Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mainstream Reviews: Its Not You, Its Me.

There have been a few mainstream articles about Phish's recent shows, most notably the MSG stand. All of these articles seem to have something in common:

a. The writer is talented
b. The writer is good at describing the scene
c. The writer says they "get it," however its not for them. (But really - they don't "get it")

On one hand, I enjoyed these articles, because they are well written. I am glad Phish is newsworthy. On the other hand, I am disappointed the writers don't get it. They are being polite. Phish has earned some level of respect. But somewhere, there is a missing link. It seems no one is talented enough to tell us why Phish is not for them. Sometimes I feel like these articles are a music version of a "its not you, its me" breakup letter. I think it is kind of funny these articles are too nice to bash the band and tell the reader to try it "at least once."

Village Voice
MTV
Esquire

And don't forget...More room for us to dance!!!

8 comments:

jonas0tt0 said...

"Sometimes I feel like these articles are a mucic version of a "its not you, its me" breakup letter."

WELL SAID, MY FRIEND!

miketoda said...

I wish these reviewers would leave themselves out of the review. Just review the show from a musical standpoint. You have never seen them before? I don't care. You saw them 70 times? I don't care.
Review the show, leave yourself out of it, and who cares who the audience is.

Dr. Pauly said...

Music is a two-way street. That's why it is important for the writer to interject themselves. Plus Phish is unlike most (if not all) of the bands that these writers cover. It is really difficult to describe Phish to non-heads without throwing yourself into the mix - and remarking upon the scene.

I think Trey summed it up the best about being in HS and not getting The Dead unlike his best buddy Tom Marshall who was a raging Deadhead. Trey said something to the effect of taking a hit of LSD and seeing the Dead -- and everything clicked for him. He finally got it.

I'm not suggesting that these reviewers need to drop Acid or lick molly off their palms. But they need to "free the mind" or as the lyrics suggest "surrender to the flow."

They also need to see an entire MSG run to fully comprehend Phish. Even then it takes a little longer. It didn't take me until 20+ shows and Jerry Garcia passing away before something clicked in me.

In closing, let me say this -- writing is not easy and writing about Phish is harder than you think. I'm a writer and reporter in my real life, I just play a doctor on Phish tour, but even though I've seen a significant amount of shows -- no matter what you say about Phish is going to elate and antagonize their wide spectrum of phans.

As the Joker said, the fact that they are writing about Phish at all... is ultimately a good thing.

Mark said...

While I agree with Dr. Pauly, I think that a good music critic should be able to do a concise review of a show from any genre, regardless of if they have seen the band before. I also agree that a commentary about "the scene" is sometimes warranted and I am usually happy if they don't use the words "Grateful Dead" as a means of comparison.

Dr. Pauly said...

Ditto Mark. The Dead analogies were sooooo 1996.

Phishentine said...

Well done Doctor.

Doctor. Doctor. Doctor.

Henry Holland said...

I can understand how hard it is to convey the Phish thing to people. I work in a small office (7 total) and the other 6 just don't get why I'll use all my vacation time to follow a band around. Even explaining "they play different shows every night, I travel so I can hear all my favorites" doesn't work. I play them live stuff, they still don't get it. It's so hard to put in words!

I mean, I can't explain why, of the shows I saw this summer (Shoreline, Gorge x 2, Toyota Park, 8), the one set that really blew me away was Gorge night 1, set 2 + encore. If I can't explain it to myself other than "a nice flow of songs really well played", I can't expect other people to "get it" either.

Great thread!

miketoda said...

By all means, I have no problem with a bit of back story for the mainstream who have no idea who Phish is, and interjecting yourself into the story is the norm now (tho Hunter Thompson did it best and there are far too many pale imitations), but these reveiwers get a little too cute with it.
I am sure the crowd at a Nickelback or a Creed show needs some explanantion (who the hell are these people?) but a brief explanation is best.
A lot of Phish reviews spend so much time talking about the crowd and the reviewer talks about themselves, if I had no idea who Phish was, I would still have a hard time understanding what the MUSIC was like.