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. Mr. Completely Says:

    maybe it was the cinematographer, but Empire is a brilliant piece of visual film making in many ways

    particularly use of color…blue contrasted with red or orange…starting on Hoth…culminating in the light saber battle with luke and vader which is all in blue, black and dire washes of red…great symbolism and beautiful to look at

    so much more professional than any of the others…

  2. SillyWilly Says:

    @karaoke activity partner

    I think that Mike interview from last week seems to confirm that the band is, perhaps, more cooperative than ever.

    Or at least, they want to be more cooperative than ever.

    I don’t think its really a case of “letting” Mike do anything.

    So, I think Mike will work to be more creative in a full band context.

    and this can only mean good things.

    But, I agree, Mike is primed to do some great things and so is the rest of the band.

  3. Chuck D Says:

    “Is it wrong to take immense joy at Ronaldo losing big?”

    nope. ronaldo is the lebron of europe.

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Rumor has it Pat Riley just ordered 20 new suits from his pal Armani and 200 cases of hair gel. Just a matter of time. Gotta love LeBron and Co. shitting the bed so far.

  5. SillyWilly Says:

    I totally agree, Mr. C.

    I think Empire is the most “artistic” in the more traditional sense of the word of the film.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if Lucas let a more serious filmmaker create a new storyline within the Star Wars plot?

    completely a pipe dream, but Star Wars is part of the American narrative framework, I think, and it would be really cool to free it from Jar Jar Binksism.

    I wonder what some of our resident film studies students might think?

    is garretc studying film?

    i think purplehumpback is too, right?

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    of the 3 films*

  7. Mike in Austin Says:

    Empire was the most solid writing of all of the films for sure. And it was surely my most anticipated movie of my life at the tender age of 11.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    Oh by the way, did everyone see that they’re starting filming on The Hobbit?

    they’re going to make it a two-parter apparently.

  9. kayatosh Says:

    empire — top star wars movie

    vick — not as good as believed. kool aid being spit out. too short. susceptible to good coverage. they’re asking him to sit in the pocket too long. the threat of him taking off was gone yesterday, allowing da bears to sit back in coverage and neutralize what was billed as one of best O’s in the league.

    hardest trip ever friday night on herbal butter. not a good feeling. melting. lost most sense of body.

    10.30 wolfman’s — $$$. percussive style jam.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Starring Jon Fishman?

  11. garretc Says:


    Not me, I’m using my time in college studying economics to prepare myself for a real job, should I actually decide to get one…

    Economics: the most interesting of the practical majors!

    I believe DF may be a film student, and you’re right about purple being one.

    Also, I’m super stoked on the Hobbit

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    Random thought of the day:

    The University of South Florida will become a football powerhouse.

    Maybe in 5, 10, 15 years. But, I think it will happen.

    They’ll follow the mold of other warm weather upstarts like TCU.

    Annnnnd, similar to a trio of warm weather upstarts from the same state about 30 years ago.

    Florida St.

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    Word, GarretC

    I’ve only started to begin studying the theoretical side of economics.

    Do you get much theory? (Im completely ignorant of what an economic degree entails)

    I’ve been reading some Schumpeter (who is kind of a dick, but he had a realistic conception of democracy)

    and some Kayek (a bigger dick)

    Law and Economics was all the rage about 25 yrs ago in legal theory.

    But, thank god, they got over it.

  14. JeffieM Says:

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    @DF or whoever? – thank you for reminder on Cliff Ball SOAM, sparkle>free. that is some dar/nkness right there.

    @kaya t – funny, i engaged in the cookies (CO diesel butter) on Sat nite and thought they might really be coming to get me for about 10 mins then they backed off.

  16. joechip Says:

    Amherst Tweezer is excellent. Great cooperative playing. Beautiful offerings by Page in the jam, first on the grand, then the Rhodes, then back to the grand for the peak. I mentioned this before, but Trey makes his entrance in the jam at around 7:45 with some very tasteful use of the “whale” that has a dobro-like hawaiian sound…pure gold. Very subtle and effective. The “wind-down” is really nicely executed.

    I was in attendance and regret to say that the version sort of slipped by me at the time, there were some obnoxious talkers next to me on the floor and by the time I relocated the jam was half-over. One of those versions that hangs together so well, it rewards an attentive listen big time.

  17. garretc Says:


    Well, I’m only in the introductory economics right now, being a poli-sci major last year, so everything has been really bare bones basics thus far. Simple market relationship type stuff in the micro section, basic concepts in macro. Next year I’ll be taking upper level courses, which can either be more theoretical/conceptual focused or heavily math focused, which relies a lot on statistical methods, trend lines, empirical variables, things like that.

    I’m not sure which way I’ll go quite yet, but I’ve so far found the general vagueness of math-less theory to be a bit frustrating, so I’m thinking maybe math-heavier…

  18. Mike in Austin Says:

    @SillyWilly Who is Kayek? Did you mean Hayek?

    Wouldn’t call him a dick. He hung in pretty good company.

  19. plord Says:

    I forget the source of these quotes, but when Willie got busted in LA a while back, there was a mock dialogue that went something like:

    Cop: Whose weed is this?
    Willie: It’s mine.
    Driver: No is ain’t, yours is in the glove box.
    Drummer: No, mine’s in the glove box, Willie’s is in the center console there.
    Guitarist: Was somebody looking for some weed? I got an ounce in the Takamine over there…

  20. plord Says:

    I am glad to see some love for the Amherst Tweezer for sure. It struck me as an unusual and noteworthy version at the time and definitely rewards a close listen. That kind of patient exploration is what was lacking last year.

    Phish wins.

  21. SillyWilly Says:


    totally meant Hayek. Im sorry.


    I think the Road to Serfdom got it basically wrong.

    Fascism was indeed capitalism, not socialism like he tried to argue.

    I just think he made the mistake of a not nuanced enough conservatism (I know he resisted this label, but no one likes to be labelled)

  22. Mr.Palmer Says:

    I failed macroeconomics freshman year of college. Switched to political science. Graduated, then proceeded to work in finance for the next 14 years……oh well.

  23. Mr.Palmer Says:

    …. i wasn’t , what you might call, university material……

  24. garretc Says:

    @Mr. P

    But you’re alright (He’s alright!)

    because you got a degree!

  25. Mike in Austin Says:


    I thought it was a typo. I may be agreeing with you.

    I’ve read Road to Serfdom a couple times. I don’t agree with 100% of what Hayek says, but I think his argument was that Fascism and Socialism are the different sides of the same coin is basically correct.

    As PJ O’Rourke basically says in his latest book that in the US, today’s “politicians” feel it is their natural right to be engaged/involved with our “economics” and therefore meddle. The situation we live in today is basically an argument about the absolute redistribution of wealth through a political process.

    The difference is by who, to whom, and how much. Hayek’s argument is that Socialism and Facism destroy the individual. I agree.

    Or better saying, there is Corporate Socialism, and Personal Socialism. They both exist but both are not free-market.

    Whether that is what people “want” or not is entirely different. Corporations want to be protected from the people, and the people want to be protected from the corporations. Hayek is right. But he doesn’t have an answer.

    Nobody can make free-markets work because free-markets create winners and losers. And when that happens, those that become losers, fight hard with political muscle not to be. This creates “politics” in the grandest of all terms.

    I could be reading it wrong though. Although I wouldn’t call him a dick for it. 😉

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