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. Completely Says:

    or who knows

    Riley may have decided Beasley is just too much of a head case to deal with

  2. BingosBrother Says:

    @lw : neither am I surprised and it is symptomatic of a larger problem. But I am not going to let it go unsaid. I don’t care how many fixed NBA championships you win, you’ll never be a winner until you are helping instead of hurting your fellow man.

  3. Gratefulcub Says:

    Charlotte yem is off the charts good. Great music to land to. Home sweet home.

  4. Selector J Says:

    Yea, now that I think about it, if he were to stay, I think you’re right about the 6th man spot for Beasley. Need another true post player, especially defensively. Can’t have everyone facing the basket on offense either.

    Pittman was the center here at Texas. Huge dude that lost like 50 lbs. to get down to 290. Dominated a few games but disappeared in three times as many. Averaged 20 min/g.

    I also read that one of the guys trying out as an unsigned pick down in Miami is Scheyer from Duke. If that guy doesn’t have ‘the next Steve Kerr’ written all over him… 😉

  5. flarrdogg Says:

    I think they move Beasley for a banger down low.

    Sad day for the Cleve.

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    what you say is certainly true @bingos

    but at the same time I just don’t want to try to make people carry the weight of my judgments, you know? everyone’s just livin’ their life.

    re: synchronicity

    I wasn’t actually kidding completely about the conspiracy

    viewed from one angle, synchronicity is a conspiracy on your behalf by the universe to alert you to the fact that the surface you see everyday is not all there is. that is, synchronicity is the canary in the coal mine of so-called reality; a wake-up call inviting you to look deeper for the hidden variables.

    Many seeming synchronicities can be unmasked as mere coincidence…but not all. If you just read a book with a lot of 23s in it, that sounds like Illuminatus, and if it was, I certainly can’t explain synchronicity any better than that book does. The Law of Fives in particular is essentially a master’s thesis on the subject.

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    re: Beasley – you need a bench scorer for when Wade and LBJ are sitting, right? Who are you going to get with more possible upside than him? Unless, as I said, Riley has decided he can’t be motivated, in which case he’ll drop the axe on him regardless. Seems like it would be worth giving him a shot in the new lineup, but I don’t know what the Heat org has seen from him behind the scenes.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’m still flipping back and forth every 5 minutes between “with a couple more Pat Riley moves this could totally work and bring home more trophies than a Viking war party in Quaker country” and “this thing is a death ship, doomed before it sets sail and destined to go down in history as one of the worst ideas in pro sports history”

  9. Selector J Says:

    I like that thinking Mr. C. Beasley could definitely give a lift off the bench offensively as other teams are gonna be stretched on defense even with just 2/3 of the Miami Thrice on the floor.
    I wonder how much cap $ the Thrice are gonna let Miami play with. This roster filling game adds some extra intrigue.

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    there are two main errors I notice when people are thinking about synchronicity

    if you dismiss all seeming synchronicities as mere coincidence, you probably need to be a little more open minded…

    if you think all seeming synchronicities are meaningful messages from the universe and there is no such thing as coincidence, you probably need to dial it back in just a little

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    OK, new shared folder “Shakti” exists here:

    contains 3 things, or will when they finish uploading in 5 minutes:

    “Shakti with John McLaughlin” – the original, live album, released in ’75. The absolute shit IMO. Don’t let the slow, spacy lead-ins fool you; that’s an old Indian trick.

    “A Handful of Beauty” – followup live album from ’76. Not as mindblowing, but great. Check out the demented look on John’s face on the album cover! Priceless.

    There’s a third album…it’s good but not as good…I will upload it if anyone really wants it.

    The third thing is a Remember Shakti show from ’03 here in PDX. Remember Shakti is the re-formed group, with John and Zakir and two new guys…who I have to say, are fucking excellent, and maybe even a little more to my taste than the OG lineup. But, even though John can still shred, it’s not like ’75. The files are FLACs, it’s an AUD – a very VERY sick, super clean audience recording made by my buddy I was sitting with at the show, which was a real peak experience for me….this show has been in my mediafire forever but I haven’t mentioned it in awhile, so I thought I’d move it in here.


