Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

A Phish FAQ For Deadheads

Tell me about Phish

They’re a rock band from Vermont that relies heavily on improvisation and the audience being on drugs.

What kind of music do they play?

It’s tough to pin it down, but the overriding genre is “music for white people to hug strangers to.”

Why can’t we do these FAQs without you being a douche?

Fine. Phish sounds like Phish, to be honest. I guess you can hear some Talking Heads in there, or some Beatles, but mostly they just sound like themselves. Which makes them a Great Band.

And that phrase is capitalized because..?

Because it’s my Theory of Rock Band Greatness: a truly Great Band could play, say, Louie Louis or Wild Thing or any other of those rock and roll standards–without vocals–and you would recognize their sound within a couple of chord changes. Ramones, Stones, Dead: you can hear how they’d play it your head, right?

Which brings us to the Dead.

Borne ceaselessly into the past, we are.

What do the Dead and Phish have in common?

Numerous strains of herpe, one ex-wife, an accountant, and the legal inability to visit Japan.

They also have a similar gestalt and demographic and niche in American society.

Thank you.

Also like the Dead, their records suck and they’re goofy-looking.

Surely, they have a Bobby.

They do not have a Bobby.

Tough to make it in this world without a Bobby in the band.

And the drummer wears a dress.

Does he rock that shit in a Beyonce-like fashion?

In no way, shape, or form.

I need you two fuckwits to concentrate. Comparing the Dead to Phish on the internet is dangerous territory. All of the jamband-related forums look like the Somme.

Nice segue, Bro Namath.

Do not call me that.

So: Trey Anastasio playing with the Dead. First off, who’s Trey Anastasio?

He is a ginger guitarist.

He any good?

Fuck yeah: hair as red as it could be.

I meant at the guitar.

Oh, yeah. Old school guitar god. Sometimes his guitar’s like MWAH and sometimes he goes mEEEp and other times he’s all DEEDELEELEEDEEDLEE. And if you let him, he’ll solo from now until the heat-death of the universe.

And that is different from Garcia in which way?

Oh, in no substantial way at all. Stylistically, they’re nothing alike, but that’s just the minor choices. Stupidly complicated custom guitar, beard, lust for opiates: pretty much the same guy.


Although, to be fair: Garcia preferred to smoke his opiates, while Trey liked pills.

Noted. Irrelevant, but noted. So what’s the problem?

It mostly stems from people being dicks. Or dummies. Or silly gooses. Any number of things, really. Some longtime Deadheads don’t think Trey’s good enough, or Fake Jerry enough, or whatever lunatics come up with to rationalize their shouting. There are Phish Persons that think this is distracting Trey, even though they were taking it slow this year, anyway. There are also a group of young white men in the corner wearing “Rand Paul ’16” buttons and yelling about the gold standard, but they’re twits, so let’s ignore them.

Anything else?

Some Deadheads have a view of Phish Persons as trust fundamentalists who will buy up the tickets and attend just to see Trey, not knowing every word to every song , or being able to recite set lists from heart, or having given a tugger to Brent.

Sounds a bit like status game bullshit and cliquish snobbery to me. Why are they doing that?

They’re human. It’s how we occupy our time between shows.


What’s with the WOOing?

Phish Persons are like Ric Flair mated with a beagle. It’s just the sound they make when they’re happy or sad or cold or vengeful.  WOOs mean different things at different times: it’s a very high-context culture.

1 Comment

  1. lol Phish’s studio albums are actually really good

    Junta, Lawn Boy, and A Picture of Nectar are excellent and should be listened to. Billy Breathes is wonderful as well. Each album is unique in its own tone and mood!

    (But, for the sake of both of our sanity, nothing will ever compare to Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.)

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