The Contours of Our Lives

861908007_5b4984449aIf you’ve been reading this site for any amount of time, you’ve figured out that my affinity is for dark, menacing Phish.  The flip side of this musical coin are Phish’s many blissful improvisations, such as “Hood,” “Reba,” or “Slave;” songs that you must lack a pulse to not feel drawn to.  Yet, Phish isn’t just about the peaks, they are about the natural contour of their shows.  When they play a memorable one, the dynamic of the music mirrors the spectrum of human experience.  While the band often accesses the more tender points of life via delicate improvisation, they also do it through the use of ballads.

While many a jaded fan consider Phish ballads time for a “piss break,” they are anything but.  I never really grasped the concept of leaving the room while Phish was onstage; you just never know what could happen, and you miss the full experience.  The band doesn’t play ballads to fill time in the set, rather, they are part of the organic flow of the Phish phenomenon.  Sure, they could play “Tweezer > Mike’s > YEM > Tube > Antelope > Weekapaug,” but then they wouldn’t be Phish (though you phili6wouldn’t see me complaining.)  Phish is about the totality of our lives, not just the fun and exciting parts, but the pensive and reflective ones, too.  Often times, Phish ballads are a central way to access those places in our minds and in our hearts that we don’t readily visit.  But the beauty of Phish’s slower songs exists in their congruency to the universal human emotions that we all feel.

If you keep an open soul to receive the Phish, you have come to appreciate and understand the purpose of these songs.  Several are able to artistically convey feelings of loss, desperation, longing, and fear with rich imagery-laden lyrics.  “If I Could,” expresses the helplessness of someone who cannot meet the needs of their lover, and who futilely tries to figure a way to make things work.  “Wading In a Velvet Sea,” a poignant ballad, both musically and lyrically, exposes a vulnerable narrator who longs for “moments in a box” representing his past days of connection that have long since passed.  “Fast Enough For You,” is another similarly themed song, expressing the loss of love and the inability to recapture times gone by. “Lifeboy’s” liquid music matches its introspective lyrics- “Dangling here between the light above and blue below that drags me down.”  These aren’t “cheesy” themes; this is the fabric of life.

pict0020Using these more melancholic songs, Phish is able to access the parts of our lives in which we have felt such loss and pain; and who hasn’t?  Tapping into life’s universal themes, the band employs these songs as an entry point into our feelings.  Take, for example, “Dirt.”  Its simple melodies and lyrics speak volumes about a human emotion that everyone has felt- the desire to disappear from the madness and confusion that often plagues us in our everyday lives.  Sure, these songs may not be what you or I want to hear at a particular moment, but their rightful place in the arc of a Phish show is undeniable.

However, not all ballads are of somber subject.  Phish has an ability to capture our imaginations with ballads, touching on the more tender side of life.  “Billy Breathes” is the delicate story of a child’s birth told through majestically composed music.  “Train Song” captures the night time tranquility of the countryside as two lovers share one of life’s soulful moments together. “Strange Design” represents life-affirming advice about our struggle to “keep the tires off the lines,” sending the message that whatever trials and tribulations are put in our path, the human spirit can persevere.  “Just relax you’re doing fine, swimming in this real thing I call life.”  These are meaningful life messages that are often lost in fans’ hyped up desires for the next huge chunk of improv.  Don’t worry, that jam will come; but they key to Phish is “the moment,” and these songs are as much a part of “the moment” as any.  Some may not want to accept this as true, desiring more time spent with rocking improv, but those people are swimming upstream, against the natural current of a Phish show.  “The trick is to surrender to the flow,” and these are necessary parts of Phish’s natural flow.

dscf29380The band can also bring us to a place of childhood wonder with their slower songs.  “Prince Caspian,” while almost universally disliked, boasts a fantastic voyage “afloat upon the waves.”  Like a nighttime reverie of a young child, the subject longs for the wonder and adventure of the fictional Prince, alluding to his adventures in Narnia.  Even if you never read “The Chronicles of Narnia” as a child and don’t connect with the lyrics of this song, Trey’s soaring guitar solo narrates the triumphant plot for you.

If you were to go through each and every Phish ballad, you could connect a genuine human experience to each, giving these songs an emotional legitimacy that is often ignored due to their tempo.  Without these interludes between the “Bowies” and “Splits” and “Stashs,” there would be no natural curvature to an evening with Phish.  Countless DJs and other bands can provide a non-stop dance party, but Phish goes deeper into the soul; deeper into what makes us human.  It is this multi-dimensional richness that defines the Phish experience.  If you don’t get what I’m saying, well…just go take a piss.



