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. Selector J Says:

    Anyone that needs ‘Easy Camping’ for the Gorge, holler at me. I got a brah trying to unload them for face OBO.
    whenrootsattack at the geemahlz.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    Some cool quotes—
    “Where Lateef, as he writes in his autobiography, sees Coltrane’s music as a “spiritual journey” that “embraced the concerns of a rich tradition of autophysiopsychic music,” Alexander sees “the same geometric principle that motivated Einstein’s’ quantum theory.”

    * * *

    “Clarinetist Arun Ghosh, for example, saw in Coltrane’s “mathematical principles” a “musical system that connected with The Divine.” It’s a system, he opined, that “feels quite Islamic to me.”

    Lateef agreed, and there may be few who understood Coltrane’s method better than he did. He studied closely with Coltrane for years, and has been remembered since his death in 2013 as a peer and even a mentor, especially in his ecumenical embrace of theory and music from around the world. Lateef even argued that Coltrane’s late-in-life masterpiece A Love Supreme might have been titled “Allah Supreme” were it not for fear of “political backlash.” Some may find the claim tendentious, but what we see in the wide range of responses to Coltrane’s musical theory, so well encapsulated in the drawing above, is that his recognition, as Lateef writes, of the “structures of music” was as much for him about scientific discovery as it was religious experience. Both for him were intuitive processes that “came into existence,” writes Lateef, “in the mind of the musician through abstraction from experience.”

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    “Alexander describes his jazz epiphany as occasioned by a complex diagram Coltrane gave legendary jazz musician and University of Massachusetts professor Yusef Lateef in 1967. “I thought the diagram was related to another and seemingly unrelated field of study—quantum gravity,” he writes in a Business Insider essay on his discovery, “What I had realized… was that the same geometric principle that motivated Einstein’s theory was reflected in Coltrane’s diagram.”

    * * *

    It turns out that Coltrane himself used Einstein’s theoretical physics to inform his understanding of jazz composition. As Ben Ratliff reports in Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, the brilliant saxophonist once delivered to French horn player David Amram an “incredible discourse about the symmetry of the solar system, talking about black holes in space, and constellations, and the whole structure of the solar system, and how Einstein was able to reduce all of that complexity into something very simple.” Says Amram:

    Then he explained to me that he was trying to do something like that in music, something that came from natural sources, the traditions of the blues and jazz. But there was a whole different way of looking at what was natural in music.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    the opening of the liner notes for “Transition,” an album recorded in 1965 but released posthumously.

    “The music has to speak for itself,” John Coltrane said once when I asked him for a structural exegesis of one of his composition-performances. “I’d much rather,” he continued, “you didn’t put anything technical in the notes. It might get in the way of people finding out what is in the music for them.”

    And this was my point earlier today. Analyzing music with the mind will get in the way of the truths that lie within.

    PS: Check out that album. It’s a furious document of the quartet moving towards free / avant-garde jazz but still very much rooted in the modal jazz paradigm. It’s an amazing piece of work.

  5. wilbard Says:

    Loving these Coltrane Thoughts.

    Anyone who hasn’t seen it should watch that doc ‘The World According to John Comtrane’: It’s not as nearly sophisticated as the discussion here but it’s a pretty serious treatment of what his music was about, not a mere a bio like that more recent one on Netflix.

    Spun through a bunch of sick Miles grooves last night and threw them into a playlist for work, if it interests anyone (chronological highlights from ESP to Dark Magus):

  6. wilbard Says:

    I love the backstory to that “Right Off” track on A Tribute to Jack Johnson:

    “For the opener, “Right Off,” the band is Davis, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock, Michael Henderson, and Steve Grossman (no piano player!), which reflects the liner notes. This was from the musicians’ point of view, in a single take, recorded as McLaughlin began riffing in the studio while waiting for Davis; it was picked up on by Henderson and Cobham, Hancock was ushered in to jump on a Hammond organ (he was passing through the building), and Davis rushed in at 2:19 and proceeded to play one of the longest, funkiest, knottiest, and most complex solos of his career.” (Thom Jurek)

  7. phlorida phan Says:

    Stoney, you know these peeps? I have an order on my desk for them and had to look em up. Redwood Geetars! I never seen pickups like these either, said all made in house.

