Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: phish (page 1 of 9)

Playing With A Band

I feel like we all forgot this happened.

Bright-Eyed Katy

“Pretty lady is pretty, Trey.”

“She is, Page, but she’s more than just a pretty lady. She’s a big-time reporter.”


“She’s not secretly Superman, Page.”

“Oh, right, right. Okay.”


“No, Page. All reporters are not secretly Superman. I don’t know who told you that, but they were messing with you.”

“Is she Spider-Man?”

“She has no super-powers at all, buddy. Although, she put up with Keith Olbermann’s bullshit for a few years, so maybe she does.”


“Big media joke, pal. Don’t worry about it.”

“What does she do?”

“Katy? Well, she covered the Trump campaign for NBC.”

“He is bad!”

“He is, buddy.”

“I don’t like him!”

“I’m with you.”

“He is orange! Presidents should be black!”

“Could not agree more, man.”

“Trump should not be around Katy. He will chain her up and make her wear a metal bikini.”

“She’s safe now, Pagey. She’s with us.”

“Okay. I like her better than Jake Tapper.”

“Everyone does.”


“Yeah, buddy?”

“What doughnut is it?”

“We’re not doing that anymore.”


Run, Don’t Walk!


“Yes, sir?”

“What the hell is this?”

“It is the poster for Phish’s New Year’s run at MSG.”

“What’s a Phosh?”

“Phish, sir. They’re four men who shouldn’t sing from Vermont. A boingy sort of sound.”





“It’s good.”

“I agree, sir. Colorful, playful.”

“All sorts of fuls.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ve been looking at it for a minute and haven’t retched once. Not once!”

“No, sir.”

“Haven’t farted in disappointment.”

“That’s good, sir.”

“Jenkins, it looks like someone put some effort into this poster.”

“It does, sir.”

“Not just stuck his dick in a paint can and fucked a canvas.”

“No, sir.”

“Like our posters.”

“Yes, sir.”

“They’re making us like assholes here, Jenkins. Stinky assholes flecked with gas station toilet paper and several tenacious corn kernels. Gaping assholes that swallow up ships like the dreadful Charybdis. Sewn-up assholes that permit poop no passage.”

“Assholes, sir.”

“Assholes, Jenkins. And I don’t like it. I won’t stand for the assholification of this organization. I’m drawing a line in the taint.”

“Can we move away from this metaphor, sir?”

“We must retaliate.”

“By improving the quality of Dead & Company’s posters?”

“By assassinating Phish.”

“Oh, no, sir. We can’t assassinate Phish.”

“Ah. Yes. You’re right. They’re not political figures. Can’t technically be assassinated. We’ll just murder them.”

“Sir, why is that always your first idea?”

“Because it’s always the best idea. Murder solves more problems than it causes, Jenkins.”

“It doesn’t, sir.”

“Oh, fine. We won’t kill Phish. What about Twiddle?”

“You can have Twiddle executed, sir.”

“Anyone could have Twiddle executed, Jenkins! The only reason that grouping of mammals hasn’t been killed is because no one could be bothered to do it.”

“Sir, can we get back to the poster?”

“Poster! Throw those bears on something!”

“No, sir. The Phish poster that has brought about a feeling of inadequacy in our offerings.”

“Who was the tiny negro that spoke so sassy to the white people?”

“Are we talking about real life, sir?”

“No, the teevee.”

“Oh. Oh, well then that kind of makes sense. There were two. Willis and Webster.”

“The white people stole the tiny negro from his nest and raised him as their own. Is that right?”

“Why are we discussing this, sir?”

“Imagine one of them. Willy or Webby or whatever their names were. Imagine one of them is tasked to make love to a mountain. And not a weak mountain, Jenkins. A proud and boastful mountain. Maybe it’s sprinkled with dead Sherpas. Real son-of-a-gun of a mountain.”

“I get it, sir.”

“And now that tiny negro–”

“Let’s make that the last time we use that phrase, sir.”

“–is issued an undeniable command: Son, go fuck that mountain ’til she loves you. You understand me, Jenkins? Not just flap around on a ridge and run away. The ol’ hump-n-jump. No, no. That sassy little half-pint of chocolate milk had to make the mountain cum.”


“I once brought a hill to orgasm, but never a mountain. It’s a feat, Jenkins!”

“What the hell are we talking about?”

“No idea. I thought you were keeping track. I’ve been free-associating for a few minutes.”

“Sir, the posters.”

“Posters! We could kidnap the person who did Phish’s!”

“Or hire him.”

