I had a long, nasty night at work.
I’m finishing a bomber of Ommegang’s Hennepin. That helps.
I’m also listening to the Scents and Subtle Sounds from our Phish show in Camden in 2004. That helps even more.
I’ve written about this song before. It’s pointless for me to listen to it while it’s still light out; the jam that closes it out is all about darkness and uncertainty. The band was playing what we thought was its last “regular season” show before it headed up to Coventry for what turned out to be a less-than-satisfying final run before retirement.
I thought then — as I do now — the 20-minute jam at the end of the song embodied everything the band and its audience was experiencing at that moment: We don’t know what’s next. We don’t know if we’ll ever do this again. The four guys lock on a groove that resides in the lower registers; it churns and boils, and then turns even darker, with Trey tossing feedback loops to the other three. Fishman plays his ass off through the whole thing, and he was the last one to leave the stage before the encore break; while Trey’s last loop rumbled out over the Delaware River, Fish finally just stands up and walks backstage while the feedback fades. That night, I would have felt satisfied if the show simply ended there, without an encore.
On that night, it would have been perfect.
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Except, as it turns out, that wasn’t the last show; there was the Hampton run in March, and there’s a summer’s worth of shows starting soon. There are a lot of bands that practice the musical magic I’m drawn to; if I’m being realistic, I have to admit this is the band that does it best these days. I say that less than a month after seeing the remnants of my beloved Grateful Dead in Philly; I also say it knowing that I just told everyone here that I think Wilco is the best band going today.
But if we’re talking about the possibilty of witnessing musical creation on-stage, before your eyes and ears, Phish is the one to see. And in one month, I get my first shot in five years. We have another show coming in Buffalo in August, but the June 18 show is here, at Star Lake, where the same four guys put out one of their best-ever efforts for Mrs. Crappy and me in 2003. I don’t know if we’ll have the good fortune to see a similar show a month from now, but with these guys, I like my chances.
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If you’ve ever wanted to hear an example of what I’m talking about when I start ranting about my music, you’ll want to download this: the Scents and Subtle Sounds from Camden, on Aug. 12, 2004. It’s a 21-minute song, so it’ll take a little while to pull; if you do, please tell me what you think.