, attached to 2021-10-31

Review by IHaileSelassie2

IHaileSelassie2 During their 2021 Halloween run, Phish debuted the concept-setlist ‘Get More Down’ under the alter-ego Sci-Fi Soldier. The album version of ‘Get More Down’ was released the following Halloween in 2022.

Trey Anastasio - Green - Clueless Wallob - “Bathe in the light of my third eye!”
Mike Gordon - Yellow - Half-Nelson - “You should see my shoes!”
Jon Fishman - Red - Paulie Roots - “It’s getting harder to keep time steady!”
Page McConnell - Blue - Pat Malone - “Now is time on Sci-Fi Soldier when we dance!”

Notably Phish’s 2021 Halloween set was paired with a comic book that was given out to attendees before the show that tells the mysterious backstory of Sci-Fi Soldier, or rather the “Sci-Fi soldiers”, four futuristic superheroes from another planet who must travel to Earth in order to save the planet from a great disaster known as The Howling, but beforehand they must summon the Nine Cubes, their means of traveling to the Earth, and they aim their spaceship The Arrow directly at the Cube with an image representing a giant wave stretching over one of the 9 Cubes, which the sci-fi soldiers use, as visualized by floating cubes in space, to “see the Earth”, and afterwards realize that the Earth has been afflicted by a great apocalyptic disaster, implied to be the result of mankind’s own destructive impulses (“…forces of the humans’ own making”).

In the beginning of the comic book, the sci-fi soldiers destroy the giant moss piglet, splitting it into many smaller tardigrades, which it is said “will enhance our mental projection powers”, they then take the The Arrow to their home planet New Miami, bringing the tardigrades on board the spaceship with them, and then after landing on New Miami, bringing them (due to the tardigrades being able to “enhance” the sci-fi soldiers’ “mental projection powers”), to the Floating Aerial Neuro Technology Orientation Station (F.A.N.T.O.S.), where the first reference to the prophets, Phish themselves as Kasvot Vaxt, but some of the history of the band is lost in time and not known exactly to the sci-fi soldiers who see Kasvot Vaxt (which is really Phish) as prophets. At the end they combine bodies with Phish, and the comic ends with Page McConnell dressed as Pat Malone saying “Time to save a planet”, and of course the band members are dressed as the sci-fi soldiers with instruments.

But before they arrive on planet Earth in order to save it, the sci-fi soldiers must visit “the great oracle known as Holy Blankenstein” on planet New Chicago, as he was “the only entity wise enough to interpret what we’ve seen here”, which refers to the image in one of the Nine Cubes of The Howling, and they immediately travel to New Chicago to see Holy Blankenstein before traveling to Earth to save it from The Howling. When the sci-fi soldiers first arrive on New Chicago, they are greeted by creatures who have an eye for a head and whose brains are on their knees (as an old lyric of mine went, “I’ve been walking so long I have brains on my feet”) and the sci-fi soldiers must drink a “Pressed, fermented…mind-expanding liquid [that] is harvested from the creatures themselves.” out of donut shaped cups, which gives them the ability to see the oracle Holy Blankenstein, who is “Both being and not being” and appears as a luminous outline of a human being, when at Holy Blankenstein’s command of “Un-head the knee!”, the creatures “begin to move, shake, flip and gyrate”. After Pat Malone asks Holy Blankenstein, “What does it mean, “Un-head the knee?””, Holy Blankenstein states that from out of one of the Nine Cubes, “These creatures keep their brains in their knees. They clear their minds with the movement of dance and handstands in grand fashion. We can learn much from them. Clear your mind.”.

Then, Holy Blankenstein informs the sci-fi soldiers that now that they travel along Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue through outer space in order to reach the correct time on Earth, since the time that they showed up at was “many centuries” after The Howling. After their meeting with Holy Blankenstein on planet New Chicago, they decide to travel on The Arrow through the Nine Cubes to travel to 10/31/21, the date of the Phish show, and when they find themselves back on The Arrow, with Paulie Roots (Jon Fishman) thinking that 10/31/21 was a complicated time signature, and Clueless Wallob (Trey Anastasio) makes a reference to the Phish song “Julius” by correcting him saying that 10/31/21 was “Likely an inflection point. A moment when the past and the future are precisely divided.”.

While back on The Arrow, Paulie Roots (Jon Fishman) pulls out the Pocket Operated Neuro Technology Orientation Station (or the P.O.N.T.O.S.) as an alternative to the F.A.N.T.O.S., as a way to, with the help of the tardigrades, “open the way to Earth”. As the sci-fi soldiers are confused about the identity of Kasvot Vaxt, the prophets, who were “long gone from Earth by 10/31/21…But there is a connection. It seems these men know how to play the music of the prophets.”, of course a reference to Phish themselves who played the show on 10/31/21 in order to supposedly save planet Earth from destruction. “They don’t look like heroes” one of the sci-fi soldiers says, to which another responds “They’ll have to do.” while looking at an old picture of Phish from the 1980s.

Then, as the comic is wrapping up, there is a reference to the Rescue Squad incident during the 12/31/19 “Send in the Clones”, where Pat Malone says “Looks like they’ve been cloned before, but something went wrong”, and in reference to the raised platforms at the show, one of which got stuck with Trey Anastasio on it, with Clueless Wallob saying “Unfortunate platform.” The comic then ends with the band flying The Arrow through one of the Nine Cubes, aiming their spaceship at one of the Nine Cubes displaying an image of The Howling, but the band (now as Phish) arrives exactly 50 years before (perhaps to keep the apocalypse in close range for Halloween) the beginning of The Howling, after riding along Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue, and the comic ends with the band dressed as the sci-fi soldiers, with their instruments, and ready to play the show.

