Postcards From Page Side: No Small Pheat

First, I find it utterly amazing that the vast majority of fans (almost ALL this year) had literally zero clue about the cover album until the doors to the venue opened and the Phishbill proudly displayed the cover of Columbus.  That was due to no elaborate website games (such as 2009’s “killing off” albums from a list that started at 100 or so contenders), tight-lipped band and management, and basically no clues whatsoever in the shows leading up to Halloween, with the exception of a plethora of Led Zeppelin covers, references, licks and all-out mayhem on 10/30. However, where with most other acts that might seem like a hint at what was to come (Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti was one of the leading contender for months leading up to the shows), with Phish nothing is what it seems and it basically meant the exact opposite. By “tricking” their fans with an all out barnburner of a show on the 30th, as the show unfolded, it became apparent to any longtime fan of the band that Zeppelin was indeed a contender, but eventually ruled out and the closest we would get was a slew of single verse jams and stanzas on All Hallows Eve.

Second, as elaborately stated by longtime Rolling Stone contributor, David Fricke, in the Phishbill (a Broadway-esque program handed out to fans upon entry to the Halloween show), Phish was out to do something this Halloween that they never have tackled before: recreate a live experience, as opposed to a studio album, which the previous five had all been. In doing so, in my opinion, Phish played directly to their single, greatest strength.  They played loose, managed to make more of Columbus’ songs their own than any previous costume – Spanish Moon or a few other selections from this album will be played again I’m willing to bet – and seemingly were having fun throughout the set, especially on the a cappella rendition of the proper toking etiquette, Don’t Bogart That Joint, and Willin’, which saw Fishman take center stage for vocals, while the remaining members of the band switched instruments and turned in one of the night’s most memorable tunes.

One can also look at the percussion/drum line at the album’s conclusion that saw the band take an entire lap around the arena, as is they didn’t want the festivities to end. I guess what I’m trying to say is that with the previous Halloween choices Phish was forced to change their sound and persona to adapt slightly, while Columbus seemingly adapted to them, a welcome and refreshing change, and what I feel was ultimately one of the decisions in its choosing, along with attempting to recreate the entire live concert experience, which in 1978, was all about the music.

Most importantly however, was not the days and months that led up to the AC shows, but rather the previous 30-plus years of Phish listening, learning, ripping off ideas and overall living Little Feat. You see, what many of the younger fans might not realize is that while the name Little Feat might not steal as much thunder or light up as brightly as The Rolling Stones, The Who or The Beatles, they were every bit as important to American music – and Phish – as all of the others.

In many ways, they were a band that flew under the radar, as Phish did for most of  their careers, despite being known as a live act.  Even after the secret was out this past Sunday, many of the younger fans in their teens and twenties still were not a all familiar with the album. For this reason, I am sure there will be mixed reviews on where this performance ranks in the grand scheme of things, but I for one, simply call if “different.”

It is an ode to the true days of rock-n-roll when “whiskey and bad cocaine” ruled the world, it is a tribute to Richie Hayward (who passed away earlier this year) and Lowell George, it was a tip of the cap to a band that Phish had been covering almost since their inception in the 1980’s with songs like Skin it Back and Time Loves a Hero – another sign that Little Feat’s direct influence was there since the beginning and made perfect sense at this point of Phish’s career as choice, which brought things full circle in AC.

In the end, the Atlantic City run will go down as extremely successful in Phish lore, while The Little Feat rendition will surely rank all over the lists of fans on the Halloween scale, which my guess is due to being unfamiliar with the album for the most part – something that I am sure will change with time, just as we all listen, learn, rip off ideas and live for Phish, just as Phish lived for Little Feat throughout their career.  Now, go be the judge and listen for yourself!

The show is available at LivePhish.com

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13 thoughts on “Postcards From Page Side: No Small Pheat

  1. Ryan D Reply

    Man, I loved both the selection and execution. Granted it was my virgin Halloween show, but I think it will last as my favorite one to listen to going forward. I think Feats Don’t Fail Me Now alone was worth the trip and empty bank account.

  2. Jaime Reply

    They killed this album! What a great choice!

