The Past, Present and Future

10.31.10 (Dave Lavery)

A fall tour that spoke to fans new and old fused Phish’s musical styles past and present, forming a hybrid sound that seems to have caught everyone’s ear. Throughout their career, Phish’s music has always grown and changed as the band built upon their past while adding new ideas to the mix. Moving from one year to the next, some elements remained while others were replaced as Phish forged a protean path. A year and a half into their comeback, Fall 2010 transformed Phish from a band on the rise into one that had risen again. And coupled with the defining tour of this era came a new sound of Phish – a musical palette founded in their mid-’90s precision and intensity while laced with the modern style and approach of a mature band on the horizon of a golden age.

If we were to draw lines from this era of Phish music to its closest direct influence, I’d think we’d find an overlap between the years of 1993-1995 – an era that many cite as Phish’s finest. And what better time to use as a current reference point than an era when the band jammed with rabid creativity. Living and breathing their craft in totality, Phish rarely made technical mistakes during this era of drill bit focus, and their jams took a directed route into the heart of the matter. Though Phish’s style morphed through varying incarnations within these years, the band expressed a certain urgency behind their music as if they were playing for their lives. Now, fifteen years removed from the first era of prime Phish, the band sounds more like their mid-’90s selves than ever.

10.31.10 (Dave Lavery)

After their transition to arenas in 1996 and the cowfunk revolution of 1997, Phish music diverted from this mid-’90s style for the duration of their career. Moving into the era of groove from 1997-1999, Phish infused slowed-down, collaborative textures and abstract soundscapes into their bag of tricks as their sound transformed altogether. Phish reinvented themselves during the late ’90s, morphing into a larger-than-life groove monster and closing out the final years of the millennium focused on rhythmic and ambient styles of play. Many older fans grew disenchanted with the band’s direction during this period, while many new fans hopped on the train as Phish shows blossomed into outright psychedelic dance events. Exploring varying versions of this groove-based style through their initial hiatus in 2000, the band rode this wave to the second peak of their career between the years of ’97 and ’99.

Now, as Phish steps into the onset of their next peak era, they liken a vintage wine ripened with age. Able to pull from any part of their prolific career at any time, while simultaneously forging a new sonic path to the future, Phish has more in their repertoire than ever before. Their ensemble approach to modern jamming – a lead-less conversation between four seasoned players – suggests a new application to a paradigm of old. The music of Fall Tour sounded like a legitimate hybrid between the intensity and directness old and the fluid, mature communication style of now – a stunning combination when all goes well. And as the road of fall progressed, things went well far more often than not.

10.31.10 (Dave Lavery)

In a significant step forward, this tour was devoid of excessive sloppiness and aimless jamming; each night Phish had a plan and executed it. Whether or not their plan was to your or my liking was a separate issue all together. Most times when they dove into a jam, they swam out successfully with glowing results. Regardless of what song they played, it genuinely felt like the band was in the moment for each night of tour, another parallel to the Phish of old. As whole-band communication became subconscious again, segues slithered seamlessly and jams jumped down your throat like juggernauts. Anchored in their mid-’90s peak while firmly planted in the present, Phish music became the best of both worlds.

They say “If you don’t know your past, you don’t know your future,” but Phish is a band that will never have that problem. Always self-referential Phish has consistently built upon their former work in taking their music to the next stage. In the grand scheme, they have pulled musical techniques and ideas from era to era, and on the small scale, they routinely reprise musical themes within jams and individual shows: two defining elements of Fall Tour as the band jumped into a musical style that dripped with old-school Phishiness. Teases here, reprises there, segues and musical sandwiches all became active parts of every Phish show, not to mention the superb quality of jamming. Boasting a connectedness unseen this era, Phish navigated jams with effortless fluidity and intent while injecting these pieces with new ideas and creating dense musical excursions. The retro-influence on modern Phish is undeniable, and as we move forward, it will be interesting to watch how the past continues to influence the future of the band that everyone seems to dig again.

10.31.10 (Dave Lavery)

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Jam of the Day:

Light” 10.26.10 II

Manchester’s outstanding version beautifully builds away from “Light’s” theme and into a series of next-level grooves. Listen for the “Alumni” funk reprise that is clearly referenced in the latter half of the jam. An outstanding cap to another ground-breaking tour for “Light.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/ph2010-10-26t18.mp3]

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

10.26.10 Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, NH

FLAC Torrent (etree), Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

10/26 Poster (Taylor)

If Utica represented the people’s choice for the two-set show of tour, Manchester came in a close second. With action from beginning to end, bust-outs galore, and a jam-laced second set, Tuesday night in New Hampshire delivered in full. Second-set must-hear highlights include “Light,” “Makisupa > Night Nurse > Makisupa,” and “Ghost > Mango > Weekapaug.” In a classic maneuver, Phish dropped a top-shelf show right before they headed into their high-key Atlantic City run.

