Monday, August 08, 2005

Noodling to Mediocrity: A Revision

Either I'm regressing in my Trey Fluffdom or the former Phish geetarist's new band has regressed in talent. I'm guessing it's a little bit of both, although I'm not sure it's totally the band's fault as much as it's the decline in the quality of songwriting.

After the Cincy show in May, I wrote a glowing, positive review of 70 Volt Parade, citing gobs of potential and the ol' Benefit of the Doubt theorum. But after this weekend's show at Jones Beach, I feel like eating those words with an oversized spoonful of some Hoping It Gets Infinitely Better, Fast special sauce.

Don't get me wrong, there were some incredible musical highlights from Saturday night's show, and I came home with a huge smile on my face. But most of what I enjoyed was not 70 Volt Parade -- it was Trey playing with Gov't Mule on Jerry's That's What Love Will Make You Do, it was Warren Haynes playing 46 Days and Push On 'Til the Day with 70VP and it was Trey's impromptu three-song acoustic set (and hysterical Slayer anecdote) instead of taking a "short break."

I don't mind Trey's old, new stuff, songs like Cayman Review, Alive Again and Night Speaks to a Woman, the latter of which was clearly the highlight of the night and high point of every solo show at which he's played it. And I'll admit I even really like Shine, a song that will definitely be played on the radio when the album debuts. But several of the man's new, new songs are just terrible. Flat-out awful. Unpassable, inexcusable garbage that should make him ashamed to keep writing songs.

New tunes like Air Said To Me, Invisible and Wherever You Find It -- these are all songs that should be shelved immediately. I used to joke about all the covers he played on the last tour; now, I'd take an entire set of covers over this crop of uninspiring originals. And he had been playing so well with Warren on stage right before Wherever You Find It, only to shake his hand, point him offstage and make a raucous crowd sit back in their chairs.

I mean, can't we forcibly sit this guy down and play him Reba or You Enjoy Myself or David Bowie, then play him one of these newer, shittier pop ditties? Wouldn't he have to look us in the eyes and truthfully confess his sins? I used to think Secret Smile was a bad Phish song, but after hearing this current crop of fresh Trey tunes, that song is a fucking masterful opus by comparison. It's amazing to me the same man that wrote The Curtain With and Fluffhead as a dorky teenager is writing such dreck as an experienced and accomplished musician.

And maybe it is the band as well. After all, Trey traded in three uber-skilled musicians for a bunch of minor leaguers and two back-up singers. And while it's great to see Jen back in the band, adding her impressive pipes to the mix, and it's great to see the dead weight on bass replaced by a better musician in Tony Hall, I can't shake the feeling that Trey is fucking around with these scrubs for no good reason when he could be doing so much more. It's no coincidence the best parts of the night came when Warren joined him on stage, the only time he was obviously pushed by comparable talent.

These guys are good, but they're nowhere near greatness. As such, I'll see them in New York, but I won't travel for them. My buddy Lukas said it best: "There was a reason that the entire upper deck (and even the upper corners of the lower deck) were empty on Saturday night in New York, and there was a pack of fans outside the gate at 7:15 begging us to buy their tickets – in the orchestra, no less – for $20 or less. 70VP is a band that plenty of people are enjoying, but not a band that’s compelling people to tour or reach Phish-levels of geeky obsession."

With all that said, I still had an incredible time and consider the show to be well worth the price of admission: We got out of New York City in the summer, we sat on the beach for an hour or so, parked ourselves in the lot for another two, saw many enjoyable and dance-able songs like Gotta Jiboo, Goodbye Head, a kick-ass Sledgehammer and the ones mentioned positively above, and we even partook in some old school extra-curriculars (welcome back Mr. Ecstatic Vitamin and Ms. Hissing Tank).

But for four or five songs I actually felt compelled to sit down in my seat, and sit down I did. Forty-plus Phish shows and never once did I park my ass in the seat, never once did it cross my mind. I'm not getting older, I'm just getting bored.

And now, for lack of anything better to do, I think it's time to give 70 Volt Parade a new name. Pick one of the following or add your own:

1. Top 40 Volt Parade
2. Trey Anastasio's Affirmative Action Funtime Band
3. Ernie & The Equal Opportunity Employers
4. Rachel Phelps and The Still Shitty Cleveland Indians
5. Dave Matthews Band North
6. Look at Me Solo and The Back-Up Boys
7. The Why Are All These Kids Sitting Down Sextet
8. 7 Fan Parade
9. Big Red & The Imposters
10. Caffeine-free Diet Processed Phish-like Substitute Lite with Splenda.

