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Great Phish Harpua write-up from Chicago (not by me)

Explaining Chicago’s Harpua
James Kaminsky
Jul 23, 2013
Phish’s 62nd rendition of Harpua, one of my most favorite songs by the band is, quite frankly, one of their best for what it says about the band, the audience and the state of the relationship in this 30th year.

Right now there are more fans talking online about Phish than ever before. There’s Phantasy Tour,, Mr. Miner, Online Phish Tour, thousands of people on twitter, hundreds of bloggers, myself included. Everyone feels the need to comment on this show or that song, why a jam was too short or why a jam was so awesome.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we are the most passionate fan base in the history of anything, but it’s both a blessing and a curse. While so many people, myself included, crave the urge to write about Phish, about what they are doing, what jams they are playing, what songs they are choosing, many people feel the need to complain. It’s all about opinions. You see, while we are the most passionate, we are also BY FAR the most opinionated fan base ever.

Sometimes, these opinions turn to complaints. Take for example an article I wrote a few months ago about songs that need to be jammed or just taken out of the set list. Or about how people berated the band following their 2011 NYE run. Or pretty much any post on Phantasy Tour.

It’s not acceptable and it’s not right. There’s a fine line between discussing and wishing and complaining and bitching. On Sunday night, Phish decided to finally show all of us how absolutely ridiculous some people have become.

Before breaking down this absolutely magnificent gag from the band, let’s take a look at the events that happened before the bustout on Sunday night.

Following a massive storm on Monday, July 8th in Toronto, many fans, myself included, took to the Internet, hoping for a Harpua bust out the following night. The show was cancelled – it didn’t happen. People were livid with Phish. How could they cancel just minutes before the show.

And on Friday, when Phish had to cut the show one set short because of the storm, because they were looking out for 30,000 people’s safety on an open and exposed island, people were livid. I’ve never seen a more angry group of people online than Saturday morning after the show. So of course, our favorite musicians did what most musicians WOULD NEVER EVEN CONSIDER DOING. Phish REWARDED us with an EXTRA SET the next night, and what happened? People complained because there wasn’t a 20 minute jam. People complained because they thought it was missing something extra. People were mad Harpua wasn’t played after another perfect time to bust it out. That brings us to Sunday, the grand finale of the rainy weekend in Chicago.

After a beyond stellar combination of three fantastic songs, a type 2 exploratory gem in Energy, a funktastic version of Ghost with excellent Seven Below teases from Mike, and my favorite song, one we haven’t heard since Dick’s, The Lizards, we finally got Harpua.

Harpua kicked off the way it always does, before Trey makes his first comment of the night about holding up signs. He says the best way to not get your song played is to hold up your sign for a song while a different song is playing – a clear reference to people who just want to “move on” from specific songs, whatever the band wants to play, in favor of playing whatever the fan wants to play. Trey then even calls out the Second City actor holding up the now famous sign “Poster Nutbag: The Right Way!” calling him an asshole. We never hear that type of stuff from Trey these days, but there he goes, calling the “fan holding up the sign” an asshole. The fan who rather hear what they want rather than what the band wants.

Without veering too off course, this ties in completely to what happened on New Years Eve. We all know Phish opened up with Garden Party, arguably one of the biggest statements they’ve ever made. You can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself. They then played Possum. On Saturday, they played Ha Ha Ha, and then Possum. Listen up people. If it isn’t clear to you now, then it’ll never be clear. Garden. Party.

The fan keeps saying “The Right Way” while pointing to his sign. This could be a reference to the many negative comments found on various forums, blogs and twitter every day.

Trey then shows the audience the sign while saying “it indicates we’ve been doing it the wrong way this whole time.” So finally, the whole band asks this guy “what do you mean by that” they just decide to give this guy a voice. To bring him on stage, and to give this fan, who is complaining to their face, a chance to make his case. A chance to use words.

We finally meet Chris and Julie, who Page says is “representing Poster Nutbag The Right Way.” If this isn’t clear to you at this point, I don’t know what you are thinking. These people are representing all the fans who constantly complain and bitch and think they are right, that they are the ones who know everything.

They say they are from Philadelphia (a nod to PT?) before saying “Harpua is our favorite song, but you’ve been telling the story wrong.”

If you take a step back and don’t think this is a stunt for a second, it becomes very clear. These are fans who go to every show, yet still complain to Phish about how they actually play their own music.

“Chris” can barely even speak when given the chance to explain himself. Trey says “alright c’mon spit out man.” When given a chance to speak, the fans who complain can’t even articulate themselves. This, in my opinion, symbolized how so many people go online and say anything they want to forums with no regard, but as soon as they are with the band, they can’t even make sense.

People thought the “fans” sounded stupid, talking about a Best Eastern. No, that is how the fans sound who complain and bitch every night. They sound stupid to the band. We were seeing what the fans who complain every night look like from the band’s perspective. Silly and all over the place.

One fan then mentions the emergence of Al Gore (the Internet?), before the rapping begins, and ends when one fan says “I believe in women’s right to choose.” I won’t take credit for this, but my friend shared with me his theory that this references all the “aborted” jams discussions that are always complaints.

Trey asks the audience if the “fans told it right” or “do I usually tell it right.” Right there says it all. Yes Trey, you tell it right. You always tell it right. Garden Party.

Trey kicks them off the stage, saying it was “really weird,” Fish says “I don’t think they’ve ever seen this band before,” and Mike says “it was odd.” It’s as if these people who complain don’t even see the band, just read whatever Phish tweets out and has to come up with a complaint.

As a whole, it’s clear to me that this gag represents the hundreds and thousands of fans who believe they know what’s best for the band, who believe that it is them who makes the call on what’s good and bad, what’s best and worst.

The next day, people were once again pissed online. 22 minutes for a Harpua? After that epic 3 song jam they wasted all that time? No people. You fell right into their trap. You complained, right after you saw the complainers getting booted off the stage. The Right Way? Please, those who complain are The Wrong Way.

It’s one thing to talk about Phish. It’s another thing to complain about Phish. People called the stunt sloppy? They thought Phish half-assed the stunt? No. Way. When’s the last time they EVER half-assed anything. Everything was done with a specific purpose, with each move done to teach the audience a little lesson, to share with the audience their perspective.

They made a statement with Garden Party > Possum. Strike One.

They made a statement with Ha Ha Ha > Possum. Strike Two.

They made a statement with Harpua. Strike Three.

That’s my take on this wonderful gag. I hope as we get fall tour dates and enjoy the last half shows of summer we all remember this. Again, there’s a fine line between wishing and bitching. The guy who held up a sign that said Dinner and a Movie 0-170, that’s passion. That’s a guy who’s never seen DAAM in 170 shows and, according to his friend I spoke with on twitter, @swooph, he puts that sign down immediately after the first song. The guy who holds up “The Right Way,” who thinks he knows better than the band, that’s pathetic.

Listen up to them. Read the book. People who complain will never win. If you are complaining, maybe it’s time to move on. Trey straight up called this guy an asshole. It was staged, and he purposely called him an asshole. It couldn’t be any more clear than that. The band knows the right way, not us. Phish is always right. Garden Party.

If you think I’m a genius, you think I’m wrong, you have other opinions or just think I’m dumb, feel free to hit me up @jameskam17