Gimme an F! PH! Gimme an E! I! Gimme an A! S! Gimme a T! H!
November 6, 2010 3:01 PM   Subscribe

"There was hookers, and hustlers, they filled up the room." It's a Phish Halloween tradition to play a costume set as another band. Last Sunday at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, they paid tribute to Little Feat's 1978 live album Waiting for Columbus. "Phish are repaying," David Fricke says in his Phishbill essay [pdf] "a lifelong debt to the band that has inspired and influenced them above all others." posted by muckster (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Chris Kuroda is a god. I don't really follow Phish anymore, so thanks for posting!
posted by Lorin at 3:34 PM on November 6, 2010

That Whole Lotta Love medley was pretty damn impressive. I've never listened much to Phish, but I really enjoyed that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:54 PM on November 6, 2010

Hey, I was about to post the Good Times, Bad Times. That one really brings me back to the early 90s.
posted by Lorin at 4:19 PM on November 6, 2010

So a band goes from one song into another?

These guys are amazing.
posted by gcbv at 4:25 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've never heard of Phish, but I really, really dug that video of Fat Man In The Bathtub
posted by Fat Buddha at 4:51 PM on November 6, 2010

Somwhere Lowell George is rolling over in his grave.
posted by jonmc at 5:26 PM on November 6, 2010

Not bad. The inevitable Phish Sucks! comments didn't appear until 5 comments in. I think that's a record.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:58 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, to be fair, they really don't know those Zep songs very well at all.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:12 PM on November 6, 2010

The only Phish song I like love is Sample In A Jar. Whenever people call them a terrible hippy band, I think of this song and I enjoy that I have a HEART THAT CAN FEEL EMOTION! ;_;

Also, this is neat. If I had a band, I would do this, so that's something.
posted by Askiba at 8:23 PM on November 6, 2010

They have enough chops to cover Little Feat (and that takes considerable chops) but to cover Zep you need a lot more MUSCLE on the bottom end and Trey's guitar is not nearly distorted enough.
posted by Ber at 5:56 AM on November 7, 2010

Agreed, the Zeppelin stuff is kinda messy -- but it was super fun to see. I was close to the stage, and I'm fairly certain they didn't plan any of that. The Little Feat set is damn near flawless, though.
posted by muckster at 7:26 AM on November 7, 2010

Um, where's the swing?
posted by bonefish at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2010

They do a nice job on the cuts that I've listened to but isn't kind of a weird exercise to meticulously recreate performances that were improvised in the first place? Why not just play a copy of Waiting for Columbus and lip-sync to it?
posted by octothorpe at 4:24 PM on November 7, 2010

Out of the Little Feat stuff, I only listened to their version of Spanish Moon, and trust me, it's not that meticulous. The guitarist seems to have bothered the least with learning the guitar parts/words. He learned a lick or two, but none of the nuanced bits at all. Also, he came in with the vocals at the beginning of the horn bit, realized his mistake, and backed off for 4 bars. He'd forgotten the arrangement 30 seconds into the song. Weak. The bass player catches the vibe for a sec, then immediately starts overdoing it, and the keyboardist and drummer turn in respectable if workmanlike facsimiles. The hired guns -- the percussionist and the horn section carry them on a litter.

On the Zep stuff, there are major clams all over the whole thing. The bassist just stops playing altogether at some of the chord changes because he doesn't have any idea what to play at all. It's pretty embarrassing, actually. Any bass player that came up in the 70's should have Ramble On in the blood. It should be lizard-brain activity to play that for a supposed fan of JPJ.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:51 PM on November 7, 2010

On the Zep stuff, there are major clams all over the whole thing. The bassist just stops playing altogether at some of the chord changes because he doesn't have any idea what to play at all. It's pretty embarrassing, actually. Any bass player that came up in the 70's should have Ramble On in the blood. It should be lizard-brain activity to play that for a supposed fan of JPJ.

I really hate people who insist that there are certain things which every musician must know. I dislike the people who insist that their own culture is so essential that people who maybe aren't quite as obsessed with it have got a problem. I grew up loving Elizabethan courtship music, bagpipes, and Hungarian string players, most of which I whistle incessantly, and missed out on things like Led Zeppelin and Metallica and am not in a big hurry to get more into them. I liked the Zeppelin playing, so it works as music in the sense that it's likable. Maybe if I liked Led Zeppelin more I'd be as embarrassed as you, but I don't, so I thought the bassist was pretty cool. Just my two cents.

