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Phish 3D.jpg

Dancing Alone in a Movie Theater

By Jeremy Stein | Film | May 5, 2010 |

By Jeremy Stein | Film | May 5, 2010 |

Publisher’s Note: This is not a routine practice, but a local drinking friend of mine and the only Phish fan I know in the world, was kind enough to offer his perspective on Phish 3D, currently in theaters, thus saving any one of the regular critics here from having to share air space with dirty hippies and possibility of contracting impetigo. This is his review. — DR

Why would someone go to a Phish concert? 1) To see ass kicking music? 2) to hang with your phriends and phamily? 3) to be where the party is, dude? Why would someone go to see Phish 3D? Because I wanted to see great music, and I didn’t get to go to the Festival 8 last Halloween, which is where the movie was filmed.

Phish 3D. Do you really need the glasses? From the opening shot of Page’s piano in the foreground, you knew the 3D was worth it. The clarity of the shots combined with the occasional balloon dropping in the foreground made for a great visual experience. The daytime 3D images were crisp and showed how far 3D has come over the last 30 years.

But the movie was really about the music. Last October, Phish played a three-day festival over the Halloween weekend in Indio, California. Following tradition of previous Halloween shows, Phish donned a “musical costume.” This time they covered the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. The first day they played two sets of joyous Phish tunes. The second day (Halloween) they played three sets, including the Exile cover. The third day, they also played three sets, starting off with a daytime acoustic show.

The movie was a great experience. I’ve been to a number of shows and sat in a number of different places. This movie had you right on stage with the boys. The close-up shots of Trey’s hands flying up and down his guitar were fantastic. Page’s fingers twitching over his keys, Mike’s bobbing head and Fishman’s … well it was just Fishman. Getting to see all the joy that they get from performing really came through. All of them, but especially Trey, had goofy grins and the knowingly content smiles that comes from loving what you get to do.

But it was about the music. I was dancing in my seat for the first few songs, and then left my seat and danced in the aisle. It was easy to do because there were only eight people in attendance, proving that it really was about the music. Phish isn’t making any real money from this movie; they’re spreading their joy to all those who want it.

The first part of the movie featured some huge jams anchored with “Tweezer” feeding into a killer “Maze” and closing with a solid “Mikes.” They showed some daytime shots of the festival grounds, including puppet shows and lots of freaks wandering around. The day-time acoustic sounded crisp and clear. (I did at some point go ask the theater to turn the sound up.) Page’s piano came through loud and beautifully. The acoustic “Wilson” sounded much better than it did on the copy I listened to from LivePhish. (And yes, those of us in the audience did chant “WILSON” along with the crowd in Indio.) The best 3D came with the band sitting on stage on stools doing what they do so well.

They cut to the practice room where they showed them rehearsing with the horns section and the back-up singers. (For you non-Phish heads, there are usually just the four of them, not usually with horns or other singers, although it is not out of the ordinary to bring some out for special occasions). This was relaxed and there was a lot of laughter going on, reinforcing the laid-back vibe depicted throughout the film.

I’m not really a Rolling Stones fan, but I did manage to smile through their covers of “Loving Cup” and I really enjoyed “Shine a Light.” Because it was Halloween, there were some good crowd shots of people’s costumes. I saw Ponch from “CHIPS.” I found Waldo. And I saw a couple of people dressed as dirty hippies. They all added to the enjoyment of the event. Trey’s shit-eating grin as he turned his back to the audience to watch the Suzy Greenberg singers made my night.

I would have done well with a pair of croakies to keep my 3-D glasses on (a missed marketing opportunity: “Commemorative Phish 3D Croakies”) while I was dancing. I did have to learn how to dance while keeping my head still. At times, I was torn between instinctively closing my eyes and keeping them open to watch the cool 3D life I was living. But it was all about the music and the joy.

That’s why I was dancing alone in a movie theater.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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