Selection: “Harry Hood”
Harry Hood, 5 August 2013, Hollywood Bowl
by Walter Holland
Saw my way
To a plot, or as much of one as still allowed
For surprise and pleasure in its working-out.
Knew my setting; and had, from the start, a theme
Whose steady light shone back, it seemed, from every
Least detail exposed to it. I came
To see it as an old, exalted one:
The incarnation and withdrawal of
(James Merrill, The Changing Light at Sandover)
Thank you so much, @lawnmemo, for bringing us folks together here to talk about what and how we love within this music – I’m especially psyched to see a bunch of women’s bylines on these posts! Series like this one are maybe what I like best about the fandom and I’m really grateful for the chance to take part.
They played a fluent, free-flowing 20+ minute Harry Hood so there is at one level nothing to say but ‘Thank you,’ really. Really there isn’t. C’mon, isn’t this like item #1 on almost every new Phish fan’s wishlist – a free-range exploratory Hood with a smooth landing at the closing chords after (y’know) a soul-searing magical climactic call to the heavens, that thing that only Phish do but which they do so rarely in this, their simplest most beautiful song?
The list of form-breaking Hoods is short. As few of them as I can remember, doing so brings me joy. A few offhand:
Two from late July 2003, In Those Days when the music’s Overton window had shifted decisively toward the let’s-diplomatically-say consistent ‘2.0’ sound, forward-falling clatter and audible odd rhythmic joins and perverse approximations of grooves that they had in their/our youth taken pains to assemble – what had taken years and miles to derive was by then assumed alas – look it’s all a lot of fun and the Camden(?) ’03 Hood has this one gorgeous bit I remember(?) but the envelope was small and getting smaller…
14 August 1997, though it’s not so much a ‘Hood jam’ as a distinct transitional passage from the final chord of Hood (remember Those Days when they ended with a definitive unison hit on the I, rather than a drawn-out dissolving IV?) to whatever happened when Kesey came out, ‘the Bozos’ I remember, and Trey being sarcastic afterward; and I remember being at Darien Lake that night dancing weeping to Silent and when Kesey emerged one of the guys we were seeing the show with turned around and his life, I can see it in his face now, his life was changing all in one instant into, into, into everything…
30 December 1997 at the Garden deep deep in the second set of one of the all-time great Phish shows, one of those festival-in-a-night shows – after the definitive opening Sally > Taste twofer and before the definitive What > Who > IDon’tEven > LOLSRSLY?! encore – the Hood is so tense and ambivalent and something deeper than us is at work (always is)…
Maybe Jones Beach in 2009, skyward past rainfilled clouds to gaze up through the skin of the sea, billions of billions of stars, deep space clears to a ghostly ambient passage (thin the veil), something new. How many times will we come to a place untouched by time. Well but isn’t that what improvised music is for. To be a place you’ve never been.
And then there’s $DATE1 and also $DATE2 and ‘other folks are better at this kind of knowing than you or I will ever be…
I wonder when I first fell in love. Maybe that phrase needs scare quotes: ‘fell in love,’ because what does that mean? Some threshold level of longing or self-deception? A certain number of hours wasted on want? Some measure of self-loss and devotion, 0–100 where 100 is willingness to die for someone or for even her or his idea and 0 is what you think of Hitler, and anything above 83 is ‘in love’ unless it’s family, obviously there’s a special track for family…? I dunno. And then don’t teenagers pretend at sophistication by making a distinction between ‘just sex’ and ‘making love,’ does that factor in?
Specifically I sometimes wonder whether I was ‘really’ in love with my best friend in high school. I know that I knew I was; I can even point to when I realized I was (just as I know the very day I realized I’d fallen out of love with my first college girlfriend, the hour, the vile-smelling computer cluster where I was standing). Maybe that’s what matters. How you see yourself when you’ve no reason to lie. But maybe not – after all, I moved on readily enough, didn’t I, to other…ideas, really. When the world opened up. High school is the world and then the (y’know) world is the world.
I don’t know when I fell in love with Phish’s music either, though I remember (as clearly as if it were yesterday) an afternoon lying on a friend’s living-room floor listening in the dark to the A Live One Hood – that late blues-roar switchback after the false climax, that piano swell before the cataract of syncopated guitar/drums at close – at that moment I know I was in love, would never fall out. Everything I can imagine wanting, I want from this.
