Just got back from another amazing year at the All Good music festival and I have been itching to get on here and talk about one of the coolest parts of the weekend. Interestingly enough, there was zero music involved with this moment. On the grassroots stage this year, All Good had scheduled Chris Kuroda (light director for our beloved phish) to give a little workshop Q & A about lighting. This was originally on for Friday but got moved because as one of the venue people stated “Something blew up at the main stage and Chris needed to deal with it. This will be rescheduled for tomorrow at 3pm”
Came back the next day (Saturday) and noticed that there was hardly anyone there. At first it was just myself and @The_Landlady. By the time this whole thing started probably about 10-15 fans had shown up. Kuroda came out and decided since there were so few people he would do this without a microphone. He sat cross-legged on the front of the stage, gave us a brief lesson on lighting and then opened the floor to questions. Here are the highlights:
1) Chris fielded a ton of questions about the LED ovals that were on stage through Atlantic City. He said he will be the first to say they were a “failed experiment”. He genuinely wants the fan experience to be something comfortable and he felt he was killing both the band and the fans with the crazy new lights. He says he’ll continue to push the envelope when it comes to lighting and much like phish, doesn’t get hurt if something fails. He stressed that phish is all about “Purity” and “Elegance” and the LED ovals ended up being “just not phish”
2) Kuroda re-confirmed his favorite song to light is David Bowie but he also stated his least favorite song to light was “Cavern” as well as “Strange Design”
3) He confirmed the new year’s eve run at MSG. This may not shock many because of the Relix article and what the My Morning Jacket frontman had to say but hearing it from Kuroda makes it pretty official to me.
(EDIT: I have been getting a lot of questions about this and its probably due to my poor writing skills. This is exactly how this information/exchange came to be: I asked if they were playing MSG at New Year’s and Kuroda said “Ah I really can’t say” then someone from the crowd said “There was this Relix column with the singer from My Morning Jacket and it claims….” and Kuroda just laughed and said “Yeah we’ll be there” - I edited the article to make it reflect this. Sorry, I was writing this quickly and excitedly. FWIW this is what led into the question at point 4 about favorite venues to light, which was asked by yours truly)
4) His favorite in-door venue to light is Madison Square Garden, his favorite outdoor venue was the All Good Music festival (the latter may have been a little pandering)
5) Chris said his first phish show was in ‘86 at Goddard Halloween - him and his buddies ate some boomers and went to see a band called The Joneses which were a grateful dead cover band that were playing on the stage opposite phish at whatever event they were at. After seeing phish he said their jaws were just dropped and were instantly hooked for life.
6) Chris said he took guitar lessons from Trey and one of the first lessons when Trey asked him what he wanted to learn, Chris replied with “I Know You Rider”
7) Trey offered him a gig carrying equipment from the stage to the van after gigs at Nectar’s for $20. Later on, Trey handed him four lights and said “run these” he replied, “I’ve never done lighting before, I don’t know anything about this” to which Trey said “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out together” he said his first show was at The Front in Burlington back in ‘89
8) All of the equipment is rented. This is to keep up with technology. Similar to buying a new computer, by next week there will be something infinitely better so if you buy it, you could be buying what amounts to a paperweight not soon after.
9) He said he may be doing some lighting for Justin Beiber. No other real info on that just that he got a call from his people saying he was request “by name”. When asked if he’d do it, he said he’d love the opportunity to “Blow that little kids mind”
10) Chris said his biggest influence was the Grateful Dead’s Candance Brightman. He repeated this over and over again. I don’t think he gave any other name.
11) He said the band definitely reads internet forums. He says he does too - he also says the band is a big fan of watching their youtube clips. When it comes to the forums he says that sometimes there will be pages of comments praising the lights and he’ll just hone in on the one guy who said they sucked and obsess over that for weeks. He seemed to think it went similar to the band. He stressed that they were the four coolest guys you’ll ever know and want nothing more than the music to be epic for everyone so they take a lot of things to heart.
12) He said that next year we are in for a ton of surprises. The 30th anniversary is important to all people associated with Phish and the band plans to do it up big.
13) He says around 90 percent of what he does is improv - he claims he has an ESP connection with Trey and can almost always tell what song they are going to play just by how Trey counts it off. He says for the other 10 percent, very complex long tunes like Reba, Fluffhead, Time Turns Elastic, YEM have scripted lighting designs. He also taught us that the term for lighting on the fly without having a pre-programmed design in place is “punting”
14) He re-confirmed what most of us know to be true that the band doesn’t follow a setlist. He has the same “Holy shit” moments we do when they bust-out Skin it Back. He said they have something called the “maybe” list which has around 40 songs on it which he has on more than one occasion see the entire list get scrapped and not a single song get played off of it.
15) The Flaming Lips were the reason that Kuroda had to re-schedule. Apparently their stage setup with all the lighting and confetti messed up their rig, he said he doesn’t blame them because he gets that that’s what their whole show is about but it caused some extra work for Chris on Friday.
16) Chris deeply respects the lighting designer from Tool (his name is Mark “Junior” Jacobsen
17) He said the band basically gives him carte blanche when it comes to the lighting - when pressed for a band member that may give him the most input when it comes to the lighting he said “Maybe Page just a little bit, but really none of them”
18) He said his favorite show from this tour was SPAC night 1
19) He was asked if he’d ever had to light a phish rig under the influence and he said that he keeps it very professional but once took some ecstasy for a gig at the Gorge and thought it went great. “I thought it was the best light show ever”
Chris was one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met in any entertainment related space and I really enjoyed the intimate hour we got to spend with him. He was always humble and candid - he kept insisting we didn’t have to talk about lights and could ask him about Phish too. At the end of the Q & A he let everyone up at the end of the show to touch and play around with the rig and graciously answered all questions (even the repeats) as down to earth as anyone could be. Really stand up guy, hope I get to run into him again sometime!
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