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”

  1. vtsnowboarder802 Says:

    apologize if this is a double-post — pc troubles

    gman – mint

    I love today’s blog Miner. The balad’s are all topnotch in my book, yes even Prince caspian. However, I couldn’t listen to Wading for a couple years after Coventry; too much emotion tied up in it.

    When the movie Prince caspian came out, I walked around for weeks singing “oooooooooooh to be …”. I think if my wife ever hears that song again, I’m a dead man.

  2. empire Says:

    one time a friend of mine mentioned that he thought velvet sea was a song about someone being locked up. I thought it was an interesting take on the song and It actually makes sense if you think about it.
    maybe someone the band knows or something.

    First off the song starts of with a police siren.
    then the lines time leaks out my life leaks in, (time is passing life is on hold)

    You wont find moments in a box ( a cell)
    And someone else will set your clocks ( your on their time)

  3. showhe Says:

    I’ll take any slow song except for Dirt…I don’t hate the song, I just seem to always get it at a show for some reason. FEFY and Lifeboy are def. two of my favorite mellow songs and always enjoy Strange Design or a well placed Bug, like the Bug from polaris in ’00, that came out of the mango with the have mercy “jam”.

  4. elbowleg Says:

    hey I’m trying to sell my Knoxville tickets to make some extra scratch to take to Hampton with me….

    Floor, Section; Left, Row 18, Seats 7 & 8.

    I am not a scalper. please don’t remove this post.
    i’m auctioning these off and started the bid at face value. I really want to do the Knoxville>Roo combo, but my wife has never even seen phish and she’s really upset I spent all this money on all these tickets… i got two sunday night hamptons for face value and I bought two tickets to saturday night for $560 off eBay… plus two bonnaroo tickets…

    and now we’re broke before we even leave for hampton…. so I’m doing what I have to do and selling my Knoxville and Starlake Tickets…. Star Lake tickets are LAWN and i am also starting those at face value…

    please help me out so I can make it to hampton and not have to hustle in the parking lot to eat. thanks.

  5. ma Says:

    @little buddy,

    i too have been enjoying this site for the past 5 months or so…as well, i was not there ( did n.y.c ) like yourself, i am unable to express so eloquently like others can why this set in particular is so sacred… i know we’re talking about how enjoyable ballads are, but that mike’s is simply amazing…enought of that… trey’s voice in mist is remarkable….the fact that the song can slow down enough to hear a pin drop without losing a beat is what makes it so special…

    like many of us, jerry’s ballads are what brought it home…. how many times do i find myself playing peter or stella? we are all at shows for different reasons… those who really listen intently too trey’s ballads, like myself and my wife, live for those special moments…

    it’s during these special moments that the last thing i am focusing on are people’s comments and commentary around me…

    “shut your eyes and listen to the colors of your mind, and if you get confused just listen to the music play” are mantras.

    that’s it for now….thanks to ALL that make this sight so enjoyable!

    see you in hampton!! ( THANK YOU PHISH )

  6. full tour: announced! Says:

    my heart goes out to all the people ripped off by that scumbag over at biggest fan tickets.

    This is exactly why i flat out refused to pay $350 to some asshat who had no intention whatsoever of sending people their tickets. Apparently the scumbag used the money ($25k – $30k) to go to the NBA all star game and he also took his whole family to the suberbowl.

    I hope everyone gets their money back and sues the crap out of that guy in court.

    Can the band come up with a better anti-scalping plan for the next tour after the summer? Or is this something that will haunt the community for all of 3.0?
    The idea of issuing tickets with individual names on them like for NFL club seat holders or airline tickets that would be checked with a drivers liscense at the door would seem to be the route to go.

    So anyone considering dropping $300 or more for one ticket from an unknown source might want to think twice. You shouldn’t ever have to pay that much over face for any show.

    I know if this happened to me i’d go postal on that guy, but thats just me.

  7. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    @ full tour: I’m in total agreement. Sympathies abound.

    I feel the same way about Phish ballads as other styles. Some really get me (When the Circus Comes to Town), others not so muc (Brian & Robert).

  8. stasbox Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful and well written posts-

    I just discovered this site, and plan to participate in the no spoilers Hampton downloads! F*cking psyched for them.

    I’ve heard a ton of people sigh and groan collectively at a show when the opening notes of Dirt, Bittersweet, Waste, Caspian, etc… emerge. Even read forums that said anything slow or ballady written by Trey is a load of s*it. Like you, I find these moments at shows inspiring and even cathartic. Don’t get me wrong, I love the exciting and otherworldly jamming, but when Phish brings the light, airy and emotional stuff, they bring it hard and (it sounds cheezy, but you can’t really say it any other way…) touch your soul. To deny these moments of Phish is to fracture their legacy.