If you want to kick it to some electronic beats after the shows, the Bay Area’s Symbiosis Events and ArtNowSF are teaming up with The Beat Register to throw down three parties with some eclectic lineups at the Tribeca in Newport News.  Details can be found here. Tickets can be bought here.




I recently switched over to Amazon S3 hosting for Phish Thought’s daily downloads.  In addition to faster and more reliable downloads, a great feature of this service, is that I can generate torrent files with the click of a button.  Therefore, If you have a BitTorrent client installed on your machine, please grab the “Download of the Day” using the torrent link as much as possible.  The torrent link will be right under the usual download link.  It would save me a buck or two if everyone began to use this feature, which would be great since I’m not making any money through this site.  We are also preparing and testing the system for the much anticipated No Spoilers Hampton Downloads, so if can use the torrent today, please do.  If you don’t have a BitTorrent client, feel free to download it the old fashioned way with the regular link.

Why torrent? Two main reasons:

1) It will be faster for you.  The power of a large BitTorrent swarm means you will be grabbing the file from many users – and also from Amazon, as necessary.

2) It will be cheaper for me.  I host these files at Amazon S3 because they are super reliable – this will be key for the No Spoilers downloads.  Unfortunately, Amazon charges me for storage and bandwidth used, so if you can help save me a few bucks, I’d appreciate it.

PS: If you don’t have a BitTorrent client and are feeling adventurous, you could try to download one for free.  Perhaps uTorrent for Windows, and Transmission for Mac.  Or Vuze for either.

PPS: If you don’t know much about torrents, one important thing is to keep your client running after you’ve downloaded the file – that lets you keep uploading to others once you’ve finished downloading



7.11.96 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK DBSD < LINK

7.11.96 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK DBSD <  TORRENT LINK

Europe '96 Poster

Europe '96 Poster

Here we have a DSBD copy of the band’s first headlining gig during Europe ’96.  In between these few shows, Phish would play one-set openers for Santana, prepping the European audience for return tours over the next two summers.  Some of the treats in this show include a rare “Harry Hood” set opener, “2001 > Maze,” first set versions of “Stash” and “Reba,” as well as the UK debut of The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life.”

I: Runaway Jim, Cavern, Reba, I Didn’t Know, Sparkle, Stash, Scent of a Mule, Sample in a Jar

II: Harry Hood > Bouncing Around the Room, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Maze, Lizards, HYHU > Terrapin > HYHU, You Enjoy Myself, Hello My Baby

E: A Day in the Life


138 Responses to “The Contours of Our Lives”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    Mr. Miner,

    Such nice prose, were you an English major? Phrases like “But the beauty of Phish’s slower songs exists in their congruency to the universal human emotions that we all feel.” hit right at home.

    I personally love the slow ballads as much as the jams, It’s hard to dance that fast for the whole show! I really love Trey’s new one “Let it Lie” and hope they break it out.

    You are the man with the new software link for downloading torrent streams, and the faster links. It is obvious you put alot of time and love and money into Phishthoughts, and your followers really appreciate it. I wish you could make some moolah with the site though, can’t you post links to merch, or something?

    What time zone are you in dewd? When I post at 5:45 am est, it says 6:45, so are you in Bermuda or New Foundland? Just Curious.

    Very excited about Hampton No-Spoilers, Just 1 MORE WEEK!!!!!
    Thank you Mr. Miner, thank you mr. hood. I feel good, gooooooooood!

    First Post.

  2. mittens Says:

    I have never understood alot of the hate on the Phish ballad. I thought your comment about the piss break part was a little harsh though. I don’t think there was as much negativity about the songs as much as common sense. When are you going to go to the bathroom, during a Sparkle or a Reba? I guess I could dehydrate myself. Your right though, alot of phans do make it a point about announcing the fact that its a crappy song that no true phan would like and it’s not worth my time.

  3. Baxter Says:

    I never bought in to the hate thing myself. When we were at Coventry, there were so many people I ran into hating on Trey, saying he couldn’t play his own songs, and sounded like sh!t. I loved those shows and listen to them frequently. Wading in the Velvet Sea from Coventry, where Page starts breaking up is just so emotional, you can feel the love these guys have for each other and the community. Spread the love brothers and sisters, that is what will save this world. Be a giver, not a taker.

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    I’ve always thought that if you need a piss break in a 90 minute set, you probably drank too much that day for a phish show any way;) Never been much of an alcohol + show guy though ..

    I watched the Coventry Wading last night before bed .. the breakdown is so poignant, -check out Mike’s bass notes at about 1:33 that really sums up the whole thing.. that moment was an amazing open heart moment that you get from very few rock n roll bands — another reason I love these guys so much.

