Yet To Become

Songs and setlists are sure to shift in the upcoming chapter of Phish.  While they will almost certainly retain a number of classic songs, their frequency possibly decreasing, more room will need to be carved for new material.  Not only for the songs that already exist in Trey’s catalog, but also for songs yet to be written.  Somewhere within this return, you can be sure Phish will find their way back into the studio to create another, if not multiple, new albums.  In finding an equilibrium with their future setlists, you can be sure the band will dip into their post-hiatus material.  Despite a lot of negative fan feedback, I personally think the two post-hiatus albums are amazing.  I am not trying to prove any point here, but they really are the only two Phish albums I listen to- Round Room and Undermind.  Both albums flow beautifully from beginning to end, and have distinct vibes.  Yet, my point here is not to defend these albums, but to discuss all the material on these albums that Phish barely got to explore in their brief “second phase” of existence.

11.29.03 Philly

11.29.03 Philadelphia

Featuring so many creative songs, these albums will certainly provide improvisational vehicles for the future Phish.  We got a glimpse into the potential of some of these songs, and others- not so much.  Let me get a little more specific here.  Round Room brought us such launch pads as Seven Below, Waves, Pebbles and Marbles, Round Room, and Walls of the Cave.  All five of these songs have proven that they are legitimate Phish jams, with Seven Below and Waves having already gone to incredibly deep and psychedelic places.  In terms of Undermind, we have already bore witness to sacred explorations of Scents and Subtle Sounds and The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, while they were still in their infancy.  Let’s familiarize ourselves with what will most likely be resuscitated from Phish’s sudden demise.


Seven Below

Jason Pinsky

12.1.03 Albany - photo: Jason Pinsky

Seven Below is already synonymous with “Phish jam.”  A proven monster, you knew this song had big things in store with its majestic New Years Eve debut, amidst new crystals of snow.  Having been played significantly during ’03 and ’04, almost all versions went off in one direction or another.  Sandwiched in Disease in Vegas ’03, and busting out of its shell at the Chicago show of the same winter, Seven Below earned its stripes unusually quickly.  With a ridiculously dark and psychedelic jam deep into the second night of the Gorge, the song officially became a huge vehicle.  Featured in the IT’s Rock and Roll > Seven Below > Scents, and blowing up into a dark groovefest at Alpine June of ’04, the song was as big as any during the post-hiatus era.  Expect a lot more from this one!


Another song that has already reached great heights and depths, Waves will almost surely return as a massive jam in the future.  Some of post-hiatus’ most interesting jams grew from the nautical epic- see 8.2.03’s 40-minute dark triumph, SPAC ’04 first set’s intricate and ambient exploration that eventually segues into the intro of Bowie, or Lakewood 03’s Waves > Tweezer.  A great set opener as well, Waves is a versatile masterpiece that can remain in composed shallow water or plunge into the abyss at any moment.

Round Room

8.12.04 - Camden

8.12.04 - Camden

A personal favorite, this song has provided two beautiful and ambient journeys with its Vegas ’03 and Nassau ’03 winter appearances.  Only performed four times ever, this is one that Phish held back on.  A syncopated rhythmic melody that inadvertently evokes musical references to Blondie’s reggae cover, “The Tide Is High,” this song has a quirky calypso and very Phishy feel.  With great potential for patient, layered jams that could define a large part of the new Phish, Round Room is a song to look out for in the future.

Walls of the Cave

While performed quite a bit within the year and a half it was alive, the song never really reached its potential. Generally remaining within sped up rock territory, it only appeared as a true improvisational vehicle at the LA Forum on Valentine’s Day, as the massive second set centerpiece of Walls > Carini.  Almost two distinct songs within one, the compositional part carries the feel of an eerie fable, symbolically referencing the Twin Towers tragedy, while the disjointed jam takes off as a straight rock and roll romp through the silent trees.  Placed in significant slots, closing several sets, Walls served its purpose.  Hopefully, if it remains as part of Phish’s setlists, it will begin to do much more.

