The Palace Tweezer—Twenty Years Later

My Actual Ticket Stub—12.6.97

Twenty years later and I can still remember everything about that night—where I was, who I was with, what I was wearing. They say that live music can change your life, and that is exactly what happened to me on the sixth of December in 1997. On this night, something momentous happened. A piece of music harnessed from the outer realms of the universe came down through the instruments of a band from Vermont and transformed The Palace of Auburn Hills into a place of worship. On this night, we received “The Palace Tweezer.”

This jam is hands down, far and away, my favorite piece of music ever created by mankind. And it’s not even close. The Palace Tweezer has it all—the grimiest, subliminally connected funk grooves, a passage of ascension into spiritual realms of sound and soul, and an indescribable section of musical wizardry that I suspect was the soundtrack of the universe’s creation. The entire piece unfolds like poetry without a moment of hesitation, as if the music already existed—perfectly composed—and the band just allowed it to come through them. It seems impossible that a piece of improvised music so immaculate, so powerful, and so utterly dynamic could be generated by human beings on the fly.

I cannot begin to guess how many times I have listened to this jam over the past twenty years, but it sounds every bit as good today as it did when I got the analog copy sometime after tour. It has not lost a drop of freshness or power. The Palace Tweezer is a part of the fabric of my existence. Though I know the piece by heart, the feelings it produces on each and every listen are no less stirring than on the day I heard it.

Though Phish crafted so many sections of “funk” that fall, none approach the nuanced, four-minded mastery on display in this jam. The band members finish each other’s musical sentences, speaking as one entity rather than individual musicians. These grooves have a life of their own—locked in doesn’t begin to describe it.

The band gradually and ever so smoothly builds from these opening dance rhythms into a section of improvisation that opens a wormhole in space-time, allowing the music—and the Palace—to slip into an alternate dimension. This passage gives me chills every time I listen to it. Literally. Every time. Trey hits a lick in here that elevates the possibilities of the entire jam, and the band is right with him. From this point forward in the jam, words fail me. The music is beyond linguistic expression—a deeper magic from before the dawn of time.

I truly believe that the band communed with the divine while playing this jam. It is not far fetched, as we are all individual manifestations of the one divine energy of the universe. We are the universe awakening to itself and expressing itself as human beings for a short blip of time. Life is but a process of remembering not who we are, but what we are. Yet, because we are in human form, we are not in always in touch with this higher truth. But on that Saturday night in December, twenty years ago, Phish was not only in touch with it, they channelled this truth through music, through themselves and, subsequently, through everyone in the room.

It is this process that makes transcendent Phish jams such incomparably powerful experiences. This is the reason we keep going back—to remember and experience our truth. The Palace Tweezer is the greatest expression of my personal truth that I have ever heard. It is primordial music, an oracle of the infinite, telling a story of our past, present and future all at once.

Today—twenty years later—I will listen to the The Palace Tweezer again, and I will smile with awe and wonder, just as I did when the lights came on, oh so long ago.

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9,676 Responses to “The Palace Tweezer—Twenty Years Later”

  1. little umbrellas Says:

    The whole new Byrne album is available now.

    Did y’all watch his performance on Colbert from last week? Daaaaank.
    The single sounded so much better live. Dope ass performance. What a band/performing troop!

  2. Guitarpicker420! Says:

    I find it very difficult to not be thinking about the formation of the music while listening to it live. I am not as technically proficient as Little Um, but I have played for 30+ years, 20+ of that as a semi-pro musician within a band context. I think that in ways it gives me a different understanding and appreciation of what is going on, and in ways it takes away from the purity of the moment that so many here are after. I guess I think that you listen to music differently when you are a musician too.

    Yesterday I was playing the first track off of Dynamic Duo (Smith & Montgomery, wildly good stuff) for a drummer buddy of mine. He couldn’t pick out Montgomery’s guitar until he started soloing. I kept pointing out and humming along the licks that he was laying down while Smith was going off, and he just couldn’t hear it. He heard the bass and the drums and the organ, but not the guitar.

    Maybe he just has a bad ear, or maybe he was lost in the moment, and I was focused on the cool, admittedly minimalist, things that Wes was doing behind Jimmy.

    I don’t know, this has gone off track…

  3. vapebraham Says:

    ^^ thinking way too much

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Going on a Miles Davis deep-dive. Spinning, in succession every album from E.S.P through Black Beauty. (13 of them).

  5. Guitarpicker420! Says:

    Then I look over at my wife on the couch, and she was flat getting down to that track and she couldn’t tell you anything about what was going on musically. So, I guess to each their own. I’ll have to think about it some more.