I bet a love of folks have fallen in love during a Hood jam.
Love wants love. Love wants to love.
I’m pretty sure Van Morrison went on endlessly about this In Those Days. Ugh.
I hope this isn’t debilitatingly weird but I’m more interested in the fact that @aklingus’s first Phish show was 5 August 2013 than I am in what Phish actually played on 5 August 2013. He writes about Phish with passion and style. What he tells you about the music, maybe the music would tell you; maybe not; I mean I’m not sure how/who/what you hear when you hear this thing you love. How you love is what you hear, and there’s no ‘love’ as such, only you-loving. Loving you. Well. I wonder what it’d be like: to hear a just fine/OK/’standard great‘/this-is-better-than-rock-music-has-any-right-to-be-yet-I-am-faintly-disappointed Phish show at this late hour, after the giveaway, after the bailout and Coventry and Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Fukuoka Twist getting official SBD release and etree.org killing the tape-trading network that for me In Those Days was the warm vessel bearing blood through our shared body – to dance in a field during the incarnation and withdrawal of (during our becoming together) a god and be like ’meh’ and then with a stevejobsian ‘One more thing…’ to find yourself some minutes into this impossibility, a ‘Type II jammed-out Hood to close an otherwise pedestrian second set’ with those extraordinary colours and shapes thrown like paint or heart’s blood against the half-shell behind the stage, to be given that blessing-way to ask ‘When did we fall in love?’ as summer turns into something of us that will live in each other, shared passing – I wonder whether Tony the Young Lawyer had (has!) a specific moment that night when he caught the thread as it passed, knew pure joy without latency, unshadowed by reflection. Whether he and his new few thousand best friends looked at/in one another asking too a phildickian ’Is this really happening? How would I know?’ meaning that last non-rhetorically, like come to think of it how would you know?
Is it important anyway?
Was the ‘woo’ bit – there is a bit where everyone goes ‘woo’ – a bit much?
The woo bit ‘feels forced’ in a sense, I can’t say why or in what sense exactly but there it is, but on another timescale it’s absolutely the right thing – ever since the breathtaking Atlantic City Twist > Piper in June 2012 the idea of going ‘woo’ to punctuate what your favourite band is doing has seemed, to me, less stupid than previously; though it’d felt prettttty stupid, lemme tell you. But it came last year to feel like the very most rightest bestest thing to do. Howling at the moon, yelling ‘woo,’ talking back, feeling out loud. God the Tahoe Tweezer, I mean of course the Tahoe Tweezer, you can’t talk about Phish 2013 without mentioning it. That’s the story you’re in. And so here at (sigh) the Hollywood Bowl, here comes the big showdown with Voldemort, Harry Potter slips off to a purgatorial train station or something and Michael Gambon is there bedridden with psoriatic arthropathy saying things like:
The rain, it falls. The sun, it shines. The wind blows. And that’s what it’s like. You’re buffeted by this, by that, and it is nothing to do with you. Someone you love dies, or leaves. You get ill or you get better. You grow old and you remember, or you forget. And all the time, everywhere, there is this canopy stretching over you –
Harry Potter asks him ‘What canopy?’ His heart in his throat. I miss you.
Michael Gambon is annoyed at being interrupted, but he forgets (or I guess just forgives) himself and says a true thing, a brave thing:
And what happens here, what’s said, isn’t terribly important. Only what’s felt. Before the ‘16-or-however-many Years Later’ epilogue has a chance to take the wind out of the sails and the sails off the mast, to defile your memory of these beloved books like a critic explaining what is Right and Proper, this is the thing itself: one last visit with someone you love. Harry having died is afforded a vision of the afterlife (‘…white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise…’). @aklingus having logged off the phish.net forums, sublimely absurd, comes in at the last day of what by then was kinda feeling like the first tour, the long-awaited departure – what an amazing year of music – and if this is the wrong moment for ‘woo’ by some measures, I’m 100% certain that it’s the absolutely perfect time not for ‘woo’ per se but for one more woo.
A kiss goodbye isn’t just a kiss. (Is anything?)
Time really does stop. It really is OK to linger. It really doesn’t have to be right to be perfect.
Things as they are.
