Phish and reggae have a strange connection. While the band has only dabbled with reggae sparsely over the years, there has always been a inherent bond between the two. Positive vibes, free thinking creativity and a message of love form a connection that one cannot ignore. One of the original Phish songs, “Makisupa Policeman”, was written by Trey in his father’s basement long ago, and carries a strong reggae vibe. Always a welcome addition to a show, and a sure time to get down and groove-out, “Makisupa” has remained a staple in Phish’s catalog. If you’ve ever been to a Phish festival, you know of the blasting reggae that is so often responsible for your morning wake-up. Or, if you know your stuff, you’ll probably know that Trey appeared on the Toots and the Maytals recent album, offering up a soaring solo on the reggae classic “Sweet and Dandy” (a song featured in the film The Harder They Come). The connection is undeniable, and now, with the release of “Dub Like an Antelope”, reggae stars of the highest caliber are paying their tribute to Phish.
The album itself offers a great variety of artists, exhibiting the different styles of reggae. From very old, to very new artists, you get everything from classic reggae to new-style dub. But also, the artists have picked Phish songs spanning their entire career, offering an interesting vibe to some of the band’s classics. If you can get passed the inherent cheese-factor that accompanies nearly every reggae album – “Gumbo” begins with a fitting “Stir it in de pot” – you will find a great album to accompany any sunny day. With so many of us heading to Miami in the coming days, what better album is there to jam out to pool side?
The highlights are fairly obvious – the Toots and the Maytals take on “Get Back on the Train” is incredible, as is the Steel Pulse cover of “Farmhouse”. I highly recommend grabbing this album from Itunes before you make your trek down to Miami (Click here for the Itunes link). Few things go better than reggae and sunny beaches, especially when the songs are Phish covers.
Since Phish’s return, the idea of a new archival release seems to have slipped our minds. During the recent break-up, the constant releases of some of the band’s finest shows to date kept us happy. But, with all of the hype surrounding the return, the idea of a new archival release seemed out-of-place – the focus was on the new music and the new shows. Now that things have begun to return to normal, and with the holiday season upon us, it seems to be a prime time to announce the next Phish archival release. We’ve chatted with Kevin (Phish’s archivist) about some potentials for the future, but recently at 8, he hinted at a particular relic from a past era – 11.19.92. To anyone who has ever owned a Phish tape, those numbers will ring a familiar bell.
Recently, on Bunny Radio at Festival 8, Kevin told us that the tapes from 11.19.92 had recently been remastered by the guru of remastering, Fred Kevorkian aka “Dr. Kevorkian”. Phish fans will know of Dr. Kevorkian’s work most famously from hearing the the recordings of Slip, Stitch and Pass, and the shows from the Colorado ’88 tapes. As anyone who has experience with tapes knows, there is a serious amount of degradation that occurs from being played numerous times. Kevorkian’s job is to go in and reduce hisses, dropouts, distortion, and other sonic discrepancies that may exist on the original tapes. Kevorkian has worked with some of the greatest musicians on the scene such as: Willie Nelson, The White Stripes, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Trey Anastasio, moe.,Sonny Rollins, Cassandra Wilson, Dave Holland and more. Considered to be one of the best mastering engineers in the business, it’s safe to say Phish doesn’t use this guy unless an a major archival release is in the works.
Let’s talk a bit about the show that recently underwent Kevorkian’s treatment. This show kicked off the band’s December tour, and took place in their home state of Vermont. As was the trend back then, after taking a short break the band would debut several new songs in their first show back. The crowd at Ross Arena that night saw the debuts of “Axilla”, “FEFY”, and “Lengthwise”, as well as the Phish debut of the Johnny Cash classic “I Walk the Line”. Carrying a strong improvisational energy throughout the entire show, this show foreshadows the type of far-out exploratory playing that had begun to emerge toward the end of ’92. Similar to ’96, ’92 was a year where the band was trying all sorts of new things, and trying to incorporate them into their music. Perhaps they were trying too hard, as they have admitted, and rather ’93 saw the true realization of this goal. But, on this winter night in ’92 the band reached all new heights, propelling their music in a new direction. 11.19.92 is an ideal reflection of Phish in all their quirky glory.
