Featured column:Reunions Are All The Rage
As many have no doubt heard, rumors recently began to circulate on the internet about a possible Genesis reunion, complete with Peter Gabriel. A quick search around the internet uncovered quotes by both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins saying they would be open to the idea and that meetings were indeed scheduled to discuss the both the possibility and the logistics of such an endeavor. No doubt these quotes thrilled the millions of Genesis fans around the globe who have been clamoring for such a reunion for as many years as the band has been defunct.
Of course, these rumors come on the heels of the recent concerts in New York City by the briefly reformed Cream who, despite being broken up for decades, stunned American audiences with their three performances that garnered almost universally positive reviews from those in attendance. A reunion that happened despite the worldwide success of Eric Clapton’s subsequent bands as well as his solo outings.
At the same time, no one will soon forget the Live Aid inspired reunion to end all reunions of Pink Floyd. Despite the fact that the band’s two front men and two creative forces, David Gilmour and Roger Waters, still harbor significantly negative feelings towards each other, they were able to put those feelings on the side to reunite, albeit for an extremely brief period of time.
The above examples, in conjunction with reunions by such acts as The Eagles, Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac, The Pixies, Primus and The E Street Band, makes one wonder why when bands break up, they swear up and down that there is NO chance of getting back together, even though every one in the world knows there is. It’s the musical equivalent of athletes promising that they didn’t switch teams because of the money but rather for family or personal reasons. It sounds almost as ridiculous as they look saying it. Now I’m not saying all those bands have made such statements in clear terms stipulating no such reunion could ever occur, but breakups inevitably come with such assumptions.
And that brings us to Utica. While details are still sketchy (as of Sunday morning) as to how things played out and in what order, one thing is clear: Both Jon Fishman and Mike Gordon took the stage with Trey during his concert (a short number of shows after Page joined Trey in NYC), which, based on the initial setlists being tossed about, essentially became a showcase of Phish songs thereafter. While the appearance of Mike Gordon isn’t surprising, as he’s played with Trey countless times, Fishman’s appearance is. Since the breakup, he’s been the most reclusive of all the members, only occasionally appearing with Pork Tornado, or for a sit in here and there, while never once joining Trey, the most visible of all the members, on stage. Inevitably, such a concert is going to start the rumor mill brewing at full steam, concerning the number of months, weeks or even days until Phish reunite. While that may or may not be true (it’s not, at least for now), the point is that Trey said the band was never getting back together. You know who else said that?
Don Henley said it. Roger Waters said it. Mick Fleetwood said it. Countless others have said it.
And Trey said it. Remember this:
“For the sake of clarity, I should say that this is not like the hiatus, which was our last attempt to revitalize ourselves. We’re done.”
Now I’m not suggesting that Trey didn’t feel that way when he wrote those words. In fact, I’m sure he did. Much like all the other artists said similar things when their band broke up. So one has to wonder, why do musicians keep uttering words that, more often than not, everyone knows is complete bullshit?
The answer may never be known, because such statements are deeply rooted in feelings outsiders will never fully comprehended, stemming from internal situations only those involved are privy to. But what we do know is that it’s extremely difficult to turn your back for good on something that’s been such an important part of your life, emotionally, psychologically and financially. In the Phish instance, Trey has always been criticized for his ambiguous and contradictory statements. But such statements were perfectly indicatory of a man confused. Remember the quote about him standing on his front lawn wondering what he’d done? And while some would point to Page’s subsequent statement as proof that Trey wasn’t entirely alone in “the decision,” it was always clear that Trey, besides being the driving force behind Phish’s ascension, was also the driving force behind its demise, both on stage and off.
Subsequent to Phish’s hiatus in 2000, Trey dove head first into his solo project, performing consistently throughout 2001 and 2002, expanding the band’s repertoire and steadily growing the band into a powerhouse, with a fanbase all its own. But in the summer of 2002, Fish sat in for the entire Darien show, and the wall between Trey and Phish seemed to come crumbling down. A few days after that show, fans were treated to some acoustic Phish songs during one of Trey’s shows. A few days after that, Trey played some more. Page sat in on the first show of the fall tour. And of course, I don’t need to remind people what happened at the end of 2002.
In Trey’s recent concerts, his implementation of the acoustic set revealed, more so than anything else, a man who missed Phish, ironically at roughly the same period out, give or take, from the breakup, as the Darien show was from the hiatus. By the time Trey pulled into Utica, his solo acoustic sets had become a Phish showcase, with over twenty such songs being played acoustically over the course of several months. Page had just joined the band in New York for takes on some acoustic Phish songs. So when Mike and Fish took the stage with Trey in Utica, it put the exclamation point on something that had been building since the Jones Beach show almost three months earlier (if not even earlier than that). It was, one would guess, another realization by Trey that the past doesn’t necessarily have to exist completely independent of the present. This is not to say a Phish reunion is around the corner, because there are more reasons than one could count standing in the way of just such an act. But in some ways, the past and present can coexist, although clearly the exact ratio has yet to be determined. Perhaps Trey has realized, yet again, that his past doesn’t have to stay in the past in order for him to move forward. Perhaps it can exist in the present, or, if we’re all lucky enough, the future as well.
If you want to play with Phish, then just play with Phish. No statement necessary.