setlist: Dickie Betts It’s Gonna Be a Long Night 1.0 Fuck No Cracked Actor Kick Out the Jams Dragonfly She Fucks Me Fire on the Mountain Piss up A Rope Captain America Superstar High and Mighty Moonage Daydream
The musicians are: Dean Ween, Guy Heller, Joe Kramer, Dave Dreiwitz, Bill Fowler, Glenn McClelland, Dave Carta, Claude Coleman, Ray Kubian, Chuck Treece, Chris Harford, Eric Slick, Scott Metzger, and Spencer Johnson.
David & the Dorks was briefly a thing in late 1970 consisting of David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and (probably) Mickey Hart. While largely consisting of Crosby material (most from his then-recent, immaculate …If I Only Could Remember My Name record), there are a few early Dead nuggets and a rehearsal-take on the Byrds’s “Eight Miles High”. The rehearsal tape is an interesting listen if you want to hear those dude working up this material…particularly Garcia walking everyone (including his bandmates) through “Bertha”…but just jump right to the gig if you’re not into that sorta thing.
The SBD from December 15, 1970, opening night at the Matrix Theatre in SF, is a hell of a listen. I’ve always loved the aforementioned Crosby record, but somehow didn’t realize until today that these guys played out at all. The yam out of “Triad” is particularly glorious, and you gotta love Crosby singing those “Bertha” harmonies. Also of note - this version of “Deep Elem Blues” is pretty different than the various GD arrangements of this then-young tune.
I guess there’s discrepancy as to if Billy or Mickey played these shows…fwiw it sounds like Mick on both recordings to these ears.
David & the Dorks 12.xx.1970 Wally Heider’s 245 Hyde Studio C San Francisco, CA
Alabama Bound Eight Miles High Cowboy Movie Wall Song Bertha Bird Song
11 years ago today Kris Myers played his first complete gig with UM. Not a day goes by that we’re not thankful he decided to join the circus. \mm/
Enjoy those first notes below.
i’d seen them a few times prior, but it’s kinda crazy to realize i walked back to my dorm 11 years ago this evening thinking “i should probably see that band more”…and then did…entirely too many times to count (somewhere north of 150?(/maybe i could count if i remembered my pt login)).
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of smelling theHorse thrice within a week. This is the highlight reel, more or less arranged the same as the tour’s setlist.
Full shows after the jump for your nerding pleasure.
01 Oh Canada [10.05 K-Roc Centre, Kingston, ON] 02 Love and Only Love [10.06 Budweiser Gardens, London, ON] 03 Powderfinger [10.05 K-Roc Centre, Kingston, ON] 04 Walk Like a Giant [10.06 Budweiser Gardens, London, ON] 05 Needle and the Damage Done [10.06 Budweiser Gardens, London, ON] 06 “Singer Without A Song” [10.11 United Center, Chicago, IL] (debut) 07 Ramada Inn [10.06 Budweiser Gardens, London, ON] 08 Fuckin’ Up [10.11 United Center, Chicago, IL] 09 Psychedelic Pill [10.06 Budweiser Gardens, London, ON] 10 Cortez the Killer [10.05 K-Roc Centre, Kingston, ON] 11 Mr. Soul [10.06 Budweiser Gardens, London, ON] 12 Roll Another Number [10.06 Budweiser Gardens, London, ON] 13 Tonight’s the Night [10.11 United Center, Chicago, IL] 14 Like a Hurricane [10.05 K-Roc Centre, Kingston, ON]
In honor of Neil’s birthday, here are some unreleased studio cuts from mid-60s Toronto R&B band The Mynah Birds. The group apparently rifled through about a million people, but this particular lineup will forever live in infamy as “that time Neil Young and Rick James were in a Motown-signed band together”.
The story goes that (after some founding members left to form Stephenwolf), this version of the band - Neil/Bruce Palmer/”Ricky Matthews” (just prior to becoming Rick James)/Rickman Mason/John Taylor) - got signed to Motown and hit the studio, supposedly cutting 16 tunes. One day, US agents dragged Ricky (who apparently had gone AWOL from the navy) away and the band broke up. Neil and Bruce stole the band’s gear, bought a hearse, and (illegally) headed to LA to look for Stills. Shortly thereafter, Buffalo Springfield was born.
These 7 tracks are all I’ve been able to dig up from this brief/unthinkable Rick James/Neil collaboration.
