The Magic of Ten Minutes

10.12.10 - Broomfield (S. Short)

Once upon a time, Phish jams routinely stretched past the fifteen minute mark, exploring funk textures and various other musical realms before coming to rest. Beginning in 1994 with “Bowies” and “Tweezers,” but more earnestly developing during the groove era of 1997-2000, the long jam became a fixture at Phish shows. Four-song sets, dance marathons, loose ambient experiments, meandering psychedelia; all of these were parts and parcels of bygone eras in Phish history. These days, while the band still drops jams that push fifteen minutes every now and again, highlights of fall shows have most often been their more compact ten to twelve minute excursions. A growing trend of musical density that was born last fall is now coming to fruition with directed, collaborative playing that continues to hit the sweet spot.

One of the most interesting parts of these compact jaunts is how much longer they feel in concert. Bombarding the audience with layers of musical ideas, these living pieces of improvisation create a time warp, stretching a ten-minute period to something that feels much longer. With seemingly effortless collaboration, and without over-thinking, the band is diving into their pieces with urgency, making good things happen right away. This is not to say Phish is being impatient – they are not – they have honed their improvisational conversations and are simply taking less time into the meat of jams. Playing with a precision and tightness unseen since in eras, the newest Phish music has a distinctly retro vibe while simultaneously pushing themselves into the future.

Fall 2010

There have only been two (non-“YEM”) jams that have reached fifteen minutes thus far – Broomfield’s “Ghost” and Charleston’s “Crosseyed and Painless” – and the latter only got there with two lyrical reprises and three segments of improv. More than ever, with current Phish, time is nothing and music is everything. The most intense and impressive jams of the last five shows have landed smack dab in the nine to twelve minute range, something that is always a surprise upon download. There is no need to list all of the highlights that fit this framework, for they are plentiful and everyone has the tapes. But the point is that, now, Phish can be both exploratory and concise in one jam. Some obvious examples are Broomfield’s “Twist,” “Split,” and “Carini,” and Charleston’s “Disease,” “Sand,” and “Tweezer.” The band has made powerful musical statements in far shorter times, increasing the impact of each individual jam on the psyche.

8.5.10 (W. Rogell)

Trust me, I would still love to see the band drop twenty minute jams a la The Greek’s “Light” or Alpine’s “Disease > What’s the Use?” and I’m sure that they will; it just doesn’t matter any more. Phish can just as easily play outstanding shows laced with ten to twelve minute jams a la Broomfield’s second and third nights. With the intensity of their communication better than it has been since their return, these dense pieces are only becoming more interesting. With five down and nine to go, it will be interesting to track to watch the course Phish jams over the second two-thirds of tour and to see if this trend continues.


Notes From the Road: As the scene shifts from South to North tonight, so does the mode of transport from plane to car. Tonight’s show in Augusta, Maine is followed by an all-night cannonball run to Utica, hence, I’m not sure when my review will be posted.

Recent Halloween Rumors:

Frank Zappa – “We’re Only In It For the Money

King Crimson – “Lark’s Tongue In Aspic(w/ Robert Fripp on second guitar)

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1,154 Responses to “The Magic of Ten Minutes”

  1. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    good point. the more shows one sees, the less it becomes about what you have/haven’t heard and the more it becomes about finding those moments in what you do hear.

  2. HarryHood Says:

    @ Cow

    I’m not sure of exact count, but I’ve seen upwards of 40 shows. For a while though, it seemed like the Northeast shows were starting to getting cookie-cutter, dare I say it. Due to job/life responsibilites, all of my shows have been limited to the Northeast, and aside from a few multi-night stands, the one-nighters were all starting to have similar setlists. At one point I realized that I’d seen Bowie 11 times, YEM 10 times, and you could bet a substantial amount of money that Rock and Roll or Drowned was going to open the second set. Seems kind of strange when I’ve only gotten 2 Slaves, 1 Curtain (Coventry), and 1 Theme to my name at this point.

  3. Neil Says:

    I saw Trey in Utica many years ago and the place was so rockin the balconey started shaking! will never forget that! as probably anyone else that was there.. TOmorrow nite that place is going to explode! I can’t wait!!!!!!