11. Mr. Lost It Completely (or even Mist-it Completely)
12. Crosseyed and Painful
13. Johnny Covers and The One Original
14. I Can't Believe It's Not Better
15. Ernest Goes to Crap

(Special thanks to the always-merciless fans on Phantasy Tour for the last handful of new band name suggestions.)


At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could not agree more... I cannot wait for Vegoose.....Not for Trey as there is so much more.....


At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Reveiw. TOTALLY agree.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Thanks, gents, much appreciated. I just can't see how you can walk out of there saying these guys are great. Very good, I can see. Good, I can see. Great? Not even close.

But I still want to be Trey's best friend!

At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Shaven O-Face with special guests One & a Half Keyboards

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Hehe, I like that one...this could be a great game if Donnie weren't in peru and Zebra weren't in LA.

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're an asshole. stop going to the shows then, you bitch.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous handstand said...

Check out Ace taking a shot at handstand's text message the day after the philly show...nice job!

"I just can't see how you can walk out of there saying these guys are great. Very good, I can see. Good, I can see. Great? Not even close."

And by the way, Flock of Words is not new. It is from Trey's self-titled 2002 album, fyi.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger offpeak34 said...

The show was a lot of fun, but much agreed Ace, but by no means is Trey's new band great. If only he were in a "band" that was as great as he. Out of the new songs, Shine definately stood out the most, I also enjoyed Goodbye Head. That was one of the better reviews I've read so far. One thing of note was the visual appearance of Trey. I thought he was significantly more animated than at any other point in the recent past (other than the Tsunami Relief Benefit) and looked like he was having a blast (primarily beginning with the acoustic set and continuing on into the 2nd set).

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

I just saw a great one on PT: "Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards." Classic.

Handstand, I honestly wasn't taking a shot at you...nor do I even remember you calling it "great." But yeah, I don't see how anyone can call Saturday's show great.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

It wasn't all bad! I liked much of it, but it just isn't what he's capable of. He can do more, he can do better, and it ain't gonna happen with these guys. That's what I'm really trying to get at.

Oh and, Handstand, I did realize the Flock of Words thing after I posted it. Still, the other three are complete dog-doo, and that song is still weak, despite its date of conception.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous handstand said...

Ok. Just seemed oddly coincidental that our text convo went:

ACE: How was Trey? MMW?
HAND: Both great.
ACE: Fluffer!

And then this today.

No worries though, Philly was a great show and I stand by it. You can go back to the juvenile band names now.


At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free Downloads and Free Software at

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Juvenile band names? Ohhhh c'mon, Handstand, yuck it up and smile! Juvenile would be making fake journal entries, like these ones I found on Trey's website:

1. May 25, 2004: Quit Phish.
2. August 14 2004: Get f-ed up royally, play songs incorrectly.
3. August 15, 2004: Do the bump with mom on OxyContin, drive away in own tour bus after botching last song of career.
4. Sept 1, 2004: Be more like Dave Matthews, but hire inferior back-up musicians.

Now that's juvenile. Fake band names are just pure fun.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Kenny Alias said...

Being a Trey fan right now is like being a battered wife who sticks by her abusive husband.

"He really is great, I promise. He's just not been himself lately."

At 5:11 PM, Blogger ahren said...

i love flock of words-- though i can't imagine how it is without apfelbaum's flute solos...

don't worry, this is all just an interim period before the superband is unveiled -- trey anastasio on guitar, john medeski on keys, al schnier on guitar, victor wooten on bass, and some drummer...

it's happening. just give it time.

At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do feel like an abused wife -- good call.

May 2005: Announce band additions, intentions to tour with Harper.
June 2005: Cancel tour. Mainline Oxy. Shave redbeard.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Actually, it looked like he was growing the beard back. So long Short-lived Beardless Red!

And Ahren, I hope you're right man. I actually have been making this point more than any other...he needs to ditch the Yes-man and get with more-skilled musicians that will drive him to perform better. Time will tell I guess...

Alias, I couldn't agree more. I fell down the stairs on Saturday.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger jakezebra said...

Carlo Rizzi and the Stairwell Miscarriages.

You touch my sister again, I'll kill you.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Niiiice, Zeebs.

Sonny Boy Santino and the Toolbooth Tommyguns may open for them, I've heard.


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