Phish’s 2021 Halloween show, playing ‘Get More Down’ as the alter-ego Sci-Fi Soldier, continued a newer, more flexible Halloween tradition compared to their previous tradition of performing musical costumes, such as The Beatles ‘The White Album’ in 1994, The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ in 1995, Talking Heads’ ‘Remain In Light’ in 1996, The Velvet Underground’s ‘Loaded’ in 1998, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Exile on Main St.’ in 2009, and Little Feat’s ‘Waiting For Columbus’ in 2010, and in 2013 Phish played a whole set of their upcoming studio release ‘Fuego’, though at the time it was introduced to the audience as ‘Wingsuit’, and the following year in 2014 Phish played another concept-setlist with audio samples from Disney’s ‘Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House’. In 2018, Phish “covered” a fictional album by their alter-ego Scandinavian progressive rock band Kasvot Vaxt, which features in the Halloween 2021 Sci-Fi Soldier comic book, as the sci-fi soldiers think that Kasvot Vaxt (with the album i Rokk) are prophets and that Phish just knew how to play their music.

At the Phish show that night of Halloween 2021, in addition to giving out the Sci-Fi Soldier comic book to all attendees of the show, which followed the story told above, the band played this concept-setlist ‘Get More Down’ under their alter-ego Sci-Fi Soldier. How does the music of ‘Get More Down’ relate to and help tell the story of Sci-Fi Soldier? First of all, they appear to mimic a futuristic synth-heavy style with the concept-setlist sounding like a futuristic blend of funk and progressive rock jamming. Second, the references to the comic book, despite the theatrics that were going on on stage with the band dressed as Sci-Fi Soldier, the band are really open to any amount of interpretation on how they tell the story. For one, the concept-setlist is really what is the result or ending of the corresponding comic book, and when the sci-fi soldiers land on Earth as the members of Phish - “And it looks like we’ve melded mind and body with the Earth-men.” - or the band Phish themselves, as they descend out of The Arrow to play a concert; and the corresponding ‘Get More Down’ concept-setlist is the show that they played. But how does the band tell the story and how is this storyline employed in the jam-opera? Well, honestly it seems that there is a running joke or something involved crazy or horrible family situations, from “Thanksgiving” where they sing “It’s a shame about the blood”, to the first song of the concept-set “Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue” with Mike Gordon (as Half-Nelson) singing “All but nothing is changing, Even though she’s my ex-wife”, to being “stuck in the waiting room” in “Something Living Here”, to themes about feeling guilty about stealing something in “Egg In A Hole” with the lyric “And bring back the thing that I stole, the memory haunts me, it’s stuck in my head…like egg in a hole…stuck in my head…like egg in a hole” in a Carini-like progressing jam-sequence, only to find out that “Like egg in hole…it’s a stolen phrase.”; oh so it’s a lyric about someone stealing a phrase? Or is this metaphorical egg in a hole, as either Deleuze and Guattari’s body without organs, or as the Hungarian flag after the reactionary Hungarian revolution with the hammer-and-sickle cut out of the national flag, or does this “egg in a hole” (it’s a stolen phrase - but is this Egg in a Hole completely an original phrase? Did a friend of Phish’s make it up? Or does it mean to represent the boundlessness of spacetime perhaps in Sci-Fi Soldier or something too? The Carini-like jam is just too catchy…Like egg in a hole…but, it’s a stolen phrase, haha.

And Jon Fishman in one piece of classic Phish banter claims that outer space is his favorite topic. The futuristic synth-heavy sound continues throughout the concept-set. The title track, and the second song on the album, “Get More Down”, has Jon Fishman as Paulie Roots randomly saying “It’s our album, here’s how it goes”, and then going into a jazz breakdown with progressing chords following it, a drum breakdown, and then back to progressing chords and the band repeatedly singing “Get more down”. The synth sound on “Get More Down” is gritty-sounding, the vocal samples are weird, and the band references “I don’t need a lantern in the dark energy” assumably to the moss piglets who are in the beginning of the comic expanding time with dark energy and have to be stopped, until the moss piglet is broken into many smaller tardigrades and the organisms assist the sci-fi soldiers, as they “will enhance our mental projection powers”, the comic reads.

“Clear Your Mind” continues with a comical (I always used to laugh in joy while listening to this track) but catchy jam vibe, with Trey Anastasio as Clueless Wallob singing, “handstands in grand fashion, Holy Blankenstein!, clear your mind”. And this is just so catchy, it was originally my favorite track on the jam-opera, and I used to listen to it all the time - “Sure could use this treatment, asshole to the core, burn burn burn, clear your mind”. And then a reference to Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue, “Donuts touching turtles”. Is this an offhanded reference to “Turtle In The Clouds” as well with the “Clueless Wallob” refrain? Did they take the name from Kasvot Vaxt as inspiration and plan to use the name later? And how did it become Trey’s alter-ego specifically? when the band performed the Kasvot Vaxt concept-set in all white as a fictional Scandinavian rock band, “Turtle in the clouds?”, Like outer space?, on the other hand, they dressed up like the characters from the Sci-Fi Soldier comic book in futuristic each-uniquely-designed spacesuits.

Otherwise, “Don’t Doubt Me” makes reference to the creatures who harvest the liquid that allows the sci-fi soldiers to see the oracle Holy Blankenstein, with “un-head the knee”, and the refrain from “Clear Your Mind”…”genuine asshole” and “handstands in grand fashion”…and the lyric “Left an impression in my, my third eye”. “The Howling” is also an impressive track and has a Pink Floyd-esque space funk sound.


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