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Making the Case: The "Best" Phish Song

This morning, I began wondering to myself: “If asked the best Phish song, what would I respond?” I thought it over, and I have some thoughts.

I’ve pondered over my favorite Phish songs before, and ultimately, I’ve never been able to settle on one. But today, I’ll give you what I think is the “best.”

First, we’ve got to agree on what “best” means. Does it mean most well liked? Most representative? Most iconic? I am choosing to define it as the song that best captures and satiates fans, be they new, old, or even future.

And the runners up are:

You Enjoy Myself
The logical, most obvious select for “best” phish song is the classic You Enjoy Myself. YEM, as we Phishheads call it, was debuted in 1986 and was featurd in more Phish setlists than any other song – ever. YEM includes a structed composed part, a loose jam part, and has led to some incredible experimentation, including the vocal jam. While YEM is an awesome song, a load of fun, and arguably the quinessential Phish song, I don’t think it’s the best, and one of the reasons is that it’s just too chaotic and hard to understand for those new to Phish.

Bouncing Around the Room
I include Bouncin’ only because, unlike YEM, it is quite easy for those unfamiliar with Phish to immediately fall in love with this song. The tempo, the lightweight guitar, and the repeated clear lyrics make it a natural sing along gem. But, most decidedly unlike YEM, it received quite a bit of radio play and became one of the 5 or so songs that college students that didn’t count themselves as Phish heads knew. As a result, many elitist Phish heads began the backlash against Bouncing. It was not unlikely, in the late nineties, to hear the regulars whine when Bouncing reared its head in a setlist. One more legitimate reason to dislike Bouncing was because, like many other songs, it was not a platform for jamming. This made it more of a recital than a participatory exercise. Since the most loyal fans, whether right or wrong, grew impatient with it, Bouncing cannot be the answer.

Chalkdust Torture
Chalkdust Torture was another “famous” Phish song. While the song is pretty much verse-chorus-verse, it served as a jam platform more often than you might expect. Chalkdust featured a catchy chorus and was a setlist regular from its debut right through Coventry. That said, Chalkdust remained popular for its entire run, and was often recognized by non-hardcores, and even featured on several albums. However, Chalkdust is rarely mentioned as one of the more cherished songs.

The Divided Sky
Ah, the final three. It’s easy to make a case for the Divided Sky. First of all, it’s got several sections, many tightly composed. It’s a musician’s wet dream, it’s got emotion, and it’s a fun song. It features all four members at some point. It’s Gamehendge-related. There are so many things that make this a fantastic song. But, like others above, there is rarely much exploration when this is performed live. Don’t let this take away from the song, it’s one of my faves, but any song that doesn’t encompass everything Phish is about can’t be called “best” in my book.

Harry Hood
Hood is the next step from Divided Sky, and also lands in all of the above categories, sans the Gamehendge connection. Harry Hood is one of the most well-liked songs in Phish-story, and when they open a show with it – as they did twice in 1999 – it signaled an incredible evening. I can’t fault Hood on anything worthwhile. It’s a virtual tie, but there had to be a winner, and that winner is:

Slave to the Traffic Light
In my humble opinion, no Phish song is better than Slave to the Traffic Light. Slave, as we call it, has elements of reggae, rock, jazz, ambient, harmony, and more. Slave includes long jams at times, some really long. It’s well liked, it’s been played with frequency, but not too frequent. It didn’t spark the amazing, but eventually annoying glowstick wars, and the end of the song is really something special nearly every time. Slave is not too complex, so even the relative newbie to Phishdom can understand and appreciate it, and certainly will be swinging and swaying by the end of the song. Also, Slave is the perfect set-ender, the perfect song to draw out your energy, calm you down, and lay you down to sleep nicely.

You can throw around several song like Guyute, Fee, The Lizards, The Squirming Coil, or Cavern, but I have to make the case for Slave to the Traffic Light.

To Alberto Gonzales: "What DO you know?"