  4. tela'smuff Says:

    Excellent piece today Miner! Brim Light and SC Tweezer are perfect examples of this idea.

  5. HarryHood Says:

    Agreed on the fact that the more shows you see, the less it becomes about what you have/haven’t heard, but when you’ve seen 40+ shows and you’ve seen 15 YEM’s and 1 Slave, it still makes you wonder why that happens.

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    you are somewhat a victim of statistic sampling (i.e. you happen to have caught shows in the run when those songs were “due up”) but also of timing. I have upwards of 40 Mazes under my belt (and have loved every one!) which speaks to seeing a lot of my shows in the Rift era (i.e. 93/94).

    depending on timing, you may have caught more than your fair share of a few songs but that happens to everyone of us who can’t take on the full tour.

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    yeah those sound like a weird aberrations there eh? Always been curious to me how they will repeat a song, sometimes more than one, in a certain venue or city over and over. Like they’re giving the casual fan something to hang on to maybe? Or sometimes it’s like a nod to a badass version that happened in that space before.

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    Yeah Theme seemed like every couple shows for me in the beginning, being one of the new tunes heavily in rotation for a while.

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    today in poorly thought out ideas…

    First BJ Pins

    sometimes being staunchly conservative means you don’t see the forest for the trees…

  10. HarryHood Says:

    @ Type III

    That’s the way that I’ve always looked at it as well…… I’m in the same boat really with the Bowie’s and YEM’s as you are with Maze. I’ve loved them all, but I can’t help but walk out of a show wishing I had gotten a stellar Slave instead of my 15th stellar Bowie. I want desperately to catch that first big Hood of the fall and I know it’s looming with one show to go tonight before Utica. I’d bet my paycheck this week that those opening drumbeats are gonna drop at the end of Set II tonight and I’m going to die a little inside when I see the setlist in the morning. I HATE feeling that way, but it’s the life of a fan who can only see a show or two per tour. Having no expections is much harder for some people. It’s a lot easier to approach a show that way when you are going to see 20 or 30 in a year.

  11. Matso Says:

    I’m a bit surprised about all of this “the jams are short but feel longer” discussion. Although I’ve only seen 3 shows in 3.0, each of them had “long” jams (aka. 12+ minutes), but I never lost the sense of time the way I did, say, during the StarLake 98 Jim. I can’t help but think that the now-established expectation that jams are going to be concise has the effect of keeping one’s perception somewhat in check (or at least that’s the way it works for me). Anyway, it goes without saying that the fact that those jams didn’t feel massively long made them any less enjoyable (the key 3.0 lesson so far is of course that quantity does not equal quality).

    Re: Noodling – there was certainly more noodling in 97/98 and after than in 93/94, but there was also a conscious move away from the tension/release approach to constructing a solo as well. Trey mentioned Zappa in an interview at the time and you can hear how, especially in 97/98, he is looking for a different way of keeping a solo interesting over several minutes (and, imo, succeeds brilliantly). The transition involved more staccato playing and less repetitious thematic motifs (there were still elements of the chunkier “compose as you play” style, but for the most part, especially with the new ‘doc in fall 1996, Trey’s playing became lighter and more nimble, if requiring more concentration). Compare, for example, a Mikes from 98 to a Mikes from 92 for a clear example of this. I disagree that this style of playing is less “cerebral jazz” (per AW’s comment). In fact, to my ears, it started to sound more like jazz (at times, in 97, even Coltrane-esque).

    In 99/00, as the concentration waned, the runs up and down the fretboard became less purposeful and more noodling.

    At the moment, I think Trey is approaching a truly mature phase where somewhat less dexterity but volumes more experience means that he can craft a deeper, more meaningful solo without needing to perform the guitar-equivalent of a triple somersault everytime he’s out front. It reminds me a bit of the journey that someone like Louis Armstrong or the great Joe Henderson went on (Henderson had the same “anything is possible” stretched-out sound in his hey-day. By the late 90s (in declining health), his solos were pretty short but damn if they didn’t feel as deep as anything he’d ever played.)

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    that’s a lot of bricked mexi dirt weed

  13. HarryHood Says:

    Less than 5 shows per year = High Expectations
    5-10 shows per year = Few Expectations
    10+ shows per year = NO Expectations

  14. Mitch Says:

    I didnt read the posts yet but I hope I’m the first one to write this in reply to miners headline today.