    When I was a 17 year old deadhead and first heard phish, I didn’t get it at all .. I was looking for the soul and couldn’t find it (not being musically sophisticated enough to find it in hood, slave, etc) .. eventually I tried again a few years later with a tape of caps center 95 (aborted rift show) and the moment I really GOT IT was during Strange Design .. I was in the shower, I remember very clearly, and this strange little ballad that completely resonated with me came dripping out, I remember rewinding the tape to hear it again and I’ve been completely addicted since.

    The lyrics of phishy ballads are so original, whimsical, and often times tragic in a way I haven’t heard anywhere else, and Trey’s soulful guitar solos during Billy Breathes, Velvet Sea, etc get me every time!

    time leaks out, my life leaks in

  5. Billy Breathes Says:

    Yes Yes and Yes. Thanks for the Torrent INDEEDILY.

    I’ve always found it very difficult to leave a set/song in order to hit the head.

    May have done it 1x or 2x, but it’s just too hard on the mind-body experience to think of those few moments that my sould would be missing.

    The entire Phish show is IT.

  6. axillalot Says:

    Great post as usual Mr. Miner. While some of Phish’s slower songs do in fact have great, meaningful lyrics, I find myself moved by the power of the music played in these songs. Trey’s guitar in Velvet Sea, or Waste, is as powerful as any rockin jam. You can feel the soul and the meaning in his playing. Good lord I cannot wait to see them again.

  7. Tofuloaf Says:

    Long time reader, first time poster, but this blog compelled me to type something. I couldn’t agree more about the ballads. I personally love me a contemplative prince caspian. I never understood peoples dislike for it. Some I my happiest and most introspective moments with phish at shows have come during Caspian. Been brought to tears more than a few times
    during trey’s soaring solo at the end.

  8. ma Says:

    i couldn’t agree more…regards to hampton, mountains of the mist in the middle of that amazing set ( 1/4/03 ) speaks volumes…enjoy!

  9. G-Man Says:

    Kudos Mr. M.

    I loves me a Velvet Sea, Roggae, Bug, Brian + Robert (That’s right I said B+R!). The people hating on these tunes are missing out. I was blown away by the Friday at Deer Creek in ’03 and the Caspian in Atlanta (’00 I think) was a religious expierience for those who were open to it. I swear that Trey was communicating directly with the Creator on that one. I beleive the converstaion went down something like this:

    Trey: Dude? (Creator) What’s up with this sound, what does it mean?

    Creator: I know man, that sounds amazing, I didn’t think anybody would find that one.

    Trey: So what does it mean? Why does it exist?

    Creator: It exists to make all of you feel the way you feel right now.

    Trey: Oh yeah, I guess I already knew that. Well thanks for creating it.

    Creator: No problem, thanks for finding it, that’s why I made it.

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    That’s awesome gman

  11. themanatee Says:

    I never understood the universal dislike for Caspian. Granted my phish life began in 1997 so I missd the whole period of its introduction into the world but I always have loved this song for its Narnia connections, massive guitar solo, and feeling of adventure…and i will never get enough of Trey’s solo from 12.12.99 hartford, ct. his standing at attention, i will wait for you, saluting solo.

  12. Jeff Says:

    Minor, my favorite blog yet. A well placed ballad after some shit went down really makes a show complete for me. I’ve often spoke of the Mist at Hampton in 03. But I’ve also always had love for Lifeboy. The Cincinnati 03 Lifeboy was really nice.

    Thanks for the Torrent. I have never downloaded anything from here because I’m strcitly a torrent guy. So this will be a huge help! Thanks for your efforts man!

  13. Admiral French Pockets Says:

    Mr. Miner, you truly have the best Phish related site. Who the hell are you? You seem to be the only one who had the victor disc…. something phishy going on…
    In any case, I love your blog and read it every day. I don’t do much of the DL’s though, for I am a self confessed audio snob and don’t like mp3s. Now that you have torrents, which I will use because they are easy AND they will save you money, any chance of making your daily downloads a lossless format? Like FLAC?

  14. c0wfunk Says:

    I think the caspian hate stems from its simple 2 chord nature. But as an excercise in dynamics it is unmatched. I love the tone of trey’s vocals, so wistful. And the big oooooooooooooooooooooh that mike calls out always makes me grin.. I can imagine how cathartic that is for him up there amidst that sea of huge waves.. Must be a fun song to play. I love the hampton 97 version that ended set 1 with the delay aliens still screaming. Island tour version is another fav.

