The Axis of Phish

Leg One 2012 (M.Stein)

Anyone who paid attention to Leg One of summer tour can attest to the incredibly fresh and dynamic jamming on display throughout. Improvisational passages covered insane amounts of ground in a limited time frame, while still moved fluidly between ideas. Though laced with a distinctly modern sound, jams throughout tour, simultaneously, carried a retro feel. The main reason for all of this was the re-emergence of Phish’s central axis: Trey and Fishman.

Traditionally, before the onset of the groove era in 1997, Trey and Fishman formed the improvisational backbone of the band. Fishman had a propensity to follow the ideas of his lead guitarist—an unconventional style, as drummer’s usually lock with their bassist to form the “pocket. Fishman’s co-leadership of jams pushed Trey out of his comfort zone and into original territory. And this unconventional cooperation produced unconventional results—Phish music as we knew it through 1995.

And then came The Cowfunk Revolution of 1997. As the band focused on groove-based playing for the next several years, Trey and Fish moved away from their improvisational partnership. During these years of rhythmic focus, Fish and Mike—with his new Modulus bass—linked up to form the deepest pocket Phish fans had ever heard. Instead of a consistently “moving” in a jam, the band “settled” into funk vamps as Trey, with loops and rhythm chords, and Page, with clav patterns and keyboard effects, painted the top of the music. All of a sudden, the dynamic of Phish music changed completely, ushering in a new wave of fans while many older heads grew disenchanted.

Leg One 2012 (M.Stein)

This summer, however, the axis of Trey and Fish has returned in full force. When listen to any of the jams from Leg One, one can hear Fish following Trey around time and time again. This musical dynamic, not only explains the retro feel of modern jams, but also their density, as the pocket never settles. Profoundly changing the sound of their music and enhancing the adventure of their jams, with their return to their early improvisational ways, Trey and Fish have completely revitalized the band.

When Trey stepped back from a jam this summer, and began to add effects and tonal color, Fish couldn’t fall back on the pocket—because a stable pocket was never there in the first place. More often than not, Fish shifted with Red, morphing into more abstract, minimalist textures, while coaxing fresh ideas from Mike and Page. When this movement happened smoothly, the band showed a clear intent to explore spacier and non-drum directed soundscapes. Many of tours most stunning jams stemmed from these instances—Cincy’s “Twist,” Deer Creek’s “Back on the Train,” Alpine’s “Light,” and Jones Beaches’ “Golden Age” provide but a few examples. At other times, however, when Trey downshifted within a jam, Fish seemed to lose his musical “marker.” If Page or Mike didn’t step up with a new idea quickly, the band’s engine sputtered and lost momentum, sometimes falling prey to ambient fade-outs or abrupt endings. Examples of these alternate occurances—in varying degrees—can be found in Cincy’s “Down With Disease,” Blossom’s “Piper,” Jones Beach’s “Tweezer,” and SPAC’s “Roses Are Free.” All told, however, this new-school/old-school communication has brought the band to new levels of improv over Leg One, and with a little polish, could really shoot their playing into the stratosphere come Leg Two.

The Trey-Fish axis has been central to Phish jamming from the beginning. The quirky and symbiotic musical relationship between the guitarist and drummer has always created a palpable motion within jams—the music was always going somewhere now. That time-warped adventure resulting from dense improvisation has returned in full bloom this summer. Distorting minutes into lifetimes while covering a wide spectrum of feels, 2012 Phish jams are as efficient as ever. Riding the foundation that brought them to prominence, inspired with new ideas, and playing as well as ever, the band is smack dab in the middle of making this summer one of their most memorable yet.

6.7.2012 – Worcester (Chris Klein)


Jam of the Day:

Ghost -> Boogie On” 6.7 II, Worcester, MA

In honor of @RobsGonePhishin, who almost wrecked his car while raging too hard at the wheel to “Boogie On.” Glad things worked out, buddy, we’re glad, glad, glad that you’re alive!

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544 Responses to “The Axis of Phish”

  1. albert walker Says:

    the gifts that keep on giving

    john k doing the vince classic way to go home. solo acoustic.