  6. bobby weird Says:

    I am sure listening to music is wildly different for musicians. As a non musician, it’s impossible for me to know that experience. And to judge.

  7. vapebraham Says:

    wow. the first set of the MGB Egg show from last night is bueno+. so nice. Robert Walter brings a much needed soul. Tower of Power cover to close the set is funky.

  8. BingosBrother Says:

    I have almost consciously shied away from learning the technicalities of music in my life. I’ve always been a very gullible person and am mystified by the simplest magic act. Maybe I’m missing out, but I love that feeling so much I never wanted to sully it or have it disappear. Knowledge is overrated.

  9. wilbard Says:

    Yall got me on a Miles and Trane kick here now.

    Just spun the track Eighty-One on E.S.P., amazing.

    also the So What on Four & More

  10. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    So I slept on David Byrne onsale.

    Is it worth the $120-$150?

  11. MrCompletely Says:

    I don’t read it that miner is saying thinking about music specifically is the issue.

    My understanding of his comments is that he’s laying out his interpretation of the meaning or intent that Coltrane was trying to express in his highest or deepest moments. In other words, trying to verbalize the philosophy behind that music.

    There are basically two angles there:

    One, that there are ideas, visions, philosophies, or realizations that are best expressed through music, or at least are impossible to capture in verbal language, so maybe music just comes closer to the truth. I think most of us that love music have experienced this – what the music means to you in that moment couldn’t really be expressed any other way than that music at that moment.

    Two, the more esoteric point, is that one such philosophy or view is that all individual thought-forms and manifestations are meaningless when viewed from a high level of awareness, such as Coltrane exhibited in his later life. As we see from this discussion, it’s a pretty elusive idea when you put it in words. As a direct realization or experience it carries more weight of truth. So the fact that this point is hard to make in words but Coltrane expressed it musically is an example of the first idea above.


    Obviously as for relating to music there’s obviously a range from analytical to ecstatic to Zen. I don’t think there’s any need for value judgment about which is better or anything. Miner used to be analytical, now he’s more Zen as I read it. Others of us come at it from all different angles and that’s fine. I personally try not to be too analytical when I’m first in the moment with music, but on later listens to the same piece I tend towards that mode pretty strongly. One of the things I really treasure is finding pieces that put me in an ecstatic or Zen mode still after many repeat listens. There’s not a lot in that category

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    TLDR: dancing about architecture

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    One last way of framing it: when played by really smart or highly evolved people, music allows the artist to lead at least some listeners to have a direct experience (not a thought or realization, an experience) that means something that would be misunderstood if put in words, or that just isn’t really verbal at all.

  14. BingosBrother Says:

    Yo C, can you give me an intro version of The Maker? And maybe favorite interpretation? Spun the Phobby one today, but bad AUD and Bobby.

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    I was intrigued by what @C said about how there is some level of advanced math applied to Coltrane’s music and did a google and found this article (, which is linked to another article about Coltrane and geometry (

    Coltrane was very interested in Einstein’s quantum theory and spoke about applying it to music to create a musical system connected to the divine. Combining his study of physics and Indian music, the result are tonal scales and circles whose relationships form figures of sacred geometry.

    One thing I experienced and came to know from one night in Dallas last fall is that there is a geometric dimension to the universe—an endless geometric structure that connects the souls of all living things (much like the Hindu concept of Indra’s Net). As we all are manifestations of the One, we all share one soul of the universe and actualize / manifest that soul as individuals. It is divine geometry that connects all of us—and all living creatures.

    Coltrane’s music is hence an expression of the divine mathematics / geometry that composes the universe. His application of mathematics to music was not something that brought his music away from the soul, but a way to bring his music more closely in tune with the one soul of existence and an expression of universal truth.

    That blew me away and makes total sense having listened deeply to his music.

    Subsequent links:

    Einstein and Coltrane:

    The Jazz of Physics:

  16. Mr.Miner Says:


    In Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns, Lateef regards the link between mathematics and music. He notes in his autobiography that Coltrane’s music was a “spiritual journey” that “embraced the concerns of a rich tradition of autophysiopsychic music” – a quality Lateef defined as, “Music which comes from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self.”

    One sensation leads to another, causing a synesthetic reaction that helps us better to connect with the world and enliven us to the harmonious whole of everything. It’s all about communication, right? And mathematics, at once exact and abstract, invites a connection between numerical concepts and the way we sense and experience.

    Josh Jones makes the connection between the sublime Coltrane and the 20th Century’s most recognisable genius, Albert Einstein, a keen violinist:

    Coltrane was also very much aware of Einstein’s work and liked to talk about it frequently. Musician David Amram remembers the Giant Steps genius telling him he “was trying to do something like that in music.”

