Spacetime Funk

holy-islandWith the next episode of LOST coming tomorrow, I figured we’d do a little time traveling of our own.  Let’s hop in, fire up the flux-capacitor, harness 1.21 jiggawatts of electricity and be on our way back to 1988.  August 6th, 1988 to be exact.  Upon vanishing from 2009, and skidding into the past, we find ourselves flux1amidst the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  We land in the small town of Telluride; a ski town during the winter, but, for us, it is a fine summer night.  It feels like we were brought here for a reason- but what is that reason?  The quantum puzzle is a bit overwhelming and we just need a beer to relax for a minute.  Taking a turn down the nearest street, we ditch into the first bar.  It was called “The Roma.”

Sitting at a table, we order a few drafts.  But before getting them, we notice a thumping groove coming from the stage behind us.  Turning around, we are struck by the absolute dorkiness of the musicians, yet the music is good, no it was better than good, this shit is funky!  These guys are…Phish?!

telluride-town-centerAs our side-effects dissipate from the journey through space-time, we figure out we have been summoned by an old-school YEM jam to this very bar, but why?  When is the last time we have actually listened to 1988 Phish?  Maybe that was part of the answer?  All these existential thoughts are quickly wiped from the forefront of our mind as a huge groove takes over the bar.

The jam is laid back, very relaxed- almost like a half-speed YEM from the future.  But what stands out is the patience of such a young band and the way they use each other’s musical ideas to further their own.  They might be young, but these guys have the chops; they can play.  Forming some truly funky rhythms during the beginning of the jam, Trey sits way back and let phish-colorado_88_bMike and Fishman lead things out of the gate.  Page provides the lead melody in the form of large organ swells, while in the background, Trey smiles that goofy smile and begins throwing down a series of exact rhythm licks that we would come to love and know by heart nine years later.

Trey remains in the background as the other three direct this jam’s initial course.  But when Trey slides into the improv, he begins to wail some signature YEM leads with authority over the already fat groove.  All of a sudden we are smack in the middle of a raging YEM and Gordon begins to assault us with huge bass bombs, digging in far deeper mid-jam, launching the explosives into the small audience without concern.  The music far out-sizes these tiny surroundings as the band brings the YEM to a soaring peak- eighties style.

The drop into Mike’s bass solo lasts only a short bit before the rest of the band hops back into the mix, engaging in song-ending antics where Trey and Fish straight go batty.  As the two improvise lyrics such as “Baby! Baby! Baaabay!” and shouting “Good God y’all!,” all of a sudden, we are witnessing a legitimate old-school Phish freak-out!  The band emerges from this absurdity with a funky groove, different than then the previous jam.  Before getting a chance to acclimate to the jam, Phish shifts right into “Cities” without missing a beat.  Hearing this version that doesn’t sound all-together different from the versions of the late ’90s, a thought begins to stir inside your head.

While Trey sings the song as a twenty-something rather than a forty-something, the music behind it is still so slammin’!  All of a sudden, you find yourself carving out a slice of dance floor and bumping to the infectious beats.  This band was going somewhere- you knew that- but now you knew why.

p07074ew206As the second verse ends, Trey and Page begin a shrill pattern that departs from “Cities,” while Mike and Fish create a uniquely Phishy groove beneath them.  What the hell was going on?  You’ve never heard this before.  That is correct, this is a full on raging “Dave’s Energy Guide!”  As soon as you realize it, boom!  The band slams back into the full speed grooves.  And people say that Phish funk started during 1997!?  Ha!  This was funky as hell.  Phish had played funk all along!  Just as quickly as this crazy experience happened, the band slammed on the breaks, ending the song, and the 25 minute multi-dimensional experience.

25smAs we begin to join in the applause with the rest of the intimate bar, we feel a force drawing us backwards towards the door.  We try to stay, but we can’t; someone or something won’t let us.  As we are pulled though the doorway, we drop a couple twenties on the ground to settle our tab, as we hear Phish start up “Take the A Train.”  Once outside, we can barely hear anything at all.  What was the point if we couldn’t even stay for the second set?  The show had just started!  Hmmm.  Something strange was afoot at the Circle K.

As we are pulled back into the DeLorean and sped back to the future, the reason for this escapade dawns on us.  Someone wanted to send us a message, and the message came loud and clear.  Phish didn’t get funky on Halloween ’96.  Phish didn’t even turn funky in Hamburg, Germany on March 1st, 1997, even though they made an album out of it.  Phish were born funky.  Now we understood.

hw77The myth goes that Phish was a band that didn’t play dance grooves until their seismic transformation in 1997.  However, go revisit any show from any year, and I guarantee that you will hear echoes of the late ’90s ring true.  While the cosmic magnifying glass was certainly placed on whole-band groove come ’97, this was something Phish had incorporated into their music from day one. Well, at least since that crazy “YEM > Cities” in 1988!  That much we now know for sure.

