Thinking Out Loud: The Flow of Ideas

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 27th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
10.29.13 Reading, PA (Andrea Nusinov)

10.29.13 Reading, PA (Andrea Nusinov)

After years of listening to Phish improvise, I wanted to document some patterns. While all band members—clearly—listen to everyone else in the band in a circular flow, I have found that each member has tendencies and patterns in the general flow of ideas onstage. Here’s what I have to posit about the general flow of ideas during a Phish jam:

Page to Trey:

The flow of ides from Page to Trey is perhaps the most easy to hear  live and on tape. Very often—and more than ever these days—Trey picks up on subtle melodies and lines that Page plays and turns them into prominent parts of his own line, and often the entire jam. One of the most significant and easy to hear examples of this pattern from ’13 is the Tahoe “Tweezer’s” “Woo” section. As the band headed into a change, Page blocked out a five chord melody on piano two times. Trey echoed that melody on his guitar, and—immediately—that subtle piano melody had transformed into the main vamp of the oncoming “Woo” section of the jam; the melody that you recognize as that part of the “Tweezer.” But in the mix of each and every jam, Trey picks up on what Page is doing, often mimicking parts of his phrases or his exact line as part of the developing exchange. Even a casual listen to recent jams—such as the wide open part of Dick’s ’13 “Sand’—will provide plenty of examples of this interplay.

Trey to Fish:

10.18.13 (J. Silco)

10.18.13 (Jake Silco)

Trey and Fish are, historically, the backbone of Phish, and it is their uncharacteristic dynamic that often makes Phish music sound unique. Very rarely in bands is the drummer keyed in on what the guitarist is doing, as they are most often concerned with the bass player. However in Phish, beyond forming a pocket with Mike, Fish gets many of his ideas by following Trey’s lead. Fish will actually echo guitar patterns on the drums, dropping his beats in a sing-songy way, in a very unique use of the drum kit. This directional flow of ideas from guitarist to drummer is a dynamic that most bands don’t have, and provides an extra layer of connection within the music. Fish is a rare breed, one who can be deep in the pocket, echo a rhythm lick from Trey, all while telling a joke about his favorite beer, but very often, a jam’s directionality comes from Fish following Trey, and consequently Trey being pushed even further.

Trey to Mike:

Beyond being locked with The Greasy Troll at all times and offering his eclectic Gordeaux bass lines, Mike is often very focused on Trey’s playing. Mike is known to echo Trey, though he more often plays counter-melodies and fills around Trey’s playing. The close connection between Trey and Mike is also not the most common in bands, where guitar and piano generally take care of the top while bass and drums provide the bottom. But the way Mike incorporates Trey’s ideas into his own offerings instantaneously, makes the most hooked up jams pop with a whole ‘nother level of adhesive. And when Trey’s ideas are woven into Mike’s unique bass lines their effect is not just connection, but enhancement.

Mike to Page ?:

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

This would complete the pattern as I would like, but I’m not sure that I can back it up like the others. Page most often converses with Trey, often exchanging ideas like a game of ping pong, but does Page get ideas right from Mike? Hmmm. Page often blocks out chords to fill out the empty spaces in Trey’s grooves, giving his offering some relationship to Mike’s bass lines. By helping define the patterns of grooves, Page is most definitely sculpting in collaboration with Mike, but I’m not sure Page is responding directly to Mike’s notes regularly enough for me to complete this neat and tidy pattern. Do you guys notice a flow of ideas from Mike to Page? Other than Trey, who do you guys hear Page getting ideas from?

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Twist” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA

One of very few unposted jams from fall tour. This one showed us that this tour was gonna be different. Trey continuously hits a signature lick from “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” in the depth of this one.

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The Envelope, Please…

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 25th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)Fall Tour Awards:

FALL TOUR AWARDS

MVP: “Tweezer”

Barely edging out “Carini” on the strength of its third version, “Tweezer” takes away the most coveted individual award of Fall. “Tweezer” not only produced my jam of the tour in Hartford, it also produced two other jams that I have heard ranked number one of tour by others, and that speaks to the incredible nature of them all. Three all-star versions, all with a unique vibe and direction vault “Tweezer” to the top of this fall’s pedestal. Had Worcester’s “Carini” gone a bit longer and developed more, we might just have co-MVPS, but Trey elected for a pre-mature “Caspian,” a move that—in retrospect—sealed the deal for the big dog. “Tweezer,” here’s another trophy for your mantle. “Carini,” close, but no cigar.

***

Comeback Player of Tour: “Twist”

This recipient comes as no surprise, as Phish resurrected “Twist” from the dead over Fall Tour. When the band opened the second set of the season with “Twist,” it felt like a bizarre and foreign move, yet when they opened up tour’s second-to-last main event with “Twist,” it felt just right. Over the course of two weeks, Phish sculpted three magnificent jams out of their once-prolific platform, and just like that, “Twist” was a major player in the Phish scene again. First, an ambient, Pink Floyd laced excursion in Hampton, then, a delicate, ethereal outing in Glens Falls, that featured a sneak preview of “The Line,” and finally a signature masterpiece in Atlantic City with one of the jams of the year. Welcome back, “Twist!” We’ve surely missed you and had grown tired of your pseudo “Oye Como Va” scene.