  15. JMAN926 Says:

    Great post Miner. I have always enjoyed the slower tunes, esp lifeboy and Circus. 7 DAYS!!! Only have a sunday, but can’ wait. And I’m sure everyone feels the same way.

  16. Little Buddy Says:

    Well put Miner! Many of my most “religious” Phish experiences have come during Bug, Lifeboy, Mist and songs like that.


    It is amazing to me how much the Hampton ’03 Mist has come up in these conversations since I started reading this site 7 or 8 months ago. There was something about that night, wasn’t there… It was by no means the greatest Phish show and will never make anyone’s top ten, twenty or even fifty lists in terms of how “well” Phish played. But I have heard from so many people that had a very religious experience that night and I am one of them. I had one of the clearest epiphanies of my life during that Mist and I am 100% positive that I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for that night (married to the woman who was standing next to me experiencing that same night with a son whose middle name is Hampton).

    This site has had me thinking about something for a while. A lot of heads want to argue about the greatest version of this or that, the best show, etc. To me, it makes sense to argue these points when we’re talking about recorded Phish (and I mean live recordings, of course, not studio). But, when it comes to being at the show, and experiencing IT, I really think that it is such a subjective experience with so many factors and variables contributing to one’s interpretation of the show. There are plenty of shows that I have been to that don’t get discussed, but to ME, they were the greatest shows because of the way I experienced them. The Hampton 1/4/03 show is a prime example of this and it appears I am not the only one who was engaged in something mystical and mysterious (but real) that night.

    I guess what I am saying is that, while one can somewhat objectively sit back and evaluate recorded shows and we can often agree on what is “great”, when it come to being at a show, is is a purely personal and subjective experience. The ballads provide as much of this mystical experience for me as the sickest darkest jam. Sometimes that strange design is just as important as the crazy split that came before it (e.g. Niagara Falls 1995)

    If only had the tools that Miner has to get my point across more eloquently… Anyway, I hope that I made a little sense. Thanks for the forum, Miner.

    P.S. Any thoughts to a little Phishthoughts gathering at the fountain like Saturday afternoon or something. It would be cool to put a face with some of the names (and I just gotta meet SOAM and see what kind of state he is in.) Love that dude’s humor!

  17. Billy Breathes Says:


    Let us know how we can help…Miner.

  18. beav Says:

    ha! all the after party bands crack me up.
    its like that one kid who always tagged along but nobody liked.

  19. Frankie Says:

    @Little Buddy
    I agree 100%. I tried to explain that thought yesterday too but it’s hard… it’s like a relationship to the music, the more you put in, the more you get out of it… it’s really strange…

    How about 11/29/97 Runaway JAM > Strange Design!!!

  20. JMAN926 Says:

    I’ll be hanging around the lot and hotel room Friday and Saturday pickin on my guitar – be happy to meet up with some of ya’ll.

  21. Jeff Says:

    @Little Buddy

    that Mist was quite possible the single most “mystical” moment I had at a show. it’s kinda like Jerry playing So Many Roads at the last show. That whole last show was a disaster, it appeared Jerry was literally falling asleep on stage, but somehow, he managed to put all of his soul into that version of SMR. While the Hampton run was far from a disaster, there were cobwebs. But it was that Mike’s>Mist where the band really tapped into the collective energy of the whole room to make that so magical. It was truly an out of body experience for me, and it was the first time I really saw Hampton for what it is, a giant UFO.

  22. SOAM Says:

    In regards to the Ballads-They are very special tunes-fefy,waste, if i could, lifeboy, especially circus-bug wading and on and on.. they resonate more the older i get-I remember so many roads, stella blue and standing on the moon as much as scarlet-franklins eyes etc. I too did not grasp phish initially-didn’t force it after jg checked out and although I had seen them 15 or 20 times through 92-97… I did not get “it” until “Been caught stealing-albany 98-part of the passion I have for this music is the fact that the next live experience is just around the corner-that’s the feeling I forgot-I’m grateful to be excited again-I fucking love shows. these things on my mind.

  23. showhe Says:

    The ebb and flow of phishthoughts is much like one that is found at a real phish show.

  24. contact420 Says:

    I agree with most. I enjoy Lifeboy. The Horse > Silent In The Morning is another mellow favorite of mine, especially the multi-layered vocals.

  25. full tour: announced! Says:

    that shepards bush 96 show is such a treat. It is such an intricate show, with hidden gems hidden around every note. I put this disc on a few months ago and i was floored by just how much i overlooked from this period of 1996. It holds up with the best of any era, if not moreso because of the delicate teases and intricate playing. Seriously, give it another listen and you’ll be surprised at the things that you might find….like scents you’ve never noticed…and many subtle sounds….

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