The Phish and The Whale

6.24.10 - Camden (Graham Lucas)

As Phish rebuilt their foundation throughout 2009, their playing retained a sound rooted in the past, without truly pushing  into original territory. By the end of the year, a compact style of jamming emerged in which the band assaulted their audiences with a plethora of musical themes in a short amount of time – in short, musical density. But as we waited through the first six months of 2010, the question lingered of how this style would be applied, or rather, “When would Phish discover a new sound?” Never known for resting on their laurels, Summer 2010’s opening leg seemed ripe for the band to put one foot forward, and sure enough, that’s exactly what they did.

6.24.10 (G.Lucas)

Trey has historically been the leader of Phish, directing the band’s improv and defining their sound with his guitar tone. Whether firing out machine gun licks in the mid-90s, rhythmically narrating groove epics in the late-’90s, or seething dissonant, uncompressed leads in the post-hiatus years, Phish’s sound has flowed from their front man’s style of play. This summer, Trey honed the use of his whammy pedal, introducing a tone that the community has affectionately embraced as “The Whale” for its likeness to the underwater calls of Earth’s largest mammals. Using pitch bending to reach multiple notes instead of hammering each one with separation, Trey featured this subtler, laid back style from night one of summer tour, and his use of the whale has only grown more tasteful since then. Fusing his “whales” into lighter, upbeat jams like “Reba” or “Hood” as well as darker pieces “Ghost,” “Tweezer,” “Light” or “Bowie,” Trey illustrated the versatility of the tone, and its ability to make psychedelic contributions to all sorts of sonic palettes.

6.24.10 (G.Lucas)

In a symbiotic relationship, Trey’s minimalist whaling allowed Mike to step up and carve out the direction of jams, often providing the lead melody and rhythm simultaneously. Creating more democratic jamming, all band members could present their ideas more readily, while Trey listened and complemented them masterfully. Swooping out of the background, Red often switched gears amidst jams, transforming into the six-string juggernaut we know and love. And when he did, the rest of the band already had vested ideas in the jam, creating a more dynamic interplay, specifically in structured jams. By bending his leads rather than crushing them, Trey’s whaling lent a subtle, impressionistic style, and less in-your-face guitar – a humbler style of play that coaxed his band mates fully into the mix.

This combination of musical factors converged throughout summer’s opening leg, beginning to mold the band’s sound of 2010. In Chicago’s tour opener, the two most significant jams, “Light” and “Ghost,” showcased this stylistic shift that would continue through the month. Many resistant fans soon embraced the whale as Trey employed it more tastefully, and before tour reached its halfway point, inflatable orca whales were being tossed around the front of pavilions in comedic homage to Trey’s new tone. With Mike firmly at the center of the band’s new improvisational fabric, his eclectic and virtuosic chops have never been so apparent. Playing better than ever, Mike has emerged as the silent assassin of Phish, providing ridiculously original leads to virtually every jam. Collectively, Mike and Trey have led the band’s experiments in their emerging sound of 2010.

7.3.10 (W.Rogell)

At the same time, Fishman has stepped up his game, enhancing the band’s ever-changing rhythmic pocket, improving upon what many saw as a drawback in 2009. His drumming has been super crisp, and his unique melodic sensibility – with which he often mimics and responds to Trey’s licks – has returned, bringing another level of nuance back to Phish’s music. Page has been notably down in this summer’s mix, but his playing has been spot on, often comping Mike and Trey, while at others times, joining them in a triple-helix of melodic harmony. Hopping to his piano amidst many jams, Page often contributed a retro feel to the music, while at other times, his sonic textures launched Phish jams into space.

During June and early July, Phish made strides of creativity, chipping away at a new sound that will no doubt evolve as the year progresses. As expected, the band has begun to change again, and in the world of Phish, change has been the one constant throughout the years. While setlists didn’t contain the expected influx of new originals, the sound of 2010 developed within the context of older vehicles. When Leg II picks up in less than a month, it will be interesting to trace Phish’s musical progression along these lines and beyond, as the band continues to forge their path of the modern era.


Jam of the Day:

Rock and Roll > Free” 6.26.10 II

This sublime piece of improv presents one ofthe defining jam of tour.




6.26.2010 Merriweather Post Pavilion. Columbia, MD < Torrent

6.26.2010 Merriweather Post Pavilion. Columbia, MD < Megaupload

Official Merriweather Poster

On Saturday night of tour’s peak weekend, the band dropped one of their strongest performances of the summer with a second set to rival any. “Rock and Roll” and “Tweezer” provided two of the month’s most memorable highlights, while you just can’t mess with “Wolfman’s,” “Slave,” “Reprise” combo that closes the frame.

I: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, AC/DC Bag, Sugar Shack, Tube, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea*, Stash, Backwards Down the Number Line, NICU, 46 Days, Suzy Greenberg

II: Rock and Roll > Free, Fast Enough for You, Sparkle, Tweezer > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Wolfman’s Brother,  Slave to the Traffic Light, Tweezer Reprise

E: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times

*Debut, Neutral Milk Hotel

Source: Schoeps mk4v> KC5 > M222 > NT222 > Aeta PSP-3 > SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz) (Taper: taylorc)

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990 Responses to “The Phish and The Whale”

  1. phoammhead Says:

    Dude, you were at that RAL show, weren’t you?

  2. Mr. Completely Says:


    now stop blowing my mind so I can work

    great hopping Krishna on a pogo stick!

  3. Guyute711 Says:

    willowed, saw the Cleveland video. I think my hometowns video is better.

