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. BingosBrother Says:

    This one goes out to Mr. C. I relented.

    Me and Good Guy Greg

  2. SillyWilly Says:

    I’m being stupid.

    I’m not trying to take people’s enjoyment out of TV.

    We all need escapes sometimes.

    But, I just want to be clear. BSG and Firefly might be good, but they’re not in the same category as Jimmy Santiago Baca or Linton Kwesi Johnson or Susan Howe or Sun Ra or someone like that.


    Fiction can be really really good. When done right. And unadulterated by mainstream publishers.

  3. Robear Says:

    silly, you are funny and smart. i hope you can share your ‘wealth’ with all your clients.

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

    ^dog, come on. we do. or at least i do. I’m pissed at how many blacks have been killed by blacks since the Trayvon incident. without a word in the media. I’m pissed about all the people being killed in these endless wars. etc. Trayvon case just happens to be in the news more.

    shit man, why do you think I generally loathe the human race!?!?

    although I am trying to find the reset button.

    “Ain’t no time to hate” -Uncle Johns Band

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    There’s plenty of good film. Its just not as visible.

    I read this great quote, I can’t remember who said it but: “Most books are unforgivable.” And it can be applied to all of art I think.

    But seriously. SillyWilly Idea of the Evening: When the planet is being murdered, art that doesn’t strive to address the murder is unforgivable.

    And fuck. As I wrote that I just popped my airmattress. (No bed yet) must be karma.

  5. Robear Says:

    fucking pvc air mattress!?!?!?

    poly vinyl chloride = death for the planet! ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

  6. PigSong Says:

    ^wait, is that really ggg and are you really bros with him?

  7. sumodie Says:

    Silly, you’re not being stupid, TV can be (is mostly?) extremely vacuous.

    And I can handle peeps disagreeing with my fav choices, be they Phish jams, Firefly, whatever. You’ll just be wrong 😉


    “Phish 2012 Fall Tour Rumors”

    This was posted earlier but wasn’t labeled. Old meme, yes, but with some very amusing new writing

  8. Robear Says:

    But seriously. SillyWilly Idea of the Evening: When the planet is being murdered, art that doesn’t strive to address the murder is unforgivable.


  9. lumpyhead Says:

    Breaking Bad is the best show on that’s been on TV in a whole while.

  10. lumpyhead Says:

    that’s awesome @Bingos

  11. PigSong Says:

    just want to point out I have nothing against tv generally, totally cool for people to unwind and entertain themselves with, well, entertainment. Although I guess there is a lot of crap out there.

    I’m just not good at watching tv, not my idea of enjoyment.
    Tube>PsychoKiller>Tube is definitely toward the front of my enjoyment list though..

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    As long as you understand the intent of television, you are fine.

  13. Robear Says:

    Sumo! that is hilarious!

  14. PigSong Says:

    I think I’d have to rate Sopranos as the best tv series ever though, enjoyed it that much. Probably 3/4 of my top series are HBO ORiginal series though, someone is doing something right over there.

  15. Bad Nirvana Cover Band Says:

    ICE and Homeland Security, now openly involved in the war on drOOgs:

    follow around, check the other related articles on the blog.

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    If that isn’t GGG, then its his doppelganger. He is a friend and was totally unaware of his fame.

    “When the planet is being murdered, art that doesn’t strive to address the murder is unforgivable.”

    I make art because I have no choice and my only goal is to satisfy myself and bring into the world a beauty that didn’t exist.

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    Not sure what you mean about sharing my wealth, Robear.

    And don’t loathe the human race. Just loathe the people doing the murdering. Perhaps we all (in this country) play a small role in the murders. But, its not like that everywhere. There’s people actually standing up to the powers that be. You can love them. They’re good representatives of the human race.

    It does suck that the majority of people worth loving in history were exterminated by people worth loathing, but not enough to generally loathe the human race.

    And yeah, that whole hate thing again. I simply do believe there’s times to hate.

    Basic human emotion. Woman hates the man who rapes her. Children hate the adult who abuses them. I hate people who destroy what/who/where I love.

    Fear some hate. But not all hate. Just like anything else. Avoid the absolutes.

  18. Robear Says:

    dog, you have a wealth of ideas, information, and love to share. #FuckMoney

    yeah, I’m trying to focus my hate on those that deserve it, like you listed. the rest, I want to lovingly ignore.

    ‘ain’t no time to hate’, to me, means don’t sweat the small stuff. save my energy for that worth fighting for.

    the natives in our area didn’t wish ill will on their enemies. instead, they wished them ‘to the ends of the earth’. in other words, go somewhere to live your life, where you can’t harm me or others.

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    Pretty sure he meant your wealth of love and intellect sw. We love you bro.

  20. BingosBrother Says:

    If you’re spending your time hating someone, you’re not spending that same time loving someone else.

  21. Robear Says:

    ^exactly, b-brotha’

    to both posts’

  22. SillyWilly Says:

    I think Phish is great art.

    In a nutshell: Phish undermines the culture industry through spontaneous creativity. Tough to mass produce Phish. They provide the grounds for humans to be humans in communion with one another and not consumers purchasing or being spoon fed.

    I’ve always said Phish is a wildly political band. And I fully believe it.

  23. Mr.Miner Says:

    When the planet is being murdered, art that doesn’t strive to address the murder is unforgivable.

    ^ disagree wholeheartedly. though no clue as to context.

  24. Robear Says:

    they did play ‘Killing in the Name Of’ on the 4th of July in Atlanta.

    political art right thar.

    i just wanted a reason to type #FUCKTROY
    everyone else gets to

  25. Mr.Miner Says:

    phish is a political band? That’s a first. Just because they fulfill a role in society–a counterculture lair—I don’t see how one can consider Phish a political band.

Leave a Reply