***

Debut of Tour: “Fuego”

It was hard to not sport an ear-to-ear smile during the debut of “Fuego,” the undeniable gem of the Wingsuit set. A multi-staged composition that leaves room for two improvisational passages, all packaged with catchy hooks, overlapped lyrics, and group chanting, “Fuego” has all the components of a Phishy show-stopper. I bet we see this one during the Holiday Run at MSG.

***

Second Set of Tour: 10/20 Hampton 

Hampton 2013 (A. Nusnov)

Hampton 2013 (A. Nusnov)

The vibe after this show reeked of the late ’90s, when Phish left most of their audience speechless and in dismay on a nightly basis. This was one of those shows for which the ushers had to eventually ask fans to leave, because nobody wanted to go anywhere. We had just experienced a full-throttle assault like none in recent years. The second entire set was strewn with big-time jam vehicles, and the band never stopped taking care of business. After two nights at Hampton, many Northeastern fans who had elected to skip the run were feeling pretty good about their decision. After night three’s course-correcting ritual, they weren’t.

Paul and Silas, Tweezer > Golden Age > Piper -> Takin’ Care of Business > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sand, Slave to the Traffic Light

***

First Set of Tour: 10/26 Worcester 

This first set runs away with this award, though there were several other high-quality opening frames during Fall 2013. This one however, featured highlight jams in “Bathtub Gin” and “David Bowie,” not to mention solid versions of “Stash” and”Simple.” An extended version of “Party Time” opened things up before “Punch” really got things going. A couple rarities of “Ride Captain Ride” and “My Soul” as well a spirited version of “Back on the Train” rounded things out less a gratuitous “Character Zero.”

Party Time, Punch You In the Eye, Back on the Train, My Soul, Bathtub Gin, Ride Captain Ride, Stash, Simple > David Bowie, Character Zero

***

Show of Tour: 10/31 Atlantic City, NJ

10/31 Official (D.Mumford)

10/31 (D.Mumford)

There is no denying the incredible significance of this year’s Halloween show. Never before has Phish presented an entire set of new material, and never have they presented so much new material that has been as instantly well-received. Touching on so many disparate genres and feels, the songs of the Wingsuit set were all crafted with a distinctly Phishy vibe, and most seem to be ready for rotation. The infusion of this much new material totally revolutionizes the Phish experience and paves the way for a glorious future—all in their 30th year! And after setbreak, the guys came out and tore apart a third frame for the first time in ages. Unloading two top ten jams of tour in a prolific one-two Halloween punch of “Ghost” and “Carini,” the band provided plenty of improv for those who didn’t get off on Wingsuit’s revelation. Those jams were supported by solid versions of “Hood” and “Antelope,” and when you combine all of these elements, you’ve got your show of fall tour.

***

Two Set Show of Tour: 10/26 Worcester, MA

Rarely is a Phish show presented over two flowing sets without a single lull or dull moment, but that is exactly what happened on Saturday night in Worcester. One need only look above to see the quality of this show’s first set, and most are familiar with the monster sequence of “Drowned > Light” that opened the second. Follow that up with “Sand” and “Mike’s > No Quarter > Weekapaug,” with only a “Theme” interlude, and one has the most complete Phish show of tour.

Runners Up: 10/27 Hartford, 11/1 Atlantic City

***

 All-Stars, 1st Team: 

 “Tweezer,” “Carini,” “Twist,” “Ghost,” “Disease,” “Golden Age” 

========

Mimi Fishman Auction:

Mimi_Fishman_Foundation-353x-353xFive Phish New Years ticket packages were just added to the Mimi Fishman Foundation online charity auction. All proceeds from the ticket packages to benefit Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation.  The auction also features Phish Summer Tour posters signed by all band members. Of special note is the multiple night runs include matching numbered posters auctioned off as single sets. Additionally, the auction includes New Years packages donated from The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Umphrey’s McGee with the proceeds to benefit Colorado Flood Relief efforts.

To access the auction please visit www.mimifishman.org

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TTFF: The Structured Stuff

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 22nd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
10.22.13 (Jake Silco)

10.22.13, War Memorial, Rochester, NY (Jake Silco)

As everyone well knows,  I almost exclusively comprise my playlists of Phish’s open jams. Not today. The band’s playing was so strong across the board this past tour, that I’d like to highlight some of my favorite contained jams for this Friday’s playlist. As I wrote about as recently as this year, the band’s structured—or type I—playing, was the last part of their repertoire to ripen in this era. Sure, they could get through all the changes without the obvious flubs of post-hiatus, but for the first years of this era, they infused little to no creativity into their structured jams, causing parts of shows—particularly first sets—to drag. This year, however, starting in summer, Phish made a point to resuscitate classic pieces that has lost their luster; pieces like “Bathtub Gin,” “David Bowie,” “Stash,” and “Harry Hood.” During 2013, these jams—and more—have regained their proper place in the Pantheon of Phish. Here are some of my favorites from fall presented to you in a thought out playlist that bring some flow to your Friday.

***

2001” 10.26 II, Hartford, CT

Though “Also Sprach” had been gaining creative steam all year, this this tour is first time the guys gave the piece a decent amount of time to breathe, as both versions clocked in at must over eight minutes. Hartford’s tour highlight came at the tail end of a groovalicious set that featured massive versions of both “Tweezer” and “Golden Age,” and kept the vibe alive with a nasty rhythmic throwdown.

