Today, we salute our hero on his birthday. Red is 45 today and there is no sign of him slowing down anytime soon. Having put aside his problems and successfully repaired his family, and his band, Trey seems happier than he has in years. In recent interviews he has appeared to be full of energy, undoubtedly glowing with his goofy smile. This man holds God-like status among many people and through his music he has changed the lives of so many people, myself included. So Happy Birthday Trey, nothing makes us happier to see you back on your feet, shredding the ‘doc to the tunes we love.
To celebrate Trey’s birth, here are some standout jams to stream/download (click song names to download).
“Jam #1” – Trey with Herbie Hancock 2004.10.19 The Barn, Burlington, VT
“Jam #2” – Trey with Herbie Hancock 2004.10.19 The Barn, Burlington, VT
“Jam #3” – Trey with Herbie Hancock 2004.10.19 The Barn, Burlington, VT
Now for the icing on the cake. If you haven’t heard this, it might as well be your birthday. In January of 2005, Trey went in to East Iris Studio in Nashville Tennessee to begin working on his new album Bar 17. Out of this session came the “Hendrix Jam”, a rare gem that seems to fly completely under the radar. Check it out.
“Hendrix Jam” 2005.1.xx East Iris Studios, Nashville,TN
Because we’re celebrating it can’t hurt to throw in one more gem. In 1999, on Trey’s first solo tour, he made a stop in Indianapolis at the Murat Theater. Exhibiting his new sound, apart from Phish, Trey treated the crowd with a great night of music, featuring some great covers. The first set is acoustic, the second electric.
Check out the “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” from 5.4.99.
Set I: Dirt, Dogs Stole Things, Mist, Snowflakes In The Sand, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Talk, Bathtub Gin, Kissed By Mist, Back On The Train, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Chalkdust Torture
Set II: Will It Go Round In Circles, First Tube, Ooh Child, Bell Bottom Blues, Heavy Things, Windora Bug, Somanatin, Andre the Giant, I Can See Clearly Now, Sand> Drums, Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Encore: Row Jimmy, Last Tube, Come On Baby Lets Go Downtown
To add fuel to the fire, Phish has released the list of potential musical costumes for Festival 8. Since the announcement of the festival, the thought has been on my mind, ‘what will they play when the moment comes?’ With flying weapons slowly eliminating albums, it appears for the first time Phish will announce the album prior to the actual show. Most of the albums are ones that we have been considering, with a few unexpected ones standing out. For example I think Thriller and Electric Ladyland were on most people’s radar. However, I think its safe to say French-Latin singer Manu Chao’s Clandestino and Montreal based band The Arcade Fire’s Funeral were surprises to most people. That said, I have a hard time seeing the band sing in French, Spanish and Portuguese to the spooky setting of Halloween. With MMW’s Shack Man, Tom Petty’s Dam the Torpedoes, Huey Lewis and the News’ Sport, the Talking Heads’ Fear of Music and Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man already off the list, we feel we can start narrowing it down further. Throughout the week we will be selecting albums from the list and talking about them in detail. If you have not seen the list of albums, check them out here.
While many of the albums seem tempting, I think this year will be different from past years. For one, the festival setting will evoke an entirely different atmosphere than fans are used to on Halloween. It won’t be enough to simply cover an album this time. The album will have to fit with the spooky setting of Halloween. Based on that criteria, I’ve narrowed the list down a bit. We have already mentioned Thriller, The Basement Tapes and another of Brian Eno’s albums, which are all major possibilities (read the article here). Here are some more albums that we think might make the cut:
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
Considered by many to be one of the greatest and most innovative albums of all time, Pet Sounds is one of the first concept albums of all time. In 2003, Pet Sounds was voted the #2 album of all time by Rolling Stone. The thick vocal harmonies, and unique use of instruments create a very interesting sound, one in which Phish could potentially push to new limits. Widely felt to be one of the most influential albums, The Beatles have said it was the main influence behind Sgt. Pepper. As George Martin, the Beatles producer, stated, “Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn’t have happened…Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds“. Needless to say, this would be an amazing choice for Halloween in California. With Phish singing the vocal harmonies, taking these surf rock tunes for wild rides, it would make for one of the best musical costumes to date.
Here’s “Sloop John B” off Pet Sounds.
Blind Faith – Blind Faith
The first of the ‘super-power’ groups, Blind Faith only existed for a short time. Featuring Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech, the band released a single album in 1969 and disbanded shortly after. In that brief period, Blind Faith created some very innovative music, pushing each musician to the limits of their abilities. Some of Clapton’s most complex guitar playing was in Blind Faith, which he has recently ressurected with Stevie Winwood. I was lucky enough to catch one of the reuniting shows at MSG last year, and I can honestly say it was one of the greatest muscial experiences of my life. Seeing Phish play these songs is one of my biggest dreams. The opening notes of “Had to Cry Today” would bring the house down, and Trey would sound great playing Clapton’s leads.
Watch “Had to Cry Today”, the opening track off Blind Faith.
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust
Another concept album, released in 1972. This album would make for the perfect musical costume, as the band would lead the crowd along the journey of Ziggy Stardust. Telling the story of a being from outerspace who comes to save Earth with a message of peace and love would create the perfect musical setting for Halloween. Bowie described the story behind the album in a 1974 interview with Rolling Stone:
“The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, ’cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. ‘All the young dudes’ is a song about this news. It’s no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.”
Needless to say it would be an incredible experience if Phish were to cover Ziggy.
“Moonage Daydream” from Ziggy Stardust.
Frank Zappa – Hot Rats
If Phish were to cover this album it would be a major undertaking. Frank’s second solo album, released in 1969, consisting of five instrumental tracks and one track with vocals. The liner notes of the album describe the music as “a movie for your ears”. The music is extremely complex, and would take time to master. With Trey mentioning that they have recently begun learning a new album, it would be very difficult to learn the music to Hot Rats in such a short period. That said, the band already knows “Peaces en Regalia”, and could potentially learn the rest. Remember who we’re dealing with here. However, to acheive the right sound, I think they would need horns and perhaps a violin. It would be difficult, there’s no doubt about it, but I don’t put it past them.
“Son of Mr. Green Genes” from 10.26.68.
Check back throughout the week as we will continue to break down the potential Festival 8 musical costumes. Post your thoughts in the comments section, let us know what you think the album will be!
No article today. Just some incredible videos.
Pat Metheny “Phase Dance” Portugal 1991.
Pat Metheny performing “Are You Going With Me?” with the Metropool Orchestra in 2003 (solo at 3:47).
Weather Report “Black Market” Rockpalast 1978.
Today’s show comes from a band everyone seems to have forgotten about, Oysterhead. The dynamic that existed between Trey, Les and Stu was really something, and I’d love to see it taken further. Here’s the stand-out show from Asheville on 11.17.01.
Owner Of The World, Polka Dot Rose, Oz Is Ever Floating, Shadow Of A Man*, Army’s On Ecstasy*, Wield The Spade, Birthday Boys, Pseudo Suicide, Little Faces, Rubberneck Lions, Mr. Oysterhead,
* Trey on Matterhorn
“The Owner of the World” Bonnaroo 2006
“Polka Dot Rose” Bonnaroo 2006
“Birthday Boys” Bonnaroo 2006
Phish’s early years are noticeably marked with a heavy jazz influence. Like going to a Vaudeville performance, Phish would treat its audience to a wide variety of music laced with gags and narratives. Going from Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” to Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” made for a very unique experience. Through the late 80′s and into the early 90′s Phish explored jazz, and adapted a great deal of the genre into their own music.
Phish’s jazz influence can be traced back to the 80′s when Jon and Trey were living in a house in Winooski, VT. Around the corner, the club Sneakers would have jazz on Tuesday nights featuring local musicians James Harvey, Dave Grippo, Russ Remington, Carl Geirhardt who would later play with Phish as the Giant Country Horns. The relationship grew, and Phish would eventually start backing up a horn section as the Johnny B. Fishman Jazz Ensemble. These weekly gigs took place at the Drenched Cat in Burlington throughout ’88.
Incorporating the songs from their jazz sets into their Phish sets, the band became increasingly jazzy, with Trey altering his tone to suit their new style. Songs such as “Take the A-Train”, “Caravan” and “Satin Doll” by Duke Ellington, as well as “Donna Lee” by Charlie Parker all made regular appearances in Phish sets until ’93. As the band became familiar from these standards, they would improvise on them with a jazzy style. As the years went on, the jazz and rock jams began to meld into one combined style that carried through the entire set. Eventually, a style known as ‘speed-jazz’ was developed, and can be heard in shows from ’91 to ’93.
