“The root, third and fifth of any chord are considered to be very stable tones. This is why this theme makes us feel like we’ve arrived at home; the physics of Trey’s lines give us a big sense of stability. Yet the repetition creates tension and excitement, and makes us feel like the moment could last forever — and, often, we wish it does.”
That comes from @amarguitar’s great “Anatomy of a Jam” series on Youtube, in the Went Gin debut episode. Those words capture a brilliant source of passion for seeing Phish shows. (I just bought my ticket to Phish’s 11th festival, “Curveball,” in upstate New York, so I’ve found myself turning deeply into their music this weekend.)
There’s nothing like a Phish show. In my mind, I compartmentalize those experiences differently than other concerts; there’s Phish, and then there’s everything else. I’m not sure if that’s healthy or not, but for nine years I’ve been unable to shake it. Whenever the band announces a tour, I’ve leapt to Google Maps, a handy Excel spreadsheet and a calculator to determine, with rudimentary math and unbound zeal, which shows I could conceivably hit, how much money I’ll need to set aside, what ancillary attractions I might find in that part of the country, etc. This summer, it’s just Curveball for me. If certain rumors pan out, of course, I wouldn’t mind a road trip this fall to Hampton, Va.; Nashville, Tenn.; or the grand city of Chicago. We’ll see. That’s part of the fun: the anticipation of everything. The psychological tension.
I first began listening to Phish around 2004 or so. But I first saw them at Jones Beach on Long Island on 8/17/10, with my friend Colin. That’s where the moment began, this thematic backdrop of live improvisation, carnival journeys across highways and teeming lawns, buzzing lights — a hypnagogic dance on another plane of consciousness. Things feel different at Phish shows. The moment stretches out eternally. The backdrop bends forward, takes the spotlight of my mind and grips my soul in a determined reality.
Right now, on this cold Sunday morning, I’m writing and listening to the second set of 6/23/12, a delightful summer jaunt on the rural outskirts of Pittsburgh. I’m there. I remember the calypso funk of that night, the temporally out-of-bounds trip in that Light jam. It’s an incredible show, the sort of outing that I think anyone of a particular musical taste might enjoy.
And then Trey skips onto the Weekapaug Groove riff, and we’re off, again, again.