We receive suggestions occasionally that those who recap the shows should have attended the show whenever possible.
We are grateful for these comments as we are for all manner of constructive criticism, and encourage the .net community to continue to suggest ways that we can bring you more content and better content.
That said, let me take a few moments to explain why this specific suggestion will not be implemented.
First, it should be noted that "the opinions expressed in Phish.net show recaps do not represent the opinions of Phish.net, The Mockingbird Foundation, or its affiliates." While there may be in theory some appraisal of a show that constitutes a triangulation of the staff's opinion, that's not what we attempt to put out there, and there is nothing "official" about a recap. It is merely one person's take on a show, ideally in the immediate wake of that show, accompanied by sufficient context. If the recap writer has done his or her job right, that context will include the manner in which he or she took in the show (live and in person, on couch tour, or via LivePhish the day after).
If the recap writer has done his or her job right, it won't matter all that much. Generally, what we attempt to deliver is a quick read on the music and its likely durability. In other words, is the show that Phish just delivered likely to be taking up lots of hard drive and cloud storage space a year from now, played back frequently on road trips, and spoken of in hushed, reverential tones? Does it feature unforgettable stretches of improvisation, creativity, pranksterism, or other unique qualities that set it apart and make it objectively endure?
I would like to suggest that it is really easy to tell that story a year after the show, and often very difficult to tell that story immediately afterward. All of us experience this music in emotional and even spiritual ways. The collective thunderbolt or satori experience is very rare -- and deservedly treasured -- but the individual thunderbolt or satori experience is very common. Likewise, it's easy for concertgoing hazards like spilled beers, cigarette burns, or loud chatter to distract us from precious moments. To give a show its fair due, all these things need to be stripped away as much as possible, and set aside -- not because they are not real, or have no value as subjective experiences, but because we are writing for all of you, and most of you weren't there. Those of you who weren't there will never be there, but you can open your wallet and download the LivePhish recording, and we hope that the opinions we profer in our recaps can help you make informed decisions about where to spend your money. And to some extent, it's easier to accomplish that effectively from one's couch than it is from the concertgoer's perspective.
That doesn't mean we will always recap the show from home rather than from the show itself; we reserve the right to mix things up. But if you attended the show and had your face melted clean off your skull and you want your experience validated in flowery, gushing prose, or feel that objective descriptions of a given performance might somehow diminish your experience, the Phish.net recap may not be your bag. There are certainly other sites you can depend on to deliver that kind of take (some of which I read and enjoy regularly myself).
One final note. I hope the community knows how passionate the staff still is about this band, even if our opinions might occasionally come across as staid. Twenty years later, we still dance our asses off at the show, and once we regain the capacity for speech, we often fight like cats and dogs about it.
As it should be.