Tag Archives: jambands

SUPER PHEST! From the Archives, 7/9/2011

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“I’ve got big balls,” sung Phish drummer Jon Fishman, “Some balls are held for charity, and some for fancy dresses, but when they’re held for pleasure, they’re the balls that I like best!” While I suppose there’s a slight chance he was referencing an engorged scrotum, what he was really talking about (in singing the AC/DC cover, “Big Balls”) was the Biggest Ball Ever, the jam band’s 9th festival since 1996.

SuperBall IX, Photo by Kirsten Sheahan

Not only was it their biggest festival ever, but it was the best planned and executed Phish festival to date right from the start. Clearly, the organizers had done this before and had learned from their mistakes. The first Phish festival, The Clifford Ball, set the bar for the modern-day super concerts we know and love. This goes not only for Phish’s festivals, but events like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza (though the alt-rock festival was conceived 5 years before the inaugural Phish festival, it was a touring event, like Warped Tour), Austin City Limits, and many others, take a hint from the Phish organization in ways to please the crowd: art installations, cooling tents, using local resources, even car-side camping all came from the one-band festival that preceded these giant concerts. The Clifford Ball (1996), The Great Went (1997), Lemonwheel (1998), Camp Oswego (unofficial festival, 1999), Big Cypress (1999), IT (2003)–these were events that defined what a music festival had become.

The Phish organization may have followed the footsteps of the Grateful Dead in their musical approach and marketing scheme, but planning and organizing these giant events was somewhat uncharted territory, especially in 1996 when all they had as an example was Woodstock (largely a failure) and day-long touring festivals. They wanted to create a completely unique fan experience, something you couldn’t get at any old concert or any regular camping trip. From the beginning, The band was fully immersed in the planning process. They helped the creative director and the engineers in figuring out what should go where and how, and in their earlier days, even helped build some of the structures. Without the efforts of the Phish organization, and without the compassion for phans that Phish truly had and acted on, we may not have today’s festival as know it.

Photo by Kirsten Sheahan

Super Ball IX was held at the historic Watkins Glen International Racecourse, site of 1973’s Summer Jam that featured The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, and The Band. Unlike anything a Phish crowd is used to, the venue was fully prepared for the influx of jam band fanatics that started rolling in on Thursday morning. Even Wednesday night saw a line forming at the gates, and when the crowd thickened, they abided for safety purposes and started letting people in. Many had arrived early in hopes that Phish would pull a Grateful Dead-move and let the audience in for a full blown 2-hour set during sound check. (Alas, while the Thursday sound check would have been nice to hear, listeners had to stay outside the gates.)

Thursday night was a northeastern reunion, with phans finally coming together to make up for the disaster that was 2004’s Coventry. Billed as the last Phish show ever, the event was poorly planned, poorly managed, and even more poorly played. We may have been able to deal with the flood, the mud and the 15-mile hike to get in if anything else had worked out, but it didn’t and no phan was about to let that be their last east coast memory of Phish. So we all found ourselves back in northern New York, just an hour past Ithaca (just?!), and you could feel the excitement and joy as soon as you stepped onto the festival grounds. Well coordinated, mostly car-side camping areas were named after states Phish has never played in (North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and a phan-designated area called Puerto Rico) and overflow parking lots surrounded the racetrack, enabling festival city to be in the center of the huge arena.

As phans came trickling in on Friday, others took time to explore the ever-developing Americana theme on the festival grounds. Not only was there a ferris wheel, bocce ball and wiffle ball courts, an air-conditioned charging tent, and a plethora of vendors giving out information and ice cream (thank you, Ben and Jerry’s); there were also giant structures (a storage unit, a water mill, a factory-esq production line) to walk through and on. Each of these buildings was constantly changing, starting on Friday in a wooden, colonial style decoration. On Saturday, they were transformed to more industrial designs. Sunday’s incarnations represented the future, brought in by a secret, late-night, futuristic set Phish played from the storage unit in an area called “Ball Square.”

Phans were treated to balloon structures to play with, original art to look at, and the House of Live Phish, where you could download each set right after it happened, listen to and download past sets selected by archivist Kevin Shapiro. You could even single out each band member in the mix to create a totally unique listening experience.

Friday night saw the first two of seven (announced) sets, and yes, they were all Phish. Thirteen hours, 17 minutes, and 22 seconds (thanks for calculating, NY Times), all by one glorious band and gladly soaked up their loyal phans. The first sets put us at ease when we could tell that they had been practicing, were playing very well, and were feeling the vibe of this festival already. Set one saw bust-outs like Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” and a very rarely played “Mike’s Song> Simple> Bug.” Saturday was the big day for all of us, featuring a fully day-time set starting at 3 pm.

