[The following does not necessarily reflect the opinion(s) of anyone who works for, or who has ever worked or volunteered for, Phish.net or The Mockingbird Foundation. It is dedicated to @RSTurner, who requested it. So blame him. It's entirely his fault. -Ed.]
“ÍT comes in threes,” some say about bad news.
First, there were several vicious, cowardly attacks on a few fans at the Gorge in July, possibly by one or more white supremacists who were apparently in attendance. Then there was the seemingly last minute cancellation in late August of what was promoted to be, and likely would have been, Phish’s greatest festival ever, Curveball, which led (among other things) to “Curvivors” commiserating for weeks about their (and our) unfortunate—and for many, truly heart-breaking—curveballing. And, now, there is the fake-covering of a fake album by a fake band with a fake backstory, in the all-hallowed second set of Halloween: a set with a legendary history, a history replete with Great Performances that are still wondrous to this day, years —even decades— later.
Just kidding. Seriously, spectacular creative risks can reap substantial rewards, and the risktakers are often deservedly applauded for their audacity and skill. As Phish should be and has been and likely will continue to be. But will the music of Kasvot Växt, of 10/31/18-2, be spoken of one day along with the likes of 10/31/96-2, 10/31/98-2, 10/31/95-2, or the more recent, brilliant, Chilling, Thrilling set? Let it be come to say, yeah, probably so probably not.
At times ingeniously gooftarded to be sure, the Kasvot Växt ("KV") set nevertheless rarely achieves musical lowlights that are so stupendously awful they deserve repeated listenings simply for their laugh-generating value. Nothing in the set, for example, is even vaguely competitive with the sublime genius of a “Clam Caravan” or a “Corn Wine.” Which is to say, to paraphrase an old, folksy, Scandinavian platitude, sometimes the set's music is "justt krapp."
Oh come on, man, why be such a h8r? And if intended as prog-parody, isn’t it unreasonable to criticize the KV songs at all, as they appear to have been intended to be silly, if not outrageously so, consistent with so many Phish songs before them, and are therefore to be esteemed if only for this reason alone? (See, e.g., “Buffalo Bill,” “Sleeping Monkey,” “Dog Log,” and dozens of other songs one can probably randomly pick out among this handy list.) And another thing: ARE WE COME TO ALL AGREE on kudos to the Phish for the koncept and riskk takken, yes?
So, in a similar spirit, here are come to my two øre:
"Turtle In The Clouds": If you’ve ever dreamily looked-up at the sky and admired the awe-inspiringly hypnotic beauty of ever-changing cloud formations on a gorgeous spring day, then this terrifyingly bad song about turtles in clouds will make you despondent. And then angry. You’ll wish that none of these adorable little guys ever make it into the clouds, because LIFE IS MEANINGLESS, and you are nothing but dust, and to dust you shall return.
“Now I’ve got something in my shoe”?!? Did Trey seriously just sing that line? No, NOT seriously. No, of course not: no one would ever sing that line seriously. Perhaps the best thing about this horrifying song, other than its false ending (which hilariously adds further insult to injury because GUESS WHAT!? THE SONG DOESN'T END HERE!!) and Page and Trey’s often Camel-esque melodic lines, is that the band members take turns on vocal leads, courageously sharing the blame. This final effort somewhat assuages one’s newfound hatred of cloud-turtles. Somewhat.
"Stray Dog": Whether or not you’ve ever wanted a song thrown up against a wall and shot, prepare to be befuddled by this masterpiece-of-shit. Why couldn’t they have just played “Dog Log” for an hour!? In any event, dog rescue is very important and to be supported; I will therefore not contend that this is one “stray dog” that should be—painlessly and with dignity—put down. And besides, @JesusHschvice already made such a despicable remark on Twitter. Shame on him. Please tweet ugly things at him (and unfollow or block).
