Thursday, May 3, 2012

Phish - A Live Pass

Compilation (single artist)

Phish is one of those bands that can alternately thrill me or bore me to death.  At their best they are capable of reaching spellbinding heights of instrumental glory, but alas they're nearly as likely to lose my attention whenever their focus shifts away from the structured grooves that generally make them so formidable. Likewise, I find that their songwriting runs the gamut from inspired to insufferable. I think one could easily make a case for them as the most consistently inconsistent band of their era!

Oh, you can try to recommend various soundboards to me-- God knows many have-- but I can assure you that I will find even their best of shows to be hit or miss affairs. And that's not even considering their stinky patchouli-scented fan base!

While this long-winded introduction describing my relationship with the band may seem pointless (just like everything else I write), it may also go some way towards explaining why I decided to create this latest effort of mine. You see, for once I wanted a Phish CD I could spin in my car that was packed end to end with what I consider "the good stuff". No endless vamps, atonal wankery or mouth solos. Just tight songwriting and badass jams.

For sources I simply used my two favorite Phish concert recordings: 1997's Slip, Stitch and Pass and disc one of 1995's A Live One. The essential task was to whittle away the weak/ sloppy/ boring stuff from each disc and cram the good shit onto one 80 minute CD-R. Obviously a few halfway decent moments would also have to be sacrificed amidst the dross; but if the end result was the best single disc live Phish experience known to man, then it would all be worth it.

I'll never forget the marathon editing session that led to this mutant release. It was late Thursday night, I was all set to drive down to San Diego the next day with a girl I liked, and I needed this one for the car. 

To prepare for the session, I retrieved several tall bottles of a locally brewed double IPA called Drake's Hopocalypse (9.3% ABV, 100+ IBUs, in case you were wondering) and sat my ass down in front of the computer. The waveforms I had amassed were lossless and totaled over 110 minutes. Some surgery was clearly needed, but the surgeon was already well on his way towards being hammered.

With reckless abandon I nevertheless jumped in, quickly tossing aside a few of the lesser tracks and steadying myself for the core task of editing this fucker down to just under 80 minutes. Soon markers and splice points decorated the waveforms on my display. Sure I could have resorted to hackwork and just cut off arbitrary chunks of audio in order to fit within the time limit of a recordable disc. But would any good surgeon simply splice off his patient's appendages just to get them down to their target weight? No effing way! I had been tapped on the shoulder by a higher deity and commanded to make the world's first completely listenable Phish CD, not just for the good of my road trip but for the good of all mankind!

Click! Click! went my fingers on the mouse. Glug! Glug! went the Drake's down my throat. I sweated and slaved (by which I mean, barely moved) to create the perfect Phish concert. The edits were meticulous, the crossfades sublime. I remember the spirit of Trey Anastasio hovering above me at one point, advising me of the exact spot where his third solo in "You Enjoy Myself" got slightly less "crunchy" and thus could be justifiably spliced out.

By 2 a.m. I was completely finished, both with the beer and the mix. Final run time, 79 minutes and change. I passed out and then struggled through a few hours of work the next day before picking up the girl and doing the nine hour drive down to San Diego. Needless to say, we never did hook up on that trip, but at least the music was good. Thanks, Phish... and thank you, Drake's!


  1. My roommate in college during my freshman year decided to follow Phish on their farewell tour (a premature decision, apparently) and hadn't actually obtained permission for that prolonged absence. Upon his return, the university requested that he vacate the dorms and rescinded his enrollment at the college.

    For that reason, and that reason only, I dig Phish. ;)

    Had a room to myself for most of the year. All kinds of awesome.

    ... And there's some stuff on "Lawn Boy" that I can still enjoy.

  2. Nice! Yeah for whatever reason, Phish was extremely popular with the "bros & hos" crowd when I was in college, second perhaps only to the excratable Dave Matthews Band. My brother-in-law was a huge Dave fan at the time, and he drug me to several DMB shows all over the country. It's hard to relate the private hell that was my life upon hearing the introductory strains of "Ants Marching" for the gazillionth time... I think ultimately I would rather have been consumed by ants!

    Thankfully I'm no longer married to his sister and have successfully resumed a Dave-free existence, much to the benefit of my own psyche.

  3. Heya, just popped in to see what your blog was like, and my mind was blown. :D
    Keep working those fingers on the keyboard, boo! :P
    -KW ;)