Wednesday, December 23, 2009 Top 50 Acts of the Decade (Phish 49th)

by Joe Reinartz

Pollstar has compiled its year-end research from 2000 to 2009 and come up with the highest-grossing touring artists of North America for the decade.Coming in at No. 1 is touring juggernaut Dave Matthews Band, grossing nearly $530 million.

Although it’s no surprise that three major Live Nation touring artists – The Rolling Stones, U2 and Madonna – are in the Top 10, the numbers favor consistent annual live outings rather than the high-grossing acts who tour every few years.

The top three – Dave Matthews Band, Celine Dion and Kenny Chesney – have performed relentlessly since at least 2003 (when Dion began her residency in Las Vegas), with DMB and Chesney filling arenas and amphitheatres the entire decade. Obvious workhorses Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett made the list as did the Energizer bunny known as Elton John, with or without his Piano Man counterpart. And, once hell thawed out, the Eagles spent much of the last 10 years filling venues.

Chip Hooper, chief of West Coast music operations at Paradigm and the longtime agent for Dave Matthews Band, was not surprised to learn his artist was the most successful touring act in North America this decade.

“Dave Matthews Band is without question the touring story of the last 10 years,” Hooper told Pollstar. “What they have accomplished is truly unprecedented. Many artists tour often, but not as consistently and not even remotely at the same level.

“Another very important point is that this band has never rested on its laurels,” he said. “Every time they approach something, whether it’s writing a song, recording a record or playing a show, they truly bring it. They never, ever let their fans down. That’s why this band is so successful. We are thrilled and proud to have the opportunity to play a role in their career.”

Manager Coran Capshaw provided a statement on behalf of Red Light Management and the band.
“Dave Matthews Band is thankful for fans old and new who've made it the top-selling live act of the decade,” Capshaw said. “DMB is a great live band, providing audiences with a unique concert experience. It's an honor to be a part of their continued success.”Dion spent much of the decade as the centerpiece attraction of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas – a performance model that she helped pioneer. But even after she left the nightly performances at the Colosseum, Dion spent three years traveling to perform for her fans.

“It’s about longevity,” John Meglen, co-CEO of AEG Live / Concerts West and promoter for Dion, told Pollstar. “And it’s about a tremendous work ethic. She’s the hardest working female I’ve ever run across in the business.”Meglen compared Dion to Neil Diamond – not just because of the work ethic but because of the effort Dion has made to perform for “everything in between” New York and Los Angeles.“She’s attractive to middle America, middle Canada, the real people worldwide,” he said. “And she has an amazing manager in her husband who to this day blows me away. Good management today is so important. And you can see it out there with the managers we work with, whether it be Roger Davies and what he did with Tina Turner and Pink, and what we’re doing with Cher at the Colosseum, or guys like Paul Korzilius with Bon Jovi.”

“I still don’t think [Chesney] gets the recognition he deserves,” said Louis Messina, president of The Messina Group and longtime promoter of Chesney. “People almost take it for granted. You look at the top touring artists, even at the Pollstar Awards, he doesn’t even get nominated, which is a joke. Dave Matthews and Kenny Chesney – they are the workhorses of the industry."

Messina also noted that both DMB and Chesney have kept their ticket prices low. And Chesney – who even in his forthcoming “off” year is playing a good dozen huge shows – is expected to return in 2011 with an enormous tour.“It’s something people don’t recognize, except when you tell them they’re not playing next year,” he added. “Then they all say, ‘How can you do that? It’s going to ruin my bottom line!’ I’m not sure what we’ll do next year. Maybe we’ll go sell blood or something.”

Finally, the numbers should also invalidate the argument that the concert business relies solely on headliners from the ’60s and ’70s.With names like Dave Matthews Band, Chesney and Toby Keith – who established their careers this decade – there’s hope the next decade could produce even more new top names.

1. Dave Matthews Band
2. Celine Dion
3. Kenny Chesney
4. Bruce Springsteen
5. The Rolling Stones
6. U2
7. Madonna
8. Eagles
9. Elton John
10. Jimmy Buffett
11. Toby Keith
12. Cher
13. Elton John / Billy Joel
14. Bon Jovi
15. Metallica
16. Rascal Flatts
17. Paul McCartney
18. *NSYNC
19. Britney Spears
20. Trans-Siberian Orchestra
21. Aerosmith
22. Tim McGraw / Faith Hill
23. George Strait
24. The Police
25. Neil Diamond
26. Barry Manilow
27. Bob Dylan
28. "American Idols Live"
29. "Ozzfest"
30. Rod Stewart
31. "Vans Warped Tour"
32. Van Halen
33. Fleetwood Mac
34. Brooks & Dunn
35. AC/DC
36. Coldplay
37. Eric Clapton
38. Luis Miguel
39. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
40. Nickelback
41. Dixie Chicks
42. Tim McGraw
43. Backstreet Boys
44. Brad Paisley
45. Tina Turner
46. Bette Midler
47. Billy Joel
48. Barbra Streisand
49. Phish
50. James Taylor

From the Archives: A Phish Story (The Boston Herald ~ 12.26.1995)

by Dean Johnson

Band squirms at being labeled a successor to Grateful Dead

Now that the Grateful Dead has officially called it quits, many rock fans are looking for a replacement. And the name that comes up perhaps more than any other is Phish, the quirky, Vermont-based quartet.

