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. zzyzx Says:

    J3r- that tease was labeled on the morning after the show. READ THE BOOK! Do you think we argue endlessly over this stuff for our health!??!

  2. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Possum has been a big fast forward tune for me lately. So i guess i’ll go check out 7/3. I enjoy it when i’m at a show, not so much on playback.

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’m with you, Palmer – but it’s a standout

  4. snowbank Says:

    I was thinking about changing question #3 from:
    Which jam(s) did “IT” for you? Ya know, where you got da hose. You can choose as many as you want…

    Which songs should be on the Leg 1 highlight reel?


  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’d stick with what you have or add a question

    version 2 is much broader – Time Loves a Hero was awesome and will certainly is on the faves mix but I couldn’t call it Hosey or even transcendent in general – just kickass

  6. Gavinsdad Says:

    Little Feat owned that lopey tune (soph year in college special for me) but damn if fishman didn’t get right down in the belly of the pocket of that TLAH and give it a pimpstrut.

  7. angryjoggerz Says:

    Hey C, looking forward to that Shakti, thanks in advance.

  8. jay Says:

    Scumbags –

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’ve been saying it and am not going to stop

    that’s a slinky tune and harder to rip than it sounds

    kudos to phish for killing all those tricky one shot wonders

    ======= also =======


  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    @aj I’ll up the Shakti when I get home later on, probably after 8 or 9 pacific time

  11. Gavinsdad Says:

    The Curtain (with mountains) in telly

  12. Mr.Palmer Says:

    7/3 set II might be my favorite second set. I need a redo on that survey!!!

  13. Robear Says:

    it will kind of be a laugher if LeBroom does sign with the Heat. The leader of the free agents, scheduling a press conference to say he’s following Wade and Bosh to Miami.

  14. Robear Says:

    Palmer, that set is drum tight on listen back. more and more impressed with the ‘tweezer>slave’ each time..

  15. joe Says:

    gets my vote for the best 40 second sustained note of tour.

    @robear. another good point about why he isn’t going to Miami.

  16. BrandonKayda Says:

    So I just spent 45mins screwing around on the piano with I-V-vi-IV and I-iv-IV-V progressions – these basically can play every popular song ever played. It’s pretty incredible how many songs are comprised of the exact same chord progression/chords (Don’t Stop Believin’, Let It Be, Farmhouse, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, etc etc the list never ends)

    I found that interesting atleast… 🙂 Ridiculous

  17. kayatosh Says:

    i’ll second the 7/3 second set love. best wteezer of tour for me.

    want to give a shout out to 6/13 drowned and YEM — $$$. And a $$$ bold as love encore taboot.

  18. Guyute711 Says:

    Man, this Gin from 7/3 sure doesn’t suck!

  19. albert walker Says:

    How nasty is this jibboo

    Trey just grooves on the rhythm for the first couple times through

    Vamps it out old school before he jumps in

    Tight as fish mike bombs page killin the grand

    Love this
    Ripping tight phish

  20. lastwaltzer Says:

    just started 7/4, been waiting for forbins>mockingbird all tour and this seems well…..underwhelming, anyone get the same feel?

  21. albert walker Says:

    It sucked

    Set started at camel walk

    Still a little fun live

  22. joe Says:

    re: forbins. I didn’t think it was as bad as you guys, but my standards for that stuff is pretty low. I still love the tune so it might be a nostalgia trip that makes me tolerate any version of it.

    re: Jibboo. the end (last 3rd maybe) is pure fire. set ending treatment and then some.

  23. Robear Says:

    lw, the place was underwhelmed. it was a nice attempt by the team.

    In 6 shows,

    I saw ‘Jibboo’ open a first set and close a first set.

    Saw ‘Zero’ open a show, and close a show.

    Saw a mid 1st set ‘Fluff’ and a mid 2nd set ‘Fluff’

    Got two ‘Drowned’ and two ‘RnR’ set II opener’s.

  24. albert walker Says:

    Some check passed out when trey releases that slave note

    Carried out

  25. Carl Says:

    without narration forbins is not the same song. I was pit for 7/4 and absolutely loved hearing it but why no narration anymore? I don’t think trey should play it if he’s not going to say anything. Thats what makes it special, right???

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