IT never ceases to amaze you. The first taste fills you with a joy so supreme, you want the experience to last forever. The moment of discovery is pure and beautiful. As it happens, there is nothing more important, nothing more meaningful. Your heart races. You forget to breathe. Your soul is blissfully overwhelmed. You cannot get enough of it. You had never met before, but you had known it all your life. It has found you, and you, it.
Music, like pretty much everything else, can be addictive and all-consuming. Even if you are not prone to obsessive-compulsive behavior (such as listening to every version of "Tweezer," "YEM," and "Mike’s Groove" performed in Phish history), there is likely something that drives you forward, day in and day out. That something centers your being. It keeps you going, whether you are aware of it or not. It could be harmful, or innocuous, or both. It could be something as dreary -- and ignorant -- as inertia. Or it could be your God, your family, your job, your finances, your music, or a uticular combination of these or other things. "Uticular!?"
In a recent conversation, Phish’s archivist and counsel, Kevin Shapiro, used the word "uticular" as if it were common parlance. He presumed I knew what it meant, and I did. If you are familiar with the Utica show from October 20, 2010, you know that teases of "Guyute" frequented the songs in the first set. You also know that a gorgeous "Have Mercy" jam, and a strong “Piper,” were sandwiched in "Split Open and Melt," and that "Wilson" was mashed-up with "Guyute" lyrics. It was a show that reinvigorated the band and its fans, intriguing even the most jaded of vets. It reached "uticular" heights, where "Guyute" appeared in multiple songs -- at least for a measure or two. Say what you will about "Phish 3.0," but the spirit of the ugly pig is very much alive. Phish can still bring It.
I was thrilled when I first heard "Guyute." It was at the Patriot Center of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on October 8, 1994, and I was fortunate enough to be front row, center. This was only the second performance of the song. Phish had debuted it the night before at Lehigh University. Back then, of course, it typically took weeks or months to hear shows, and so I had no clue what "Guyute" sounded like before seeing and hearing it at the Patriot Center. As ridiculous and dark as the lyrics were, the music was perfectly aligned with them. "Guyute" seemed an incredible "progressive rock" masterpiece at the time, or, as I posted to Rec.Music.Phish soon after the show, "sortof an Irish folk/heavy metal/YesFloyd-like composition." It was a truly uticular song: A complementary union of diverse musical styles. I was blown away by it. And I could not wait to hear it again.
You have likely been moved so much by a piece of music that you’ve wanted to keep listening to it over and over and over again. You may have heard it on the radio, and rushed to track it down and get it for your iTunes or buy the album that it’s on. One can certainly get “high” from music. Improvisation that moves you in a profound way, be it in Phish’s music or otherwise, is awesome to experience. Being addicted to IT feeds the soul without killing it. While addictions can, of course, be terrible and deadly, great things can result from overcoming them, or at least managing them in a positive way. Trey was recently honored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (see article here), and I have to say, in light of Trey’s words about his experience with drug court, I have never been more proud to be a Phish fan. Hopefully Phish fans will now find him at least as inspiring as his music.
“Guyute” no longer has the same effect on me, sadly. That’s what 16+ years and many repeated listenings will do. But its initial power over me is unforgettable and speaks to music’s addictive, but life-affirming, character. You likely recall when you first fell in love with Phish, or if not Phish, when you first fell in love with something. Keep that feeling, that spirit, alive as best you can. This is not usually easy to do, of course, but its reward is inestimable. For you, “I hope IT happens once again.”
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