LISTEN TO 8.6.88’s YEM >CITIES NOW! (Roll over songs and click play.)



7.23.88 “Pete’s Fabulous Phish Fest” Underhill, VT SBD < LINK

phish_logoKeeping with the theme of both yesterday (“Mike’s Groove”) and today’s of old-school improv, here we have a three-set Phish extravaganza from 1988 that features the public debut of “Mike’s > H2 > Weekapaug.”  All of the early classics are found somewhere within this marathon gig. Check out very young versions of lots of your favorite songs.  Ironically, this SBD recording will be passed onto Pete, the host of the party over 20 years ago!  It’s a small world.

I: Intro. Jam, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Lizards, On Your Way Down, AC/DC Bag, Possum, Walk Away, Bold as Love, No Dogs Allowed

II: The Sloth, Fire*, The Curtain, Terrapin, Run Like an Antelope, Satin Doll, Blue Bossa, La Grange, Alumni Blues, Peaches en Regalia

III: You Enjoy Myself, Contact, Harry Hood, Dinner and a Movie, Slave to the Traffic Light, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Good Times Bad Times

Show billed as “Pete’s Fabulous Phish Fest.” *With Peter Danforth (host) on sax.

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112 Responses to “Spacetime Funk”

  1. SOAM Says:

    You gotta relax there relaxer-boy man shit that was much ado about nada-you tootin? cause you got rhea mouth

    I liked Old school and snoopage in Starsky-best scene in Starsky-Ben jackoff Stiller wacked on the toots-in a boogie war at the night club.

  2. Clod Says:

    Since camman brought this up and I have no-else to pontificate with: Isn’t Memphis in ancient Egypt (near Cairo) and not Greece. So was David Byrne just effing with us. Shouldn’t Memphis be “Home of Elvis and the ancient ‘Gyptians”

  3. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    ^^ lol…you cant beat patton oswald with a fro. Also, i could be wrong but the guy who has the dance off with ben stiller is the same guy from “pineapple express” and “the foot-fist way.” Carmen electra making out with another hottie blonde chick is classic cinema to me.

    snoop was born to play huggy bear.

  4. Clod Says:

    I can remember being amidst my first show at the Front , having never heard a note of the band in my life, and thinking that they were some amalgram of Zappa and King Crimson. Although I was into the Grateful Dead at the time, it took a little while for Dead (or even the funk) to enter my associations with Phish

  5. tbarelaxer Says:

    No, just think Miner should not be flamed. as for my post, great thing about the net man, don’t like, don’t read….

  6. tbarelaxer Says:

    SOAM said —What is ironic about Phish is that they quit right when they figured out how to write and compose songs-real songs -not just jams with 5 words or a sentence.

    OK Soam I’ll bite, How can you say Phish, actually let’s be correct Marshall/Anastasio 95% of the time, was not developed as song writers in the late 80’s? Actually, many of their musical compositions from this time have nothing even close to them when considering their counterparts from this era of rock. Reba, Fluffhead, and YEM are among the greatest compositions of their time. With Phish, it’s not about the lyrics, but the flow of the music. You seem to be saying any music without great lyrics is not worth listening to. Please, even Dylan said when he writes it’s all about melody. Lennon has also said so much.

    Phish melodies allow mind expansion. Those of us with imagination (Not saying you don’t have any-there is a difference), are allowed to plug in our own thoughts/lyrics so to speak. That’s what makes Phish like no other band. Also Sand, First Tube, anything from 99-00, or anything off the last album, what lyric is so much better than late 80’s? Also please use examples of what you mean by the term sophisticated? I may ramble, but I usually give an example one way or another when making a statement.

    And when going to a concert, how many rock shows do you go to where the lyrics stand out, or you can even decipher what the band is playing.

    Also, sorry if you don’t like the vacuum “garbage” or Phish’s sense of humor (You obviously don’t like mine either), but it’s this humor that allows Phish to be Phish. Take it away, and they might as well be Yes crossed with Zeppelin. Sometimes (not all this time)It’s important not to take things too seriously, or you can sound like a mean asshole.

    Now, if you had been talking about the new new Trey songs, played post arrest (even though some were written before it), yes there are some remarkable improvements in lyrics. Backwards down the Number Line is pretty cool, as are many of the songs from fall 08 Trey. The reasons for this are in Trey’s mind, but we can guess. At Webster’s 06 he said “I will never grow up.” Well perhaps he decided to, and more importantly was not afraid to take the chance. maybe he just changed his approach in some ways. He has been jamming with Clapton, and one can definitely hear this in the compositions and how they are composed. Shine is blown off the map IMHO by these new songs. To me, he really is putting focus into shorter improv, and not forcing jams.

    ps As for tootin’, not since UVM 87, as my nose can’t handle that crap. Thanks anyway though. For the sake of the site, let’s not make this a flame war. Anyway sorry my post offended you.

