Phish: Bittersweet Motel

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Overview

In the 1990s, a number of young "jam bands" modeled after the musical and social model of the Grateful Dead began developing a nationwide following, such as Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors, but none have achieved greater success than Phish. With little radio play or mainstream media coverage, Phish developed a grassroots following that's grown so large they can sell out multi-night arena stands overnight, and the group has staged several well-attended weekend-long festivals in which they are the only ...
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Overview

In the 1990s, a number of young "jam bands" modeled after the musical and social model of the Grateful Dead began developing a nationwide following, such as Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors, but none have achieved greater success than Phish. With little radio play or mainstream media coverage, Phish developed a grassroots following that's grown so large they can sell out multi-night arena stands overnight, and the group has staged several well-attended weekend-long festivals in which they are the only attraction, playing multiple sets over several days. Filmmaker Todd Phillips, who previously documented the career of crash-and-burn punk rocker G.G. Allin, spent several months with Phish in 1997 and 1998, chronicling their one-band festival "The Great Went," following them for several arena shows along the East Coast, and tagging along as they played a series of small venues in Europe. Bittersweet Motel was the result, capturing the band's on-stage chemistry, their interaction with their fans, and both the lighter and more serious sides of their lives off stage. Ironically, Bittersweet Motel clocks in at less than 90 minutes -- less than half the length of a typical Phish concert.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Jason Bergenfeld
The traits once synonymous with the Grateful Dead -- tie-dyed fan-ware, epic jams, sold-out arenas across America -- are now the bread and butter of the ultimate American jam band Phish, the Vermont-based subject of award-winning filmmaker Todd Phillips's Bittersweet Motel. Following the group on various tour stops in 1997 and '98, Phillips -- director of the comedy hit Road Trip the documentary Hated: G. G. Allin and the Murder Junkies -- affords fans front-row tickets and backstage passes to the Phish phenomenon, also revealing the band's amazing lack of pretense offstage. Whether playing with handguns in a small European shop or taking photos of fans and/or themselves, Phish members maintain a fan-friendly demeanor that belies their rock star status. But Phillips doesn't forget that the music is the film's true star. From the rock 'n' roll anthem "Down with Disease" Phish's only song to have an accompanying music video and the uncut '70s funk of "Tweezer" to classic Elvis Presley and Rolling Stones covers, Bittersweet Motel demonstrates what Phish's fans have known for years: Their music is truly indescribable. The all-access DVD contains more than 35 minutes of deleted scenes and full-length versions of live favorites, including the ultra-psychedelic "Maze," the swanky Sinatra swagger of "Lawn Boy," and the post-punk power of "Big Black Furry Creature from Mars." A must-have for Phish-heads of all ages, Bittersweet Motel is also the perfect introduction to the band for any newbie interested in learning why Rolling Stone proclaimed them "the most important band of the '90s."
All Movie Guide
In the rockumentary Phish: Bittersweet Motel, Todd Phillips astutely avoids the usual traps an image-conscious band might lay for a documentarist, such as tricking or guilting him into a whitewash job. Because rabid fans hold them as exalted gods who are flawless in spirit, Phish actually has something to lose if seen as petty and bullying, which is how lead singer Trey Anastasio comes across on several occasions. The fact that Phillips got the scenes of Anastasio crapping on underlings and carrying out insensitive jokes feels like a real coup, itself reflecting well on the band's reluctance to meddle with the director's distillation of truth. However, Phillips' movie still often feels false, due to some curious choices of whom to interview and where to edit that footage. Especially puzzling is his lingering interview with a duo of beer-drinking frat types, with whom he spends inordinate time at the Great Went festival. That these are the fans on whom he focuses reflects either his fundamental misunderstanding of the group's core fan base, or his harsh skepticism toward the Phish phenomenon in general, the latter of which is more uncharitable than necessary for a project of his own choosing. These faults aside, Phillips does coax a surprisingly frank and open film out of a band that has steadfastly rejected the spotlight, preferring underground channels of exposure to radio airplay. Any serious fan will want to see Bittersweet Motel if only to recognize that the hipster cool essayed by these gifted musicians from Vermont is not quite as effortless as it seems, and they can be as human as the next. Oh, and they'll probably dig the music, too.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/6/2001
  • UPC: 014381978230
  • Original Release: 2000
  • Rating:

  • Source: Image Entertainment
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Phish
Technical Credits
Todd Phillips Director, Producer
Dave Ellinwood Sound Editor
Alan Oxman Editor
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Great DVD

    wow is all i have to say amazing phish is possibly my favorite band and this just takes the cake i have all of there other dvds and this one is great but i also recommend phish live in brooklyn that is one of my all time favorites live in vegas is good but this is also amazing so hard to choose

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A great film about a great band...

    For any one who has never discovered Phish, or for the diehard Phan, it doesn't get any better than Bittersweet. Todd Philips' footage and editing make this an almost exact portrait of the prolific Jam Band back in 1997. Though many of the interviews are simply with Trey, the musical selections featured from 'Roses are Free' to 'Loving Cup' are Phish at their best. To make any one person fall in love with Phish, sit them down and watch this movie.

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