Fantastic video Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California grilling Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in his congressional hearing:

Gonzales won’t crack, because he can’t crack. Because the minute he does, it will expose corruption in this adminstration that pre-dates 9/11. Corruption that leads up to the very core of the executive branch. Corruption that may or may not expose an all out assault on Middle Eastern controlled oil reserves, government contracts, a bicameral government, indeed American democracy itself.

Batman Like You've Never Seen Him

Seriously, what in the blue hell is this? Is it comedy? Worse, was it meant to be serious? Are the speech impediments real? Did someone actually write a plot?

Batman: Defenders of the Night

Highlights: Batman is nearly beaten by a hood with a stick. The Riddler hits Robin in the head with his cane and then hits Batman in the nuts, all before caw’ing like a crow for no apparent reason.

Defenders of the Night was so good it warranted this sequel:

Batman: Dark Betrayals

Highlights: Bruce calls Alfred from a car that isn’t moving. Commissioner Gordon works in a bedroom that has laundry all over the floor. Robin sells cocaine and then steals a dog. The criminals continue to take Batman seriously despite the fact that he’s clearly wearing pyjamas.

You owe it to yourself to watch these both all the way. It will blow your mind.

Two Thousand Six Resolutions, Ya'll

Wow. 2006. I will turn 31 this year. I will be married. Now, onto resolutions.

I will read more. I will lose weight. I will devote more time to activity and less time to computer and TV. I will finish Small Axe 1.0. I will be a better listener. I will learn to keep more focused. I will be more appreciative of what I have. Lastly, I will blog this entire year, and, dammit, I will back up regularly!!

PHISH CALLS IT QUITS

Well, I’m very sad to report that Phish has decided to call it quits. This is sad, but also kind of exciting. Imagine what will happen when the guys unlink themselves from the Phish chains and start expanding into ever wider territory. On the other hand, what will become of Jennifer Dances and other Phish rarities? Are they to die a lonely death? What will be the last song? A predictable YEM, or maybe something crazy random, like, say Lushington? What if it was something middle ground, like Squirming Coil?

With the close of the tour, I think, will be demise of firsttube.com’s phish content. From that point on out, I think ft will become my personal site, and the phish stuff will just have to slowly fade away. There are better sites for that. Sigh.

Thoughts on Trey’s Seis de Mayo

Trey Anastasio‘s new album, Seis de Mayo, has really got me thinking. See, i’m a die hard Phish fan, but since the hiatus, I’ve lost some of the zeal (evidenced by the staling of firsttube.com).  I’m not alone, most major Phish sites on the web have been neglected or, in the case of Andy Gadiel, who ran one of the most visited phish sites on the internet, folded completely.

Even the phish.net has slowed down. once the center of all things Phish, phans now turn to the much more timely phantasytour for their setlist information and current news. Why are so many phans losing the passion?

See, i think the problem is that most fans, during the hiatus, found new exciting music that didn’t mean wading through a velvet sea of 30,000 fans and a ticket scramble just to see them play. That’s attractive. and as much as we all love Phish, they aren’t the only band in the world to do what they do.

Trey, however, has gotten pretty far out there.  His work with the Trey Anastasio Band in 1999 was far from Phishy – the band was sloppy and loose, very different from the tight and synced sound of phish. but in a very very good way.  Combine that with the radical lineup tweak that was tour 2001 – a very different animal. then slap onto that Seis de Mayo, Trey’s new, short, mostly orchestral album. This guy takes chances.

Seis de Mayo includes some bits phish fans will recognize – a reworked version of All Things Reconsidered, The Inlaw Josie Wales, the first few minutes of Pebbles and Marbles, and the masterpiece My Friend My Friend/Guyute.  I’m telling you – Trey is where it’s at these days.

Look at the difference between “Acting the Devil,” a particularly non-phish number, “Drifting,” a typically Phishy song, “Burlap Sack and Pumps,” with unique jamband-esque tones, and Mr. Completely – a totally rocked out number.  The TAB is definitely intriguing to me.

