I've had a few days to listen to the Phish shows played in Hampton over a week ago, and upon reflection I have some thoughts. Here they are.
First off, I'm not hear to bash because I couldn't be happier with what they're trying to do, especially Trey, but I'll get to that.
I agreed with Ace Cowboy's post-show(s) assessment, and even if I hadn't, I'd still find his words hilarious. A must read, when you're done here. Still, I need to reflect on what I've heard.
I wasn't there, and while I think it's somewhat harder to judge when you're not there, it can also be a bit easier. Time and time again I watch UFC fights on TV after I attended the event, and I get a much clearer picture of what transpired. Upon listening to all of this Phish I feel the same way.
The music was great, no doubt. Was it the best Phish ever?!?!? No chance. I say that because I was told by so many "dude, it was the sickest thing ever..." It wasn't. I'm sure the experience was phenomenal. In fact, I know it was just having heard the comments of all my friends. There was love and energy in the air, and that's amazing.
What it was certainly was different. The music is in its own way, entirely different. What I see it as is 4 guys, all now very different, who were once in Phish, having come together, to play Phish songs. But it's not Phish. This may not make sense to you, but it does to me.
When you listen to the shows it's hard not to hear Page standing out, and most people seem to agree he was the All-Star. I think there are many reasons for this, namely having played in his own band for the past few years, and as a guest with others, he has often needed to lead. Plus he has had the time to himself to play. But in Phish? Page was never THE All-Star. An All-Star yes. At times he certainly did his best Scottie Pippen, but we all know who Michael is. Never THE All-Star.
So it's more about why Page was the All-Star? This is why it wasn't truly Phish.
We tend to take for granted how difficult the actual music is to play, and think these guys can just strap it on and go. Not the case. Trey has been through a lot the last few years, notably his stint with rehab, and other problems. Even during their bad playing days the band was still more naturally the band. Trey's rehab has likely put him in a place he probably hasn't been since he was 16-17 years old: Sober! I mean, rehab means you can't do anything, right? No drinking, cigarettes, weed, partying, nothing. Forget oxy, heroin, coke, what have you, but NOTHING! To avoid these problems I'm sure the "scene" wasn't even around in Hampton. Nothing. An entirely different experience. When do you think Trey last played publicly on nothing? And even if he has played sober a few times, the whole fact of the matter is he could do what he wanted. Rehab has clearly put a major constraint on his life, and for all we know when he stepped on that very large stage, with all that pressure, without the help of something extra, he may have been really nervous. Add to it, the band has always fed off his energy, on some level. These differences have clearly made the music very different. Not bad, but different.
This is all just a guess, conjecture if you will, but when I hear the music it lacks ego, as my friend put it to me. The ego of Phish came from Trey. The band's ego was not really there, and I don't blame them, especially Trey, at all. It's just a matter of the circumstances.
Throughout the night songs were stopped short, jams were halted, things were intentionally constrained. That's NOT Phish. That never has been Phish. Phish was anything but constrained. Which is why I say "that was not Phish." We all know what Phish has done and can do, and this is not to say I am looking for endless jams because I'm clearly not. The band, namely Trey, had an intention of packing in the songs well before the shows were played, again, constraining the music. Whether it was out of fear, or an intention to just want to get out the jitters, it happened. Don't get me wrong, there are moments of incredible playing, and the sound is more alive than it has been in years, but it's not whole.
I think it's fantastic they're doing this. The fact that they knew the fans deserved better after Coventry, and that they've obviously been putting in the work to give us something better is phenomenal. Truth be told, they owe us nothing, but just the fact they are trying to be great again makes me happy. Even if the music never gets to the place it once was, I'm happy. I want to see Trey happy. There's a chance he can't play like he once did because of what he's gone through, but if he's happy then I'm happy. To see him onstage happy, playing, trying, enjoying this, that makes me happier than any jam could if the opposite were true. I want what's best in their lives for they have already given me so much to make mine better. The music is so secondary.
Still yet, with all that said, it's not Phish, at least not yet. Can it be? I don't doubt it at all. In fact, once Trey deals with what I perceive to be his fears, and lets the music carry him again, I think it could be taken to an even greater level. If it doesn't get there, I don't care. I'm thankful for the effort. I cannot say it enough. I am thankful they are trying to give us greatness again because they so don't have to.
I look forward to whatever it is they put on the table going forward. They have rejuvenated me; I'm listening to tons of old shit that I love. I have no expectations. I just want to go to the shows, watch them be happy, be happy myself, and hope they play some great shit.
But I'm not delusional about the music itself.