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. MrCompletely Says:

    seems like what we’re talking about is a kind of shifting back and forth of modes of appreciation right? The analytical understanding is happening at one time, and the more pure listening experience is another. It might be that the analytical mode is strictly for afterwards or between listens, or for another person, it might be two different ways of listening.

    I don’t see any contradiction, it’s a both/and situation not either/or

  2. garretcorncob Says:

    Sure, C, I think that’s right that there’s both modes – and that both get at things the other can’t, as well as being able to bring out additional meaning in tandem – but I can’t help reading Miner’s thoughts as excluding analysis from the listener, e.g.:

    “I now believe that thinking about and analyzing music is pretty much the antithesis of what it is actually about”

    “So trying to deconstruct music with words and to give it meaning or lack there of with analysis makes no sense.”

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

    And I think this conversation points to the opposite conclusion, that the analysis very much can help the listener understand the meaning of the music (not always, but not never), rather than always being something that “get[s] in the way of the truths”.

  3. vapebraham Says:

    There’s a level of music appreciation strictly for the feelings the art invokes and there’s the level of appreciation, which is the inquiry into how they made the magic, under what circumstances, and how it relates to other work.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    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?

    ^ more just what he actually did rather than someone’s analysis of it.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    I was intrigued how his tonal scales form geometric structures and how he used quantum theory to create a musical system that reflect the structure of the universe and would facilitate the musical expression of the divine.

    I’m not really taking it any further than that. Beyond that, any technical breakdown of his music doesn’t interest me. It’s the resulting music that holds the meaning.

  6. little umbrellas Says:

    I wouldn’t say Coltrane created a musical system.

    He made an artistic interpretation of an existing system. He did this to portray and look at the relationships inside of said existing structure.

    The Coltrane Matrix isnt derived from Quantom Theory, its based in the circle of 5ths and adds a third a chromatic lower and upper note for each.

    One could extrapolate and say that the existing musical structure reflects the structure of the universe. Music itself, and music Theory, ie the structure of our music.
    And based on that one could say extending your musical expression reflects greater onto the nature of the universe.

    Im interested in what happens in Coltrane’s music, what makes it happen, and what kind of thoughts and feelings it evokes in others.

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    yes, i realize he didn’t create the circle of fifths, but he altered it a unique and new way that reflected sacred geometry which is intrinsically related to quantum physics.

    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.”

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

  9. Mr.Miner Says:

    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.

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    In a detailed exploration of the math in Coltrane’s music, Hollander writes, “all tonics of the chords used in ‘Giant Steps’ can be found back at the Circle of Fifths/Fourths within 2 of the 4 augmented triads within the octave.” Examining these interlocking shapes shows us a hexagram, or Star of David, with the third triad suggesting a three-dimensional figure, a “star tetrahedron,” adds Hollander, “also known as ‘Merkaba,” which means “light-spirit-body” and represents “the innermost law of the physical world.” Do we actually find such heavy mystical architecture in the Coltrane Circle?—a “’divine light vehicle’ allegedly used by ascended masters to connect with and reach those in tune with the higher realms, the spirit/body surrounded by counter-rotating fields of light (wheels within wheels)”?

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    John Coltrane passed away in 1967, two years after the cosmic microwave background radiation, a relic of the big bang itself, was discovered by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.

    The discovery crushed the theory of a static universe and confirmed an expanding one, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of gravity.

    Among Coltrane’s last recorded albums were three entitled Stellar Regions, Interstellar Space, and Cosmic Sound. Coltrane played with physics in his music and, incredibly, correctly realized that cosmic expansion is a form of antigravity.

    In jazz combos, the “gravitational” pull comes from the bass and drums in the rhythm section.

    The songs in Interstellar Space are a majestic display of Coltrane’s solos expanding, freeing themselves from the gravitational pull of the rhythm section.

    He was a musical innovator, with physics at his fingertips.

  12. Light Glaze Says:

    Say what now??

  13. Mr.Miner Says:

    in regards to analysis / non analysis…I am just reading about musical theory and some of the structure he used to create his music. At no point am I putting on a piece of music and trying to understand it through technical terms or trying to break it down or judge it in one way or another. The music, as he said, speaks for itself. The way he approached music and its implications, however, is fascinating.

  14. Wolf Like Me Says:

    Music Education in theory is all about listening to a piece of music and breaking it down.

    This is how musicians learn to be musicians.

    I don’t understand the need to say that there is a right way to absorb music.

    THAT misses the point more than anything else.

  15. BingosBrother Says:

    SOMEBODYs not getting a laptop.

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    ^ It def did reflect sacred geometry. And for sure i see the connection there to quantum physics. 🙂

  17. vapebraham Says:

    re. On The Corner
    “I didn’t put those [musicians] names on On the Corner specially for that reason, so now the critics have to say, ‘What’s this instrument, and what’s this? … I’m not even gonna put my picture on albums anymore. Pictures are dead, man. You close your eyes and you’re there. – Miles.

  18. little umbrellas Says:

    Im continually grasping/relearning my own understanding of sound and diatonic relationships.

    In terms of the ear basing any interval it hears as compared to what ever note is at the bottom and is heard first, and every other note it hears falling into a pre-existing phisio-acoustic structure , with it’s own hierarchy of Major or minor intervals which shape the sound or the feeling..

    ..i see Coltrane as expanding human

  19. little umbrellas Says:

    ..i see Coltrane as expanding human consciousness by expanding our grasp on what movement is possible.

    Intellectually he created whole deeper levels of complexity from what we thought could happen in music.

    Intuitionally tho, the man played with soul. By A Love Supreme?? So so so much soul and emotion is in any given note.

  20. little umbrellas Says:

    ^What’s so cool about the Coltrane Matrix is that it represented how you could play across a movment of any chord.. all the way down to the halfstep.. not just in movements of the 5th.

  21. vapebraham Says:

    some OG dub:

    Introducing Scientist – The Best Dub Album in the World

    this hits me right. $$$ feels

  22. vapebraham Says:

    how yall feel about the Band:

    Life is a Carnival

  23. vapebraham Says:

    best song I’ve heard alld ay:

    Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel

    from the school of Prince.

  24. little umbrellas Says:

    Its also worth noting how Slonimsky’s book on 12 tone harmony and other 20th century classical composers were a big influence on Trane developing his chromatic push away from standard diatonic limitations,
    and hence things written to reflect that thinking like the Coltrane Matrix.

  25. little umbrellas Says:


    To my ears this is the real break away song of Coltrane’s. It’s the one i don’t see or hear enough about. His last thing released on Atlantic.

    Just listen to the first few bars of this as a mood setter, and compare it to any other thing up until A Love Supreme. Tunes like India and Impressions (which came inbetween Olé and A Love Supreme) touch on that mystical modal vibe. But not quite like this.

    Olé was the foreshadower. And it’s up there as maybe his most eastern sounding modal groove piece. This one has enough soul to raise the dead.. or to raise the dragon out of the jade mountain .. just enough myst and beams of light.
    My jam right here.

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