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***

Harry Hood” 10.23 II, Glens Falls, NY

Perhaps the retro environs of Glens Falls seeped into Trey’s consciousness, because he took this set-closing version of “Harry Hood” with the fury of old. The jam begins with some distinctly modern textures and ends with a scorching peak the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time—all in all, a stellar version.

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***

Bathtub Gin” 10.26 I, Worcester, MA

This “Gin” provided the highlight of perhaps the best first set of the tour on the second night of Worcester. Almost breaking form, the band remains anchored in groove and brings this version to a colossal peak—the largest single peak of the entire show.

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***

Sand” 11.1 I, Atlantic City, NJ

This third-song “Sand” beat out any second setter of this tour, as Phish’s relaxed and confident demeanor showed immediately on night two in Boardwalk Hall. They had just turned in their first “Shaft” jam of the weekend in “Runaway Jim,” when they flexed their muscles on their groove anthem—an incredibly fiery start to one of tour’s strongest performances.

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***

Roggae” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA

I recently respun Hampton’s tour opener and found it to be an incredibly well played show, if not a touch mellow. This mid-second set “Roggae” stood out immediately and paced the set between “Twist” and before “Carini.” This second set is a dark horse of tour.

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***

Sneakin Sally Through the Alley” 11.1. E, Atlantic, City

After a spectacular performance, Phish went right ahead and blew up a “Sally” encore, eventually reprising the “Shaft” jam from “Runaway Jim.” Whew!

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***

Split Open and Melt” 10.29 I, Reading, PA

The band seemed to have this “Split” jam by the horns as they had progressed the piece into ominous abstraction. Then, without even attempting to bring it back, Trey bailed out of the jam abruptly for “Julius.” Not sure what that was about, but this jam is nasty.

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***

Gotta Jibboo” 11.1.13 II, Atlantic City, NJ

After a monumental “Twist” jam, the guys applied their focus to the groove in this smoking “Jibboo.”

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***

David Bowie” 10.26 I, Worcester, MA

This intricate “Bowie” closed out Worcester’s big-time first set on the 26th, coming at the tail end of a powerful, set-closing trifecta that started with “Stash” and “Simple.”

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***

Slave to the Traffic Light” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA

This gentle, understated “Slave” served as a perfect juxtaposition to the fire-filled set it closed, the set of the fall tour.

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***

You Enojy Myself” 10.29 II, Reading, PA

A real live “YEM” jam?! Lordy, lordy where have you been? Refreshing to say the least!

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Moments In A Box: Magic

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 21st, 2013 by Mr.Miner
11.1.13, Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

11.1.13, Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

Woven into the fabric of Phish shows alongside compositions and jams are moments—those instances where time stands still, everything goes into slow motion and the world explodes. Fall tour had many of these indelible occurrences that everyone in attendance will always remember. Here are a few of such moments from Fall—presented chronologically—that still give me goosebumps to think about.

Piper -> Taking Care of Business“—10.20 II, Hampton, VA

Though there are several frozen moments from Hampton’s third show, none brought a more thunderous response than this one. As if an exuberant “Piper” to punctuate an outrageous jam sequence of “Tweezer > Golden Age” wasn’t enough, this impromptu move into “Taking Care of Business” was nothing short of genius. As soon as everyone in the crowd recognized the song they were playing, Hampton’s roof nearly blew off. People freaked out, and rightfully so, because Phish hadn’t only just executed a shrewd and seamless segue, they had laid down their mission statement for the next two weeks! They were as excited as we were to be on tour. If everyone didn’t already know that shit was on like donkey kong this fall, after this moment they certainly did.

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***

Drowned‘s” “Sitting in Limbo” jam—10.26 II, Worcester, MA

This one still blows my mind. The band was neck deep in an uptempo groove of the likes of “Guy Forget” when they—collectively—stopped on a dime and converged on one of the most surreal segments of music of the entire tour. As if they had this change preconceived, the guys were immediately on the same page as they bled into the infinite. Mike dropped some enveloped filtered notes that provided an aural cushion for this ethereal music. The band sat into a delicate, to-die-for groove for a minute or or so before Page (I believe) hinted at the chords of “Sitting in Limbo.” Trey picked up on the Chairman’s idea—as he so often does—and he, himself, offered the chord progression of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic. Trey had played “Sitting in Limbo” with TAB once, and I was sure he was about to step to the mic to sing the first line. Apparently, (from someone who actually watches the show) he almost did, but deferred, keeping the poignant nod instrumental. But damn if that change and subsequent jam isn’t one of the most sublime moments of 2013.

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***

Trey’s final solo in “Disease“—10.29 II, Reading PA

The 'Doc (Andrea Nusinov)

The ‘Doc (Andrea Nusinov)

There are moments and then there are moments. Ask anyone who was in the intimate Santander Arena on that Tuesday night about the end of Reading’s “Disease” and they may just turn away and blush. Yeah, it was like that. Following the meat of a solid, though unspectacular, “Disease” jam, Phish found their way into one of their now-classic, blues-like codas. This southern-laced jam was particularly significant on the brink of Halloween with all of the Allman Brothers talk in the air. The band actually worked their way into a jam around Eat a Peach‘s famed live track, “Mountain Jam,” and it was within this feel good context that Trey would make history. The guys had the room in the palm of their hands and were bringing the jam to a full-band peak when Trey reached back and unleashed the most spiritual, spine-tingling, and downright spectacular guitar solo of the past five years. Channelling his inner Duane Allman and harnessing every bit of his own soul, Trey opened his heart and out burst rainbows and Klondike gold. And this wasn’t just a short statement, he let it all hang out in a blissed out guitar solo for the ages. This is one we’ll be telling our grandkids about. (nb: I had continuous chills just recounting this tale without the music on.)