Certainly there are similarities, particularly among the bands' fans. The faithful followers of Phish caravan from show to show, much like Deadheads. But becoming the next Grateful Dead, which recently disbanded following the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, isn't a Phish wish.

"The worst thing for your career is to be considered godlike by your fans," said bassist Mike Gordon. "First, it's impossible to live with those expectations, and the flip side is you can't go wrong anymore. Jerry had that problem. Whatever you do is godlike, so you don't have the inspiration to be better, because in a way you don't have to."

Phish seems perched on the brink of mainstream acceptance. The band is playing two probable sell-outs at the Centrum Thursday and Friday and has sold-out Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve.

Its latest album, "A Live One," a concert double-CD that nicely captures the band's wildly eclectic musical tastes and penchant for jamming, has already achieved gold sales status. But the impact is relative, said Gordon.

"The thing is, with a double album you only need to sell 250,000 copies to go gold," he said. "So we've basically just reached the same core of fans. We thought it was a little bit of a cheesy way to get a gold album, but we'll take it.

"Our next album will be a 10-CD set," he joked, "so we'll only have to sell 50,000 copies to go gold."

Along with Gordon, Phish includes guitarist-songwriter Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer Jon Fishman, all in their early 30s. The group has been together more than a decade and has attracted a devoted following because of its unpredictable concerts punctuated with unlikely cover songs, plenty of improvisation and original tunes peppered with offbeat characters and musical influences.

"As soon as Jerry died, we knew there would be a lot of talk about us taking the Dead's place," Gordon said. "It does make sense at a simple level, because we subscribe to a similar philosophy, we attract a similar crowd, we like to jam for a long time, put on a different show every night, do two sets a night and allow people to tape our shows. There are a lot of things similar, and it would be pathetic to deny the Dead's influence on Phish in some ways.

"But on a deeper level, it doesn't make sense. People who absolutely loved the Dead for what they were wouldn't necessarily like us. We don't offer the same thing. The Dead reached deep into American culture and started in a very deep place, and then they grew," he added. "Their wild jamming was more Zenlike than ours is, in that it was not a conscious thing."

So Gordon suggests that rock fans let Phish be Phish, and let go of the Grateful Dead.

"If you really like a band a lot, then you have the same kind of emotional attachment to it that you have for a person," he said, crediting bandmate Anastasio for the thought. "When someone you love dies, you don't go out and get another one of those people. If Kathy dies, you don't say that Amy is now going to be the new Kathy.

"But in music, sometimes people try that. It just doesn't make sense, though, and we want to just keep on doing what we want rather than worry about expectations."

Phish at the Centrum in Worcester on Thursday and Friday nights. Tickets: $ 19.50. Call: 931-2000. Fluff Came to New York ~ A Review of Phish’s MSG Performance and Its Implications

If one would have been walking in the vicinity of 34th and 7th in Midtown on Thursday, December 3, they probably would have felt that they were at a jam band music festival, rather than the heart of Manhattan.

Instead of gazing up at the towering skyscrapers or jumbo-screen ads, one could have seen far more exciting imagery amongst the people aimlessly hovering around Madison Square Garden. The tie-dye colors of elaborate costumes, the wild hair, the vacant, distant eyes all indicate one thing: Phish returned to the Garden, along with vast entourage of devoted ‘phans.’ It had been a long seven years since Phish had last performed at MSG and the anticipation and energy inside the venue was palpable immediately upon clearing the turnstile.

Since their reunion show in March 2009, Phish has undergone various critiques and criticisms from both music critics and phans alike. While some have applauded the band’s return to musical precision and accuracy, in stark contrast to the sloppier yet wilder playing of the 2003-2004 post-hiatus era, others have criticized the band for veering on the safe-side by not taking the added risk of venturing outside of a song’s structured parameters or standard improvisation frames.

However, as the 2009 Fall Tour progressed, these complaints diminished considerably as the band began to improvise more sincerely and explore jams more intensely. The band demonstrated increased comfort playing with each other and have succeeded in building more extravagant jams resembling those of the early days. Needless to say, as I trekked down to MSG on Thursday night, I was more than ecstatic to witness, first hand, how the band had evolved. Read more Best music of 2009: Decemberists, Willie Nelson, Au Revoir Simone, Mos Def were shining stars (Phish content)

By Jim Harrington
Oakland Tribune

For some reason, I thought I'd have a harder time with this list. Yet, when I started going through my piles of 2009 discs, setting aside the ones I really liked, I found myself with a huge stack.
Now that I think about it, the exact same thing happened to me in 2008.