Here are some of the best jazz covers Phish has done (click the song name to download):
“Phase Dance” (Pat Metheny) from 1987.9.27 ATO Living Room, Canton, NY
“Jump Monk” (Charles Mingus) from 1988.3.12 Nectar’s, Burlington, VT
“Caravan” (Duke Ellington) from 1991.7.15 The Academy, New York, NY (the song starts at 1:00 after some Trey talk)
“Take the ‘A’ Train” (Duke Ellington) from 1992.3.14 Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY
“Satin Doll” (Duke Ellington) from1989.3.30 The Front, Burlington, VT
On this day, 21 years ago, Phish performed at the Humphries House, also known as The Zoo, on the campus of Amherst College, in Amherst, MA. This show is significant, as it was the start of the bond between Phish and John Paluska – their future manager – and the beginning of Phish’s widening fan base. John had seen the band for the first time in March of ’88, stumbling in on the first live performance of Gamehenge, now known as “Story Time at Nectars” on 3.12.88. Fascinated with the band, John booked them to play the Humphries House, dubbed “The Zoo”, for a full moon party in April, as was tradition at Amherst College.
The first full moon party at The Zoo took place in April, and was well received by those in attendance. Phish continued to widen their horizons in the following months, playing their first show in New York City (3.31.88) and traveling to Colorado to play the now famous Colorado ’88 shows. In the fall, John booked them to play two shows, another full moon party at The Zoo and a show at the Red Barn at Hampshire College in Amherst. Both shows are great, and show the band playing their hearts out to their new audiences.
At the time, Phish had built a small, yet devoted fan base in Burlington. Through tape exchanges, the crowds were becoming larger, and even with no official studio release (only a four song demo), fans knew the words to most songs. The trips to Amherst spawned the first Phish scene outside of Burlington, and by the time the band came back the second time, a small following had emerged. After the show at the Red Barn, Phish asked John to be their manager, forging a bond that would result in some of the most creative moments in Phish’s career. John would go on to co-found Dionysian, Phish’s old management company.
The Full Moon at the Zoo is a great look at Phish at a time when they were breaking new ground on a daily basis. The highlight of the show comes during the “YEM> Wilson> Peaches en Regalia”. Featuring some monstrous shredding from Trey, the band tears apart this early version of their classic tune. As the jam progresses, and Trey noodles his way through the jam, the unmistakable intro to “Wilson” emerges. Featuring an extended jam on the intro, and “Dave’s Energy Guide” teases, this version stands out among any other version of the song. The “bapboom…” part segueays perfectly into “Peaches”, and the band then goes on to nail the cover. Packed with tons of early Phish gems, this full moon party at The Zoo is one to remember.
Listen to “YEM>Wilson>Peaches”
1: Golgi Apparatus, On Your Way Down, Alumni Blues, You Enjoy Myself-> Wilson-> Peaches en Regalia, La Grange, Take the A-Train, The Divided Sky, Bold as Love
2: David Bowie, Lizards, Walk Away-> Possum, Fee-> Sparks, Whipping Post
3: Good Times Bad Times, Fluffhead, The Curtain, AC/DC Bag
Here is a video of “Peaches” coming out of “Wilson” from 6.23.89 at The Paradise in Boston, MA.
Last week, we shared some of the magic that goes on during Phish’s soundchecks. This week, we continue with some more, memorable soundchecks. In their early years, they used their soundchecks to test their instruments, run through a few numbers, and that was it. As they progressed, and required less warm-up, they began to use soundchecks as a time to experiment, to try new things. Playing covers that have never graced the stage, exploring spacey sounds in extended forms, soundchecks became a unique time for Phish to let loose, and be themselves. Today we will look at more special moments from Phish soundchecks, including the incredible hour long ambient soundcheck from IT. Also, we have shared the mother-load of sound checks for download, enjoy!
1993.7.18 IC Light Amphitheater, Pittsburg, PA
This entire soundcheck is enjoyable. It has significance also, as an abbreviated version of “Guyute” was played. The song did not make its live debut until over a year later on 10.7.94 in Bethelehem, PA. The band can be heard working through Trey’s new composition, offering a rare look at the band learning a new number. Following “Guyute” the band plays a 16 minute jam, featuring Trey singing “Lucy’s in the subway with daffadils”. A great piece of music full of Trey’s ’93 style shredding.
“Jam” 7.18.93 Soundcheck
2003.7.12 Gorge Amphitheater, George, WA
Known as the “Cone Head Blues”, this jam is reminiscent of the Providence soundcheck. The sound check begins with Trey’s palm muted notes riding over-top of the funky groove. Trey’s soloing has an added jazzy twist, with phrasing similar to Coltrane. A great, funky jam to throw on when looking to dive straight into a jam.
“Cone Head Blues” 7.12.03 Soundcheck
2003.8.1 IT Festival, Limestone, ME
There have been few times in Phish’s history that have featured an hour long improvisational set. Many of us dream for the day that the band takes the stage and simply jams for an entire set. This happened once, during the Ring of Fire set at Lemonwheel (discussed in our article Whatever the Spirit Moves).
IT acted as the band’s platform to fully regain their ‘creative spark’. While many aspects of 2003 are looked down upon, the band was clearly in an evolutionary process, experimenting with new musical concepts. Attempting to push their music forward, the band used IT as a chance to fully develop their new sound.
The soundcheck begins as an ambient layer of sounds that slowly unfold into a spacey, psychedelic jam. Evoking the free spirit that exists in the open environment of a festival, the band let loose and created some very interesting music. The jam follows through several sections with Trey softly gliding above, before diving into the dark. The jam progresses toward a bluesy groove which Mike then graces with the lyrics to the rare Little Feat cover “Skin it Back”. There is a brief pause before the band dives back into some ambient psychedelic improv. Clearly trying to summon the creative forces, the band takes an extended outside journey for the rest of the jam, making this one of the most memorable soundchecks. Note: An excerpt of this soundcheck was used for the repeating clip on the IT DVD (listen at 10:50).
“IT Soundcheck” 8.1.03 Soundcheck
Livephish has also released some of the best soundchecks, most notabley the soundchecks from Alpine 7.8.00, Darien 9.14.00, Nassau 4.2.98 and Coventry 8.13.04 (if you have not heard these I highly recommend them). Here are some soundchecks, for download, from over the years:
Trey’s recent performance at Carnegie Hall brought his musical compositions full circle, when he debuted “YEM” with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Bringing the song that first showed Trey’s extraordinary compositional abilities to the grandest stage in music, made for an incredible moment. Dating back to his early college years, while studying under Ernie Stires, Trey took it upon himself to delve into some of the most complex aspects of composition. Melding the styles of classical, jazz and progressive rock, Trey pushed his music to new levels with extremely complex arrangements. Perhaps the best examples of this are Trey’s fugues, which involve one of the most challenging compositional techniques.
A Fugue, which means ”flight’ or ‘chase’, is an advanced method for composing music that dates back to the 17th Century (prior fugal composers did not follow the same rules). A fugue is created through the use of multiple “voices, or parts, which literally “chase” the other parts through the piece. Involving the use of musical counterpoint, the voices imitate and follow each other until they finally arrive back at the opening key, or tonic. However, some fugues do not follow the conventional patterns in music, such as atonal fugues.
Although there were prior composers who used the fugal method, J.S. Bach is considered by many to be most influential. In his works Art of the Fugue, the Goldberg Variations, and the Well-tempered Clavier, Bach developed the fugal method further than ever before. Fugal compositions have continued in the works of artists such as Bela Bartok, Igor Stravinsky, and Trey Anastasio.
Listen to Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in B Flat” , played by the legendary Glenn Gould.
Trey has composed several fugues which have functioned as sections of both rock, and classical compositions. “The Asse Festival”, “All Things Reconsidered”, “The Chase” from Fluffhead (although not a true fugue) part of the composed section of “Reba”, the horn section before the vocal section in “SOAM”, and “Splinters of Hail” from the classical version of “Time Turns Elastic”, are all fugues. Writing fugues has clearly influenced Trey’s style, and has given Phish a distinct unique sound. Trey has brought fugal techniques to other songs such as “Demand”, which is not a literal fugue, but contains similar elements. In a ’95 article with Addicted to Noise, Trey talked about composing fugues:
“Deconstructing and reconstructing melodies, that probably came from writing a lot of fugues and stuff early in our career. The fugue teaches you about variations on a melody, exhausting every possibility. I hear that when I listen to Sonny Rollins. He’ll jam on very simple melodies, and build it up for a long time. He’s into the slight variations. Which kind of traces back to a gospel type of thing, I think, where the song would go on for a long time, and they would take the melody around and each person would have their own little variation. The exact study of that would be like writing fugues. So the fugue in “Fluffhead”, that’s all theme and variation type of thing.”
