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Of Note

Published: 2005/07/15

A Response to Dan Greenhaus

We encourage you to take a look at Dan’s column, read the BT’s response below (and then feel free to offer your own commentary on either…)


Deep breath. Sigh.

For every fan that has written a disaffected rant about Trey’s recent performances, there are 20,000 more that lap up his every musical endeavor. This isn’t an ass-kissing context, it’s music journalism. Trey is one of the most compelling and talented musicians not only in the jamband scene, but in music today. He’s going to be criticized. So has Clapton (gasp). So has Garcia (gasp). So has Zappa (ga..well, less surprising) ,and mostly every other band you mentioned, at some point or other. You know what? Take some of your own advice and get over it. Trey’s talent speaks for itself.

Ultimately, I understand what you’re saying, and in some respects agree with you, but let’s be specific about who you are addressing, because it seems to me that there are two groups of people who are unhappy. The first group falls very neatly into what you accurately seem to grasp as people who simply refuse to let go of the Phish experience. The frustrating aspect about many of that group of mourners is that they’re lamenting the loss of some socio-cultural pseudo-bohemian aesthetic that they’d began to use as a crutch for their own individual baggage more so than the music. But hey, welcome to hippiedom (gasp). That, in and of itself (see Trey’s comments on his "one regret" to Charlie Rose), is one of the major factors that began to deteriorate the band- it’s called scene, and it might as well be a disease. I’ll even take your point further. Phish fans are partially, possibly even immensely complicit in the dissolution of Phish, so many of them have no right to complain. That’s right, I said it, and the e-mail address is right under the name if you have a problem with it.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. Ultimately, the core values that built the scaffolding of Phish’s sound were malleability, imagination, and acceptance of change. While Phish, as a band, might have retained those values to the point of its demise, can we really say as a listening base that we followed suit? Phishheads, can you look yourselves in the mirror and say that you never got caught up in the collector’s mentality? Can you say your hyper-analysis didn’t morph into a kind of strange, morbid fixation that fed parasitically on the spontaneous energy of a show? Can you say you didn’t get caught up in scene? Maybe you didn’t. Good for you (whomever you are), but many of you did, so, well, cry baby cry. Consider, if you will, Undermind, a crafted album that condensed the band’s energy into detailed vignettes, in addition to honing in on each musical personality in ways many others hadn’t. Critics like Jesse Jarnow, David Fricke, and Richard Gehr, who had followed the band for years loved it. Most of you panned it. What do the critics know, you say. Fair enough. But what was your major criticism? It’s so pop, you howled. It’s so_pop_. For Christ sake, get over yourselves. Trey an egomaniac. Trey Wilson? Wilson, my friends, is you. Let he who is without sin slingeth the first rock, and I shall smoketh..wait, no that’s not right. The problem is, at a certain point, Phish- a band that used to be a dynamic, perpetually evolving concept- was hardened into a monolithic idea, surrounded by a campy, trustafarian, abstractly anti-pop ideology that ultimately, like any set of rules, demands to be rebelled against. No wonder it died. Sense of entitlement is right.
But I digress.

The others within this first group of criticizers simply miss their favorite band. It’s an emotional, not intellectual, criticism, based on an assumption that they had more good years left in them. At the Jammy Awards, we were able to officially add Mike Gordon to that constituency. Perhaps these are the same people that see irony in the fact that Trey sighted the band’s poor play as one of the reasons for its dissolution, but also said-in the same interview no less- that they had barley rehearsed at all since the return from their hiatus. Rightfully so.

Then there is the second group of criticizers, whoa re basing their opinions on their ears. I wrote in a recent article that we can’t really take umbrage with Trey if he wanted to stretch his musical horizons, just as you did Dan. But I think the problem that may people are having is that this isn’t the afro-cuban funk of the TAB. It isn’t a more subtle venture into being a jazz session musician, which, as a friend recently suggested, would be very cool, but that’s beside the point. It isn’t conducting the Vermont Youth Orchestra, or a further delving into the genius of his compositional classicism. It sounds like Phish. But not. Surely you see how people could find that to be, well, kind of a brutal mindfuck. As you put it, it doesn’t need to be a higher musical place, but it should be different, else it’s necrophilia. The ironic thing is that Gordon, the most overtly anti-dissolution of all Phish’s members, is the one who has seemed to really explore new avenues. Case in point his phenomenal performances with the Benevento-Russo Duo and his even more stellar forthcoming album with Leo Kottke. Perhaps Gordo deserves to be lauded. He’s earned it. The 70 volt Parade’s shows have been entertaining, but, though Trey is clearly doing his best to give them buoyancy, they’re stale, and if you’re as much of a Phish fan as you seem to be, you know it.

Point is, Dan, to siphon writers and fans who are making rational, though-out evaluations of musicians that they love into a group of disaffected hippies and Trey-bashing lunatics is wrong, misinformed, insulting, and just as pretentious as telling people where to direct their "hatred".

That being said, in terms of political ideology, I’m with you.

All I’m saying is that in the end, all we can speak for is ourselves. I don’t enjoy criticizing Trey. I have tremendous respect and admiration for him and he many even be my favorite living musician. I can say for a fact that I wouldn’t be writing about music were it not for Phish, and let’s face the cold, hard reality, without Trey, Phish never happens. But we owe it to ourselves and the people we respect to give our honest interpretations of what we see, or else we’re not really fans, the way we used to be, we’re just part of the sneering, derisive term that is Cult Phenomenon, and who wants to be a part of that. Not Trey, not Phish, not you, I hope, and certainly not me.

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