Perspectives on Phish

MSG '13 (Ken Scelfo)

MSG ’13 (Ken Scelfo)

I see two dominant schools of thought in analyzing Phish history—the “classicist” and the “progressivist.” Allow me to elaborate. The classicist school believes a certain historical period represents the band’s best work. They believe that Phish caught lightning in a bottle during this era, and that the rest of their career simply doesn’t hold up to the playing in this one. Maybe the year is 93? Maybe ’95? Maybe ’97? But the argument is that there are are tangible boundaries of time that bookened the band’s most proficient era. The progressivist sees things on a continuum, and views the changing of Phish music as an evolutionary process. This evolution entails retaining improvisational elements of the past while integrating new ones to form a more advanced whole-group ethos. The progressivist sees 3.0 Phish as the culmination of this process, an era in which the band has integrated their entire past with new elements in forming some of the most virtuosic music of all-time. The classcicist will argue that the modern era is nothing but a watered down version of the band’s glory days in which Trey could play more notes per second and melt-faces with his more technically proficient guitar playing. The progressivist will see Trey’s step back in ’97 and discovery of rhythm guitar as a huge advancement of the group ethos, and a stepping stone towards Phish’s more free-flowing, communicative jams of the late ‘90s and beyond. The classcisist attaches to his past era as if represents an age that can never be matched—energetically, musically, scene-wise—you name it; it was better then. The progressivist sees the evolution of Phish as continuous through 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. He believes that the modern era represents the full realization of Phish’s hall of fame career. The classicist comes to modern shows for nostalgia and flashes of what used to be. I think you see the difference by now. In fact, I’m sure you have already thought of five friends that fall into each camp. There is that much of an unspoken—and spoken—divide in the Phish scene in relation to the past. And this divide represents the proverbial elephant in the room in so many unproductive Phish debates.

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

This is not a new rift in the community. It has always been there. In ’97 there was a camp of fans who became disenchanted with Phish’s change of pace—literally and figuratively. These fans longed for the speedier, guitar-led jams that they had grown up with and couldn’t wrap their head around the fact that this change could actually represent evolution and not destruction. Many of these fans missed ’97, ’98 and ’99 only to kick themselves later. Many stayed away until 3.0! If one is so caught up in glorifying an era or style of the past—or the past at all—he will, necessarily, not value the present nearly as much as someone who believes (read: understands) that the past has led Phish to their more evolved music dynamic of toaday. Many of these fans still see the 3.0 era as nostalgia and whatever-era-in-the-past as inherently untouchable. But that’s a fool’s perspective. Listen to the jams of 2012 and 2013 and try to tell me that they aren’t the among the most egoless, democratic conversations of the band’s 30 year career. You can’t. Everything has led to now.

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

Phish’s improvisational skills are at an all-time high. They may not play the fastest or the funkiest that they ever have, but their jam-to-jam diversity, creativity and consistency is unmatched at any other point in their career. The guys routinely code-switch between improvisational feels, refuse to get stuck in any stylistic rut, and jam with an unparalleled level of democracy. Simply put—Phish are the smartest musicians they have ever been. One would be hard-pressed to argue that point. Perhaps they don’t practice like they used to and don’t nail all their compositions (though they’ve been doing better in this area), perhaps they don’t play with the speed and ferocity of 25-year olds at age 50, and maybe they jam slightly less than they did once did. Phish’s improvisational ideas, however, are as creative as ever and when they do open things up, the results—as proven over the past couple years—are most often sublime. Perhaps modern Phish isn’t one’s favorite era, but anyone would be hard-pressed to argue against the evolutionary thread that is evident throughout the band’s career; a thread that has led us to another high-water mark for the legendary quartet from Vermont.


Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Twenty Years Later” 10.29.13 II

[audio:] Tags:

1,261 Responses to “Perspectives on Phish”

  1. sumodie Says:

    Sun’s coming up
    and I’m rolling over
    But I’m holding on

  2. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    word on the ground confirms that the mafia was in effect post show at the Warren Dead Symphony show with the Boston Pops last night. Keepin’ it classy as always, heads.

  3. Dorn76 Says:

    Stank nuts in the pocket.

