Page and His Piano

6.22.10 (Parker Harrington)

Along with Phish’s retro-sized Fall Tour came many strands of the band’s musical roots. Churning out tightly wound jams akin to years past, Phish honed their improvisational skills with precise interplay each and every show. The four band members often engaged in equitable excursions without a clear lead player, thus the entire quartet could shine in relation to one another. In this context, Page emerged from Trey’s eternal shadow and stepped up his game, specifically, on piano. Returning to his personal roots, Page left many of his sundry keyboards aside when Phish got into serious business. If the band dipped into psychedelic seas, odds were that Page had firmly planted himself at the piano and gushed melodic styles. This trend gave even the heaviest “Sands,” “Pipers,” “Stashes,” and “Bowies” a distinctly stripped down feel, infusing an old-school layer into this new-school mixture. The late ’90s and post-hiatus represented experimental eras for Phish, and especially for Page, as he surrounded himself with more and more instruments. In juxtaposition to those eras, The Chairman of the Boards took a step backwards down the number line during Fall 2010, as his prominent piano offerings became a defining feature of Phish jams all season long.

One example of Page’s full-throttle piano assault came in the midst of Amherst’s stellar “Stash.” Playing quietly at the onset of the jam, he dotted the background with delicate melodic runs. Page comped Trey’s leads out of the gate, providing plenty of space for Red’s audacious leads; but behind the guitar narrative, he began to loosen up by interlacing piano chords with Trey’s lines. The two locked into each other’s phrases and painted the top half with sinister co-leadership. Joining Trey in a melodic switch that reached for the heavens, Page offered lead piano lines that harmonized beautifully with Trey’s melodic geyser. Moving between block chords and dizzying melodies, Page painted the music with maniacally rolling patterns. Never stepping off the piano for a moment, Page brought creative offerings to this “Stash” from beginning to end, building the final peak step-in-step with Trey.

8.10.10 (G.Lucas)

A second prime conversion of Page and his piano came in Manchester’s blistering tour-highlight, “Ghost.” The leadless quality of the band’s conversation defined this jam, as all four band members contributed equal parts for the duration. An example of an ego-less symbiosis, the band allowed plenty of room for all members other to speak, while complimenting each other’s ideas perfectly. Though Mike, Page, Trey and Fish were all at the top of their game during this segment, Page’s fluid piano leads stood out vibrantly. As the band settled into a groove, Page hopped right on piano adding sparse melodies to the burgeoning mixture. As Mike and Trey engaged in full, Page hung right with them – at first offering minimalist backing patterns and then flowing into complementary leads. For a short period he layered another keyboard atop his piano, lending a darker feel to the jam while still keeping the piano prominent in the upper-most layer of the music. As the jam picked up pace, so did Page’s offerings, and he stepped boldly into the thick of the band’s ascending path. He and Trey bounced melodic phrases off each other as they climbed into the most dramatic segment of the jam, and as they reached a furious peak, Mike, Trey, and Page rolled into a sonic ball of thunder far greater than the sum of their parts. Drifting into the ambient-groove, post-peak section, Page is the one that first hits the sublime melody that Trey echoes and turns into the theme of the jam’s denouement. Engaging in game of spiritual tag, Page wound his majestic piano phrases around his own melody that Trey hypnotically repeated, eventually blending into “Mango Song.” Contributing as much to the Manchester “Ghost” as anyone, Page, again, favored the piano for its entirety.

10.31.10 - Boardwalk Hall (Graham Lucas)

There can be no discussion of Page, piano, and Fall Tour without a mention of the band’s masterful cover of Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus. Page’s role in the musical costume was playing the parts of Little Feat co-founder Bill Payne, considered by many contemporaries to be one of the finest rock and blues pianists of all time. And Page certainly did him justice. Anchoring many segments of Waiting For Columbus with Payne’s piano leads, Page interpreted the Americana feel of the album with authenticity. One of his personal highlights came in the piano-drenched “Dixie Chicken,” a song designed to showcase Payne’s piano chops and with an extended solo. Page seized his moment and ran with it, playing the bluesy parts with a legitimate down-home feel. The rest of the band took a back seat between verses as Page ticked the ivories like the maestro he is – and the one he was impersonating. Taking center stage, Page’s piano parts lit up the room through the middle stages of the piece, as other instruments came in with gradual support. Building from his solo into the next verse, Page slaughtered the piano parts as if they were his own. Lending a credibility to the album’s most popular song, Page stood out as the star of “Dixie Chicken.” Following the final verse, Page never missed a beat, joining the band in a seamless segue into “Tripe Face Boogie.”

