Music News: Academic conference to examine 'the connection between Phish and philosophy'

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Trey Anastasio performs with Phish in 2004.
Trey Anastasio performs with Phish in 2004. (Scott Gries/Getty Images)
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The first-ever academic conference devoted to the band Phish is taking place next month at Oregon State University. Rolling Stone reports, "The conference will feature over 50 presentations, as well as special events such as panels, an exhibition fair, art show and the soft premiere of a new documentary about Phish fans." Conference organizer Stephanie Jenkins teaches a class on Phish and philosophy.

Among the presentation titles are: "'We're All Here Together in this Spirit Family': Phish and the Cultivation of Jewish Cultural Identity in the Twenty-First Century"; "A Graph-Theoretic Approach to Setlist Structure Analysis"; and "Phish: The Good Breast: An Examination of the Phish phenomenon and the Extensive Dedication of their Fans with an Object Relations and Attachment Theory Approach." The keynote address is called, "We Are Aphicionados, We Are Vernacular Theorists!: A Critical Reconsideration and Anti-Hegemonic Recasting of Phish, Phandom and Fan Praxis."

Record Store Day sets vinyl sales record

This year's Record Store Day set a new record for vinyl sales. With 827,000 vinyl albums sold in the U.S., it was the biggest vinyl week outside the holiday season since the original vinyl heyday. Exclusives from classic rockers were the day's biggest sellers, with the Grateful Dead's 1980 live album and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks test pressing topping album sales charts. The biggest single: "She's a Rainbow," by the Rolling Stones. (Billboard)

Britney Spears says she's okay

Recently on the podcast, we talked about fan concerns over the welfare of Britney Spears, who's been conspicuously absent since cancelling her run of Vegas shows this past winter. Britney's apparently heard those concerns, and she's responded in a video posted to Instagram.

"Don't believe everything you read and hear," she says, explaining that her family's been going through a lot but she's absolutely fine. She says to her fans, "Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful." (Billboard)

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I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!! There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago... I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment 🌸🌸🌸 You may not know this about me, but I am strong, and stand up for what I want! Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful. Love you ❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Britney Spears (@britneyspears) on

Michael Jackson musical moving forward

Meanwhile, a Britney Spears musical movie, using her music to tell the story of a book club of princesses (yes, really) is moving forward with Spears signed on to produce. It's just one of the jukebox musicals that are filling stages and screens right now. Beyoncé’s dad Matthew Knowles even says he's developing a Destiny's Child musical, with a story told from his perspective. Sure, why not.

Even a planned Michael Jackson musical is still heading to Broadway, despite concerns raised by the recent documentary Leaving Neverland. The show's pre-Broadway run in Chicago was canceled, but the creators of the musical, called Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, say they're still aiming to open on the Great White Way next summer.

For context, the people behind the show aren't your run-of-the-mill hired guns. Playwright Lynn Nottage is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, known for tackling tough conversations around race and gender. Director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon was the first English artist invited to create a work for Russia's renowned Bolshoi Ballet. Both Nottage and Wheeldon sat down to talk about their Michael Jackson musical with the New York Times.

Wheeldon says, "You can't watch the documentary without being profoundly disturbed by it, but [...] we're not judge and jury. In our process, we're facing it pretty much head on, but we're also studying the many facets of Michael Jackson."

Nottage says the show will focus specifically on Jackson's Dangerous tour in the early '90s. She explains, "We're really deeply invested in shifting the paradigm of musical-making, and particularly the jukebox musical. And Broadway certainly is ready for a musical that's a little more serious. We want this to be a musical that everyone can come to, regardless of how they feel about Michael Jackson, and they will leave with a better understanding of who he was as a human being."

Nottage says the estate hasn't put any restrictions on the story she's telling, so whether or not you think now is the time for a Michael Jackson musical, it doesn't seem like this is going to be a fuzzy, feel-good show. How will it make you feel? We may find out when workshop performances begin this fall.

Compilation master Gary Stewart dies at 62

Everybody likes to talk about great albums by legendary artists, but if you're like me, some of the albums you've listened to the most weren't regular albums but compilations. I loved the Hot Tracks 1983 cassette I picked up at a garage sale, full of '80s rock jams. And then there were the amazing D.I.Y. compilations from Rhino Records, nine CDs compiling classic post-punk indie pop.

One of Rhino's compilation geniuses, Gary Stewart, has died at age 62. "His death was ruled a suicide by the Los Angeles County medical examiner's office," reports the New York Times.

We have Stewart to thank for compilations like the series Have a Nice Day, featuring the best one-hit wonders of the '70s. Then there was the box set Loud, Fast & Out of Control, spotlighting the wilder side of '50s rock and roll. Stewart also curated retrospective collections by artists like the Ramones and Phil Ochs, and helped spearhead Rhino's Elvis Costello reissues in 2001. Costello said that Stewart helped ensure the reissues were as comprehensive as possible, complete with detailed liner notes.

Gary Stewart grew up shopping at Rhino Records when it was still just a record store in Los Angeles. He became an employee there, and ultimately was "the architect and guiding spirit" of the store's reissue label, said Rhino's president Mark Pinkus.

Stewart said he didn't believe in trusting algorithms to make playlists, and he didn't rely on his own personal taste either when he assembled his compilations. He said, "Curation, at its best, is not just how you like something, which is the most dangerous place to go, but what the music means to the band, what it means to the fans."

In Gary Stewart's honor, here's the final track on that '50s box set, which he talked about proudly with a friend just hours before his death. It's the Viscounts with "Harlem Nocturne."

Viral clip: Lil Dicky salutes "Earth" with star-studded animated music video

You may not know the name of comic singer-songwriter-rapper Lil Dicky, but here are some names you probably recognize: Justin Bieber. Ariana Grande. Halsey. Zac Brown. Wiz Khalifa. Hailee Steinfeld. Snoop Dogg. Adam Levine. Shawn Mendes. Charlie Puth. Sia. Miley Cyrus. Lil Jon. Miguel. Rita Ora. Ed Sheeran. Katy Perry. Lil Yachty. Meghan Trainor. John Legend. Bad Bunny. Psy...and the Backstreet Boys.

That's just a partial list of what's got to be the most star-studded collaboration on a single track since "We Are the World." The song, which comes with a cute and slightly NSFW animated video, is called "Earth," and like "We Are the World," it's a charity project. Proceeds go to organizations fighting climate change, under the auspices of Leonardo DiCaprio's foundation. Since the video premiered last week, it's racked up almost 40 million views.

Leo appears in the video as himself (standing on the bow of the Titanic, of course). Lil Dicky says his manager Scooter Braun and producer Benny Blanco who got all those big names to jump in. As Katy Perry put it on Twitter, "Don't say I never tried to save the world." (BuzzFeed)


Audio sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
BoxCat Games: "Against The Wall" (CC BY 3.0)
The Rolling Stones: "She's a Rainbow"
Britney Spears: "Oops! ... I Did It Again"
Jesse Spillane: "Ruffling Feathers" (CC BY 4.0)
The Viscounts: "Harlem Nocturne"
Lil Dicky: "Earth"


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