A Jamming Diversity

7.3.11 (Dave Lavery)

Phish’s creative burst of 2011 has changed the face of the modern band atop a solid, two-year foundation. But their current jamming has been less-defined by a single sound or style than ever before. Each era of the band’s illustrious history is virtually synonymous with its style of improv. The “speedjazz” of ’93, the abstract space exploration of Summer ’95, the fast-paced, psych rock of Fall ’95, the groove explosion in ’97, the ambient movement of Fall ’98, yada, yada, yada. But looking at Phish 2011, the band’s revitalized jamming can not be pigeonholed into a single sound. Let’s take some standout excursions from Super Ball, alone, as examples—”Simple,” “Golden Age,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” “Piper,” “Disease” and “Light.” Looking at these songs as a microcosm of the band’s musical place in time, one can simply observe the diversity of music being cranked out by Phish right now.

5.31.11 (B.Ferguson)

Whether engaging in syrupy grooves and bass-led, rhythmic abstractions (“Golden Age” and “Disease”), using ambient sound sculptures to uplift the spirit (“Simple”) or to explore the dark side (“ASIHTOS”), dropping into intricate psychedelia (“Light”) or that of the driving variety (“Piper”), Phish’s game is razor sharp in every direction right now. The result of this jamming diversity is a completely non-homogeneous sound for the band—something that has been relatively rare in their career. There haven’t been many eras where Phish migrated between such vastly different improvisational textures from jam to jam. More often than not, jams of a certain era boasted “a sound” that couldn’t be stripped from that place in time, such as the break-neck virtuosity of Summer ’93, the Cowfunk of Summer ’97 or the meandering and murky explorations of 2003. But without a microscope on one specific style these days, the band has spread their wings and embraced the totality of their career, drawing elements from every era, while still pushing forward into original pastures.

The spectrum of territory covered in June spanned many new styles while evoking old ones along the way. Bethel’s “Waves,” PNC’s “Drowned,” Detroit’s “Disease,” Blossom’s “Sally,” Cincy’s “Tweezer,” Charlotte’s “Ghost,” Mansfield’s “Rock and Roll,” and “Bethel’s “Halley’s”—all beasts of completely different feathers—are jams that can stand up to any era of Phish, regardless of anyone’s personal preferences. (And we haven’t even discussed the precision and creativity infused in their contained jamming.) This is the time we have been waiting for, the time that Phish is moving forward again, creating original and masterful music on the spot without hesitation.The bravado of the band we once knew has bloomed under the summer sun in a way many never thought it would after Hampton ’09 was announced.

6.11.11 (Brian Ferguson)

It has been a popular catch-phrase these days for fans to say, “Sure Phish is back, but they will never be as good as… yada, yada, yada.” When I hear this I hear people longing for the past, longing for familiarity and nostalgia, a desire for Phish’s to reproduce a place in time that can never be relived—20 minute funk grooves or whatever their pleasure may be. But the past is just that—over; nothing but thoughts and memories. It often seems that so many people are caught up in what the music *isn’t* these days, that they are completely missing what it *is*—which is, quite clearly, the dawning of another peak era. And this time, there are less musical boundaries than ever.

7.2.11 (G.Lucas)

Phish just wouldn’t be Phish if they came back and were musically complacent. The quartet from Vermont has always been about pushing the limits of live music; stretching the walls of improvisation while redefining the relationship between a band and their audience. And now, with sober minds, blazing skills and unbridled confidence, the band will set sail on the back end of a transformative summer, and where their jams will go, nobody knows. And that, my friends, is the beauty of things.


“The Philler” Talks With Mr. Miner: Airing Tomorrow!

The Philler is a Phish-related, weekly “cloudcast” created by three Phish fans, Robert Champion and his cohorts “Electric” Sammy” and “Stardog” Greg. The Philler brings on outside guests to talk about anything and everything related to Phish music and culture. They have recently covered Super Ball and are currently working on a Summer 2011 Leg One roundup. I have been asked to come on the program to discuss the history of this blog, my upcoming book, and about Phish in general. The interview will be streaming on Wednesday at TBA, so make sure to tune in for what should be a fun and interesting conversation.

Previous cloudcasts from The Philler can be found here. If you like what you hear then please feel free to follow the page to receive updates on new programs.


Jam of the Day:

Tweezer > Fluffhead” 8.1.98 II

One of the seminal “Tweezers” of the late -’90s celebrated its 13th birthday yesterday, and here it is—from Alpine Valley— in all its soundboard glory.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/04-Tweezer-_-Fluffhead-1998-08-01-Alpine-Valley-Music-Amphitheatre-East-Troy-WI.mp3] Tags: , , ,

902 Responses to “A Jamming Diversity”

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  1. Kunj Shah Says:

    wow, that article just got me pumped for the gorge!

  2. rocketfuelisthekey Says:

    A longtime lurker here… getting excited for the Gorge and I’m up way too late. Great writeup Miner – as always. Anticipation has taken over in high gear and sleep is way too difficult. Whatever we’re in store (age) for I can’t wait. Navigating the phan sites one finds so many personal takes on the jamz… I’m just ready to be blown away again. Here’s to relaxing this week so our feet are ready for gettin’ down come Friday. Plinko, ambient, groove city, whatevs… IT’S ON!

  3. willowed Says:

    Miner. This is a truyl great piece you have right here. Of course most of your pices are very well done (that’s why I read every day) but this is one of the best I’ve read in quite a while.

    Well done sir!

  4. Jim Says:

    A good point about nostalgia that I realized myself while listening to 12-9-95 the other night. I was able to finally dust away the “jaded vet” in myself when I heard Trey flub some arpeggios in the Albany YEM. Yup, they made mistakes back then, too. But I was usually too loaded up on psychadelics to either notice or care. Just because I notice the few mistakes nowadays doesn’t make them worse players. And the humor’s coming back, too (Bethel Makisupa). Great times ahead. Can’t wait for No Spoilers, Leg 2!