“You’re no fun any more.”

“Kidnapping was never fun, sir.”

“It is if you’re drunk.”

Swaggie Maggie Getting Her First Taste Of Dick’s


I made something.

You should make something out of yourself.

I should.

Like a corpse.



As you must surely know by now, Thoughts on the Dead is not a one-stop shop for all your Jam Scene needs. Sartre said that hell is other people, but he hadn’t heard Twiddle. It’s all just a bunch of doodlebopping for smelly whites to stand in a field to, and I’ll have no truck with any of them. I also wouldn’t get in a van with any of them. Take your Widespread Cheeses and your Dildo Bilbos and begone with you.

And while the Phishes are galactically better than the rest of the dreck on that JamOn station, TotD is not TotPh.

(Seriously, Phish: it is embarrassing at this point that you don’t have your own channel. Jimmy fucking Buffet has his own channel, and he is a demon in flip-flops.)

Which is to say that the Phish nonsense ends tonight, and not a moment too soon; if I read another too-clever-by-half article about the band, I’ll plotz. Plotz, I tells ya. Thankfully, like a cactus bloom in a desert, the great Jesse Jarnow writes about the highlights in Rolling Stone. Mr. Jarnow (along with Ms. Petrusich in her New Yorker article) distinguishes himself from the pack by knowing what he’s talking about, and I urge you to go read his lovely prose.

If you don’t have time, though, I can recap his highlights for you:

Best Donut-Related Teen Freakout: “Adam Hershowitz, 19” (Jimmies, Night 9)

Adam’s cousin told him to wait an hour. Adam didn’t feel anything after 20 minutes. Adam put the donut on his dick and ranted about how rosary beads were just wearable prayer wheels. Adam got tackled by security.

Most Unexpected Celebrity Sighting: “Suge Knight” (Boston Cream, Night 12)

When asked about his presence at the show, Suge explained his longtime love for the improvisatory Vermonters. He went on to express his hope for some “dope 2.0 shit,” and then went backstage and dangled Page out a window for a while.

Killerest Jams: “Multiple” (Multiple nights)

Phish showed the packed house opening night that this wasn’t to be a normal run with intensely jammed-out versions of Swack, Mining In The Forest, and Lamp Fight. (The Lamp Fight jam in particular was incredible, lasting 40 minutes and containing musical allusions to Trey’s never-completed fantasy-themed rock opera, The Moate Of Grilm.) Night two saw an almost hour-long rendition of Tetherball Daddy, while night five featured an Anteater>Face The Water>Frictional Fraction>Anteater that was better than any magic trick Criss Angel can do.

Angriest Crowd Member: “Sam Cutler” (Strawberry, Night 2)

Sam Cutler threw his donut at a young woman in a wheelchair, and then punched Mike Gordon right in the scarf. He had nothing but compliments for the spicy chicken sandwiches, though.

Ten (Short) Thoughts On The Baker’s Dozen


I watched a little less than all of the Baker’s Dozen, but much more than none of it, so I feel I’m the most qualified person in the room to discuss the subject.


A butcher’s dozen is 10-and-a-half. A fisherman’s dozen is a net full of perch and an old boot.


Highlights of the run: Backbiter’s Dilemma, Vamoose, Hanging By My Toes, Vamoose Reprise.
Lowlights: the four songs that Sam Cutler saw.


Amanda Petrusich wrote about the Phishes from Vermont in the New Yorker, and the great Jesse Jarnow covered the shows for Rolling Stone, and that is all you need to read about the Baker’s Dozen except for what I write. The rest of the articles fall into one of two categories:

  1. I hate Phish, and have nothing interesting to say.
  2. I apologize for liking Phish, and have nothing interesting to say.


The Baker’s Dozen is more a testament to Phish’s fans than to the band, in a way. Bruce could do 13 shows at the Garden, but if he didn’t play Thunder Road every night, folks would get pissed. On the other hand, it’s easier to not play your hits when you haven’t had any.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am being informed that Phish did have a semi-hit single. Free from Billy Breathes went to #11 in 1996. We apologize for the error.


All four members of Phish have the same voice–a wavering, untrained, nasal tenor–and if you’re just listening instead of watching, then it’s difficult to figure out who’s singing.


As always, the redoubtable Mr. Completely sums it up by saying that “Phish are five different bands, and I like three of them.” I agree with his assessment, but my math is a bit different.