10.23.10 (M. Wagner)

These are but three examples of Page’s return to piano prominence throughout the past season, and the list could continue for quite a while. As Phish moved backwards into the future, their keyboard player did the same. Playing strong piano parts in the context of heavy improvisation, Page shied from textural backing as he jumped into the fray with his bandmates on the instrument that brought him there. Though Page certainly didn’t forget his other keyboards, the resurgence of his piano mastery provided his most significant development of a transformative tour.


Jam of the Day:

Light” 10.22.10 II

Another piano-centric fall highlight from Providence.




7.8.1999 Virginia Beach Ampitheatre, Virginia Beach, VA

Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

VA. Beach Amphitheatre

Somehow this Summer ’99 gem slipped by the archive. Coming hot out of the box with a twenty-plus minute “Fee” jam, this show got going early. But Phish’s most impressive playing came in the second set sequence of “Birds > If I Only Had a Brain > Caspian.” This transcendent section of music held up as a summer highlight, and a closing combo of “Tube” and “Simple” came as a pleasant and energetic surprise. Fishman’s “Terrapin” encore gave a tongue-in-cheek nod to the stunning “Terrapin Station” encore from the previous year, and everybody went home laughing. In the midst of a great summer, this show often slips through the cracks, but it has plenty to offer. This one goes out as a reader request for Luke. Enjoy!

I: Julius, Fee > Guyute, Dirt, Nellie Kane, Stash, Cavern

II: Birds of a Feather > If I Only Had a Brain > Prince Caspian, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Saw It Again, Sleep, Meatstick, Tube, Simple

E: Terrapin > Hold Your Head Up, Character Zero

Source: Unknown

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520 Responses to “Page and His Piano”

  1. Robear Says:

    oh, and who wants to be an ‘uncle or an aunty’ and do the New Year’s run with us?

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    nope @garretc it’s not in circulation at all….you mean 4/10/70 of course, not ’72…I can ask if it’s in the vault, any of that run at all, but it probably isn’t. Huge parts of 1970 are just missing, though more exists from the first half of the year, before the Bear got busted in June or so.

    There are some fragments in circulation from 4/9 and 4/11 – Miles opened both of those nights as well – but nothing really epic

  3. Guyute711 Says:

    I should be at least at +8 Robear. I have been soccer bashing all day. 🙂

  4. jdub Says:

    I would also make a case for Rugby as sports equivalent to Phish’s style. Not only does the game require a great deal of timing amongst everyone, but you have got to be very creative every moment of the game. It is a nonstop game that is continually morphing from one extreme to the next and back again. Features both exquisitely beautiful athletic ability and raw power v. power. It is much more dynamic than soccer I believe since the action is more compact.

    My skinny ass played it in college. Got my butt handed to me on many occasions. We had an ex football player come play for a season and he claimed it was more physical than football. No pads, no stopping for a breather after every play, and the scrums are not for the physically weak.

    And what other sport condones a keg on the sideline.

  5. EL Duderino Says:

    the 1970 reels are in Mexico 😉

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah @sumo I know there’s more to soccer than meets the eye…I grew up playing it some and have watched it with serious fans many times…I don’t really hate it or anything, I just enjoy needling soccer fans who are legendarily defensive about their sport in general (not you)

    I totally get the preference for flowing action as opposed to stop & start

  7. jdub Says:

    @Robear, I suppose growers have a pretty high usage rate. A nice side benefit.

  8. EL Duderino Says:

    its like watching paint dry

  9. Robear Says:

    g711, you have snail mail coming from behind the redwood curtain.

    and yes, you are well in the + category 2 day!

    soccer timing is so fluid, they add a completely random amount of time on at the end of every game.

  10. garretc Says:

    @Mr. C

    Well that’s too bad…

  11. EL Duderino Says:

    I’d rather watch Tiger hack around on the course and shot a 73 than watch soccer…

    I’m just sayin’

  12. Guyute711 Says:

    Cool Robear. I have a bad feeling I will be sending a piece of snail mail back in a few weeks. I’d much rather hold on to it.