    Coltrane was showing us the universe’s harmonies – taking us with him on Lateef’s “spiritual journey”. As Einstein noted, via Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man:

    “Reading Kant, I began to suspect everything I was taught. I no longer believed in the known God of the Bible, but rather in the mysterious God expressed in nature.

    “The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can’t grasp them. There is a pattern in creation.

    “If we look at this tree outside whose roots search beneath the pavement for water, or a flower which sends its sweet smell to the pollinating bees, or even our own selves and the inner forces that drive us to act, we can see that we all dance to a mysterious tune, and the piper who plays this melody from an inscrutable distance—whatever name we give him—Creative Force, or God—escapes all book knowledge.

    “Science is never finished because the human mind only uses a small portion of its capacity, and man’s exploration of his world is also limited.”

    He concluded:

    “I do not need any promise of eternity to be happy. My eternity is now. I have only one interest: to fulfill my purpose here where I am. This purpose is not given me by my parents or my surroundings. It is induced by some unknown factors. These factors make me a part of eternity.”

  17. Mr.Miner Says:

    Fully concur with the central 2 paragraphs of C’s last long post.

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    Miner, I recently read the book by Stephon Alexander mentioned in that openculture post, the one about music and physics that reprints that Coltrane geometric diagram. It’s worth checking out. It takes a little too long to get to its points, but once it gets going it’s pretty interesting. He talks a lot about Trane, but more than that he’s able to draw some pretty interesting and specific analogies that I found interesting and I think you would too.

    The guy is a published professional theoretical physicist and longtime improvising jazz tenor player so he’s definitely got some perspective. Also he’s friends with Brian Eno whose ideas also play a significant role at one point in the book.

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    Apparently getting paid by the “interesting” there. Get it? I found it…interesting. It interested me interestingly

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    Indra’s Net made me think of this

    the net is such a beautiful idea

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    word. bought the book after i read the article.

  22. little umbrellas Says:

    The Coltrane Matrix basically shows that you can cycle through any of the twelve intervals, and ultimately find a chord that makes the note fit no matter how chromatic the movement in the melody.

    It’s based on the concept of the circle of 5ths.. (moving from dominant chord to dominant chord, all in 5ths, you will eventually cycle through all 12 keys)..
    .. but Coltrane added thirds to ths circle.. tertian movement. And he added an upper or clower chromatic note to each 3rd and 5th. Ultimately giving you a visual representation of a concept he actually worked with in his music. He could make any note fit. 12 tone music still being diatonically relative.

    But the tertian motion in his song writing really effected bebop. That was Giant Steps right there.
    Most song writing is based in a movement of 5ths, the dominant chord having the most pull away from the One once the ear has accepted a given key.
    By writing Giant Steps trane set out to write his chord progression in 3rds. .. each chord change is subtler and less defined, more open.. and it takes more motion to cycle through and return to the one.

    This rapid chord progression with changes moving that quick at a more foreign interval of space, was really hard for people. And he was playing running 64th note leads at changes that quick.

    That’s where the ‘digital patterns’ come in.
    Also known as ‘sheets of sound’. He mastered moving arpeggios including voice color (9,11,13’s) over multiple octaves while moving through 3rds at 64th note speed.
    (Arpeggio being: playing a running line of the same notes that you’d strike simultaneously if you were to play a chord)

    And to me,, yes Giant Steps is more mathematical in that way. He sort of mapped out all these ways to move at that speed through those changes.

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    Thaaaats why when my buddy was calling out the digital patterns i was like yeah but that’s just the mid Atlantic years!! What about once you get to Ole!! Or A Love Supreme.

    That’s when i think Trane’s playing is at his most ‘soulfull’. And continuing on from there.
    Back at Giant Steps he showed he could manipulate any and every nook and cranny.

    Once he hit Ole..his song writing went modal.
    Simplifying his song writing to sometimes even one or two chords. Putting even more emphasis on his tone and melody. And not filling out the entire diatonic/chromatic spread in every bar.
    Stretching everything he could do with just one note sometimes.

    By Interstellar space there isn’t even a chordal instrument, and they totally leave even a modal grounding point for sheer freedom of movement. That’s just pure soul searching stuff.

    Ultimately i think his direction and meaning is evident in every step along the way in his journey. But by definition his pendulum and arc had parts that were varying degrees of being more math cerebral vs more free and intuitive.

  24. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “TLDR: dancing about architecture”

    can’t believe it took that long to get there

  25. Bwana Says:

    Intuition Intellect

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