lucubrations in nyc <$BlogRSDURL$>

lu·cu·bra·tion (lky-brshn) n. : Writing produced by laborious effort or study, especially pedantic or pretentious writing. Often composed late at night, under candlelight.


Swan song, eulogy, last testimonial... 

Phish’s farewell performance this weekend was pure spectacle, and I relished every second of it. Never mind Trey’s utterly masturbatory playing. Never mind Trey rubbing his right nostril repeatedly and hardly being able to string together coherent sentences. Never mind that the band played Glide as if they were sight-reading another musical group’s composition. Never mind that they botched the composed portions of Simple, Reba, Hydrogen, not to mention a sloppily played Curtain With for their final encore ever. Never mind that an ever-steady Fishman and Cactus were upstaged by an uneven megalomaniac of a guitarist. It’s not like these symptoms hadn’t been around for quite a while. Maybe it was a good time to call it quits after all.

Like Mincey, I marveled at Great Wood’s second night setlist. An old-school seguefest coupled with witty Fishman stage banter near the end of the second set. It brought back memories of my first show on tape – 4.16.92 – a sweet, crisp soundboard that included Terrapin sandwiched between Cold as Ice. This was the beginning of Phish’s ascent to musical exploration and grandeur. Pristine phish, in my opinion, will always be the period from ‘92 to ‘95. December ‘95 might be some of the most captivating and provocative music I’ve ever heard. Although I have a place in my heart for the ’97 funk and the summer ’00 tour, they had long passed their era of musical ingenuity and exploration when they were truly carving out a unique musical niche.

That being said, the great thing about Phish was their ability to kick ass any night of the week, be it the '80s, '90s, or '00s. Even though Phish’s apex came in the mid-90s, they were always capable of recreating those transcendent and awe-inspiring moments. I saw relatively few shows, but I swear they were some of the best (and I would guess every fan feels this way) – 8.14.96, 12.29.96, 12.31.97, 12.11.99, Big Cypress, Radio City, first leg of summer ‘00, Hampton ’03, Greensboro '03, Brooklyn ’04, Coventry. I never left a show dissatisfied, not even at Greensboro where the scene was so bad, I had at least three different people’s vomit on my shoes by the time they encored with Sweet Carolina.

Even though the technical playing this weekend was lackluster, they still brought the heat on several songs. Moments in Saturday’s Jiboo and last night’s Taste represent as good a reason as any to believe in a higher power. Seeing Page break down during Velvet Sea was one of the most endearing Phish moments to date. Hearing Fishman’s banter one last time – “c minor…oh, okay” – put a smile on my face that wouldn’t go away. Listening to Mike’s austere “it’s been a wild ride” speech was one of those moments you just won’t ever get out of anyone other than Mike.

The best part about the weekend, though, was seeing them absolutely fall apart emotionally and musically after giving their thank you speeches. It was as if the band had simply forgotten how to play. Trey was straight out of Back to the Future, when Michael J. Fox’s hand just can’t seem to play melody of Earth Angel as he realizes his entire existence is in jeopardy. Seeing Trey’s ego drop and nervousness overtake the band for those few moments was unreal. I’ve never seen Trey lose his composure like that. He was, in a word, humbled.

But like I said before, I didn’t care about the sloppy play. My well of forgiveness for this band will always be eternally deep because they have supplied me with infinite examples of musical splendor. I have given up countless hours to this band, not to mention thousands of dollars, and I wouldn’t take any of that back if given the opportunity. My romance with Phish and their music bordered on the maniacal. In seventh grade, I was a tyro posting to daily under the moniker ‘ophishal’. I traded tapes with online traders for a good 6 years, until it became clear that amassing more than 200 tapes could only be seen by others as an unhealthy obsession. I made enemies of my grade school carpool pals by instituting a veritable fascist regime when it came to control of the stereo. Even the relationship with my parents suffered due to phish – for the better part of a decade my brother and I cruelly subjected them to barely audible, fifth generation D-aud phish tapes for any car ride that lasted more than 5 minutes. But I wouldn’t take it back for the world.

Over the past few years, my love of the band had foundered. After Billy Breathes/SOTG/Farmhouse, most of their new music sounded stale to me. And it had, for worse, become Trey’s band. Going to shows was still fun, but the thrill of standing next to a patchouli scented tour rat and a 13-year old ectasy fiend had certainly waned. Hiatus only left me further disaffected – I didn’t even put aside the $12 to pick up Round Room or Undermind. Even today, I couldn’t identify over half of the songs on those discs.

It doesn’t really matter, though. The band has already given me more than enough. About 10 years ago, snooping around my brother’s room I found Lawn Boy sitting in his cd collection. Intrigued by the cover art, I slipped it in, and was mesmerized by those first few chords of Coil all the way to the last notes of Bouncing as I laid silent on the floor wearing my Swain School uniform. From that seemingly innocent moment up until seeing these four grown men cry last night, the Cactus was dead on with what he said – it’s been a wild ride. I’m going to miss the shit out of these guys.

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