Monday 08/22/2011 by bertoletdown

BLUDGEONING THE PHISH-DEAD HORSE

The thing about clichés is that they are mostly true.

It’s obvious after watching the Waxbanks-Wolfson-Gans cage match here on Phish.net and on Facebook over the past week that a lot of you feel very passionately about the Grateful Dead and Phish. More than a few of you feel very passionately about both and, like Waxbanks, I number myself among you. And more than a few of you favor one over the other with a generous measure of – let’s say – passion. It seems bafflingly necessary for some to litigate the merits or superiority of one over the other.

I find these arguments insipid and masturbatory, but I do understand the emotions from which they sprung. Phish blossomed as a live draw when – and perhaps because – the Grateful Dead were corkscrewing, and ultimately dying. It was, without exaggeration, an indescribably painful time. Ironically, though Phish was growing its fan base exponentially, the Phish show experience was not exactly hospitable in 1994 and 1995; many of us know naïve Deadheads who parachuted into the scene expecting a younger and more vital Grateful Dead II, but were treated instead to 30-minute improvisational mindfucks, secret language, narration, and throngs of diehard fans who had invested enough time to be in on the joke. Hardly a fur-lined safety net for the bereaved.

[And let’s be honest: if Phish was for everybody, it wouldn’t be special. It is music from the island of misfit toys and only kids with just exactly the right screw loose can come to love it unconditionally.]

The converse is true. Phish and many of their fans deeply resented interminable comparisons to the Grateful Dead, not because the Grateful Dead wasn’t influential or because the comparisons were never accurate – they often were. They resented the comparisons because they were just as often lazy and clichéd. They were also a ball and chain around the band’s collective ankle. Phish was brand savvy enough to know that they had to escape the Grateful Dead’s gravity before they could enter their own orbit and attain the artistic credibility they so richly deserved. And it would take them years of conscious effort to achieve it. Yes, there were some early-to-the-party phans who thought Jerry’s death laid out the welcome mat for throngs of malodorous noobs destined to never get Phish, but there weren’t that many of them, and fuck them anyhow.

Which brings me to my point: It’s 2011, and it’s time to grow up and get over it.

By “it” I don’t mean carefully constructed compare-and-contrast exercises designed to stir up blog traffic and provoke some academic discussion. Those will endure and probably should. By “it” I mean the parochial instincts and behaviors so many of us default to when the topic is raised.

Recognize and appreciate that music is not the NFL. I dig pro sports just fine, but I rejoice in a life unburdened by the need to stand nose to nose with some gin-blossomed blowhard in a mildewed bar and argue the relative merits of Cake and Sonic Youth. What a waste of precious oxygen, if for no other reason than Cake and Sonic Youth do not care. Artists who deserve your attention do not seek your loyalty, nor do they seek to ascend on another’s back. They are far too busy trying to keep a creative fire burning to keep score in some imagined tournament. So why do we insist on doing precisely that?

To be fair to Waxbanks, his essay wasn’t the least bit parochial. He had a thesis he felt had merit which spoke to a defining difference between the Grateful Dead and Phish. While some of his supporting arguments may have been less benign than his thesis, it’s sad to see Grateful Dead academicians I admire so unnecessarily on tilt about the whole affair. The musicians and lyricists and crew members and back office staffs of both of these bands have toiled for decades, collectively, to suggest to you a host of higher thoughts and sentiments.

So here are mine.

The Grateful Dead and Phish changed my life forever. They are binary stars in my musical sky, and I will be warmed by each in different ways, on different cycles, for as long as I live. And while I am quite capable of musing about their differences, it is their similarities that once again intrigue and move me.

The primary reason both of these bands have captivated people – and the reason why tens of thousands of people never went on Bobby and the Midnites tour or Pork Tornado tour or even Jerry Garcia Band tour – is because they were and are alchemical. The personal and musical relationships of the players generated more light and heat than they were capable of individually, or with any other collaborators. The songs of each band’s maturing repertoire referenced and informed each other, and built toward a meta-narrative that defined each band more than any other single attribute. And they achieved nearly all of this not sequestered away in a studio, but on a stage, within spitting distance, inviting us all to participate in their great creation in as many different ways as we could conjure.

If you must share an orbit, you could do far worse.

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Comments

, comment by Lemuria
Lemuria +Image
, comment by jackl
jackl Nicely put. Both bands changed my life for the better, some 20 years apart.
, comment by the_Crested_Hogchoker
the_Crested_Hogchoker nice piece dude- most on point thing I've read on here in quite some time
, comment by YorkvilleBeerLover
YorkvilleBeerLover whew! i like both bands just fine.
, comment by SolarGarlic419
SolarGarlic419 They both rock my world!!! very educated breakdown.
, comment by HighGearAntelope
HighGearAntelope Right on. MANY will agree. But hey, it's just fun to compare/contrast. I just spent the last 6 to 7 hours around a campfire with a buddy of mine listening to Dead and Phish shows while we sent dozens maybe hundreds more Dead and Phish shows from his collection onto my brand new 2 TB hard drive. And what did we do? Talked about how good this show was; how bad that tour was; how Dead shows and Phish shows differed, and what they had in common.