"Everything Is Hollow": Some things are better left unheard. This is the one where, when listening for the first time, you might wonder if the entire band labored for minute upon minute, and hour upon hour, and day upon day, to create the lamest “song” that has ever been conceived in the history of recorded music, in order to make this literal joke of a set an even more farcical prog-parody. You’d be right.
In the "song," Page repeatedly sings, “Bright white light shining right between the eyes.” Translation: you have been blinded by this song’s transcendent disdain for all that is Good and Holy. Be sure to remember to say please and thank you, and be kind to those less fortunate than yourself (a group that necessarily includes everyone who finds this song appealing in any way, shape, or form).
WACTOOB: An LOL-dumb improvement as we crawl further into the set, “We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains" (WACTOOB) is worth hearing again and again. It’s nifty and upbeat and major-key-happy-happy, with some odd vocal lines and catchy melodic lyrical refrains, even assuming Phish vocals aren’t that great, and that “I’m the glue in your magnet” and “we will come to outlive our brains” are nonsensical, and justify every negative opinion voiced about Phish lyrics ever, under any and every circumstance. “Nine cubes,” you say? Whatever. Let’s hope that a future, similarly charming WACTOOB makes the 20+ min jam chart.
"Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.": While “This is what space smells like, YOU WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE” is a chorus “to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” who cares about lyrics anyway! We’re Phish fans after all. Anyway, instead of immediately causing consternation and nausea, this song invites the listener to warmly reminisce about ‘70’s sing-along rockers, before inspiring debilitatingly painful and bloody ear-worm-diarrhea, as Fish concludes the coda’s vocals. Some might call this a "win," their brains, outlived.
"The Final Hurrah": Was “The Penultimate Hurrah” deemed too sophisticated a title, or is Trey reserving it for a new TAB song? He does let fly some Eddie Van Halen -esque trilling in this one, while Fish growls out "FACEPLANT INTO RAWWWWWWWK." So one must call this a WIN, too, right, albeit a very silly one.
"Play By Play": Its opening measures are fleetingly reminiscent of “Montana” from the Bozeman “Tweezer.” But lyrically, this is a metaphysically bankrupt song, even needlessly disturbing (“Perception is spoon fed, I open my mouth”!?), though perhaps less so than a sperm bank that‘s been closed down—by both criminal and civil authorities—for fraud. The lyric “I hope someone notices” is annoyingly repeated ad nauseum, and the music begins to plod on, and on, and on, etc., along with it. Meanwhile, a dancing wook’s flailing dreads smack your girlfriend in the face at her first show, in time to this song, and she, too, hopes someone notices. And murders the wook. Please don’t listen to this if you suffer from depression. I BEG YOU. YOUR LIFE IS TOO IMPORTANT. It has meaning, for Christ's sake.
"Death Don't Hurt Very Long": Oh Hell yeah. Follow-up a song that makes me want to kill myself with a potent reminder that I can end it all quickly and without suffering? Great. In any event bet we can all agree that this —objectively— is this fake band’s best fake song, no? Morbid lyrics complement morbid music, that’s by turns death-march/stomp-y, and funktastic, with Page killin’ it on the clav, and Trey soloing soulfully and passionately over fearsome accompaniment by Mike and Fish. M.O.R.E.O.F.T.H.I.S.P.L.E.A.S.E.
"Cool Amber and Mercury": Does this song remind you of a Bob Weir tune you never wanted to hear again, or perhaps part of one you do, e.g. the coda of “Saint of Circumstance,” but slowed-down? This is a "BOTT"-like, very groovy tune, and I suspect we’ll hear another version at some point. Maybe it’ll help bring-in 2019 on NYE. “Cool Amber” -> "BOTT" -> “Cool Amber”? I’m a’fer it.