Phishes I do not like:

  • Reggae Phish.
  • Blues Phish. (Holy shit, should those four men not be allowed to play the blues.
  • Whimsical Phish.
  • Acapella Phish.
  • The Phish that Jon Fishman is in charge of. (The vacuum cleaner thing, the song about getting you ass handed to you: it’s a hard pass for TotD. Just play the drums and wear your frock.)

Phishes I do like:

  • 30 minute boing-boing jam Phish.
  • I also enjoy the song Blaze On.
  • That is all.


I cannot state strongly enough that Phish should not be allowed to play the blues.


Just to remind everyone: the entire Anthony Scaramucci saga unfolded between Tweezer and the Tweezer Reprise.


Phish are still trying, which is rare among acts around for as long as they’ve been, and their fans are still buying tickets, and none of them are dead or suing the others. When they closed the last show, they were crying; so were the fans. They played a Willie Nelson song about making music with friends, and it didn’t seem like a lie at all.

The Phishes from Vermont: in and out of the Garden they went.

Dozen Have The Power, Captain

Let’s state this right up front: the Dead could not have pulled off a Baker’s Dozen. The Phishes’ almost-completed MSG run is a feat, however you feel about their music. 13 shows with no repeated songs, not to mention new covers and weird classic-rock mash-ups and a capella memes. No matter how many dreary articles Newsweek runs about the band, they cannot be accused of plastering on a fake smile and plowing through the same old bullshit like most acts.

Logistically, the Dead were incapable of this. They tried doing residencies in 1980–one in San Francisco and the other in New York–but the shows were tepid. Also, the band became confused playing shows every night without traveling; Bobby kept driving himself to the airport.

In terms of numbers, the Dead technically could have pulled this off. They played 501 songs live. Technically, they could have pulled this off. Realistically, they only knew a hundred songs at a time, and that’s the maximum. The Dead knew a dozen songs in 1969. Maybe 15. In ’74, they couldn’t play the old shit and hadn’t written all the later shit. In ’86, Garcia was in a coma. You see my point.

The Grateful Dead also could not have pulled off a Baker’s Dozen because it’s not a Grateful Dead show if Bobby doesn’t sing a cowboy song, and the band refused to learn more than three of them.

We also must be honest and say that Phish has done multiple times this run what the Dead almost never did, which is turn a non-jam song jammy. We take the Lawn Boy jam. (For the Phishphobic: they have a song entitled “Lawn Boy.” I don’t know why you would call a song that, either.) I have been informed by reputable sources that Lawn Boy was, previous to the other night, jammed once. Lawn Boy has been performed 206 times, and if you do the math (and I did, instead of trying to improve my life) you find that a song played at the equivalent frequency from the Dead’s catalog would be Casey Jones. Did the Dead ever jam Casey Jones? Not really kinda no. On 10/2/77 in Seattle, they got as close as they were gonna get when Garcia forgot the words and started soloing, perhaps out of frustration, but that was not jamming; the band just played the verse a few extra times while Garcia went deedlydeedly for a while. Not a jam.

We even have a one-to-one comparison in The Mighty Quinn. The Dylan tune from the Basement Tapes (?) was made into a hit by the Manfred Mann Man-Band and later played by both Phish and the Grateful Dead. How can we compare the two renditions?

  • Phish looked at the trifle of a song and saw potential. A training montage ensued. Phish made Quinn run in the snow, and fight a bear, and learn accounting so Quinn would have something to fall back on. He was then strong, Quinn, and he was powerful, Quinn, and the identical twin hippie chicks at the rail said, “Whoa, Quinn’s the fucking man now, son,” because that Quinn was so rock-hard and yet so very jammy.
  • The Grateful Dead sullenly choogled through the tune; everybody cheered at the line about doses; they got in the van back to the hotel.

The ability to pull this stunt off stems from character. Phish are try-hards, and the Dead were lazy. I rest my case.

You were making an argument?

I was making every Deadhead’s favorite argument: the band I love is terrible.

Well done, champ.


You Can’t Keep A Good Man, Or Sam Cutler, Down

Did you go back? I thought you hated Phish.

“That’s an affirmative. Painful music to listen to, just the worst.”

So why are you back?

“The chicken sandwiches.”

I keep hearing about them.

“It’s a feast for all your senses, me son. Open the wrapper, the steam wafts towards your snoot. There’s a pickle hidden within. This adds a spritely tartness to the proceedings. Glorious sandwich, simply marvelous.”

I’m sure you can find something similar in New York City. You didn’t have to pay for another ticket.

“Oh no no, I didn’t pay. Made a call. An’ I went backstage. You need to understand: the music was so piss-poor that I needed to look in the eyes of the men what made it.”

