In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|April 3-9, 2008
• Slaughter House 6
by Dave Kirby
• Get your Phix
by Adam Perry
Slaughter House 6
Mark Oliver Everett of Eels is the Kurt Vonnegut of rock ’n’ roll
by Dave Kirby
For some of Mark Oliver Everett’s fans, the simultaneous appearance of an Eels best-of collection (Meet The Eels) and b-sides/rarities (Useless Trinkets) might signify trouble, as if the protagonist himself may have finally yielded to malignant self-loathing, his threadbare control over his own genius down to its last synapse. And just maybe he was preparing for an escape into the only slightly more obscure existence that The Real World promised, leaving behind essentially a Greatest Hits package (as if he really had any “hits” in the cashbox sense of the word) and a dollop of orphaned songs suddenly promoted to release-worthiness.
Parting gesture? Two parting gestures?
We’re not sure. We know when we talked to him last a couple of years ago that 2005’s utterly luminous Blinking Lights and Other Revelations would be the last offering of new material for him for some time. “Sorry,” he told us, “33 tracks will just have to do for now.”
Haven’t heard much from him since then, but that’s OK. The last Fox appearance we caught, a surprisingly grinding, quasi-power quartet assault (with Krazy Al Hunter going all martial roid rage), left us reassured that E was still shedding his skin as fast as it could grow over his angular frame. The songs — typically exhausted reflections of ordinary tragedy, bruised humanity, puny triumphalism, bits of shimmering joy drowning in the persistence of lethal sameness — are still remarkable, even if the medium can be perplexing. And coming as it did after a lengthy tour of E performing with only a string section suggested that the subsurface spasmodica people keep thinking they hear in this guy’s craft is really there.
But there is news. E recently invited George Bush to attend his March 29 D.C. concert. The two had a falling out back in the day — the C-in-C took some umbrage at E’s inclusion, on Daisies Of The Galaxy, of a tune called “It’s a Motherfucker,” prompting Bush to blithely refer to E as a smut peddler or something equally unsavory during his 2000 campaign (this before his VP made the f-word respectable a few years later). E extended his guest list offer as a prayer for reconciliation (“Let’s forgive and forget. It’s the only way to change the world.”), and even invited the president to upload the new CD onto his “Presidential iPod.” Who says rock ’n’ roll has lost its heart?
But in the meantime, the guy that Rolling Stone calls “the Kurt Vonnegut of rock” brings whatever he’s toting around with him these days to the Fox, and while we don’t really think he’s teetering on a career change (although his semi-autobiog, Things The Grandchildren Should Know, became a sudden best-seller and critical success in the U.K., headed for a stateside release this fall), every Eels show is revelatory and provocative and better than whatever else is happening that night. Quite simply, the guy is one of the best songwriters working these days, and only madness or critical injury should keep you from his semi-annual Fox appearance, and maybe not even that.
On the Bill
Eels will perform at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9, at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-447-0095.
back to top
Get your Phix
Phish might be one of the most important bands of the past two decades, even if you’re not a hippie
by Adam Perry
It can be definitively tracked to the moment I heard them perform The Talking Heads’ seminal art-rock album Remain in Light in its entirety, but it was a painful (and often still closeted) experience for this writer nonetheless: finally realizing Phish wasn’t just a hippie band. Yes, many of the fans that followed the geeky Vermont quartet around the world were hippies in the most insulting sense of that word, but a non-biased, in-depth look at Phish’s music shows a diverse, studied and unique approach to rock (and performance) that uncovers why Rolling Stone once called Phish “the most important band of the ’90s.” And it wasn’t just the virtuosity of Trey Anastasio’s guitar-playing and complex, Zappa-influenced composition or the long, sometimes pointless improvising — much of Phish’s relevance lied both in their willingness to astutely study different genres (from bluegrass and jazz to barbershop a cappella and classical music) before implementing them into their own music and in their thirst for spontaneity, which never died down the way the Grateful Dead’s did over the years. After a while, a “wild” Grateful Dead show was one where they dusted off a tune that hadn’t been played in a few years, whereas a Phish show could include anything from a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the Boston Community Choir to performing at 2 a.m. on top of a control tower on an Air Force base in rural Maine. It’s tough to think of another rock band that could repeatedly sell out venues like Madison Square Garden with that amount of spontaneity involved.
So, if Phish disbanded after their huge Coventry, Vt., concerts in the summer of 2004, how come their music could be heard recently at the Langerado Festival in Florida, alongside other ’90s greats like the Beastie Boys and R.E.M.? Enter Phix, a 5-year-old Colorado Phish cover band expressly devoted to not only playing the challenging songs of Phish, but “recreating the special energy and spontaneity of a live Phish concert.” The catch, according to the band, is that unlike Dark Star Orchestra (who imitate not only the music but the appearance of the Grateful Dead, going as far as covering Dead shows note-for-note), Phix attempts to take Phish’s music to new places at every show they play.
Guitarist Paul Murin told me in a recent interview: “We never got caught up in trying to sound exactly like [Phish] or act like [Phish]. It would really be kind of ridiculous to think that any of us could play exactly the way they play and sound exactly the way they sound. We have always felt that our job is to learn the composed portions of [Phish] songs as accurately as possible, but improvise on a pure level — just letting our own musical personalities come through, rather than trying to imitate Phish. And to some extent, that’s what fans want to hear... if it’s done reasonably well.”
Phix is celebrating their 500th show with a performance on Friday at the Boulder Theater, but they actually stopped touring regularly last year, mimicking Phish again with their own “Covertry” shows in Bond, Colo. However, Phish fans (and more than a few people who happened upon a Phix show having never heard Phish before) have been thrilled with Phix, and Phish bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell have even attended a few Phix gigs and given their stamp of approval. But really, how much spontaneity is possible in rock music if you’re a cover band? This task seems especially tough considering Phish’s unpredictable shows were known as much for musical surprises (like covers of everything from Duke Ellington to Ween) as performance-art gags like playing in what looked like a giant fish bowl or flying over the crowd in a giant hot dog.
“We were never big on the theatrics,” Phix’s Murin says. “But we always enjoy playing obscure songs from the Phish catalog, and the fans appreciate that. We’ve also had John Kadlecik [the faux Jerry Garcia] from the Dark Star Orchestra sit in with us a few times. [It was] very interesting to hear ‘Jerry’ licks in a Phish song.”
Well, that’s actually rather scary. But in reality, Dark Star Orchestra and Phix have a lot in common. Phix doesn’t generally imitate particular Phish shows note-for-note, but they copy Phish’s sound down to Anastasio’s guitar tone, Gordon’s vocal style and effects like the signature bass sound on “Down with Disease.” And they seem to generally take the improvisational sections of tunes like “Mike’s Song” to places Phish was known to. So the manifesto on the Phix website about not “trying to imitate the original” is arguable, but not much of an issue, since Phix is extremely entertaining — and it’s impressive just to see a group of musicians deftly tackle a dense composition like “The Divided Sky.”
“Touring as a cover band is a little weird,” Murin told me. “But we never took it super-seriously, and always have a lot of fun with it. The whole point of it, to us, is to get out and play some music that we, and a lot of other people, really love. And I always look forward to playing the Boulder Theater.”
So if you’re looking for a band that takes the challenging songs of Phish and simply uses them as a springboard to totally new musical ideas, Phix might fall short. But if you’re jonesing for a blissful night of solid performances of Phish songs by competent musicians while you wonder if the real deal will ever come out of hibernation again, Phix is it.
On the Bill
Phix will perform with The Higher Good and The Ethereal Plane at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 4, at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030.
back to top