Friday, June 25, 2010

Listening to Phish, Making Dr. Pants

So, Phish are on tour again this summer. I will not get to see them...this is the continuing reality of living in Oklahoma, and Phish's staunch refusal to routinely never get anywhere near here. When the rumors of their Halloween festival occurring in Austin started flying around last year, I hardly even allowed myself to get excited, because I knew that it was not bloody likely.

I've downloaded one show from the tour so far, 6/18 from Hartford, CT. Set list is as follows:

Set 1:
Wolfman's Brother
Summer of '89
The Moma Dance

Set 2:
Halley's Comet
Billy Breathes
Theme From the Bottom
Harry Hood
Wading In the Velvet Sea
Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

Sleeping Monkey
Tweezer Reprise
Tweezer Reprise

No, that's not a typo. They played the same song twice in a row in the encore (it comes from a tradition where if the song "Tweezer" is played, it doesn't get played again during the tour until after "Tweezer Reprise" is played. This time, they played "Tweezer" twice, once on 6/13, and then again in this show, and didn't play a "Tweezer Reprise" in between. So they played two of 'em to catch up). I should say before I go any further, there are moments in this here concert recording that I have really enjoyed, namely "Possum" (surprisingly's not my favorite Phish song by any means and generally is kind of boring, but it had some really great guitar playing on it this time around) and "Harry Hood" (always a beautiful tune...I've loved it since I heard it for the first time on A Live One back in 1995). And how about the crowd singing on "Sleeping Monkey"? That's a good-sounding audience, right there.

I don't think downloading and listening to these shows really holds a candle to being there. Is it way less expensive? Sure. But I think the "warts and all" elements of the performances would be way more forgivable (or even unnoticeable) if I were there in person, rather than listening on headphones. I wonder if there's anything Trey can do to keep his voice in better was my hope that once he cleaned up from his days doing harder drugs that his live vocals would improve. He's not necessarily out of tune (much), but he generally sounds crackly and weak. Maybe his voice just isn't holding up over the long term, and there's nothing that can be done. Overall, though, I think they're playing really well, which is great.

I wonder, though, if my days of utter, wide-eyed fascination with Phish are over, though. I sit and listen to what they do, and I just want to go do it. Let me be clear: I don't want to BE in Phish, or BE Phish, I just want to go do Dr. Pants, and do it well. We won't ever be as skilled as Phish (although certainly we aspire to be better players than we are), and we probably won't ever have a following like them, either. But it's clear to me that there are a lot of moments listening to Phish that make me feel something along the lines of, "I'd sure enjoy playing right now a lot more than I'm enjoying listening." And I don't think this is due to Phish being lousy, or uninteresting, because I still think they're fantastic and worth paying attention to. But I spend a lot of moments making excuses about not taking that moment to work on what I do. And an excuse is just an excuse, nothing more. It's not a reason, or an explanation. The excuse exists because there is no other valid thing to fill its place. So I want to choose to do what I do more, write and record for Dr. Pants more, perform with Dr. Pants more...because we're worth it.

It's a discipline thing. My friend David, who K.C. and I just visited in St. Paul, is back to practicing piano for at least 45 minutes a day every day. I want that discipline. I want to play. I hope to update again soon, and say that I have played. Every day. We'll see.

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