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***

Twist” middle peak section—11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

One could sense during the first set of Halloween that Phish was more focused on the second. They had clearly practiced the Winsguit set and had a lot riding on the success of its songs. Thus, the first frame of Halloween didn’t amount to much, but with the pressure lifted in the third set, the band was clearly able to let loose and jam. Well, when they came back to Boardwalk Hall the next day after nailing their Halloween show, the guys were visibly looser and more comfortable on stage from the jump, tearing apart the show’s opening half. And that brings us to “Twist.” The band had played two versions thus far on tour, Hampton and Glens Falls—both bigger than any since Cincy 2012—and the second had built substantially from the first. Thus, when Phish opened the second set in Atlantic City with “Twist,” everyone knew we were in store for a treat. But midway through this jam, things got straight silly, and we stumbled upon another magical moment.

I’m not exactly sure just what transpired during this segment, but it was one of those instances where the energy of the moment continued building upon itself and informing the actual music onstage. Page and Trey had locked into an exchange that the other guys quickly latched onto, collectively forming a sort of anthemic vamp. This drew in the audience’s energies and this sequence gained series momentum before the band broke from this vamp into a high-speed, cathartic peak. Then, this moment truly crystalized as they continued switching between these two feels, creating a monumentally triumphant passage, both musically and energetically. This was one of those bigger-than-music metaphysical explosions that happen from time to time at Phish shows, and quite honestly, this was the most collective, in-show peak since Tahoe.

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Three of a Different Kind

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 19th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Atlantic City (Andrea Nusinov)

Atlantic City 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

In a fall tour where so many facets of Phish’s game stood out, perhaps the most significant was their improvisational diversity. Phish is known for never playing the same show twice, and—more specifically—never playing a jam the same way twice. But on this tour they took this concept to a new level. Most often through history, Phish has focused—more or less—on one style of play at a time. Therefore, within a tour—say Fall ’97—most “Ghosts” will bare a sonic similarity, as the band was honing in on one sound, in this case, James Brown-esque groove. In the 3.0 era, however, focused pattern has not been their modus operandi. Instead of magnifying one style of jamming at a time, the modern era has been all about improvisational diversity, as Phish routinely and proficiently plucks jamming styles from the entirety of their 30 year history. Before coming back in 2009, the band had done all their pre-requisite course work: the fundamentals of the late ’80s, the intricate compositions of the early-’90s, the lightning quick “speed jazz” of ’93, the advent of free-form jamming in ’94, the psychedelic sorcery of ’95, the groove reinvention in late ’96, multiple stages of funk in ’97, the advent of ambient jamming in ’98, the ambient-layered sound sculpting of ’99-’00; the grungy, dissonant exploration of post-hiatus. Phish had learned it all. In this era, however, they have access to all of these learned styles and more as they their jams no longer liken case-studies, but referenced, master works. And on fall tour, this methodology worked wonders as the band’s jams—even within a single song—varied greatly, providing the ultimate smorgasbord of Phish delicacies.

Atlantic City (A.Nusinov)

Atlantic City (A.Nusinov)

This fall, the band played three versions of just about every major jam vehicle, and by comparing the three, the incredible diversity of Phish’s current jamming will leap off the table. My favorite reference point in the Phish universe is “Tweezer,” and so let’s start there. The band’s first “Tweezer” of fall came as part of Hampton’s instantly legendary third night performance. Once the guys pushed through a set of whammy-laced grooves, they took a sharp left turn for the dark side. Phish favored a loose, grungy and highly-effected sonic palette, as the music likened a descent into Hades. This ominous march became more and more intense—a harrowing segment of musical mania that pushed further and further into abstraction. Sounding as if they had been burrowing through the earth, the band—finally—popped through the darkness into the tranquil, deep sea where they floated hundreds of feet below the surface. And thus began the majestic final segment of the jam—a truly holy exchange. Needless to say, in Hampton, Phish put the lens of the exploratory and psychedelic side of their game, and came out with quite the result.

The next “Tweezer” came exactly one week later, on Sunday night in Hartford, Connecticut, and it was a totally different story. Whereas Hampton’s was loose, Hartford’s was tight. Whereas Hampton’s was quintessential “evil” Phish, Hartford’s was uplifting. Whereas Hampton’s was distorted and dissonant, Hartford’s was silky smooth and melodic. And whereas Hampton’s got abstract, Hartford’s grooved ’til dawn. You catch my drift? These two “Tweezer” jams couldn’t really be more opposite. Such utter diversity between versions makes any comparison a matter of apples and oranges. Hampton’s version felt perfect in the old, shoddy Coliseum, while Hartford’s uplifting groove exercise fit congruently with the most wide open dance floor of tour. As Mom used to say, “There’s a time and a place for everything.” And she’s never been more right than in Fall 2013.

