By Cory Bass
So you’re someone who thinks you know all the bands. You can recite the top 20 by heart even though you never listen to that crap. Guess it’s not news to you then that Phish, a platinum level recording group and one of the most successful global touring bands, is featured in Bittersweet Motel.
Bittersweet Motel is an attempt at a close-up view of the phenomenon that is Phish. The band members, guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell are all featured in a movie that exhibits the enormous talents of the band. The concert footage is riddled with close-ups of masterfully-executed solos.
Unfortunately though, this documentary is generally unfocused and lacks the intimacy expected from filmmakers who spent a year following the band around. During the film, one band-member spoke of his uncertainty towards their decision to make the film, suggesting a lack of cohesion between the four band-members and the film-makers.
Still, the documentary is not flashy and neither is the band. They’re not like U2–they’re not stylish and they have only one video. The band is about the music and so is the film. Bittersweet Motel shows excellent concert footage adjacent to sadly weak interviews, which raise more questions than they answer. For Phish-heads, the die-hard fans of this cult band who will undoubtedly race to see it, the film doesn’t bring much to the table. However, as an introduction to Phish for those unacquainted, it will be quite revealing. For individuals familiar with Phish, but not of the Phish-head category, the film is an excellent way to put faces and names to the band.
Rolling Stone has called them "the most important band of the ’90s." But the truth is, almost no one from Canada has even heard of them, and if they have, they are proud that no one else has. A cult band with their fans dispersed all over the world, the Phish following has been compared to that of the Grateful Dead.
Watching Bittersweet Hotel, you come to the conclusion that Phish isn’t just music, it’s an experience. The film doesn’t come close to the experience, but it does make one aware that it exists.