You had to figure Phish would start pushing tickets for their upcoming Super Ball IX festival at Watkins Glen International race track over The Fourth of July Weekend and that push has started today with the publication of an interview between guitarist Trey Anastasio and artist Lars Fisk.
Fisk started working with the group way back in 1996 for the first-ever Phish festival, the Clifford Ball, and has been in charge of visual design for each of the quartet’s festivals including Super Ball IX. Trey and Lars go way back; you can feel the comfort of each during their long conversation. We clued in on five great tidbits that came out of the article, which you can read in its entirety at SuperBallIX.com.
1. Anastasio Was Home Three Hours After Leaving The Stage at Big Cypress
Trey: So, Big Cypress was great. Nothing is ever going to match it, I mean, until the next amazing thing happens, I could describe looking out at these people, this audience that I’ve been staring at for 26 years or something in darkness, right, every night. And people are dancing and they’re delirious and they’ve been up all night. And the sun is starting to come up, oh my god – that was just the most bizarre thing because the sky was all pink.. But it was really just the looks on people’s faces, like when suddenly God started to turn on the lights at the end of the party. Oh man.
Lars: Wow, that’s a bittersweet thing.
Trey: It was moving to say the least. And then what was really bizarre about it was that we flew home right after the concert and I was standing in my house about three hours after we got off stage. It felt really funny. So more about this year. My understanding is that the site is especially unique.
While Anastasio has mentioned the band flew home immediately after Big Cypress, we never fail to be blown away by thinking of the contrast between performing for 80,000 fans and returning to the solitude of family life in the course of three hours.
READ ON for more about Lars and Trey’s conversation…
2. The Super Ball IX Stage Will Be Linked With The Festival Grounds
Trey: It felt great. And that brings me back to conversations with you and Russ and the band members a few weeks ago where I said I’d like to do that more, a lot more. And I know Mike and I talk about it a lot. I think everybody would. I loved intermingling the art and us onstage. And I would encourage more of that. I mean, you know, this year at New Year’s Eve we did this Meatstick thing with the dancers. But actually I know there’s one Super Ball idea which I won’t give away, but to some degree, the stage is going to be intimately linked with the festival grounds.
Trey: Which I think is incredibly exciting and cool.
Clearly the band wants their music to be intimately linked with the festival’s artwork in Watkins Glen. We look forward to seeing how they pull this off.
3. Fisk Goes Into Detail About The Round Room Cover
Trey: And then interestingly, and most people probably don’t realize this, but you made a ball for the cover of “Round Room”.
Trey: For those people who are reading this who don’t know, it’s Lars on the cover. And I also often wonder if people realize that that’s just simply a photograph– that the cover of “Round Room” is the photograph of the sculpture. In this era of Photoshopping people may not realize that’s a sculpture.
Lars: Yeah. That’s the real thing. It was wooden. It’s called the Barn Ball. The Barn Ball was the one that wound up on “Round Room” and it was like a barn, like the quintessential red painted barn in the shape of a ball.. I doubt that people recognized that there is a little figure inside that thing in the picture on the album cover because it’s kind of murky and over lit somehow. You can’t even really see there’s a person in there. The photographer and I were up all night making that image for that. We were just shooting and shooting and shooting. And he had the suggestion that I climb inside there just for the hell of it and then that was one of the shots that ended up being chosen.
While more people know about the sculpture than Trey thinks, we do appreciate the extra details from Lars about the creative cover of Phish’s first post-hiatus LP.
4. Anastasio and Fisk Discuss The Influence of Bread and Puppet on Phish Fests
Trey: It brings to mind the impact of Bread and Puppet on these festivals. For those people who don’t know, Bread and Puppet is a long-running theater troupe that uses puppetry based in Northern Vermont. For many years, they would hold a pageant every summer on their grounds in Glover, Vermont. Political theater, I guess you would call it. But it’s a festival that is a very Vermont kind of thing. And I used to go every year and I’m sure you went.
Lars: Oh yeah.
Trey: And Russ, I guess, used to work on those. And there were unamplified music and theater in a field and it was…quiet. Everyone would sit in silence and the pageant would come over the hill. It would have a theme. And it took, I don’t know, 15 minutes for that gigantic puppet show. And it was so moving and so memorable and emotional. And it’s those minutes where time becomes kind of irrelevant because of the beauty of this thing that’s coming slowly over that hillside. You can see the billowing of the puppets’ fabrics and it’s a different delivery of experience, where time slows down. It’s refreshing in these days when we are barraged with advertisements and the pace of movies and television and the internet. It’s very different to slow it down.
Trey: Russ Bennett has been known to quote a mantra of Peter Schumann, who’s the main guy at Bread and Puppet. He would say, “Slower, slower, slower, less.” And that is so rare, exactly what you’re saying. Everything is so fast and so you’re just bombarded with information. And I think back to that moment that I described at Big Cypress where you really felt like you were away from life. It felt like an escape. The Phish festivals often feel like that to me, like some kind of tranquil La-La Land. I remember hanging around by the flatbread pizza oven at Lemonwheel or the Great Went just talking to people, just sitting on the golf cart and hanging out. And I think if there had been band number 17 was on the stage going boom, boom, boom, you wouldn’t have that. You’d never have that moment. And think about how profound your experience was just walking on the track or next to the track before we even set up the festival. Just being in that space was incredibly cool. So I just wanted to touch on that because to me it’s such an important part of the planning of these festivals.
Great point by Trey about why they tend to keep their events Phish-Only affairs.
5. Phish Sent Reps Down To Big Cypress Six Months In Advance To Plant Concert Field
Trey: I think the initial idea for that was “let’s play outside on New Year’s Eve” which got a big laugh at first. Okay, you can’t do that. It’s December 31, come on! And then it wouldn’t go away so we were looking at two spots. One of them was going to be the “Big Kahuna” in Hawaii. And then we found Chief Billie from the Seminole Indian Reservation. And my understanding was that our festival team had to go down there six months in advance and cut a field and plant a different kind of grass. My understanding was that there wasn’t a proper space. It was really just a swamp.
Would “Big Kahuna” have been the “epic” event that Big Cypress was?