Saturday, November 26, 2016

Teach a Man To Phish

Here's today's writing prompt:

Hitting you up here for Phish songs! 😀

- a Facebook friend of mine

Halloween 2010 - getting ready to rock with my friend Pierre (skimping pretty hard on a costume)

Done and done.  I'm actually really going to enjoy writing this.

As most of my friends would probably attest to, I can talk about Phish until I'm blue in the face.  I discovered their catalog of live music (literally thousands of hours of music) in 2005 at a time in my life where I really needed some external positivity, and I put a lot of effort into recommending them to others mainly out of an awareness of what they did for me.  That said, I never want to be that annoying person who forces their music on others, so it dawned on me that writing a blog post for this is perfect.  It's here if people want to see it and easily skipped by those who don't.

The live sets are the main reason to listen to Phish, so three of the four sets below are collections of personal favorite live tracks of mine.  The best way to look at jamming (where the band is improvising together) is to compare it to a "musical conversation" - each band member has to very much be listening to the other three in order to figure out where to take the music.  Much like a conversation, a jam should last as long as the music dictates - when they're doing it right, it means it can go on for a long time while always remaining interesting.  I purposely put a few repeat tracks in each group so the listener can compare how just how different the same songs can be played on any given night.

I also put a collection of studio Phish at the end of this for people who have a strong preference for that kind of thing.  While I rarely listen to studio Phish these days, I went through a long time in high school where I was totally in love with their first five albums.  The lyrics at the beginning of their career are admittedly kind of nonsensical - at that time, the music was always the primary focus - but as time goes on I feel like the lyrics have more and more impact on the songs.

"More tuuuunes?"  - Super Ball, 2011

Anyways, here are some tunes - all guaranteed to be very much Shelly-approved:

Setlist I:  Dec 1995  (full playlist)
The Lizards 12/31/95  (10:38)
Tweezer 12/2/95  (15:31)
Reba 12/31/95  (14:23)
Mike's Song 12/31/95  (19:55)
You Enjoy Myself 12/9/95  (34:30)

December 1995 is pretty widely regarded among fans ("phans") as the all-time best Phish tour and all of these tracks are all-time favorite performances of some of my favorite songs.  The band is completely locked in at this point - the reason I like this era of Phish so much is because it seems like they can almost read each other's minds and completely fill the room with sound.  This is the most "rock'n'roll" of the lists.  The YEM at the end of this set remains my all-time favorite piece of music to this day.

Setlist II:  Late Nineties  (full playlist)
Crosseyed and Painless 12/31/99  (19:56)
You Enjoy Myself 11/17/97 (23:10) (no video)
Twist Jam 4/2/98 (9:33)
Ghost 11/17/97 (21:25) (no video)
Run Like an Antelope 4/3/98  (9:47)

Possum > Funk Jam 12/3/98 (20:44) (not in full playlist)

Starting from the fall of '97, Phish started exploring past their typical 'rock'n'roll' sound in favor for a very unique and well-liked new "funk" style of jamming.  They still can rock out (C&P, Antelope) but there are more exploratory jams (Ghost, Twist) and funky jams (Possum, YEM) mixed in there as well.

Setlist III:  Best of 3.0  (full playlist)
Light 9/1/12  (23:45)
Ghost 12/31/14  (16:39)
Tweezer 10/28/13  (17:39)
You Enjoy Myself 11/2/14  (26:22)
Undermind 8/31/12  (15:31)

These are all of my favorite performances that came after the band got back together in 2009.  At this point, the band (being closer to their fifties as opposed to their thirties) is a lot more chilled out.  The jams, at their best, alternate between "spacey" (Light, YEM) and "angelic" (Ghost, Tweezer, Undermind).  It's really clear that the light show has come a long way at this point, as well as the overall quality of the recordings.

As mentioned in the past, the Gorge is the single nicest venue I've ever seen.

Setlist IV:  Studio Phish (full playlist)

Divided Sky (11:58)
Bouncing Around the Room (3:56)
Tweezer (8:43)
My Friend, My Friend (6:11)
Julius (4:43)
Taste (4:08)
Guyute (8:27)
Farmhouse (4:04)
Nothing (4:07)
Backwards Down the Number Line (5:38)
Waiting All Night (5:01)
Blaze On (4:20)

I went down the list and pulled one song from each of their studio albums (minus "Round Room" which I couldn't find a track I really liked), listed in chronological order.  I feel like I did a pretty good job of picking songs that I like that show the evolution of their songwriting through the years.  Julius was the first Phish song I ever heard, Divided Sky was my favorite song for at least a year back in high school, and Backwards Down the Number Line is lyrically one of my all-time favorite songs.

I hope you like these collections!  I really can't understate the role that music - especially Phish - has played in my life to this point.  To this day, live Phish shows are my ultimate happy place, and I intend to keep going out of my way to see them play for as long as they continue to tour.  There's almost nothing I enjoy more than introducing people to this band :)

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