  2. voopa Says:

    Oh, I forgot. Preggo Beatdown is another great album name.

  3. MiA Says:

    Thanks Mr. C. Capturing some of that what you just wrote. Good stuff.

    Re: DEG, so happy Trey played the actual DEG riff before Alumni at Jones Beach.

    He was saying “Guys. This is what DEG sounds like. For those posting last night that I teased this in Fluffhead. I didn’t. This is what it actually sounds like. Get this riff down, so you know when I do actually tease it. Some of you kids are confused.” should have to put up “timings” for when the DEG (or whatever tease they think is being played) is in the track, not “Oh, somewhere in Fluffhead.” Let us vote on it.

    Like all of us, I kinda know every f’n note to Fluffhead (and sadly ever one that Trey misses and he missed quite a bit in that one).

    Maybe Trey fucking up Fluffhead ascension scale = DEG teases? I think not.

    rant off.

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    July 84 definitely does have some shows that hold up fairly well @jtran

  5. kayatosh Says:

    plunge into miami DS. ghee’d up so it seems appropriate.

    7.15.84 show is a good one. kept waiting for it to get bad and it never did. well it got a little bad at hell in a bucket, but that’s a generally lame tune to begin with. still need to listen to post space.

  6. sumodie Says:

    Mind left body jam overview

    ha, allso see dusty’s related link above

    interesting convo about mlb jam being related to a paul kantner tune that jerry was involved with

  7. albert walker Says:

    john k will be returning here to his roots unfortunately after phil calls it quits

  8. albert walker Says:

    no way I’m getting bottom paged of fake jer doing vince solo acoustic

    the gifts that keep on giving
    john k doing the vince classic way to go home. solo acoustic.

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    that deadessays piece is great though I disagree that the Cina > Rider jam is a Feelin’ Groovy jam – once you change the feel and add a bridge section it’s not hte same thing anymore IMO – but what a great writeup that is, A+ dead nerd work

  10. albert walker Says:

    holy fuckin shit

    my girl’s reaction to me bumpin fake jerry’s solo eyes when she got home from work.

  11. albert walker Says:

    it’s like driving by a car crash

    I know you want to check out the vince track C

    but I’d maybe go with the eyes.

  12. MiA Says:

    Thanks Sumodie and Dusty. Good stuff.

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    @aw you know perfectly well there’s not a speedball’s-chance-in-a-late-70s-backstage-party that I’m clicking on any of those links

  14. MiA Says:

    “my girl’s reaction to me bumpin fake jerry’s solo eyes when she got home from work.”

    “Turn that shit off AW. We’re bumpin’ some Culture Club!”

  15. Jtran Says:

    mia, you have to watch at least one. They’re all great.

  16. albert walker Says:

    the bouncin track needs to be posted again

    not only would I never give a cent to any artist that would ever perform this in public I am all for enforcing the death penalty on such artists that do so.

  17. albert walker Says:

    gotta give john K credit though

    he is rockin that summer ter 1987 look that others have all turned their back on by now.

  18. kayatosh Says:

    1st half of miami DS — fairly routine, but very good. mid DS croaky jerry vocals and then the second half of the jam WTF?!!?– mindfuckery. wooshing and whizzing, gongs, tuba. really dig brent’s contribution.

  19. MiA Says:

    O.K. That Bouncin’ Coda thing is my hell right there. It’s like I’ve been invited to a buddies basement, and he pulls out his guitar and wants to play something for me, that I’m completely not interested in hearing. Than proceeds to do it for 7 excruciating minutes.

    I endorse talking during that music, throwing glowsticks at him, and holding up signs so people don’t have to look at his girlfriend pointing at when the crowd should clap.

  20. Jtran Says:

    I think that Bouncing video summarizes most things AW hates quite well

  21. MiA Says:

    Need some Saratoga Piper to clean my head out after that.

  22. Jtran Says:

    Like the bald fat dude with bongo in the later part of the video. He contributes a lot to the sound.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    ugh. made the mistake of clicking on that bouncin link.

  24. Jtran Says:

    you have to watch it all kaya

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    not cool @jtran. that’s my mom.

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