Bobby and the Midnites rocked btw! "Live in America" video?! Classic. *clears throat*

Oh, and I dig the binary stars metaphor. The GD are the big star in my universe, but a great metaphor nonetheless!

, comment by HenryHolland
HenryHolland More than a few of you feel very passionately about both and, like Waxbanks, I number myself among you. And more than a few of you favor one over the other with a generous measure of – let’s say – passion

Um, where's "Never liked The Grateful Dead, would live a happy content life if they never heard another note of their music on classic rock radio and only care about Phish"? I guess that would torpedo any article one might want to write about Dead v. Phish, but am I the only Phish fan who acknowledges the debt Phish owes the Dead but doesn't give a damn about the Grateful Dead's music?
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd Here here. This is a great, measured post.

When I wrote an entry on Phish for the Grove Dictionary of American Music, I had to mention the Dead connection, if only for the fact that being compared to the Dead is part of Phish's past, present, and future. The thing is, there are many similarities between the Dead and Phish, but there are even more between the non-musical aspects of the Dead and the non-musical aspects of Phish. In fact, I've often said that music is the least shared element between these two bands. Still, it is an unavoidable comparison. Read my thoughts here: http://smoothatonalsound.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/canonizing-phish/
, comment by dosemeonturrr
dosemeonturrr Well said, and thanks.

To add one last piece of relevant comparison, it should be noted that seeing the Dead live in highschool directly inspired and turned Trey on to the entire jamband/audience experience, so in a very direct way one did inspire the other. Your assertion that artists don't seek to ascend on other's backs I disagree with. They would never be so bold or callous as to assert that they invented the musical theory they use to create. In just this way, I'm sure they have made deep peace with the flow of musical ideas through generations and feel that the advancement of soundscapes by those before them gives the band the freedom of such a broad palette. In much the same way that Isaac Newton claimed that if he were to see further, it was only by standing on the shoulders of his colleagues and those who lived before.
, comment by Dead_Phish
Dead_Phish The author has removed all of the text from their comment
, comment by Jackaroe
Jackaroe Sometimes it appears to me that we go too far in trying to deconstruct any connection between these two bands. There are many more similarities in their dynamics than there are differences. We can talk about their differences all day, but when you compare them to Brittany Spears, or the Boston Philharmonic, or Metallica, you start to realize why many people have an appreciation for both bands. If we fail in this comparison, its when we shorten the list to two. There are many bands out there with a following (definition: people are willing to take large chunks of time out of their lives to watch you play all over the country). The scene that you see at a Phish show is similar to the scene at a Dead show, but throw in Allman's, Widespread, etc. and you will come up with a list of bands that all fit into this broad category.

, comment by Dead_Phish
Dead_Phish Isn't the world much better with both Phish (past and present tense) and Grateful Dead (mainly memories) ??

Without being a "Ditto-Head" clone, Phish carries on the fond memories of the Dead spirits.

I'm ancient history (almost 65) and am very thankful for what Phish is doing right now. Awesome stuff occurring during the Phish tours this year.
, comment by ZapRowsdower
ZapRowsdower Malodorous noobs, heh.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Your assertion that artists don't seek to ascend on other's backs I disagree with. They would never be so bold or callous as to assert that they invented the musical theory they use to create. In just this way, I'm sure they have made deep peace with the flow of musical ideas through generations and feel that the advancement of soundscapes by those before them gives the band the freedom of such a broad palette. In much the same way that Isaac Newton claimed that if he were to see further, it was only by standing on the shoulders of his colleagues and those who lived before.[/quote]

Okay, yes, but that's not exactly what I meant. I meant that they don't seek to ascend on the backs of their peers, i.e. "get over on" another contemporary for the purposes of being viewed as superior - or create rivalries or street duels. Yes, they are all drawing from and walking on a foundation left for them by others.
, comment by MDosque
MDosque Great article. I enjoyed reading that this morning. I actually like to focus on the differences in order to experience both bands in my own way. The Dead and Phish seem so different each time I think about it and listen to them. That author's use of the idea of cycles is right on in my book. Right now, I am churning through Phish shows, mainly the all-star shows of 97-98 because it has been a little while and I am just simply on that kick. But I know, once the leaves start changing a little and a nip hits the air, I will be digging deep into some 70's Dead that has been on the back burner. I really go on benders with these two. Musically, Trey explains it well with his interview with Charlie Rose. The Dead is Americana. They channeled Bill Monroe, the old blues singers, and 1950's roots music long before members of Phish were born. Their music is twisted Americana 1960's style. When Phish started making music, they could pick from all that as well, but were also able to interpret the interpretations of that music. Zep, Zappa, Hendrix, The Dead themselves, and mainstream classic rock is intertwined deeply in Phish songs and jams.

