Thursday, October 27
Halloween is but a mere Four Nights Away. Here is the Rundown of the Rest of the Musical Costumes and a Few Predictions. by: Greg Heffelfinger
The Phish tradition of Halloween costumes has been going on since 1994 and the rumor mill is spinning on what the choice this year will be. From the gutbucket rock n'roll of the Stones to the swamp epic Waiting for Columbus, the band always pulls out something unique. Last year's Disney album may be the Phishiest costume of all. The idea of using a theme and making up musical pieces to go with each title was brilliant. Now let's go back down the number line and look at the others before the Vegas run starts tonight.
1996 has been a year that has seemed to have lost some steam over the years. As the days and shows keep piling on, I hear of 96' as a "transition" year. All I know is that from 94-98 were some of the best years of Phish, hands down. I've gone over the first two costumes in detail but this is the one where they nailed it for me. I love the Talking Heads and the band absolutely nailed the complex poly-rhythms and Afro-Caribbean beats that the band released on the album. Trey and all the members of the band, at one time or another, have named David Byrne, in particular, and the Talking Heads, generally, as a huge influence. When the band invaded the Omni in Atlanta for the last show ever there, expectations were sky-high. When we got the playbill, my little school of Phishheads were amazed at the audacity. Besides Crosseyed and OIAL, there were some seriously weird parts of the album that I couldn't see how they could recreate on stage. Well, they did it and played it to a T. From "Born Under Punches" to the amazingly weird stagecraft of "The Great Overload, Phish took the Talking Heads art-punk, skittering, scorching, and paranoid album and delivered on every bit of weirdness that Brian Eno and company put on the LP. And then to wrap it in two sets of monster Phish was a highlight that made it sit at the top of the Halloween pile, no questions asked for a long time. I would say it still does but that Disney show was a monster.
10/31/96 set 2
After a break in 1997, which they deserved because that tour burned down every stop until The Great Went, they rolled into Las Vegas with the Velvet Underground's Loaded, so named because if was "loaded with hits". The band knocked the material out of the park and some of it still is in the rotation. Mainly, "Rock and Roll" but occasionally my favorite track on the album, "Oh! Sweet Nuthin!" which has, in my opinion, on the greatest guitar solo's in all of rock guitar. The show was absolutely crazy. Trey was starting to go off the rails and this was kind of a last hurrah for the Halloween costume. Page's "I Found a Reason" and the always great, "Sweet Jane" made the show hard to mess up. It was a good set and although not as adventurous in many ways then the previous choices, still showed off Phish's ability to re-create an album note-for-note. Even if said album wasn't particularly like by the band itself. The real story of 1998 was the nailing home of the maxim of never sleep on a Phish show. Those that skipped Darien Lake to go to The Great Went early missed the Pranksters and Ken Kesey and those that skipped Salt Lake City missed the band covering Dark Side of the Moon.
A great album and a good show but not the pinnacle of the Halloween costume shows. I say this as a huge Velvet Underground fan who given the choice between the two would always pick the Velvet's version.
Set 2 10/31/98 LV, NV
After all the furor died down and the hiatus was over, Phish chose to come back in a big way. The whole Festival 8 event was a blast to attend. From the the shows to the acoustic set to coffee and doughnuts in the morning. Phish pulled out all the stops for their comeback Halloween festival in Indio, CA. Their first festival on the west coast. The website that knocked out each state then the fifty albums up for selection that got the hatchet up to the week before the festival, leaving six contenders was a ingenious way to announce the Halloween festival. The band played there hearts out during the Phish shows but were still knocking the rust off. 2009 wasn't a great year in Phishtory but the festival was great because the boys were back and with Trey clean you could see the fun they were having be back in front of large crowds again. The choice of Exile on Main St. was a bold one because the Stones were at the top of their game when they wrote it and it is consistently considered one of the greatest albums ever made. Also, going against it was that it had no major "hits" that the majority of people would know besides "Loving Cup" which a lot of people thought was a Phish song anyway. Even with Sharon Jones backing up the band on vocals the show didn't really reach down and touch the heroin-drenched grandeur of the original. Honestly, Phish is to technically good to match the magically sloppiness of Keith Richards or the world-weary, three-woman in my bed drawl of Mick Jagger. I guess that's not a bad thing but I loved it and it made me listen to the Mick Taylor Stones more which is a good thing and something I think Phish always has in the back of their head. They want to expose their fanbase to albums that influenced them. The following movie Phish 3-D was released to see the show up close and sounded better in some places than it did when I was at the venue. Still, a very good shot but once again, listen to the original.