There are too many highlights from this show to mention them all – the setlist speaks for itself – but there are a few that stand out. My single favorite version of “Divided Sky” comes from this show. This version features a tease on “Those Were the Days”, a song made famous by Mary Hopkins in the late 60′s. The unexpected diversion from the composed section in “Divided” is absolutely breathtaking. Trey revisits the same theme during “Antelope” and “Weekapaug”. A heavy “Mike’s Groove” kicks off the second set, riding on the high wave created by the first. One of the classic Phish moments comes when the jam from “Tweezer” transforms into the first ever “Big Ball Jam”, followed by an explanation from Trey as to what the crowd has just taken part in. Additionally, Vermont pedal-steel/banjo player Gordon Stone joins the band on three numbers, adding a unique sound to the songs. To top it off, “Bold as Love” returned to the encore spot after a 318 show hiatus.
After hearing that this show had passed through the hands of Dr. Kevorkian, we believe it should be out sometime early next year. Once the hype from New Years has died down expect an announcement.
“Divided Sky” 11.19.92
Set 1: Maze, Fee -> Foam, Glide, Split Open and Melt, Mound, The Divided Sky, Esther, Axilla, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bouncing Around the Room, It’s Ice, I Walk the Line, Tweezer -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars -> Tweezer, Big Ball Jam, Poor Heart, Fast Enough for You, Llama, Hold Your Head Up > Lengthwise > Hold Your Head Up, Cavern
Encore: Bold As Love
Notes: Divided Sky, Antelope and Weekapaug featured teases of Those Were the Days. This show featured the debuts of Axilla, FEFY, and Lengthwise and the Phish debut of I Walk The Line. The start of the second set included an Owner of a Lonely Heart tease. Mike’s Song included an Ice Ice Baby jam. Weekapaug included a vocal jam ending and Price of Love teases. BBFCFM featured lyrics from I Walk The Line. Big Ball Jam also debuted, as Trey explained the concept and mentioned that it was written for Pete Shaw. Poor Heart, FEFY and Llama featured Gordon Stone on pedal steel guitar. Trey introduced Fish as “Eyeball Man” before Lengthwise, which was performed in more of a reggae style than other versions and featured a vacuum solo from Fishman. Bold As Love was played for the first time since April 18, 1990 (318 shows).
[setlist courtesy of Phish.net]
As 2009 is drawing to a close, it seems appropriate to look back on some of the great music that has emerged throughout the year. From new artists to old, indie to bluegrass, our picks span a wide range of genres and tastes. But, don’t let style scare you away, let content be the criteria. Fortunately, this will be one of the few lists that you see which does not include Merriweather Post. That said, here are our picks for best albums of 2009:
1. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
The greatest poet of our time has continued to produce music of the highest caliber over the years. With a largely blue-collar approach, never too-good to perform in any venue, Bob Dylan is the embodiment of the true artist. Still dripping with creative juice at the age of 68, Together Through Life is simply another masterpiece in his mounting portfolio of great music. The album explores a classic country-blues sound, with Dylan’s raspy vocals adding a unique authenticity to the recollections of a hardened life of living.
“If You Ever Go to Houston”
2. Phish – Joy
The band’s first studio album since Undermind brought with it a very different flavor of Phish. With the help of Steve Lillywhite the songs sound very polished – the vocals sound perfect, especially with the overdubs. Trey has completely changed his guitar style. 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. Read our full review of Joy here.
“Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan”
3. Dawes – North Hills
We were introduced to this band by our good friends over at Back in 15 Minutes. Reminiscent of The Band, CSNY, and other classic folk-rock bands, Dawes creates a very new, yet old sound. A stark contrast to the current indie music trend, which seems to incorporate every possible aspect of technology, North Hills stays true to its simplicity. This is the band’s debut album, and we look forward to hearing more from them.