Personally, for thick funk, intensity, musical composition (waxbanks is pretty right on with his article concerning chaos), and actual experience, I enjoy Phish. When the band is locked in to a building Antelope jam and rides the wave of the crowd, I feel that energy. But for pure emotion, song writing, lyrics, and undeniable magnetism, I go for the Dead. Jerry's vocal delivery on China Doll from Reckoning and the band's tender support is so organically emotional, that I get chills every time. And Bobby fans are people, too! Great discussion and nicely written article.
, comment by pauly
pauly Can't we just agree that these 2 bands are Americas Best..I was never a huge Dead fan,I respect them are a band though..as Jerry put it,"the GD is like black licorise,u either like it or you don't"
, comment by deadphish28
deadphish28 Good points. Bottom line is, they will always be lumped together by the mainstream. No matter how all of us individual fans know all the differences. Same thing is happening right now with Umphrey's McGee Vs. Phish. Umph is more like Rush and Yes than Phish, but they get lumped as a jam band, hence Phish, since their songs aren't 5 minutes or less.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @bertoletdown -

Nicely put, and thank you, and hear hear, etc. ...

...but I confess I don't get the Wolfson/Gans reference. I know the latter name, of course, but that's it...
, comment by jcmarckx
jcmarckx I started seeing The Dead in 1985, and I saw them 70 times right up to 6/10/94. I first saw Phish in 1991, and have so far seen them 41 times. Age and responsibilities have slowed my concert attendance dramatically. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Grateful Dead. They are deepest in my heart, but Phish is a very close second. I have collected more Dead music than Phish, but not by much. I currently listen to more Phish because they are currently making new music and have new concerts for me to collect.
So, I guess I am saying that I go back and forth between the two depending on mood. I truly LOVE them both. Seriously. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! No other bands have even come close to touching my heart the ay that Phish and The Dead have. I still get the same excitement over trying to guess what Phish will play at a show that I had 25 years ago at a Dead show. I get giddy over this shit!
I think when I first started seeing Phish 20 years ago I thought they were somewhat akin to the Dead (even if I thought they sounded more like Zappa), but these days I see, and hear, two totally different bands with two totally different things to offer a listener.
I am truly honored to have been a part of both bands' experience!
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Waxbanks - the main dude you were squaring off with in your thread was Rob Wolfson.
, comment by bmrobin
bmrobin hear, hear. put this age-old argument to rest and enjoy both, one, or neither.
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy @bmrobin said:
hear, hear. put this age-old argument to rest and enjoy both, one, or neither.
I enjoy the discourse and discussion, have been doing in for 20 years. And I still pick "both".

Nice piece Chris.

, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @bertoletdown said:
Waxbanks - the main dude you were squaring off with in your thread was Rob Wolfson.
Never heard of the fella - I'm sure he's a swell guy.

Huh, is David Gans reading this from his isolation booth somewhere in the land of the dead?
, comment by teddymirage
teddymirage phuck* so check it out... i hope this all comes out right~! for one of the very few folks who did 90 % of phish and furthur tour this summer i come authentic to you "kidz". Grew up an ardent dylan/deadhead around phish family. Was drawn deep into the vortex of jerry and the boys at a young age. The difference for me was THE DEAD WAS TESTAMENT.. thats how powerful it was.. The message on the surface from hunter was quite easy to comprehend.. ( I would later realize how complex his lyrics actually were... so many double and even triple meanings) jerry's playin was something that will NEVER be repeated. (same goes for Trey..) Some of my homeboys startin tourin around 96' w/ PHISH. Call it fate.. call it circumstance.. call it whatever but I did not get this Phish at that point in time in my life.

I saw much animosity on furthur lot this summer for PHISH and obviously vice versa. I even saw very confused faces when me and my homey SOLO raged the SAT NITE SUPERBALL STREAM at the shakedown in the Electirk Forest ( cheese/ dub step fest). I wondered why these people could not feel the love we have for them and music in general?! This is Jerry's dream.. sitting up on a cloud, watching it all continue to evolve be4 our very eyes. As I participaed in the Phish festivites this past weekend in Chicago and Phish raged on with a blazing "FIRE".. all i could really think about is what JIMI would say and i got my answer.. GROOVY BABAAAYE haha. Im a machine gun funk, great garcias ghost anomaly who discovered the power and majesty of Phish a little later than some of his peers. Instead of people trying to be so divisive.. maybe they should frickin realize that it is one big family tree. One feeds of the other and THAT IS THE TRUTH. Its odd when you old heads, (PHISH AND GD) feel you need to make snap judgments from that high pedestal you stand on. DONT YOU CATS REMEMBER THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS BEING THERE..... and you have no real idea of the true textures of soul and music that are being shared unless you are there... literally!~ Its not a damn competition. The scene is strong because of us all. We are a team working together.. for common goals of creation and UNITY!@!~ I will always hold GD MAGIK above all as they were the innovators but like my girl shannon told me. TREY IS MY JERRY!@ and shes' fuckin right. Ive felt that Phish gospel more than once. I told my homey Deg1 after Cuyahoga 6/4/11 how i got that wonderful, sparkly, family feeling and it was definetly confirmed in my heart of hearts down in CHARLOTTE NC 6/17/11. I cannot discount my furthur tour.. if you doubt me listen to the end of SPAC 7/19/11 wharf rat> eclipse> MOTM> UJB> VIOLA LEE... the next nite i met a cat that goes by the name UNK.. he asked me for a dollar more than once.. to get himself into the show.. I told him persistence pays off and he definelty agreed as SPAC was his 700th dead family show since 89'.. thats alot of fuckin shows kids! Dead serious is what they call it~ something must be bringing him back again and again.

