Before the beginning on tour this summer, we at OPT asked you, the fans, to make some predictions about what we should expect over the next four months of Phish bounty. Take yourselves back, if you can, to those days right before Bethel, when all the months of speculation and pent up anticipation seemed to coalesce into almost unbearable levels of excitement. It was with that mindset that many of you, around 600 to be exact, offered your thoughts and expectations. Now that we are once again in the dog days of the Phish calendar, it is time to look back and see how you did, how the expectations lived up to the reality, and how well we actually know this band of ours. As it turns out, pretty damn well.
The first four questions were broad and subjective, asking you to put a number on your level of expectation for the tour (ten being best Phish ever, one being worst and five being average). Question #1 set a baseline for comparison by asking what you thought of the last tour, and most of you came in right around 7 out of 10. Question #2 asked for your overall anticipation of how well the band will perform over the course of the summer, to which you came in a little below 8 out of 10. So for those scoring at home, this meant we expected summer ’11 to be about a %10 improvement from fall ’10. As a fan of many shows from the fall I would agree with this assessment, though others, like AdamOPT, would probably say that the improvement was more dramatic.
For Question #3, asking how the jamming would rate, you selected 7 out of 10. Frankly, this may be a bit generous. As great as the band’s playing was all summer, there was still little type-II jamming to speak of (with some notable exceptions). Of course, if you are just looking at the quality of the condensed jamming style we have grown accustomed to in 3.0, you could certainly make the case that this summer was significantly better. I personally consider exploration essential to all time Phish jamming, so I would probably rank it somewhere closer to 6 in an overall context.
Question #4 asked how the new material and song selection would rate, and you put it right above six. There was only one stinking new original Phish song all tour and a smattering of covers, but the quality of these debuts was top notch. Steam, Suskind Hotel, No Quarter and Big Balls were all fantastic, with all but the latter receiving multiple plays and getting better each time out. Still, the lack of new material was frustrating, so I would agree with the original prognosis.
Question #5, the most subjective of the bunch, asked you to describe what kind of carnage to expect from Trey’s guitar. Since his playing was better than anyone could have expected, I would upgrade the Occedoc from home arsonist to murderer and even, at times, nuclear terrorist. Trey’s rippage was the biggest, most unexpected surprise of the summer for me.
Now we get into specifics. Question #6 asked who the MVP of the tour would be. Ever predictable, you made El Cacto the overwhelming favorite, receiving nearly 50% and over twice that of his closest competitor, Trey. If we could rewrite this now, I would put Trey slightly above both Page and Mike, with Fish bringing up the rear. All four were spectacular, but Fish has the most blood on his hands for aborting some of the more promising jams (of course Trey was responsible for many of those as well, but his playing was so hot it’s hard to stay mad at him).
Questions #7 and #8 are all about specific legs and shows. A large majority of you thought that Leg II would hold the best playing. Between UIC and The Gorge, I would have to agree, but Dick’s (Leg III) would be a close second. Super Ball IX woud follow just behind, with Leg I being the most uneven and therefor last. However, if you could split Leg I into halves, I would rank the first half, up through Mansfield, as the most action-packed section of the summer. Question #8 asked you to predict the best shows, and you fared well. Your top ten included UIC #2, Gorges #1-2 and Dick’s #3, although you did predict big things for Tahoe #2 and Alpharetta #2, the summer’s biggest stinkers. At the bottom five you hit on Outside Lands and MPP but whiffed with Dick’s #1 and Bethel #1. The two biggest disproven expectations, according to the numbers, were that the first night of three night runs are the least important and that California would be the best state to see Phish. Not many of us saw the midwestern dominance coming.
Question #9 asked you to select the songs that would grow the most over the summer. Sadly, your top three picks of Tweezer, Mike’s and BDTNL did not pan out by my estimation. The 20% of you that chose Hood were on the money, though, as were the 9% that chose Disease, the 7% that chose Slave and the 4% that chose Rock and Roll. The lesson here, as always, is that the less sexy picks are usually better. Foolishly, yours truly left off three of the top winners from the list: Sand, Reba and Bowie. The lesson here, as always, is that there are a lot of fucking Phish songs.
The hardest question, Question #10, asked for your three most likely bust outs. Dog Log was sound checked but it was not played, and neither was Spock’s. Life on Mars, however, was gloriously busted out as a quarter of you predicted. Dog’s Stole was missing from the list but written in by many, who were vindicated in Tahoe. Guy Forget was nabbed by only 4% of you, who were rewarded on Dick’s final night with a triumphant rendition that made our Guy Forget OPT cry.
Question #11 was where the optimists amongst you truly shown. Asking which random bit of phishiness would return for the first time in 3.0, three of the four top choices came to fruition, while the 7% of you who selected “None of the above” were left shaking your walkers in disgust. Reba whistling, a secret set and secret language all returned to us in the rolling pastures of Watkins Glen.
Questions #12 and #13 asked about the likelihood of those long pursued fan favorites, Harpua and Icculus. 46% were sure we were going to see the mangy dog in Watkins Glenn and were disappointed when it was busted out, in true Phish fashion, the show directly before. The majority, 36% percent, pessimistically thought we wouldn’t receive an Icculus all summer and had to be shocked to see it busted out in Charlotte.
Question #14, asking whether we would get a Gamehendge set, wasn’t much of a question since I didn’t actually allow anyone to jinx it by selecting yes. My reverse juju did nothing, of course, but something inside of me still believes we will get one before the boys hang it up for good. Anyone agreed?
Finally, Question #15 asked how many new songs or covers to expect. Most of you selected a very conservative <10, which I admittedly thought was low at the time. Turns out, as I covered above, you were right (off the top of my head I believe the exact number of them was seven).
Overall, this exercise proved what most of us already knew instinctively–Phish fans really know their Phish. Now who can tell me what’s going on with New Years?