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. SillyWilly Says:

    Robear responded to my post about most art being unforgivable by writing FUCK TROY

    I took that to mean he was pointing out the fact that I wrote that and yet love Phish. As if Phish wasn’t producing a great system of rhetoric to combat the murder of the planet.

    I gotta go to sleep soon, but Phish pushes the boundaries of originality in art which is in and of itself a political statement. When so much of our culture is dedicated to destroying originality focusing on putting us in tidy neat consumer classes, Phish strives to make something new on the regular. Yes. The Clash had revolutionary lyrics. No. The Clash did not have a revolutionary musical form. And I don’t mean revolutionary as simply a new style. I mean revolutionary in the sense they challenge the cultural paradigm.

    The Clash AND Phish are political.

    Now, art definitely has to be progressively political to be great.

    All art is propaganda. Great art is great propaganda. And by great propaganda I mean propaganda that urges us to respect and work for life. All art is trying to convince of something. Even if all the art is trying to convinve us is that romantic love is the key to human happiness. That’s a fucked up message to communicate. And it definitely serves those in power.

    That’s why music is often better than TV. TV is controlled by powerful corporations who first and foremost exist to make money. They have no reason to challenge industrial capitalism because industrial capitalism allows them their power.

    I don’t know why I talk about this stuff. I’m not going to convince anyone.

    So don’t mind me. Ill be better about not running my mouth. I don’t mean to upset anyone. I really don’t. I truly have a problem with keeping my mouth shut.

  2. PigSong Says:

    I’m kind of on my second run through The Wire, wife is watching it and I’ll watch a few episodes here and there with her. Better the second time around IMO.

    Robear, you can d/l the mega Maron torrent on demon to get the CK eps. If you’re into that type of thing.

  3. Cable Hogue Says:

    I love film, I get off on Kurosawa and Luis Bunuel and Werner Herzog and Kubrick and Peckinpah, and I can get a similar high out of it as I do from great music. Visual poetry and great storytelling can be transporting and transformative. But there are very very few films from the last 30 years that do much for me in that way at all (Herzog made a few of them).

    The long form of the television series holds great potential in the realm of visual storytelling, and even as great as The Wire and Sopranos and Breaking Bad are, there is further great potential there to be realized.

    The game changer for TV was when HBO demonstrated the value of having critically acclaimed “flagship” shows and other networks followed suit. Artists with track records of critical success were given freedom to realize their visions. A similar dynamic happened with the big movie studios in the 60’s and 70’s, which ultimately led to things like “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now” getting made.

    The intersection of commerce and creativity is an interesting spot. There are a lot of levels that kind of work can be appreciated on.

  4. Robear Says:

    silly, much of what you’re saying goes right over my head. i’m not even irie.

    I just wanted to type #FUCKTROY

    if we’re drawing sides, i’m on your side.

    loling at some of these LCK links. started with the ‘everythings awesome, no one is happy’ from Conan obrien show.

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    Tons of Coast to Coast on youtube. Good night y’all.…0.0…1ac.93XcaaUin-0


  6. MrCompletely Says:

    we never got into the sopranos. hated all the characters, just thought they all needed to get whacked and get it over with.

  7. Robear Says:

    maybe I’ll skip it @ C. never seen a full episode.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    “That’s why music is often better than TV. TV is controlled by powerful corporations who first and foremost exist to make money”

    non sequitur. music industry at least as controlled as TV industry. possible to make independent art in either medium.

    “Now, art definitely has to be progressively political to be great.”

    This is just another outwardly projected statement of your personal value system. I disagree.

  9. poop goblin Says:

    Yall catch fake jer doin Vince?

    Fav NEW you tube video

  10. SillyWilly Says:

    I know what I’m saying is super intense. And I know I say it all the time. Its just truly what I believe.

    I have not watched the Wire.

    And this is a total cop-out, but I kinda don’t want to watch it because that shit is turning into my life. all I mean is, I need escapes, too. And watching the dramatization of my clients’ lives doesn’t sound great to me.

    And I know this is discrediting my whole argument about TV and art. Maybe I will watch it, but I can’t promise I won’t bitch about it showing cops and prosecutors as people, too. Of course they are, but id rather not acknowledge that after work.

    I’m really not telling people that its not ok to have escapes. I just think there’s a way to distinguish and place things on a hierarchy.