"Passing Through": While admittedly this one did little for me at first, I am now in love with Mike’s bass lines in this tune, and greatly dig the improvisational segment. The “heyyyyy, way ohh, way ohh” full-band chorus (if that’s in fact the lyric they’re singing and harmonizing on) is silly of course, but it’s difficult for me—as a Phish fan for thirty years now—not to appreciate the jam in this version, and the jam potential of this song. I also kinda like the unaccompanied, “NFA”-esque vocal coda, and it was cool that those in attendance kept the “Heyyyyy way-ohh way-ohh” chorus going a bit, too. In fact at this point I’m probably ok with hearing this one cook for ten plus minutes going forward instead of “KDF,” which I’m cool with never hearing again.
In sum, if you were one of the phans successfully Dr. Gabel’d by this set, believing it to consist entirely of music to be treated with sober deference (rather than laughed at, or at least with), don’t be embarrassed. Professional, touring musicians who require $80+/ticket to entertain us are ordinarily expected to be taken seriously, particularly on arguably the most important evening other than 12/31 in any given year. Even jamband musicians.
All that said, the fact that the Kasvot Växt set garnered the (sometimes heated) discourse and nationwide attention that it did is a testament to Phish’s humor and genius. And regardless of whatever you might think of the fake KV songs, at least this fake set probably won’t ever be performed again by any band, even a real one. $0.02.
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Also, sucks you didn’t enjoy yourself. It was one of the highlights of my Phish career.
(fwiw this includes me lmao)
Also, .net content editors, just removing yourself from the opinion of the blog doesn't excuse you from the responsibility of making sure that such nonsense isn't published in the first place. I didn't plan to write this, but I didn't see a different way to voice my displeasure since you can't downvote a blog post.
That said, I basically disagree with all of this, but I acknowledge how divisive the Kasvot Vaxt set is. No big deal.
BUT WAS THIS NOT THE CURVEBALL WE ALL SO UNFORTUNATELY MISSED ???
I KNOW I HAD A 3 DAY PASS & GLAD I SAVED IT FOR #ROSEMONT & PAID FOR #HAMPTON BC LADIES & GENTS: THE MOTHERSHIP WAS THE NUT OF FALL TOUR (‘MY .02’ - must be this cats BAC bc if he acts like he writes/pens Phish Articles for us here In The Pond at .Net - Deff this dude is a Bartles & James kinda fella!
This.. fuck whoever’s idea it was to publish this.
Entertaining read, 100% appropriate for Phish.net blog, but poor expression of displeasure with the music. It's basically just name-calling, and then a weird assertion that the one song he likes is somehow "objectively" the best one. Huh?
This set sounds to me like Phish. And I for one will take the (accidentally?) poetic non sequiturs over the earnest Soul Cycle 10 times a day and 20 on Sunday. "I'm the glue in your magnet" is a fantastic facsimile of a "rough translation."
@The_Blob has it 100% correct, in my opinion:
"It's a good thing to have pieces showing differing views on certain acclaimed performances. At the same time, what's the use of posting an opinion on the blog without properly explaining said opinion? The author often just says something like "masterpiece of shit", "horrifying/terrifyingly bad song", "song that makes me want to kill myself", etc. without really explaining WHAT makes those songs so bad. Yeah, he often cites the lyrics, but I don't get how these lyrics are worse than Tweezer, or Reba, or whatever song Phish ever wrote in the 80's/90's. This is weird because he actually explains why the parts that he likes sound good to him, so why not give the same treatment to every song?"
I can't even claim to know how the extent to which this article is tongue-in-cheek, something Charlie did to amuse himself, or whether it's dead serious, but in any case, given his contributions to the fanbase a whole, he can pretty much write whatever he pleases.
Yeah, this part bothered me... Sheesh.
I myself like only a handful of songs from the KV set, but my admiration and respect for Phish is at an all-time high for having the bravery, courage, and sheer artistic originality to think of, plan, and execute such a complex production for 60 minutes of entertainment.
There most definitely is a "bigger picture" here which soars bar beyond the KV music itself. That "bigger picture" being, in my opinion, the excitement and refreshment of looking forward to what new songs, styles, and improvisation techniques Phish will be evolving in the years to come. For me, the reward of KV is not the music itself, rather, the reassurance and energy that comes from knowing that Phish is still pushing their own musical and creative boundaries in ways that are, literally, unprecedented in the music world... and having a blast while doing it.
