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)

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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:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/2.03-Ghost-1.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/2.04-Boogie-On-Reggae-Woman.mp3] Tags: ,

544 Responses to “The Axis of Phish”

  1. MrCompletely Says:

    ok shit I’m going to have to watch those aren’t I?

    I’m cracking up just reading you posting about them

    I’m not nearly high enough though. not even close

  2. SillyWilly Says:

    Art that accepts our culture is definitely Fascism 101. But there’s art that doesn’t. And its not Fascism.

    I don’t think you can accuse a Cheyenne dance of Fascism, but its purpose is definitely to encourage identification with Cheyenne culture.

    Its just that some cultures are worth identifying with. And some are not. Some cultures are fascist. Some are not.

    Your little girls’ kittens are definitely propaganda. She’s saying those kittens are worth celebrating right now. Propaganda can be good or bad. But its always there in human artifacts.

  3. poop goblin Says:

    I like art that has chicks with nice asses in it

    You gotta watch the fake jer vids C

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    glad you liked LCK vids @robear. his show is really great. totally self written and produced with 100% creative control. up til the newest season he even did the editing himself.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    you are re-defining the word “propaganda” to a quite ludicrous degree. I do not accept your semantic gymnastics. that word does not mean what you think it means.

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    I also am in favor of nice ass related art

    i’m a big, big fan of that genre

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    alright I will try to come back to those vids later

    peace all

  8. BrandonKayda Says:

    You guys always give me something to think about. Thanks for the discussion I’ve been silently reading for the past 20mins.

    Just about finished with Hocus Pocus by Vonnegut right now – really dark satire about Vietnam and humanity in general. Cynical for sure, but I really like Vonnegut’s style.

    @Mr C, I started Gravity’s Rainbow awhile back – going to pick it up again after I finish Hocus Pocus. I guess it is kind of supposed to be alienating in the beginning, though I do like the language and some of the ideas quite a lot. I’m roughly 30 pages in. Interest is piqued for sure.

  9. Robear Says:

    Night all.

    Hi and Later @BK.

  10. plord Says:

    Propaganda requires political intent. It has a subtext, that was put there by the author in an effort to engage the consumer’s subconscious as well as her rational mind.

    Kids draw kittens because they are cute and fluffy. Full stop end of analysis.

    When Calvin draws a kitten fighting with a robot wolf-bat with carbon-fiber wings, poisonous fur, and ankle-rocket-launchers, it’s not because he supports the military industrial complex. He draws it that was because explosions are AWESOME.

    It’s way too late for me to threaten that I’ll go pull my Hazard Adams off the shelf, but be aware that I can and will. There are many additional equally valid formulations of artistic criticism than are dreamt of in your philosophy, SW.

  11. plord Says:

    er, “that way”.

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    Something we can agree on, Mr. C

    There are physical realities. Don’t eat and you die.

    More:

    Without clean water, humans die. Without a healthy landbase, humans die.

    Some human creations encourage us to realize these physical realities. Human creations can be judged upon their ability to demonstrate these physical realities. The value of a work of art, therefore, increases to the extent it encourages people to accept physical realities.

    Which brings me right back to my main point. What good does musings about how to deal with death, evolution, and the progression of the soul do us when clean water is being eradicated and the landbase murdered.

    No clean water. No life. No life. No progression of the soul. It really is that simple.

    While the world is being murdered art that does not work in service of clean water and the landbase is a luxury we can’t afford.

    Ok. I’m sorry. We can afford it. In middle america. But the poor can’t. And even we won’t be able to afford it for long.

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    I should say: Without clean water, life ends. Because to put human life over the lives of other species is arrogant and suicidal.

  14. Cable Hogue Says:

    “What good does musings about how to deal with death, evolution, and the progression of the soul do us when clean water is being eradicated and the landbase murdered.”

    Maybe they make us reflect upon our shared humanity?

  15. BrandonKayda Says:

    Really interesting thoughts guys. Loving this.

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    Kids draw kittens because they are cute and fluffy. I mean, Plord, don’t you see the propaganda inherent in that very statement. Kittens ARE cute and fluffy. Your daughter grows up in a home where she is loved and cared for. One of the best parts of her existence is kittens. Her reality is kittens. Its wonderful that her expression is of kittens because that is her world. It is a good thing. A good sign. Propaganda can be good or bad.

    Many abused kids draw violence and sexual objects.

    Why? Because their reality is violence and sexuality. Their propaganda is “See: reality is violence and being sexual.” This propaganda is bad.

    Propaganda does not need intent. I’m not judging the artist, yet. I’m judging the art. And the art comes with its very own built in assumptions which may or may not come from the intent of the artist. But intent is not necessary.

  17. bobby weird Says:

    ::reads SW’s condescending, relentlessly insistent ramblings::

    ::pukes::

  18. SillyWilly Says:

    Cable

    And that’s my point again: There’s a man inyour bedroom with a gun to your head. Now is not the time to reflect on shared humanity. Now is the time to remove the man with the gun to your head.

    I’m totally guilty of reflecting. I’m not being vindictive of people. I’m talking about art.

    The greatest art encourages us to act in defense of the landbase.

    (Now I’m being vindicative)

    And finally, I’m sorry, but I just don’t have that much in common with the people murdering the planet.

    I don’t see the need to identify with them. When they’d just as soon dominate me and my brothers and sisters.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    I did not mean to be condescending, Bobby Weird.
    I apologize.

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    silly

    I’m sorry but you’re inviting this

    everything you’re saying on this page is completely wrong

    all of it

    you have completely confused your opinions and semantic constructs with reality. but you’re not convincing anyone.

    you seem to think you can make a word with a specific meaning mean something else just by saying that it means that other thing

    it doesn’t and you can’t

    not everything is about threat and disaster even if you insist that it is

    you insist on interpreting everything in those terms

    you also seem to be trying to win an argument by simply stringing together long chains of vaguely reasoned statements in such volume that they simply can be rebutted.

    but it’s not that they can’t be rebutted. it’s that you should know better by now.

    you said yourself that sometimes people are wrong.

    you are wrong.

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    silly

    I’m sorry but you’re inviting this

    everything you’re saying on this page is completely wrong

    all of it

    you have completely confused your opinions and semantic constructs with reality. but you’re not convincing anyone.

    you seem to think you can make a word with a specific meaning mean something else just by saying that it means that other thing

    it doesn’t and you can’t

    not everything is about threat and disaster even if you insist that it is

    you insist on interpreting everything in those terms

    you also seem to be trying to win an argument by simply stringing together long chains of vaguely reasoned statements in such volume that they simply can be rebutted.

    but it’s not that they can’t be rebutted. it’s that you should know better by now.

    you said yourself that sometimes people are wrong.

    you are wrong.

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    dammit that’s a brutal time for a double post sorry

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    I feel really bad for coming off as condescending.

    I seriously didn’t mean to be that way.

    I know I keep coming with this stuff. And then I always try and apologize afterwards which would lead a smart person to conclude that they just shouldn’t go down this path.

    But I keep doing it so I’m sorry.

    Thanks for entertaining some of my thoughts for awhile, guys.

    Have a good night everyone.

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    I do, though, with all due respect sir, I really sincerely utterly reject your worldview

    It’s not that I don’t understand it

    It’s not that I think you don’t have the right to think that way

    I just think you’re profoundly mistaken about the nature of the world and reality.

  25. SillyWilly Says:

    I don’t think I’m wrong.

    I feel in my heart that I’m right.

    But you’re right, I’m not convincing anyone. And that’s all there needs to be for me to stop talking about it.

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