29 July 2011

minimix: ...but does it jam 2001 (part 2)

Part 2. New music in the not-jam/neo-prog/psych-rock non-genre.



01 Another Sky -- Akron/Family
02 Anniversary Day -- Chris Forsyth
03 The Moonlight Butterfly -- The Sea and Cake
04 Cracker Wrist -- Bardo Pond
05 Tomboy -- Panda Bear
06 The Honest Ocean -- Yellowbirds

(Rhapsody only (not available on Spotify): 07 Future Primitive -- Grails)

21 July 2011

the minimix returns! (...but does it jam? 2011)

OK, I'm going to try and bring back the weekly minimix, but this time I'm just doing Spotify/Rhapsody playlist links, so it's easy for me and you and 100% legit.

Following up on some online conversation about what it means to be a "jamband" and the current psych/indie/neo-prog bands and whether we should be calling it "jam" again. This week's is the first look at some new music that may or may not fit into that category. I'll have another similar batch next week.


Spotify link
Rhapsody link

01 It's Him! -- White Denim
02 Ice Cream -- Battles
03 Lemonade -- Braids
04 Tulip -- Here We Go Magic
05 White Out -- Woods
06 Thought Ballune -- Unknown Mortal Orchestra

(let me know if you have any issues with the links)

13 July 2011


A few more thoughts on the nostalgia post that I should have/meant to include:

  • Just to be clear, I'm not down on anything the band is doing now in any way shape or form. In fact, I'm pretty thrilled with all of it. The post was more a response to the discussions & arguments swirling around on Twitter, etc. My point is: the band is great now, the band was great "then" (whenever that may be), it's OK to wish for it to be like the past, it's OK to make signs and long for long jams and bustouts and all, and it's equally OK to argue against signs and the longing, etc.... it's always been that way and it always will... it's (a BIG) part of what makes it great. Excuse the inelegant paraphrasing.
  • Another part of the impetus for the post was seeing the movie "Midnight in Paris" (spoiler alert) which centers around a guy visiting Paris longing for an era long gone, long before his time. And then he gets to essentially go back in time and it's as good as he'd hoped, but there's someone there that's nostalgic for an even earlier era and he's dumbfounded -- THIS is the best time to live in!! And so on and so forth. It struck me as very analogous. It's all about where you are now and when you came in and what looks like "new" to you and what looks like "nostalgia." My brother was talking about new songs played during a set at Watkins Glen and said something about "Ghost" and I was like, um, they've been playing that song for 15 years!
  • Point being: at my first show (in 1992) on the way out a guy was talking about "the days" when Phish played his dorm with an "alas! they've gotten so big!" tone. It's always been that way.
  • Poing being: I'm kinda nuts but it's always been that way.

The Ultimate Nostalgia Act

So, since Phish has come back I've heard a lot of people adamantly say that they are NOT a nostalgia act. While I agree they are not a tribute band nor are they the Eagles, I mostly disagree, I think they are absolutely a nostalgia act. I also think that maybe they almost always have been. I also mostly think this is a great thing and the ultimate reason why we go so nuts for the band.

If you think about it, music in general is the ultimate memory vehicle. Songs evoke nostalgia like little else in this world. I don't think I need to give you examples on this. This is especially true for a band like Phish. Maybe for Phish like no other music. Listening to shows you went to, didn't go to, poring over setlists of the past, statistics, tracking bustouts, etc.... this is all a way of capturing each tidbit of music as a memory. Behind each asterisk on the setlist is a memory, a story. Everything that's happening in the now is considered not as its own individual piece of live music, but almost entirely in the context of what's come before it as seen through the lenses of our own experiences. This is nostalgia at its most crystalline. The crazy thing about Phish is that there are memories stacked upon memories. We compare versions of songs to other versions we heard only on recording, filtering our experiences through that first impression of an impression of something we are only experiencing secondhand. Regardless, except in rare instances, we cannot experience things as they are with Phish. We can only experience them through the memories of everything else we have experienced... and since we're all so f'ing nuts, that is hours and hours of listening and dissecting and writing and arguing and listening some more. Our experience is clouded by it all.