A phan-organized beach ball fight was the perfect supplement to the opening “Tube,” and while the next two sets of the day were both phenomenal and surprising, the real gem was the secret, unannounced set that started at 2 am Sunday morning. Spacey, wandering and barely following the melody of the “Sleeping Monkey” we know and love, the boys’ 4th set of the day met very mixed reviews. While some kids were ready to keep the party going and just wanted to dance to another regular set, some of us realized that Phish finally remembered how to jam and were blown away by the improvisational rock music blaring out of that storage unit. Sunday, too, was a day filled with amazing music, happy and safe concert-goers and finally a break in the heat with a little rain in the morning. Another thing most phans are not accustomed to is the weather holding out so nicely as it did this past Independence Day weekend. Besides the blaring heat for Saturday’s 3 pm set, it was easy to stay cool during the day and even got a little chilly at night. Perfect festival-ing weather, if you asked anyone there.

Overall, maybe not in numbers, but in everything else this was the biggest festival, the biggest ball of them all; it was a most super ball. Even if you’re not privy to the ways of Phish culture, even if you hate it and everything we stand for, it’s hard to ignore the roots of the music events standing in their legacy that are becoming ever wider spread, ever more popular and accessible. How can you ignore it anyway? A gathering of 30,000-plus people (that being the smallest festival in Phish’s history), dancing to genuine rock ‘n’ roll and celebrating the freedom to enjoy whatever we want, however we want? Even though in the Articles of Orientation packet they handed out at the entrance, it reminds attendees that “Independence is a theme, not a day.” Phish allows us to be as free and independent as we could possibly be. In the beginning of the festival, in fact after the second song, before he could even guess that the weekend would be such a success, Trey said “Thanks for coming to our party, everyone!”

No, boys, thank you.

Originally published on BreakThru Radio, 7/9/11

The Weekend Trip, 9/30/2011

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Episode number 3 of the weekly playlist!! Feedback encouraged!! phunkytela@gmail.com

What’s playing in the background?! Band and song guesses in the comments section, winner by next weeks broadcast!!

“Northbound Trains” -Dan Galvano, 420 Jamstravaganza
“Shifty Shaft” –Cabinet, This Is Cabinet – Set 1      
“Twisty Twisty” -Zach Deputy, Sunshine
“Ok” -Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, LIVE UP!! Volume II
“Silly Fathers” –Rubblebucket, Omega La La
“Tonight” –Soulive, Up Here
“Burn My Money” -Jimkata, Burn My Money
“Castaway”  -Wolfman Conspiracy
“Looking Back On Earth” -STS9 , Ad Explorata
“Illumin8”  -The Malah
“Take Your Time”  -Fundimensionals,  Fundimensionals

Dan Galvano and The Bansai Bills

 

This Is Cabinet Set 1

 

Alex Sciortino of Fundimensionals

 

Wormtown Music Festival Review

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For most of us, September marks the end of summer. For some, it means no more dancing in sweltering hot fields, sleeping on the ground, or eating hotdogs. No more Jerry Roll, no more dollar beers on lot, and no more 2 am sets- at least until next summer.

While there are still a lot of good music festivals going on, the cap on my festival season is Wormtown. Hosted by Wormtown Trading Company at tiny Camp Kee-Wanee in Greenfield, MA, this festival takes place in the middle of September, right when it starts to get chilly at night. With two small stages next to each other, and 2 more in the woods, plus 2 cabins hosting the late night scene, it’s a weekend long party that helps kick start a dedicated fan base for small-time bands and musicians.

People were trickling in all day on Friday, setting up camp in the woods and throughout the campgrounds. Everywhere you looked, there were streamers, ribbons, signs, anything else you could hang from a tree, and hundreds of happy campers excited to be there. The first heavily attended show on the main stage was Zach Deputy’s first set of the evening, which had the energy and enthusiasm our Friday night needed. Wormtown was the first festival Zach ever played and to see him grow popular enough for 2 Friday night sets is an exciting thing for the Worm family. He delivered a danceable, but quick set, ultimately a tease for what was to come.

Hot Day at the Zoo was another Friday night highlight. Their progressive bluegrass style is a pre-packaged dance party, and the four-piece has an eclectic energy that fuels their live performance. Each of Hot Day’s songs are well rounded, with a stand-up bass that roots them, and mandolin and banjo parts that create waves of excitement. It doesn’t hurt that the guitarist and harmonica player (who sat in on drums for a few songs) has this raspy, emotion-filled singing voice, and is really easy on the eyes. Unlike many bands, they all sing with completely unique, yet blend-able voices, allowing them to take traditional bluegrass to a higher, and more amplified, level.