    “thats what she said.”

  15. HarryHood Says:

    @ Mitch

    llfa. You gonna make it up to Utica or Manchester?

  16. BeantownBoy Says:

    Mornin, BB.

    Great piece yet again, Miner.

    I definitely thinks the band’s transition from longer to more concise jamming is a product of their getting older and wiser. They’ve come to understand it isn’t the length, it is the quality that defines the quality of a song’s jam. Personally, while I loved many of the longer jams from the late-90s there were others that after 10 minutes I was wondering what the next song would be.

    But, now they end the jams at their climax without pushing the issue.
    I for one couldn’t be happier.

    That and 3 days till Providence is blown to pieces with chunks of donuts flying everywhere.

  17. Mitch Says:

    @hood – providence

  18. Mitch Says:

    the mike shindig was fun last night btw.

    sorry purple about getting carded out of it.

  19. albert walker Says:

    gonna disagree matso

    I still think Trey as far as inventive melodic cerebral soloing and more diverse modal work he peaked 93-95

    his playing became more tonal and rhythmical in 97 and started leaning more on effects and the wah pedal

    for me most of the best lines I’ve copped from him as a player is def the 93-95 speed jazz era. he was taking what he was using studying a lot of the fusion and prog cats and putting it in the rock setting.

    a simpler hipper looser more tonal style is what I hear in the 97-98 years which I also love

  20. albert walker Says:

    I guess both styles are jazz influenced though

    The early era 93-95 has more traditional modal runs and thematic motifs while the 98 shows have the more Frisell style effect driven tonal soundscape style

    I’m more of a 98 than 97 fan though. The super wah heavy rhythmical stuff of 97 def isn’t my favorite year of Phish. Love the more out there ambience of the 98 stuff though.

  21. lumpyhead Says:

    I’ve been listening to the chucktown recordings and they are making me happy. It’s good to hear that it wasn’t just my imagination or the bane…they brought the heat those two nights, BOTH of them.

    I really dig the twist from the first night…once i accept that the jams will rarely be long I enjoy these shorter ones…twist, mikes, disease, gin, stash, are all really dank from the first night.

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    I think trey uses effects a lot to try and reinvent his sound and his technique evolves along the way… the halloween albums also seem to have affected this by degrees.

    What I hear from Trey right now is less cerebral and more soulful, in the way his solos evolve .. a simple thing like playing with the caspian lyrical melody (only time ever?) in Telluride comes across gorgeously..

    Also I’m hearing in a lot of situations Trey falling into bluesy pentatonic rock places a lot more than I remember from earlier phish.

  23. HarryHood Says:

    I’m gonna throw this out there and see what you all think……

    Due to the fact that I wrongly assumed that Manchester was going to be a tough ticket, I made some poor decisions. I put in for PTBM and ended up with (2) 200 level tickets. I wanted to get seats that were a little better, so during the ticketmaste onsale, I picked up (1) 100 level. Just for kicks, I tried another request and low and behold a GA floor popped up and I couldn’t resist. So, basically I have 3 extras for a show that I don’t believe is even sold out. What I really would like to do is just miracle someone in, but the fact is that I’ve got $60 a piece in them and really can’t afford to just give them away.

    So, knowing what I have in them, is there anyone that needs a ticket who’s willing to help me out? Obviously, I can’t ask face and I’m gonn lose some $$$ due to my poor decision making, but I’d consider any offer at this point.

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    a lot of what I love about the cowfunk of 97 is the enthusiasm and excitement and sense of rediscovery. The year goes on and they discover and explore more funk grooves and more of that rhythmic place in more and more places and songs like Tube and Gumbo and Wolfman’s blew up in a whole new way.. Of course they’ll never be Sly or Pfunk or (insert funkiest band alive) and it will always be cowfunk and Trey’s riffs are mostly from James Brown or whatever, but fitting it into Phish was a really cool process.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Also I’m hearing in a lot of situations Trey falling into bluesy pentatonic rock places a lot more than I remember from earlier phish.

    can we attribute this to the Exile influence perhaps?

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