This summer/fall I wrote a book of essays/criticism/blather about Phish, specifically their Fall 1997 tour. It's on sale right here. The weird cover image is right there on the right.
It's called A TINY SPACE TO MOVE AND BREATHE.
Available in softcover for $10+shipping today, Kindle/ePub later this or next week (allowing for Sandy-related delays).
It contains stuff like this:
Phish shows provide unbelievable sensory overload – not just tinnitus-inducing volumes of sound like every goddamn concert nowadays, but Chris Kuroda’s outlandish improvised light show, that inescapable mix of sweaty human and burnt-plant smells, the press of nearby bodies…it’s nothing like the antiseptic experience of listening on headphones in your home (like I’m doing right now, Timber > Simple to kick off the second set; I just killed a moth). Half the appeal of such an experience is its inescapable sensuality: you’re very much caught up with your fellow humans at the show, particularly smooshed together in that small space right in front of the stage but really no matter where in the arena you are. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do, really, but dance; no one forces you to move but you’ll have a much easier time of it if you do, not least in avoiding the spasmodic ‘dancing’ of the dude next to you…
And of course the key to this pleasurable overload is first off the sensory deprivation that precedes and enables it. Same with going to the movies, compared to television: in the dark with lots of anonymous people, getting sensory information without context (like being tickled in a blindfold), your audiovisual senses ascendant, subconscious movements marking time, above all a feeling that your comfort in the physical environment will be provided for so that your psychic space can come under a kind of consensual assault – we enter into such places (contracts) to experience very literal psychotropism (mind-changing), assured of our providers’ benign intent. What if god could promise your safety after sunset – would you wander? Would you dream further out if you knew you’d be able to welcome in a world of no worry, afterward?
TV is domestic. Head-sized heads in your living room, stories about doctors cops firemen and high school students singing about true love. ‘Normal.’ The movies are bigger than life: bodiless and placeless, you’re greeted by 20-foot-tall giants beaming grand emotions and booming voices at one another (at you, in you). It’s like having your sensorium directly interfered with, as scary and maybe amazing as that sounds. (You can even do it stoned if you like.)
As soon as cop and detective shows made it on TV, the movies could start treating those figures with all the ambivalence of hushed private conversation. (‘I don’t want to seem…well, you know…but sometimes I can’t help thinking…’) Movies are about danger, and about relief. They scare you and then comfort you.[^moviecomfort] You go into the dark to receive the Light. Ever been to church? Same thing. Easter Vigil, the Paschal candle, robed wizard leading tuneless chants: ‘Christ our light…light of Christ…light…’ Then the lights come on and something new can be born. The year. Believers.
There's also a good bit about 'this segue compares favourably to the performance from...' but you already knew that, on account of it's a 220-page fan book about a single Phish tour.
OK lovers, there you have it. Hope you like it.