“Love is All I Am”
4. Islands – Vapours
Vapours is the third album from Islands, a Montreal-based band led by the creative genius of Nick Thorburn. Vapours saw the return of their original drummer Jamie Thompson, who departed after the band’s breakthrough debut album Return to the Sea. His return brought back Thorburn & Thompson’s upbeat, joyous songwriting style that was present on their debut album. This is a welcome departure from the band’s second, noticeably darker album, Arms Way. A combination of subtle, spacey synths, strong vocal melodies and a Duran-Duran like rhythmic approach, makes Vapours one of the best, and most original albums of the year.
5. Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow & Antonio Sanchez – Quartet Live
Quartet Live brings Metheny back to where he started, in the Gary Burton Quartet, in 1974-1977. Rarely can groups reunite after decades apart and bring a fresh new sound to their music. This album proves contrary. Quartet Live captures the group on their tour in 2007, capturing the essence of their live magic. Ever since Pat Metheny set out on his own, he has grown tremendously, developing a unique style. Pat’s playing adds a new, unique element to the group that takes the music in creative new directions. For example, Pat adds some of his signature synth-guitar effects to “Question and Answer”, bringing an ambient sound to the song. Quartet Live offers a timeless selection of songs reflecting the band members’ astute musical tastes.
“Question and Answer” Pt. 1
“Question and Answer” Pt. 2
6. Steve Earle – Townes
Perhaps the most overlooked album of the year is Steve Earle’s tribute to legendary singer, songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Townes, as the album is appropriately titled, features a selection of Van Zandt’s song’s, played by his long-time friend and protege. Having lived a self-destructive, hardened life, Earle brings a noticeable grit to Van Zandt’s music. And, with Earle’s creative touch, new elements are added, such as a guest appearance by Tom Morello on “Lungs”. Van Zand’t music was written by a man who lived on the edge, and there are few better than Earle who haved lived enough to reproduce it authentically.
“Pancho and Lefty”
7. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
Wilco’s new self titled album is just another solid album in the band’s portfolio. Solid songwriting, an abundance of space between the notes, and a variety of subtle nuances make Wilco more than just a standard pop album. Every song brings something new and fresh, and while specific influences can be strongly heard, the band carves out a unique sound of their own. The music is delicate, and requires a close-listen to pick up on all the subtle details.
8. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
The Avett’s first major-label release, produced by Rick Rubin, is a strong statement from the trio from North Carolina. The album features very heavy lyrical messages, which resonate powerfully over the piano-led numbers. The careful arrangement of acoustic instruments creates a lush foundation which the brothers grace with their highlighted vocal interplay. The entire album is very solid, and like Dawes North Hills, a welcome return to classic-sounding folk music, with the addition of superb production quality.
9. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
The fourth album from French indie-rock band Phoenix has been well received, and is a step forward in the group’s groundbreaking pop-rock sound. Few will notice the depth of seemingly simple pop songs such as “Lisztomania”, which is about the inner-turmoil that 19th Century composer Franz Liszt experienced during his life. Wolfgang is the ideal combination of rock and danceability. The album weaves a mesh of guitar-led melodies with subtle synths and Thomas Mars’ distinct high-pitched vocals, creating a polished, fresh sound.
The Holiday Season is upon us. And, for the first time in years, Phish and their fans will be celebrating together. This year, everyone in the Phish community has a great deal to be thankful for. To start, we would like to thank our readers, and all the people who have helped with the site. It’s been a real pleasure sharing so much great music with so many people. That said, we most likely wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the events that transpired 3 years ago at this time.
As many of you know, Trey was arrested on December 15th, 2006. The day that followed, 3 years ago today, was the day that Trey’s new life began. As he has mentioned over and over, but most recently in an interview with Parke Puterbaugh (in the new Phish biography):
“Getting arrested in that car was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
It seems as though Phish has regained their creative spark. The band is exuding an energy we have not seen from them in years, taking their music further and in new directions. The scene around them has become healthier, allowing Phish to move forward and regain a sense of longevity. The scene, which plagued the band’s ability to write and produce creative new music, is gone. As Trey mentions in the same interview (Phish Biography):
“As long as the four of us are together and have a protected, quite and comfortable atmosphere around us, then we can make decisions with the dynamic that has always existed.”