    Also, and I know this rubs a lot of people the wrong way. And the people on this board aren’t the people I have a problem with (Which makes my bitching that much more abrasive) But, I do believe there are valid viewpoints and there are invalid viewpoints.

    I guess what I’m saying is some people are right and some are wrong. I don’t mean it personally. If I think you’re wrong it doesn’t mean I don’t like you and that I wouldn’t be the best friend I could possibly be to you. It just means I think your idea is wrong.

    But I totally respect that someone telling you youre wrong can be highly offensive and angering. And for a lot of people the notion that thee is a right anf wrong is simply unacceptable.

    At least thats what I personally believe.

  11. Cable Hogue Says:

    True enough that The Sopranos was full of despicable characters. You’d think it might be up @SW’s alley for purporting to hold up a mirror to America and show us all these monstrosities.

    Could say that it’s a hallmark of uncompromised storytelling to give the viewer/reader nobody truly “likable” to identify with.

    Wouldn’t fault anyone for not wanting to watch it though.

  12. poop goblin Says:

    Silly. I don’t read your posts. Too long.

    But watch season 1 wire immediately. Brilliant.

    It’s the two sevens clash of tv. Perfect on many levels.

  13. Robear Says:

    @Poo G. The ‘Bouncin’ dealie is all I could take.

  14. Robear Says:

    ‘The Wire’ = ‘The Black starliner of which is to come’?

    I need to check that out, too

  15. Cable Hogue Says:

    RE: John K doing Vince:

    I don’t willingly subject myself to things like that.

  16. plord Says:

    Silly, the “All Art is Propaganda” line is straight out of the Fascism 101 manual. All art must serve the State. There are whole schools of art criticism based on this concept and conflating artistic vision with the needs of a given political party.

    Makes me puke.

    My daughter’s drawings of kittens are definitely not propaganda.

  17. Cable Hogue Says:

    If you give a shit about the so-called “War On Drugs”, the Wire is pretty much mandatory viewing.

  18. poop goblin Says:

    I can’t get it out of my head now

    Such a loooooooooonnngg way to go home!

  19. Cable Hogue Says:

    Gotta take a break and go watch the new “Louie”.

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    “And this is a total cop-out, but I kinda don’t want to watch it because that shit is turning into my life.”

    I totally get that. There’s nothing invalid about that, but it does completely void your argument against TV as an artistic medium.

    I actually concur in terms of finding it a bit too intensely depressing, and honestly I will probably never watch it all the way through for that reason. However I recognize its greatness. This speaks to @cable’s point:

    “Could say that it’s a hallmark of uncompromised storytelling to give the viewer/reader nobody truly “likable” to identify with.”

    It can be; doesn’t have to be; and I think having unlikeable, uber-noir characters has actually become a bit of a postmodern cliche these days.

    It’s not that I don’t like any art without likeable characters. I’m reading a Michael Moorcock (great name right) novel called Byzantium Endures, whose narrator makes the Sopranos look like the Merry Pranksters. I’m enjoying it.

    I just didn’t like the Sopranos. Couldn’t engage with it. Note that I’m not making any judgment about its value. I recognize that it’s probably awesome by any objective criteria.

    I just watch very little TV – no more than about 2-3 hours a week absolute max not counting sports – and it never made the cut for the reasons I mentioned.

  21. Robear Says:

    Silly, my next reading assignment for you is John Trudel – Stickman

    “Be careful what you believe. Because there’s a lie in the middle. Be-lie-ve. There are things I know, and things I don’t know. To me, believe is the same as ‘I think, but I don’t know'”
    Paraphrased from memory. A talk I heard him give 13 years ago.

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    “I guess what I’m saying is some people are right and some are wrong.”

    totally. some things are not subjectively derived.

    but art is not one of those things. Making blanket statements about what Art Is or Must Be is meaningless. It’s quite apparently just subjective opinion and nothing more.

    E = mc^2

    F = Ma

    don’t eat and you’ll die

    fuck with the cops and they’ll stomp you

    those are facts. art is all just opinion and projection

  23. poop goblin Says:

    Fake jerry bouncing video = made my day

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    I’m more interested in Art that’s about living, death, evolution, and the progression of the soul than anything about the world

    anyone who thinks those aren’t valid artistic subjects can fuck right off

  25. Robear Says:

    And you said I was a masochist!

Leave a Reply