Pebbles and Marbles

12.29.03 Miami

12.29.03 Miami

A beautiful and poetic Trey composition, Pebbles and Marbles is a Phish song whose jam never did much in its six appearances.  With its most extended improvisation coming as part of the much maligned Vegas ’04 run, this is another song whose potential has yet to unfold.  As it has appeared, its Phish-rock jam resembles the textures of standard Down With Disease improv.  Another song that could evolve into great jams during Phish’s next stage, we will wait and see what the future holds for this potential beast.


Scents and Subtle Sounds

12.28.03 Miami

12.28.03 Miami

The most majestic of the post-hiatus compositions, Scents has already illustrated a propensity for both bliss and psychedelia.  With mystical opening verses about living in the moment, appreciating the subtleties of life, and finding a metaphysical way to experience the magic of the moment forever, the song gives way to a gorgeous uplifting jam that resembles a modern-day Harry Hood.  Taking no time at all to establish itself as a jam vehicle, this quickly became a fan favorite in the summer of ’03.  With quintessential explorations happening in Camden, NJ during both summers of ’03 and ’04, the band has proven that the song can be used to build ambient sky-reaching soundscapes, as well as provide gorgeous climbing journies.  I can only hope they decide to put the song back together, and perform the initial verses, instead of starting the song halfway through.  Losing its continuity after its truncation, Scents was never short on producing intense improvisation.  Expect a lot more from Scents, as it seems like the perfect song for Phish to keep under the magnifying glass.

The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing


SPAC Oceans 6.19.94 - photo: Pat

Phish’s performance of this song at SPAC on 6.19.04, immediately vaulted itself into the “best Phish jams ever.”  With a dark composed section leading into virgin territory, what came out were sinister grooves, newly discovered psychedelic realms, and a melodic guitar led resolution for the ages.  This is one of those jams that practically sounds composed, with some Trey licks for history.  I will put this jam up against any other- it’s that good.  All of this in the second time it was ever played- the first being an “album length” version at Coney Island.  I’ve gotta’ believe that this will be one of the newest and brightest launch pads for Phish in the forthcoming era, and I am incredibly excited to see the future songs that will spring from the Ocean.


Having been brought out only two times, its second Deer Creek ’04 performance led into a mellow ambient segment eventually turning into Slave.  A whimsical song about the transient nature of life, its catchy melodies and lyrics fit its subject well.  This delicate jam could definitely grow into a more patient, mature piece of Phish improv.  We will see what happens, but if Phish continues to play this one expect some very unique textures to result.


Matt Collins

12.29.03 Miami - photo: Matt Collins

Untouched by Phish, I called this as the second set opener for most of those June ’04 shows.  Unfortunately, I was never right.  Having been played a couple times pre-Undermind (the album) by Trey’s solo band, it seemed like a likely addition to Phish shows.  With symbolic, yet fun lyrics, and an infectious groove, Phish could build some creative jams out of the title track from their last album.  I still feel Phish will open one of the Hampton sets with this song- it just seems so appropriate, but I’m no longer putting any money on it. You can be sure when Phish does finally play this, I will be one of the happiest cats in the building.

Maybe the band will play all of these, and maybe they will play none at all.  Its hard to say what will make up their yet-to-form newest musical portfolio. Odds are that at least some of these post-hiatus launch pads will find their way into regular rotation.  And let me just say, it is just so great to be talking about what might be in Phish’s upcoming rotation!  Anyhow, look out for these 2.0 jams to make a significant splash in v.3.

(I would have made a compilation- there are so many great post-hiatus moments-but I can’t post official sbds.  Oh well.)