Two of Trey’s most complex fugues are available for stream below.
“All Things Reconsidered” 1995.7.1 Great Woods Amphitheater, Mansfield, MA- One of Trey’s most complex arrangements, reminiscent of Bach’s fugal style. This is perhaps the most classical-sounding Phish song.
“The Asse Festival” 1990.9.14 The Living Room, Providence, NY – This is an atonal fugue which eventually became part of “Guelah Papyrus”, but was played on its own until ’91. Listen as the notes literally chase each other through the song.
On October 20, 1998, Phish performed on David Byrne’s PBS TV show Sessions at West 54th at Sony Music Studios in New York. In an intimate show, with a crowd of only 200, the band delivered a stellar performance. One day after the Bridge School Benefit, where Neil Young sat in with the band, Phish was clearly riding a high wave. The set was partially aired, interspersed with an interview with band, by David Byrne. The interview deals with a wide range of topics, from the recording of Story of the Ghost to Mike’s religious experience at Goddard. For those of you who have not heard the show, or seen the interviews, we have posted them both below. Both are highly recommended as they provide a rare look at the band in an intimate enviroment. The show includes a selection of songs from Story of the Ghost as well as an acoustic version of Neil Young’s “Albuquerque”, “Piper” and “Taste”. Due to the intimacy of the venue, the SBD sounds incredible.
Listen to the “Ghost” from 10.20.98
Sleep, Frankie Says, Ghost, Roggae, Guyute, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Driver, Albuquerque, Birds of a Feather, Piper, Taste
This weekend, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir came together in their new musical outfit, Furthur. After listening to the shows, it seems this group has the potential to take the music of the Dead further. The various reformations of original group members have attempted to recreate the magic that existed at Dead shows prior to Jerry’s death, however, each time something was lacking and the projects only existed for brief periods. The shows from this past weekend indicate that the music of the Dead lives on, and can still be taken to new places. Listen for yourself, the first two nights are available for download below, and the third is coming as soon as possible.
Friday’s show began with an extended, intimate jam between Bob and Phil. Showing the close bond that both musicians have forged through many years of playing together, the collective magic was summoned from the outset. With the rest of the instruments joining in, the song took a fast turn into the instantly recognizable bass bombs of “The Other One”. Bringing the music back to where it started, and initiating the improvisational tone early-on, it was clear that Furthur was the perfect name for the group.
Listen to “Jam>The Other One” from 9.18.09.
“Bird Song” pt 1 9.18.09
“Bird Song” pt. 2 9.18.09
At 12:45pm on Friday, September 18, 1970 Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead. Since that day, his music has lived on, altering the sound of rock guitar forever. Nothing needs to be said to further solidify Jimi Hendrix’s position in music history. He was, is, and always will be the most naturally talented guitarist who has ever graced the planet. Few will disagree with that statement. Eric Clapton said the following about Jimi in his recent autobiography:
“What i found refreshing about him was his intensely self-critical attitude toward his music. He had this enormous gift and a fantastic technique, like that of someone who spent all day playing and practicing, yet he didn’t seem that aware of it.”
Few words can express Jimi’s greatness. Instead, we will share some of his music, to celebrate the life that gave us so much in such a short period.
Listen to “Freedom” from 1970.9.2 in Arhus.
“Hear My Train a Comin’” from Royal Albert Hall 2.24.69.
Jimi performing “Machine Gun” on the Dick Cavett Show 1969.
Jimi with the Rolling Stones on his last birthday to the music of “My Little One” (a song by Jimi and Brian Jones).
Phish sets, in particular second sets, have been known to take on personalities of their own. Flowing through songs as though the setlist was rehearsed, the set is played in a narrative-like fashion, unfolding as it is played. These sets are packed with type-II improv, as the songs exist merely as launch-pads for outside jams. Diving into the depths of musical discovery, the band takes the set along for the ride through a journey of psychedelic exploration. Some of the most famous set personalities have been released by Livephish, such as 5.8.93 or 5.7.94. Both of these shows have sets that appear to have mind’s of their own, embarking on musical excursions that seem otherworldly, as though the music is controlling the band. Today, we will look at some sets that have carved out their own personalities, leaving memorable journies behind.
1995.6.22 Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center, Canandaigua, NY
The second set of this show has a distinct personality of its own. Beginning with a “Theme” that, suiting to its name, takes a trip to the depths of outside improv. The song departs its normal boundaries for a wild, intense jam that wails with Trey’s droning licks. As the jam recedes back to the vocal section, appearing to be the end, the band’s gradual looping of effects leads into a five-minute “loop jam”. Entering some very spacey territory, Mike starts a groove that the rest of the band seizes on. Gaining steam, the tension builds, segueing flawlessly into the set highlight, “Tweezer”. This “Tweezer” is a 40 minute gem, that includes a The Who’s “My Generation” sandwich. Beginning with a funky groove, the jam develops a rhythmic focus, with a very outside vibe. Trey continues with his droning licks, littered with some outside lead lines. The jam follows into a slow, ambient section before leading into “My Generation”. Afterward, the jam returns to ambiance flows through a very intense, wild section before arriving at a melodic finish. The set is then capped off as the melody carries itself into “Tweezer Reprise”. Psychedelic explorations take this set on a journey which seems to carry on throughout, making the set seem like one long, enjoyable ride.
Listen to “Theme from the Bottom>Loop Jam” from 6.22.95.
1: Sample in a Jar, Scent of a Mule, Ha Ha Ha, The Divided Sky, Guelah Papyrus, It’s Ice, Strange Design, Maze, Cavern, Sweet Adeline
2: Theme From the Bottom-> Tweezer-> My Generation*->Tweezer-> Tweezer Reprise
E: Acoustic Army, While My Guitar Gently Weeps
*The Who Cover, first time played
1997.7.2 Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This show’s second set is known for the “Back of the Worm” theme that runs through it. The set takes on an eerie vibe from the outset, beginning with a spacey jam, layered with siren-like effects. Out of the loops emerges the intro to “Stash”, which leads into a wild 30 minute jam. Avoiding the standard dark jams that normally flow out of the song, this jam takes a melodic twist. Trey fills the air with soaring notes that guide the jam to a level of complete bliss. The jam leads into a series of chaotic, spacey loops before the intro chords to “Llama” emerge. The song quickly returns to the the spaciness that has characterized the set, leading into the “Worm Town Jam”, a wildly outside jam (with a take on Steve Miller’s “Swing Town”). Perhaps Trey, better than I, can explain the meaning behind the “Back of the Worm”. From a 2002 High Times interview:
“When we were in Amsterdam, me and a friend took a couple of hits of acid and a hit of Ecstasy later on that night. We were walking around and I started imagining I was riding on this giant sandworm, because the roads kind of go up and down. I was picturing these huge sandworms, diving up out of the canals.
That’s where that phrase, “Back of the Worm,” came from. The next night in the middle of this crazy jam–one of these jams that get out of control and you feel like you’re not really playing, it’s just playing for you–I think I was yelling that and people started saying, “Back of the worm!”"
The set closes out with “Wading in the Velvet Sea” (including a repeating loop throughout), which seems like the end of the story that has been told throughout the set. Reliving the experiences of Trey’s trip through the music, the set takes on a psychedelic theme that flows through each song, altering the jams to suit the set’s character. The personality of this show continues into the fiery two part encore of “Free” and “Bowie”. Both following in the outside-jam style of the night, Trey appears to be trying to mimic the movements of a worm with his bends. On this special night, Trey brought the crowd along for his wild ride, on the back of the worm.
Listen to the “Worm Town Jam” from 7.2.97
1: Mike’s Song-> Simple-> Maze, Strange Design, Ginseng Sullivan, Vultures, Water in the Sky, Weekapaug Groove
2: Jam-> Stash-> Llama-> Worm Town Jam^-> Wading in the Velvet Sea
E2: David Bowie
2000.9.17 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
This show is from 9 years ago today. The second set is marked by a noticeable fluidity. The flow of the set blends the line between song and jam, seamlessly weaving through unique musical contours. The set begins with a “Rock and Roll” that follows into a standard rock jam. However, around 12:00 in, the jam becomes an ambient collection of sounds with Trey’s notes fluttering above. Next comes “Theme” which emerges from the ambiance, and follows with a soaring jam with divine melodies. The jam enters into ambiance once again, which carries into the deep bass groove of “Dog Log”. The set continues into “Mango Song” , and from the final piano notes that normally finish the song, a jam is started. With deep bass bombs, the rest of the band fills the air with ambient, spacey textures. Featuring Trey on his keyboard in parts, to add to the space, the improv becomes very outside and layered with multiple effects. In a very outside excursion into dark ambiance, the band takes a fully equal part approach, exploring unique soundscapes. The jam melds into “Free” which is guided by Mike’s deep bass bombs, closing out the set. The unique ambiance that flows through the second set of this show adds a distinct feel to it.