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    well post Bear’s arrest until the El Monte shows in December ’70, very few tapes were made at all. That was something Bear did, and it took the crew awhile to get it together after he was gone. There are bits and pieces, a set or a show here and there, like the September Fillmore East shows (that were stealth patched by the house crew, like other shows that year) and the massively overrated Stoneybrook Halloween shows…

    if someone is really sitting on any reels from 1970, what are they waiting for? Rhino would certainly buy them back, at a reasonable price…though of course the honorable and ethical thing to do would be to give them back.

    Anyway, after May or so, 1970 is a super uneven year anyway. Really, really sloppy a lot of the time. Most of the time. But there are some real gems hidden in there. I’ve been spending a whole lot of time sifting through the Oct-Dec shows that exist recently…I will post some of that soon actually, I’m finalizing a mix…

  14. Chuck D Says:

    jdub, a game of 7’s would be much more akin to phish than 11’s. i’m no master of the game by any means, but a more open field promotes the creativity you speak of. in 11’s sometimes it can get bogged down and the ball stays in scrums and on the ground for minutes at a time. you dont see the fast paced boot and chase tactics or the open field jukes as much.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    you guys aren’t being cryptic enough…

    no wait actually you are

  16. EL Duderino Says:

    I like the Smokestack from 10/30/70 a whole lot

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    if there’s a band out there that’s like Australian Rules Football I want to hear them IMMEDIATELY plz kthxbai

  18. EL Duderino Says:

    I would love a sbd source of 11/08/70

  19. Robear Says:

    I once read a great interview with Miles Davis re: opening for the Dead.

    He says something like “There was a bunch of people, milling around, talking amongst themselves, not really paying attention. Then we dropped some of that ‘Bitches Brew’ shit on ’em, and really floored the place. I never saw white people dance like that. Now at all my shows in the bay area, there’s a small group of hippies that show up”

    ^paraphrased from skectchy memory

  20. EllJefe Says:

    Mr C. I still try Every year to get into the NFL but it just doesn’t grab me. I think it’s cause I still actually play soccer a couple times a week. I wish I could play American Football a couple times a week! No outlet though. I can play soccer everyday at levels from semi-pro to beginner in Sea. Not that my level is anywhere near semi-pro but it’s an option. When I hang up the boots (from my cold dead hands hopefully) then it will be time for beers and TV and NFL. I used to be into when I was a young though. I just think there’s more drama in a sport where every player is a skill player (except the GK, sorry to any GK’s out there) and there’s no let up for 45 mins @ a time.

    WRT to DVR thats what finally almost totally killed the NFL for me. Went to see that Giants/Seahawks playoff game a few years ago. Sloppily played, Giants kicker kept the HAwks in the game (maybe the 12th man too!) But it was some redickerously long 4hr+ broadcast. 12 Mins of action!

    Still trying to get back to that joy of watching the pigskin that I had when I was a teenager though.

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    sure man

    there are some great moments in those Stoneybrook shows for sure. Some killer Pigpen, and Jerry is really rounding into great form, and Bob is learning to play guitar right in front of your ears…there’s just a lot of sloppiness…

    but b/c they (partially) circulated very early as LP bootlegs, some of the very first, in like 1971 or 1972, they have a status to many people they don’t deserve…

    overall I’d say they’re fine-to-good shows with moments of excellence, but I’ve been hearing people elevate them to Super Awesome status for a long time

  22. ReadChina (formerly butterflyeffect) Says:

    reinventing myself here

    @joggerz if you’re out there, sorry i didn’t get back to you yesterday, i posted a reply somewhere earlier but it lagged out because of the identity switch – i am a phd candidate in chinese lit and enjoy my mandarin. what type of chinese instruction are you up to and where? i’m curious

    @C totally agree with you re: football. although i pretty much like all sports played at a high level. anyone who has lots of skill is fun to watch imo. unless that skill is sniping the enemy, and you’re the enemy.

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    “I would love a sbd source of 11/08/70”

    I think there’s a good chance that Portchester SBDs do exist in someone’s basement or attic or something

    that’d be a huge deal if those every circulate!!!

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    Miles also spoke highly of the Dead themselves, particularly Phil and Jerry as I recall, though they found their performance as headliner over him to be mortifying embarassing – but that was them taking one for the team, they KNEW they’d get smoked and approved the booking anyway so their audience would have to hear him

  25. EL Duderino Says:

    I have one of those fan club LP releases of 10/30/70a with David Crosby dressed as Pigpen on the cover…

    I also have the last acid test from SanFran State on vinyl

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