Thinking Out Loud: The Flow of Ideas

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?


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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644 Responses to “Thinking Out Loud: The Flow of Ideas”

  1. Mr. Palmer Says:

    What is that T3?

  2. jerseyjim Says:

    you can now download all 30 days of dead mp3s – free in one swell foop.

  3. butter Says:

    Palmer – I really dig it too (Em Marshall Mathers2)

    Rap Good
    So Far
    The Kendrick Lamar track

    The back half of the album is super country white trashed out as he gets back to his roots.. There’s a bunch of genius lyrical shit, some sick beats with super top notch polished production.. Complete with the Mom apology track, and the super diss famous people track

  4. tela's_muff Says:

    @T3 – is that 13 pages of people making fun of failed linkage?

  5. DavidSilver Says:

    Interview with Em in new RS is really good.

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    palms, it is either one of the better trolls you will see or a collective comedic peak or both. there are some seriously funny posts on that thread and yes, that is an oxymoron.

    smuff, I think that is just one level of it; there’s a lot going on in that thread.

  7. MiA Says:

    Phishm’s story originally posted here

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Is this the Jonathan Wilson everyone has been digging on lately?

  9. sumodie Says:

    Yes, Palmer

    He was the one rocking the i-just-woke-up-dirty-tie-dyed-hippie outfit when he appeared with Bob Weir & co. at TRI’s 70th Jerry bash in 2012. Then he proceeded to wow on both guitar & vocals. Awesome talent, imo

  10. sumodie Says:

    JerzJim, thanks! Been waiting for the completion to drop

  11. halcyon Says:

    Happy 30th!

    Listening to 12/2/83 now.

    Haven’t listened to latest Eminem yet, but have heard great things.

    Jonathan Wilson is awesome. I love his sounds and vibe. Playing in Boulder 2/5 and may have to hit that show.

  12. MiA Says:

    Spider two wide banana!!!

  13. phishm Says:

    I’m honestly not sure how I feel about a woman that sports a purple tye dye Jimmi Hendrix t shirt. It’s better then a cardigan any day of the week IMO. Or a blouse or any office attire. She grooms dogs for a living. Too cool to be true. I’m sure she has something wrong with her. If I didn’t always find a fault I’d be with females longer. Until then I’ll keep looking and hope they pull up to my doorstep once again. Maybe she’s the one and maybe she’s like all the others. Only time will tell and I’m good either way. I actually enjoy being single and think it will take an extraordinary type of female to take that away. It’s so stress free. Taking a ride on the Riverport Gin. Fun stuff.

  14. phishm Says:

    Giving this one a go. Remember this being a great first set. Been a while. Love the Reba.

  15. phishm Says:

    And the best Divided Sky I’ve ever heard. No shit. Trey flat out crushes it.

  16. plord Says:

    Back from Nectar’s. Saw Hood and Rooster. A very nice cover band played but no appearances by the band, at least not during the first set. I figured if nobody was on stage by 11…

    Here’s two jams you have been neglecting while gorging on Fall tour:
    1. Homdel Crosseyed>Hood
    2. MPP Stash

    Heard the first on the drive into town, the other on the way home.

  17. vegas wolfmans Says:


  18. Gavinsdad Says:

    The Reading Reba (played last nite loud on ride home) is very tasty. Brought me right back. Great show.

    Need to listen to some old phish soon.

  19. Gavinsdad Says:

    Anyone using the Chromecast “dongle” yet? Pros? Cons?

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