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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2008/10/22
by John Zinkand

Phish 2009

Phish returns to the stage in Hampton, VA in March of 2009. When the band made the announcement at the beginning of October, a bomb exploded in the jam scene. Bands everywhere had their message boards and chat rooms lit up with discussions of Phish returning. Phish was just about all anyone wanted to talk about. And from what it looks like, the discussion about Phish will just get more and more heated as we approach March 6th, 7th, and 8th. And while Ive heard many people express happiness and joy at the bands return, Ive also heard an amazing amount of negativity surrounding it, as well. Coventry was no picnic for many people. And thats a huge understatement in many cases. Others feel the venue of choice is too small for something as monumental as the return of Phish. Blah, blah, blah.brah.

Since the announcement a few weeks ago, Ive been reading the different commentaries, magazine articles, and message board discussions while mulling it all over in my noggin. So many people bring up interesting facets of the return or reasons to be angry about part or all of it. With Trey just out of rehab, is going on tour and all the temptation it entails such a good decision? Why havent they announced a movie theater simulcast of the shows? Isnt there a way to sell tickets thats fairer for everyone? How can you shut so many people out of your first shows back?

Overwhelmingly, however, the press is positive. Many mainstream outlets herald the return of Phish as the spark that will invigorate and rekindle a currently only faintly burning jamband scene flame. And make no mistake, it is a big deal. From early demand, it looks like the band will be as big as ever. Theyve announced that there will be additional tour dates announced in early 2009, so a Phish tour will change peoples lives as they choose to follow the band along and live the gypsy lifestyle once again. For the many employees of the band, its a return to a life left behind in the rain and mud four years ago. Up and coming bands in the scene will now have a ready and willing audience at the bars and clubs during Phish show after parties.

When the announcement was made I did not jump to buy tickets. Im inclined to let the band play their come back shows and develop a post break-up style before checking them out again live. I want to hear what they sound like now. Also, Ive never been very lucky with Phish lotteries and probably wouldnt have gotten tickets if Id tried. The time and expense involved with flying to Virginia from Oregon is too great since Im planning a trip to Europe around that time. I will hopefully catch them later on if they swing through the west coast, with luck maybe even at The Gorge.
But mainly, Im happy for the guys in the band. Im happy for the fact that they actually want to play together again enough to face the bigness of it all. Phish shows are huge affairs with massive amounts of planning involved (but the moneys not so bad). Im happy that after years of reflection, theyve decided this is something they want to do together again. Enough time has passed now and the different members have gone through enough personal evolution that they might be ready to come back and stay together for awhile. The different experiences that each will now bring to the table will hopefully make the dialogue and playing fresh again. Of course, the possibility that this could be just another sputter and hiccup before the next 2 year hiatus is there, toowho knows? But if Phish can maintain focus on the music and not get distracted by the massive scene and all the craziness and temptations involved, an age-mellowed, but excited-to-be-back Phish might just be one of the best damn live bands to see in 2009.

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