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”

  1. DryIceFactory Says:

    The start-stop funk in Ball Tweezer is glorious. I cant get enough of it.

  2. Phuzzy Says:

    Very well written piece Miner. Couldn’t agree more. Phish seems to be like Michael Jordan during his last couple championship seasons. Fully adept at whatever they want to do. They may drive on you, cross you up, stroke a J in your face, and then D you up. There is no way to defend it, so instead of nitpicking about past glory, we should just surrender to the flow and be thankful we are here to witness such a wonderful, unique, emotionally crushing art form.

  3. DryIceFactory Says:


    You can add 6/22/10 Sally to that list as well.

  4. Phuzzy Says:

    I mean yeah, what alf said.

  5. SillyWilly Says:

    Imagine a show with jams from all the eras.

    A ’93 Stash, a 94′ Bowie, a ’95 Mikes>Simple, a ’99 Piper, a ’10 Light and an ’11 Waves…

    now, Imagine the Gorge, Tahoe, and UIC….

  6. DryIceFactory Says:


    Throw a 97 Tube and 98 Ghost on that list.

  7. SillyWilly Says:


    “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.”

    right on the money, man.

    sometimes these things only make sense when we can look back and understand through the passage of time what was going on.

    we’ve been quick to jump on trey for horseing jams, but he’s been searching for new ground

    and as he strikes gold he’ll feel more and more comfortable letting things go

    im stoked for the next couple of weeks

  8. willowed Says:

    Don’t forget about our old friends Greek Simple and Gorge Gin.

    Talk about styles. So many nuggets to chew on. Whish I was hitting up more shows this leg. Oh well.

    We are truly lucky!

  9. angryjoggerz Says:

    Must get through this work week. Really looking forward to a week in the mountains with my family, hiking, swimming, fresh air, chilling out, my birthday and two nights of the Phish.

  10. Phuzzy Says:

    Getting bit by the jealousy bug here in Babylon. Although it is cool to “feel” the experience of the shows through the BB, it is tough not being able to “live” it live and in person. Love my wife and kids to death, but, still have that itch to get out there and drink it all in like I was in my 20’s again. Props to all you who are able to make both happen on a regular basis. Helps me realize it can be done and my game just needs to be stepped up.

  11. jonacho Says:

    Phuzzy and all parents – balancing family and phun is quite a trick.
    Both my tour buddy and I have gone through many waves before this approaching tour. Excitement, doubt, guilt, hopes, fears…Making it all happen is quite a feat – and one we know is so important. I am a better man and father for going to see some shows. I get to be a part of me that is essential. But making it all happen is a challenge.
    I have 2 kids, my buddy has 4. To make sure we see some shows takes work – and it is worth every minute of it.

  12. Phuzzy Says:

    Agreed jonacho. I do get my share of local “me” time that definitely keeps me balanced in every day life. My wife wants to go to the shows just as bad as I do. We end up going to about 3 or 4 festivals that happen nearby each year as we can take our kids or go by ourselves or take turns going alone w/ friends. We just need to plan it out better and make a trip out of a few destination shows next year (hopefully). Like I said, props to all of you who keep this as a priority.

  13. bob dylan Says:

    Decided to take the Amtrak back east post uic. Gonna watch the cubs vs cards game on the 19th first. Anyone wanna go with me on the ride or the game? Email me. mitch at phishthoughts

  14. win butler Says:

    Two words:

    Telly Twezzer!

    Someone could post this article over at OPT.

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    @Phuzzy and Jonacho

    the guilt, fear, doubt, and excitement affect a lot of us I think.

    I don’t have a family, but it’s often difficult to explain to friends or family why I have money to go see Phish, but not to visit them.

    In the end, it’s not really about how many you see, but the depth of your experience for the ones you do see.

    and all your guilt, fears, doubt, and excitement are part of the energies and emotions that comprise the whole phish experience.

    and just think: you’ll hear Reba walking across your kids’ college campus on the way to their graduation or having a cup of coffee with your wife 30 years from now in a Northeast coffee/chowder house and the whole scene will rush back and be as real as it ever was.

  16. ColonelJoy Says:


    I never post here anymore…compelled to today. Cal might have already talked about McCartney at Wrigley on Sunday.

    I had never seen McCartney and didn’t plan to. I was already going to be in Chicago to see the Red Sox V. White Sox 19 rows directly behind home plate….Boston rocked and came back….

    Even though I was parched after the game, I figured why not try for both Chicago parks on the same day. Drove down to Albert Walkers for a show….thanks Al! You are always hospitable….then walked with Al to Wrigley to find a ticket and meet up with Cal….

    Bought a ticket from a brother for half face….not knowing where it was and just hoping it wasn’t a faux….walked in venue and was escorted to an air-conditioned luxery suite! Perfect view and solid sound, particularly for ballpark….

    Blown away by 70 year old Paul….unreal talent. God Like performance.

    Was skeptical going in, but realized how much Paul is taken for granted. Easily the greatest musician I’ve ever seen live.

    He is 70!, and his voice was powerful, crisp, and full of life. He jams every instrument always serving his brilliant songs. His energy was unreal! He is 70….it was over 90 in the venue all night….and he didn’t take one sip of water all night! Is this guy real!

  17. Leo Weaver Says:

    Good morning guys! Great post Miner. Our resident King Alien hit the nail on the head.

    When I first met Robear at MPP ’09 we were talking then about how the band seemed to be “sharpening all their tools.” Even at that time we could hear bits and pieces from all their past styles getting thrown into the mix…every tool from the past was getting used to some degree. Granted, it wasn’t the best or most inspired playing, but parts of those old styles were there.

    Fast forward to now and we have a shed full of tools that they can again use with precision and expertise…and they’ve even learned new tricks with said tools.

    The thing that I keep coming back to is “mature”…we can’t really define a style now, but whatever it is, it’s MATURE and executed with aplomb.

  18. fat bastard Says:

    nice CJ! i’m jealous.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    “Is this guy real!”

    the walrus is paul…

  20. Mike in Austin Says:

    Are those things real?


  21. sumodie Says:

    paul is dead…

  22. SillyWilly Says:

    it’s good to hear Paul really isn’t half the man he used to be

  23. sumodie Says:

    joy, thnx for paul recap! passed on seeing him a few years back & have always regretted it

  24. Lycanthropist Says:

    Fantastic article Miner.

    Very well said and truth!


  25. willowed Says:

    Balancng family and Phish is tough. It takes a strong lady to back up this habit.
    A few words of advice for those of you who have these issues.
    You eed to wait for the right moment to ask. My plan to hit Colorado was in place for three weeks.
    I hosted a party for her sister this past weekend. Bitched and moaned about getting the house ready and all the money we were spending. Really laid it on thick that I was working really hard on this party.
    A few days prior to the party, we were sitting back drinking some wine, she looks over and says,
    Wife: I really appreciate all the work you put in for my sisters party.
    Willowed: Thanks, can I go to CO. to see Phish?

    It was like stealing candy from a baby.

    Willowed – 1
    Mrs. Willowed – 0

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