  3. zzyzx Reply

    I disagree that the reason why the reason people were bored with LF was due to not knowing the band. They’re not obscure in the way that the Velvet Underground are. Fat Man, Dixie Chicken, and Oh Atlanta got radio play. Sailing Shoes was popularized by Robert Palmer.

    It’s just that for a large group of people LF weren’t unknown, but rather were a band that were just kind of there, OK if it came on the radio on a nice day, but that’s about it. The songs are (IMO) very similar stylistically, all are pretty much mid tempo, and (again IMO) don’t rise to the heights of the songs on any other album. Outside of Spanish Moon, there really isn’t a song for me that is a Great Curve or a Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ or Shine a Light or…

    I’m glad that Phish enjoyed playing the album and I’m glad that it worked for many people. I just wish you guys would understand that there’s a large group of people who aren’t fans and it’s not because we’re stupid or don’t know the material or anything; music taste is arational.

  4. lib4 Reply

    I can understand the younger heads disappointment with the album

    For us older heads say 35 or over; this album was a rite of passage in college. We played it over and over again and i still to this day have the CD locked into the 6 disc changer in my car unremoved for over 4 years!!!.

    I have to believe once the younger heads go back and actually listen to the album, they will come to realize what an amazing and obvious choice this was.

    Sometimes its not always about us the fans.
    If playing this album fulfilled a dream for Mike, Trey, Jon and Page I cannot begrudge them in anyway after the years of unbridled joy they have given me

    Kudos on a great choice and a fun night

    Sometimes its best to sit back and enjoy the ride

  5. sam Reply

    As a ‘younger’ fan, in my mid-20s, I could not have been happier with the LF selection. I was pumped to hear Phish tackle an album that I was less familiar with. Sure ive heard of LF, but didnt know the exact song selection of Waiting for Columbus. Phish absolutely killed it, and as the set went on, I realized that I did in fact know many of the songs- Sailin Shoes, Dixie Chicken, Fat Man…and a few more are all songs I’ve heard countless times on the classic rock radio stations I grew up with. It was really cool not knowing the order as I never knew when the last song was coming. I think this set was a huge treat for both the youngins and the vets- and fall tour was the beginning of what will hopefully be a long future where fans can stop being divided by age/how many shows theyve seen, and just sit back and revel in the genius of this band.

  6. zappafrank Reply

    Nice review. Hopefully this will get a lot more people to listen to the monster that is Little Feat.

  7. Alex Reply

    Personally i was hoping for something more progressive..phish 3.0 is all about rocknroll and partying , i always felt that there was more to this band than just that, after last year costume ,i really hoped they will tackle something different.

  8. Davis G Reply

    I don’t usually post replies to show reviews (i am a “first time long time” as they say on sports talk radio), but I feel like i need to drop some knowledge on some of the people who didnt really dig the costume this year. I went to the 96 Halloween show. the reason i bring this up is because a few of my friends and i, after that show, sounded very similar to a lot of the negative post Halloween buzz i have been reading recently. I remember actually saying after that 96 show to a friend of mine, “still waiting….for a better Halloween musical costume” (we both enjoyed a hearty laugh). That was 14 years ago. I was 21 years old and (although i may not have thought it at the time) was very immature as far as my musical tastes went. Most of my time was spent listening to Phish and Zappa and I was sort of overwhelmed with the vast collection available by these two powerhouse bands. I mean, Zappa alone could practically take over someones life – add phish to that equation and you’ve got a hell of a lot of music to listen to. Its not that I didnt like the Talking Heads at the time, it was just that i wasn’t very familiar with remain in the light and sort of felt like i got a raw deal. I drove down from RI to the ATL for a show that I thought would knock my socks off and came away with similar feeling that someone who got taken by Madoff may have had. As time went on, I not only started to really love this album, it (like I am sure it did for many many others) became one of my favorite albums. People go absolutely nuts for crosseyed these days yet the feeling for many (or at least for my friends and i), after the initial debut, was blah at best. I cant even imagine what would go down if phish busted out a “born under punches (the heat goes on)” nowadays – peoples minds would literally leave their bodies. I certainly know mine would.