Listen to “Mango Song>Jam” from 9.17.00.
1: Guyute, Back on the Train, Bathtub Gin, Limb by Limb, The Moma Dance, Lawn Boy, Fluffhead, The Curtain With, Chalkdust Torture
2: Rock and Roll > Theme from the Bottom > Dog Log > The Mango Song -> Free
E: Contact, Rocky Top
If you have a favorite set with a personality of its own, post it in the comments section!
Peering behind the scenes of Phish provides a look at the band in their raw, playful form. During shows, they are compelled to put on a show, to deliver. Thus, they cannot fully be themselves. Thought they have tried to make things as relaxed as possible on-stage, there are certain elements that prevent the band from simply playing as they want. Fans want to hear certain songs, certain covers may not go over well in live shows etc. As a result, Phish has often used their sound check time not only to test their equipment, but also to unleash their playful spirit, and try new things. Often including fun, joking lyrics, sound checks have been known to lead to some incredible jams. Sometimes, the band decides to bring songs from the sound check to their live shows, other times they are simply used as practice vehicles, or fun covers.
At times, sound checks provide a glimpse into the bands’ personal jamming style. While studio sessions such as The Victor Disc offer a raw look at the band in a studio setting, the sound checks offer a live experience. When arriving early to a venue, one can often hear Phish’s sound check from the distance. For example at Darien lake the band was heard working through sections of “Sugar Shack”, and at SPAC they were overheard playing MGMT’s “Kids”. Even though most sound checks are kept private, some have been officially released and others have been leaked through various sources. Recently the band released the sound check from Hartford, showing the playful spirit that exists before the show starts. Over the next while, we will present many special moments from Phish’s sound checks. Today, we share three of the finest moments, showing the magic that takes place behind the curtains.
1992.3.19 Palace Theater, New Haven, CT – Andrew
This sound check shows the band experimenting with outside, fusion-style jazz. What begins as a series of drum beats, leads into a full-on jazz exploration. Page is the first to join, adding Hancock like organ fills. Trey then adds a furious jazzy, modal solo to the mix. This is a great listen to Phish in their early jamming days. Heavily influenced by jazz, the jamming style is noticeably different to the examples that follow. The jam is dubbed “Andrew” as Trey furiously begins yelling that name toward the end.
Listen to 1992.3.19 “Andrew”
DOWNLOAD the entire 1992.3.19 Sound check (featuring “Shaggy Dog”, “Andrew”, “Mound” and a discussion of the show’s setlist).
1998.4.4 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI – Providence Sound check
From the legendary Island Tour, this sound check shows the band letting loose with a killer jam. More straightforward than many of the intergalactic ’98 jams, this sound check features a heavy funk groove which Trey shreds apart for the first few minutes. After locking into an interweaving pattern, the band carries the jam to a higher level with each member following the same melody. This sound check enters into the same groundbreaking territory that would unfold throughout the entire Island run.
Listen to 1998.4.4 “Providence Sound Check Jam”
1999.12.29 Big Cypress Indian Seminole Reservation, FL – Big Cypress Sound Check Jam
An ambient exploration into musical discovery, this sound check is a must-listen for any fan of Big Cypress (which I assume most Phish fans are). Big Cypress lacked an open-ended, free-form jam such as this one. Rather, the show consisted of song-based jams that lead into exploritory worlds of their own. This sound check, however, is built from the ground up, on the spot. The masterful ambient composition, layered with effects makes for a great listen. Very much in the style of the Big Cypress jams, the band takes an intergalactic approach, which goes from ambiance to an intense, energetic jam.
Listen to 1999.12.29 “Big Cypress Soundcheck Jam”
The numbers 12.30 mean so much to Phish fans. On December 30th, the band has played some of their finest concerts. Feeding from the New Years energy, yet set apart from the pressure that new years eve brings, the band has unleashed into some of the finest music they have ever performed. Often bounded by the eventful new years eve, 12.30 is set apart and the band has often taken advantage of that. Playing noticeably darker shows which are less restrained yet flowing with energy, they have consistently made shows from 12.30 some of the best ever. Today, we look back on some of the best concerts from December, 30th, throughout Phish history.
1993.12.30 Cumberland Civic Center, Portland, ME
In what is considered by many to be one of the band’s best shows ever, Phish dove into the depths of experimental discovery, unfolding into a night packed with rare musical heights. Capping off a year that solidified their position as a legitimate musical force, the band and fans enterred the new years run with a new found level of devotion towards the music.
Holding nothing back, the show started off with a firey “Bowie” that set the tone for what was to follow. The second set “Mike’s” (available for stream below) is a wild ride loaded with exploratory jamming. This show demonstrates the band’s ability to jam off each others’ patterns to create a tight, flowing soundscape. In jams that shows the musical progress Phish had made throughout the year, the band delivered a show that deserves constant revisiting. Following with a setlist that would exist only in a dream, the rest of the show oozes with energy.
1: David Bowie, Weigh, The Curtain-> Sample in a Jar, Paul and Silas, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent-> Famous Mockingbird, Rift, Bathtub Gin, Freebird
2:Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike’s Song-> The Horse-> Silent in the Morning, Punch You in the Eye, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Weekapaug Groove-> Purple Rain, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Rocky Top, Good Times Bad Times
1994.12.30 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Phish’s first trip to MSG was a special experience for both the band and their fans. Showing the ever-growing fan base, and bringing the band to the storied venue, Phish rolled into New York to finish off one of the best tours of their career. With the incredible energy that separates ’94 from other years, the jams are packed with tight, outside-jamming. Setting the pace of the show with a rocking version of “Wilson”, the band flowed seamlessly into “Rift”.
This show has all the elements that make ’94 so great, an incredible version of “Tweezer” paired with a fully acoustic bluegrass number, in this case “I’m Blue I’m Lonesome”. Both the “Tweezer” and the “YEM” from this show are highlights that show the incredible tightness the band was playing with at that point. The first of many incredible shows in the legendary Madison Square Garden, and another 12.30 to be remembered.
1: Wilson-> Rift, AC/DC Bag, Sparkle, Simple, Stash, Fee-> Scent of a Mule, Cavern
2: Sample in a Jar, Poor Heart-> Tweezer, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome*, You Enjoy Myself, Purple Rain-> HYHU, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise
1995.12.30 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
In Phish’s first two-night run at MSG, they did not disappoint. From the outset, the energy was flowing strongly and was seen by the band’s epic first set. In a set that flows from one gem to another the Phishy antics that would unravel the following night, began. With the middle of the set including “It’s Ice>Kung>It’s Ice, TMSIY>Avenue Malkenu>TMSIY”, the foundation was laid for a monster second set. The band delivered, playing an incredible set highlighted by the powerful “Hood”. The second set flows with improvisational energy and is jammed out to the fullest degree. Trey’s shredding from ’95 is heavily present in this show.
1: Prince Caspian-> Also Sprach Zarathustra-> Suzy Greenberg-> David Bowie, Simple, It’s Ice-> Kung-> It’s Ice, TMWSIY-> Avenu Malkenu-> TMWSIY, The Divided Sky, Sample in a Jar
2: Ya Mar, Free, Harry Hood, AC/DC Bag, Lifeboy, Scent of a Mule, Cavern, Run Like An Antelope
E: A Day in the Life
1997.12.30 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Perhaps the best 12.30 show ever, and many people’s favorite show of all time, 12.30.97 is a legendary performance. Officially released through Livephish, the show is known for the many peaks that were reached on that night. Starting the show off with a major bustout, “Sally” had not been played since 5.28.89. The band continued the set, paving the way for one of the most magical Phish evenings to date. The second set features one of the best versions of “ACDC Bag” ever. This show exhibits the progression towards funk the band had made in ’97, and features for some very tight jams. With a more refined, less aggressive jamming style, the jams take on a new form. Comprised of simplistic input from each member, the textures combine to create magnificent textures of sound. Featuring one of the best encores, if not the best, ever, this show is fire from start to finish.