It's just further proof that great music is there to be found — but it might not be on the albums, or from the artists, that receive the most publicity. You just need to keep looking.

This year, I found worthy offerings in just about every genre — from indie-pop and jam-rock to hip-hop and alt-country. In all, it was a pretty solid year for new releases. Here are the top 10:

1 "The Hazards of Love," the Decemberists (Capitol): The roster of truly great concept albums is a short one, but it's also one that now includes the Decemberists' fifth studio CD. "The Hazards of Love" is a thoroughly engaging hour of music, filled with mesmerizing musical arrangements, strong vocal performances and bookish lyrics that tell a tale that grows more fascinating with each listen. It stands tall next to other legendary rock operas such as the Who's "Tommy" and Green Day's "American Idiot."

2 "Still Night, Still Light," Au Revoir Simone (Our Secret Record Company): I just can't say goodbye to Au Revoir Simone. Once I get a new record from this delightful chamber-pop trio, it tends to stay in my CD changer for months at a time. "Still Night, Still Light" was another addictive affair, built on feathery harmonies and gorgeous synth-pop.

3 "Willie and the Wheel," Willie Nelson and Asleep At the Wheel (Bismeaux): The country legend just doesn't make many wrong steps. Nelson follows last year's best musical surprise — the jazzy collaboration with Wynton Marsalis, "Two Men with the Blues" — with another delightful left turn. Nelson sounds so good on this batch of classic Western swing cuts that some fans are already praying for a follow-up.

4 "The Ecstatic," Mos Def (Downtown): The rapper's uncommon wit, which he spins with flare instead of bravado, is what really makes "The Ecstatic" the year's best hip-hop record. He complements his words with a delightfully appealing array of sounds, from Latin and jazz to Afrobeat and funk.

5 "Kingdom of Rust," Doves (Heavenly): Of all the bands that are big in the U.K. yet largely ignored in the U.S., the Doves represent the most unfortunate case. With its fourth studio album, this Manchester indie-rock act put the finishing touch on what has to rank as one of the most satisfying bodies of work of the decade. It's right up there with what Wilco and Radiohead accomplished in the same time period.

6 "Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future," the Bird and the Bee (Blue Note): As a producer and keyboardist, Greg Kurstin has worked with Lily Allen, the Flaming Lips and Beck, among many others. For our money, however, Kurstin has reserved his finest efforts for his own duo (also featuring Inara George). The Bird and the Bee's sophomore full-length is full of enchanting songs that straddle the line between hipster indie-rock and dreamy synth-pop.

7 "Man on the Moon: The End of the Day," KiD CuDi (Universal): The Cleveland rapper lives up to the advance hype on this intriguing concept album, which is divided into five acts. You may know CuDi from the smash "Day 'n' Nite," which has sold nearly 2 million downloads to date, but there are 14 other good reasons on "Man on the Moon" to get acquainted with the rising hip-hop star.

8 "Merriweather Post Pavilion," Animal Collective (Domino): The Baltimore ensemble's eighth studio offering isn't exactly the modern masterpiece that some critics would have you believe — but it's still pretty good. Recommended listening for those that dig the psychedelic pop of the Beach Boys and Flaming Lips.

9 "Joy," Phish (JEMP): As expected, Phish's reunion translated to sold-out concerts across the country. More surprising, especially for a band that's built its name almost entirely with live shows, it also spawned a really entertaining studio album and even (gasp!) a radio-friendly single, "Backwards Down the Number Line."

10 "Love 2," Air (Archeology): Of all the electronic-music pioneers, this French duo, consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel, continues to put out the most interesting new music. That was proved once again with this lovely chill-out disc, the duo's best offering since 2004's "Talkie Walkie." THE HEAVY PETS MIAMI MIDNIGHT SERIES: DECEMBER 28, 29, 30

The Heavy Pets will perform December 28, 29, and 30 at Tobacco Road, in Miami, FL, after Phish. The band's hometown throw-downs start at midnight and run late each night. Tobacco Road, which is just 1.3 miles from American Airlines Arena, has the city's cheapest parking lot and Florida's oldest liquor license. Free transportation is available to and from AA Arena and Tobacco Road via the Miami MetroMover. Space is limited at this intimate venue and tickets are only available at the door.

The Heavy Pets will also perform an acoustic set Wednesday, December 30 at the EPIC Mock Show Poster exhibition from 1:30-3:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

To commemorate The Heavy Pets performances, four limited edition Dean Arscott prints will be available.

12/28, 12/29, and 12/30
Tobacco Road - 626 South Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33130

Hyatt Regency Hotel - 400 South East Second Ave, Miami, FL 33131
1:30-3:00 p.m.

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