10.29.94 Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg, SC SBD < LINK

Memorial Aud. Spartanburg, SC

Memorial Aud. Spartanburg, SC

The show directly before the all-night Glens Falls Halloween affair, this one is a segue-laced, well-played show that features bust outs of Buffalo Bill after 220 shows and two years, and The Who cover, “Sparks.”  With a Sleeping Monkey sandwiched in a second set Antelope, and a significant mid-set YEM, this show is full of high paced Phish fun.  This pristine soundboard recording provides a crystal clear replica of the evening before Phish’s initial musical costume.

I: My Friend My Friend, Sparkle, Simple, Runaway Jim, Foam, Lawn Boy, Split Open and Melt > Buffalo Bill > Makisupa Policeman > Rift

II: Down With Disease > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Sparks> Uncle Pen, You Enjoy Myself, HYHU> Bike > Run Like an Antelope > Sleeping Monkey > Run Like an Antelope

E: Harry Hood

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16 Responses to “Yet To Become”

  1. Matso Says:

    Alongside Rift, Round Room is probably the best album they ever made and they did in the Phishiest way possible by simply putting out their relaxed demos. Undermind, Farmhouse, Ghost, and Billy Breathes all, to my ear, tried too hard to squeeze their songs into a shortened format that only seemed to work about half of the time.

    Re: Pebbles & Marbles – I agree that the potential hasn’t been realised, but as noted elsewhere, the IT version was awesome, flowing perfectly out of Mist, which itself was an amazing placement after that Ghost. The song took on a real grandeur in the that dramatic Day 2, Set II Festival situation (kind of like the It’s Ice at the Clifford Ball). It was straight forward rock, but it worked brilliantly.

    A few other songs from those albums that I feel have potential:

    Access Me – one version to date, I think, from Alpine. This could be something that either leads into some deep ambient explorations, or something to segue into out of dark jams (a la Have Mercy or Makisupa).

    Thunderhead – both the Star Lake 03 and the Albany 12/1/03 were played or more less straight and worked well (esp. the latter) but otherwise, I’m not aware of any other special versions. Interesting, Dead-esque chord progression. I would love to hear Trey or Mike find something worth repeating and then varying in one of these jams and see where it goes.

  2. Owen Says:

    When I think about the new direction of Phish, I always think back to IT, Day 1, Set III. Rock N Roll > Seven Below > S&SS > Spread It Round. Such a great segment, and I really thought it showed balls to feature a cover and three new songs as a festival’s third set (the set closed with Bug). Not only were these new songs, but the improvisation sounded to my ears like a new direction, hinting at a new Phish. They never built on this set like I thought or hoped they would. I wonder if post-break-up Phish might be heading in this direction.

  3. Jeff Says:

    Oh the SPAC ASIHTOS is so good it hurts. And Walls>Carini too. Great read.

  4. themanatee Says:

    i second the notion that the SPAC song I heard the ocean sing stands up as one the best Phish jams ever. I suppose this has been said many times but i always feel the need to keep repeating. It has a certain quality that I have a hard time describing. But those rhythmn licks that Trey is playing in the middle part of the jam are stylistically how he seemed to incorporate himself at times that weekend. very tasteful. fact is , Mike owned SPAC that weekend though.he leads all over the place.

  5. Frankie Says:

    I too wonder about the exploration Phish will do in it’s third life… I personally think that they won’t tour as much as they have in the past, they will find a way to fit a healthy Phish into their current lives. That’s why i don’t think they will have the chance to explore their songs in the same way as before. I would love for them to do some kind of studio webcast like the ones Radiohead did last year. I loved the Undermind documentary that Danny Clinch did at the Barn, the concert at the top of the Marquee for Letterman, the IT tower jam, the Headphones Jam, that’s what i’m looking forward to. I know Phish will still surprise the hell out of us in the future. That’s why it’s so amazing that they are back!!! HAMPTON 2009!!!

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    Love thunderhead….could be another more “mature” Phish jam if they wanted it to be..Thanks for all the great intellectual talk on here people- that’s what its all about!!

  7. The Mad Hatter Says:

    How about 46 Days? Huge version at IT, and Trey has continued to explore this song at solo shows. Could be a monster piece.

