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. George W. Kush Says:

    my posts are taking up too much bandwidth. send me a bill. Im out. g’day all.

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    I’ve never even watched porn online.

    ^you know where you go for lying Big D

  3. MiA Says:

    I really don’t want to know where all the bandwidth goes.

    I guess 99.9% of it is just wasting time.

    RL is responsible for far too much bandwidth being used on Bouncing Coda

  4. Stoney Case Says:

    i blame df and his catsofinstagram

  5. Dorn76 Says:

    I did just see my first ever Scarlet Tanager while mowing the back yard.

    (One of my last two statements is true)

    Marvelous little guy stood out like a red neon sign. Never “birded” per se but we’ve always been keenly aware of the variety in our verdant little corner of the World. Not many things are more relaxing than fresh greens and a quiet woodland backyard on a Spring afternoon.

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I did just see my first ever Scarlet Tanager while mowing the back yard.

    That’s a euphemism if I’ve ever heard one.


  7. Stoney Case Says:

    good man dorn! miner just added a birdhouse to his yard. feathered friends ftw! now to keep the stellar jays away

  8. ren Says:

    Thanks for the cliffnotes fellas. Good points from both sides. I think we’ll learn a lot more about this after the fact which is kind of what sucks. These policies go into play without really having a good understanding of the farther reaching impacts…and by then its usually too late to change in a meaningful way.

    And so it goes

  9. ren Says:

    Holy shit Dorn!!! I just saw my first Scarlet Tanager as well this past weekend!..all kidding aside.

    Show buddy and I were out at his cottage on LI. Its in Massapequa but its a hidden and significantly wooded plot for the area…we call it Vermassapequa. Anyway, we were sitting in his ’74 CJ5 which we were using as a blind of sorts, puffing away with ipad in hand to help us identify all the birds that were around. Surprised to see a bright red bird that wasn’t a cardinal. Birdwatching is kind of fun….on weed.

  10. Dorn76 Says:

    Mowing the front yard requires more modesty, @tiii

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    ren, there is a really cool doc (nature, maybe?) about birding in Central Park. Probably easy to find. I have caught pieces of it a few times (on weed, naturally) on the local pbs station.

  12. MiA Says:

    I personally like the red topped double breasted mattress thrashers.
    A fine species.


  13. MiA Says:

    PS. fuck grackles.

  14. BrandonKayda Says:

    Hey – how’s it going everybody?

    Nice post Miner. Looking forward to this tour coming up. Hope all is well.

  15. BingosBrother Says:

    Guck Gracking.

  16. vapebraham Says:

    BK in the haus. wassup, dog?

    just downed a 2 hearted tallboy. not bad. still not a fave. solid beer beer.

  17. vapebraham Says:

    ahhh, sculpin. that’s more like it.

  18. lumpyhead Says:

    fantastic, fantastic, BK

    how are you!?

  19. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Yeah, MiA! ‘cuz the single-breasted ones only play to a certain segment…


  20. dorn76 Says:

    I’m a triple breasted man, myself.

  21. ren Says:

    Noice T3. Thanks for supporting my newly found birding interest…unlike the other degenerates 😉

    I set up a feeder last spring to see what we could see here in Queens. Mostly starlings/grackles….so yeah, fuck grackles…not worth the seed. On a more intersting note, we have these relatively new extra dark brown squirrels. The tree in my front yard is home to one…I call him blackie

  22. BingosBrother Says:

    Just don’t get photographed with that dark brown one. The BB has an image to maintain.

  23. lumpyhead Says:

    if you like humorous dog videos

  24. dorn76 Says:

    Bingos! My Caucasian!

  25. ren Says:

    “My Caucasian!”

    Bwahahah !!!! Dying over here

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