receptacles to a person with a history of Pockets Syndrome can save shows.
  • If the situation warrants it and you are capable, provide the item to your friend so that they can desist from pocket searching. However, if you feel this might spark a similar pocket incident for you, shrug your shoulders and tell your friend “dude! wait for setbreak, yo.”
  • If none of these steps work and you start to understand that this will impact not just your friend’s enjoyment of the show but yours as well, tell them to forget about it; the music is more important.
  • If even after all of this symptoms persist, tell your friend you are going to try to get some more dance space and relocate until you know it to be safe to return. Screw that guy and the trip he’s on!

 

Please note that these tips and suggestions are by no means a complete list. There is very little reliable literature to be found on this subject and you may find you have ways of dealing with this illness in ways that are more appropriate for you and your crew. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the symptoms. As temporary as this affliction can be for some, the lasting impacts can be quite damaging. The important thing is for us to acknowledge the risk factors, identify early symptoms, and aide those we can so that they too can return to surrendering to the flow and losing themselves in the music. One day we may live in a world where Pockets Syndrome is nothing more than a laughable part of our past but for now the danger is real. Please do what you can to educate yourself and your friends to this and share what you learn with others so that our mantra of “the next show is the best show” continues to ring true… for ALL fans.

 

 

Until You Burst Into Song and Unwind – Priming Up for Fall 1996

1996

 

Seemingly a lost year in the annals of Phishtory according to some,  1996 exists as a year tucked between two of the most highly lauded years in which the band has played shows. But while this year does not perhaps produce the reactions from fans that 1995 or 1997 do the truth is that this is a year full of amazing music and one that deserves more credit for helping to shape the sound of the band for years to come than it has been given. Our focus will be on the Fall Tour from this year but I think it helps a bit to understand what got us there so that we can then see where it takes us in going forward as well so with that in mind I present you with a quite brief (and not in any way seriously vetted) primer on 1996 Phish.

 

Following the triumphant and understandably highly praised Fall 1995 Tour and ensuing New Year’s Run that culminated with a pair of shows at Madison Square Garden – shows that really shouldn’t need any introduction – the band hit the studio to begin laying down the tracks for what would become the album Billy Breathes. This recording time ran over several months between February and June of that year with the band pausing in April for their first ever appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (aka JazzFest). This one set show is not necessarily the greatest Phish you will ever here but there is a sit-in by Michael Ray for Cars Trucks Buses (a relationship that has blossomed over the years since Trey first joined the Cosmic Krewe for a show in March 1994), a YEM->Wolfman’s combo that works quite well, a soaring Hood, and a wonderfully tensioned David Bowie that has hints of Caravan throughout. Honestly, some of the best music to be found from Phish’s visit to The Crescent City lies in the sit-ins they did with other bands while there but those are not quite the focus of our time here together, are they?

 

Around this time Trey released the first ‘solo’ project album that any of the band members had produced to date with the free jazz experiment Surrender to the Air. This was a HUGE departure from Phish and as a result the album is not necessarily widely considered a must-have album by the majority of Phish fans but it was a worthy risk to undertake as it opened up a whole different world of musical possibility – even if it did not directly result in any new songs for the Phish canon. But when you bring together an amazing group of musicians including Marshall Allen, Trey, Kofi Burbridge, Oteil Burbridge, Damon Choice, Fish, Bob Gulotti, James Harvey, John Medeski, Michael Ray, and Marc Ribot you can expect some magic to go down. Fans of this music should also check out the two shows they played for the release of the album on 04.01.1996 and 04.02.1996 at the New York Arts Academy. Maybe it isn’t your cup of tea but it is challenging improv that finds some moments of true connection amidst the competing lines of the wonderful players who laid it down.

 

Based on the Doniac Schvice that came out in March of that year we knew that the band had no other plans for the Spring besides that Jazz Fest appearance and they also indicated they would be going to Europe for a tour in July (as well as introducing us all to the wonder that is Assface…). In truth, fans would only have to wait another six weeks before the band hit the stage again, this time in Woodstock, NY while in the area recording at Bearsville Studios, a legendary recording studio where a long list of notable records were laid down over the years and which is now a private residence. This was an unannounced show at the now-closed Joyous Lake club played under the name ‘Third Ball’ with an opening band called ‘Juan Hung Low’. Clearly, the sophomoric humor of our band had not worn off in playing bigger stages of late. That show was a bit of a “back to their roots” bar show highlighting some of the newer songs (Waste and Character Zero were both debuted here) with a loose feel and a generally fun vibe permeating the music. Rumors of this show spread wide and far with high quality recordings coming out quite quickly as well, further amping up fans’ excitement for the summer to come.

 

Looking back it is hard to imagine how we made it all work in prepping for tours considering that it took until the Late Spring Doniac Schvice for us to get the details on the European Tour (and even that had several unconfirmed dates as of pressing) and the US Tour to follow. The biggest  news in there (aside from the brief announcement of the impending launch of phish.com, of course) was that the abbreviated US Tour would lead to Phish’s first ever “official” festival on the grounds of a decommissioned airforce base in Plattsburgh, NY. That news alone made the idea of a brief nine show US Tour more palatable to the masses. But before we get to that, let’s talk about that Euro Tour for a bit. Things did not start out as optimistically as one would have liked considering their first set in Italy was rained out but they were there doing several supporting sets for Santana so that allowed for the band to variously join Carlos on stage over the run as well as to allow for Phish to interact with Carl Perazzo, the percussionist who would play a big role in the tour that we are about to tackle here. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that the Euro Tour was a success on many fronts even if some do not consider there to be a high number of lasting jams to go back to from those shows. I tend to disagree but then I tend to find the good in almost all the Phish I hear. Almost.