You can argue technical merits of music til the cows come home.. but like another friend of mine told me a long time ago.. It does no good to debate about music, because, whatever you like is what you like. Music is art, conveying much emotion but on its most basic level... it should just make YOU FEEL GOOD! ( ABOUT HOOD) OR as we continue to "PLAY IN THIS BAND" of merry gods and goddesses... fountains of youth.. frickin unicorns, fluffheads and double rainbows; Just remember.. that it all can coincide under a "brand new crescent moon". the basic truth of the DEAD ( WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR UUUUUUUUUUUUUU KINDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!~?????

I love all of you so very much..... This beautiful family continues to teach us all. Now its time for the earth to die once more as autumn approaches. Death and Rebirth.. the cycle continues above the waves and beneath. I am forever grateful for all of you. and Jerry I know would ask of us "CAN YOU STILL HAVE FUN????!!!!!" XOXO from the desk of darkeststarstillwaiting..... peace eternal
, comment by TennesseeJed
TennesseeJed ^^^^^ posted as a comment in both articles ^^^^^
, comment by McPhishman
McPhishman Great discussion! Having first seen the Dead in 1973, and continuing to see bands like Further as recently as June of this year, I have been, and always will be a huge Dead fan.

When I picked up a copy of "Pictures of Nectar" in the early "90's, I was immediately hooked, and went out and bought "Lawn Boy" and "Junta" within a few days. Ironically, it has been years since I have listened to any studio Phish albums, but I have continued to listen to live Phish since my first discovery. For GD studio albums, I still listen to "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead" occasionally, but usually it's live Dead I listen to.

The bands are so different musically, but I embrace both bands sometimes to the point of scary obsession. I accept this, and my family seems to accept this "as just the way I am, like it or not".

I was never able to understand the arguments I have heard over the years about the superiority of one band vs. the other, and I am just very happy to have both of them, and I will generally attend any and all of the few West Coast Phish shows, and any Dead-related show here in the Bay Area.

It's great for our planet to have been blessed with both of these phenomenal bands!
, comment by robertchampion
robertchampion I agree with everything you said but would have liked to hear more about the alchemical stuff you threw in at the end. You just threw that it but didn't explain it.

, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead "The Grateful Dead and Phish changed my life forever. They are binary stars in my musical sky, and I will be warmed by each in different ways, on different cycles, for as long as I live."

Beautifully stated sir.

I share your sky with a frequent visit from Zappa's comet.
, comment by phishyzo
phishyzo The author has removed all of the text from their comment
, comment by phishyzo
phishyzo The author has removed all of the text from their comment
, comment by TennesseeJed
TennesseeJed I'm at that age where the Grateful Dead changed my life, and Phish recharged my batteries. I've never had to choose between them.

I may need to make some adjustments if my iPod ever shuffles Tweezer into the Dead's Scarlet > Fire.
, comment by Mr_Miner
Mr_Miner I love both bands and was lucky to experience both. The late 80's and early 90's were an amazing time. When the Dead was not on tour you could catch Phish at the Paradise or Campus Club or one of the schools here in New England and be blown away. It was our little secret....our little joke. Cats out of the bag for sure.

, comment by ckess22
ckess22 "[And let’s be honest: if Phish was for everybody, it wouldn’t be special. It is music from the island of misfit toys and only kids with just exactly the right screw loose can come to love it unconditionally.]"
hell yeah. and last time i checked i'm an only child and really enjoyed the ThunderCats.
Just on point all the way. Thanks.
, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead I REALLY LOVE THE PHISH!
, comment by TennesseeJed
TennesseeJed
It is music from the island of misfit toys and only kids with just exactly the right screw loose can come to love it unconditionally
You'll never fit in! Now you come to elf practice, learn how to wiggle your ears, chuckle warmly, go hee-hee and ho-ho, and important stuff like that.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown @waxbanks said:
@bertoletdown said:
Waxbanks - the main dude you were squaring off with in your thread was Rob Wolfson.
Never heard of the fella - I'm sure he's a swell guy.

Huh, is David Gans reading this from his isolation booth somewhere in the land of the dead?
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tales-from-the-Golden-Road/140446889324660?sk=wall&filter=12
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown BTW, I don't Facebook. That link was sent to me by somebody on the Mockingbird list. I assumed incorrectly that you must have seen that discussion. Sorry for the non sequitur!
, comment by dRStone
dRStone [And let’s be honest: if Phish was for everybody, it wouldn’t be special. It is music from the island of misfit toys and only kids with just exactly the right screw loose can come to love it unconditionally.]

