Vocals: Trey (lead), Page (backing)
Historian: Kazimierz Wrzeszczynski, lumpblockclod
Last Update: 2011-12-16
"Crowd Control" debuted on the first night of the 20th Anniversary Tour. The song is played after a short delay in the second set while the band decides on a next song. Finally, Trey emerged from the discussion and said that they had new songs since they had been writing and that they will play “a new song.” The ever-apologetic Trey also thanks the crowd for allowing the band to play new songs prior to this premier. “Crowd Control” is a song with a message, but what that exact message is seems a bit skewed. Musically, (and somewhat less lyrically with the repetition of the phrase “I will”) it is reminiscent to the Grateful Dead’s “Liberty,” but more up-tempo. Nothing in the way of a jamming tune but just an upbeat song with lyrics “The world around me's turning / I’m just standing still / The time has come for changes / Do something or I will.”
At first listening, these deceptively uncomplicated lyrics quickly give the impression that Phish is getting political on us and that the song is a message for individuals to improve the current situation in our time. However, the lyrics are very cleverly written and a dual meaning can be interpreted. The second meaning alludes to some type of connection between a band and its audience which is apparent with lyrics such as, “So show us why we came here / Before we lay on the ground / Give it to us loud and clear.” The intertwining of the very evident sociopolitical message about trying to "change the world" and references which hint to a band and crowd relationship give complexity to this song far more than the simple melody would have one imagine. Needless to say these two themes were widely speculated upon after the show, between the factions of Phish fans who would love to see more of a political sentiment from the band and those who would not.
In the fall of 2011, oh kee pah blog incorporated the song into a video depicting scenes from the Occupy Wall Street #OWS movement across the country, fully implicating "Crowd Control" as one of the very few overtly Phish political songs. This inspired Tom Marshall to release an original demo of the song from 2003 (pre-Occupy Wall St. protests) with an explanation and with somewhat of a concession that even though the lyrics were never intended to be political, the fact that they fit this OWS video so well they in fact may be just that.
Oh Ke Pah Blog's #OWS Video to Phish's "Crowd Control"
While Phish played "Crowd Control" sporadically up until the 2004 breakup, it appeared the song, along with fellow Undermind staples "Scents and Subtle Sounds," "Secret Smile," and "Access Me" would be left in the ashes of that tumultuous period in the band's history. However, as the 2009 summer tour drew to a close, "Crowd Control" reappeared in it's most prominent position yet, opening the 8/15/09 Merriweather Post Pavilion show, a position it would reprise at the 6/26/10 Merriweather show. "Crowd Control" aficionados, may want to make plans to hit the next show at MPP (and get there early!).
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