Live Phish Volume 13

Band: Phish
Album: Live Phish Volume 13
Best song: Of course, it’s really hard to screw up the Beatles, right?
Worst song: Just about any of the band’s original material is kind of crappy.

I’ve never been a particular fan of jam bands, so I guess I’m particularly unsuited to write anything about Phish. I respect the hell out of the band’s musical ability; these guys can clearly play the hell out of their instruments.

But, like too much metal, a lot of the masturbatory soloing doesn’t strike me as much more than that. A near-15-minute version of band favorite “Harpua” doesn’t strike me as much more than annoying.

Nevertheless, I own three Phish albums. The first is Round Room, a studio album my ex-girlfriend left at my house and never asked for back. The other two are Phish live recordings, four-disc sets of the band doing its “musical costume” for Halloween shows. The one reviewed here and Live Phish Vol. 15, the band’s cover of Remain in Light. I bought both out of curiosity and don’t love either.

It’s kind of cliche to consider cover songs a blasphemy; I don’t feel that way at all. I think cover songs are a wonderful homage. One of my favorite songs ever recorded is not only a cover, but a somewhat ironic one, with Bedhead and Macha covering Cher’s “Believe.” Seriously. Give it a listen.

I guess my worry about covering super-classic stuff — like the Beatles, Zep, Sabbath, the Velvets, etc. — is that it’s something of a cop out. It’s hard to make a crappy song good, it’s not super hard to make a really great song somewhat decent.

And that’s Live Phish Volume 13. It’s nice. It’s decent. It’s a bunch of talented musicians playing a really fucking classic group of songs. It’s kind of hard to fuck up “Glass Onion,” you know?

And that, to me, is Phish and Phish fandom. It’s safe, it feels good and it’s kind of easy, all told. They play mildly pleasant music masquerading as threatening (DRUGS! OH NO!). There’s no question, this is a talented group of people, but their Vermont-soft hippy bullshit doesn’t hit it for me.

I’ll stick with Mastodon.

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