"Soul Planet" is not one of Anastasio's more complex, compositional songs. It is, as drummer Jon Fishman says in the film, "just a pocket." But it is peppy and earnest and will lend itself to a big Broadway-style spectacle at midnight as the ball drops when the MSG stage transforms into a pirate ship. It's the kind of ridiculous thing only Phish could get away with.
In Between Me and My Mind, we watch Trey teach the new song, first to drummer Jon Fishman, then to keyboardist Page McConnell, then to bassist Mike Gordon. For longtime fans, it'll be pure catnip watching how Trey interacts differently with each member of the band. When the old pals get together, they shoot the shit, laugh and reminisce, and show off some new piece of gear, but mostly they just play and get one another really jazzed with the exchange of musical ideas. (At Mike's place, even the dog gets into the act.)
I do not know how many times I have seen Trey Anastasio perform. It's been around 25 times since I published Your Friend's Phish Obsession, Explained in July 2016. So, to see under the hood at how the carnival comes together is fascinating to me. It's great to hear anecdotes about the band as kids -- Jon Fishman didn't even have a bed, he'd just collapse on a pile of laundry! The lyric "thank you, Mr. Miner" from "Harry Hood" comes from getting the neighbor's mail! Trey wrote "The Divided Sky" after watching the 1983 nuclear terror TV movie The Day After! -- but that's what you get in any rock doc. Between Me and My Mind differentiates itself by showing its subject in the here and now.
This is very much in keeping with the humble, sober philosophy of Trey himself. In recent interviews, he has talked about how, prior to shows, he will kneel before the toilet, because when he was a drunk that's the position he'd end up in. His path was aided by reading the work of Eckhart Tolle, a philosopher devoted to staying in the present. None of this is in the movie, though! The movie doesn't tell it, it shows it.
It shows it when Trey is wandering in the woods (and joking about "ghosts of the forest") and finding the house where he raised his daughters. He meets the family that lives there now. The kids have kinda-sorta heard of him, and the young girl is impressed that someone wrote famous songs in her bedroom. "You've got the room with the good vibes!" he jokes. (She then listens to "Billy Breathes" on her iPhone speaker.)
It shows it even more when Trey is in Manhattan and a fan in a Phish tour shirt comes up saying he's just eight days sober and freaking out, and he can't believe he ran into Trey. He says he just threw his needles away and starts to cry. Trey waves the cameras away to talk to him.
And it shows it when Trey hangs out with his parents. First his mom, very much a free spirit and clearly an influence on Trey's creative side. "You must have been born with too many notes in your head," she jokes. The two are sitting in a park, on a bench dedicated to Trey's late sister. They bring her up briefly, but it is still clearly hard to talk about.
Later, Trey goes out for ice cream with his dad. (Hardcore phans may enjoy knowing that their spot is but a five-minute drive to the Rhombus, the portal Colonel Forbin took to Gamehenge to rescue The Helping Friendly Book from the evil Wilson, King of Prussia, Duke of Lizards.) The 77 year-old Ernest Anastasio comes off at first as a bit of a tough character (e.g., he rolls his eyes when a fan comes up to his son; "this always happens," he sighs) but after a minute or two he's gushing. "I was proud of you before anyone knew who you were!" Pass the Kleenex, please!!
Other intimate moments come, with Trey's wife Sue (they've been a couple since the 1980s) and, individually, Trey's two daughters. The eldest hangs out it a rehearsal studio, and it seems like the first time she's really checked out his weirdo amps and pedals. He impresses her with a Leslie speaker and, off her look, Dad jokes, "And that's my job!" With his younger daughter he thinks back to her coming out on tour, with thousands of people screaming and dancing and freaking out in adoration, and she just pouting like a teen saying "I'm bored!" It's hilarious.
Trey's kids are the age he was when he first formed Phish, and this change of perspective very much fuels Ghosts of the Forest. When the band is in rehearsal or backstage, they are still goofballs (Fishman wears a T-shirt with Charlie Brown and Patty on it that says “I still miss Frank Zappa”) but, man, these guys have mellowed. They don't seem to miss the action. The passion is now laser-focused on the music and the show, and therefore the fans. Between Me and My Mind might offer the best exhibition on "aging gracefully" that I've ever seen.
There's a line toward the end of the film where Trey comments on something from The Last Waltz. In Martin Scorsese's documentary about The Band, Robbie Robertson says 15 years on the road is way more than anyone could take. "Really? That's all?" Trey scoffs.