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

“Tweezer’s” final outing came in Atlantic City’s fall tour finalé, and it was, perhaps, the most unique of them all. This version focused exclusively on rhythm, as each member used their instrument in percussive fashion rather than offering any melodic leads. Many times this is how Phish jams start before moving into a second section of more conventional playing. But Atlantic City’s never made that jump, instead undulating between varying rhythmic textures. This made for an extremely danceable version that entered some decidedly unique late-jam grooves. While this “Tweezer” developed in concept throughout, never did anyone look to build the jam vertically or melodically, as Phish remained a growling, mechanical dance factory for the duration of tour’s final jaunt. This excursion, truly, bears no resemblance to either Hampton’s or Hartford’s, making the trifecta of fall “Tweezers” about as different as three Phish jams can get.

If we were to draw roots of these “Tweezers” into Phish history, they would certainly touch several different eras. Hampton’s version references the growling abstraction of ’03 and ’04, Hartford’s nods to the funk era of ’97 and ’98, while Atlantic City’s is a bit tougher to trace—some combination of the intricacy and innovation of ’94 with a sonic palette of ’99-’00 and beyond. While musical genealogy is hardly a precise science, the overall takeaway is that Fall 2013 was comprised of a hybrid of improvisational styles from throughout the band’s illustrious career. And what makes Phish such a special band is that they are still creating at this stage of the game, forging new pathways nightly, all while referencing tricks learned over a Hall of Fame career. The result of this is a Phish tour that is more dynamic than ever before, as nobody knows what style of jam will spring from what song on any given night. In past eras, as unpredictable as Phish has been, one could know—more or less—what style of jamming they would witness when they walked through the arena doors. These days, however, with’s the band’s ever-diversifying improvisational tendencies, it’s just not that simple. When extrapolating this trend to every jam vehicle in the catalog, the possibilities contained within any current Phish show become limitless. Through the years, the band has taught us to expect the unexpected, but in this, their thirtieth, year, Phish has once again redefined the meaning of “unexpected.”

11.1.13, Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

Hampton Coliseum (Jake Silco)

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The Next Ten

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 18th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

11. “Tweezer” 11.2 II, Atlantic City, NJ

This jam is incredibly unique as all band members anchor themselves in rhythmic playing. Nobody offers melodic leads, and the result is some super crunchy, locked in dance music. One of the more underrated jams of the fall.

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***

12. “Carini” 10.25 II, Worcester, MA

The only thing holding this “Carini” out of the top ten is its brevity. Talk about Phish crack, this jam has it in droves.

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***

13. “Theme from the Bottom” 11.2 I, Atlantic City, NJ

You youngsters wanna’ get a feel for the ’97 and ’98 era when any jam could plunge into gooey, danceable funk textures at any given moment? Well, it was kinda like this! This “Theme” evoked the quintessential sound of the era. Think Island “Cavern.”

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***

14. “Down with Disease” 11.2 II, Atlantic City, NJ

During this tour, Phish featured several jams with monstrous peaks and many sick jams without big-time peaks. This is one of the latter. Locked in from the jump, this version passes through several stages of music with total fluidity, arriving at a gorgeous final segment.

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***

15.  “Tweezer” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA

The most exploratory jam of fall tour came via Hampton’s third-night “Tweezer.” This loose, grungy and ever-darkening take on the classic vehicle gets quite abstract before the band finds salvation in the jam’s final sequence—some of the most special moments of tour. The reason I haven’t ranked it higher is because I don’t find it to be very cohesive in concept or execution, but a great piece of Phish nonetheless.

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16. “Waves” 11.25 II, Worcester, MA

A soft-spoken psychedelic vignette. I’m not sure why this one hasn’t gotten more speak in the online community, but I absolutely love it.

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17. “Drowned” 11.26 II, Worcester, MA

The only “Drowned” of fall popped off in a big way, focusing mostly on hard rock and uptempo groove. But the big payoff came when the band dripped into a surreal final segment centered around Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.” The reason I didn’t rank this higher is because I don’t find most of the jam to be very original, despite the quality of play.

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18. “Golden Age” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA

This locked in dance jam switched up the vibe from the previous “Tweezer,” and is—arguably—the more hooked up jam. Phish set the stage for Hartford’s tour-highlight version of “Golden Age” at Hampton, as the jam traveled an almost identical course. This one, however, take a more extensive glimpse into the storage shed.

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19. “Ghost” 11.19 II, Hampton, VA

The triumphant scorcher from Hampton at number 19? What a tour!

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20. “Light” 11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ

This is an underrated jam that has lived in the shadows of the larger pieces of Atlantic City. The band gets into quite a unique—and very tight—conversation in this piece, a sort of avant-garde, jazz-laced groove. This “Light” ends with an abstract foray into an almost Dead-esque, free-form space—quite cool and experimental.

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The Top Ten Jams of Fall

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 15th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

I’ve spent the past week spinning the hell out of Fall and I have come up with my top ten jams of tour. These are—by my ear—the most hooked up, flowing pieces of improvisation from an all-too-short fall run. As always, ranking these was an incredibly difficult task, but that said, I’m quite happy with how this top ten turned out. always, Enjoy the playlist!

10. “Ghost” 10.31 III, Atlantic City, NJ

This locked and driving jam opened the third of set of Halloween with a bang.

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9. “Down with Disease” 10.29 II, Reading, PA

After steering through a couple different moods, the band found the end of the rainbow in a southern-style pot of gold.  This Allmans-sque passage and earth-shattering peak cement Reading’s “Disease” as a keeper.