1: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley-> Taste, Water in the Sky, Punch You in the Eye, Stash, Chalk Dust Torture, A Day in the Life
2: AC/DC Bag-> McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Harpua-> I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)-> Harpua-> Izabella-> Harry Hood-> My Soul, Sleeping Monkey, Guyute
E: Carini-> Black-Eyed Katy-> Sneakin’Sally Through the Alley-> Frankenstein
Listen to “Mike’s Song” from 1993.12.30.
“Tweezer” 12.30.94 Part I
“Tweezer” 12.30.94 Part II
“Tweezer” 12.30.94 Part III
Here is the setlist from tonight’s show. The arrangements were played with an incredible use of counterpoint between the various instruments. Trey’s interplay with the violinists was particularly interesting. Clearly having the time of his life, nearly in tears, tonight Trey solidified his position as one the greatest musicians of our time. Read the NY Times review here.
Listen to the “YEM” from last night. An absolutely amazing arrangement.
Inlaw Josie Wales
Brian and Robert
Water in the Sky
Pebbles and Marbles
Let Me Lie
You Enjoy Myself
If I Could
Check out this video of “YEM” from Carnegie Hall.
To complement all of the fall ’94 talk we have been doing the past two days, today’s download is the icing on the cake. As mentioned before, Phish played an impromptu bluegrass set in the parking lot of the Indiana University Auditorium in Bloomington, IN on 11.19.94. Running through several classic bluegrass numbers on their newly honed acoustic instruments (aside from Trey’s guitar), the band is joined by Rev. Jeff Mosier, of Aquarium Rescue Unit and Blueground Undergrass, as well as some other friends. This Phish gem is a classic that would make even Bill Monroe proud.
The lineup is:
Jam outside the tour bus with Mike (banjo and electric bass), Page (upright bass), Trey (fiddle and guitar), Fish (mandolin), Rev. Jeff Mosier (banjo), Eric Merrill (fiddle and guitar), and Jeremy (banjo and jaw harp).
Blackberry Blossom, Tennessee Waltz, The Old Home Place, Dooley, Mountain Jam, John Hardy, Sweet Baby’s Arms, Long Journey Home, Little Tiny Butter Biscuits, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome, Midnight Moonlight, Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Here’s Phish performing “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” on 12.30.94.
“Scent of a Mule” from 12.30.94.
Yesterday, we highlighted some of the best moments from the fall of ’94. After giving it some more thought, I feel that the period deserves further attention.
In the fall of ’94, after exploring acoustic music throughout year, Phish brought Rev. Jeff Mosier on board to help them develop their bluegrass chops. Sitting in with the band on their tour bus and on stage, both the band and the Reverend seem to be having a hell of a time. These interactions between the band and Jeff were captured on film, and later became freely-traded amongst fans as the ’94 Bluegrass Sessions. Showing the band progress through the rhythmic difficulties of bluegrass music, the videos provide a rare look at the band in an intimate, revealing way. Listening to the shows from ’94 and watching these videos alongside makes things interesting, as you see the band rehearsing the songs they would eventually bring on stage.
I revisit these videos quite often as they provide such an intimate look at the band in their element. Having fun with new music, experimenting with new sounds, and clearly loving the joy that bluegrass brings, this music is Phish at their best. Also included are some non-bluegrass clips from the incredible fall ’94 tour. To date, this is perhaps the closest look at the band and the Phish crew behind the scenes.
Rev. Jeff Mosier said the following about the videos:
“After 11 years I pull out this video and look back in awe at the bravery and spirit of these four guys called “Phish”. I taped the sessions so they could watch it back as part of our lessons and so I could learn some of their tunes as well. I met them in 89 during my days with ARU. The video was shot to aide in teaching them how to work around one mic and to show them that their feet weren’t tapping ! Hee. They had a real desire and hunger to learn bluegrass the old fashioned way. I think we infused alot of laughter and zambi like joy together which helped them create their own humble approach to bluegrass. It was like old times back with ARU. At the time I was working with Alzsheimer’s patients and doing alot of theatre. In 93′ I had played with them in Atlanta at the Roxy, but I had no idea how “big” they had gotten since then. “Hoist” was great for bluegrass music. Time will only tell what influence Phish’s interest in bluegrass did to forward the progression of bluegrass experimentation that continues in the music until now through so many bands that got their “call of permission” from Phish. Like “Old and in the Way” did to forward the music to new fans, “Phish” took it to the next generation by including bluegrass in just a few shows in these few shows. “Jerry affected” music is what I call the music of the GD. I think we are all “Grateful Dead cover bands” of sorts whether we admit it or not, once we realize that the GD created a genre and were not just a band. Phish kept it going like nobody else had ever done or may ever will. We owe them much for keeping that spirit alive. This footage speaks volumns to the child like joy that must exist inside of music and inside of bands. Their curiosity for something new, continuing education, playing new instruments, and respect for the pioneers of the genre, gave Phish the credibility they needed to “pull off” bluegrass in front of thousands of reverent and loving fans. This is for those fans. The real fans. This is for all people who love and understand the civilizing power of music. This is to inspire thousands to hopefully upgrade their life by simply learning to play a musical instrument. Phish did this tour and this music without any concern over “bluegrass chops” or any concern over their own ego. They even “Phished” bluegrass with that wonderful vibe they have. They didn’t have to do bluegrass, but they did. They laughed at themselves and we had some of the greatest laughs and times I have ever had. This time with them rekindled my own desire to play rock again and helped me really appreciate bluegrass, even though I had grown up with it. The true spirit of “Hamptonian Zambi Vibe” was there on every level ! May it simply inspire you. Let music into your life like they did. Learn music. Live the music. It can save you on every level and it can save this fear ridden planet and give us all hope again. Like nothing else on earth music is drugs.”
As fall rolls in, it brings with it memories of fall tours past. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting some of the best moments from past fall tours. Historically, the fall has been one of Phish’s finest seasons. Moving from the large outdoor venues to the more intimate surroundings of the indoors, the band performs unlike any other time of year. Showcasing a darker, more improvisational style than the summer, the fall has always been one of the most exploratory seasons. For many, fall has held some of the greatest Phish shows, and entire tours in the history of the band. Autumn has consistently been a period where the band tries new things, experiments, and journeys into the depths of the unknown.
Fall is a special time for Phish. In their time off after summer, the band has time to assess the highs and lows, and to recalibrate. Often debuting new material, new gimmicks, or a new direction, fall tours are packed with great moments, which have included some great moments on Halloween. The fall ’94 tour is one of the best examples, showcasing the band on one of their finest tours ever.
The fall of ’94 is one of my favorite Phish periods, and one of the most experimental. This was a point where the band was playing as tight as ever, hearing each others every move, segueing in and out of songs without notice. The fluidity behind each members’ playing is instantly noticeable when listening to a show from this period. Before the band had entered its effect-laden intergalactic funk jams, they used to jam with no boundaries whatsoever. Unimpeded by any style or direction, this era was a time of pure musical discovery.
Beginning in Pennsylvania and playing all the way down to California, it was clear to everyone the type of performances that were occurring on a nightly basis. Including a musical cover of the Beatles White Album in Glen Falls, NY the early fall began with some special moments including a guest-appearance by Bela Fleck and Dave Matthews Band. However, perhaps the most special moments came in November of ’94. The band was in a phase of playing acoustic music, and were also preparing to release A Live One. In fact, the first show in November ’94 in Bangor, Maine contains the “Tweezer” that was chosen for the album. “Tweezer” was taken to perhaps some of its greatest heights during this period, with each version providing a different and interesting musical journey.
November ’94 saw the appearances of “The Vibrations of Life” multiple times, as well as the addition of Rev. Jeff Mosier, of the Aquarium Rescue Unit, to help teach the band bluegrass. With the Reverend’s help, the band developed their bluegrass abilities and invited Jeff to sit in on multiple songs. The band changed their instruments putting Trey on acoustic guitar, Page on upright bass, Fish on mandolin, and Mike on banjo. With a new sound they learned traditional bluegrass numbers, and explored the offerings of a new musical genre.
On 11.4.94 the band played “The Curtain>Mike’s Song-> Simple-> Mike’s Song-> Tela-> Weekapaug Groove”, a monsterous “Groove” from the tour. On the 16th in Ann Arbor, in a show packed with bluerass and sit ins from the Reverand, Phish played incredible versions of “Reba” and “Chalkdust” both which appeared on A Live One. This show is one of the finest from a tour with so many incredible shows. The highlight of this amazing show is the killer “Mike’s” that leads into one of the best versions of “Simple” ever. In East Lansing on the 18th, Phish performed the first ever acoustic rendition of “Runaway Jim”.