So, upon hearing Seis de Mayo, I’d say this: Phish is fantastic, and still my favorite band – but it’s the Trey band that’s really got me thinking.

added 5/6 22:18: Just wanted to add that Fish with JMP, Page with Vida Blue, and Mike with his pursuits have all been doing great things too.  I personally think that Trey is most my style right now, but all four of them are probably really expanding in great ways with their various subprojects.  I can truly envision Phish being around for many many years.

i'm out

I’m done with work. I’m unemployed. I’m done with this placein Arlington. I’m done with glasses. I’m done with DC traffic. I’m done with wishing I were somewhere else. I’m done with missing out on things. I’m done with a lifestyle that left me wanting. I’m done chasing the money. I’m done with acquisition, collection, and display. I’m done misprioritizing my life. I’m done going too long in between catching up with my friends. I’m done allowing myself to procrastinate. I’m done NOT working out. I’m done with TV, at least, as much as I watch now. I’m done letting e-mail rule my life. I’m done with DC. I’m done.

Florida. 2 days and counting.

match.com – it doesn't suck that bad

So I’m moving to FL next week, as practically everyone I know knows, and I only know a few people down there, so I figured, “What the hell? I’ll try match.com and see if I get a bite. Well, I didn’t expect the response I got. A number of girls wrote to me in the first few days (since Sunday), and some are actually smart, attractive, and seem cool.

I’ve been operating under serious bias – I am a computer guy, and I recognize online dating as a legitimate form on meeting people these days. For one, it’s a hell of a lot more honest that meeting someone in a bar. Secondly, you can pick out the bad spellers right away. Thirdly, it’s very cold, yet endearing, in that you can form a good relationship quickly if things click, but you can just ignore those that don’t tickle your fancy (figuratively). I know people who have MARRIED who met online, and it’s not entirely new to me.

My past experiences have pretty much sucked. Pictures can lie, and I’ve met one or two that I wanted to call “5 second rule” and run like the dickens, and I’d even seen their picture! On the other hand, there are some people who are quality catches who are just playing with the thing, and I think we all hold out that we run into them.

Anyway, so far, so good. If you’ve been considering it, now is a good time. There are seemingly billions of people on it, and while the percentage of respondable ads is fairly low, something to the tune of 5% or so, in my book, there are so many people that the number is still pretty high.

1 month is $24.95. Let’s see if it’s worth it.

Writer's Block

I used to write. Fiction: stories, poems, and the like, but I mean music. I used to write lots of music. I wrote about a million songs before college, but the first real song I remember writing and writing down was a song called “Angel” back in college. It took form slowly.

The first song I arranged and completed was called “Time,” and that was my senior year. It was the first song that was actually complete, not just a melody. Then came “Away,” a song I actually performed twice in front of people. “Open Letter” was third. At that point I started numbering my songs. And until 2000, I wrote and arranged about 60 songs. Now, due to shitty notetaking, I only really remember about 30 or 40, but the point is: I was prolific.

Now, when I revisit these songs, some of them are just not very impressive. Some, the lyrics are shabby. Others don’t seem very complete. Some songs are just not very good melodies. And that, I believe, is why I haven’t composed a complete song in years. In 2000, I wrote a song that really spread beyond just acoustic guitar called “What She’s Got.” I was, and still am, proud of it. In the last two years, though, I have played piano more, and that has lead to two songs, both currently untitled and lacking lyrics. Neither is especially genre-similar to the other 40-odd songs I remember.

So now, in 2003, I really want to get back into song writing and I find myself unable to tap into the creative resource I used to have. There used to be a well bleeding of inspiration, brought on mostly, I hate to say, by my misery living in Connecticut. That pain translated into lots of songs that captured that emotion, including “CLV” and “This Pain,” amongst others. And weed, as displayed in “Slide.” And even cosmic events, like in “Rigel” and “Saturn.”

Freaking out about money, unfortunately, makes not for musical inspiration, and everything else is okay, for the most part. I find myself too happy to compose anything worthwhile, isn’t that sad? I need something to really move me, something to kick my ass. I’m hoping that moving to Florida will provide *positive* motivation to capture some emotion in song. I’m hoping.