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8. “Golden Age” 10.27 II, Hartford, CT

Fishman absolutely destroys this rhythmic jam, as the band dances around his inhuman beats for much of its duration. The band truly sits into this jam, something they are becoming more and more comfortable doing with “Golden Age.”

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7. “Twenty Years Later” 10.29 II, Reading, PA

Methodical, growling, and funky as James Brown’s band on their worst night, this mid-set surprise obliterated the dance floor and left people picking up pieces of their brains off the walls of Santander Arena. Sliding into a rootsy, Americana outro, this jam hit the feel-good spot as well.

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6. “Twist” 10.23 II, Glens Falls, NY

This jam provided the pivot point of tour; from here on out, everything the band touched turned to gold.

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5. “Carini” 10.31 III, Atlantic City, NJ

A free-form, third-set joyride that reached profound planes following some early-jam hiccups. The improvisational centerpiece of the Halloween show.

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4. “Light” 10.26 II, Worcester, MA

The most slamming “Light” of Fall has so much to offer, including a searing guitar solo, a passionate composed jam and the the most sophisticated groove exposé of the entire tour. Hey!

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3. “Twist” 11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ

The central part of this jam provided the most cathartic group moment of the year aside from Tahoe’s “Tweezer.” Very powerful music; very powerful energy. The band came down from the mountaintop and retained cohesion through a mini-“Under Pressure” jam, continued into a full-blown, psychedelic third segment of music, and finally came down via a dreamy denouement.

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2. “Carini” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA

This multi-staged, super-dynamic jam is the only piece of Fall—other than my number one pick—that flows with a completely effortless nature from beginning to end. And that’s quite impressive considering the amount of ground it covers, including a scintillating mid-jam, peak and a funked up final section. Despite Sunday’s scorching final set, this “Carini” is the everlasting gem of Hampton 2013.

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1.Tweezer” 10.27 II, Hartford, CT

The guys clicked from this jam’s first note, locking into a sacred stride and never missing a beat. No jam from Fall flowed more effortlessly that this—four-minded, egoless, soulful music from start to finish. As if God pressed play and the band simply allowed the music to flow through them—this is what it’s all about.

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Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

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The Fulcrum of Fall

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 13th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
11.2.13 (George Estreich)

11.2.13 (George Estreich)

One of the dates everyone had circled before Fall Tour started was October 23, Phish’s return to Glens Falls Civic Center. The intimate venue in the small New York town had played host to only one Phish show before and it was one of legend. This would be the second. Close to Burlington, Vermont, Glens Falls would also be the “friends and family” show of Fall Tour—an event that often comes with added demands and pressures on the band. Atop all that, after a torrid Hampton weekend, Phish showed signs of fatigue in Rochester the previous night, dropping the ball in their shakiest performance of the year. These multiple variables had their long-awaited return to Glens Falls up in the air.

A fierce opening set seemed to set the arrow straight for the band, but it was the second set’s more creative endeavors that had given them problems in Western New York. The vibe inside the Civic Center was electric from note one, and it certainly felt like Phish could ride this energy to victory, but the truth would be told after setbreak.

10.19.13 (A. Nusinov)

10.19.13 (A.Nusinov)

In each of the first four shows, the band had opened the second set with a significant piece of improvisation, thus when they kicked down the doors of Glen Falls’ main event with “Rock and Roll,” fans strapped on their seat belts for a long-form ride. It felt like the guys had something going when Fish dropped the rock jam into half-time, but not long after the tempo slowed, they wound down into a quasi-natural ending with no real ground covered.

Very rarely does Phish start a second set with two jam vehicles without taking one of them for a ride, thus when “Seven Below” started, it seemed that the post-hiatus tune would provide our adventure of the night. Perhaps a bit hesitant from the fact that “Rock and Roll” didn’t get anywhere, the band didn’t try to bring “Seven Below” outside the box, favoring a contained and very fiery exchange. The band wove a good amount of creative playing into this anchored rendition, building back their improvisational confidence that they had lost over the past night plus a jam. And upon “Seven Below’s” conclusion, Phish crept into “Twist.”

As soon “Twist’s” first notes whispered into the arena, one knew that here would lie our gem. Phish had opened Hampton’s first second set with “Twist,” and with it sculpted a Pink Floyd-laced ambient soundscape—a clear sign of intent to resuscitate the song’s creative edge. This Glens Falls version would not only help that cause, it would become the pivot point of Fall Tour.

11.1.13 (A.Nusinov)

11.1.13 (A.Nusinov)

This time around, Phish built right out of the song’s Santana-esque jam instead of bringing the lyrics back and launching off a second jam a la Hampton. Trey accelerated the pace of this “Twist” early on and Page stuck right with him, as the band’s jamming sounded far more locked than at any point since Hampton. Minutes later, Trey and Page led a break from form, and once Fish and Mike switched up the rhythm, Phish shot into the stratosphere with a high-octane and quite atypical, mid-jam climax. And as quiet dreamscape emerged out of this peak, “Twist” oozed into its most transcendent section.

Atop atmospheric textures, Trey began playing a heart-tugging melody—a week later discovered to be from “The Line”—that came to define the final portion of the jam. As the rest of the band carefully constructed their offerings around Trey’s melody, a breathtaking exchange blossomed. Building off this thematic sequence with layers of ambient effects, the guys took their time to descend from a truly blissed out trip.