And so, Phish have returned to their ways of old (sort of) focusing on music and practice. Every venue along the summer tour was set-up with a practice room, and during practice, the band members were the only ones present. It’s clear from their willingness to attack challenging songs in their catalog that this time around will be nothing like ’03-’04. This time it’s about the music, and that’s what we’re here for.
Way back in ’83, during Trey’s semester off school, he headed into the basement of his father’s house equipped with his four-track tape recorder and some blankets, draped from the walls to dampen the sound. Trey, Tom, Pete Cottone, Marc Daubert and Dave Abrahams, members of the “Princeton Mafia”, got together and recorded some of the songs that would eventually make it into Phish’s catalog.
These early recordings show the creative spark within Trey, in its very early stages. The goal was, as he has said “as different as possible”, and the fruition of that can be heard on these recordings. Incorportating elements from many of the greatest artists, but mimicing none of them directly, Trey carves out a niche that would form the roots of Phish’s music. Making use of pitch shifters on the 4-track machine, Trey altered the pitch of the vocals, harmonizing them with eachother, much in the way he does with his Digitech-wham today. His guitar-playing abilities can be heard on his original take on Bronislaw Kaper’s “Green Dolphin Street”, while the vocalized chord-progression in “YEM” shows his compositional prowess. One should notice that this chord progression is the identical one the New York Philharmonic played only months ago at Carnegie Hall. That stands as a bold testament to his early compositional abilities – the fact that many of these songs are still played in the exact same way.
In 1985, after transferring to Goddard, Trey distributed the tape of his 4-track recordings as a Christmas gift to his friends and family. The tape was a combination of the tracks Trey recorded in his basement, along with some others he had created up until ’85. The tape used to circulate as “11/23/85 Godard (side A) / Trey’s 4 Track Project (side B)”, from which the B side has come to be known as “A Christmas Gift From Trey”. These recordings were created at a time when there was nothing but the music, and clearly, Trey put his heart and soul into every one of these songs. From Trey, to us, to you. Enjoy.
And So To Bed > You Enjoy Myself, Green Dolphin Street-> Harry Hood, Slave to the Traffic Light, Antelope, Divided Sky, Letter to Jimmy Page, Dave’s Energy Guide > Fluff’s Travels, “A Last Surprise” (12/01/84 Skippy the Wondermouse)
Check out the “Sand” from the show 10 years ago today in Raleigh, NC. Right before heading into Hampton, the last shows before Cypress, the band stopped in North Carolina dropping one of the finest versions of “Sand” to date. Call us crazy, but we’re expecting a HUGE “Sand” in Miami. Just saying…
Two weeks from today, we will be in the sunshine state ready to enter into the final chapter of 2009. Two weeks until we are sitting on the sunny beaches of Florida awaiting the first night of Phish’s New Years run. Looking back over the progress that has already been made this year, the shows at Hampton seem like a distant memory. Each step of the way, elements that make Phish who they are, were returned. Camden saw the return of the jam, Hartford brought back the Phishiness; fall tour brought back the band’s energy and responsiveness to one another, as well as many long-forgotten songs. And now, as we await the next step, there is no telling what direction the band will take.
On the 28th, we will reunite with Phish for a final time this year. While December 28th has historically been a good night, it was often overshadowed by the nights that followed. It was not until ’98 that the band created the 4-night run model, and so, the nights prior were separate from the actual New Years festivities. Over the years, 12.28 has featured some gems that are rarely mentioned. While everyone knows the epic jams that took place on the nights that followed, here are some of the great moments from 12.28.
“Squirming Coil > Tweezer > Manteca > Tweezer” 1990.12.28 The Marquee, New York, NY
On Phish’s first 12.28 show, they delivered a classic setlist that demonstrated their early style of playing. Tight, responsive, and full of energy, this show rocks from start to finish. The highlight, however, comes when “Coil” leads into a rare full band jam that flows into an early “Tweezer”. Showing the song’s future potential, they jam it out, sandwiching “Manteca” in between. Trey’s early machine-gun shredding is heavily present.