The show on the 19th at the University Auditorium in Bloomington, Indiana saw the culmination of the bluegrass experience the band had gained during the fall. After the show, the band gathered with the Rev. Jeff Mosier and other guests for an impromptu bluegrass session in the parking lot of the venue. Running through the songs they had been working on throughout the tour, the band gave the fans a rare treat.
On the 23rd, the band played at the intimate Fox Theater in St. Louis, MO unleashing one of the finest “Tweezers” of the tour. As mentioned above, the song was taken to heights unlike any other period during the fall of ’94. This version is a perfect example. At the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on the 25th, an incredible groove with “2001>Mike’s>Simple>Harpua> Weekapaug>Mango Song” took place, nearly bringing the venue to the point of liftoff.
Many more incredible gems came in the following shows, including the “Funky Bitch” from Jesse Auditorium on 11.22 (highly recommended if you have not heard it), “Slave” and “Bowie” from the Orpheum Theater on 11.26 (both appear on A Live One, “Montana” is an excerpt from “Tweezer”). “Tweezer” from the Fieldhouse at Montana State University on 11.28, another version of the song demonstrating the incredible peaks it was constantly being taken to. This version is one of mine, and many others’, favorites. It shows the unbounded energy that was flowing through the band at the time. Releasing into the dark melodies that fill the jam, their improvisational limits seem endless. The tour was finished at the Boston Garden, a show which was highlighted by a great “Antelope” featuring the song’s lyricist, Tom Marshall.
This period is one of the finest and most exploratory in Phish’s career. Some of the jams that occurred, are considered by many to be among the finest of all time.
Here’s one of the best jams from the Fall ’94 Tour,”Simple” from 11.16.94 in Ann Arbor, MI.
Here’s the video of “Reba”, in two parts, from the Halloween ’94 show in Glen Falls, NY.
Today, Phish released their first studio album in five years. The album was leaked and subsequently made available for stream over a week ago, giving many of us an early listen. For the first few days, the overwhelming feeling of putting on Phish’s new album was incredible. Throwing on the disc and hearing the intro chords to “Backwards Down the Number Line” brought a feeling that was perfectly in line with the name of the album. Now that the album has had time to set in, I feel I can truly give a proper review.
Overall, the music on Joy is good, and the songs sound very tight and rehearsed. That being said, I am a bit disappointed with the entire album. The main feeling I get when listening, is that the sound is very reminiscent of Trey’s solo material, and the ‘pop’ factor is excruciatingly high. The album lacks the Phishiness that made them who they are. And while they may be going in a new direction, the motivation behind it is unclear. The focus on deeper lyrics with more disernable meanings is obvious in most of the songs. Unlike the previous albums, Joy actually seems to be delivering a message.
The new songs come across as Phish’s attempt to conquer the radio waves. Starting with Hoist, a noticeable attempt was made to shorten songs and make them more radio friendly, and this album appears to have the legs to actually make that leap. With the help of Steve Lillywhite the songs sound very polished, and Trey’s voice sounds perfect, especially with the overdubs. Trey has completely changed his guitar style, and I respect that immensely, but many are itching for that old tone. His solos are unique, and interesting, adding a strong effect to the album. Noticeably absent are any attempts at weirdness, a factor that was present on all of Phish’s prior albums. The songs are straightforward and far more lyrically based.
The major aspect of Joy that stands out is the way they seem to have captured their live sound in some of the songs. The jam on “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” sounds live and comes across as a genuine jam. While they remain concise, the feeling of a live jam is present, and that is a notable step Phish has made in their studio recording. The solos in the songs do not seem as rehearsed as previous albums, but instead seem more like they have captured a snapshot from a jam session and fit it into the song. The jams add Phish’s touch to several songs that otherwise seem dominated by Trey’s solo style.
In the past, Trey would go write and record a bunch of songs with Tom Marshall. After recording solo versions, he would take the tracks to Phish, and they would sift through and choose the ones they all agreed on. After going through a Phish transformation the songs would come out completely changed, and far better (listen to the version of “Ghost” from Trampled by Lambs and Pecked by the Dove). On Joy, that is not the case. For example “Light” sounds identical to the way it was played with Trey’s solo band, other than the disjointed introduction part. And “Backwards Down the Number Line” and “Time Turns Elastic” are both fairly similar to the way Trey played them solo. Thus, the overall sound of the album, including the songs we had not heard Trey play with his band, have a similar sound to the past few solo Trey albums. I like Trey’s solo material, but its not the sound I want from Phish.
The flow of the album is odd and lacks the fluidity of their prior releases. I am one of the few people, perhaps the only person outside the band, who actually likes ‘Time Turns Elastic”. I’ll admit that when I first heard of the song, I had much higher expectations, but I enjoy it, for the most part. It follows in Trey’s progressive composition style, and is an original piece of music. However, it simply does not belong on this album. In a mix of pop and short, simple songs, “TTE” stands out as the lone composition. It seems as though they have forced the song into the album, and it makes for a very confusing listen.
Even though the introduction to “Light” is one of the most interesting parts of the album, it sounds like another band played it. It doesn’t have any noticeably Phishy aspects, other than perhaps the drumming. The synth playing is very un-Page-like, and Trey’s feedback sounds too perfect. I get the “U2″ feeling listening to it. The transition is awkward and seems like a separate song.
“Sugar Shack” has grown on me, and I think it is one of the better songs on the album. The odd-timing and quirky rhythm are a nice break from the standard bluesy-rock rhythms. The different sections of the song work well together, and flow back and forth smoothly. “20 Years Later” is an alternative sounding track, with a composed section that leads into a heavy jam. It has a great deal of potential for the future, and adds a nice finish to the album.
Like an average show, an average album will be talked about, and then we’ll move on. These songs have great potential in live shows, and that is what really matters. That said, I’m very excited for Party Time, which I think will be more suited towards the true phan, and is what we have really been waiting for.
Listen to “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan”, one of my favorite tracks on the new album.
Here’s a video of “20 Years Later” from SPAC 8.16.09., offering a glimpse at the songs potential
As with the past few Saturdays, we’re busting out a major treat today. For guitar players especially, today’s show is absolutely killer. I’ll keep it brief and let the music do the talking. Basically, on September 1st, 1973 John ‘Mahavishnu’ McLaughlin and Carlos Santana played together at the Chicago Amphitheater. The playing is spectacular, as both of these ‘zen gurus’ takes an outside journey to the absolute extremes of guitar playing. This is a great SBD, and one of my go-to shows for guitar licks. Both players were at the peak of their playing at this point, and this show is a demonstration of the heights they had reached. The setlist features classics such as Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and “Naima”.
For those of you unfamiliar with John ‘Mahavishnu’ McLaughlin, this show is a perfect introduction to his masterful guitar playing. His career began with legendary drummer Tony Williams, then he moved on to play with Miles Davis on some of his best albums. Following Miles’ band, he started the Mahavishnu Orchestra which features some of his most complex guitar explorations. A very psychedelic musician, to say the least.
Enjoy the show and the rest of the weekend. I’ve posted the download and a video of Carlos and John jamming below.
Meditation, The Life Divine, A Love Supreme, Afro Blue, Introduction, Naima, Flame Sky, Taurian Matador, Armando Peraza, Billy Cobham Solo, Taurian Matador Reprise, Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord
Here’s John and Santana from San Francisco in 1985.
One element that shows from the most recent summer tour lacked was a powerful encore. In the past, Phish took advantage of the encore to leave their final mark on a night of music. However, recently they have become predictable add-ons to the show, that miss the entire point of an encore. Generally speaking, the point of an encore is to satisfy the audience with one last song from the band. Other than a few occasions this summer, the encores lacked the powerful impact that was present in the encores of the past. As a result, the effect was often lost, and the exclamation point that used to cap off the show was missing. Today, we will look back at some of the most memorable Phish encores.
The most common encores this summer were “Tweezer Reprise”, “Loving Cup”, “Frankenstein” and “Suzy Greenberg”. Very little was added to the show during the encore, aside from a few shows worth mentioning. Burgettstown featured an encore, that was as Jon put it “the train-wreck part of the show”. Not exactly a “good” encore in the normal sense of the word, but the Phish-fun was brought back that night. The Fox show in St. Louis saw perhaps my favorite encore, featuring “The Star-Spangled Banner, McGrupp And The Watchful Horsemasters, While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as the close-out. “McGrupp” had not been played in over 40 shows, and was a powerful way to finish the evening. Other notable encores were Camden, Darien, Gorge night 1, Red Rocks night 4 as well as a few others.
