Three of a Different Kind

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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368 Responses to “Three of a Different Kind”

  1. vapebraham Says:

    metermen chills. i feel brand new, cuz I just kissed my baby. just kissed my baby.

    missed the mellow red lady. was two-timing her w/ a youngin named hops — more of a trollop, firecracker, muscular girl that will talk to you about threesomes during one on one intercourse. ahhh . . . the hops affair. now juggling both ladies. but the 1st and forever love will always be mary jane.

  2. vapebraham Says:

    no more okey doke

  3. vapebraham Says:

    clearly a dude form the BB. passion.

  4. dorn76 Says:

    epic video

  5. verno329 Says:

    Some good, down and dirty, ABB from ’71 is a great way to get through the day

  6. vapebraham Says:

    skip tpo the rob ford part. hilarious. i love this guy.

  7. vapebraham Says:

    “I’ve got more than enough to eat at home.”

  8. vapebraham Says:


  9. vapebraham Says:

    another pone i’ve pamped to death, but it is really just perfect and can’t stop spinning it.

    phil krasno and russo in central park. krasno doing his best j. mcglaughlin tone impression. love it.

  10. roberto luongo Says:

    nice to know this place hasn’t changed.

    Stoney Case droppin knowledge.

    drunkin hillbilly sounding stupid.

    Big jams FTW. pound some Lean and spin Hampton III set II.


    Wingsuit. Ya’ll are still debating fucking Wingsuit? everyone knows it falls somewhere between curing cancer and Hootie and the Blowfish.

    laterz kids.

  11. verno329 Says:

    Loved that clip vape. The manager of the bank I go to is the spitting image of Rob Ford. Haven’t brought it up cause I can’t imagine he would consider it a compliment.

  12. vapebraham Says:

    Yes. an RL sighting. peace, man.

  13. MiA Says:

    ’98 Champaign Wolfmans. Back from when Wolfmans dropped in second sets and got out there and scared people.

  14. ren Says:

    MiA loves a scary Wolfmans!…more or less than your soupy Gins?

  15. vapebraham Says:

    spinning hampton 10.18.13 wolfman’s now. fiery. vapin diablo

  16. MiA Says:

    Gins are huggable. Lovely romps and rips and mostly fist punchers. Never heard a “dark” Gin.

    Wolfmans like this (and MSG ’98) are undanceable, panic inducing, lose your marbles, hope Trey doesn’t drop into “those” scales, and get two anthemicly demonized.

    Love them both. One really is like the Suicide Girls version of a jam though.

  17. vapebraham Says:

    do you guys TT anymore? i’d get into it.

  18. verno329 Says:

    @MiA How dare you say that so close to the anniversary of the Winston-Salem Gin

  19. dorn76 Says:

    How about you let me out of Twitter jail, Luongo? Liz Warren was just a fling.

    Here’s a drop that may help convince you.

    Dorn Must Be Free by 83 Dub.

  20. MiA Says:

    Hampton Wolfmans = boring and bluesy yet sometimes funkified and sounds like a cover band playing Wolfmans.


  21. MiA Says:

    Verno you’re absolutely right. My bad. A great stunningly great Gin that broke all molds.

  22. vapebraham Says:

    ouch. i disagree, sir. spin the aud. there’s energy in that wolfman’s. $+ — $$. also now enjoying the hampton Jim. I guess that’s shit to you too. stop raining on our fun, mia, you troll, you phish high vacuum. caveat: super high. : )

  23. MiA Says:

    I don’t need to spin the aud. I was the aud.

  24. vapebraham Says:

    see, that’s the thing that separates the intellectuals from the primates. can you have a philosophical difference, a debate, if you will, and not get your panties in a bunch. more often than not, one side (typically the dullard) takes it personally and all hell breaks loose. use your words. tantrums are for babies.

  25. MiA Says:

    WS Gin after this Champaign run through Makisupa.

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