|Originally Performed By||Trey Anastasio|
|Vocals||Trey (lead), Fish, Mike, Page (backing)|
|Historian||Robert Ker (bobbker)|
Once, legions of drug-rock bands traversed our land; now there are but a few.
These musical acts roamed the countryside, transforming our convention centers and civic auditoriums from respectable venues for trade shows and high-school basketball games into fishbowled gateways to psychedelic escapism. The locals fled their schools and blue-collar jobs to descend upon these concerts, entering the decompression chamber of the parking lot—be they of the Shakedown or heavy metal variety—before embarking on odysseys that, for one night only, cast them far afield of their daily routine. Think about the young crew driving off to get Aerosmith tickets at the end of the 1970s-set movie Dazed and Confused; for many people, these concerts were as far as you could get from your hometown without actually leaving your hometown.
Over the years, rock bands have largely trickled out of popular favor, and Phish now stands nearly alone as the most prominent purveyors of a particular variety of big-budget psychedelic happening—one that involves guitars and keyboards, a zillion-dollar light show, and whatever you can sneak through security.
But what happens when a drug band goes sober?
In the 3.0 era, Phish continued to offer this experience even as Trey’s sobriety became an increasingly prominent part of the band’s character. His songs used to unfurl like riddles or short stories, but the lyrics of this era grew more autobiographical; from 2009 to 2019, the arc of his songwriting (often alongside Tom Marshall) begins with his emergence from a personal dark spell (described in songs like “Light” and “Ocelot”) and concludes in a euphoric state in which a clear mind and midlife perspective have prompted him to reflect on our shared journey through life (“Rise/Come Together” and “Soul Planet”).
Along this journey, he reflected the subject of sobriety through various lenses, whether by expressing empathy with those struggling with addiction (“Tide Turns”), playfully toying with the language of clean living (“No Men in No Man’s Land”), or in the case of songs like “Everything’s Right,” refracting his personal experiences into words of wisdom.
Like its closest spiritual relative, “Blaze On,” “Everything’s Right” touches directly on Trey’s time in arrest and rehab (“time to get out, I’ve paid my dues”) before shifting to more general musings on the secret to happiness and pathway to nirvana. Here, the advice is grounded in the “one day at a time” mantra of Alcoholics Anonymous, coupled with the “power of now” ethos espoused by new age author Eckhart Tolle (whose work also inspired the song “Light”). The song’s crucial verse reinforces this philosophy with suggestions to shrug off the past as a place where “nothing is real, nothing you can feel” as well as the future, a place of “borrowed images.” Instead, he emphasizes a path of compassion and centering on the present.
Of course, it’s all just vague enough that the song is about whatever you want it to be. As with “Blaze On,” a paean to sobriety that could also, by virtue of its very title, serve as an ode to sparking up a joint, “Everything’s Right” could be about making it through one day sober or about riding out a bad trip. Extend it beyond the structure of a day and it can urge the listener to stay resilient through a period of personal hardship. This only goes to a certain point, however; extrapolate the sentiment away from the personal to current events and the state of the world, and the “everything’s right” message can quickly resemble a certain meme.
One thing is for certain: whether due to the song’s uplifting message, the chord progression, or the tempo, “Everything’s Right” quickly became a favorite of Trey and his bandmates both in the Trey Anastasio Band and Phish, leading to creative jam excursions that imply that the quest for sobriety shares characteristics of drug use in a strange yin-yang—both are, at their core, about striving for a different state of consciousness and a new way of seeing the world.Phish ”Everything’s Right” – 07/31/18, Del Valle, TX. Video by Phish
The Trey Anastasio Band took the song on its maiden voyage on 4/14/17 and has kept it in rotation ever since (including a notable Derek Trucks sit-in on 8/23/19. The song made its Phish debut in Chicago on 7/14/17, exactly one week before the "Baker’s Dozen," with a nearly 14-minute rendition that featured languid soloing by Trey and Page tinkering with his full array of gear—hallmarks of the kind of jamming style that would become a regular feature of the song. The improvisational section is among the first developed with Page’s then-recent additions to his rig in mind, and speaks to the band’s late-3.0 relaxed and textured sound.
From that debut, the song has gone on to have an uncommonly high batting average, rarely falling below the 12-minute mark despite the fact that the song proper tops out at around 5 minutes. The band has toyed around with different placements and approaches to the song, turning a corner in Summer 2018 with a lengthy version in Austin, TX, on 7/31/18, followed by a rousing first-set-closing rendition in Camden, NJ, on 8/8/18 that carried the song skyward to multiple peaks. “Everything’s Right” ended 2018 on a triumphant note with a confident and exploratory version at Madison Square Garden on 12/30/18, which is widely regarded as among the finest live performances of the song.Phish ”Everything’s Right” – 12/30/18, New York, NY. Video by LazyLightning55a
In an unusual twist for this band, arguably the most compelling performance of “Everything’s Right” may be the studio version on 2020’s Sigma Oasis album, a widely appreciated 12-minute odyssey that finds the band—perhaps for the first time ever—utilizing the possibilities of the studio to replicate the feel of their live improvisation: democratic, bottom-heavy, highly textured, and the result of close listening. Much of the credit goes to Page McConnell, who took the masters home and layered an array of tones atop the jam, transforming it into a composition that radiates bright colors and blossoms in unexpected directions before dissipating into ambient bliss. The studio version also featured emotive, gospel-style singing by Trey in the outro, something the band also broke out in Mexico on 2/23/20, the final Phish concert before Covid-19 made everything wrong.
“Everything’s Right” is frequently compared to the Beta Band’s “Dry the Rain,” sharing with that song gradual yet glorious build and a B-A-E chord progression in the chorus. I also liken it to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” In both of those songs, the bass conveys a heady cool, and the drums push forth an effortless swagger—it’s easy to see why the Dazed and Confused gang might have hit the road to capture that experience.
Aerosmith was another band with a distinctive “drug period” and “sober period,” yet the differences are stark. When Aerosmith returned after drying out, they said yes to everything—glossy videos, award-show mugging, power ballads for blockbuster soundtracks. Phish’s career has been marked by them saying “no” to lucrative offers and the easy path. It’s easy to imagine Trey emerging from rehab and steering to the mainstream, perhaps embarking on one last effort to find purchase on the adult contemporary charts the way his friends Dave Matthews or John Popper had. Instead, he did as he had always done and followed his muse in unpredictable directions, adjacent to mainstream America. Just hold tight.Phish ”Everything’s Right” – 02/23/20, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Video by Phish
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