XVIII. Something More Than Phish?
While Phish's 1997-1998 foray into linear musical communication produced exceptional results in terms of whole-band unified jamming, and led to a musical peak in 1997, there were a few casualties of the controversial era.
The band's dedication to precision playing, particularly with their composed pieces, took a back seat to their nightly dives into the unknown. The tension & release jams which had been their bread & butter for twelve years nearly faded from existence, as the band opted for mellower, less peaky jams with which they could communicate on an even plane. Being as the music they were making had to be completely egoless to work, Phish's guitar-extraordinaire stepped behind the shadows, and many of the jams, which in the past had lived and died with him, became far less reliant on his output. Sure, no one could have replaced him, but it was necessary - by Trey's own admission - that he reduce his role in leading Phish, thus giving Mike and Page a chance to step up and lead the band.
This diminished time in the spotlight took its toll on the natural band leader, Trey, and in the Spring of 1999, he embarked on his first solo tour, in effort to not only get his kicks as a front-man again, but also to test out potential future Phish songs in a live setting.
His decision in early-1999 to pursue a solo-tour in his free time was a monumental shift for the band. No longer would all the band members' time be dedicated to pushing Phish forward. For the first time, it appeared, the band might need a vacation from itself.
Phish suddenly became a part of Trey's life, not his whole life. This new world for both Phish and their fans has become the norm some twenty years later, as fans have come to expect that Phish will play only when they're recording or in the immediacy of a tour, and the rest of the time will either be dedicated to family or side projects. In 1999, however, it was just another in a growing line of reasons, that proved to many fans, that the band was on rocky ground, and was, in a lot of ways, adrift for perhaps the first time since Trey's suspension from UVM in 1984.
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