I: After Midnight, The Sloth, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Mellow Mood, Access Me, Llama, All of These Dreams, The Curtain With, Scent of a Mule, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, It’s Ice, Walls of the Cave

II: Possum, Light, Mike’s Song > Simple > Makisupa Policeman > Night Nurse*> Makisupa Policeman, The Wedge, Ghost > The Mango Song > Weekapaug Groove** > Llama

E: Show of Life

*debut, Gregory Isaacs, **w/ Can’t You Hear Me Knockin Jam w/ Ghost and Night Nurse lyrical teases

Source: Schoeps mk41> kc5> m222> NT222>Aeta PSP-3> SD 744t (Taper – taylorc)

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458 Responses to “The Past, Present and Future”

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  1. Mr. Murph Says:

    Good right up. Phish is clearly at a new level and they can only keep going pushing IT farther. Maybe we will be in the 2nd coming of the cowfunk in a few years.

  2. Foul_Domain Says:

    Im curious to know how many hours the boys are spending in the ‘ol practice room.

    ’93-’95 were solid years characterized by tight playing, and a lot of time practicing.

    They must be back to a similar rigorous practice schedule. Especially when you consider everything theyve packed into the last 2 years (learning their whole catalogue again, making Joy, learning the Feat album, etc). Thats a tall order for such a short period of time.

    Damn, these guys are good!

    Morning BB.

  3. Al Says:

    Something happened between summer leg I and II. If it’s Trey’s new guitar nobody knows really, but his intensive whaling which basically dominated EVERY solo from summer leg I disappeared in leg II. His new guitar let him play the notes and the rhythmic chords again. I was really worried about if this whaling might become the future style in Trey’s playing and I’m so releaved that it obviously doesn’t.

    Creativity and confidence in playing the right things is bound to the proper material that delivers the music right from the divine. As Trey said he is “not really playing the jams, he is a medium” who lets out the flow that needs to be let out. Obviously his old guitar had no connection to this flow – to the zone – anymore. And his new guitar has it. I couldn’t find another explanation why else there should be this noticable shift between leg I and II. The Fall tour has shown that this trend develops even further; that new grounds were taken and new segues came more naturally.

  4. Foul_Domain Says:

    ol’

  5. Al Says:

    I still can’t emphazise enough that song versions like the AC Stash, the Augusta Reba and the AC Bowie are all top shelf versions not only for the “new era” as Miner said, they stand the test of all eras. This shows that they are up par with their past and ready to go on developing as new jam vehicles like Carini show.

  6. Foul_Domain Says:

    Leg II kicked off with 2 very big-ticket shows (Greek/Telluride)

    They probably put in a lot of practice hours between the legs (thats what she said)

  7. MikeThong Says:

    Great entry tonight. I was thinking about the zone that Phish has entered and i too realized it most closely resembled 93-95. One way I thought of it was to imagine that Phish had broke up in 2000 but never came back in 2003 and 2004. It seems like we’re hearing the continuation of that 90’s Phish spirit, which would be a bit rusty and unknown after a 9 year break. Where did it go in 2.0? It certainly appeared at times, but something seemed disengaged or disingenuous during those years. It’s as if you could hear the exhaustion or self-doubt, and the result was machine-like, lumbered caricature, or just sloppy. Then again, there are at least 10 amazing shows in 2.0.

    But it’s not just that. Phish currently seems to be interested in putting on a good show nightly, and it is this which takes us back to those times. Because while the attack and polish of modern day Phish is great, the music of the actual jamming is totally different than 93-95. The sound, the experience they’ve accrued in filling a room with sound, the effects, the production of it, the humor: all returned in different ways but there nonetheless. There’s more of a textured jamming cohesion now, instead of the precise riff-matching of the mid 90’s. I miss some of that virtuoso plateau-building, but I also remember its ocassional tedium. I like what’s happening now, and I hope it’s just getting started. I think this is what’s most exciting of all, that we like what is happening now. As current phans, we don’t have to point to some other era to find the goods, the stuff that matters. Phish music is still interesting and alive RIGHT NOW. As someone who missed them while they were gone yet dreaded their return, fearing some drug-addled sloppiness or just soulless touring… what they’ve done is perhaps the greatest gift they could have given: coming back and caring about their music.

    Another way of saying it is that they just sound healthier. The story of modern day Phish is a story we can be proud of, somthing we should hope for ourselves. That it’s possible to overcome darkness, be reborn, receive wisdom. Okay a little corny I know.

    It’s easy to forget that what impressed us the first couple times we saw them way back then was their showmanship, that vaudvillian spirit, the tongue-cheek- anti serious rock which was actually more moving than anything we’d seen, darker and exhilarating at times, and others majestically beautiful.

    We also have access more easily to shows these days, and can actually have a close study of the band be feasible as a tour progresses live instead of waiting weeks and months for a tape.