“Drowned” 1997.12.28 US Air Arena, Landover, MD
After closing-out the legendary fall ’97 tour, they rolled into Landover to begin their equally legendary NYE run. The next three nights would see the band head to MSG, and so, Landover was largely left in the dust behind the spectacle New Years shows. However, fully capable of holding it’s own, the second set at Landover is packed with great moments. Foreshadowing the type of playing that would unfold over the next three nights, Landover kicked things off, essentially igniting the spark that would carry into the following shows. After a feedback ghost in Trey guitar was sorted out, they launched into a ferocious “Ghost > Drowned”. The jam flows into a spacey canvas of sound, and as Trey begins to evoke the “ghost in the machine”, they slip into the dark of night.
“Carini > Wolfmans” 1998.12.28 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
In ’98, 12.28 was finally given the respect it deserved, being added to a four-night run at MSG. One of the best shows of the entire, run, 12.28 finally was brought to the grand stage in all its glory. From the start of the first song, “Axilla”, this show was loaded with energy. The second set opens with the fierce combination of “Carini> Wolfmans”, both of which are given the full treatment. “Carini” takes an extended trip into the dark, guided by Trey’s Hendrix-like soloing. “Carini” is one of the few songs that Trey uses his ‘reverse’ effect (on his Ibanez DM-2000). It creates the sound, that Jimi and the Beatles pioneered, of a guitar being recorded backwards, making for a unique, psychedelic sound. The jam carries into a full-on exploration through space, bringing the Gardens into full lift-off. A funky groove emerges from the deep space, eventually becoming “Wolfmans” which leads into some heavy ’97 funk.
(Also check out the “Buried Alive > Tweezer” from 12.28.95, and the “Bowie” and “Frankie Says” from 12.28.03″)
10 years ago today Phish took the stage of the Spectrum in Philly, on the second night of two nights in Trey’s “hometown” venue. After a less than stellar first night, Phish came back the second, gaining a mysterious energy from the outset. This show deserves special mention as it embodies what every Phish fan craves when they enter the doors, or gates of a Phish concert – a perfect balance between energy, improvisation, and psychedelia. And, on this night in Philly, the moons aligned just right, offering the crowd a taste of everything they love.
The band took no time getting started, coming out of the gates with a soaring version of “Hood” (a rare opener indeed).
“Harry Hood” (12.11.99)
The opener of a show often determines the flow of the rest of the night. Rock openers are effective at building energy, however, when a strong jam opens the show, it paves the way for an outside adventure toward the cosmos. Following “Hood” with a raging “Mike’s Groove” brought the show to a higher level. Sandwiched in the groove is “Simple”, which features one of Trey’s divine modal solos that often go under-appreciated. While not filled with “machine gun” shredding, playing slow and gracefully can often be much more challenging. In the midst of the jam, the band makes an interesting shift in time, reminiscent of The Beatles’ famous gag (the 4/4 to 3/4 switch). This jam is a great example of how something that seems so simple, can be so complex. Offering the fans the best of both worlds that night, the band tacks on “Hydrogen” making this first set as good as any from ’99. The set continues with a perfectly placed “Circus”, allowing both the band and crowd to breathe for a moment. “Mule” features an extended jam on the klezmer-like section, leading into the classic “Cavern” closer. And that was just the first.
The energy carries itself into the second set in a major way. As Phish appeared after taking another swig of their mysterious psychedelic elixir, they busted into the heavy grooves of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On”. The equally groovy Robert Palmer Cover “Sneakin’ Sally” followed, and from that moment the rest was history. The rest of the set flowed, without pause, through a series of spacey grooves that brought the Spectrum into “earthquake volcano mode” (A Bob Weir phrase I have recently discovered). On this cold winter night in Philly, Phish was better than James Brown on his worst night. With a set that reads “Sally> Ghost > 2001> DWD” there is little else to say. On a standout tour, this show shines brightly as one of the finest.
“Sneakin’ Sally > Ghost” (12.11.99)
Set 1: Harry Hood > Mike’s Song > Simple > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, When the Circus Comes, Scent of a Mule, Cavern
Set 2: Boogie On Reggae Woman, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley -> Ghost -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Down with Disease
Here is the setlist for tonight’s show from the Hammersmith Ballroom in NYC. Download will be added shortly.