I remember in college how tapes would filter through our little Phish community. One guy with the DAT deck would get something particularly awesome and then it would distribute its way through the rest of us very quickly. In the end, we were all listening to the same thing at essentially the same time, creating new memories from the memories of the magnetic tape. Anyway, it became like one big shared knowledge base and totally affected how we listened to the music and saw the shows we saw. I remember when everyone got their hand on the Murat Theater show from 8/93, we must have listened to that Bathtub Gin a zillion times, it completely redefined what the song could do and blew us away every time we took another ride in the bathtub. We hadn't even been to the show and yet our entire outlook on the song had been completely rearranged from nice little set closer to a major jam vehicle. The next time most of us heard the song live was at 12/30/93 and a bunch of us were clustered around the front and when they started the opening riffs I remember everyone looking at each other like... here we go, just like at the Murat Theater! We were already nostalgic for something we hadn't even experienced ourselves. That version was decent, certainly the best I had heard up to that date live and in person, but didn't come close to that Indy version. We were, to be honest, a tad disappointed.

Disappointed! It didn't live up to the memory. The memory that wasn't even "ours" technically. You know exactly the feeling I'm talking about. It's nostalgia. Everything the band has ever done is part of the collective memory and infects and controls everything the band will ever do again. You cannot consider the present without the infection of nostalgia. This is not a bad thing. It's what makes Phish more than just a band, more like the most addictive thing you've ever experienced or done. It's constantly chasing the past as we forge on in time. The thing that makes it all so interesting/confounding/annoying is that we're all nostalgic for our own experiences. Some of us are yearning for 1999 and others 1989 and everything in between. People are clamoring for "more jams!!" or"more bustouts!!" or "longer jams!" or "go back to playing that the way you used to!" We are chasing memories that we'll never relive and it's a glorious thing. Most of what I've written in this blog is the result of such nostalgia, and it fuels the road trips and the stories and the countless other outlets for our craziness.

And it's ALWAYS been that way no matter how much you want to think otherwise. There's only a handful of truly in-the-moment experiences with Phish, the first time you heard the band or realized that songs could do certain things or the band had all-caps THAT in them. Every other time after that is nostalgia.

The other side of the coin of the great nostalgia trip that is Phish is the trip itself. The places they take us, the voyage in getting there, the anecdotes that become stories that become legends. Every song from every show happening in real time generating memories that bind us together in ways we've never dreamed.

Personally, I've gone far-flung with the band, but what's most fascinating to me is the crazy weirdo places in New York State that I've seen this band and how they've reflected this life of mine which has mostly been spent in New York State: Just a couple days ago was the 19th anniversary of the HORDE show at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. That was a nostalgic date on many levels. I've probably been to "the Fair" over twenty times in my life, it's a part of my past and present. That was also the first time I saw Widespread Panic which started a whole other musical "career" which was spent, in part, chasing that moment when I first heard and saw them, 100% new and fresh. That show was also an epic 24 hour day off from working at summer camp with a group of friends who I'm still very close with. We are constantly retelling jokes and anecdotes from those days and the amount of hilarity that ensued on that date is of epic proportions. This is what this band does to me in its nostalgic ways.

Vernon, Binghamton, Albany, Plattsburgh... if it was a dot on the weather map of my youth, chances are I've seen Phish play there... Glens Falls (where we visited my grandparents annually in my youth), Darien Lake (where my parents took me before they had big roller coasters and I wasn't big enough to ride 'em even if they were there), Syracuse Armory (the very room where my wife-to-be and I saw Phish play is where we had our rehearsal dinner several years later), and of course, Watkins Glen.

Last week I got to see Phish play in Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake. Just up the Route 14 on the lake was where I spent many summers as a camper and counselor. I'd spent many a day at Watkins Glen State Park, hiking the gorge, swimming in the massive pool there. Those summers were magical for me. Seeing Phish there with my wife, brother and sister was also pretty great. The fact that the first set was a nostalgic list of songs mostly from the early 90's was perfect. Each song was a trip down memory lane. Reba -- the first song I heard them play just a few miles away. Creature From Mars -- the Halloween t-shirt "costume" I've worn to every Halloween show. Mound -- the first Phish song I "hated," And on and on. It was all nostalgia and I wouldn't have had it any other way.