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. kayatosh Says:

    story is on HBO now

  2. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Get the recent bbc Sherlock series. Showed up on pbs not long ago. It is bad ass

  3. SillyWilly Says:

    Whoa that’s nuts, kaya

    What’s up tonight, kids?

    Spinnin’ some post-2 7s clash Culture tonight

  4. tela'smuff Says:

    Silly – the new gig keeping you from Denver this year?

  5. Robear Says:

    silly! glad work is so rewarding and exciting for you!

    i have one complaint: can you get a dedicated computer with the BB open and ready for your comments at all times?

    that and some plants for the office

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    I found myself watching Firefly a couple weeks ago on Netflix

    Had to cut myself off from TV at that point.

    Can’t trust your tastes when they lead you to Firefly

    (No offense to any fans out there…I did watch a bunch of episodes)

  7. kayatosh Says:

    TIII: loved the holmes stories as a kid.

  8. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Have you realized how crazy the ND schedule is this season?

    check it out then. modernized versions of the stories, great acting

  9. Robear Says:

    Zimmerman re: Trayvon Martin shooting in interview:

    ‘Do you have any regrets about having a gun, or getting out of the car’ – interviewer

    ‘I feel that it was all God’s plan’ – Zimmerman

    wow. save the expense of the trial. toss the guy. what in the samhell is going on in this world?

  10. SillyWilly Says:


    Jtran forwarded me your email. I just figured out what it was about a couple minutes ago reading back.

    I’m pretty solid on Denver. I get Labor Day off. The only thing that could keep me from Denver is when precisely my dad is going to want to collect on a bunch of loans he gave me so I could get an apartment and pay all my bar dues.


    Its pretty busy. Hardly at my desk. Helps the day go by though.

    No plants. Yet. I gotta get a paycheck or two under my belt. Ill take a picture and post the picture to the board so you guys can see the plants in my office.

    Haha. Or maybe not if that’s too dumb

  11. BingosBrother Says:

  12. tela'smuff Says:

    @robear – nothing new. good thing Fox got the scoop. it reminds me this all makes sense.

    @Silly – good to hear! send a pic man.the first office is a big deal, i feel ya.

    peeps, get on this 4-19-82 show. real solid first set with a top shelf They Love Each Other and Cumberland. band is feeling it note one. second set is next level.

  13. sumodie Says:

    Yup, huge fan of Firefly here! Such a bizarre scifi series that deserved a longer run

    Terrific cast chemistry, the glue that made the whacky premise work

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    I want to see that BBC Sherlock series. sounds awesome

    fuck Firefly haters! great show!

  15. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Yeah, firefly is great.

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    1. I hate Zimmerman, too.

    2. CEOs kill lots of Trayvons. Erry. single. day. Their excuse?? Production quotas. Profits. Shareholders demands. You know, God.

    Ok sorry. Only political post of the day. Just find it funny people don’t get pissed about other forms of murder, too.


    Yeah, I think 7-5. If we go 8-4 ill be pumped. Hell, if we don’t blow a last minute lead to Michigan ill be happy.

    Trying to get my pops to put in for the Miami at soldier field game.

    Manti T’eo. That’s all. He’s my favorite ND player of the last 10 yrs. Including Courtney Watson. Mike Goolsby and Rocky Boiman (he might be too old for 10 yrs)

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    huh I thought I recalled that 4.19 show as a highlights only show, fairly sloppy at times with a long boring franklin’s. legendary Space of course. will have to repsin.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Ok, going in…
    See you on the other side

  19. tela'smuff Says:

    Mr C – interesting, cause i’m feelin the first set. other than Little Red Rooster, it’s been pretty on point fire. Jerry very engaged. vocals sound great. i’m at Woman are Smarter, so again, memory my be jarred, but so far the show is holding up to my recollections.

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    I secretly (but not so secretly now) watched 12 eps of Firefly.

    But it did come with a bit of self-loathing

    Not gonna back off that. Firefly = fun. But, I really could have found better things to do with 44 minutes. Not gonna lie though, I really found River oddly very sexy.

    I’d let her read my mind. And Id keep the Alliance off her.

  21. SillyWilly Says:

    Now I’m having a sexuality war in my head:

    Did I dig River because of the vulnerability? And if so what does that say about me?

    Did I dig River because of the little sister aspect? As an oldest sibling I always seem attracted to the youngests.

    Did I dig River because of the opening scene where she’s almost naked? Shit, silly, get to KNOW her.

    Did I dig River because she was a genius?

    Did I dig River because of that dancing scene in the episode the bible peeps kidnapped her?

    Did I dig River because her name is River and therefore she is obviously headier than me?

    Did I dig River because DancingFool has a friend named River who turned me on to the Clamato juice in AC?

    Who am I?

  22. tela'smuff Says:

    Franklins starting now, really liked the Feels Like a Stranger

  23. PigSong Says:

    That’s crazy Kaya – Hopefully that it’s on HBOGO, I want to check that.

    Guess I need to spin some GD this evening, starting with the first MLB jam.

  24. alf Says:

    it could be worse – you could dig johnny k.

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    the tape of that 3/72 show is all fucked up @pig but the show itself is hottt

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