Set 1: Jam > Feel Like A Stranger >Deal, Crazy Fingers > Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo > Jam >Bird Song, Good Lovin’
Set 2: Jack Straw, The Wheel > Jam >Welcome To The Dance > Jam > Uncle John’s Band, Unbroken Chain,
Satisfaction, Let It Grow, Sugar Magnolia >Sunshine Daydream
Encore: Donor Rap, Johnny B. Goode
Over the years, “Tweezer” has served as Phish’s definitive jam vehicle. Written during a soundcheck in 1990, and featuring lyrics which refer to the frigid Vermont winter, the song, and more specifically its extended jams, hold a special place in every Phish fan’s heart. When the band drops “Tweezer” everyone knows – it’s on. The song, throughout its history, has found temporary places in which to land. We’ve talked about one of our favorites, “Tweezer>Lifeboy”, a frequent combination during ’94. In ’03 it appeared to be “2001″. However, recently the song seems to have found a new home in “Light”. Unlike many of the previous versions, this new pairing matches two major jam vehicles from two different eras.
In many ways “Tweezer” came to define the jams from each Phish era. During the early 90′s the song was explored minimally, and was frequently just a run-up to one of Trey’s rockin’ guitar solos. In ’94, however, the song became synonymous with extended psychedelic improv, and was consistently taken to new heights, especially throughout the fall ’94 and ’95 tours.
Today happens to be the anniversary of one of the definitive versions from Mesa, AZ in ’94. In this version, Trey chanted the words “Let’s say goodbye to Salem”, a message to the crowd that the song’s progress had not halted in Salem, OR on 12.1. Rather, they would continue to push the song to new heights. And that they did. Check out the version from 12.9.94 below.
When Phish kicked off their summer tour at Fenway Park in May, the first incarnation of “Tweezer>Light” emerged. At this point, the band still smelt like plastic and had yet to regain their stride. More importantly, they had yet to realize “Light’s” jamming potential (it was only a 5 minute version). On the first night of the two-night run at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, the pair emerged for a second time, this time indicating a lasting bond. The most potent new jam song tied to the tail of one of the oldest. A match made in Gamehenge. The most recent version, from Charlottesville saw perhaps the greatest combination. Both songs were explored in their own unique ways, showing the diverse jams both songs can lead to. Check out the version from Charlottesville below.
“Tweezer>Light” 12.5.09 Charlottesville, VA
Set 1: AC/DC Bag, Chalk Dust Torture, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Divided Sky, Ya Mar, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley, The Old Home Place, Cavern, Funky Bitch, David Bowie, The Wedge, Bold As Love
Set 2: Tweezer > Light > Piper > Free, Sweet Virginia, Harry Hood > Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus, Run Like an Antelope
Encore: Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise
Here’s the setlist and download for tonight’s Furthur show from the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC.
Set 1: Jam >Truckin’ >Dire Wolf, Doin’ That Rag, Ramble On Rose, Reuben & Cerise, Looks Like Rain, Cosmic Charlie
Set 2: King Solmon’s Marbles, He’s Gone, New Potato Caboose,The Other One, Days Between,Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain >Cold Rain and Snow
E: Touch of Grey
“Reuben and Cherise” 12.8.09
Next Show: Furthur – 12/9/2009 Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY – 8:00PM EST
It was on this day, 29 years ago, that John Winston Lennon was taken from us. His death left a hole in the heart of music, one which will never be healed . John’s impact on music can not be expressed in words. Most people are familiar with the history of John’s life, and so, rather than write a biographical sketch (which can be found here), we figured it would be better to show you John’s greatness through a series of videos that pay tribute to his music.