You really didn’t enjoy Phish.

“So the little goblin in the sarong comes up to me. With those arms ‘e’s got. Alabaster and limpid. I mean, do a pushup. Starts in talking about Debbie Washerwoman-Shultz, whoever in God’s name she is. I don’t bother the Septics about our bloody politics, I don’t know why they feel the need to burden me with theirs.”

I assume you extricated yourself from the situation with aplomb.

“I dosed ‘im and propped open an outside door so some Hells Angels could steal their equipment.”

Or like that.

“The ‘ospitality was non-existent. None whatsoever. I say to the poof with the lip gloss–”

Mike Gordon is not a “poof” and we don’t use that word anymore.

“–I say, Oy, mate. Where’s the nitrous room? He tells me there ain’t one. What kind of generation is this?”

No idea how to answer that.

“Do you know not one member of that so-called rock band is dead? Not one. I don’t know what happened to the world.”

Me, neither.

Sam Cutler Weighs In

Hey, Sam Cutler. Still in New York?

“Terrible place, just dreadful. Calls itself th’ Greatest City in th’ World, dunnit? Like, have they heard of London? Rome? I would lay a quid that 99% of the people here never heard of Rome.”

I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard of Rome, Sam.

“Just bollocks, innit? Greatest city. Appalling. Only one thing worse than New York City.”

And that is?

“Whatever th’ fuck it was I got dragged to last night. A disgrace. Do you know what I saw? A little fat man in a frock, a ginger, a substitute teacher, and a Jimmy Saville impersonator.”

You’re talking about Phish.

“Phlush. Phlop. Phoul.”

Well, you should’ve stayed for the second set.

“I should’ve lit the buildin’ on fire. They’d knight me for improving the gene pool. It was ‘orrible, just ‘orrible. They had the audacity to play a blues number. A twelve-bar! One bar would ‘ave been enough for me, but they insisted on playing all twelve. A blues number. Now, son, you answer me question. And I ask this without having looked into it meself. That singer, he’s from Connecticut, isn’t he?”

He actually is.

“I could smell it! And an acapella tune? One should be able to sing if one does so without accompaniment.”

Wait, hold on. The Dead sang acapella and it was always a mess.

“They did it at the end of the show, me lad. They ‘ad built up a reservoir of goodwill by then. They didn’t open the evening with three minutes of tedious caterwauling.”


“An’ you’ll notice that when I managed the Dead, they didn’t do that closing number all too much.”

Did you say something?

“Every time! I would be subtle, I would. They’d get off stage and I’d say to ’em, ‘You lot shouldn’t do that song cuz you can’t fuckin’ sing.’ Subtle.”


“I cannot emphasize enough how bloody unpleasant it was t’ look at the drummer.”

Didn’t you enjoy any of it?

“The spicy chicken sandwich was spot-on. Top marks for the sandwich. Me and me mates went through a dozen.”

Who’d you go with?

“You met Sleepy Batman.”

Regrettably. What’d he think?

“Slept through it.”


“An’ I brought some of me old mates from the Hells Angels.”

What? Oh, no. When you bring Hells Angels to concerts, things end badly.

“It was perfectly safe, son. The Hells Angels stab black people, an’ this was a Phish concert.”

Can’t argue with that. What now?

“There’s a geezer down the block dressed like some sort of muppet, an’ I’m gonna dose ‘im.”

Never change, Sam Cutler.

“Bit late to do that, innit?”

Another Bella Figura

“Just explain to me your thought process while you were getting dressed.”

“Hey, man: some of  us don’t want to look like suburban dads.”

“I am a suburban dad. Did the pants come first or the scarf?”

“Scarf. The scarf is the fulcrum of the outfit.”

“And then the pants?”

“No, then the lipstick.”

“Right, yeah, the lipstick.”

“The shade is Canary Sparkle.”

“Awesome, pal.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m Page.”

“How long’s that thing anyway?”

“My dick?”

“The scarf.”


“Why would I ask about your dick?”

“Lots of people ask me about my dick. I’m a rock star.”

“Yeah, I could tell by the pants.”

“My pants are awesome, Trey.”

“Your legs look like a yuppie’s living room from 1983.”

“I’m fashion forward.”

“You’re fashion forewarned.”

“Not clever.”

“Seriously: how long is the scarf? It looks like a blanket for a very thin person. Like, if Slenderman took a nap on the couch, that’s what he would cover himself up with.”

“I’m gonna walk back over there now.”

“Don’t trip on your giant scarf.”

“Blow me.”

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