[Please welcome guest recapper Rob Mitchum, @PhishCrit. -CD]
For most of 3.0, my working theory for understanding Phish has been one of retracing the steps of their history. There’s even a solid nerdy ph- pun for it: “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” the biological hypothesis that developing embryos recreate the evolution of their ancestors. To be a little less pretentious, the idea is that Phish, since their 2009 comeback, had to reenact their 90s climb from cult bar band to giant-venue superstars, like a stroke patient re-learning how to speak. The awkward part was having to go through this rehabilitation in full public view, playing from the start in the arenas, amphitheatres, and festival fields they’d left behind when they called it quits.
Nevertheless, heroically, they got there somewhere between the Tahoe Tweezer and Magnaball, reclaiming their prior role as the big-stage experimenters we knew and loved. The tricky part is what to do next, when the familiar path they were following ran out. Add in the fact that -- artificial ticket scarcity to the contrary -- they are past their commercial peak as concert draws, and the next chapter of Phish becomes even harder to conceive, one of playing to a loyal-as-ever but aging and often smaller audience.
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