, attached to 2000-07-06

Review by toddmanout

toddmanout I first met Doug back in university. We were both Bachelor of Music students majoring in electric guitar but somehow we didn’t hang out at all. The music department at Carleton University was ridiculously small so it was impossible for us not to know each other – I was The Guy In The Hat and he was The Guy In The Vest, but for some reason we both managed to graduate without so much as sharing a beer together, which is a shame.

That said, once we finally started sharing beers we sure made up for lost time. Doug was well established at the Ottawa Folklore Centre when I started teaching there and it didn’t take long for us to gravitate towards each other. In addition to sharing a deep respect for humour we were both very, very hungry guitar learners. Strike that; we were ravenous. For us the world was nothing but music music music, and all we did was practise practise practise. It was manic.

Starting in the late ’90’s we dug ourselves a great groove: four nights a week when work finished at 9:30pm Doug would hop in my car and we would go to my place. I’d throw a pizza in the oven and we would sit across from each other and just play and play and play. The funny thing was, we weren’t ever rehearsing – in all those years we never once even thought of playing a gig together – rather, we would share what we were learning with each other, and together we would analyze and discuss these newfound musical wonders, be they modes, chord progressions, what could be played over this or that harmony, or just blatant random explorations. Gosh, I remember one night we both learned how to comp jazz using stacked fourths…we both turned into a couple of little Joe Passes, giddily bouncing up and down our guitar necks with harmonic impunity, joyous that we had unlocked yet another door.

I never had so much fun working so damn hard.

These sessions would go until 4-5am every night (seriously), when Doug would set out for the walk home (where he would invariably keep practising until 9am or later) and I would turn in for the night (for my part I would resume my practising as soon as I woke up around noon). We did this for years (until we both got girlfriends) and it was awesome. Heck, we practised so much that people started accusing us of being born naturals (it’s amazing how easily people will encapsulate all the work you’ve done and all the work they haven’t done in one easy lie: “He must have been born with it…”).

On one of these evenings I put on some music while we were munching on our pizza. It was a cassette of Phish playing live – I forget exactly what concert it was but it was definitely from a New Years Eve show – and their epicly mind-bending 20+ minute musical adventure You Enjoy Myself was playing. When the piece ended Doug asked who we had just listened to. “That’s was Phish,” I answered. “You haven’t heard Phish yet?” Like it was yesterday I can recall Doug looking at me and saying the following words: “I feel like I just heard Hendrix for the first time.

“Can I borrow that cassette?” he asked.

One night about three months later we were back at my apartment and Doug mentioned that he had my cassette to return, as he was done with it.

“Did you learn the song?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Show me,” I said, popping the tape into my cassette deck.

Doug picked up one of my electric guitars and sat on the edge of my lumpy old futon. I pressed “Play” and right on cue he started playing along, unplugged (we never, ever plugged our guitars into amplifiers when we played together – I still don’t).

You Enjoy Myself starts with a Bach-like arpeggiated romp through a delicious string of chords, and Doug’s fingers tore through the section like a well-trained spider. Then it gets into a two-chord vamp that goes on and on and bam-bam-bam!, Doug hit every hit right along with acetate Trey Anastasio. Then, about four or five minutes in, the guitar solo started. I was still standing in front of Doug – more towering over him really – as he sat perched on the futon and played along mimicking that improvised solo for what, the next seven or eight minutes? And I tell you, the man didn’t flub a note…not one.

It was so, so exciting to watch…every phrase was another miracle, every riff was another impossible feat…it felt like being on the rail at your first show, but somehow even more exciting than that. I was watching the culmination of months and months of steady, unceasing labour, probably close to a thousand hours of frustrating, meticulous work on this single song alone. It was a bloody inspiration, like seeing him summit Everest or cheering ringside as he goes the distance with Apollo Creed, and it was nothing short of exhilarating to watch.

Finally the song came crashing to its vocal ending and Doug was done. Casually he set my guitar back on its stand while I stood there dripping with sweat, my jaw slack. I never heard him play it again; it’s not like he was learning it for a gig or anything, for Doug it was just another three-month long musical stepping stone. My goodness, it was so damn inspirational to have seen…I can’t even…

And so it was that the following summer (or so) Phish booked themselves into Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre for a concert on July 6th, 2000 and I was very happy to haul Doug along with me for his first Phish show. And there, closing out the first set, was You Enjoy Myself. I was ecstatic that they played it, and so was Doug. It must have been quite an experience for Doug to watch Trey play through a song that he had developed such a relationship with.

I wonder if he was disappointed that the solo wasn’t the same?

Anyway, Doug and I have remained friends all these years later and luckily we did finally start gigging together.* Which is great, he’s a joy to play with. Incidentally, about twenty years ago he started putting in just as much work learning to sing as he did working on the guitar and you know what? He worked so hard at it that now people think he was born with that voice of his.

Musical muggles are funny that way.

*First as Velcro Cloud (Doug’s idea) and later as Burnt Reynolds (mine). We were better at music than we were at band names, I promise. Want proof? You can listen to all kinds of live Burnt Reynolds recordings over at archive.org.



Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.

This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.

Credits | Terms Of Use | Legal | DMCA

© 1990-2024  The Mockingbird Foundation, Inc. | Hosted by Linode