    Again, thanks for the Phish essays- and keep em coming!

    1st post.

  9. contact420 Says:

    This is completely off topic…but Charlie Miller has just put out massive up-grades of the Grateful Dead 2/13/70 and 2/14/70 complete early and late shows. The age old source that circulated for years was the 1/4 inch tape @ 7ips, the up-grades are 1/2 inch tape @ 15ips. This is significant! I know
    I’m gonna get shit for this but here are the 2 links for these up-grades of one of the top 5 all time GD shows. I thought maybe some of you would enjoy this.

    the 14th just came up an hour ago

  10. Billy Breathes Says:

    AFLAC!!! 🙂

  11. PortaJohn Says:

    Piss break songs definitely exist but I would never leave during the ones you mention.
    These are my top 3 piss break songs:

    #1. Gotta Jiboo ( the bathroom to kill some minutes of a song that usually drags on too long).
    #2. Mexican Cousin (very fitting with the opening line, “Oh tequilia, I turn to you like a long lost friend. Also a good puke break song).
    #3. Heavy Things (Never been my bag. Never lasts long either so you gotta hurry up!).

  12. joe shields Says:

    thanks for the bittorrent option

  13. Nate Hoover Says:

    I have a 9 month-old son who absolutely loves when I sing Wading to him. Instantly calms him and puts him to sleep. I think the Phish is in his blood…I’ve passed it from my soul to his. I can’t wait for him to join me at a show in a few years. I hope there is always a “Family Section.”

  14. showhe Says:

    Wow…that is crazy full tour!

  15. Nate Hoover Says:

    All of These Dreams & Anything But Me are two of the most beautiful songs ever written. I cried so wonderfully at the 20th Anniversary show…I’m getting the tingles listening to it now.

  16. R1 Says:

    Lots of people have mentioned it in this context, but I really don’t think of Bug as a ballad, or even as a “slow” song.

  17. full tour: announced! Says:

    no one has mentioned “2 versions of me”….i absolutely love that song ever since i saw it in charlotte. It stood out to me as something special. Did they play this song again after summer tour 2003? i hope they bring it back for 3.0!

    “now there is none….no more light from the sun
    Now waters run free…2 versions….of me…”

  18. mosesmauzy Says:

    i have always told friends that it is the lights. in my first days of phish i never even saw the band, was just locked into the lights. and yes must go to the cow fields. go no spoiler hampton. i am excited.
    there is a section at phish shows for people with children? i state it that way cause we is all phamily. i have a 2 year old on march 6th.

  19. Wilfred Brimley Says:

    1st night Alpine 2004, they play Lawnboy and Page stops playing, in tears, walks over to the edge of the stage and signs a ticket stub for someone…every person there could feel the emotion in the air. This may not be a ballad story but a story of the energy that is created at shows…I took a few buddies of mine to Allstate Arena, Chicago 2000 to see Phish and they had never listened to them at all…needless to say they loved the show and both still mention to this day that the energy level of the band/crowd was one of the most unique feelings they have ever felt….So torrent adds to the sound of the recording as opposed to mp3 correct…?

  20. RunawayJ33 Says:

    Mr. Minor,
    I always enjoy reading your weekly posts. Thanks, Keep up the good work!

  21. full tour: announced! Says:

    ^ yes….torrent files (shn, flac) sound better than mp3 for a few reasons. When you make an mp3, it actually compress the information to make the file smaller. During this compression there is loss of audio quality.

    shn/flac torrents, however, are an EXACT clone of the source….thus there is no sonic quality loss. That is why they are bigger files, because they are not compressed at all.

  22. contact420 Says:

    WiLfred Brimley, No that is not correct. torrenting is just another way to download and share files over the internet

  23. Little Buddy Says:


    me either…

  24. full tour: announced! Says:

    The torrenting itself does not effect the music, because you can torrent any type of file (mp3, shn, flac…ect)….

    it is the transfer to mp3 where you lose many bits of information when the audio file is compressed. on Some high quality mp3’s, there is little difference to the untrained ear. Some mp3’s are not the same however. Thus many mp3s have extra digital noise specs and often you can hear that garbled background noise.

    The mp3’s miner posts are high quality mp3’s that always sounded great to my ears.
    I still, however, prefer the non-sonic loss that is available from shn and flac…

    If you ever get into doing trades, tapers/collecters usually avoid mp3 all together. Some people get offended if you offer a mp3 in a trade versus flac/shn. It also boils down to space issues on your harddrive. I personally have over 5000gbs of just flac/shn files. You need lots of room to store flac/shn files, just because they are so large.

  25. showhe Says:

    I was assuming this torrent file would still be in .mp3 format since Miner still wants to save on space and cost. I haven’t tried it yet so correct me if I’m wrong.

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