How many more posts like this are y'all gonna put up?
This comment and what @FunkyCFunkyDo wrote are spot on. This isn't constructive criticism, nor does it add anything substantive to the conversation. It just comes across as whiny.
Also, all of your criticisms relating to the lyrics fall flat because **THE LYRICS ARE SUPPOSED TO SOUND LIKE A POOR TRANSLATION**
I think it's a total success on its own terms. Anyone who disagrees still has his/her Hawkwind LPs to listen to, I guess, so no harm done.
I think the tension between our fannish collection/conservation activities and the band's business of transient moments and heightened experiences tends to produce distortion when we talk about it all. Like all their live music, KV isn't meant to last, it's meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and a joke to boot. If it 'holds up' on tape, that's a bonus -- and kind of a miracle. For the band, I think the majesty of the thing is in the months they spent elaborating and concealing a big project. Sneaking around. (Mike's talked about their work in exactly those terms.)
No great songs in there? Phish aren't a 'great songs' kinda band. Listened closely to 'Sing Monica' or 'Jibboo' or 'Friday' or 'Sparkle' or 'Dog-Faced Boy' or 'Waste' or 'Tube' or 'Heavy Things' or 'First Tube' or 'Suzy' or 'Sleeping Monkey' or 'Saw It Again' or even 'Tweezer' or 'Weekapaug Groove' or 'Piper' lately?
Anyway, I don't think it's bad or boring music. Everyone in the room had a stupendous time, right? I laughed my ass off the first time I listened, and have returned to it with pleasure and gratitude since then. Some uplifting stuff in there. And it's a great fucking joke.
Anyone who's angry about a project like this is stupid, but I assume/hope almost no one actually was or is. Hopefully the people who were disappointed will get around it and take it for what it is. Most everyone in the community will smile and dance and then shrug and move on to the next strange beauty, which is one of the reasons for Phish's art. No harm done.
'It's not a big deal if someone didn't enjoy the KV set. I did, and I think it neatly embodies one of their core missions as a band -- but if you're not into it, you're not short of swell alternatives, and there'll be more Phish to pick over soon enough. Love to all.'
I don't think Charlie's angry (that would be, as I say, stupid), I think he just doesn't think this one Phish gag produced great music. Great! As for complaining about this review -- guys, our whole fucking species is killing itself. Getting mad about this blog post isn't a great use of energy.
Phans were shaken about the incident at the gorge, but turned out to have a happy ending. Dude didn't get smashed over the head with rock by someone, he went face plant into rock and came out vibrating love and light. Grace and true forgiveness are beautiful and a rarity. I believe everyone was touched more about the reaction of the phan than the action. Love won. Bright white lights between the eyes and came out with clear vision.
Curveball being canceled wasn't all that bad. I know many people who ended up going to Dicks and Vegas instead. Had Curveball happened they would not have made those shows. I guess what I am trying to convey would be this summer and fall were unbelievable and all the positives overshadowed what some might see as disappointing or bad. I have listened to Halloween second set, just about everyday since. Once again, Halloween was the cats pajamas. I can't wait until Sally>Santos>Sally or Santos>Sally>SANTOS for that matter. The possibilities and new jams to throw into the mix are endless. Here we Go! Can't wait to hear some space grass or some of the new songs from Spacehenge next month.
Phish doesn’t often want us to take them too seriously, and never has.
This trait (among many others) is what attracted many of us to their music in the first place. And frankly, it’s not in our best interest to take ourselves too seriously, either, especially when we are fanboying and fangirling about what our favorite jamband did or did not do.
Of course the KV set didn’t “anger” me. I can’t be more happy that Phish conceived, wrote, and performed an original musical work in their Halloween set this year—this time as parody—and managed to surprise their fans by doing the unexpected yet again. But if my two cents on the album had treated it (and you) with kit gloves, at least some of the inane beauty behind Kasvot Växt would have been lost.