JT Lawrence from Hot Day at the Zoo

Michael Dion of Hot Day at the Zoo

The late night scene was largely dominated by The Brew, who is just wildly good at their instruments and so fascinating to watch up close, and to close the night, Sauce. Had they been scheduled a little earlier, there may have been a bigger draw, but their funky beats and sexy melodies kept the 4 am crowd dancing into the morning.

Yarn took the main stage around 1 pm on Saturday to kick off the day with another energetic bluegrass set. Then the festival-goers had to chose between The McLovins and the Zach Deputy Super Jam, which was not an easy choice in my opinion. To catch a little of each didn’t do either justice, but nevertheless, The McLovins impressed with tight and fancy jams from a group of 15 year olds. The Super Jam was also a wildly skillful moment of music making, where Zach Deputy was leading the crew, but by no means overtaking it. The exploratory jams flowed organically and weaved into spontaneous songs featuring Wormtown chants.

Shakedown’s 4:20 set was finally the touch of Dead this event needed. Maybe it’s due to the overwhelming presence of Further and/ or Dark Star Orchestra at most of the festivals I attended this summer, but I felt that this festival was seriously lacking in Grateful Dead music, so thankfully Shakedown came in to resolve that issue, and resolved it well- my Dead craving was quite satisfied, although with no particularly memorable covers.

The main event of Saturday was Max Creek, and while he always plays a great set, I wanted to take that time to hear the multitude of new bands performing in that same slot. Wolfman Conspiracy was a standout set, with a prominent horn section and a reggae-rock vibe that you don’t find often. Each song was a bit different, and instead of it coming off as a band with an identity crisis, they seemed multi-faceted and dynamic.

The Phreaks were also absolutely stellar. As a Phish cover band, they are attempting something that may be a little presumptuous, being that the band still tours actively, and while they won’t get to DSO status, it’s immensely impressive that if you close your eyes, and they’re just jamming, it really feels like being at Phish show. Their sound is so big it blew the fuses on the smaller stage multiple times, but their set kept people hanging around. They were playing amazingly replicated covers of Phish’s most technical songs, from “Reba” to “Tube” to bust-outs like “Mike’s Song>Gumbo>I Am Hydrogen>Weekapaug Groove.” Truly, for Wormtown, epic. And if you think no one can play like our boys, well… these guys can and do. To a tee.

One of the first bands to play on Sunday morning was Fundimensionals, with a 10 am set on the RiverWorm Stage. A surprising amount of people made it out, and regardless of the power problems that the Phreaks also experienced, they plugged in the generator to rage a full set. Fundimensionals have an energy to their music that doesn’t compare to many other acts. With each song comes a new journey, and you don’t have to be a genius to follow along. Many bands who are using synth effects and doing “jam-tronica” are a little hard to keep up with because their jams are so advanced and moog’d out, but Fundimensionals produce innovative electro-rock songs that even the least-savvy music listener can enjoy.

Closing the festival was another Wormtown staple, Ryan Montbleau Band. The perfect way to cap off a Sunday, RMB played a mellow but inspiring set that allowed for Ryan’s lyrics to be the highlight. More than lyrics, his poetry seemed to resonate with everyone in the crowd, from 5-year-old girls to 50-something biker dudes, all singing along. Truly, Ryan’s lyrics are unmatched in the jam band scene and his band is the perfect supplement. Careful not to overpower, they linger patiently in the background until their time to shine, when Ryan may even step off stage momentarily so the focus is truly on the sick lead guitarist, funky bassist, seamless drummer, and smiling pianist.

In it’s 13th year, Wormtown Music Festival was again a success. It’s a great opportunity for new bands to break into the scene, for up-and-coming artists to get the support they need (and to repay their loyal fans with intimate sets), and for the Worms to come together as a family again. See ya next year, Wormies!!

Note: more pictures to come!!!

Hot Day at the Zoo!

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Here’s an article I wrote for BreakThru Radio back in January, introducing the listenership to my absolutely favorite zoograss band, Hot Day at the Zoo. If you don’t know who they are, listen to this, watch this and this, and enjoy the article below! More from guitarist Michael Dion coming up next!

It’s a hot Thursday morning in Bridgeport, CT and people are flooding in to Sea Side Park for day one of Gathering of the Vibes. Campers are pitching their tents, neighbors are setting up shaded chill-out spots, and suddenly, music comes floating across the bay. A banjo rings out, acoustic guitar, a distinct stand-up bass, and delightful mandolin- the perfect lineup for a great bluegrass band.

This four-piece string band is Hot Day At The Zoo, and their unique northern zoograss is a force to be reckoned with. With the release of their first full-length album a whole year behind them, they have gained the attention they deserve and the fan base to support them on their climb to the top of the jam scene.

You may be saying to yourself, “jam scene? I thought you said they were a bluegrass band?” But that is where HDATZ gets the wonderful name for their sound, and the name of their album, Zoograss.

