Friday 08/05/2011 by Icculus

CHASING THE DRAGON... OR AN UGLY PIG

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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Comments

, comment by joechip
joechip Nice words Charlie. Great post for the first day of a new tour, filled with potential.

Enjoy the shows everyone, whether on the couch or in the venue.
, comment by ScottyB
ScottyB Just as I assume it is with drugs, there's nothing like that first taste of Phish and you always keep chasing that feeling. I'll never forget pressing play on my stereo and hearing Squirming Coil for the first time. My jaw dropped and by the time the track was finished I knew this was no ordinary band.

My second show was Lehigh and I was in attendance that night when Phish debuted Guyute. The crowd was incredibly attentive and it gave me quite an insight into Phish fans when the audience gave the band a standing ovation after its glorious conclusion. I try to remember the excitement of those two moments when Phish starts Coil or Guyute. Well, at least after I get over my initial disappointment. ;)

Great work, Charlie.
, comment by dayzzoff
dayzzoff Good stuff. I can relate
, comment by kstauffer7
kstauffer7 Guyute had the same impact on me when I first heard it in Niagara Falls on 12/7/95.

I only had a couple albums and a hand full of shows on tape so I had not heard the song or even heard of it.
, comment by sushigradepanda
sushigradepanda I was at the Lehigh show. I'll never forget the impact that hearing Guyute for the first time has on me. to this day it remains an endearing song to me *specifically* because of the experience I had that night.

great piece. fun read.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks One of my happiest musical memories - not just of Phish, but of any music I've ever heard in my life - is walking across the Harvard Bridge, newly in love and therefore about to start failing lots of classes at MIT, and arriving on the Boston side with my DAUD1 11/30/97 Guyute opener playing in my Walkman. I was jumping up and down and humming/singing loudly, embarrassingly, unembarrassed. As the climactic post-thrash chords started raining down, I leaped up as high as I could in the air and let out a yell. I was crying with joy. I didn't have a care in the world. I've felt deeper joy (at the birth of my son, say), but may never have been lighter in my life.

That summer I went to Lemonwheel and - during the 'Ring of Fire' jam, of course - experienced something like the meditative twin to that ecstatic experience. Time's passage is so much a part of such perfect moments that it's no surprise that I fell out of Phish fandom not long after. But a mountain isn't a mountain that doesn't rise to a peak and then fall. It has to rejoin the ground and that's OK too. That's joyful too.
, comment by TIMBO
TIMBO Thanks Charlie. I had decided on a 2010 for mowing my lawn, and was not sure which way to go. Uticular.........
, comment by curleyfrei
curleyfrei That was beautiful, man. Very uticular. :)
, comment by tbstanley
tbstanley Charlie -

As always, very well said/written. Great insight into why we all fell in love with Phish in the first place. Thank you for bringing back a flood of amazing memories by mentioning the 10/8/94 Patriot Center show. That was my 2nd show and I was on the floor about 10 rows back and I remember just being absolutely floored the whole show. I'll never forget the first time I heard Guyute that night as well and I mean, that 2nd set - just wow. I still think this show is one of the most underrated in the band's career (altho there were so many stellar 94 shows it's not surprising.)

Keep up the great work and thanks for the new word - Uticular. Good stuff!
, comment by Fees_Nipple
Fees_Nipple I've been uticular all my life. I was born and raised there and on the evening of 10/20/2010 a good number of us experienced how Uticular it was. Well put.
, comment by DanceTheJig728
DanceTheJig728 well done, guyute was a great song choice for that, not that there aren't many possible others.
, comment by chillingthrillingsounds
chillingthrillingsounds very well writen. i agree completely because ive had that experience with songs like mikes and fuck your face.and i like the word uticular.....good stuff.
, comment by bakestar08
bakestar08 thanks for this piece, actually was having a shitty day until i read this and got my train of thought back on the tracks...Just another reason i love this band and love its phans!
, comment by lizzzards
lizzzards That "It" keeps getting harder to find. For me, Treys lead in Waves when the comeback (2.0) was eminent did it. Recently they've been giving that tune it's due and I couldn't be happier about it. Tweezer, Maze, Wedge had a similar effect on me when those CD's were coming out. New songs aren't bringing that feeling as much any more but it comes and goes in those live music moments. Those Uticular moments in time. Nice article. Hard to put words to such a topic, nice job.
, comment by Gamecat
Gamecat @curleyfrei said:
That was beautiful, man. Very uticular. :)
Utically.

Great read. Thanks.
, comment by dirtydave420
dirtydave420 I loved it, over saw it and it became my p and fill water bottles song, but not since 3.0 I love it again and will not miss another one! I do not care what Phish plays, I love Phish.
, comment by BassPlayer
BassPlayer great writing, thank you!
, comment by TennesseeJed
TennesseeJed Guyutica!
, comment by chefphish
chefphish As a chef, in San Francisco, you get all these knitpicking reviews. I always think, remember when we went out to eat to enjoy each other's company. The same applies for phish. From age 16, I started summer tours. I grew up on phish, with my friends. So fuck complaining about them not playing what you want to hear. Everytime I listen to shows, I picture me, 16-18, on the lawn, with my best friends, listening to sik music. Remember when stats didn't matter, and good times did. Fuck the haters, phish rules. Can't wait til friday!
, comment by chefphish
chefphish and for the guy who talks about type I and type II jamming, Fuck off.
, comment by Icculus
Icculus @chefphish said:
and for the guy who talks about type I and type II jamming, Fuck off.
Didn't you just say, "Fuck the haters, phish rules"? Who is the "hater" now? Surely you, chefphish, know that "if you can't take the heat, get out of the type II kitchen"?

Thanks for all the kind words, folks. May It be with you -- even you "haters."

Always.
, comment by AugustWest2001
AugustWest2001 I love the stats! Don't hate on the math, brah.
, comment by PHREAKMEOUT
PHREAKMEOUT Great writing, really enjoyed it. Uticular is officially apart of my daily vocabulary.
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM ahh, that was refreshing. i'll be the first to admit i get stuck in jade-automaton mode these days and something like this post will take me back to how it was when i first heard phish. jesus, it was like why did i refuse to listen to them before 97? sounds unbelievable but listening to them while jerry was alive or even 96 was like heresy to me back then. just shows you what a little closed-mindedness and a lot of pride can do!
i guess what i'm trying to say is that charlie's reminiscences evoke that joy you can feel when a little humility and ego-checking occurs. sometimes, i'll admit, when im at a show these days i actually audibly groan at a song choice or shortened jam rather than letting the show just flow through me. sometimes there's such pride in the idea that we were there back when (whenever that happened to be) that i feel like we should wear t-shirts saying "not a noob."
on a more serious level, this is similar to the curator of the museum who can recite all the appropriate background or technical detail but has lost all sight of aesthetics. the IT that charile refers to is art, and it is easy to over-intellectualize (which perhaps i'm doing now, lol) such a simple, transcendent thing. IT is what hooked us years ago or this very summer, anyway, who the hell am i to look down on anyone's enjoyment of the band?! i mean, isn't that the point? not to mention, transcendence of ego is the entire point of jamming...
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