One of the songs that has taken a distinct step backwards in this era is “Twist.” Debuted in Summer ’97 along with a host of new songs, “Twist Around,” as it was known then, became an instant vehicle for improvisation. Phish crafted exploratory jams from the song immediately, both in Europe and in America during its first summer. The song continued to be a mainstay launch pad through the 2.0 era, producing such diverse masterpieces as the Island Run “Twist,”(4.2.98), Fukuoka’s Japanese space symphony (6.14.00), and SPAC’s heaping dose of psych-inspired robo-funk (6.20.04). “Twist” was always one of those songs whose dip into the unknown enhanced by the multitude of directions that the jam could take—and Phish often played contained versions as well. With no preset course, “Twist” developed into one of the band’s most diverse jams through the late ‘90s and the post-hiatus era.
But since Phish came back three years ago, they have reeled in the song considerably. In fact they played one of “Twist’s” most abstract modern excursions at Hampton’s comeback run, as the song sank into murky textures before segueing into “2001.” More often than not, however, the band has used “Twist” as a vehicle for contained, jazz-like improvisation. Essentially, we know what we are getting when “Twist” starts these days, and that is a drastic shift from the song’s former lives. Aside from Denver’s “Low Rider” jam, “Twist” has been a straightforward piece whose differences have lied only in tempo and licks rather than musical direction. Today, let’s dip back into a few lesser-known versions that highlight the intrigue the jam once contained.
7.5.97, Como, Italy
This was the fifth version of “Twist” ever played, and it took place at a free, one-set show in a gorgeous outdoor locale in Como, Italy. With their stage on the sand at the side of a lake with mountains in the background, Phish played a sunset set for anyone who cared to join. In this “Twist,” the band builds into thick, rhythmic interplay, gradually seeping from their own infectious funk into a jam on Deee Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart”—a quality, lesser-circulated nugget from a game-changing tour of Europe.
7.29.97 II, Phoenix, AZ
When Phish got back to the US, they continued to push the boundaries of “Twist” throughout its youth. This version—the next after Como—came one week into the US Summer Tour, and showcases boundary-pushing psychedelia. Using his raw tone and soloing style of the era, Trey locks with Mike to lead the band into a twisted, multi-tiered standout jam that is often left behind by listeners in favor of other, more established favorites. (Excuse the windy audience tape.)
7.4.00 II, Camden, NJ
Kevin Shapiro’s recent soundboard drop of this “Twist” from July 4, 2000, in Camden, allows us to hear the jam’s subtle intricacies unlike any audience tape ever did. The band gets far away from the song in this jam, entering a completely alternate milieu and finding a unique theme deep into the adventure. Dark and exploratory while remaining wholly cohesive, this jam is one of “Twist’s” shining moments. Resolving into “Slave,” this two-song combo punctuated a stellar set of holiday Phish.
7.18.03 II, East Troy, WI
When the band came back in 2003 and got into more abstract playing, “Twist,” occasionally transformed into a platform for increasingly dark encounters. In this version, plucked from deep in the second set at Alpine Valley, Phish spawned an extra-terrestrial spacescape that took more than a few concert-goers by surprise. Trey continued to solo over a blanket of dark ambiance, a gorgeous juxtaposition, as he joined his mates in maniacal sound sculpting. Switching to uncompressed growls with uncompromising fury, Red meshed with piece seamlessly as the band smoothly jammed back into the song’s groove.
Tags: Jams, Songs