Fantastic quote. Definitely gonna have to use that one. Great article.
, comment by AugustWest2001
AugustWest2001 I waited all day to weigh in on this. I'm not gonna essay it up, but I will agree that for me, both are "testament". Both bands in any stages have a creativity and raw energy that are indescribable only through useless, yet heartfelt lengthy hyperbole. They've made made life worth listening.
, comment by Phishphan1983
Phishphan1983 Great article, as well as everyone's comments following it! I am 28 years old, so i definitely entered "the scene" (notice we consider "the scene" to include both Phish and the Dead) during Phishs' prime. However, I saw the Dead w/ Jerry before i ever saw Phish, (My only Grateful Dead show was the last show ever at Soldier Field) and i am so GRATEFUL that i got the chance to have seen them both. Since then, i have seen over 50 Phish shows, ranging from 99' to these last 3 amazing shows at UIC Pavillion. I prefer Phishs music to the Dead, but i love them both so much more than any other bands, and i give the Dead all the credit in the world for creating such a beautiful thing that we have all been a part of. There are obviously many musical differences between the two, but to argue about who is better than the other is ridiculous when u think of what they both stand for. They both created something much bigger than the music itself, tho we all GET OFF on the music, which is why we have these conversations. At my age, I am lucky to be able to say that i saw them both, and the only thing that any of us should be saying is that we are a part of the greatest musical thing in the world, whether it be Phish or the Dead or both.
, comment by ph_2k
ph_2k Really this is still a relevant conversation? I started listening to Phish in 94 and saw them for the 1st time in 95...both bands are great for different reasons...phan culture of phish grew out of what deadheads started years earlier...but hands down deadheads were way more dedicated than phish phans...and i am a phish kid...touring, taping, tapers section, trading, mail order, etc. this was all originated by deadheads...the deadheads created the scene...hell, phish kids call it shakedown where our little market place exists...you don't see any phish references on dead tour...
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks It's probably worth mentioning that one of the motivations behind my Phish/Dead comparison post in the first place - besides pure cussedness of course - was to clear a little space for actual musicological work on the evolution of 'improvisatory rock,' and the way Phish and later 'jam bands' (ugh) relate genealogically to musical sources from free jazz to Afrobeat to punk to techno to avant-garde ambient soundscaping. The coherence of Phish's improv, their particular weird one-musical-machine approach, is unique, as is their devotion to a particular kind of listening-exercise. But several other genres/bands serve as 'conditions of possibility' for Phish. Past the limited (but useful because of its stark contrast) comparison of Phish's and the Dead's improv styles, the lineage is way way more interesting.

Shit, as far as I'm concerned all 'jam band' music was born the moment Tony Williams switched to the ride cymbal at the climax of Miles's solo on 'It's About That Time'...
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @ph_2k said:
hell, phish kids call it shakedown where our little market place exists...you don't see any phish references on dead tour...
that's because time stopped in 1995 ;v)
, comment by kaptain
kaptain I was a Phish hater. I was a 15 year old die-hard dead fan, and NOTHING could hold a candle to my favorite band back then. I was also an idiot.

I expected Phish to sound just like the dead, and figured they were just some act cashing in on the dead's fan base. So I talked shit about the band with the strange name which I had never heard. I was wrong, and stupid.

The first Phish song I ever heard was rift. I woke up at a strange house after a party. I grabbed a tape off the floor and slammed it in my walkman. My first thought was, "holy shit! this is fucking awesome." I listened to Rift about 100 times. Then I bought a ticket to the next show.

I never looked back.

Still a dead fan. I have not ever noticed a similarity between the two bands music. Seriously.
, comment by sohappy
sohappy Who are the Grateful Dead? Is that like a country band or something?
, comment by jdub18
jdub18 I was born in 1990. I never saw the Grateful Dead live. I never saw Jerry. But Jerry's guitar tune is the only sound that my brain is comforted by. I can't explain why I am so devoted to a band I have never seen completely live. Granted I have seen Phil and Friends, Ratdog, DSO, Furthur, and The Dead numerous times each...still. The Grateful Dead changed my life and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way

When I first heard Phish it was 2009 and they had just gotten back together. At that time the only bands I listened to were The Grateful Dead (favorite era still late 70's, but learning to love the Brent era), The Allman Brother's Band, and a lot of Bob Dylan.

[honestly, my parents thought I was a freak for listening to only 1960-1970's music]

Then I heard Phish and it changed my life. I think I first heard them of Jam On radio station during one of their "Gone Phishin'" segments. Listened to an entire set and was hooked. The next week I bought my Phisheroo '09 ticket and never looked back....

It is unfortunate that I never saw the Grateful Dead but as I'm rocking to 12/31/77 this morning (sugar> scarlet> fire, truckin' is fuckin rockin') I know that no matter what, in this community, the music never stops, it never dies. EVER. Hope all you older folks know how lucky you are. I am lucky too, because there is still music that moves me playing all across the country
, comment by theHC
theHC "the Grateful Dead were corkscrewing, and ultimately dying."

I saw my only Dead shows during the early 1990's and for someone who didn't know, it was as magical to me as it was for someone back in '64-'67... though it may not have been on the same musical level, it didn't matter to a kid from Utah. Standing in the middle of the floor of the 'old' Sam Boyd's Stadium, I was still gettin' it :D

The longer people are fans, the more the perspective changes. No doubt there. I will submit, however, that music is very much about perspective. And perspective is drawn from the depths of what makes you a person, all the things that make you tick, which includes your history, your genetic make-up, the albums your parents had in their collection, etc. Growing up listening to my mom's Who, Beatles and Jethro Tull albums, well, you could say I developed a specific perspective about music. One that jived with the later additions of The Grateful Dead, Phish, and dare-I-say... Widespread Panic. I've pondered this topic repeatedly over the years, and I think one of the things that draws it all together, at least for me, is the sheer dependence on the Real. It is a willingness to put the music above the musician... a concept that appears to be sorely lacking in some of the more mainstream veins of music today... in my opinion :D .