Zoograss is our interpretation of bluegrass,” says stand-up bass player Jed Rosen of their original sound. “We have the makeup of a traditional bluegrass band, but we’re more rock ‘n’ roll and blues fused together with elements of jazz and a bit of jamming.”

 Hot Day At The Zoo comes to us from the Boston, MA area, where they have been building a following throughout the greater region for years. Through two line-up changes and countless experimental shows, people have followed HDATZ from one monumental show to the next.

 Jon Cumming, banjo player and one of the band’s songwriters, recalls a show they did at Snoe.down Festival in 2007 as being one of the first where he really knew Hot Day at the Zoo was a force to be reckoned with. “It was only five or six in the evening and man, I couldn’t believe how many people showed up and were groovin’ all over the place. I realized then, wow the word is getting out, people are responding to what we’re doing and reacting in a genuine way.”

Rosen agreed that the great response from their audience was almost immediate. “When we started playing in Lowell (MA), we were already more than a bar band. Even shy of a year, we were all feeling the positive energy not only from us, but from the audience as well.”

Hot Day At The Zoo is comprised of four extremely talented, high energy guys: Cumming on banjo, vocals, and a unique type of guitar called a dobro. Rosen takes on duties of bass and vocals. Michael Dion writes most of the songs for the band and plays guitar and harmonica. The final member is the multitalented JT Lawrence on mandolin and vocals (and sometimes drums, keys, guitar, or flute).

Dion’s beautiful, image-driven lyrical skills bring another personality to many of the songs he composes, as opposed to those from Cumming, which feature straight-to-the-point, moving poetry. Combine the poignant words they master with the arranging and technical skills of Lawrence and Rosen, and you have zoograss, a fascinanting, moving, and wildy fun new type of music from the fellas of Hot Day At The Zoo.

When these four guys get on stage, the energy they bring is electric, and the sound they create is engulfing. Different music experts like Relix Magazine and Jambase.com have compared them to artists like Phish, the Grateful Dead, Sam Bush, Yonder Mountain String Band, and the Avett Brothers- “good company to be in,” admits Cumming. Whether they are headlining a show or playing alongside music greats like Levon Helm (The Band), David Grisman, or moe., they always rouse the crowd and kick up some dust, so to speak.

In 2011, Hot Day At The Zoo expects to gain a lot more popularity and expand their fan base beyond the Northeast. They plan on doing more shows, extending their touring boarders into the south, and being heavy on the festival circuit. Expect to see a lot from HDATZ this summer, perhaps even a new album with all the new material they’ve been working on during their time off.

There’s no need to wait for the creative process to come full circle; you can download their phenomenal New Year’s Eve show here, which features 30+ great, original songs and a few killer covers from Hendrix to the Beatles. There’s something for everybody to love from Hot Day At The Zoo.

The Weekend Trip, 9/23/11

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Hey everyone, thanks for checking back in with the second episode of The Weekend Trip! This weekend, we start off with some bluegrass, mellower tunes, then kick it into gear with a funk sandwich fron Zach Deputy and New York Funk Exchange, and prep you for your night with electronica jams from a couple brand new bands! Let me know what you think, I’m still breakin’ in my DJ skillz and could use some constructive criticism! I would also love to take requests, I’ll honor any that I can, and if you have a band you’d like me to check out- hit me up! Email me at phunkytela@gmail.com

No longer available to stream =( Download it for free =) right here.

Here’s ya playlist, kid!

Eggs- Ryan Montbleau Band, Live at Bear Creek 2009
Complicated- Yonder Mountain String BandThe Show
Whiskey In Heaven- Poor Man’s Whiskey, Dark Side of the Moonshine, Disc 2
Incandescent Devil- Tea Leaf Green, Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Soundtrack
Sunshine- Zach Deputy, Sunshine
Shimmy- New York Funk Exchange, Funkonomic Stimulus Plan
Bugless Brunch- Fundimensionals, Fundimensionals
Beadhead Crystal Bugger- The McLovins, Good Catch!
The Chase- BAM!, Live at Triumph Brewery
Explosions- Wolfman Conspiracy, ( 2011 single )
Devil’s in the Details- Jimkata, Ghosts and Killers
Down in the Yards- Rubblebucket, Omega La La

"How do you like yours? Unfertilized." RMB at Wormtown 2011

Zach Deputy at Catskill Chill, 2011

Fundimensionals at Catskill Chill, 2011

Other important stuff:

Most of these artists are touring right now, so definitely check out their schedules,

ZD is releasing his new album Another Day very soon, pre sale ends Sept 27th and it’s an absolutely wonderful album,

I’m hopelessly obsessed with Jeff Austin, forgive me,

and our background music for this episode was Soulive’s cover of The Beatles “Come Together” off their AWESOME album Rubber Soulive. Check back here for more from Soulive next week!