    If you’re interested in Indian fusion music AT ALL, or just uber-virtuoso acoustic guitar work, check out that first album.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    sorry, correction – “Handful of Beauty” is a studio album, not live like the first one.

  13. dognamedwilson Says:

    I agree, Mr. C, I recently heard someone say, “I don’t believe in coincidence” and thought that was just asbsurd.

    If there is no coincidence, then there is no free will, and we are merely the products of some predetermined destiny.

    I’ve had way too many ‘syncronicity’ moments or (oh shit, what’s that word?) moments to buy that.

  14. dognamedwilson Says:

    Sereditpity! That’s the word.

    I’m not sure there no such thing as destiny, though. Prolly somewhere in between.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    i suspect karma is a more accurate concept than destiny

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    If I’m going to buy one post-2000 MMW album, which one should it be?

  17. brother Says:

    4 championships in miami is worth less to me than 2 would have been in cleveland. this move shows exactly who lebron is…unfortunately. he tanked inexplicably in the playoffs, then runs to miami for the super team. you think jordan would have done that? kobe? hell no. my town, my team, my rings, my legacy. but i’m from ohio so what do i know, i’m just biased. you suck lebron, go ahead and get your rings i guess. hope LA kicks your ass next year (god i can’t believe i just said that).

  18. BrandonKayda Says:

    @C I really dug Radiolarians III – but I may not be the most knowledged in MMW

  19. brother Says:

    btw, watch out for the THUNDER next year. young. hungry. good. with a real superstar.

  20. YborCity Says:

    Just found/downloaded that Ambiance 98 compilation… diggin’ hard on that shit

    if anyone wants to download:

  21. YborCity Says:

    I don’t know how I missed the boat on the Wipe Out set from fall 98, but it’s so super awesome!

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    @brother – I’m 100% with you on OKC. Not sure they’re ready to make a push as soon as next year but over the next 2-5, watch out

    as for LBJ…I’m not from Ohio so I have no emotional investment. I have to say it does seem to me like Danny Ferry and the Cavs pretty much failed to get it done in terms of giving him the right kinds of really quality help.

    Would Bosh have been enough…? I don’t think so. I don’t think the Cavs were winning any titles with LBJ. I think they hit their ceiling this year.

    I don’t blame him for leaving. The whole emotional circus…I’m just not really buying any of it. I don’t blame Cavs fans for feeling that way. Not at all.

    But I do think he had to go if he wants to win.

    And, you know, maybe it’s to his credit that he realizes he needs a guy like D-Wade to get it done. We want him to be Kobe or MJ. And that’s his marketing image. But I don’t think it’s really who he is…

  23. BrandonKayda Says:

    So I think I might be planning a little “set” for class next year at some point. I’m thinking about doing a melody of popular songs that follow the exact same chord progression (I-V-vi-IV) if anything just because I think it is kind of comical how simular all of the songs are.

    I think I might be playing/singing maybe a verse or chorus from each of these tunes on piano. I really don’t know some of them lyrically so well, because I don’t listen to any of this, but what I have so far is:

    Don’t Stop Believin’->Let It Be->Where Is The Love?->She Will Be Loved->Poker Face*->Farmhouse->Somewhere Over The Rainbow->Hey Jude^

    * = (I-vi-IV-V) – a little variation
    ^ = (not connected to the progression, but it is a fun little tune to play/wrap things up)

    Anyhow, I’m just considering doing this because i find it so funny that all of these huge hits are the same damn song repeated verbatim with different lyrics. That was a fun way to spend an hour for sure.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Ybor – love that set! Best Weekapaug ever? Certainly my favorite! and Sanity/Buffalo Bill, doesn’t get any better mid-second-set “cooldown” wise than that!

    @BK – thanks! FWIW, I prefer my MMW on the funky tip…I like the jazzier side too but I think the groove makes them stand out from the crowd more

  25. BrandonKayda Says:

    Farmhouse, Let It Be, Hey Jude, and Somewhere Over The Rainbow are the only songs where I’ve heard them enough to know them well. The rest I’m just kind of winging it. It’ll be pretty funny regardless

Leave a Reply