Go Phish Comes Up Dry A review of Dave Thompson's "Go Phish" by Benjy Eisen
I wish I could start off this review by announcing that there is a new book on the market about Phish. Unfortunately, that is simply not true. Oh, okay, so maybe there is a new book out that is supposedly "about Phish," but is it a credible biography of the real-life band? Author Dave Thompson and his publisher, St. Martin's Griffin, would certainly wish you to think so. But the truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as "truth of the matter" when it comes to the book, "Go Phish." Far from it, this book is comprised of equal parts careless research (I'm surprised he even spelled "Phish" correctly) and a hasty cut-and-paste job from other, higher quality sources including Dean Budnick's "The Phishing Manual," "The Pharmer's Almanac" and assorted magazine articles. Essentially, what it comes down to is a mix between those other sources and an unhealthy heaping of "creative license." Unfortunately, Dave Thompson's "Go Phish" is even less original than its title, and equally boring. And as for truth - it is as reliable as The National Inquire but less creative.
And even though Dave Thompson slams Relix Magazine at one point as a product of late-80's nastalgia for The Summer Of Love, he should be paying them royalties for research and quotations. And talking of quotes, does anybody else find it ironic that, while he jam-packs this book full of quotes, not a single one of them didn't come from a previously published source? The only exception, of course, are some fan quotes, most of which are thinly-veiled ficticious farces aimed at making a point -his point- and the others are taken from onlookers as clueless as he is himself. One of these quotes claims that Trey Anastastio flicked his cigarette butt at him, hitting him in the face. Funny, considering that Trey Anastasio doesn't smoke cigarettes.
Thompson works well at dramatizing events, making the Phish story a sensationalist theme park, complete with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. He does wonders for adding in elements key to any entertaining drama - elements that make a good read, even if they aren't entirely true. Throughout the book (I'm sorry, did I say, "book?" I think what I meant to say was "novel"), he pivots Trey against Mike, Mike against Trey, turns Waterloo into Altamont and Red Rocks into a bloody battle royale. He introduces and creates some very imaginative elements into the Phish fold; elements which might not be entirely true, but damn do they make for a good story!
Talking of a good story, just read some of the chapter headings: "Sexy Nights, Sexy Lights" "People Talk About Sex Alot" "We Need to Purify the Body" and "This Last Night In Sodom." As you can see, these titles have more in common with your average, low-level porn magazine than with the history of Phish, but then again, it probably goes to show what Dave Thompson knows more about.
Unfortunately, it becomes painfully evident on each and every page that, far from being an expert on Phish, Dave Thompson doesn't even listen to them. Okay, so we know that he wrote this book for pure profit considerations and not a love for the band. Still, if you plan on writing an entire book on something, you'd think to at least research it adequately -- despite how much he talks about it, Dave Thomspon hasn't even ever handled a copy of "A Live One": according to him (on page 177) the 12/31/94 "Hot-Dog Stunt" was performed while the band was in wet-suits. A large picture in the sleeve for A Live One immediately shows this to be untrue.
"Go Phish" is so filled with mistakes that, in making note of them, I had to stop at every other paragraph and still I ended up letting some go. Here's just a tiny sampling, of some of the more humorus misinformation, blatant fabrications and sloppy mistakes:
- On page 133 he claims that "Memories" is a song taken from the hit Broadway musical Cats. Sure, they both have the same name, but, um...that's about *all* they have in common.
- When discussing costumes that people wore during the Halloween shows (how would he know? As if he was there....) he points out that one lady's costume embodied the theme of the song "Bundle Of Joy" and he expresses sorrow for her since they "haven't played her song in over six years!" (pg. 191). Too bad they've played it extensively in those six years, and continue to play it on current tours, every time they play Fluffhead ("Bundle of Joy" is a section of music in Fluffhead/Travels).
- After the soundboard shorted out at the Electric Ballroom in Knoxville, Tennessee (2/18/93 if you're wondering; "Go Phish" never mentions the date), Phish performed a cappella renditions of Memories, Sweet Adeline and Mound according to page 133. Of course, what they really played after Sweet Adeline was Rocky Top. Neither Rocky Top nor Mound are anything remotely a cappella.
- On page 114 he states "By 1993 the band themselves were supplying the Phish Net with tapes, for downloading by subscribers." Again, on page 164 he writes, matter-of-factly, "Phish began downloading their own recordings onto the Phish Net. Several excellent bootlegs have emerged from this source." The truth is that there was never a show available for downloading off of the Phish Net and the only show officially available off the internet, a live broadcast of a show from Tinley Park, IL, didn't come until 8/8/97...long after "Go Phish" went to the printers.
Furthermore, Mr. Thompson, Phish's trampoline routine is *not* their "finale" (pg. 165), Nitrous Oxide is *not* the typical Phish fan's "drug of choice" (pg. 168), the band does not play two-set shows because it recreates their days at Nectar's (pg. 48) and Phish has *never* played the entire song "Dream On" by Aerosmith, not at Portland on 12/30/93, nor anywhere else (pg. 146). Oh, and on 12/31/93 they never went back into Down With Disease from Harry Hood (pg. 149); in-fact they never even played the song live until 4 months later. But they did jam it that night, if you know what that means.
The list of misinformation in this book goes on and on. Enough to warrant a lawsuit...Hell, even I could sue them for false-advertising, after all, I thought I was buying a book on the band Phish.
And as for the publisher - does anybody at St. Martin Griffin's ever bother proofreading? This book should be an embarrassment to any publisher, given the number of typos and sloppy mistakes within the confines of the text itself. For instance, Thompson credits Matt Lawrence as the founder of the Phish Net. Three pages later (116), he calls him Mark. And, when talking about a Phish with MMW show in Austin, TX, he refers to it as being in Atlanta that night as well. Well Dave, which one is it? (The correct answer: Austin). These mistakes are common throughout the, ahem, "book."
Finally, as for the accusation Thompson makes, that Phish fans don't know what humor is, the joke is on him. After all, he's the one who claims that Trey's biggest fear is being sliced on the nipple (Pg. 165) and that Trey actually used to sit and ponder, for days on end, "Harry, where do you go when the lights go out?". The joke is on you, Dave.
The verdict: Not every book is going to be a Zonticuddy, but "Go Phish" is a crappy book!
Walk with light my friends, but whatever you do, DO NOT Go Phish, Benjy
******************************************************************** There is a revolution going on in Gamehendge right now! Help the Lizards: http://www.phish.net/mockingbird/announce.html but...beware of WILSON!! ******************************************************************** "Brevity is not your strong point, Benjy" - Jason Melham