World's Fair

Sb House Band Needed: My Vote Below

We need a house band. Scienceblogs needs a house band. And I know what you’re all thinking: Phish is the obvious choice. Now, while I admire the force of your collective appreciation for Phish – I’m astounded by it, in fact, by all the bloggers’ recognition of greatness – I actually have to argue against them as the Sb House Band. A few reasons:


Whereas, it is true, they exemplify all that is good about music, the experience of music, the aura of performance, the construction of art, and so on. I can’t argue against any of that. They are all that. The very notion of creativity and imagination and expressive beauty is encompassed within the band Phish. That’s fair;

And whereas it is true that the community spirit of which they were the center was unique and powerful. (Yes, perhaps Dead-like, but it was not The Dead. No Deadhead would claim so. Similar, perhaps. The Same, no.) Fans understood the music, understood the dynamics between band members, understood the crescendo of each set, understood the meaning within the songs and between them, true, that’s all true. And yes, that does parallel to a large degree the kind of community spirit we are working towards, and in positive ways, here at Scienceblogs. So I can see why you’re likely to bring that point up too, why that argument might be forwarded;

And whereas it is also true that few bands have had the ability to build their own mythology – not through the concert scene (“the scene”) alone, mind you, but actually within the songbook they played – what, with Trey’s Gamehendge saga, and the extended Epics (I won’t waste your time listing the epics, you know them well enough), and with the flow of each individual tour, and the character of each tour (Chess and Cover Songs and the Big Ball and the Mega-Sets of Fall ’96), and the on-tour expansion of so many songs, the legs they grow, the Down with Diseaseses and Wolfman’s Brothers’s, eventually standing near – true, not as high as – the Antelopes and Hoods and Rebas and YEMs and Tweezers and Mike’s Grooves and so forth. And that there was an immense narrative connecting show to show, song to song, year to year, fan to fan, a community narrative which is just the kind of narrative we’d like to provide at Scienceblogs – albeit not actually mythological, per se, but at least bond-making, consciousness building in some way;

And whereas, furthermore, though you might elaborate how those who do not understand Phish, or their meaning, or spirit, appear as incapable children before a great secret told by wisemen, and that the Sciencebloggers too have just that same great ambition to know and understand more, ever more;

And whereas, finally, it is true that while each Phish show was unique, and while fans could follow the artwork of that uniqueness – that the song selection differed was no big deal; that the integration of those songs together into coherent sets and then into larger show-size events was born anew each night was the deal entirely – and while fans could bask in the grandeur and intensity of having come to understand something about our world theretofore unexpressed through that unique expression, and though it is true that Scienceblogs is striving for that same aura of transcendence…

…Whereas all these would likely be clearly stated in your inevitable choice of Phish for Scienceblogs House Band, I still, still have to argue against that choice. Because they are broken up now, and I seriously believe – some of you might argue against me, I know – I serious think the House Band needs to be one that is still currently together. But, you know, the band’s broken up. For a few years already now. Maybe get over it some? You can certainly still enjoy Trey on tour (like last Friday in Charlottesville), or Mike or Page or all of them, and smile upon avons at that. But the band, they’re history. That’s my point.

This too puts a hamper on some other likely choices, like the Devo option (they’re really smart people, so scientists like them), or Boston (since one of those guys had a Masters or something from MIT, I think), or The Benny Goodman Orchestra (Alan Turing was a huge fan).

But what about They Might Be Giants? “Particle Man” sort of makes the entirety of scientific pursuits moot, having pretty much resolved all issues in the universe. So, no, they’re out.

How’s about Weezer? They’re all nerdy cool, right? But no. Just not into them.

So my choice for Scienceblogs House Band, the choice that’s really a statement of clarity, a comment on genius, and one I already reflected upon, is Wilco.


Let’s give it up for Jeff Tweedy and the guys. Welcome in Wilco, on my vote at least.


  1. #1 CCP
    October 16, 2006

    my bandana’s off to you, sir. Well said, and I say so as a deadhead of long standing (plural decades) with as much an appreciation for Phish as can be gained without ever having seen them live (one of life’s great regrets).

    But I don’t think Wilco’s right.

    How about my wife’s favorite band, whose very moniker can be interpreted as collecting quantitative data (redundant, I know)?
    I refer to Counting Crows.
    And yeah, I too find Duritz’s emoting a bit tiresome after a while but they are in fact a fine band, as a band.

  2. #2 Dr. Free-Ride
    October 16, 2006
  3. #3 Jim
    October 17, 2006

    I would nominate the Flaming Lips, as they actually have a song about scientists, “Race for the Prize”: “Two scientists are racing, for the good of all mankind, both of them side-by-side, so determined.” That’s off of “The Soft Bulletin”. The album is not really about science but is more about the nature of existence, it’s precariousness, it’s briefness, and the struggle to find meaning. Pretty heady stuff for a rock band. I would refer to the band’s leader, Wayne Coyne, as a genius but that would sound fanatical and hyperbolic so I’ll just say he is highly intelligent and is quite the thinker. And he writes some really great lines like:”When you smile, all of the subatomic pieces come together and unfold themselves in a second.” He also never graduated from high school. And he can’t sing worth a crap.

    My second nominee, more on the nerdier side, but highly qualified nonetheless, is They Might Be Giants. These perhaps overeducated fellows(I think they met at MIT or something like that) have brought us songs like “The Sun is a Giant Mass of Incandescent Gas” and “Mammal” the latter of which gives us lines that will surely never be heard in a song again: “And the warm blood flows, with the red blood cells, lacking nuclei, to the large four-chambered heart.”, and it’s, you know, actually catchy even. This band is probably the best fit, but the Flaming Lips are more artistically ambitious and have actually done an ‘experiment’ the “Parking Lot Experiment” where they recorded music on a bunch of cassettes, got a huge group of people to show up in a parking lot and play them simultaneously on car stereos, while Wayne ‘conducted’ this car-stereo orchestra via megaphone shouted commands to adjust the volume at certain times. This lead to an album that was four cds meant to be played simultaneously “Zaireeka!”. I was going to explain more, but why bother when the creator wrote a long, interesting essay about it himself, it can be found here, among other places.

    Even if you don’t care for the Flaming Lips I think that pretty much anyone here would find this essay interesting and I encourage you to read it(if you are interested in music and art and such).

  4. #4 chris
    May 20, 2008

    How about the Talking Heads/ David Byrne? Tell me he isn’t sufficiently nerdy. :-) Just a tuesday morning thought.

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