    And Waves……great piece. Definitely enjoyed seeing it in the post-Phish era when SerialPod played it….that Waves/Space jam was probably the highlight of that set.

  8. Mike Says:

    Miner – The endless breath-taking pics you supply us with makes this blog worth while on its own. Keep it coming!

  9. saps Says:

    great article but i was going to wonder how you could leave 46 days off the list

    glad someone else mentioned it, the it version was a monster

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^^ pure oversight…my bad..

  11. beno Says:

    I’m going to disagree with Matso regarding his comment “Billy Breathes.” As an album (i.e., finite amount of space and time that can be used for the presentation of music), I think it is Phish’s masterpiece. I have found that album to be one of the most listenable and seems to be the most coherent of their albums (as coherent as Phish can be). Having producer Steve Lillywhite (of U2 fame) I think really framed them in a way that Phish could not have done on their own.

    “Billy Breathes” reminds me of Brian Eno’s classic from 1975 “Another Green World.” Both albums have similarities that arise from them both wanting to do similar thing sonically. There is a coherence beyond just the music–I’ve always argued that BB paints a picture–one that their concerts are not able to mainly by the fact that Phish is a live band, not a studio band (contra Brian Eno who has always argued for the use of a studio as an “instrument”).

    In any event, BB ranks up their for me and it showed me a side of Phish of which I was unsure they could master–or at least excel at–the art of succinctness and development.


  12. bigtimd Says:

    regarding billy breathes, does anyone remember how they claimed they recorded it ‘one note at a time’?

    i always regarded this is a figurative assessment meaning they put every note and beat played under consideration and scrutiny, but to actually record something one note/beat at a time- unless its electronic music- is next to impossible. just considering the guitar parts- the use of any legato, or to hit something, beit a chord or a melodic part, with the right intensity so it would agree with the note or chord right before it, would be ridiculous. i’m going to say it can’t be done and was an exaggeration meant to whet the appetites of fans who had given up on phish making a good album. but i raise the point because i was recently thinking about this claim and i’m interested if anyone has any input as to their process in this case.

  13. themanatee Says:

    just a figure of speech for sure.

  14. Matso Says:

    Beno, you state your case well and I agree that BB makes effective use of the studio as an instrument. Like you say, it frames the band, like looking at them through a pleasantly distorting prism. While that treatment improves certain songs (the title track, for instance), others like Free and Taste lose something vital in the process. I can’t say what that is, but they don’t ‘feel’ right to me, and I think that has to do with them feeling truncated and not ‘breathing’. I suppose the reason I prefer RR is that the songs just came out naturally without contortions. It’s a longer album, but it all still fit.

  15. Matso Says:

    In terms of the ‘one note at a time’, I remember reading an interview or something at the time (it might be in the Phish book) that suggested that they had actually started that way in the studio (possibly before Steve Lillywhite came on board) and they ended up with something almost incoherent, which I think they referred to as the Blob. Again, if memory serves correct, they said that almost all of this experiment was discarded but that some of it appears on the album as (or as part of) Swept Away/Steep.

    Re: my response to Beno above – I should finish my last thought, which is that the natural, uninhibited recording on RR finally, to my ears anyway, got the balance right for Phish in the studio. They effectively recorded the tracks as demos and hence kept them relatively safe and coherent, but they played freely enough that a certain amount of emotion and the band’s essential identity – namely as a live unit – was allowed to shine through.

    Btw, I really like BB too and used to put it through the headphones on a regular basis. I just prefer RR.

  16. mangoid Says:

    Matso. I have a similar response to the recorded Free and Taste. I chalk it up to the hugeness of those songs live.

    With some songs, once they’ve been there (become monsters in concert), the studio versions fall flat. Others live up to the hype in an even more unique way when you (re)visit the albums. Seven Below is a prime example.

    I wonder how you and I would feel about BB’s Free and Taste had we never heard them performed live?

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