  8. Guitarpicker420! Says:

    Fellow guitar peeps: I am looking at buying a Guild Starfire IV. My main concern is that the pickups are oddly shaped, so I am stuck with them (I do like the way they sound, the neck pickup in particular has a great Bakersfield Country sound). Any thoughts?

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    music is math yo

  10. phlorida phan Says:

    and math is the truth

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    Bwana with a 2 word win:

    Intuition Intellect

  12. little umbrellas Says:

    “Dancing about architecture”

    ^the funny part is thats actually architecture academia now! Can be like getting a modernistic art degree.

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    The past is an illusion, there is only now
    The future is a fiction, there is only now
    A brief intermission, there is only now!
    Of this there is no question, there is only now
    And if I get too lifted, would you hold me down?
    And if you think I’m slipping, would you show me how?
    The future is a fiction, there is only now
    Souls of Mischief with live production by Adrian Younge and intro by Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

  14. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I just love that the earliest citation of that line is attributed to Martin Mull. there’s something particularly absurd about that to me

  15. Bwana Says:

    I was appreciating all the perspectives being shared … glad I jumped on the board last night … those two words reflect the dance to me. Got some links to check out now, too. Cheers, have a good day BB!

  16. Fly Says:

    language is just, like, a construct, man

  17. Phamily Berzerker Says:


  18. aj Says:

    Nothing lasts.
    Nothing is finished.
    Nothing is perfect.

    Wabi-sabi, bitches.

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    Extremely well said last page umbrellas. That distinction between the Giant Steps mechanistic innovation and what I heard my musician friends call “Coltrane style” one or two chord jamming was confusing to me until I learned they were distinct phases of his work. Giant Steps is still fascinating when you play it right after stuff that came out right before it in particular. But no doubt the modal opening-up of sixties jazz generally is the innovation that speaks more to me

  20. sumodie Says:

    “Analyzing music with the mind will get in the way of the truths that lie within.”

    Sounds like Coltrane was analyzing his own music in order to more fully inform his playing with some deeper truth(s)

    PhamB, our $110 second row mezzanine tickets for David Byrne were absolutely worth it. I believe most Byrne tickets are less than $120-150

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    Sounds like Coltrane was analyzing his own music in order to more fully inform his playing with some deeper truth(s)

    ^ yes. I’m not talking about the person making the music. I am talking about the person taking in the music. Of course the musician must hone their craft and the theory behind it.

    * * *

    And yes, the impulse years is the period that defined him as a revolutionary artist imo—his modal > free period. All of his conceptual / structural work underlies his playing throughout as he moved into his spiritual stage of his career.

  22. wilbard Says:

    Didn’t Coltrane record Giant Steps and Kind of Blue within like 2 weeks of each other? Dude was innovating on multiple fronts simultaneously.

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    yep principal recording was that close together. nutso

  24. garretcorncob Says:

    Sounds like Coltrane was analyzing his own music in order to more fully inform his playing with some deeper truth(s)

    ^ yes. I’m not talking about the person making the music. I am talking about the person taking in the music. Of course the musician must hone their craft and the theory behind it.


    Not to be snotty about it or anything, but aren’t you, Miner, as a listener of John Coltrane’s music, gaining greater understanding of the truths he’s trying to impart through his music by reading someone else’s analysis of the theories underpinning the music’s creation?

  25. little umbrellas Says:

    Lateef quotes were rad @Miner.

    Yusef Lateef- The Doctor is In and Out
    ^cinematic psychedelic funk music. 1976♡

    Yusef Lateef – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, oboe, flute, bamboo flute
    Kenny Barron – keyboards
    Leonard Goines, Joe Wilder – trumpet
    Jack Jeffers – trombone
    Jim Buffington – French horn
    Jonathan Dorn – tuba
    Dana McCurdy – ARP 2500
    Billy Butler – guitar
    Bob Cunningham, Ron Carter, Anthony Jackson – bass
    Al Foster – drums
    Dom Um Romao – percussion
    Judy Clay, Cissy Houston – backing vocals
    Bob Cunningham – narration (track 6)
    David Nadien – violin (track 7)

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