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. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Portsmouth Gin- as Kayatosh would say, $$$

  2. BTB Says:

    Ha, the only part of the whole “decision” that broke him was the image of the jersey burning.

    My facebook home screen is all F-bombs. All of it. 40+ posts with F in them.

  3. joe Says:

    I’ll eat some crow. didn’t think Miami was the destination. Not really a bad place to have to work when your young and rich. Can’t say that south beach will be good for the practice schedule though.

  4. joe Says:

    mmmmm….south beach or cleveland for the winter? south beach or cleveland?…(sorry btb)

  5. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    Just wondering how long it’s gonna take Shaq to jump on the gravy train headed back to South Bizzzzneach…

  6. joe Says:

    maybe if he’s buying tickets to the game uncle eb

  7. joe Says:

    you’re. where’s the grammar police? I’m turning myself in.

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    GinTelos is the real deal…

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    Guess less taxes meant more to Bron than winning. Go figure. Maybe he can use some of that extra money to go check out those sweatshops in China like Jordan said he would, but never did. Just don’t it.

  10. lastwaltzer Says:

    really liking the end of the ghost from alpharetta. Guess it goes without saying but that One>TwO>ThReE punch must have been something to take in.

  11. halcyon Says:

    Thoughts on “Halfway to the Moon?” I haven’t listened to the lyrics in depth, but am enjoying the song. Nice piano work, strong bass, trey’s whale giving it some sonic depth, Fish driving a pulsing beat. I think its a nice addition.

  12. joe Says:

    too expensive to make shoes in china now anyway bingos. Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. that’s where you’ll find the sweatshops.

  13. joe Says:

    that’s where the chinese people buy their cheap stuff from. (ok, I’m delerious at the tail end of a 12 hour work day here. )

  14. joe Says:

    I really dug halway to the moon when I heard it but actually haven’t listened back to it yet. thought it seemed like one that could really be stretched out pretty easily. Mike/Fish had something working for sure.

  15. lastwaltzer Says:


    Jordan/LeBron/etc don’t need to goto China/Nepal/etc. to know how these goods are being produced, they know. They also don’t care, making them no different then most.

    On top of that they’re making a crap load of money and being as though the average person doesn’t give a shit and isn’t getting anything but product, is it fair to expect them to act any different?

    The symptoms are beat but the causes are even worse.

  16. voopa Says:

    No band, no guests, no monologue…that LeBron Show sucked!

  17. Selector J Says:

    Indeed, Mr. P.
    ginTelos… I like that, Miner. 🙂


    Just checking the Heat roster…
    somehow forgot they have Michael Beasley.
    One of the few non-free agents.
    That’s 4 starters, by my count.

    They’ve got a few non-FA youngsters that could really pan out as role players, too.
    – Mario Chalmers isn’t a terrible option at PG.
    – Jarvis Varnardo is a 6’9″ defensive specialist. Career NCAA blocks leader.
    – If Da’Sean Butler can come back 100% from knee surgery, he’d be able to provide some quality minutes off the bench. Dude was a force at WVU.
    – Dexter Pittman is not in NBA shape yet (and may never be) but he can give a handful of 6’10” 290 lbs. bruiser minutes.

    Heat may need less than people think… It’s almost like Pat Riley had thought this thing through a little. 😉

    It’ll be interesting to see if the Heat make a grab for Felton now. Probably not enough cap room but the Heat are officially a pass-first PG’s dream.

  18. BingosBrother Says:

    @halcyon : my favorite new song, then again I’m a Page nut. Read this on and thought it was pretty cool.
    “The point in space that lies “Halfway to the Moon” is ostensibly the location where the Earth and its nearest heavenly body are united in a celestial marriage. This union of heaven and Earth which can be symbolized by the alchemical symbol of the hexagram, and represents the experience – commonly known as enlightenment – that lies at the center of Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy.”

    @lw : it’s more than fair in my opinion. With great power comes great responsibility and they could make more of a statement with a single gesture than 1000 average people.

  19. halcyon Says:

    Great Stuff Bingos. I like that.

  20. lastwaltzer Says:


    Trust me I don’t disagree with this at all: “With great power comes great responsibility and they could make more of a statement with a single gesture than 1000 average people.” AGREED

    I guess I was just saying that I’m not surprised by the decisions that celebrities make. I am by no means approving their behavior but what would you expect? They are just regular people (especially athletes) thrust into the spotlight, where suddenly their every choice matters.

    While it pisses me off that these people choose not to take stands, I feel like they wind up taking the wrap for these large societal based problems, because they’ve been placed in the spotlight. The real anger in my opinion should be directed at the things that cause these inequalities not the people who are acting irresponsibly and making poor moral choices.

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    “Can’t say that south beach will be good for the practice schedule though.”

    Miami is, surprisingly, one of the most disciplined organizations in pro sports. Perhaps unsurprisingly when you remember who is in charge, though.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    they should give Beasley a year. or part of a year at least. I could see him in that 6th man spot, they don’t need another creative scorer in the starting lineup, just a defending big and a 3-point shooter. But it’s all about the mind and heart with that kid. If playing with that lineup can’t improve his mentality, nothing will, and it’ll be time to ship him out.

  23. Selector J Says:

    Just read that Pat Riley’s trying to trade Beasley to free up cap room…
    Explains why none of the sports experts are talking about him as a contributor.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    Chalmers and Varnardo are two other interesting guys who fit well. Good point, @Selector. They also will at least get a chance to show they can hang. I had forgotten about Butler and don’t know the other guy. But they don’t have any of them except Beasley and Chalmers under contract, right?

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    Riley’s working from strength now. I doubt he takes anything but a great deal for Beasley. If he doesn’t get a no brainer I bet he holds out.

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