Creativity Cometh

10.30.2010 - Atlantic City (Dave Lavery)

As Fall Tour progressed, Phish’s improvisational confidence and polish increased and they infused creativity throughout their catalog. The band worked an intricacy into their playing, a complexity of communication emerged that pushed their music in original directions. Energetically diving into fresh takes on old songs, jams rarely became formulaic as Phish dialed in their musical assault of October. Looking back over the tour, many¬† jams fit this billing, as the band forged more than a few novel excursions. Today, we look at two of these unique jams that illustrate the revitalized creativity of the quartet.


“Wolfman’s Brother” – 10.30 I Atlantic City, NJ

Phish magnified “Wolfman’s” throughout the fall, pushing the dynamic funk platform into jazzier conversations. While modern-era “Wolfman’s” had proved consistent from the get-go, rarely did they transcend the song’s syrupy, methodical rhythms. This fall, however, Phish began to improvise more earnestly with their once-cosmic launchpad. Sculpting diverging jams with varying rhythmic palettes in Utica and Amherst, “Wolfman’s” was – all of a sudden – more than eight minutes of predictable grooves. No version exemplified this more than the song’s final jaunt of fall during the first set of October 30 in Atlantic City.

10.29.10 (J.Weber)

On this night, Phish began to vocally improvise directly out of the song’s lyrics, blending their “collaborative scatting” with their instrumental patterns. Working their voices into the music as another layer of improvisation, the band cooperatively bounced the jam’s direction off their vocal layer and vice versa, in a total merging of ideas. When they finally dropped their voices out, they were left in a percussive labyrinth. All four band members offered short phrases in unison, twisting ideas into a four-way musical braid without any straight-forward grooving. Their improvisational style grew much more akin to jazz than a typical “Wolfman’s” as Fishman’s ever-changing beats and alternating downbeats stirred a complex rhythmic cauldron. Mike, in turn, played unique bass lines that stopped and started in concert with Fishman’s unconventional work. Trey threw in short, staccato lines that grew into angular leads without ever dominating the jam. Adding harder-edged effects amidst this bubbling mixture, he blended within the foursome instead of ever stepping out front. Page killed his clavinet in this piece, playing the keyboard with varying techniques throughout the entire jam, lending a crunchiness to the music. These elements combined to form a different type of “Wolfman’s” altogether – not groove-based at all, while still fully immersed in rhythmic conversation. In a piece drenched in originality, Phish went with the moment and came out on top. And to top off this stellar excursion, Trey got completely impatient and butchered a segue into “Undermind.”



“Tweezer” – 10.23 I Amherst, MA

10.23.10 - Amherst (Chris La Jaunie)

Phish took the spotlight off “Tweezer” this fall, dropping two first-setters in four total versions without taking any particularly deep (including one laced with a Zeppelin medley). A jam that once provided the supreme springboard into the universe has largely become a vehicle of groove since the band returned. But when Phish dropped another first-set version in Amherst, a differing experiment developed. Trey and Fishman kick-started this version with slick rhythmic interplay that engaged the band in unique grooving early on. But instead of taking this “Tweezer” on a consistently upwards path, Phish ceased the groove in favor of an ambient bridge into a different jam.

As Phish descended into this second sonic pool, they didn’t play within the grooves, but rather danced around them with a series of minimalist offerings. The band hinted at all-out dance patterns without ever dropping into the pocket, creating a differing musical dynamic. Trey gently wove a sublime melodic layer atop this unique musical plane, as Mike offered subtle rejoinders. The band responded with a melodic, smoother-than-usual feel as they eased their way towards more conventional “Tweezer” territory. But even as Phish re-merged with the song’s theme and moved into a peak section, Mike and Fish continued their complex cooperation, stopping and starting all the way to the the top of the jam. Trey openly growled his thoughts within this final section, sticking right with the band in the climax of this unique version. After the band reached the mountaintop, they employed the old-school “wind-down” ending for the second time of the tour, leaving the fresh piece as a stand-alone gem.



Jam of the Day:

You Enjoy Myself” 10.16.10 II

This nasty whole-band jam punctuated Charleston’s stellar finale that sparked Fall Tour in earnest.




“Download of the Day” will return tomorrow. Please email any show requests that are not in Phish Thoughts Audio Archive to

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248 Responses to “Creativity Cometh”

  1. phoammhead Says:

    ask EC about that . . . yes tragedy

  2. EllJefe Says:

    @ Silly from Earlier WRT Nels. Check out any of his “solo” stuff. He’s def in my top 5 guitarists around.

  3. lumpyhead Says:

    Kirshner is why Empire is by far the best Star Wars.

  4. garretc Says:

    I thought that was because of the Hoth battle?

    Or because it provided me with an endless supply of Tauntaun jokes when I’m really cold?

  5. garretc Says:

    12/17/95 kicks ass from the start, doesn’t it? Sick Antelope…

    I think I’m going to be let down in my wishes for a “Do You Believe In Miracles?!? YES!” quote during the show though…

  6. Admiral Ackbar Says:

    Empire is by far the best Star Wars.


  7. garretc Says:

    You shouldn’t give away your position yelling like that Ackbar…

    There could be a trap waiting or something…

  8. EL Duderino Says:

    ROTJ would have been much better without the Ewoks, it should have been Chewbacca’s home planet then instead of waiting until Episode II

  9. lumpyhead Says:



  10. lumpyhead Says:

    and, YOU are what makes Jedi a close second.

  11. Admiral Ackbar Says:

    I dunno Dude, the w00k factor is pretty high on Kashyyyk.

  12. EL Duderino Says:


  13. EL Duderino Says:


    got a minute

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    some melodic and thoughtful Mike G plucking that makes me very happy and free is featured on the Slave from 8/13/96 (deer creek/LP 12)

  15. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Afternoon, pholks.

    If anyone wants to see the athletic equivalent of The Phish, check out Barcelona absolutely dismantling Real Madrid (a world-class team in their own right) right now. Face-melting stuff from the Catalonians.

    That is all.

  16. SillyWilly Says:


    thanks for the rec.

    I haven’t listened too deeply into his catalogue.

    Ill add him to the post-finals listening list.

  17. BrandonKayda Says:


    Thanks so much for that Roger Waters The Wall 2010 link!


  18. gavinsdad Says:

    and if you wanna go random, Nels contributed to Mike Watt’s first solo outing “ball-hog or tugboat?”. it was actually the first time i’d ever heard of Nels.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    Word, gdad.


  20. Chonz Says:

    Love ‘Ballhog or Tugboat’. Pure Mike Watt with tons of special guests.

  21. karaoke activity partner Says:

    They need to let Mike be more creative…. please!!!

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

  23. Chuck D Says:

    your wish is my command; but who is “they”?

  24. gavinsdad Says:

    nassau 03 tweez>fukuoaka 00 twist. gettin ready to get the f outta here. work! bah!

  25. plord Says:

    @Duke thanks for the tip. Sounds like a complete dismantling of a previously undefeated Madrid team.

    Is it wrong to take immense joy at Ronaldo losing big? Villa and Messi are more my style.

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