Halloween 2013 wasn’t just an experiment for Phish, it was for one for seasoned fans as well. Listen to enough Phish shows, and you start to experience shows as a form of live time travel, simultaneously hearing a song in the moment while measuring it up against all of its past performances. Perhaps there are people mentally strong enough to truly enjoy a show with no expectations or comparisons. But for me, the continuous comparison of a song to all that comes before is part of the thrill.
Sure, that “Twenty Years Later” from Reading is (theoretically) brilliant in isolation, but all the more rewarding for knowing that this particular song has never done that before. The three Tweezers of fall were all great, but they’re even more impressive when you consider that each one explored entirely different territory. And on and on.
By debuting a dozen original songs in place of the traditional album-length cover, Phish kicked that crutch away from fans like me. For the first time since that first tape or CDR or mp3, we would experience a full set of songs free from the imprint of what came before. It was kind of exhilarating, and it explains why, for now, I keep drifting back to that set instead of diving back into the improvisational highlights of this exemplary fall tour.
That surely tips my hand about what side I’m on in the great Phish community civil war raging over the “album” choice, but let me just emphasize: I’m all for it. Few things about Phish fandom give me as much joy as trying to guess the Halloween album, and all the conspiracy theories, clue-hunting, and essays that go with it. But in the end, the actual performance of the album is less important than what the chosen album says about Phish at that point in time.
Halloween shows are a checkpoint in Phish’s evolution. The White Album came when they were still finding the balance between avant-garde experimentation and popularity. Quadrophenia marked their newfound comfort as a big-gesture arena band. Remain In Light is the most important of all, of course, setting their sonic course for the rest of the decade. Loaded was the dark side of rock and roll success, hissing out from underground. Exile was a celebration of survival, Waiting for Columbus was comfort food.
Wingsuit is renewal. Choosing to play songs from a not-yet recorded album is a much-needed stop at the gas station, a recharge to keep this crazy Phish thing going for another batch of years. It couldn’t have come at a better time. The music this summer and fall was at a higher level than I ever could have hoped they’d reach in this era, stunningly consistent and consistently stunning. The lack of new material hardly interfered with this joyful experience, except maybe for a little tickle in the back of my throat. On paper, setlists and song rotations were getting suspiciously predictable. That didn’t mean much when the performances within were so rich, but it also felt like the narrative was tapering off, perhaps heading for a full stop on the nice round number of 30, at this improbable late-career peak.
But all that was, of course, yet another Phish prank. There were new songs the whole time, they just weren’t ready to share them with us yet. After Halloween, it looks silly to have thought that they were winding things down, or were trapped in a nostalgia cage. After Page’s New Year’s Eve speech, they’ve barely mentioned the anniversary from the stage, and it appears there won’t be any special shows honoring the occasion. It’s been about the future all year, it just took a little Halloween sleight of hand to reveal the right framing.
(It’s also crazy to think that the well-oiled jamming on display throughout 2013 could have happened without these between-tour songwriting sessions. So even if you’re not feeling the new songs, if you fell in love with a show or a jam this year, you should still send the new material a thank you card for existing.)
To zoom in a little closer, here are a few early thoughts on what I think are the most fascinating new songs, and what they might mean for the future of Phish.
Waiting All Night
I’ve watched with some interest and no small amount of dread as Trey goes through his plaid-shirt “hipster” phase. In theory, Phish finding inspiration (and cover material) in indie rock sounded great to me – after all, I was one of the ten dudes freaking out when they sloppily played “Gold Soundz” back in ‘99. And yet there was Traveler, an album I disliked as much for what it said about modern indie rock as for what it said about Trey’s solo work. Working with members of The National encapsulated everything I feared about how an “indie” influence could go wrong – putting the emphasis on atmosphere over songs, getting stuck in midtempo ballad purgatory, writing and delivering lyrics with beard-stroking weightiness.
Some of that unfortunate influence still creeps into “Winterqueen” and “Amidst the Peals of Laughter,” my least favorite of the Wingsuit songs. But then there’s “Waiting All Night,” which is absolutely the best possible synthesis of Phish and indie rock. As the astute Wyllys immediately called on Twitter, there’s a strong Yo La Tengo influence running through the song, so much so that I didn’t immediately believe it (I spotted Stereolab, which is probably also in the DNA somewhere). That watery Page organ, the monotone backing vocals, the springy bassline, that little ascending, Tropicalia lick at 1:10 — all carry the fingerprint of late 90s indie in all the right ways. It sounds like Trey (and the rest of the band) finally grasping the core of the genre, instead of just the surface trappings, and I’m interested to see if it’s just an anomaly, or a legit new direction for the band.