That you’re taking the time to read this likely means that you, like me, are in the minority of fans who love Phish’s music so much they sometimes (if not often) enjoy reading the online opinions of other true-believer-fans like themselves. So it should come as little surprise that given how important Halloween is in Phish history, and how hundreds if not thousands of fans were hoping Phish would pay tribute in the second set of October 31 to a highly popular classic rock album, I could not skip the opportunity to trumpet the irony of “criticizing” a work of parody performance art and music by a band I’ve loved for 30 years: a set that covered the music of a non-existent band’s non-existent decades-old album’s non-existent songs. What band does that?!?
Only PHISH. The 10/31/18 Kasvot Växt set was and is deliberately and literally surreal, regardless of what anyone thinks about the quality of any given song at any given moment. And so frankly, even if I believe a commenter wholly missed the point of something I wrote that was intended to be absurd, false, vague, bizarre and/or outrageous, it would be unreasonable and even silly for me to be Upsvët By Thät.
Let’s never forget the ridIcculousness from which “Icculus” was birthed, after all. We are all Phish fans, even those of us who run to the bathroom with the first notes of “Brian and Robert” or “Alaska” or “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” or [your least favorite song].
You enjoy yourself this holiday weekend, and may there be glue in your magnets.
The lyrics are disjointed and clumsy, which is kind of the point. My only critique is in some of the vocal delivery, which I frequently found shouty and too reliant on unison parts. They are also mixed way too high on the recording. That doesn’t do their harmonies any favors, although Trey’s evolution as a truly soulful, compelling singer continues to delight.
That being said, these songs have some bizarrely catchy qualities. “WACTOOB,” an acronym that, should its name actually be abbreviated on setlists would make a wook lose its wings, is my favorite song from the set. There’s something strangely beautiful about it. “Say it to Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” shows the depth of this band’s commitment to the gag, referencing the Arctic research facility where the members of Kasvot Växt met, even if the chorus is painful to the ears. Again, having the entire band singing outside their range at the same time doesn’t do their limited voices any favors. I’d be fine if I never heard this song again. It’s dumb. “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” features a blistering solo from Trey, although again I find the vocal delivery a little ham-handed and corny. “Stray Dog” features a chord change in the verse that is almost what you expect, but just a bit off. That’s a theme of this entire set. It sort of sounds like Phish, sometimes unmistakably so as in the composer section of “Everything is Hollow,” but there’s something off about it. Sometimes it works. “I’m the glue in your magnet” makes no sense, but it nonetheless gets stuck in my head in the best possible way. Sometimes it falls flat for me, as in the mind-numbing repetition of “faceplant into rock.”
Unpopular opinion: I hate Page’s samples. A show without anything from 10/31/14 is a winner for me.
The continuing dilemma I have with Phish is that while they are improvising and playing off each other at a level that is truly awe-inspiring, 30+ years into their career, they keep writing songs that are beneath them. The composed section of “Everything is Hollow” is a potent reminder that Trey really is a brilliant and unique rock composer whose distinctive melodic and harmonic twists and turns are the high point of their non-jammed musical output. Then they return to the caveman butt-rock riff of the song, an absolute chore to listen to. Some bands can pull off caveman butt-rock and it’s great, but I think it shows Phish’s weaknesses. They are better suited to finesse and delicacy, and basic rock riffs that rely on brute force can fall flat with them. It’s why I’ve never been able to get into 10/31/14 material, and not just the relentless and annoying samples. Much of the music is so basic and dumb, so beneath their instrumental abilities. And ultimately I feel very similarly about this set as I do that one. It’s undeniably brilliant in its concept and winking Phishiness. The set design and commitment to the theatrical and conceptual aspects are truly amazing. Some of these songs should absolutely stay in the repertoire and end up on the jam charts someday. But while I’m certainly in on the joke and love the band immensely for pulling it off, I won’t be in a hurry to hear some of these songs ever again.