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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Phish played “Harry Hood” on both 12.30.99 and 8.07.10. Unlike most rock bands, the difference between those two performances varies greatly—such is the nature of the jam. I keep the numbers in my head like buoys spread out across great swaths of formless, merciless sea. This isn’t “Harry Hood”, it’s “Harry Hood 12.30.99”. The difference between jams is not only a matter of material, e.g. the notes, chords, melodies, themes vibrating in the cool humid Florida (12.30.99) or strangely chilly dry Berkeley (8.07.10) air. There is another part of the jam—your part. The part where your memories, hopes and present feelings swim and swirl around in the rarefied air of the jam, changing its contours.
Of course, “When the Circus Comes” jams quite differently with your own love on 12.31.99 than it does on 10.31.09. For when he sings “Could have had a chance to get out of this mess / The time that you came and the day that you left”, he was talking about one woman in 99 and another in 2009. In fact, in 1999 you held your wife and the chill went through your heart as your remembered your first, long lost love. In 2009 you do so with your 2nd wife, remembering your first. The song goes on, both in newer and newer incarnations, and in newer incarnations of older versions, since listening to 12.31.99 on 8.10.10 alters the meaning of the song again. “It didn’t mean that much / It didn’t mean that much”. It didn’t on 12.31.99, but it does listening to 12.31.99 on 8.19.10. Some numbers match up well. Sometimes they fall into place and out of the chaos swims a line of grace. A melodic line. And this time, you get what she had been trying to tell you. Or this time, you let it go once and for all, changing ad hoc the sense of a decade of versions of the song. But you cannot get too revisionist—the numbers are there to remind you of what you have forgotten. That is why some of those who do not want a reckoning with their past do not go back and listen. They know the numbers don’t add up. The difference between me and the friend who accompanied me for a 7.31.97 version in Mountain View, CA, is I’m still writing and rewriting the meaning of that number.
Meanings swim in and out of each other, back and forth across time and space. 8.17.97. 7.13.03. 8.07.10. Limestone, Maine. George, Washington. Prague, Czech Republic. Ana. Lindsey. Erica. Craig. Crime. Punishment. Freedom. Swirls and curls, through time, and always those numbers, flashing like the matrix at the beginning of the Wachowski Bros. film. What was trauma on 9.11.99 is grace on 8.08.09. The “Harry Hood” jam plays in my earphones—8.07.09, the Gorge. I think of all the Hood jams. All the hoods: Louis’ summer at Mt. Hood. Alan Moore’s “Under the Hood”. Ana’s clitoral hood. The hoods I knew in prison. The band sings “you can feel good, you can feel good, good about hood!” This is not some hippie clarion call announcing the oneness or the goodness of all things. No, this is multiplicity. A sometimes terrifying multiplicity of possibilities, meanings, hearts clashing. What matters to me is that we are continually revising, continually revisualizing, continually drawing new lines of flight through the matrix of versions of these songs. This is what I call jamming across space-time. Try this at home.

1 comment:

Vertigo Crossing said...

I'd like to rename this series: An Instructional Guide to Phishing with Memory as Bait. 'Backwards Down the Number Line' just went from sweet to a Deleuzian mindfuck of memory and repetition. All those numbers in Phish. All that data. So many dates, places, loves, wiggles, squirms, squeals and kisses. The multiplicity of it is awesome, the way an ancient hebrew must have thought about G-d. The refusal to unify, to just deal with the numbers, deal with the difference. I say Deleuze because he's talking about it too: "Intensity is not the sensible but the being OF the sensible, where different relates to different. To restore difference within intensity as the being of the sensible is to untie the second knot, one which subordinates difference to the similar within perception...". The song does not remain the same. Neither the meaning. Neither the memory. Resisting the similarity of a song with the same name, repeating a difference tied to a difference by name and time, space and feeling.

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