A final example of perspective... I hadn't seen Phish in a few years, when I got down to Broomfield last fall... Fishman's efforts in Moma made this version an instant classic for me... and some of my companions, who have been diligent phans for years didn't think too highly of the shows... so it could be said they've seen more so they know more, or perhaps, they are lookin' too hard, too close, with too much expectation... again, just a matter of perspective.

, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown @theHC:

I understand completely.

I saw my first Dead show on 3-26-88. There were jaded vets who insisted on telling me I'd missed it all. That the band was done. Obviously a band like that is never "done" until they stop playing live - there are merely consistency issues. I subsequently saw the Warlocks crack open Dark Star and Attics, Ripple at the Cap Centre, the Casey Jones bustout, and a bunch of other more common but incredibly well played stuff I still listen to today. 1993-1995 were not good years for the Grateful Dead but they still had high moments. Without a doubt.
, comment by Timber22
Timber22 Great piece. Thank you.
Can people please leave behind the 15year old Greatful Dead photo copied posters, beat-up wood carvings and piles of GD t-shirts out of the lot....
We are at a damn Phish show!!!! Please have some respect for both bands.
, comment by jackl
jackl @Timber22

LOL. While we've been discussing the bands' respective music, Dead fans are definitely different than Phish fans, especially when it comes to dress code and "kit" (at least on the East Coast).

Phish fans may dress a bit weird in a costume style or Burning Man fashion, beads and such, but judging from Dead-o-centric festies like GOTV and Further, many if not most Dead fans are still back in the tie-dyed shirt hippy mode and lots of the GDP-licensed iconography -- the "stealie" face shirts, skull and roses, dancing bears, tie dyes, tapestries and on and on.

You see few tie dies at Phish shows. Phish merch, even lot merch, other than the one Phish "logo" shirt, has always tended to be varied and not a single look or handful of designs, like the GD. Phish kept a much tighter control over distribution too, only selling merch through Dry Goods online and venue concessions and not flooding the market through licensing so kids could buy the shirts in a J.C. Penneys or Spencers Gifts in any mall in America. And phans went for the obscure, like song title shirts, where the game was NOT to say "Phish" on the shirt or bumper sticker so only hipster insiders would know, not the po po, and the merch was not infringing on the Phish trademarks.

So there are business and cultural reasons that Dead and Phish fan taste in merch is different, but I'd agree that, like some of the reaction to these articles about the music, the Dead fans seem a bit trapped in time in the mid-90s in kind of a Rip Van Winkleseque way.

(I'm glad I enjoyed both bands a lot, the Dead in their day, but my feet are firmly planted in the Phish camp since '93 and I must say I do not find the various Dead cover bands exciting concert fare these days...there are some nuggets and pleasant

My last generalization is this: perhaps because there is no longer a possibility of Jerry playing, Dead fans are a lot more tolerant and appreciative of cover bands -- with or without original members -- and various spinoff projects (Ratdog) than Phish fans are tolerant of cover bands. I took a lot of guff from people during the hiatus by being a fan of Phix, a fantastic Phish cover band.

Dead fans seem very tolerant and appreciative of cover bands like Dark Star Orchestra, and they don't seem to get at all wrapped up in what Phish fans (I think) would tend to do, which is argue things like "DSO > Furthur?". And I noticed a lot more people at Dead fests like GOTV seem to be amateur musicians and be able to strum along and sing most of the classic Dead ballads.

OK, enough generalizations, stereotypes, cliches, etc. but there is some truth in this perhaps. But it's all in fun and not intended to be a big slam on anyone, just differences I've also noticed.
, comment by lpenoza
lpenoza @McPhishman said:
Great discussion! Having first seen the Dead in 1973, and continuing to see bands like Further as recently as June of this year, I have been, and always will be a huge Dead fan.

(snip)

The bands are so different musically, but I embrace both bands sometimes to the point of scary obsession. I accept this, and my family seems to accept this "as just the way I am, like it or not".

I was never able to understand the arguments I have heard over the years about the superiority of one band vs. the other, and I am just very happy to have both of them, and I will generally attend any and all of the few West Coast Phish shows, and any Dead-related show here in the Bay Area.

It's great for our planet to have been blessed with both of these phenomenal bands!
Hellllllll Yes. I isolated the last part of this quote as I could not say it any better.

It was 9 years later than '73 that I actually got a ticket to a GD concert at the old Spectrum RIP (passed up the band for years and can't really recall why...). This decision changed everything in my musical universe profoundly. I lost count after 100 GD concerts all the way out to 1995, and ravenously collected the material from 1968 onward.

It was 1991 when PHiSH made their first stop in Seattle (Ballard's The Backstage RIP) and thanks to Rob G giving me Maxell XLII-90 copies of 4-22-90 and 10-31-90 several months in advance (my friend KNEW me) I made it to the show. It was a complete surprise to me at the age of 30 that year that there was another band that could capture my soul with such power AGAIN. I went to as many of the Pac NW shows as I could with the balance of my life - job/home/son/wife and soon enough my own band - not to mention whatever GD concerts I could get to as well.

