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. ren Says:

    I figured…just keeping the convo going cause I’m bored as fuck at work right now.

    I guess Mrs. Fish has a penchant for stank nut then considering the Duggar scene in that house

  2. dorn76 Says:


    You’re damn right.

  3. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    speaking of powders…

    no, I’m not surprised that the guy known for his bug-eyed expression was caught with five pounds of da mahl, why do you ask?

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    St Denis Reba never disappoints DIF.

    Guess I’m going to have to start snow’ing studio WAN. Only spun once ystdy.

    Non Phish related musical happenings…NOLA’s Earphunk has announced some additional dates this summer. Coming to a town near you. Lookin at you GWK phoammhead Leo dorn Burlington BBers pigsong pholrida phan et al.

    Get a little pre tour live music action.

  5. dorn76 Says:


  6. Jerome Garcia Says:

    This is better than a punch in the dick. 3/12/14 2nd set from TXR w/ Phil Anders Jackie Russo & MacDougall.

  7. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Regarding portal key holders I’d add PL&F can also still take you there. & of course like butter said the shit that goes down in NOLA over Jazz Fest. lilum will back me up on this 😉

  8. ren Says:

    Does someone want to give us all some cliffnotes on this whole Net Neutrality thing that just happened?

  9. George W. Kush Says:

    internet is no longer level playing field access for all businesses and websites. now providers like CONcast can favor (or be paid by) businesses like google to reserve more bandwidth for those paying businesses. at the potential expense of small businesses and sites w/ less traffic. gripe is that those smaller dogs in the internet fight will get strangled from bandwidth while bigger dogs with deeper pockets get faster easier access to users of the internet

  10. George W. Kush Says:

    pay to play sorta….

  11. George W. Kush Says:

    SO if Miner wants to grease some internet providers’ pockets, the BB can stay lightning fast! Otherwise, it could take 5 days to load Kaya’s IPA reviews haha

  12. MiA Says:

    Kid downloading porn may not get same priority as me getting my phish webcast

  13. Kaveh Says:

    I know, I know…but 1977 Terrapin Stations are just too short for my liking…much prefer 1990 and 1991 versions.

    For whatever, off-based comment this is worth…

  14. Kaveh Says:

    From previous comment, see here: (this is a View from the Vault release).

  15. George W. Kush Says:

    basically, the more or larger information packets your site or business wants to send across the fiber optics, you are going to have to pay to send that large cache of info across (for using more bandwidth).

    Also, another issue is that though providers can favor some companies while maybe unintentionally choking access to other sites, they also have the ability to intentionally undercut folks in competition with or not in favor with their newly paying customers. so say google pays comcast for increased bandwidth, bc google and comcast have a deal, google may say to comcast “fuck those dudes over at Bing, cut their bandwidth” or comcast might underhandedly do it as a favor to their paying customer, google.

    long winded but I think thats the main gist.

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    I gotcha back \( ̄

  17. Kaveh Says:

    Said show: (I’m done)

  18. MiA Says:

    Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and Porn are massive users of bandwidth.

    The guys who create bandwidth hogging apps have no financial “cost” to use 90% of the bandwidth and crush throughput speeds.

  19. George W. Kush Says:

    and somehow its legal. leave it to the government meddling with business to booger up a good thing. buncha clowns.

    “Mother can I trust the government?….”

  20. MiA Says:

    I think GWK has illustrated a more insidious view of this than what may actually happen.

  21. George W. Kush Says:

    Mia’s point is true too but it seems to me an open market for bandwidth that favors the deepest pockets is not the way to go.

  22. MiA Says:

    Should 18 wheelers and trucking companies pay higher licensing and tax rates on roads than mopeds?

  23. George W. Kush Says:

    but what do I know. All my recreational internet is looking at is the BB, phishtracks, and the surf report. I’d rather be outside. Sometimes I’ll build a sub online and order it thru my local grocery store. Wonder how much bandwidth my loaded italian on 5-grain uses….

  24. Dorn76 Says:

    I’ve never even watched porn online.

  25. George W. Kush Says:

    problem is that the end consumer ultimately incurs the cost, not the IP or business. So while IP coffers are filling with new revenue stream, minimal fiber optic increase occurs, and comcast raises consumer rates. so the IPs get fat and happy while everyone else gets their asses taxed. Thats why the IPs are in favor of this new legislation.

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