“I am eatting eggs, they are eatting eggs, I’m John Lennon, Goo goo ga joob”
-John Lennon, “I am the Walrus”
“I Saw Her Standing There”
“Don’t Let me Down” (Rooftop Concert, 1.30.69)
“Yer Blues” (Dirty Mac – featuring: Clapton, Mitch Mitchell, Keef Richards & Lennon) + Mick Jagger Interview
“Give Peace a Chance”
“Cold Turkey” (Willowbrook Benefit, 8.30.72)
“Happiness is a Warm Gun”
“I will”, “Julia”, “Birthday Jam”, “Yer Blues” (Phish 10.31.94)
Miles Davis once said, “Music is the space between notes.” For musicians, this can be an extremely hard concept to grasp. Rooting itself in the basic philosophy of ‘less is more’, Miles’ quote embodies the strength of subtlety. Over the years, Phish has taken various approaches to their music in order to reach uncharted musical heights. While each of these phases has altered the bands’ sound dramatically, the intent has always been the same – to create new methods of communication. As Jon Fishman said in The Phish Book:
“The less we do, the further it goes. If everybody is playing simply, jams tend to get funky. Maybe “funky” is just another word for getting down and communicating. Just like dancing.”
It’s no secret that Phish’s jams have become more concise since the reunion, and especially throughout the fall tour. Many fans are disappointed by that. However, something that has become blatantly obvious, to anyone who has attended or been listening to the recent shows, is the band’s ability to reach moments of greatness within these narrow frames. The goal in jamming, as has been echoed by the band, is to reach musically transcendent moments through close communicative improvisation. Length has always been a variable, but never a constant. Some of the best jams are short, some of them are long. Length does not determine greatness.
The music we are now hearing from the band is constantly maturing, without losing its playful edge. As the band members have matured, and gained experience, their playing has become more informed – more precise. The years of ’94 and ’95 where the band was intentionally extending jams to reach these transcendent moments, are no longer. The band has progressed to a new stage, where their musical abilities and close bonds have allowed them to reach musical peaks with greater ease.
The current jams are a greater representation of the band as a whole. Each member has come to fill a distinct role, a stark contrast to the past. Recently, the jamming model seems to mesh the simplest harmonies and rhythms together, making each member equally important to the improvisation. The improvisation has essentially been broken down to allow for greater space between each members notes. Through this collective minimalistic jamming, the band is able to weave a musical web that is greater than the sum of its parts. This does not count out the possibility of a lengthy jam, as was seen in Albany on the second night in “Seven Below>Ghost”. The recent jams embody the goal Phish has been striving for since ’94-’95 – the “Including your own hey” philosophy. As Trey said back in ’97:
“You can’t hear what’s going on without leaving space in the music. I can’t communicate without space. It’s more powerful than notes. Nervous energy causes overplaying, which comes off as nothing but a series of notes no one can follow. You need space to join, to meld.”
Listen to the “Light” from MSG night 1 below. A perfect example of the jamming that is coming to define the 3.0 era. Check back this week as we will be breaking down some of the highlight the jams from the recent tour.
What are your feelings on these new jams? Let us know your thoughts, leave a comment.
Tonight, the Fall tour comes to an end. Phish heads into Charlottesville, VA for their first return to the state since their reuniting shows in March. Having never performed at the John Paul Jones Arena before, a great deal of mystery lies ahead. This is a stark contrast to the past three nights which have taken place in one of the most storied Phish venues on the planet. The final show of any tour has historically packed a punch, leaving the crowd with a distinctly Phishy taste in their mouth. Today, we take a look back at some of these shows.
12.17.95 Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY
Fall ’95, one of the finest tours ever, was concluded with a two-night run in Lake Placid, NY. These shows capped off a long-stretching tour that saw the band develop their psychedelic improv further than ever before. Intentionally extending jams, taking their music to some of its greatest peaks, Phish was playing with an energy that guided their every note to greatness. These two shows in Lake Placid are legendary, and embody the spirit that existed on a nightly basis in December of ’95. Pure, free-form jamming with absolutely no boundaries. The second set, on night 2, is one of the finest of the entire tour. The band exudes a sense of confidence that only develops as tours progress. Confident, full of energy, and only weeks away from the even-more legendary NYE ’95 run, Phish was hitting the note from all angles.
