I don't know about you, but I for one am pretty darned excited to hear the news that, after close to four years swimming in different waters (and I don't mean Roger), guitarist Trey Anastasio and the rest of his fellow Phishes have decided to reunite for a series of shows this coming spring at the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia, with reportedly a summer '09 tour to follow.
Of course, having made their, er, bones as the world's greatest-ever jam band not named the Grateful Dead, there may be those who will hear this and take the announcement with a grain of (sea) salt. After all, back in 2000 the group went on a "hiatus" that lasted nearly two years, only to re-emerge for two more years of riffs-r-us musical canoodling before their two-day "farewell" fest in their home state of Vermont in August '04. And in just the past few months, there have been several "That She Blows" Phish-y sightings at everything from Michigan's July Fourth Rothbury festival to the recent wedding of one of the band's old roadies.
Still, given the group's rep and history as one of the more fan-friendly rock outfits of recent vintage, I think even the most cynical listeners would allow that Phish re-forming is probably a good thing--and not just for the sagging tie-dye industry, either. After all, with Phish, the play's the thing, which is more than you could say about a lot of other recent musical reunions. That's because, under the cloak of "for all those who never saw them in concert before!" legitimacy, most of them have seemed to happen not because of any particular artistic imperative, but because of that other word that starts with "M": money.
Try thinking of any reunion of, say, the past 10 or 15 years and see if you come up with any entertainment value other than jukebox-like re-creations of past glories--Police, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Duran Duran, etc. etc. etc.--or simple curiousity-arousers, like the Doors with the Cult's Ian Astbury as Jim Morrison, or (one of my personal favorites) the Sex Pistols, who were reunited longer than they originally existed.
Have there been some memorable get-backs of late? Probably. But unless you're talking about, oh, maybe a band like British noisemeisters My Bloody Valentine, who've come back together after nearly 20 years primarily to prove once and for all they really could split eardums, meaningful reunions are truly few and far between. Just ask the New Kids on the Block.