Book Review: @waxbanks’ A Tiny Space to Move and Breathe: Notes From the Fall, 1997 #Phish

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If you are reading this, chances are you spend time reading Phish.net too. There are only a few reviewers whose words your correspondent takes seriously, and Walter Holland, the author of A Tiny Space to Move and Breathe: Notes From The Fall, 1997, is one of those few. Holland is a prolific Phish.net contributor whose show reviews concentrate on the years 1997-99, and he unabashedly cites Fall 1997 as his favourite period in Phish history. 

In A Tiny Space, Holland delves deep into that famous tour, reviewing shows and songs in great detail. What’s more is that he does so eloquently and honestly, from the point of view of someone who is musically literate and not just knowledgeable of Phish, their precursors, and successors.

Interspersed between the show reviews are snippets of essays and quotes from other authors that span an array of topics –musical and otherwise– such as being a parent, relationships, phish fandom, and a slew of others.  A Tiny Space, I think, will pique the interests of die-hard veterans, newer Phish fans, and those just interested in music in general. (And if Phish and/or music are not your thing, I don’t know how you ended up here).

For the vets, A Tiny Space will perhaps challenge your most adamant opinions, or you will find your opinions bolstered by another accomplished listener sharing in them. You will also find a very compelling argument as to why Fall ’97 is the best music Phish has played, as it is a tour in which Holland says myriad factors combined to make for the most patient, least ego-driven, and most listenable Phish music to date. (Your correspondent is still an [un]ashamed fan of 1992 Phish)

For newer Phish fans, A Tiny Space will help to cultivate more sophisticated opinions as to why Phish is great. Holland writes of the many musicians who influence Phish and himself, and newer fans will gain a greater appreciation for what all goes into a 20 minute jam; it is (often) not just an off-the-cuff fluke, but rather the culmination of the thoughts and ideas of four talented musicians.

And for those with an interest in music and perhaps a cursory knowledge of Phish, A Tiny Space will offer insight into a tight-knit musical culture that may seem inaccessible (unsavory?) to the outsider. This type of reader will hopefully gain a greater appreciation for a style of music that is often derided and infamously (rightly?) linked to drugs and debauchery. Holland does well to show that Phish does not fit neatly into the jam band genre and is worthy of a listen when at one of their musical peaks, as they were in Fall 1997.

Your correspondent found A Tiny Space very readable. The book is divided into shorter sections that allow for a quick read. At just over 200 pages, the book is not so long as to seem overdone. At times Holland takes what may seem to be jabs at Phish and Grateful Dead fans alike, but I will countenance that they are valid criticisms. Your correspondent’s only complaint is that Holland in A Tiny Space seems dismissive of the tail-end of the Fall ’97 tour, devoting only a few pages to the tour’s last five shows. There is a strong argument for a lot of great music in those shows. This is perhaps the result of the author applying a narrative arc to a tour comprised of many peaks and valleys. But as with any great story, it must have a beginning, a climax in the middle, and then taper off to the end.

Pick up your own copy of Walter Holland’s A Tiny Space to Move and Breathe: Notes From The Fall, 1997 for only $9.99 on Amazon here: A Tiny Space to Move and Breathe

You should also check out Holland’s blog http://waxbanks.typepad.com/ for excerpts from the book. You can also drop waxbanks a note on Phish.net here.

And if you’re still not convinced, check out Phish.net contributor Charlie Dirksen’s review of A Tiny Space  here.

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