[thanks to phish.netters @Mshow96, @Ry_storm, and @jimmylovesposter for their work on the "Jam of the Era" tournament, and to @philospliphy for the essay that follows - ed.]
Voting in the final matchup of the phish.net forum “Jam of the Era” tournament is open until tomorrow at 9 am EDT. Vote here.
In celebration of the two finalists the bracket organizing committee is pleased to welcome guest contributor, @philospliphy.
In the Long May They Run podcast, Trey reveals that an obscure book of urban planning theory became the band’s "bible" when they first began planning their independent, infamous, and shockingly successfully festivals. A Pattern Language (APL), by C. Alexander, et al., proposes and defends a mode of communal living wherein all social functions − from the privacy of the marital bed to the sharing of collective meals to the labor of workers in diverse fields to the pedestrians passing them all on the street − are creatively weaved into an organic, but open whole, designed to balance basic, yet contrasting, human needs like solitude and communality, productivity and rest, self-expression and family and community responsibility, darkness and light.
The discovery of this book, of course, corresponds with the time after which Phish had firmly and permanently become an arena-level draw, and during which the group achieved heights of musical performance, economic success, and cultural impact that no one at Nectar’s, or even on the farms of Ian or Amy could have anticipated. The interconnected community they had always sought to build through music was not only actualized, but seemed poised to become a substantial and permanent fixture on the American cultural landscape. A band that had tailored their career so that they needed to prove themselves and win over audiences every night could now not only write its own ticket, but freely set its own benchmarks. The shift to more collective, less guitar-centred improv in ’96, the hard turn towards funk and darkness in ’97, the surprise covers and more spacious sound of ’98, eventually giving way to the ambient bliss from ’99-'00 reveal a band always reaching for a new height, or finding a new way of integrating their catalog and hard-won connection with what was, for them, most interesting or challenging at the moment. It’s no wonder that, after "The Show," Fish thought they should stop; by the new millennium, a band built around having to earn its keep night after night had literally nothing left to prove. And if the band’s 2004 performances aren’t proof enough, Trey’s Charlie Rose interview makes clear that he knew the Phish that he founded and that did, indeed, "conquer America" wasn’t built to last; playing music so diverse, complex, and risky demanded 100% commitment to the project and, once it ceased to become the primary – and virtually sole – focus of the lives of all of the members, it was destined to get "sloppy around the edges" and become something else. Trey, Mike, Fish, and Page are, after all, human beings, rather than musical machines (even if they occasionally sound that way), and APL is grounded in the idea that being fully human requires us all to balance our work – independent, creative work of passion, though it may be – with the other vital facets of our lives, lest any one of them become all consuming, and thus damaging to ourselves, others, or both.
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