  4. Selector J Says:

    Allen should make jump shots but he’s one of the main offensive sources for the C’s and therefore a focus of the D. If he goes cold the team starts to feel it. Not entirely parallel with Kerr.

    Forgot about Will Purdue and Bill Wennington. Those guys were no dime-a-dozen… 😉
    Scott Williams, too. (UNC represent!)
    Speaking of which, Rick Fox was from the Bahamas and went to high school in Indiana.

  5. c0wfunk Says:

    damn I would fail that bane question

    I had dropped off the board for a while and came back and everyone was using “bane” in common lingo.

    Anyone have an origin story for me?

    otherwise, nice survey!

  6. c0wfunk Says:

    funny at the exact same moment my wife tossed me the surrender to the flow summer survey

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    C0w- ask Hood when he gets on here

    @T3: zpz’s version of RDNZL is completely ridiculous as well.

    I had alot of fun seeing phish leg 1.

  8. BingosBrother Says:

    @snowbank : Great job!

    Repost from KWL today cause its perfect.

    “the whammy is more of a ‘wave’ style of play, with notes constantly moving and flowing in to one another, as opposed to a more ‘particle’ style of play, with notes as individual entities struck one right after the next”

    In other news, scientists have discovered the proton is 4% smaller than they thought.

  9. snowbank Says:

    @Cowfunk – classic phish synchronisty …
    I have taken that one before. mine is kind of a duplication. On the other hand, it would be interesting to compare our results to the larger community.

    and my goal was really what BB’ers think…

    BTW, Mr Miner, Let me know if you want first access to the results or anything. I don’t want to step on you toes. I’m just having with surveys. I’m hoping to spring the survey with your first “Best of post”

  10. Robear Says:

    ATL ‘Tweezer > Slave’ is a keeper. great, great jam from the get go on tweeZ, and ‘slave’ peaks so well, you can hear a guy yell ‘ENCORE’ when they finish!

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    yeah – I’d love to see the results of a bb survey thanks for making htat happen..

    once you start seeing synchronicity it becomes all you see


  12. Frankie Says:

    I agree Robear… then the cowbell KITNO hints by Fish in the Hood Intro… Love that set!

  13. BingosBrother Says:

    “once you start seeing synchronicity it becomes all you see”

    I love this statement. I do wonder how, why, what it means, etc. if any of you dialed in folks could lead me in the right direction it would mean a lot to me.

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    protons are just getting old.

    @Bingo’s: it’s a conspiracy.

  15. sneven Says:

    Hey BB! Crappy day at work today, home to relax. Wife and kiddo are out of town for the night, so I’z got the hizzy to myself. NO PANTS! YAY!

    Two things that I noticed while reading back a bit re: abbreviations…

    When folks abbreviate Charlotte – CLT, I think of a lady’s fun-button.

    When people abbreviate LeBron James – LBJ, I think of some exotic Spanish hummer… guess we know where my mind wanders with the house to myself 😉

  16. snowbank Says:

    Thanks for the encouragement and to everyone taking a look.

    I am getting the comments and making changes, but you won’t see them till I reset the survey.

    Someone says… “maybe it’d be nice to have separate sections for “i was there” and “I wasn’t there” re: favs – I have a hard time picking the shows I wasn’t at because the memories loom so much larger than the recordings”

    I appreciate the sentiment and comment. For my purposes, I would rather not separate them because it is really about the end result of listening and attending and reading comments, etc. So I decided to steer clear of removing bias because the goal is not to “settle the question of best” but see what people think.

    Now if the favorites come from the most attended shows, then we can use the crosstabs to see if that correlates to attendance. Then the geekery can be fully unleashed.

    Honestly, it’s really hard for me to answer cause there is sooooo much good shot to choose between!

  17. Phamily Berzerker Says:


    need you email for Greek event discourse. I cannot find it as I think we’ve only exchanged notes once sometime last year or is it buried in spreadsheets and I could go look.

    4:20 local time gotta go tune up

  18. snowbank Says:

    As in, it was really hard for me to answer my own survey!

    Thanks Phish!

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    @bingo in my experience it’s best to just follow the number 23

    Other than that – I don’t understand why the world doubles itself up on me. The universe to me is this strange prankster of instant karma. I’m always getting random references twice in a day and then I”ll fire up an old episode of the simpsons off the dvr and it will be all about the thing I was just getting weird references about. Best bet is to just go along with it. As mr. byrne says

    the less we say about it the better.
    make it up as we go along.

  20. c0wfunk Says:

    @snowbank that was my comment 8)

    I totally understand your logic though and had mixed feelings about putting that in there..

  21. c0wfunk Says:

    looked at my clock .. it’s 7:23 bane man said call between 7-8 obviously time 😉

  22. snowbank Says:

    @C0wfunk – I totally took it as feedback and appreciated that you cared enough to make the comment.

    Test survey link:
    Click here to take survey
    I am going to keep the survey in “Testing” Mode for a couple days. Please take a look and suggest jams that I am missing. I was limited to ten questions.

    The last question is where you should make suggestions!! hard as I try, I don’t read ever comment on the board.

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    ok for some reason switching from Shakti to Miles’ Black Beauty has only exacerbated my face-melting issue.

    Guess I could have seen that coming…if my face wasn’t melted.

  24. Robear Says:

    @ phamily b,

    humboldt rob at g mail dot com

    re: ATL 1, Set II, smoking ‘Possum’ with all kinds of nice tension and release. the rest almost seemed like a bonus set..

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    that’s a super sick Possum

    carries second set weight and punch


    Miles just OOBE’d me right here @ work

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