  7. bhizzle Says:

    with Clapton?

    Shine – places index finger down throat.

  8. Los Says:


    I luv phish and cant wail to go…March is round corner!!!!!

  9. R1 Says:

    Trey’s been jamming with Clapton???

  10. tbarelaxer Says:

    That’s what makes Phish like no other band-oops I should clarify that. Yes many bands allow for mind expansion, but no one writes like Trey, and it’s his sense of humor that allows this along with their loose vocal approach.

    SOAM, you sound like every girl friend I’ve ever had up to my present one when you diss Phish for not being “sophisaticated”. That’s not an insult, it’s just why this is not the first time I’ve addressed that criticism.

    Anyway, again not looking for a flame war, and I’ll relax :<)

  11. lot rat Says:

    I heard Hurly from Lost will be in attendance at Hampton. He’ll have the Dharma bus in the lot swinging chicken fried steak, bacon & egg sandy’s, and funky chunky goo balls for all to enjoy.

    Sometimes when I am watching this show I wish I could reach into the TV and punch him in his mammoth mug.

    You want some funnk…try 3/6/09 mid set combo Sneakin>Moma Dance>Tube

    “Its a compass…whats it do, it points north”

  12. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    phish lyrics can mean different things to different people. Its all in the eye of the beholder. That’s the beauty of them. They can all be left to infinite interpretation. Sometimes a “non-sense” lyric might just be a color added to the background music. Sometimes those crazy lyrics go hand in hand with being on an acid trip. They are lyrics meant to be heard/contemplated while “out of the box.”

    Sometimes the lyrics are just like musical notes in them selves. When you hear a “c” note, do you ask your self what that “c” note is supposed to mean? Sometimes trying to put too much meaning into a “c” note distracts away from what that note was meant to do, which is give a particular tonal flavor to a feeling.

    What does “wash ufizzi drive me to firenzi” mean? Couldn’t tell you, but i know it sounds really cool.

  13. tbarelaxer Says:

    R1 the answer is yes according to a person who does work for Trey and the band, and also is best friends with the one person who would know sans Trey. Same person told me BB king said to Tey’s pop he has never heard anyone hit certain notes Trey did. Quite the compliment…

  14. lot rat Says:

    Explain yourself SOAM? I wish I had the time to read what relaxer wrote, but its as long as a novel.

  15. tbarelaxer Says:

    Ouch people dissing Hurly from Lost.

  16. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    phish is so “sophisticated” that it often goes right over people’s heads unless they are trained to listen for that sophistication. Its easy to dismiss if your not accustomed to their style (like so many of my former girlfriends too). They are always playing “the game”, you just have to know that you can take it to a deeper level. That hidden door is always there. Sometimes it takes repeated effort to fully understand this subtle sophistication. Or it could just take an all night acid trip in the everglades 🙂

  17. tbarelaxer Says:

    Full Tour you made think of the Entourage episode where the Agent guy is coming onto shrooms and calls his wife, and suddenly finds himself having to BS her into doing something or he is caught doing something she would not approve of-priceless.

  18. guyforget Says:

    Wonderful, everybody who ever plays with Clapton dies some untimely death. if this is true, stop right now Trey!! PLEASE….plus, Clapton is utterly annoying. He’s got skills however.

  19. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    ^ that’s a great episode! I love that show!

    Its the simple yet sophiscated that has always made phish great. Towards the end i think they were trying too hard to write lyrics and it defeated the purpose. There is something so elegant yet simple about “boy, man, god, shit.” Something that exemplifies everything that they are all about.

    It’s the nuances of this simple sophistication that has always made phish so fun to listen to.

  20. brandofunk Says:

    As far as phish Lyrics go some songs are indirectly serious,”you just got to listen for that sophistication” and some lyrics are Phanrtasy Lyrics. Which is equivelent writing’s in some fiction books.

  21. brandofunk Says:

    whats this about Clapton?

  22. bhizzle Says:

    lyrics? That’s why I like Mexican Cousin

  23. guyforget Says:

    Lyrics? Dirt, nuff said.

  24. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    Mexican Cousin, much like Friday….kinda grew on me. At first i didn’t really like the round room songs (besides Seven Below). But as time progressed and i saw a few of those tunes live, they seemed to stick with me.

    I know mexican cousin isn’t the greatest song ever, but the version from 7/26/2003 in atlanta made me a believer. I remember that they actually kinda jammed it out a bit.

    Mexican cousin is also very similar (structure wise) to the 80’s song “I’ll stop the world and melt with you”….

  25. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:


    who needs lyrics when you got Whistling?

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