If there’s a requirement, it’s to talk about that very thing. Without bullshitting too much.
Last act. The heir returns from England, aged a decade in only months, having killed his friends at sea; he is now immortal and omniscient. First he stops in a graveyard to make jokes and enemies.
(Before I go on I wanna point out that after signing up for this slot in the 26-in–26 series I almost wrote in to ask if I could pass the 8/5 show on to the aforementioned @aklingus, but then quite sensibly (and possibly out loud) I’m like LOL FUCK THAT DWEEB. It felt awesome.)
For the usual reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why we write about music. Not just how, which is a matter of form and style and professionally interesting to me in ways that don’t quite fit into how I’m thinking about this essay. Mostly I’m wondering what we get out of this, what can we take from writing and reading this kind of reflection…and what I don’t yet know how to make/take/give in this form. A big topic(, he said self deprecatingly).
Reading @mikehamad’s essay the other day was especially exciting, what with all this thinkin’ going on. Mike commands a technical (musicological, music-theoretic) vocabulary, but I think he and I share the feeling that analysis is most valuable when it adds a thin layer of terminological abstraction in order to tear away a thick layer of anxiety, frustration, difficulty – by pointing at once to two domains of experience and knowledge and saying ‘These could be the same for you, you could see and hear and be the one in the other.’ The sound of an open fifth and the penstroked staves that cue a musician to produce it, say; the sight of a beautiful painting and the world its maker sought to honor, to make more beautiful in turn; the singing without effort of a single sentence and the madness (no ‘mystery’) of its making; or yes the taste of salt on a lover’s skin and the names and desires and shared fates of forgotten others across missing years who died inside, it seemed, in order to savor for another moment that same electric sense…
Knowing the name of the column that keeps the temple from falling isn’t ‘important’ but knowing feels beautiful, to me and (I know) to you. To all of us, especially together! Or it’s beautiful so long as knowing adds to the thing known, if we learning lovingly. Doing so deepens the love we feel. (Love is nothing like hate. To know a beloved someone more deeply is to love them more deeply, but hate is about the idea of the hated thing; selfishly it’s about their relationship to us, the role they play for us. Hate takes ignorance. That’s what it is.)
Mostly I think we talk (not just about music) to say: We are here, we live and long for life; ideas and memories just like people are nothing without one another. My heart needs you in order to grow.
Somebody smart (Groucho Marx?) said the smallest unit of human existence wasn’t the individual but the pair. So much art is just to say: ‘Here, feel less alone.’ Knowing that purpose, sharing it – as listeners, as friends-in-music – can’t steal from the experience. Maybe admitting that shared need works to cut away the aspects of us that stand in the way of saying beautiful things. I mean: true things.
I do wanna talk about the 5 August 2013 Hollywood Bowl Hood played in Los Angeles California by the Phish from Vermont. I do wanna talk about intervals and colors, shifting feel without changing tempo, how Fish plays these amazingly groovy fills now that he’d never have played In Those Days. I totally wanna talk for hours about how a band that spent so much energy learning to spontaneously generate chord progressions now seems effortlessly to deform them, to melt down worked song-stuff into elemental ore, to have (years ago) overcome any impulse toward formalist pretense or posturing and learned instead to create in the shared moment a music without genre, and believe me I’ve got a growing folder full of examples of these things, there are historical arguments to make, there are transcriptions to illustrate points. There is reason for heaven’s sake…
But I’ve just now realized that I know the answer to a (the) question above: how did it feel in a field beneath stars with friends and strangers to be lifted up by art given lovingly and freely?
I wonder about you.
I try to imagine how you felt then, there, anytime. Anyplace, really.
And how you feel reading these words which have run so fast this morning to get away from me. Which seem to want to be yours. To want that more than I think I could want. (My work knows more than I know.)
I imagine you – and I feel less alone.
From the bottom of my heart, Thank you.
From Wally Holland:
Wally Holland (@waxbanks) is working on a book about A Live One for Bloomsbury, due in Fall 2015. Among his other books is A tiny space to move and breathe, a book of essays (more or less) about Phish’s Fall 97 tour. His favorite version of Ghost is probably from July or November 97; his favorite flavor of yogurt is maple. NICE.
Wax is a pros pros. Always a pleasure to work with, and an incredible writer. His writing makes me want to be a better writer.