Peace and love friends!

Why You Should Try Studio Phish

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Someone in a recent issue of Surrender to the Flow was recalling his favorite version of “You Enjoy Myself” and said that he never laughed out loud to music before hearing that second track on 1988’s Junta. It occurred to me then that I had never listened to Junta, never mind a studio version of “YEM.” I hadn’t really listened to any studio Phish. ‘Why would I,’ I thought, ‘when live Phish is so much better?’ ‘But how would you know?’ said a little voice. So I went and listened to the only studio recordings I had on my iPod at the time- “Light,” and two tracks off an old Valentine’s Day mix, “Waste” and “If I Could,” the latter which had been played maybe once. After listening through these selections, I decided to indulge in some studio Phish, even if I wasn’t “supposed” to like it.

Naysayers, I hear your concerns loud and clear. Studio versions of our favorite songs can be very weird and discomforting. Take “Chalk Dust Torture,” where they decided to lower the tone on Trey’s vocals, making the whole vibe of the song kind of creepy. The production effects on songs can often times be questionable, and the band has admitted to putting less effort into their studio sessions than their live shows. But for many studio versions, we get an elaborated, perfected, and fantastic example of Phish songs. We get horns and back-up vocals, choirs even! We’re treated to amazing featured artists, harmonies you can’t possibly hear at shows, and parts of songs completely forgotten. Let me just ask you this: how do you know how good the jam is if you don’t know where it’s coming from? Most of the studio versions provide a jumping board for these songs to take off from, to grow and develop as they noodle through the sound-space continuum that is Phish.

Give that classic first album a thought. Some of Phish’s most highly anticipated songs come from that project: “Fee,” “YEM,” “Foam,” “Dinner and a Movie,” “David Bowie,” and “Fluffhead,” to name a few. And the writer from some issues ago is absolutely right; each funky turn in YEM can make you laugh out loud. The first four tracks of Lawn Boy, which came out in 1990, pack a hard punch with a “Squirming Coil> Reba> My Sweet One> Split Open and Melt” opener. “Reba” sounds clear, the words flow out clutter-free and precise, and it’s slowed down a bit so you can really appreciate the story in the music. “Split” becomes this kind of demonic, weirdly powerful, twisted little journey that I usually don’t experience during a live hearing. The horns add a level of unknowing to the coarse, deep vocals (which work here as opposed to “CDT”), and the sultry chorus singers remind you of some burlesque carnival fun house.

A Picture of Nectar will always be one of my favorite albums because each song brings something to the table I haven’t heard in a live version. The boys slipped “Manteca” in there, thinking no one would notice (ha!). This 1992 release gifted us with “Llama,” “Stash,” “Guelah Papayrus,” “Glide,” and “Tweezer,” not to mention the other gems. It’s enough to say that this album brought us classics, but it also revisited the character side of Phish. “Eliza,” “Cavern,” and “The Mango Song” are all amazingly driven by character and plot, and bring us back to the days of TMWSIY. 1993’s Rift includes rarities like “Lengthwise,” “The Wedge,” and “Weigh,” and without listening to the album, you may never hear these songs.

Hoist is the album that features the most incredible talent the boys bring in the studio. Horns and collaboration are some of my favorite Phish specialties and this album has both. Julius featured the soulful Rickey Grundy Chorale (with Rose Stone & Jean McClain) and the Tower of Power Horns. The spacey-watery-wonderworld of “Down with Disease” is something not easily replicable, while the familiar, but new “Axilla II” is another album treasure, with the quirkiest ending I’ve known Phish to produce. We already know that “If I Could,” featuring Allison Kraus, is the studio version that got me going studio-ways in the first place, and “Scent of a Mule” is crisp, clean, and delightfully bouncy, something that doesn’t always translate to the stage.

In my opinion, the albums that came after this are less to write home about. 1996’s Billy Breathes and 1998’s The Story of the Ghost did bring in some more classics that we’ve fallen in love with, and it’s definitely worth it to give those versions a listen. Farmhouse was pretty much a flop (if you ask any phan, though the mainstream media seemed to like it). Round Room and Undermind were, well… somewhat undermined and have kind of been swept under the rug. Give them both a chance and see if the lighter, more poetic tunes don’t show you a different side of Phish. As far as Joy/Party Time, I would buy them both. It’s their first album back (again) and now that most of the tracks are pretty integrated into rotation, it will be interesting to see how they grow.

Just as the writer of a past STTF encouraged me, I hope this article opens your mind up some of the perfected powers our boys can stir up. It’s just as amazing what they can do on stage as what they can do in a studio.