What lacked from the encores, other than the exceptions mentioned above, was a lasting effect. After Burgettstown, everyone was left talking about what had just occurred, even if it was the result of a ‘mistake’. Just being themselves, they crafted a memorable Phish experience that reminded us of the good old days. Being themselves is something that was often left out of the encores this summer, as too many covers were repeated, too many times. All too often this summer were people correctly able to predict the encores, diminishing the effect, and the mystery that makes Phish unique.
Here are some of the best encores from over the years.
1997.12.30 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - Carini > Black-Eyed Katy > Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Frankenstein
This is considered by many to be the best encore ever. Featuring some wild stage antics, the band closed out this show unleashing the energy that had been brewing throughout the night. The band tears apart the first three songs before launching into “Frankenstein”, segueing perfectly from one to the next. Trey has Kuroda turn down the lights, while the glowstick war continues over the delay jam. Trey and Fish start a ‘ritual dance’ at the front of the stage, before Fish gets on the vacuum. Continuing the loop, the band finally picks back up and finishes “Frankenstein”. An epic moment in Phish history.
Listen to “Frankenstein” from this amazing encore.
1996.12.6 Aladdin Theater, Las Vegas, NV - Harpua > Wildwood Weed > Harpua > I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart > Harpua > Suspicious Minds > Harpua, Suzy Greenberg
Another famous encore considered to be one of the all-time best. Featuring Larry LaLonde, Brian Mantia and Les Claypool from Primus. John McCuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt band, as well as four Elvis impersonators, the band and their guests took the audience on a wild rendition of “Harpua”. Telling the story of Jimmy, as Jon dueled the Elvii, the journey unfolds and finishes with a killer “Suzy”. Fitting with the surroundings, the band brought on a cabaret-like group of performers onto the stage. This encore was a Phishy experience for all and capped the show off with an unforgettable Phish moment in their first trip to Vegas.
Listen to the first part of “Harpua” featuring Larry and Les.
1994.4.21 Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC - Drums > Jam > All Along the Watchtower
In the spring of ’94, Dave Matthews Band opened some shows for Phish, with its members appearing in several jams. In Winston-Salem, the encore began as a drum duel with Carter (Dave’s drummer) and Jon. Unlike many drum jams, this one exhibits the incredible talents of both drummers, as they rhythmically complement each other. With Jon playing the beat, and Carter providing layers of percussion, the two gradually thicken the rhythm. The interplay is amazing, as neither drummer seems to miss a beat the entire time. The way the two listen to each other gives the impression that they have been playing together for years.
Slowly, the instruments join the band. LeRoi locks in with the rhythm and laces it with his trademark fills. The rhythmic ping-pong continues as Trey starts to shred on top before joining in with the rest in the percussive jam. The full band creates a melody, somewhere in between Phish and DMB, making for a great mix of sounds. The layers then unravel into the intro of “All Along the Watchtower” with Dave on vocals. Trey absolutely tears apart the solo leading into another full on Phish-DMB jam with elements from both bands. This encore is one of my all-time favs.
Listen to “Drums>Jam” with Phish and DMB.
1998.8.9 Virginia Beach Amphitheatre, Virginia Beach, VA - Terrapin Station
Another well known encore, with an incredibly memorable lasting effect. Until this point, Phish had the task of constantly trying to distance themselves from the Grateful Dead. Leaving their Dead covers far behind, the band had spent years trying to break the connection that was held by so many. However, on the third anniversary of Jerry’s passing, the band decided to pay homage to the group that had paved the way for them. After delivering one of the best shows of the summer, the band left the stage after performing “Hello My Baby”. Rumors had swirled earlier in the day of some sort of Jerry tribute, but as the encore approached these rumors seemed to be long-forgotten. Then, as Trey began the instantly recognizable “Lady with a Fan” intro, a statement was made. No longer overshadowed by the band that created the jam-band touring model, Phish paid tribute to their fallen hero with an incredible rendition of the Dead’s masterful composition. An incredibly emotional moment for the band and the fans,and one of the most powerful encores the band has ever performed.
Listen to “Terrapin Station”.
What is your favorite Phish encore? Post it in the comments section!
Here’s the “Carini” video from 12.30.97 at Madison Square Garden.
People interested in Frank Zappa often get lost in his massive musical catalog. Considered to be one of the finest modern day composers, Zappa has inspired countless artists with his outside humor and progressive composing. That being said, his music is certainly not for everyone. True music aficionados will appreciate his complex avant-garde arrangements, and his unique guitar playing. His compositions are incredibly intense, and offer a look at the genius that was Frank Zappa.
In 2002, Jon Fishman released a selection of Zappa picks to help listeners become familiar with his music. Jon has chosen a wide range of songs that clearly show the influence Zappa had on him as a musician, and on Phish as a band. Fish’s picks give the listener a proper look at the multiple sides to Zappa’s music, offering a look at both the weird and the jammy side to his music. The liner notes feature Jon’s account on the influence Zappa’s music had on him:
“It is safe to say that the work of Frank Zappa, his music primarily, but also his humor, politics, social commentary…all of it…has not just been a fundamental influence on me, but is actually more like part of my metabolism.”
Fishman’s picks are, not surprisingly, focused on songs with complex rhythmic patterns and time changes. Jon has cited all of Zappa’s drummers as influences, and their styles are noticeably present in his own. The drum pattern in “Excentrifugal Force”, which features an odd-timed rhythm, has a beat that sounds very similar to a pattern Jon would play. Avoiding complex fills most of the time, Jon plays with a jazzier style, which is mostly focused on odd-time signatures and unique rhythms.
Zappa’s music has been a major influence on Phish, and the band has acknowledged that in numerous interviews. Especially in their earlier years, their songwriting was very reminiscent of his style. Often mixing masterful compositions with playful lyrics, Phish followed the same footsteps in songs like “Dinner and a Movie” and “Foam”. Trey has said that it was Zappa who first inspired him to write charted music for multiple instruments. A few years back, Trey summed up Zappa’s influence on himself and the band quite well in an article from Rolling Stone. Here’s an excerpt:
“I think he was the best electric-guitar player, other than Jimi Hendrix. Zappa conceptualized the instrument in a completely different way, rhythmically and sonically. Every boundary that was possible on the guitar was examined by him.
Zappa was a huge influence on how I wrote music for Phish. Songs like “You Enjoy Myself” and “Split Open and Melt” were completely charted out — drums, bass lines, everything — because he had shown me it was possible. And when I went to Bonnaroo two years ago with my ten-piece band, we did two covers, Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Sultans of Swing,” by Dire Straits. In both songs, I had the horn section play the guitar solos, note for note. I never would have thought of doing that if I hadn’t seen Zappa do “Stairway to Heaven” in Burlington, with the horns playing Jimmy Page’s entire guitar solo, in harmony.
That’s not what people are doing these days. I’m making a new album, and the producer I’m working with told me that there is a whole generation of musicians coming up who can’t play their instruments. Because of stuff like Pro Tools, they figure they can fix it all in the studio. Whereas with Frank, his musicians were pushed to the absolute brink of possibility on their instruments, at all times. Phish tried hard to do that too: to take our four little instruments and do as much as we could with them. I would not have envisioned those possibilities without him. Zappa gave me the faith that anything in music was possible. He demystified the whole thing for musicians in my generation: “Look, these are just instruments. Find out what the range is, and start writing”.”
In Phish’s early years, they covered Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” regularly, as well as “Big Leg Emma” several times. However, after ’89 the song was dropped until 12.28.93 (478 shows). The song was then played sporadically from ’93-’99 and has not been played by the band since (Trey has covered it in his band). Zappa’s influence is still noticeably present in the band’s music, especially in Trey’s guitar playing and Jon’s drumming. Zappa created some of the most unique music ever, and his work continues to be adored by musicians from all genres. Those of you who are unfamiliar with his music, look to Jon’s picks to try and help you dive into his catalog. There will never be another like him, he was truly one of a kind.
Listen to a clip from Zappa’s “Apostrophe”.
Listen to Phish playing Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” from 1988.9.8 at The Front, Burlington, VT.
Here is the tracklisting for Zappa Picks – By Jon Fishman of Phish.