To close this set, Phish absolutely slayed an old-school version of “Harry Hood,” a piece that, unquestionably, continued the band’s now-righted improvisational path. As “Hood’s” blistering peak brought the tour’s smallest crowd to it’ highest high of the night, Phish had made it through their slight stumble and came out of Glens Fall’s with a rocket strapped to their back heading for New England. After the subsequent weekend, with only Reading and Atlantic City to go, it became very clear that Phish wouldn’t falter again. And when looking back over tour’s first week, there was no doubt that things had shifted for keeps with the Glens Fall’s “Twist.”

Boardwalk Hall (George Estreich)

Boardwalk Hall (George Estreich)

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Twist” 10.23 II, Glens Falls, NY

Fall Tour’s point of solidification.

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A Course Correction

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 12th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

10.20.13, Hampton (Andrea Nusinov)

The opening Hampton shows provided an incredible homecoming to an arena that holds such a special place in the Phish universe. But after the first two nights—two very solid performances—one had to wonder if the Mothership would ever truly gain liftoff again. After the band’s instantly legendary two-night stand of November 21 and 22, 1997—a weekend on which the building garnered its outer-space moniker—and one popping performance the following year, Phish had never played a huge show in the building again. They hadn’t even really come close.

In 1999, the band closed out their December “Millennial Prep” Run with a two-night stand in Hampton, but the tour had, unquestionably, peaked the night before in Raleigh. The closer was a hot two-set show, though the performance produced no timeless jams and, honestly, no real memorable ones either. After ’99, The Mothership became the scene of some notably not-so-sexy Phish shows. First came the inverted New Year’s Run in ’03 which featured a solid opening night followed by two relative duds. Then came August 2004’s one-off performance that the band and their audience would just assume forget. After a five year break, however, and not so long ago, Hampton was the site of salvation. “Fluffhead” rang out through the hills on March 6th of 2009, as the Phish breathed life into a dormant tribe. But—all in all—as we set our sights on Hampton, Virginia, this fall, the question hanging in the air was—“Is the Mothership going to explode this time?” On Sunday night, October 20th, we got our answer.

10.18.13 (A.Nusonov)

10.18.13 (A.Nusonov)

Though the first set was a tad slow, there was nothing objectively wrong with it, as Phish often plays standard first sets on the final night of three-night stands. But after the break, Phish laced up their game shoes and locked into beast mode like we haven’t seen in some time. After their nod to a crew of fans by playing “Paul and Silas,” Trey carried on with his regularly scheduled programming and dripped into “Tweezer.” This was the first jam to illustrate what Fall Tour would be about—patient, long-form, full-band jamming. In previous years—or even tours—Trey would have bailed out of this “Tweezer” jam on two or three separate occasions, but with the confidence built this summer, the band became mere vessels on this night—allowing the music to take its course. And its course was quite ominous.

The most transcendent part of this piece, however, came after Phish had navigated the underworld and found a pristine ambient lair, the likes of which are few and far between in this era. This wasn’t a typical “we-need-to-end-this-jam-so let’s-go-ambient” type of scene, the band had, rather, worked though an extensive, exploratory improvisation and found nirvana. The ending segment of this “Tweezer” is musical ground on which Phish rarely treads these days—a reflective collaboration that likens cosmic fallout of a spiritual explosion. This moment-by-moment endeavor saw the band play with utmost delicacy and respect for what was transpiring. This was special Phish. This was Hampton Phish.

Tastefully wrapping up the jam, the band trucked into “Golden Age.” Stretching things out once again, this time into an airtight groove session, the guys were clearly letting things hang out in what might possibly be their final show in Hampton’s storied round room. The band faked left into “2001” before cutting right into “Piper,” a move that kept the energy sky high and kept the jam vehicles rolling in a set that was building momentum like a snowball rolling down Everest.

10.20.13 (Jake Silco)

10.20.13 (Jake Silco)

Amidst a full-throttle, exclamatory “Piper,” Phish pulled off—perhaps—the move of the tour in only it’s third night. Trey started up a classic rock vamp that sounded as if he was directing his bandmates in a new direction. Always a step ahead of the game—and before anyone could call what was coming—the band spontaneously slithered into the Seventies’ classic, “Taking Care of Business!” On a night that they were doing just that, the masterminds from Vermont conjured up the perfect musical gesture without exchanging a word and The Mothership nearly burst. Chills, shivers, the whole nine yards—this was a moment that nobody in the building would ever forget; collective catharsis and then some—a communal bolt of lightning.

And just as it felt like Phish might exhale for a minute, they threw down a ludicrous set-closing trifecta of “2001,” “Sand” and “Slave,” each song given the full treatment.  “2001” appeared in beefier-than-usual form, paving the way for Hartford’s tour highlight a week later, but also nodding to the outer-space motif of the building that they were currently destroying. Though the band’s improv would progress to more prolific heights over the next two weeks, no performance matched the energy and face-melting intent of Hampton’s finale. But there was also something more poignant at play.