Catskill Chill Review

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Check out my review of the 2nd annual Catskill Chill Music Festival at Camp Minglewood, only on The Grateful Web!!!

http://www.gratefulweb.com/articles/2nd-annual-catskill-chill-music-festival2011

Featured artists: Fundimensionals, Shwizz, FiKus, JGB with Melvin Seals, Jimkata, Conspirator, Perpetual Groove, Heavy Pets, Zach Deputy, Umphrey’s McGee, Dumpstaphunk, Particle, 7 Walkers, and more!

Fundimensionals, 2011

The Heavy Pets 2011

ShwizZ, 2011

FiKus, 2011

Zach Deputy, 2011

Zach Deputy, 2011

Umphrey's McGee, 2011

Umphrey's McGee, 2011

Billy Krueztmann, 2011

inPHANcy… Or How to Love Phish as Much as That Guy with 100+ Stubs

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Someone once said to me, “You’re about a decade and a half late on that whole Phish thing.” Another person questioned the love I have for this band based on the amount of shows I’d been to. Even others doubt my knowledge of Phishtory because I’m young for this crowd (23, really?). And to be honest, sometimes this makes me feel like I really did just jump on the bandwagon. But no, let’s go back and I will tell you the story of a baby phan who came to the party right on time.

I saw Phish for the first time in 2004 on top of the David Letterman building. It’s a show that changed me, for sure, but didn’t have the impact that my next, and really first, two shows had. I had been a fan of Phish during their hiatus, and even kept up spirits when we all thought they would be gone forever. Upon their return in 2009, I didn’t think for a second that my life was about to change dramatically, and in so many beautiful ways. So I went to Bonnaroo, and though neither of those sets compare to what we can expect from Phish these days, it still set me on the roll that has yet to slow. Since then, I have seen 20 stunning shows that keep getting better and better.

During summer and fall of 2009, I fell in love with the crowd, the passion of the phans, the welcoming neighborhood of each lot. Foolishly, neither Halloween nor New Years was on the roster for me then. If only I had known!

When it came time to write my thesis for graduation, my professor said, “Well, what do you love?” and I said, “Phish.” So I wrote it on the band, phans, and love of the music, and in so doing, fell into the endless tunnel that is Phish phandom.

Dancing through that tunnel- more like a spiral of joy- summer 2010 was my tour of confirmation. Finally, the boys were close to home and I could afford to follow them around. Each show taught me more about their playing techniques, styles, personalities, and genius minds. (I had been listening to Phish non-stop, mind you. Every day was- and still is- filled with different live recordings, from all the years of their music making.) Each song seemed to fill out every time I heard it, the exploration of new songs constantly amazing me. I uncovered the depths and wonders, the layers of the cake, the jazzy, smooth, funny, serious, weird, and true corners of Phish, and each of these amazing musicians.

By the end of my summer of love, I decided to dedicate my life to Phish. I know, I know; this sounds a little crazy, and I realize, of course, that my life can’t be solely dedicated to Phish (or can it…). So I’m not twiddling my thumbs waiting for the guys over at Red Light to up and quit. But during fall tour, I got some sort of unspoken message through every Phish avenue that this was my calling: through the band, obviously, the lights and Koruda himself, the crowd culture and the lot scene, the individual phans, our subcultural market of toys and garments and food, hell, our language. It all made me absolutely positive that I had found some sort of affirming identity, some real group I could be a part of and relate to. And some fucking incredible music to guide us on the way.

My real point is that I don’t think I’m the only one in this situation. There are a lot of younger phans who didn’t get to see Phish back in the 90’s, either because we were too young, weren’t into it yet, whatever the reason. This is not to say that we’re resistant to learning: so many of us are finally getting into the groove of what Phish really was. The boys are back, there’s no denying that. The “reunion” part of this is definitely over; though to an older phan I’m sure it still seems different, they are certainly back in action and we’re all here together now. Sure, there’s some unspoken merit behind having seen a ton of shows, but if you love it, and if you’re feeling the good vibes, then boy, man… god… shiiit rock on!

Zach Deputy speaks of music things

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When someone says “one-man band,” the cartoon fool with a drum on his belly, tambourine on his foot, kazoo in his mouth, and other noise making things in his hands is the first image to come to mind. Take away all those cluttered instruments and all that’s left is a musician trying to get his songs heard, but today that cartoon is no longer a fool. In this world, one-man bands are not only feasible, but pretty cool too, and the music they make is just a worthy as that of a full-fledged orchestra.

Zach Deputy is one of those musicians (not the fool, the talented music player) who has taken the one-man band concept to the next level. He has found a way to build his songs live and on stage from scratch- nothing pre-recorded, no buttons pre-set, all in front of an expectant audience. And he does it all with one little instrument- his Godin Synth guitar. Well, so not just the guitar. He’s also got looping machines, special microphones, drum pads, and more to create a full-band effect from just one man, and that guitar sure puts in its time.

