Phish are going out in style. August 14 and 15, 80,000 fans are expected to descend upon Coventry, Vermont for Phish’s farewell festival. Fewer than 70,000 tickets were sold and no one will be admitted without a ticket, so in order to better accomodate the superflous 10,000 (I like that: “The Superflous 10,000” would make a good group name), the promoters have rented a local radio station (92.1 FM, it will become “The Bunny” during the festival) to broadcast the show and to give news and traffic updates on the goings-on around the clock beginning August 12. The shows will also be available live on XM satellite radio AND in various movie theaters ($20) across the land.
Meanwhile, with Phish going away, attention turns to Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio’s solo album, Seis de Mayo (“6th of May), which is a collection of serious instrumental music variously for string quartet, brass quintet, small and full orchestra. “Andre the Giant” is a lilting, rhythmic Afro-Caribbean number with djembe drum and balafon, the latter an enticing African gourd instrument strongly reminiscent of the marimba.
“The Inlaw Josie Wales,” besides being a witty title, shows off Anastasio’s delicate, lovely finger-picking acoustic style in a string quartet setting, while “All Things Reconsidered” is a rather more angular chamber piece sans guitar in a Zappa mode. “Coming To,” also without guitar, is a brass number con rhythm, in a sort of queasy carnivalesque mode with hints of New Orleans funerals.
“Guyute” is the most ambitious piece, an almost 12-minute traditional number performed by the 66-piece orchestra, Seattlemusic. I hear some Stravinsky, some Tchaikovsky – it’s accomplished and user friendly. This should help dispel the commonly held notion that Phish has been just some random, drug-addled jam band, although there is that too.