As “Tweezer Reprise” punctuated the night, I couldn’t help but feel the book closing on a chapter of Phish history. The prodigal band had returned to its Mothership and treated it to a proper throwdown, a ritual that will resonate for eternity. This was the show that the Coliseum had been aching for fifteen years, and damn did it feel good. Perhaps Phish will make their way back to Hampton and perhaps they won’t. But if they never do, their mission is now complete and The Mothership’s place in history has been forever restored.

"Tweezer" 10.20.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

“Tweezer” 10.20.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Piper -> Taking Care of Business” 10.20 II

Here, Phish laid out their plan for Fall Tour…

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What’s Old is Gone

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 10th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

There was no greater risk that Phish could have taken on Halloween that to buck tradition and deliver a full set of new original songs. Many Phish fans have a notorious reputation for hating on new music as Trey explained in this striking anecdote from Wingsuit’s Phishbill: “Every time we’ve put out a new Phish album —literally every time—a certain contingent of fans has felt that the band they know and love is coming to an end. It’s never true.” He then went to recall how he was heckled in 1990 after debuting “Reba,” one of his fans’ longtime, most coveted compositions. Needless to say, Phish didn’t expect their audience to lap up their newest offerings in Atlantic City, but they put their wingsuits on and did it anyway. And in doing so, they shocked a fan base that thought it had virtually seen it all. Though I never saw this, I heard that many fans were disappointed with the band’s decision. But why? Their reaction made no sense to me. Phish has always used their Halloween sets to guide their playing—a sort of litmus test for where they have been and where they are going. And if the songs of Wingsuit are any indication, we are headed for another intensely creative era of Phish music. Isn’t that we are all looking for?

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

One of the most notable aspects of the songs tentatively comprising Wingsuit is their diversity. This will not be a simplistic Phish album. Most of the selections were scribed in four-minded collaboration and reflect a thoughtful and intricate songwriting approach. Strewn with lyrical themes of self-loyalty, making peace with the past, and soaring anew, the title track “Wingsuit” provided the perfect introduction to Phish’s future album, as it opened set two. And from there, the band simply went for it, for there was “nothing to lose.”

Phish didn’t have to take such an audacious risk. They didn’t have to play Wingsuit. The guys could have easily memorized another album from the past and crushed it. It probably would have been easier for them, and far more stress-free. But by choosing the path of least resistance, they would cease to be Phish. Secondly, I bet we wouldn’t all have been listening to Eat a Peach on repeat for a week straight, while allowing the tapes of the most glorious tour in the modern era to lay in waiting. But that is exactly what so many fans have been doing with Wingsuit! And there is no end in sight.

There is nothing quite like new Phish music, and being introduced to Wingsuit on Halloween transformed us into innocent, childlike fans; expectations were an impossibility. This element was one of the coolest part of the Halloween set—collective discovery with zero reference points whatsoever. We—the audience—were discovering the power of these new songs with the band. This was a collaborative exercise; an unprecedented gesture in live music in which—most often—fans come to hear the familiar. How many other bands could step on stage and please their audience with 90 minutes of brand new music? Maybe…zero?

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

The Wingsuit set was Phish—dramatically—opening the studio doors to their adoring fans, allowing us to actually be a part of the creative process. This was a dream come true! Out of all the crazy things we had seen this band do over the past 30 years, they had never before played an entire set of new songs. Never. And these songs were written for keeps; a powerful infusion of high-quality music into Phish’s mix in this, their 30th year. Pieces like “Fuego,” “The Line,” “Waiting all Night,” “Wombat” and “Devotion to a Dream” reflect stylistic tangents for the guys, taking them in different sonic directions. Phish didn’t only preview their future album on Halloween, they paved the way for the next prolific era their career.

And now we wait. Not only for MSG’s Holiday Run (which will, likely, include several Wingsuit songs), but for the album, itself, to see which will selections make the cut and in what form. Beyond these upcoming events, however, we wait for the Phish’s next full-fledged tour—seemingly Summer 2014—in which the songs of Wingsuit will come into their own, carry improvisational significance, and begin to find their niche in the annals of Phish history.

10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

“Wombat” w/ Abe Vigoda, 10.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

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More Thoughts on Wingsuit:

My friends over at PleaseMeHaveNoRegrets.com have written a beautiful, long-form essay on Wingsuit. It resonated with me immediately, and I agree with its content in full. I’ve excerpted the beginning of the piece below and provided a link so you can read it in its entirety:

I. Phish headed into Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall for their three-night, Fall tour ending run with enough momentum from a banner year on the road, and enough confidence in the current state of their now 30-year old artistic enterprise, to step to the line and take a giant leap of faith into the unknown.

And so on an unseasonably warm All Hallow’s Eve on the Jersey Shore, Phish spread out a page of their carefully coiled papyrus, dutifully replaced their quills, dipped them deep into the ink of their creative wellspring and penned an entirely fresh chapter in the epic poem of their career. 

As a band known for keeping their audiences on the edge of their seats, Phish once again zigged where so many expected them to zag. Eschewing their 20-year old Halloween tradition of covering an album by a musical forebear, they instead used the Wagnerian backdrop of Boardwalk Hall to preview their future. In place of covering an album by Led Zeppelin, Elton John, The Band or even contemporary’s like Radiohead or TV on the Radio, Phish played through their own unreleased, in-progress album entitled “Wingsuit.”

Read the rest here!

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Winged-music-note

Jam of the Day:

Wingsuit > Fuego” 10.31.13 II

The future of Phish. I mean…

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