    I was not about to let that same 96 vibe take me over for this years Halloween festivities – my musical tastes have matured a ton in the last 14 years and i made a conscious effort to not buy into any hype and go into this years show cold. I didn’t refamilarize myself with any of the albums that were constantly spewed through the online community and had complete faith that Phish would (as they did in 96) open my eyes and ears (if you will) to (Lefsetz’s quote), a “land mine just ready to explode and change my life”. And that it did. I was not that familiar with Little Feat and truly thought the AC show was one of the greatest live performances i have ever seen. I again have a new band to explore and again owe a debt of gratitude to arguably the greatest american rock band my generation has known (that of course being Phish). I hope that after a few more listens, the, what seems like mass haters, will (like i did soon after the 96 show) come around and agree. Just one guys opinion…

    “thats the problem, you all listen – you’re supposed to hear it” – Wesley Snipes (white men cant jump)

    https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#drafts/12c12e4e7519b01e

  9. Bill Reply

    I’m 35 and have been seeing Phish since 93 and I would’ve killed to see them do this album. Someone else mentioned Columbus as a rite of passage album, I totally agree. WFC was the soundtrack for every good party I went to in high school or college. It’s so damn good it’s hard to believe, and it takes serious balls for Phish to go for it. Feat was criminally underrated – always more popular with musicians than with the general public – and once you’ve attempted to play Feat music you realize how deceptively simple the music is. Fishman had to be licking his chops thinking of those tasty Richie Hayward fills – so damn tough. For those looking for more “progressive” than Feat, I suggest you dig into their catalog deeper – “Day at the Dog Races” comes to mind. For whatever reason, I found Feat around the same time I found Phish and for them to cover one of the greatest live albums ever is heaven for me. If you were there, I think you’ll come to see that this was a perfect choice for Phish.

  10. Bsquared Fan #1 Reply

    I think the percentage of haters is smaller than you think. The haters are just more vocalized.

    not only was the place rockin, as much as expect and just about everyone

    The average Phish phanner wants something new and different every show and this was just that. The groovy flow was just what the dr ordered this halloween.

    Thank you Phish and Bsquared for the recap

  11. hater hater Reply

    nice article.

    @z, I knew you’d be here, since you’re spreading your oh so reasonable disapproval all over the interwebs. This is the latest episode in your legendary career of completely missing the point of Phish. You went into it expecting to not like it, and you didn’t like it. Pretty shocking.

    There are at least 3 very obviously different styles of songs on the album and at least 3 different broad categories of tempo on display. Denoting your incorrect analysis with an (IMO) is a pretty obvious way of saying “if you disagree, well, that’s just your opinion like this is mine.” Unfortunately, some aspects of music can beanalyzed objectively, and these points of yours are simply wrong.

    In fact, I think a pretty strong argument can be made that RiL and Loaded are both “flatter” stylistically than WFC by a pretty wide margin. Note that I love both albums, and the Phish cover versions – and I also note that the little Phishies disapproved of BOTH of those now-legendary sets in exactly the way you are now.

    Little Feat music sounds like it’s just fun, good time party music, but it’s also much more complex and hard to play than it sounds. Technically this was by far their most challenging cover set to date and they crushed it, down to the nuance.

    OF course your are entitled to your opinion and the expression of it. I’m not trying to stifle your voice, but rather I’m trying to point out that your supposedly rational points aren’t really cogent in any meaningful way. I’m sorry if you couldn’t enjoy or appreciate it, but in this case, maybe the dark is from your eyes.

  12. Don't be hatin haters Reply

    WFC was probably the greatest Halloween achievement the band has played to date. This quote in the above article sums up its importance: “as it all boils down to what is “in the fabric,” as drummer Jon Fishman says about this year’s selection. In short, it was there all along, even if it is not glaringly apparent, as I feel Columbus might seem to most fans on the surface.”

    Thank you for this article. Thanks to Phish for allowing us to peer behind their curtain to see what has been before us all along.

  13. Randy Moss Reply

    @hater hater
    Why the attitude towards zzyzx?
    He’s been the least obnoxious of those less than thrilled with the WfC choice.

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