Documentary film by Todd Phillips following the band Phish on tour. The title comes from the eponymous song written by Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell, and refers to the mixed feelings attached to life on the road. (It may also be a reference to Frank Zappa's road movie 200 Motels.)
Filming began as documentation of The Great Went, a weekend-long gathering of some 70,000 fans at the northernmost point in Maine, on August 16-17, 1997. The band liked the footage so much they asked Todd to shoot an indoor arena show, on December 11, 1997 in Rochester, New York, then their New Year's Eve show at Madison Square Garden. Then footage of rehearsal in Vermont in March '98. Lastly, for contrast, he followed them along most of their Spring '98 tour of Europe, where they played much smaller venues (mostly to American tourists). The footage in the movie is completely mixed up to try to give a proper dramatic arc: Rochester, Vermont, New York City, Europe, Maine.
The band members chose Phillips for this project because they loved his previous documentary Hated about punk rocker GG Allin and didn't want to place any limitations on someone they saw as a fellow artist. They never presumed to tell him how or when to shoot, and hence the backstage and hotel footage has a wonderfully intimate yet casual feel. You get to see band members make up silly songs about each other and the film crew while drunk. There is not one scene of strife or conflict, which may seem odd for a rock and roll movie. We are led to believe that, for this band, those scenes virtually do not exist.
There is almost no such thing as a casual Phish fan. You either worship the band or you are indifferent. The fans, who were largely expecting a straight performance piece (in the vein of Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense or Tom Waits' Big Time), felt greatly let down to see a film where more than half the time was spent talking, not rocking. Conversely, no non-fans were won over by this film, since it makes no attempt to tell you what the secret of this band is--why people devote their lives to them. (I myself have seen them 21 times in 6 states, and these are comparatively low numbers.)
Another criticism leveled at the film by fans is that it features far too much Trey, giving you no impression of the democratic interplay between the four members. Phillips maintains that this was not an editing decision, but that Trey is simply the most garrulous one by far. In any case, if you are listening to everything said, you can observe patterns to determine that they interact offstage the same way they do musically: with the utmost respect, joy, and playfulness.
The filmmakers responded to these criticisms by including on the DVD interviews with Mike and Page and extra concert footage: the end of a Dirt (1:00), a Lawn Boy (2:00), a Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars (3:00), a Punch You In The Eye (8:00), and a Maze (15:00!), all mixed in 5.1. Very satisfying.
This movie also features Spencer Tunick taking photos of 1500 naked people lying together on a runway. You can also see footage of this event in the HBO documentary Naked States.