The only proper way to solo Stairway To Heaven is with a horn section, so in my admittedly opinionated opinion even Led Zeppelin didn't get that right. But I'd never presume to tell a band with thirty years' experience that their idea of what music should sound like is wrong, because I got over being a freshman in college about two years ago.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:48 AM on November 8, 2010

Rory, I'm only saying it's "wrong" in the sense that he (actually the whole band) didn't know the song at all -- the parts he plays he plays wrong because he's making ill-informed guesses, and several times, he drops out and stands there because he doesn't know it. This is not something a professional with 30 years of experience should be doing on stage. My point about Zep goes to "Hey, here's our tribute to this band we love" doesn't really ring true, because if you love them that much, and you have a decent ear for interval, you could actually do a decent job of guessing the chord changes, even if you didn't learn them, because you've heard them a lot growing up, like your Elizabethan courtship music. Phish is making their own claim to Zep fandom by playing the medley in the first place. If you went to a harpsichord recital, you'd expect the performer to be able to functionally read the sheet music and make some stab at playing the piece on paper in front of him, right?

No, songs don't have to be covered exactly note for note. I've commented plenty in threads here about re-makes of songs. I'm all for re-interpretation, but put some little modicum of thought into the process. This is like a bar band taking a 20 dollar tip from a drunk patron who insists they play a song they don't know, and playing it badly because they know the drunk patron can't tell the difference, and will rock out, anyway. Everyone may be having a good time, but it gets under my skin as a "professional" (except for the money part) to see a band so acclaimed blowing it so badly.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:16 AM on November 8, 2010

Like I said, the Zep stuff was spur-of-the-moment and fun to see but definitely messy. They've done a better job with Ramble On in the past -- and I still think that Good Times, Bad Times is badass.

I also noticed Trey's miscue in Spanish Moon -- but the rest of that track is still awesome, probably my current fave from the set. At any rate, the Halloween costume sets are not so much about "meticulousness" -- the point is to pay tribute, to have a good time, and to point to some Phish's influences. With this one, they turned a lot of people on to Little Feat, and every time they've done it in the past (The White Album, Quadrophenia, Remain in Light, Loaded, and Exile on Main St.) something of that album/band has stuck around and informed the Phish sound going forward.
posted by muckster at 6:43 AM on November 8, 2010

They do have a long history of spur-of-the-moment covers, I guess for the fun of it. I contributed a couple tracks to an XTC fan tribute thingy back in about 2001 & Phish submitted a version of Melt The Guns, which unfortunately, was probably from an audience cassette, but it was still a pretty ballsy thing to even try. so ME AND PHISH, WE'RE LIKE LABEL-MATES or something.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:43 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Phish, very much like Little Feat, is pretty much a band for musicians to enjoy. That isn't to say that non-musicians can't enjoy the music. I only point it out to highlight that most Phish fans that I know are indebted to music in very much a similar way that musicians are. They revere it and are moved by it, yet it always seems to come back to having fun.

This past Halloween weekend perfectly highlights what Phish is all about. Unique venues/locales (Boardwalk Hall), high energy spontaneity (The Zeppelin stuff the 2nd night which I guarantee was last-minute), and hours and hours of practice in order to 'get it right' for the fans. This includes the fans which are not only in-attendance, but also the 50,000 or so fans watching the illegal stream at home, as well as the thousands of fans downloading the show in the few days after the show.

As far as missed changes and coming in early, Devils Rancher, I am proud that you even noticed them! It goes to show that Phish does accomplish enough musically in order to throughly engage their listeners. They cover all of the bases from shallow to deep, especially for us musicians.

Remember - This isn't a band that ONLY plays XTC covers! I have seen them play over 266 of their own songs... That ends up ONLY being 34% of their total number. They also cover about a hundred songs on a regular basis! After all of that hard work though, I give 'em some leeway... OK, only two more points:

1. There is NO WAY Lowell George, a former member of Mothers of Invention, would be rolling over in his grave. No band today is more like MoI than Phish is. Nobody.

2. Speaking of Sample in A Jar, Little Feat actually covered this PHISH song, and it is available for free from The Mockingbird Foundation, a Phish-fan based charitable foundation...

Here is the link!
posted by sneakyalien at 9:46 AM on November 8, 2010

As far as missed changes and coming in early, Devils Rancher, I am proud that you even noticed them!

I'm hyper detail-oriented. I live and breathe this stuff. I really like to look hard at subtle nuance and change of inflection, and the ebb and flow of things is an important aspect of the listening experience to me, so I really pick songs apart note by note to see how certain bands accomplish that.

Songs to me are organic beings that have to live and breathe. They are not just a collection of notes and beats -- they are little bits of the human soul, pulled from the either. How musicians interact with one another in this process to me is one of the most fascinating aspects of human interaction, and it's where I've consistently felt the most alive, and where the most vital moments of my being here amongst others have occurred. Hyper-focusing on the performance of a song is personally meditative, but the group experience of doing it together is something more. It's a binding together in the here and now.

Also, everybody's a damn critic, eh?
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:00 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Devils Rancher, I think I love you for that last comment. You put into words exactly how I feel about music in a way that I've stuggled to find all my life. Thank you.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:24 PM on November 8, 2010

Thanks -- to me, my words seem stumbling, halting. That plate of beans is just about ineffable. I sure do love to ponder it, though. There's so much richness there.

Also, *either ether*
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:01 PM on November 8, 2010

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