[Ed.'s note: Attention Phish-Heads! Your idols have made a 3-D movie to blow your minds in yet another dimension and it opens today. They're also kind, giving folks, so they have offered you an EXCLUSIVE version of “Mike's Song” from the soundtrack via West Coast Sound.]
[Right-click here for the download: [audio-1]]
With the overwhelming success of Avatar, it was obvious that movie makers were going to go overboard with the 3D action flicks at every opportunity (Clash of the Titans anyone?) But one genre experiencing an entirely unexpected rebirth thanks to those recyclable plastic glasses seems to be the long lost art of the concert film. The movie version of Woodstock might have won the Best Documentary Oscar in 1971, and critics still fawn over Scorsese's The Last Waltz, but not even Jay-Z could make a splash with his 2006 concert film Fade To Black, and U2 tried (and failed) twice, from '80s relic Rattle and Hum to 2007's U2 3D–just a little ahead of it's time.
Now it's Phish's turn to attempt to take the concert film to a level not seen in decades, and not surprisingly, the freaky foursome tested out their new rock doc, Phish 3D, last week on that most holy day for Phishheads, 4/20. With exclusive screenings scheduled across the country, anticipation was “high” for fans lucky enough to score tickets to watch our generation's greatest jam band captured live in the California desert over this past Halloween weekend.
Shot over two nights and one day, the first half of the film sticks to the group Friday night set full of upbeat “Mellow Show” vibes that veer between silly sing-sing chorus, sophisticated feats of instrumental masturbation and the occasional spaced-out noise passage. Having never seen the band live, I'm left to assume that when left unedited, these hours-long sets are both epic in scope and shockingly dull in stretches. The middle segment of the film offers an afternoon acoustic set, which is most striking for the glorious mountain backdrop that anyone who has attended Coachella can attest to, while the final all hallows eve performance proves to be the movie's highlight, with the band pulling out exhilarating covers from the Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street (which they actually performed in it's entirety) backed by a horn section and soul sisters Saundra Williams and Sharon Jones.
Phish might not be the most dynamic band to watch live, but the 3D camera work is impressive at it pulls you onstage, close enough to lick Trey's fretboard. At times, it was hard to tell where the 3D images ended and the real action began as the L.A. preview audience danced in the aisles, tossed glowstick through the air and created their own legally-questionable version of Smell-O-Vision in the theater. By the time the last guitar solo came to an end, the post-concert daze had certainly taken over a few glassy eyeballs, much to the amusement of the theater staff.
It seems unlikely that such fun and frivolous behavior will become widespread when the film hits it's full release on April 30th. But maybe I'm under-estimating the positive vibes of the Phish fans who used to follow the band across the country for years at a time. Many are older now, and have traded in their hippie vans for sensible sedans. But that doesn't mean they won't cut a rug at the local cineplex. James Cameron proved that 3D can transport you to other planets. Perhaps Phish in 3D can transport you to other times as well–like the mid-'90s.