“Tweezer>Tweezer Reprise” 12.17.95
12.13.97 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY
’97 followed suit, after the ’96 spectacle in Vegas, delivering two of the best shows on another legendary Phish tour. The second night, although not quite up to par with the first, saw the band cap off the tour in a show that defined the collective jamming that had emerged throughout the year. Again, only a few weeks later, the band would perform a NYE run that contained some of their greatest performances of all time. Albany acted as the prelude, displaying the band in their constantly evolving musical model. This show begins with a very unexpected 20-minute “Yamar” that sets the tone for the rest of the night. However, perhaps the highlight of the night came in the “Mike’s” featured in the second set. The band goes into a crazy “Bring the Dude” chant, meshed with a heavy funk jam, which makes for a very interesting version of the song.
“Mike’s Song” (Bring the Dude) 12.13.97
1998.11.29 Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA
By this point you probably get the idea, tour finales, in particular fall tour finales, are generally very very good shows. ’98 was no different. This time closing the tour with a 3-night stand, in Worcester, MA, the band was firing on all cylinders after another ground-breaking tour. This show saw a guest-appearance by Vermont guitarist Seth Yacovone on two songs in the first set, as well as one of the best second sets of the tour. The second half of this show is especially tasty, featuring mesmorising versions of “Simple”, “Possum”, “Gin”, and “YEM” all in the frame of a single set. Another one of the greatest tour-closers of all time.
If you haven’t gotten the idea by now, fall tour finales are very special. This summer at SPAC we were treated with a finale that featured a long-awaited “Harpua” and a Fishman debacle that brought the humor back to the stage. Who knows what’s in store for tonight, but with the name of the game being BBBUSTOUT lately, we expect something special to grace the ears of those in attendance tonight at Jon Paul Jones Arena.
Side note: today is also the anniversary of a very good show from the Mullins Center in Amherst, MA. The show features one of my favorite versions of “Gin”, which we mentioned in this article.
Today is the 26th Anniversary of the first concert the members of Phish (sans Page) ever played together. The show took place at the Harris Mills Cafeteria at UVM, and featured the band using hockey-sticks as microphone stands. Instead of Page, Jeff Holdsworth was holding it down on second guitar creating a very different dynamic. The band was going by the name The Blackwater Convention and ran through a list of cover songs in their first performance together.Click here for more information on the show. Check out the soundclip or download part of the show, released by Kevin Shapiro, below. Tonight, the band returns to MSG for the first time since NYE ’02 when they returned from their hiatus. The combination of events is sure to get the Gardens swaying early. As members of the Dead said in a recent interview: Mickey: …The [Madison Square] Garden is so special because it’s suspended on big cables so the Deadheads now know how to make the whole Garden sway. At first it’s a little unsettling but then you get used to it and you go with the rhythm, Phil: That place literally rocks. It literally rocks. Bob: I remember the first time we experienced that phenomenon. I went right into earthquake volcano mode. To anyone embarking on the journey that is sure to unfold tonight in the Gardens, happy travels… “Tuning>Scarlet Bagonias>Fire on the Mountain” 12.2.83 “20th Anniv. Video Montage” “Sneakin’ Sally” 12.30.97
Today is the 26th Anniversary of the first concert the members of Phish (sans Page) ever played together. The show took place at the Harris Mills Cafeteria at UVM, and featured the band using hockey-sticks as microphone stands. Instead of Page, Jeff Holdsworth was holding it down on second guitar creating a very different dynamic. The band was going by the name The Blackwater Convention and ran through a list of cover songs in their first performance together.Click here for more information on the show. Check out the soundclip or download part of the show, released by Kevin Shapiro, below.
Tonight, the band returns to MSG for the first time since NYE ’02 when they returned from their hiatus. The combination of events is sure to get the Gardens swaying early. As members of the Dead said in a recent interview:
Mickey: …The [Madison Square] Garden is so special because it’s suspended on big cables so the Deadheads now know how to make the whole Garden sway. At first it’s a little unsettling but then you get used to it and you go with the rhythm,
Phil: That place literally rocks. It literally rocks.
Bob: I remember the first time we experienced that phenomenon. I went right into earthquake volcano mode.
To anyone embarking on the journey that is sure to unfold tonight in the Gardens, happy travels…
“Tuning>Scarlet Bagonias>Fire on the Mountain” 12.2.83
“20th Anniv. Video Montage”
“Sneakin’ Sally” 12.30.97