If you’d have told me at any point in the last 12 years that Phish would release an album in 2014 that would be every bit as good as Billy Breathes, I would have called you crazy.
I don’t have favorite bands anymore. My answer to that question changes weekly, sometimes daily, so I simply don’t bother. But, the last time I had a favorite band (somewhere in 2000) it was Phish. It’s safe to say that they were and continue to be a massive influence on my musical life. So much so that it was almost a relief when they went on hiatus in 2000, allowing me to carve out a more unique music identity for myself.
I haven’t been to as many shows as a lot of my friends. And I’ve only been to two in the last 12 years. When I heard they were reuniting in 2009 (something I ALWAYS thought would happen - I NEVER ONCE believed that they would never play together again after 2004) my general feeling was, that’s nice, but Phish isn’t exactly something I have the free time to invest in anymore. In the intervening years, life had happened.
Which is why I can’t say enough good things about #CouchTour. The option of purchasing live webcasts of multiple tour stops (or finding them for free on YouTube) means I got to reconnect with Phish at my leisure. And boy, have I been pleasantly surprised.
Most people still reading know that Phish went through a period of being - and I’m searching for a nice way to put thus - a shadow of their former selves. Whether you apply this exclusively to the post-hiatus years (2003-4) or you are one of those snobs who think Clifford Ball was last time the band did anything worthy of merit is unimportant here. We know all know the backstage rumors and heard the flubs increasing at the shows.
Then there are the stories of the disaster that was Coventry (what was meant to be their last show). At best you can say they made it through. At worst…
This is a video from a independently made documentary of Coventry, specifically of the last song performed in 2004 (“The Curtain With”). After the introduction (at around the 50 sec mark) you can see Trey do a bump of heroin on stage. The ensuing jam is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard my former favorite band do - Trey actually starts nodding around the 2:40 mark. If you’re a fan, this is pretty fucking hard to watch.
[Note: This video has been set to private by the user. In case the embed doesn’t work, link is here: http://youtu.be/IIoAq95ksqs]
Why do I bring this up? Because more than any other reason, this is why I’m happy to be watching Phish play live again (albeit on a 52” TV from a recliner). Hearing this band crush the old, complex shit like it’s the early 90s again was what got us all hyped when they first returned in 2009. But most off all, to see Trey and his fellow bandmates smiling, laughing, dancing around like goofballs, enjoying what they’re doing again, that alone has been worth making time in my life for Phish again.