Musically, I did not hear GD in PHiSH. I heard a wide range of influences that were my own. Like them, I was an east coast boy until I went northwest in 1986, about 3-4 older than them, and it's not surprising this could be the case. The 2-set format and tendency to mix songs that pleased me greatly with wild improvisational jamming was the common factor to me.

I just don't read analytical battles with these fans but I wanted to respond to this excellent OP. I spend THAT time LISTENING to the ass-kicking music that matches my DNA - from both of my live-performance obsessions. I LOVE IT!
, comment by mangobrain
mangobrain Wow!!!! Passionate discussion, albeit a bit passé, good to read all the same. I'm glad to see that stone-throwing has been kept to a minimum. This is important, as the matter is totally subjective, less you delve into more technical aspects which, in my humble opinion, represents an exercise in futility. If it sounds good and makes you groove, who gives a s#%t? I've been an avid listener of both bands for many years; usually mood determines my choice.

Just a bizarre thought (one that may have already been explored above), what would a Dead cover of Phish sound like?
, comment by BajaPhish
BajaPhish These bands rule. I doubt we'll get to discuss this again in the future with a third band part of it.

The only part I don't get is why JGB isn't in any comments. JGB was the church on Sunday for us heads that saw GD as a Rager Saturday night.

JGB warfield may have been a peak for a lot of people that were there.

All 3 bands are so different and blow anything else live away.

Thank God Phish is back!!!!!
, comment by AngelMarie
AngelMarie @HenryHolland said:
More than a few of you feel very passionately about both and, like Waxbanks, I number myself among you. And more than a few of you favor one over the other with a generous measure of � let�s say � passion

Um, where's "Never liked The Grateful Dead, would live a happy content life if they never heard another note of their music on classic rock radio and only care about Phish"? I guess that would torpedo any article one might want to write about Dead v. Phish, but am I the only Phish fan who acknowledges the debt Phish owes the Dead but doesn't give a damn about the Grateful Dead's music?
, comment by AngelMarie
AngelMarie @HenryHolland said:
More than a few of you feel very passionately about both and, like Waxbanks, I number myself among you. And more than a few of you favor one over the other with a generous measure of � let�s say � passion

Um, where's "Never liked The Grateful Dead, would live a happy content life if they never heard another note of their music on classic rock radio and only care about Phish"? I guess that would torpedo any article one might want to write about Dead v. Phish, but am I the only Phish fan who acknowledges the debt Phish owes the Dead but doesn't give a damn about the Grateful Dead's music?
//but...Phish does not "owe" the "Grateful Dead" anything.....paths are chosen...and paths are walked...energy is constant so the "flow" will flow...without reason~~~
, comment by HenryHolland
HenryHolland //but...Phish does not "owe" the "Grateful Dead" anything.....paths are chosen...and paths are walked...energy is constant so the "flow" will flow...without reason~~~

Care to translate that, I'm not fluent in New Age Hippiespeak.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown @HenryHolland said:
//but...Phish does not "owe" the "Grateful Dead" anything.....paths are chosen...and paths are walked...energy is constant so the "flow" will flow...without reason~~~

Care to translate that, I'm not fluent in New Age Hippiespeak.
Pretty easy shot, don't you think?
, comment by joeyjojojr
joeyjojojr what's really mind-boggling is that no one even knows the 1 thing (and 1 thing only) that phish has in common with the dead. Here it is - Mixolydian mode improvisations. Every dead jam revolves around it. Phish uses it in a lot of jams (reba, gin, hood, etc...) but phish will take it so much further than that. Phish can go from mixolydian to phrygian(create tension) and back to mixolydian (prob in another key) before anyone can get a grip on it. There really is no comparison. Personally, I'll take the dead's studio albums over phish's, anyday. However - live shows - Phish blows dead out of the water.
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray bertoletdown -

That review of Slip, Stitch and Pass you linked to here is hysterical.

It reminds me of Mike in Bittersweet Motel, loving the fact Todd Phillips made Trey read bad reviews on camera. As though Todd had much of a choice, since that Milo Miles review was a *favorable* one, and still managed to slag the band with every other sentence.

I started playing guitar at 14, and like every boy at that age, I started dreaming of what kind of band would be MY BAND. I was introduced to the Dead at 16, and Phish at 19-20. The Dead were a band that gave me all that I could want from a band I listened to, but Phish was the sound/attitude/balls of the band that was in my head (but I wasn't talented enough to execute myself). So much so, that I used to have a list of cover songs I would want to play with my band. It was nearly 30 songs long. Phish played over 20 of them.