1. Excentrifugal Forz – from Apostrophe (‘) 2. Apostrophe (‘) – from Apostrophe (‘) 3. Magdalena – from Just Another Band From L.A. 4. Dog Breath – from Just Another Band From L.A. 5. Cheepnis – from Roxy & Elsewhere 6. Son Of Orange County – from Roxy & Elsewhere 7. More Trouble Every Day – from Roxy & Elsewhere 8. It Can’t Happen Here – from Freak Out! 9. Keep It Greasey – from Joe’s Garage 10. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) – from The Grand Wazoo 11. What Ever Happened To All The Fun In The World – from Sheik Yerbouti 12. Rat Tomago – from Sheik Yerbouti 13. Wait A Minute – from Sheik Yerbouti 14. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal – from Waka/Jawaka 15. I’m The Slime – from Over-nite Sensation 16. Sofa No. 2 – from One Size Fits All
Here’s a video of one of my favorite Zappa songs, “Watermelon in Easter Hay” from 5.17.88.
In February of this year, one of the greatest Phish gems was uncovered, providing a look at the band in a context we had never seen before. The Victor Disc is the result of a recording session from 2002 in New York, and is perhaps one of the best glimpses at the band in their true improvisational form. This session provides a behind-the-scenes look at Phish in a stripped down, unpolished studio setting. Something that is rarely heard by fans. Today we revisit this treasure that was discovered earlier this year.
The Victor Disc was recorded on December 19, 2002, while the band was in New York to appear on the Tonight Show with David Letterman. Trey and Page went into a studio after midnight and decided to call Mike and Jon in for the session. The disc was named after the sessions engineer, and the result was over two hours of music, featuring 10 instrumental tracks, with a very loose form of jamming.
Following a similar path to the outside jazz that defined Miles Davis’ early 70′s music, the jams lack structure. The tracks are built up through a collective interplay of musical patterns and phrases. Providing a look at Phish in a setting that we have rarely seen them in, free-form studio jamming, The Victor Disc reveals the magic Phish is capable of in the studio.
This recording session brings us inside the world of Phish, and shows us way the band jams when there are no ears present but their own. Without any boundaries, the band jams as a unit, moving through numerous musical pathways. In a 2003 interview with Rolling Stone, Trey hinted at The Victor Disc becoming the band’s next album. He described the night of 12.19.02 as follows:
“I called Mike — he was in bed,” Anastasio says later that day, after the Letterman taping… He couldn’t wait to do it. “It’s all a leap of faith — four guys leaping out of an airplane with one parachute…Last night, we were still playing at six in the morning, and I’m thinking, ‘Boy, I should go to sleep. I gotta do Letterman tomorrow.’ But we were cranking it out.”
For years after the session, the legend of the recordings grew. Three tracks from the session surfaced sporadically (“Lazy in Red”, “Den of Iniquity” and “Bubble wrap”), giving a glimpse at the magic that had taken place on that winter night in New York. However, these tracks hardly display the true magic that ‘Victor’ contains. In February, the full disc was leaked spreading around the internet like wildfire. When finally, we heard what we had been waiting so long for, all expectations were more than satisfied
Previously, in a studio setting, the band had rarely been able to capture the essence of their live performances. The Siket Disc was the best example prior to ‘Victor’. However, the music on that disc is largely focused on psychedelic exploration with multi-layered effects. Heavily engineered, The Siket Disc was Phish’s attempt at something completely different. The Victor Disc is similar in a sense that it is different, yet it is also noticeably Phishy. The music sounds familiar, yet new. Mixed with a heavy dose of jazz, the band creates an open, free-form type of jamming that is one of, if not the best, studio recordings they have produced.
A far more successful attempt at free-form music than Trey’s Surrender to the Air, The Victor Disc remains open, yet tight. Containing numerous outside sections, often reminiscent of the spacey jams in “The Other One”, the music weaves in and out of chaotic jumbles. However, the chaos is simply a sign that the band is attempting to add more to the jam, and while it doesn’t always work instantaneously, given time, the chaos can become beauty. The Victor Disc contains a great deal of this chaotic risk taking, and out of it rises some incredible melodic sections that make the journey worth while. At very few points on the disc can a lead instrument be identified. Each member fits in as a component of the whole, collectively developing the jams. Mike and Page are noticeably louder, giving their roles a larger presence on the recording.
Each member’s playing on The Victor Disc complements the others’ playing perfectly, providing textures and interesting contrasts. Page, who plays mostly just Piano on the recordings, adds a strong jazz feel. His use of chords and harmonies is reminiscent of Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk
at times, especially in “Guantanamo Strut”. “Lazy in Red” is perhaps the most similar to a ‘normal’ Phish song, whereas the rest delve into a differently familiar style. “Sky Train Wand” provides a very jazzy texture mixed with some very Phishy jamming. “Guantanamo Strut” begins as an intense jam that enters into some of the bands most melodic playing on the disc. “The 35 Minute Jam” is a totally free look at the band unleashing their improvisational prowess. The entire disc is packed with incredible musical peaks, that I thoroughly enjoy.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this disc, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did the day it was leaked. Finding a rare treasure like this does not happen very often. The Victor Disc is a true gem.
Listen to “Guantanamo Strut” from The Victor Disc.
For a detailed explanation of each track, read Mr. Miner’s article on The Victor Disc here.
In their career, Phish has made a total of 19 trips to Canada. Each time, the band has delivered performances that stand out amongst the other shows on the tour. We’ve said it before, and so have they: when Phish performs off the beaten track, they seem to play some of their best shows. The Canadian shows have consistently exhibited creative improvisation and stage gimmicks. Coupled with the freedom and beauty of Canada, these shows have made for some incredible moments.
The band’s first trip to Canada was all the way back in ’89 at Les Founfounes Electriques in Montreal, Quebec (7.1.89). They would return three years later on 12.12.92 for a performance at The Spectrum in Toronto. This show features a monstrous “Tweezer” that constantly delves back and forth between dark and light. Starting in Toronto, and continuing the following night in Montreal, it was clear that the band felt in-tune with the freedom of their surroundings.
The following year, 1993, the band made five trips to Canada, each show following the trend of the past. The Canadian shows consistently stand out as some of the best, and ‘Phishiest’. In Montreal on 4.29.93, the band launched into a now legendary version of “Reba”, adding to the show a “Mike’s Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove > Makisupa Policeman > Weekapaug”. Prior to this, “Makisupa” had not been played for two years. The show closed with a rare “My Friend, My Friend” encore. The “YEM” and Dude of Life appearance in Toronto on 8.9.03, or the “It’s Ice” from 8.24.93 are also worth mention. Attempting to stretch their fan base wider, the band treated the Canadian audiences to evenings that gave those in attendance a dose of what the Vermont quartet was all about.
The band continued to spread their magic in the north in ’94. Playing five shows between Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver, the crowd and the band became more familiar with each other. As the shows began to feel more like Phish shows, and less like field-trips, the band opened up, offering more psychedelic improv and stage antics. The show from Montreal on 7.06.94 is simply one of the best. Featuring outstanding versions of “Reba” and “Tweezer”, this show is one of the finest from ’94.
1995 saw a drop in Canadian shows, as the band only made one trip to Vancouver on 10.6.95. ’96 followed with only one trip to the north, also to Vancouver. The band took a Canadian hiatus after ’96 until their return in 1999 with two fiery shows in Toronto and Vancouver. The Toronto show was the band’s first at the larger, outdoor, Molson Amphitheatre. Removed from the smaller theaters that had hosted their previous shows, the band played to a much larger audience, and strayed from their wild stage antics. However, continuing to treat the Canadians, the band busted out “Misty Mountain Hop” for the first time, a song that had been played in soundcheck since ’93. The show in Vancouver was the first after the Fuji Rock Festival, and opened the fall ’99 tour. The Vancouver show saw the first of “The Inlaw Josie Wales”, “First Tube”, as well as “Free Thought” (or “Third Tube”) which later became “Mozambique”, showcasing Trey’s new ‘Fluorescent Tube’ material. In 2000, Phish played their last Canadian show in Toronto, where Trey commented on how ‘beautiful Toronto is’.
Clearly influenced by the free spirit of the north, and the unassuming audiences, Phish has let loose every time they have performed north of the border. Due to the large number of fans unwilling to make the trip, these shows have become sleepers, aside from maybe the ’94 Montreal show. The atmospheres have been noticeably more accepting towards the fans and their behavior, creating a better experience for everyone. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it’s been almost a decade since Phish has played in Canada. It’s about time for another one of these northern shindigs.
Here’s a couple of our favorite Canadian Phish moments:
“Tweezer” from 12.12.92 The Spectrum, Toronto, ON.
“Reba” from 7.6.94 Theatre St. Denis, Montreal, QC.