As I tweeted that night, I expected a lot of things from new Phish material, but catchiness was not one of them. Nothing from Joy was really earworm material; in fact, a lot of it seemed (purposefully) melodically flat. Arguably the stickiest songs – “Gone” and “Liquid Time” – were shunted off to the outtakes record and hardly ever played. But after the double punch of “The Line” and “Monica,” it was clear that Phish-pop was back in a big way. Not since “Heavy Things” have they so clearly targeted singalong territory, and both of these songs are a hell of a lot more vibrant than the limp shuffle of their ancestor.
The “Cut Your Hair” backing vocals, college basketball subject matter, and uplifting solo segment of “The Line” are immediately lovable. But I’m even more obsessed with “Monica” – and not without some caution. This thing pops like a single, friends, and while the idea of a rock single is pretty archaic in 2013, it’s worth considering the possible implications of that fact. Probably the last time they’ve managed to package the Phish sound into such a radio-friendly (speaking of archaic) package was Bouncin’, which forever holds an uncomfortable relationship for fans.
But as with Bouncin’, don’t mistake the hummable peppiness of “Monica” for simplicity. The vocal and instrumental parts are intricately interlocked – it sure sounds like they practiced this one more than any other song in the set. The subtle change in the chord progression in the third verse that sticks around throughout the final section is a nearly subliminal hook. As much as I like how this song sounds with the acoustic setup – particularly Mike’s standup bass and Page’s chintzy electric piano – I would kill to hear them jam over that progression instead of hitting the a capella ending. This song has two very different paths ahead of it; let’s see which one they choose.
The wildcard in the rumors swirling around this next album, confirmed by the Playbill liner notes, is their new collaborative approach to songwriting. It’s kind of amazing that it took them 30 years to try it out, given that their primary talent lies in spontaneous, democratic composition. But obviously songwriting and improvisation are two very different things, so nobody knew what to expect from a Phish song with four cooks in the kitchen.
The answer, at least from what we’ve heard so far, is weapons-grade Phishiness. The two most obviously collaborative songs, “Fuego” and “Wombat” are giddy with shared vocals, cut-up in-jokey lyrics, unpredictable musical swerves, and ample room for expansion. “Fuego” will drop smoothly into the rotation, but “Wombat” initially struck me as just too much…too much, man. My webcast feed couldn’t even handle it, cutting out between the Abe Vigoda name-drop and the Abe Vigoda cameo.
But the more I listen to it, the more I love it. It’s so damn weird, weirder than any band has a right to be in their 30th year of existence (weirder than any person should probably be at age 30). I’m not sure they need another funk jam vehicle in the catalog, but it’s a particularly sinister member of the species, and repeatedly uses a 50-cent vocabulary word for extra credit. Certainly it’s no weirder than Tube, and no dumber than Ghost, and much less embarrassing than Fish rapping “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.” I’ll happily take an entire album of clumsy references to marsupials and Barney Miller spinoffs instead of Traveler leftovers and Little Feat tributes. Long live the wombat.
Overall, I’m really excited to watch how these songs are woven into future setlists, and how they stretch and grow from the newborn state we heard in Atlantic City. I care a lot less about how they turn out in the studio, to be frank – part of my aversion to Phish’s studio work is that it feels wrong to freeze any of their songs in amber, or at least to accord the recorded versions any higher status than a random version played in a first set in some New England minor-league hockey arena. We finally have some new children in the Phish family, let’s wait and see how those wobbly first steps work out.
I recently began a new job and new life on the West Coast. I’ve met some truly interesting people since moving, and luckily some fellow fans of great and live music. While this post isn’t about live music, it’s about a guy who a lot of people may not know by name but is a great musician/songwriter. Gene Clark, most famously a founding member of The Byrds.
Clark is a guy who was a promotor of many styles of music from psychedelic rock to alt. country. One of Clark’s solo albums, No Other, encompasses many of the styles he was passionate about and it shows through the styles of the songs he crafted for the record. While it wasn’t met with a ton of commercial success many rock critics hold the album in high regard and the songs within it are considered to be some of his best.
Written in the hills of Mendocino, CA while staring at the Pacific Ocean with an acoustic guitar, notebook, and not much outside interaction, it’s record from the soul of its maker and one you should check out.
Like so many great artists who lived the hard lifestyle of the 60’s/70’s Clarke passed away in 1991 at the early age of 46.