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!

[audio:,] Tags: ,

544 Responses to “The Axis of Phish”

  1. Jtran Says:

  2. albert walker Says:

    favorite NEW guitarist

  3. MiA Says:

    It’s the 2 girls 1 cup of music videos.

  4. Robear Says:

    So glad I started the Further talk this morning!

    Lmfao at the last couple pages.

    Garretc, spin some tapes, close your eyes.

    Thnkfast, trust me on that Spanish Jam. Enjoy.

  5. tela'smuff Says:

    Back porch Taint Splasher post yard work.

    SPAC Piper – its a jam that gives me something new each listen

    DC Curtain With – one of the best song placements of tour in that 110 heat

    Cincy Sand>Roggae – this show needs to be top 5. Best first set of tour I think, and three distict jam segments with Sand>Roggae as the desert. This Sand is money, great Roggae.

    @Kaveh – I’ll count you in. The list is growing. Hope we can get a big crew. Already working on sound system.

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    the held note in that Roggae is €€€€€€€€

  7. garretc Says:

    Don’t worry Robear, I do plenty of that too

  8. garretc Says:

    So it only has a shelf life of another year or two, C?

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I often throw on a YouTube jam on my phone and hand it to my daughter who proceeds to literally bounce around the room dancing. I put on that coda thing and she stopped, looked quizzically at the screen, dropped the phone, and walked away.


  10. tela'smuff Says:

    @mr. c – starting my early 80’s listening session. i made a list a couple years back of some favorites from that era.

    starting with 4-19-82. we’ll see if it holds up to my closer scrutiny.

  11. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Hope it works out for you t3.

    MRIs are boring

  12. William H. Bonney Says:

    Silly get lifted in Denver(or sooner) and break it all down………

    @C big fan of Elric series….haven’t read in years but remember being enjoyable read have to go back to em……

  13. tela'smuff Says:

    tough to find better versions of They Love Each OTher than this one. damn.

  14. eardly Says:

    Cincy KDF>Twist is similarly awesome when compared to 2011 CLT RnR>Ghost

    Cincy gets edge for being all original


  15. William H. Bonney Says:

    does help if we can at least use the same def. of words at least when communicating..

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    They let you pick the sirius station of your choice. My time coincides with the nightly phish show. 8)

  17. albert walker Says:

    could always load up some Johnny “fake jer” K on the old ipod T3

    you really see the brilliance of a vince tune when song by such a natural musician like Johnny K

    kinda like when the byrds would cover Dylan

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    good luck T3..migraines are the worst.

    Kaya- slowly making my way through this ’84 show. So far, so good. Solid recording as well. Just started set II.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    TIII and all others w/ health concerns — get well soon.

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Speaking of Dylan, he’s doing a tour with Mark Knopfler coming up. That looks like a show I want to check out.

  21. tela'smuff Says:

    agreed t3. they are hitting Broomfield. would like to catch Dylan one last time, and would love to see Knopfler, another original guitarist to add to the list.

  22. Shpongleyez Says:

    Where’s butter? He recommended a particular Hood from Leg 1. Which one? Someone? Anyone?

  23. kayatosh Says:

    last night, watched second installment of the robert downey sherlock holmes movies. pretty fuckin bad. thinnest plot imaginable.

  24. Robear Says:

    TIII’s daughter, with a keen ear and good taste in music at a young age. Bravo!

  25. kayatosh Says:

    going to follow it up tonight with wrath of the titans. are there any good movies on demand?

    did see an amazing real time sports story re. a girl (now a woman) with no legs who was given up for adoption at birth. she was adopted by a kind couple from rural illinois town w/ pop. of 50 people. legless girl grew up idolizing dominque mocieaneu of gymnastics and olympic fame. inspired by mocianeu, legless girl starts doing gymnastic tumbling and becomes a champion. girl learns when she is 16 that she is actually domique’s younger sister.

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