    This current era lacks pointlessly extended funk jams and basically long jams of any kind, which developed with more regularity in 97-99. But even in the early to mid 90’s there’d be your occasional long jam, and I miss that. I guess my only wish going forward is that the long jam be attempted a bit more since it’s currently almost entirely gone. It’s like their avoiding purposefully taking something for a 30 minute+ ride. I love last years Albany show and I feel like it scratched the surface of a sound I want to hear more of. I rarely comment so thanks for reading if you did. What do you think of the missing long jam? Is that no longer a priority if theirs?

  8. Dbone Says:

    and at some point they started learning and playing little feat. probably too early to explain the summer I and II difference, but definately contributed to the entire fall – and only picked up steam along the way.

  9. willowed Says:

    Absolutely fantastic write up Miner!! The Utica show is a perfect example of this rebirth. The 93-95 style.
    I wish I was there. If I was, I would have left questioning which year it was.

  10. neemor Says:

    Great stuff Miner.
    “As whole-band communication became subconscious again, segues slithered seamlessly and jams jumped down your throat like juggernauts. ”
    ^ Great imagery, givin me goosebumps before work…

    That Manchester show still gets my vote for coolest poster, although my desktop is the Providence psychedelic sea.

    It is a Golden Age for the Phish from Vermont and I’ll keep coming.
    Thanks.

    Enjoy the day, all.
    Hide your kids, hide your wife….

  11. bouncin fan Says:

    Great write up miner

    Perfect tempo

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    very on point post today, miner. one of the reasons that phish has become so much of an obsession (again) to so many of us has to be that self referential aspect along with their ability to transport us into the moment – whichever era that moment seems to be from.

  13. Luther T. Justice Says:

    All of us old timers are always talking about the good ‘ol days of Phish. Rest assured all of you young bucks, Phish is back to a level that could possibly stand with any of the great periods of Phish. A great time to be aboard fo sho.

    Manchester kicks ass BTW.

  14. bouncin fan Says:

    Also miner

    Agreed on brim ghost

    Great version. Probably most creative since return.

  15. lastwaltzer Says:

    Amazing how far they’ve come since last year.

  16. lastwaltzer Says:

    Love that we can now have a discussion about the “most creative ghost” where a year ago we wondering if they’d ever hit it on the drop.

  17. Luther T. Justice Says:

    The think drop in Ghost always has the potential of being problematic.

  18. Lifeboyo Says:

    I am not sure if it’s the change of guitar, it seems a little unlikely, but possible. I started to notice less whaling at MPP2, I’m pretty sure Trey had gotten the message at that point. I guess now that I think about it the new axe seems to have ushered in a new era. Maybe it was like a break up that needed to happen, and he hasn’t seemed to look back. He hasn’t touched the old doc or the green one on stage since. I have always loved the mythical aspect intertwined with phish, and the addition of this larger than life new guitar, supposed last made by Paul, that seems to have a life of it’s own adds another layer completely. Everyone exists in some reality that they buy into, that is not real at some point in there lives. I am happy to have Trey et al, and the world of gamehendge be something that courses through me. I have always fond the ethos of the music, and many of the comments the band has made to mirror my own beliefs. I have and will always feel privileged to have phish as an amazing soundtrack to my life.

  19. lastwaltzer Says:

    @luther

    it shouldn’t be. Just a matter of counting.

  20. KWL Says:

    great, great piece miner, your best in a while.

    tempo plays a key role here.

    nice to see the brim ghost getting some love

  21. Luther T. Justice Says:

    I’ve noticed louder counts since last Fall. Its def helping.

    The botched Ghost drop in Cinci last year had major cringe factor.

  22. phoammhead Says:

    Nice writeup – Thank you Mr. Miner.

  23. albert walker Says:

    This idea of drawing from jam techniques developed over the course of several eras is so key. Whether it be speed jazz, ambience, or wah heavy funk Phish would always have a overarching style that textured most of the jams on any given tour. Now they are highlighting all of the styles they’ve developed and combing them throughout sets or even individual jams.

    combine this congruence of styles with the new full band ethos and you have yourself some $$$$ Phish

    it’s been a long haul since Hampton and jams like AC Stash + Cities, Augusta Gin + Reba, every version of Light, Sand, and Carini, and Utica Antelope are pointing towards the sky being the limit for 3.0 jamming.

    can’t wait for MSG

    laterz kids
    gonna be a busy one here today

  24. thedayman Says:

    listening to 9/29/99 2001 for first time, holy god treys effects on this version are insane

  25. thedayman Says:

    oh and awesome write up mr miner, im so glad that phish has finally reached a new level in their playing. as i never attended any 2.0 or 1.0 shows for that matter due to my age, it’s nice to know that phish is getting back to the top of their game! exciting stuff

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