Not that I think one is ultimately better than another, for how can you compare two sunrises, but Phish is the one I have overwhelmingly preferred for 16 years.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown @joeyjojojr wrote:

"what's really mind-boggling is that no one even knows the 1 thing (and 1 thing only) that phish has in common with the dead. Here it is - Mixolydian mode improvisations."

lololololol

Yeah, mind-boggling. How is that not perfectly obvious to everybody? You just sort of blew the lid off my Universe.
, comment by Timber22
Timber22 @jackl
nicely put!!
Thanks buddy.
, comment by freee
freee I think you got it ... the dead was a testament....And I think phish is testifying now, I loved phish from the first time I heard YEM, now there's a maturity that translates into pure joy...........they are doing it............and it's fucking lovely!
, comment by AaronMC
, comment by forbin1
forbin1 Great discussion...great points and very knowlegable posters here...
, comment by PhlyPhisher
PhlyPhisher this is a great discussion for once and thanks to posters for staying on topic. very good points made by many. I have seen both bands many times and as far as i'm concerned from a music perspective they couldn't be more different. the similarities lie in the scene and the attitude more than anything. it's hard to find a dead tune that relates to Phish and vice versa, musically speaking. i find a lot more similarities between Frank Zappa's bands and Phish than i ever did with the dead. take and listen to a zappa song like "Inca Roads" then play, oh say, "Harry Hood" or "slave to the traffic light" and you will see what i mean.

i think the backgrounds of Trey and Jerry were so different musically too. Jerry was much more structured and classically taught before the dead. he was using his music to make money right from the start with teaching guitar and performing. Trey came from a liberal arts school where the focus was much more on the spirit of music and a lot less structured. Jerry was teaching guitar lessons to kids while Trey was writing "gamehenge" at the same ages (roughly). wildly different attitude toward music right from the start.
, comment by CmdrDarklighter
CmdrDarklighter We are so incredibly lucky to have Phish 3.0. It is rare enough that a band this cool comes along at all, let alone in a mature form after potentially being lost forever. Enjoy it while you can, all things pass!
See you in Colorado!
, comment by hormonedetector
hormonedetector The important thing to remember is that Mike has great calves and the Goddard Men's Basketball team just isn't that great. If someone wants to argue about something, there is a great website where you can weigh in with your opinion - http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact . Here you can find information on the steady collapse of your government by decades of inept leadership and a lack of gusto from its citizenship. I highly suggest directing some of your opinion to that website. Speak up!
Stoked on forthcoming Co shows, a love of Bobbys chops, Phil's voice, a fake-jerry on guitar, Phish across the country, and Dead Boots from 73, Mikes White High Tops, Page's hairline, Fish's Samba classics, Trey's Ocelot guitar, 12.2.95 New Haven, and a healthy interest in a healthy future of the US and A!
, comment by clusterfly6
clusterfly6 The author has removed all of the text from their comment
, comment by clusterfly6
clusterfly6 Whoops!, Very nicely put. If you where at any Dead shows in the 70's, you you know how special it was. Just took my teenagers to our 1st PHISH show in CHI. 8/17. WOW! I don't know who had a better time? Felt like I was back there again. I'm just glad that my kids have a band that is even comparable to the Dead. But I'll tell ya, it feels good to be sharin' in the groove. I say "If you get confused, listen to the music play"

Love Ya'
Clusterfly6
, comment by clusterfly6
clusterfly6 @CmdrDarklighter said:
We are so incredibly lucky to have Phish 3.0. It is rare enough that a band this cool comes along at all, let alone in a mature form after potentially being lost forever. Enjoy it while you can, all things pass!
See you in Colorado!
, comment by kyediggs
kyediggs Ok I am so sick of the comparisions. Been a fan of both since the early 90s and the main thing they have in common is their following other than that their music is so different its almost unbelivable. People say the curtain(with) sounds like the daed and for years people hated it bc it sounded like the dead. Tell me what song it sonds like bc to me it sounds like phish. GD are much more folk and blue grassy where phish is much more prog and rock. Quit fucking comparing them they both rock!
, comment by johnpdees
johnpdees I think the most important tie between the two bands is that they are as big a fan of all different kinds of music as we are. They both get excited about that soulful note or that magic moment when everything clicks....Both bands are fond of cover tunes for exactly that reason. At heart, they are music lovers and fans themselves and they appreciate what they hear on a very high level just as we do..Thats what we connect with. The Dead and Phish have both given us all a community where we can share what we love with people who "get it" Thats why the fans are interchangeable...they relate on deep personal level to the divine inspiration that comes in that perfect moment of a song or jam. Phish gets this "ala Terrapin Station" they knew the effect this tip of the hat would have on the crowd, because it affected them in the same way. Both the Dead and Phish were "us" on stage...the hosts of a wonderful party where all of us friends could get together and appreciate life. If you took the community out of either scene the music would be great , but would pale in comparison. Neither band could've pulled off some of the wonderous miraculous music moments that we remember without the energy of the audience...each person in the audience is in their own way..part of whats happening on stage...it feeds off each other. Like a drum circle. It hits that tribal place in all of us where we just want to connect for a moment and be part and something living, breathing and unified. I love both bands and many others dearly. They have brought magic and endless possibility into my life. I don't really try to define God, but i know there's something good looking out for each of us because i can feel it and see it when Im at a show and im in that moment. Maybe I'm just crazy, but the more you try to compare and make one less than the other you participate in killing that spirit. Thanks for the sounding board...luv ya'll ...Peace
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G Yeah, but who's better?
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