Exile Set 2 Indio 2009
In 2010, Phish threw the fans a curve ball. The night before, the whole second set was interspersed with Led Zeppelin songs. It was an amazing show and answered all the rumors that it was going to be a Zeppelin show for Halloween. It obviously was not. The dirty swamp rock of Little Feat was a 70's phenomenon. Even though Waiting for Columbus was one of the best-selling live records of all-time. It still flew under most Phish fans radars. By now, a new fan had come on the scene. Gone was the party all night on "whatcha got" mentality of Phish 1.0, most of the new fans saw their first show post-2000 and where they seemed to be used to 4-5 song second sets and what appeared as Trey wankery, thought it was a weak show if they didn't get at least two or three 15-20 min jams. I'm not saying that Phish 2.0 was bad, it was just different. The younger fans came in and with them their pasts and for most of them Little Feat wasn't something they were familiar with. I thought the band played the hell out of the album and that "Ghost>Spooky" in the first set was one for the ages. the one-two punch of the Zep show the night before and the Little Feat show on Halloween was a Phish dream come true. Unfortunately, I was on the west coast and we were Phish starved until I moved to Memphis, and then the three night stands at BGCA began the next year. C'est La Phish.
"Dixie Chicken" 2010 the whole show is on a playlist on YouTube
After a few years off from Halloween shows, Phish came back to Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey for the next costume. I have to say up front, I was not in attendance but I feel like the whole "Phish from the future" conceit was a copout. Phish could have picked any night to play their new album and it would have gone down in Phish history. Choosing to do it on Halloween, a night that the band and fans have turned into a cherished institution and a showcase for their virtuosity by playing another band's songs perfectly, was kind of a letdown for me as a longtime fan. I get the uniqueness of it but think about now how many times a show gets knocked for having too many new songs.I understand what they were going for and the songs they played, they played well. Still, then to name the album Fuego instead, I'm just going to move on. Although the Abe Vigoda sketch was cool, I didn't feel like it made up for the rest of the costume. If I had attended, I would've felt cheated but the rest of the show was top-notch.
Wingsuit Boardwalk Hall,NJ 2013
In 2014, Phish broke the mold. They picked an obscure album of sounds and themes and wrote their own works around a mix of the titles of the pieces and vocal stories. This worked great for two especially big reasons. Unlike another artists' album, they had nothing to compare it too. It was completely up to them how they wanted to interpret it. Second, they could make the songs as long or as short as they wanted and the music didn't need to have anything to do with the title. I think this worked even better than the band expected. They are still playing songs from this night almost two years later regularly. I think this choice makes the best of all possible choices of the Phish Halloween concept. The staging was immaculate and it truly was the best of Phish improv, while giving them a framework from which to jump off. This is, in my opinion one of the best Halloween choices so far. The Talking Heads was an incredilbly played show, Exile and Little Feat covered the double album "influences" angle and the White Album and The Who covered the "fan's choice" angle. This choice was an accumulation of all that Phish has become and distilled it into on of the funkiest shows they've ever done, plus two amazing set. Truly, a great choice for Halloween.
2014 SET 2 TCSOTHH 10-31
So now, what's to come this year? Well, David Bowie and Prince were always top contenders as was Thriller. So we could see something proggy like King Crimson or a nod to the giants that have passed away. It's been said they normally drop hints in the preceding tour but all I've seen are solid shows with a lot of new stuff and good versions of the older material until Texas, when they played REALLY old stuff. They've also played albums from the 60',70's, and 80's. Maybe it's time for a 90's album. Or since they played with Bobby, they're going to cover Europe 72'. All I know is I'll gladly be expecting anything they decide on.
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A conversation with Starfinder, Bear's grandson and the man behind preserving his family's Holy Grail of live music. Learn all the d...