  5. phoammhead Says:

    i’ll third those sentiments . . . great writeup and excitement building like a crescendo . . .

  6. ThePigSong Says:

    Bravo, mr m, bravo!

  7. JMelby Says:

    ” It often seems that so many people are caught up in what the music *isn’t* these days, that they are completely missing what it *is*—which is, quite clearly, the dawning of another peak era.”

    This is exactly the case and what I’ve been talking about for a while now. Everyone wants Phish to be what they want, instead of just talking the ride with them.

    Also love the line; “But the past is just that—over; nothing but thoughts and memories.” I think more folks need to adopt this mind set. Live for today & enjoy what Phish is doing now.

    Thank you Mr Miner. A case of tour envy is starting with me.

    Happy safe travels Kaveh & all.

  8. JMelby Says:

    Oops, that was to read; taking the ride with them. Sorry

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Make it a good tuesday people!

    Podcast sounds interesting. Hope i get a chance to listen in. Keep us up to date.

    2 weeks from today i’ll be hitting a Phish show at UIC! Yup yup….

  10. DryIceFactory Says:

    16 minutes is the new 25 minutes!

  11. jonacho Says:

    After seeing Blossom I commented several times on how it seemed the band could push into so many musical directions. I know this has always been a hallmark of the band – in this era it means jamming in a wide range of styles.
    I think that is awesome. If they still sounded like 97 we would all be pretty damn tired of it by now.
    I am loving 2011 Phish. Set for west coast blast off.

  12. DryIceFactory Says:

    well put^

  13. btb Says:

    Congrats Miner

  14. Beantownboy Says:

    Nice writeup, Miner.

    I also think you should title a future piece, “STFU and Dance!”.
    Applies to so many levels: the talkers; the complainers; and the timers.

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    i had a little problem at pnc and camden seeing what isn’t. this is a great reminder that for the bulk of my show going life i was there for what is. gotta keep it fresh and in perspective. (note: i had more work related bullshit creep into my life as of bethel 1 than i had in the previous 5 years so outside distractions creeped in.) i will have a much fresher mindset come UIC. very much looking forward to it.

    one thing i dig about Miner is that he’s a student. I dont need to fluff the guy, in a way, he’s our everyman and our peer. but i really have learned alot from “taking his class” over the years. when this blog first started i used to write Miner asking him for best of picks and certain types of posts. i never realized that that was exactly what he was doing with this site. combing the vastness for the nuggets and adding context and opinion. the light years between gadiels “news” and this treasure trove of phish music cant really be put into words. glad i found this place.

    enjoy yourselves this weekend and beyond those of you making it out west.

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    good stuff. The range of stylistic intent is what impresses me so much about this period. Adding in the speed of obtaining quality recordings of the performances really has added to everything as well.

    looking forward to TBA on Wednesday. i think I’m free then.

  17. st8 of mind Says:

    Nice post today Miner.

    This audio post brings back fond memories. Was 5th row, right side with the speaker towers pointing at me. I was dosed and thought that Mike’s bass was going to give me a heart attack. It was pounding me into submission. Anyway, a great show that I will always remember. I love Alpine.

  18. st8 of mind Says:

    “After seeing Blossom I commented several times on how it seemed the band could push into so many musical directions.”

    Yes, this show was mind blowing for this reason, really what Miner is getting at.

  19. zach maxwell Says:

    Great write up Miner. I couldn’t agree more. There is so much ELEGANCE in the bands playing right now, and such a diversity of styles that they can pull from every era of their career. 2011 3.0 phish =’s this guys favorite phish.

  20. alf Says:

    appreciation tour 2011

    great piece miner. there are even more directions or styles we could point to as well, from staccato funk to the demented experimental psychedelia of the storage jam, and the sizzling, thick, bass-led funk grooves of destiny, luolma, wolfman>boogie, etc. just a tight ass funky groove with mike pounding

    last day in babylon


  21. albert walker Says:

    Great write up Miner. Good job of getting the hype maching going pre-Gorge.

    The diversity and originality of all the big jams is def one of defining qualities of 3.0.

    Greek Light
    Miami Tweezer
    Sbix Golden Age
    Bethel Waves
    Sbix Simple

    The old pattern of developing a jam style for the year where each version of a particular jam builds on the last has been replaced with this new style of only going big when forging new ground. There aren’t many high quality versions of a jam vehicle that have similar feels in 3.0. Every time they take one big it gets it’s on OG treatment.

    Makes for less longer jams occasionally and times where we feel like Trey is bailing on something good but this idea of only going big in new directions has fostered the high levels of creativity in this era.

  22. pencilneck Says:

    anybody need a Hollywood ticket? I’m to be in effing Columbia teaching an acting fro animation course now.

  23. alf Says:

    great insight there poop g

    i love also how all the sounds and approaches from their entire career seem to be at their disposal right now, and every now and then there are jams that just stunningly shape or combine past sounds into a totally new sound or style

    greek cities: smooth 97 funk but with a tighter, more connected, driving sound

    ball tweezer: part 97 brontosaurus start stop funk, part 2003 uncompressed dirty growling trey tone, all experimental dance party groove

    probly could find better examples but you get my point. so many weapons in the arsenal, so many styles, textures, tones on display, blending old and new

    let’s just hope they continue to open it up out west

  24. DryIceFactory Says:

    alf you are making some great points this morning. well done.

  25. albert walker Says:

    Gorge Sally
    1/1 MSG Sally
    Blossom Sally!!!

    3 very original versions right there

    so many vintage 99-00 and 03-04 textures in that Blossom version. so hot.

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