 

A few days after returning from Europe (and with the Summer Schvice out to further whip the fervor of the fans for both the Clifford Ball AND our Fall Tour) Phish opened up the tour in gorgeous Park City, UT (oddly enough the second tour in a row that had rain leading into the show…) with Page showing off his new toy the Theremin as they opened with a haunting take on Somewhere Over the Rainbow (which would be quite a mind flipper if that was your first introduction to Phish…) as the stage was framed by the resulting rainbow from the passed storm. This show is okay with not many big highlights but they played a lot of fan favorites cleanly so you really can’t complain about a tour opener like that. Next was the now infamous four show stand at Red Rocks which has some fantastic playing but is most well known for the bad interactions some members of the scene had with the Morrison locals. I’m not going to bother linking the many articles written about this debacle but when you get banned by Red Rocks you know things have gotten a little out of hand. This wasn’t the first sign that the scene had changed (partially since the passing of Jerry but also as the natural expansion occurred when Phish got big over the course of 94-95) but it was the big moment where a lot of people started to recognize the cracks in the armor that had protected our thing from those negative outside influences for longer than it probably deserved.

 

The circus moved on to Alpine Valley and Deer Creek next with the band really starting to catch fire as they worked their way east all while it seemed that more and more fans hopped on the bus headed up to the Northeast. There was one final show in Hershey which ended up being a bit of a sleeper show considering so many people went right from Deer Creek to New York, probably staying on I-90 rather than dipping down into PA via I-80 so as to make the best use of the short amount of time before the festival began. Now, I would argue that the best use of time would have been to go to Hershey but what do I know? I only was able to scheme my way into a four day furlough from the summer camp where I worked on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake to cannonball it up to Plattsburgh for the festival so I can’t speak for those who hit the whole tour or at least the parts between the Midwest and the fest. Anyway, we created one of the lasting memories in the band’s history on that airforce base that weekend and that set the template not just for future Phish festivals but for the evolution of the live music industry in the US as people including the creators of Bonnaroo took that destination camping festival idea and blew it up into the bevy of music fests we now have to enjoy each year. That weekend saw the largest crowd ever (at the time) for Phish as over 70,000 of us congregated in celebration with the music and band as our guide. Along with the summer run that preceded it you can sense that this was the start of a big change in the band considering they had as many fans at that event as would have attended all four of the New Year’s Run shows in 1995 COMBINED. You don’t really go back to playing small theater tours from that.

 

So after The Clifford Ball happened – and I must say that you could do a whole lot worse than to do a little listening project following that US Tour through the festival as it is only 11 shows plus some more treats like the Flatbed Jam – the band headed home (not too far, of course, since they were just across the lake!) to catch their breath and practice a bit for the upcoming Fall Tour. In this time the final details for the Fall Tour came out via another Schvice and fans waited on the release of the album to come (which apparently could have had any of about a hundred different names than what it became…). The Billy Breathes album would end up being released the day prior to the first show of the Fall Tour in Lake Placid, NY and to this day stands as probably the best received album the band has put out. It probably wouldn’t hurt you to give it another listen to get ready for this tour since you will be getting quite familiar with almost all of the songs included on the record.

 

So that is how we got to here, the start of the Fall 1996 Phish Tour. We have 35 shows ahead of us to explore and I think if you have never taken the time to really go through this tour in earnest you may be quite surprised by how great many of these shows really are. It might not include a 20-minute-second-set-opening jam every show and they may have reined in the open psych a tad but there is a lot going on in the playing on this tour, things that will bear fruit not just in these shows but for many years to come in the world of Phish. So aside from a few short site notes below, let’s get down to the matter and crank up the Fall ’96!!

 

As a quick update, I recommend checking out some of the Band History information on phish.com/band which is a lot more in depth (and accurate) than my rough summary above. There are entries for February, April, June, July, October, and November of 1996 along with ones for several other notable times in the band’s history.

 

 

Okay, those site notes. Today, 12.14.2015, the 20th anniversary of the amazing Broome County Arena show from Binghamton, NY, will be the last day that the music player over there to the left will have the Fall 1998 tour highlights available. For this tour I am going to try something a little different by clearing the list and updating it with each show post to include the takeaways as we go along. This should help you to listen along if you feel like just hitting the top notch stuff but I do recommend spinning the full shows whenever possible as I tend to leave out some things because I am, after all, just one fan with opinions that might not agree with your take.

 

If you are still looking for those Fall ’98 gems there is a new section just above that player called “The Takeaways” where you can find download links to the compilations. This section should hopefully grow over time as we cover more and more of the band’s music.

 

Please give me any feedback you can so that I can make all of this easy for everyone. Living in the future is awesome, ain’t it?