I got a word in with Zach about the tech he uses to create his unique sound, where that sound comes from, and why you shouldn’t call him a phony.

Tela: So how long have you been playing music?

Zach Deputy: I’ve been singing since I knew my name, I’ve been beat boxing and making weird mouth noises since 2nd grade, ya know back in school we used to cover our mouth and stuff, and playing guitar since I was 14.

T: What other instruments do you play?

ZD: I play pretty much any percussion, anything string I can’t play, I never got into ya know violin and cello, but otherwise, pretty much anything, I’m into making noise.

T: Tell me about your beautiful guitar, what is that and how does it work?

ZD: That’s my looping guitar, it’s a Godin Synth guitar, so you can use it to play in any instrument you want. It can be a goat, a French woman, anything I program it to do. It can make a ton of noise, and it’s not really that hard to play, pretty much like a regular guitar. I can make so much sound with it.

T: Why did you start the looping thing, and the one-man band thing?

ZD: Well it was by accident actually. My bass player friend and I were hanging out and not being very productive, we weren’t doing anything so I was just like okay what do I do now and he had some stuff I wanted to mess around with, one of which was a looping pedal which I had never used before so I got to messing around with it and eventually created a whole song on his one machine.

T: How many different loop machines do you use now? And how do they work?

ZD: Loop machines basically store all the sounds I need, I have two but on each loop machine I have 4 different tracks or phrases and I can loop as much as I want in each of those. I can have a drum track in one of them, a bass track with backup singers on another, I can have organ and guitar tracks and I can pull any of those in or out as I please. Basically, the second looper is for a B section because they’re not synched up together, so I have to make a completely different loop. Sometimes I’ll knock out all the melodic instruments and keep the drum section in my loop A and I’ll re-loop that and create a different rhythm section for loop B. Then I have an A and a B section to create a song.

T: What brand of looping machines do you use?

ZD: The boss RC 50, like RC Cola, haha.

T: When you go to do a live show, is any of it prerecorded? When you go on stage can you just press a button and the sound you want comes out? Or it’s all done right there?

ZD: No, I couldn’t live with myself if it was prerecorded, it’s completely against my ethics, and morals of music. It would be like going against my whole career if I used pre-made loops, that’s not the idea. In fact, one time at a show, some guy was shouting out, saying I was faking it. Have you ever seen the episode of Family Guy when the guy keeps popping up going “you’re a phony!” to Peter? Well, that’s what it was like, he was screaming in the middle of my show that I was faking it and not really doing what I was doing, so I stopped in the middle of the song I was performing and I said to the audience “This guy doesn’t think I’m really doing any of this up here, so I’m going to make a custom loop for him right now” and so I did and it was pretty good, but the lyrics went “You’re old, you’re creepy, you live in a teepee, you’re old, you’re creepy, you live in a teepee…” and pretty soon everyone was singing along, shouting at this guy at the top of their lungs. It was great, he got so mad and left, and ya know I don’t want to be a dick, but how are you going to stand in the audience and scream that at me? So… yeah, none of it is prerecorded I just could never do that.

T: What happens when you go into the studio? Do you do it on the spot?

ZD: Actually my studio albums are mostly done with a band, I worked with members of Ryan Montbleau band on Sunshine (2009). They came in to help me out, and I’ve worked with some of the Jackson’s, members of Earth Wind and Fire, Dr. John, Bruce Hornsby, a ton of other great musicians.

T: Does it feel much different than when you’re working with your looper, just you on stage, as opposed to a live band in the studio?

ZD: It’s way different, and it’s pretty much the only thing I have the budget for. I sometimes wish I could record in a very different way but my last two albums I’ve made in four days- recording, mixing and mastering takes much longer, but I don’t have the money to spend a long time in the studio so we get in there, lay it down, and get out.

T: How did you meet all these great musicians?

ZD: I guess just being in the right place at the right time, ya know, networking and paying them when they come to the studio.

T: I know you like to describe your music as dance music for the soul, but how would you elaborate on that? Where does your sound come from?

ZD: It just comes from everything I am. My mom is from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, so my grandma would always bring me Calypso mix tapes and other music, I loved getting mix tapes from my grandma. And then when I was younger, my mom got really into country music, which is a little weird, and my dad is into Motown and beach music, so that’s where that all comes from. My parents were professional dancers as well so I have music in the family and I’m a product of the 90’s so you get that whole hip-hop influence in there. Just our whole generation growing up in the 90’s, high school and middle school were kind of sucky, but we had nirvana and sublime and biggie smalls, so ya know whether I like it or not, it’s in my blood and since I grew up in the Southeast, there’s a bit of twang influence. Then I discovered Ray Charles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, stuff like that. I really draw influence from everywhere, so all those things make my music and then me as a person and individual soul taking it to a new level.