  4. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @tiii when trey was playing with the orchestra in d.c. a few years ago, there were tanks INSIDE the venue… i thought that was hilarious.

  5. sumodie Says:

    ‘Rich people’ is such an amorphous phrase

    2.7 billion people live on less than $2 a day

    Making everyone here The Rich People

    Feeling xtra hetty as Ive been spinning old skool PH at last, 7.12.91 Keene NH (LP19). Always stings a little when I spin early shows that occurred in my neighborhood when I wasnt on the bus

  6. sumodie Says:

    ^ that show includes the Giant Country Horns. Such a wacky what the hell is this band gonna do next vibe

  7. btb Says:

    solid point Sumo

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Be afraid, very very afraid. A future with no Net Neutrality.

  9. ren Says:

    People surrounded by love, simple pleasures and an appreciation for what they do have are the TRULY rich

  10. ren Says:

    …they can be found at all levels of financial success or lack thereof

  11. dorn76 Says:

    Spinning 7/13/99 Miller remaster, not sure if that’s the version upped on or not…

    46 Days til’ Great Woods ’14.

    Stank nuts in my Fuego.

  12. MiA Says:

    While I am for net neutrality I think that article does a meh job of explaining the situation.

  13. vapebraham Says:

    the phishm axiom (bottom p. 42): if one is very successful, they could not possibly be honest, and therefore, they suck.

    the lone exception to the phishm axiom – phish.

    “treys high harmony in WAN cheesiest Troy ever? possibly”

    ^^^ he sounds vulnerable, which some consider cheesy.

    stoney is on point w/ the Sterling thing. Sterling is a straw man. We all pat each other on the back for showing the racist Sterling who’s boss, while turning a blind eye to the more significant racism that is alive and well in America.

    deez nuts are delicious and elevating

  14. BingosBrother Says:

    I’m rich in minerals.

  15. vapebraham Says:

    Stoney is also right to raise an eyebrow at the public’s casual disregard for privacy.

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    I won’t lie. I say the N word a lot. Hip hop and Sometimes A Great Notion have made a bad habit. Not racist though. My kid is the minority at school, most of her friends ain’t white and she came back from a visit to U of I saying she wouldn’t go there because she didn’t see any black people. Just saying, if you taped me all day, I’d sound evil. I do need to stop that shit.

  17. ren Says:

    So long as your watermelon tourmaline brings you peace and contentment then yes, yes you are.

  18. vapebraham Says:

    glad to hear album fuego is not from halloween

    “Sterling is a straw man.”

    ^^ should read “Sterling is a sick man.”

  19. dorn76 Says:

    Yeah, MiA I just liked the “day in the life” look at it. More accessible way in to a boring topic I guess. But we BB’ers don’t need things sugarcoated.

    Give us the straight dope.

  20. dorn76 Says:

    Just give us dope.

  21. BingosBrother Says:

    Straight dope can kill you. Gotta work your way up to it.

    Walter Mitty is a shitty movie, but great soundtrack. New Junip up in there.

  22. bearito Says:

    Wait till they drop a WAN cool-down jam after a narsty Tweezer this summer

    Complete with whaled out atmospheric washes from Trey

    Trey sounds like Frampton in the hook

  23. BingosBrother Says:

    Also, I vote Jerry the Younger to be Pigtail Jerry. Acne Jerry is too young.

  24. George W. Kush Says:

    Re: AC/DC Bag in town squares…THIS is the missing/illegal cure for crime these days. Public humiliation. The whole No Cruel and Unusual Punishment laws allow people to run amok. Im not a sadist but if people knew they would be held up as public spectacle and shamed in front of their communities and families on a pedestal, they would likely think more about their actions pre-crime. Petty crime especially. Now you kill someone, go to jail, hang with your other gang homies, run crimes from jailcells, and come out (maybe) with a more intricate criminal mind than before incarceration. TV/social media obviously is not effective as that public shaming forum.

  25. Stoney Case Says:

    Stubbed toe on office chair, dumped whole coffee on my keyboard. How’s your day?

    Keyboard drying out in a bag of rice. Hooked up the wireless solar logitech and stoney back in business!

    got t-shirts yesterday for those that requested. sending out soon.

    Word to Vapraham and Bingos for the sensible views this morning.

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