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)


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.




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”

  1. kayatosh Says:

    nice write-up, miner. pretty much how i’m feeling about phish these days — enthusiastic and inspired.

    I like Al’s points too about trey being more in the flow as opposed to an outlier player in the group sound.

    listening to dixie chicken from 10.31 right now. $$$.

    listened to most of 11.19.97 wolfman’s yesterday in the car after a acupuncture session. that wolfman’s is emblematic of the slowed down 97 funk sound. it’s seriously slow before trey hits the jimmi machine gun riff and then they morph into a C&P styled jam.

  2. KWL Says:

    good post aw

    the only style they (or trey more specifically) are not drawing from right now is really the 97 funk based on trey comping with repetitive chords on the wah

    very little repetitive chording by trey, he is playing just about everything with purpose and direction (and a lot of the long jams of 97-99 came about because of this repetitive chording, now absent)

    the drum kit and keyboard were in the same category – getting trey out of the way for long stretches

    that is gone so far in this era, which has meant shorter jams, but also more conversational and dense group improv

    we’ve talked about the density at length of course, but we haven’t talked much about how the absence of this style of trey’s playing is part of the reason for that density…

  3. kayatosh Says:

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

    ^^^^ indeed!

    as fans, we have to be super pumped about the excellence of playing heard in that LF set, too. Page shines.

  4. lastwaltzer Says:

    “we have to be super pumped about the excellence of playing heard in that LF set, too. Page shines.”Kaya

    Its funny when I found out that they would be doing little feat I kept thinking this is gonna do more for page then trey. Keys take front and center on a lot of that record.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    kwl: listened to a little classic 97 phish yesterday (11.19.97) and it had me longing for October 2010 phish.

  6. kayatosh Says:

    lw: hearing a lot more variety in page’s playing, both tone (maybe due to his use of some new axes) and riffs.

  7. Jtran Says:

    Some of that 97-99 stuff is so inspiring it’s unreal. Others I just want to hear AC Stash.

  8. kayatosh Says:

    trey is playing with speed and dexterity (e.g., 10.30 undermind) not exhibited in early to mid 3.0.

    Trey’s playing and the group sound started to get interesting towards the end of Leg I summer into Leg II summer and fully blossomed in October 2010.

    magic wood.

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    I’m very excited about where Phish stands right now, but I’m far more excited about where I’m positive they(and we)will be standing in 2011 and beyond. The breakthrough is so close. I can wait.

    Night Nurse = $$$$ I always wondered how crazy it would be if Trey ever learned how to sing as I always thought it was Phish’s kryptonite. Night Nurse is a major crack in that wall.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Everyone should listen to 11.17.97 today. For old times sake .

  11. thedayman Says:

    11/17/97 has that incredible first set segue from fee -> meatstick instrumental -> antelope that segue into antelope is cash money

  12. TheSloth Says:

    Nice post miner. I think that (my love for 92-95 phish) is why I’ve been listening to so much 2010 lately. For example, I was said by someone yesterday that some of the old jazz influence has found its way back into the songs.

  13. c0wfunk Says:

    listened to the remaster of 2/17/97 yesterday that someone posted here the other day. That jam after Carini (Lucy) is phenomenal . The start stop funk loops that happen midway or so through ..

    Another thing that happens towards the end is that mystical 2 minute space of *nothing* that leads into some super transcendent uplifting space noodles before the final segue out. This is still something we haven’t really seen – that dropoff into chaos that leads into something new and sublime, as opposed to jumping back into a new song. I still wonder if we will hear these sorts of moments again, and if so I imagine they will be scarce.

    All that said I enjoy listening to 3.0 phish just as much as the above adventures and I think it holds up nicely. This masterpiece from 97 does come with a few rough edges ie around the beginning of dwd (same as it ever was) and a few other dubious moments including a caspian closer where the crowd is actually clapping along.

  14. kayatosh Says:

    for me phish truly becomes special in 93. and 93-95 is money. although I prefer 93 and 95 to 94 for some reason.

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    heh never finished this sentence because there are now words to describe the awesomeness that takes place.

    “The start stop funk loops that happen midway or so through ..”

    Think I’ll leave it that way 😉

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    also randomly ran into the david bowie from the roxy release yesterday. Speaking of 93 – I had somehow totally forgotten all of the Moby Dick madness taking place in this one, and a fishman vac solo in the intro taboot. Fun as hell Bowie, that one ..

    This is a vibe back into the music now, that had sort of been lost in that outlying exploration period – that experimentation with form and mixed media artistry.

  17. verno329 Says:

    Will do Palmer. The Tweezer is underway from 11/17/97 now. Might have to take a retro-tour through the rest of ’97 Fall Tour in the coming weeks. That sounds fun.

    And @thedayman make sure you check out the Mike’s from 9/29/99! The jam that they weave in and out of Catapult and Kung and I Didn’t Know is badass!

  18. Robear Says:

    the best of 2010 sounds more like the present than the past.

    another fine write-up, senor.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    10.30 tube — $$$. exceptional things do come in small packages.

  20. voopa Says:

    Eagerly anticipating 2011. Nice article, Miner!

  21. albert walker Says:

    I’ve been thinking lately that this 5 night new years run has the potential to have a noticeable jump up from the previous full tour just like what happened in Miami. This could also be amplified by the fact that they learned, practiced, and performed the Little Feat album to complete fall tour.

  22. EL Duderino Says:

    Nice write Miner!


    Not only is it very well written it builds the anticipation level of tour again in 5 weeks.

  24. Little Buddy Says:

    “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.”


  25. butter Says:

    great piece Miner

    i whole heartedly agree with your current assessment/description of the boys’ sound and stye

    very timely read, as i have been thinking of this a lot lately and you put it into words, as you can, so eloquently

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