T: What can you tell me about the new album?

ZD: It’s called “Another Day,” it comes out in September. It’s a great album, I’m very happy with it and very excited about what its going to do for my career. It’s definitely going to open the window to a completely different audience without alienating the audience I already have. The songs are closer to what I do at home when I’m just messing around, so that’s really fun for me. I’ve been playing some of the new tracks and people are responding well, so I can’t wait to see how the album does.

Pick up a copy of Zach latest EP, “Into the Morning” or you can download the track “Happy Graduation” for free from his Facebook page. Keep checking back for more from Zach Deputy on BTR, or catch him on his nationwide summer tour, going on now.

Originally published on BreakThru Radio, 7/13/2011

Super Ball Icks, a Review.

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Photo by Kirsten Sheahan

“I’ve got big balls,” sung Phish drummer Jon Fishman, “Some balls are held for charity, and some for fancy dresses, but when they’re held for pleasure, they’re the balls that I like best!” While I suppose there’s a slight chance he was referencing an engorged scrotum, what he was really talking about (in singing the AC/DC cover, “Big Balls”) was the Biggest Ball Ever, the jam band’s 9th festival since 1996.

Not only was it their biggest festival ever, but it was the best planned and executed Phish festival to date right from the start. Clearly, the organizers had done this before and had learned from their mistakes. The first Phish festival, The Clifford Ball, set the bar for the modern-day super concerts we know and love. This goes not only for Phish’s festivals, but events like Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza (though the alt-rock festival was conceived 5 years before the inaugural Phish festival, it was a touring event, like Warped Tour), Austin City Limits, and many others, take a hint from the Phish organization in ways to please the crowd: art installations, cooling tents, using local resources, even car-side camping all came from the one-band festival that preceded these giant concerts. The Clifford Ball (1996), The Great Went (1997), Lemonwheel (1998), Camp Oswego (unofficial festival, 1999), Big Cypress (1999), IT (2003)–these were events that defined what a music festival had become.

The Phish organization may have followed the footsteps of the Grateful Dead in their musical approach and marketing scheme, but planning and organizing these giant events was somewhat uncharted territory, especially in 1996 when all they had as an example was Woodstock (largely a failure) and day-long touring festivals. They wanted to create a completely unique fan experience, something you couldn’t get at any old concert or any regular camping trip. From the beginning, The band was fully immersed in the planning process. They helped the creative director and the engineers in figuring out what should go where and how, and in their earlier days, even helped build some of the structures. Without the efforts of the Phish organization, and without the compassion for phans that Phish truly had and acted on, we may not have today’s festival as know it.

Super Ball IX was held at the historic Watkins Glen International Racecourse, site of 1973’s Summer Jam that featured The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, and The Band. Unlike anything a Phish crowd is used to, the venue was fully prepared for the influx of jam band fanatics that started rolling in on Thursday morning. Even Wednesday night saw a line forming at the gates, and when the crowd thickened, they abided for safety purposes and started letting people in. Many had arrived early in hopes that Phish would pull a Grateful Dead-move and let the audience in for a full blown 2-hour set during sound check. (Alas, while the Thursday sound check would have been nice to hear, listeners had to stay outside the gates.)

Thursday night was a northeastern reunion, with phans finally coming together to make up for the disaster that was 2004’s Coventry. Billed as the last Phish show ever, the event was poorly planned, poorly managed, and even more poorly played. We may have been able to deal with the flood, the mud and the 15-mile hike to get in if anything else had worked out, but it didn’t and no phan was about to let that be their last east coast memory of Phish. So we all found ourselves back in northern New York, just an hour past Ithaca (just?!), and you could feel the excitement and joy as soon as you stepped onto the festival grounds. Well coordinated, mostly car-side camping areas were named after states Phish has never played in (North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and a phan-designated area called Puerto Rico) and overflow parking lots surrounded the racetrack, enabling festival city to be in the center of the huge arena.

As phans came trickling in on Friday, others took time to explore the ever-developing Americana theme on the festival grounds. Not only was there a ferris wheel, bocce ball and wiffle ball courts, an air-conditioned charging tent, and a plethora of vendors giving out information and ice cream (thank you, Ben and Jerry’s); there were also giant structures (a storage unit, a water mill, a factory-esq production line) to walk through and on. Each of these buildings was constantly changing, starting on Friday in a wooden, colonial style decoration. On Saturday, they were transformed to more industrial designs. Sunday’s incarnations represented the future, brought in by a secret, late-night, futuristic set Phish played from the storage unit in an area called “Ball Square.”