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)

Tags: ,

990 Responses to “The Phish and The Whale”

  1. Mr.Palmer Says:

    @ Cub- i didn’t read it that way, fwiw

  2. lastwaltzer Says:

    @grateful cub

    its okay you’ve been zannyed.

  3. Gratefulcub Says:

    Liftoff commencing. Goodnight gentlemen and Wendy.

  4. Gratefulcub Says:

    Thanks lw. Plus, I’m on pcp.

  5. halcyon Says:

    will do wendy thx!

  6. Gratefulcub Says:

    2010 tunes for Friday?

  7. Jtran Says:

    Home from work, couple pressing questions..

    -what’s this survey/question talk I saw a couple pages back?

    -watched Bittersweet Motel today with the gf..told her she’d like it because they were funny (she did, for the most part). I told her about Fish’s dress and that he “always wears it”, but a couple of the clips from Europe (not sure if it was 97 or 98) he was on stage in regular clothing. What gives?

    -Another observation I made after they finished day 1, set II at the Went (Went Gin set)..They are all ecstatic walking off the stage, saying it was great, and Trey dropping the James Brown funk line. Real cool to see now that I know that set/jam/etc

  8. lastwaltzer Says:

    NOW THAT IS A M’FUCKING JIBBOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Jtran Says:

    ^^the worst part about him not wearing the dress was that she called me out on it 🙁

  10. MisterChristian Says:

    Off topic for a sec,

    Have any of you played the Facebook game “Typing of the Ghost”? Its kind of like Typing of the Dead for Sega Dreamcast, except there are ghosts coming at you instead of zombies.

    I swear there are a lot of Phish reference words in the game, or is it just coincidence? I’ve seen meat, waste, time, connection, bug, and many more. If its not intentional its still a trip to play for a fan. Its one of the mindjolt games.

  11. lastwaltzer Says:


    your fine just don’t volunteer to fly the plane if something happens to pilot……..

  12. Gratefulcub Says:

    I love a mf’ing jiboo. I really enjoy jiboo, but I cream my pants for a mf’ing jiboo. I’m a child of late 90’s phish on pcp, what happens is out of my control.

    FYI- stuck on Tarmac in line to runway. Newark! Gotta love it.

  13. Gratefulcub Says:

    If I’m flying this bitch, we’re listening to my tunes. Suck it up soccer moms, this be the phish. That’s right, gotta jiboo and keep on drinking tooooooo

  14. halcyon Says:

    I was just listening to the hershey jibboo and if that is the one being discussed, it is straight up melted chocolate funk

  15. lastwaltzer Says:

    @cub, beat shit. I got stuck at the o’hare for four hours prior to camden and then stuck on a plane for an hour and fifteen. Strangely enough I was seated next to a phish fan, I would say its safe to say you are not.

  16. Gratefulcub Says:

    Wooooo hooooo. Submitting from 200 feet off the ground!!

  17. lastwaltzer Says:


    it is but I’m referring to the Georgia one.

  18. Selector J Says:

    Miami Heat are gonna be fun to watch next year…

  19. Mr.Palmer Says:

    I hope they crash and burn, the Heat that is..

  20. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Does this mean Delonte West gets to stay in Cleveland? 🙂

  21. Little Buddy Says:

    What up?

    @ Mr. P – Not sure the Heat have enough anyone else on their roster to support the big three. Should be interesting. They may not need any help in the east though.

    Never liked Lebron for some reason – too much hype, maybe. Can’t wait til next year when the Knicks sign Melo and Chris Paul.

  22. randomreader Says:

    random interjection – i was flipping around itunes and found myself looking at last fall’s syracuse show. Didn’t remember much from it, wasn’t there, but noticed a BBFCFM, which I hadn’t recalled. So I’m spinning it. Aaaaaaand there’s my face in a pool on the floor. Check it out if you haven’t, or if it’s been a while.

  23. BTB Says:


    My hometown just got pooped on again

    Does this happen to you guys too?

  24. Selector J Says:

    Sorry, BTB. Got a good friend from Madison, OH… I think I might be talking him off a bridge tonight.

  25. joe Says:

    I can’t see anything with the word whale in it without thinking of trey now. msn is the homepage of the computer here and it had some story about a whale. instant association with trey in my mind.

    awesome story fromthetub. Do you get some kind of pass to get all the camera angles or do you just kind of walk around like you belong? they came out awesome as usual.

Leave a Reply