The Diversity of “Drowned”

6.4.09 - Jones Beach (W.Rogell)

In 2009, “Drowned” became a go-to song for Phish, producing high-paced, multi-faceted rock and roll jams. A launch pad that became musically synonymous with its 3.0 alter-ego, “Rock and Roll,” both songs often led the band into formulaic, three-tiered jams that moved from rock textures, into percussive grooves, before morphing into ambient outros. Some became better than others, but in the end, many of these jams blended together. But when Phish first decided to bring “Drowned” into their repertoire, its improvisational course was anything but predictable. Always breaking out of the gates with The Who’s hard-rock textures, throughout its history, “Drowned” created more than a few engaging pools of improv. Below is a short, audio-laced history of the well-loved cover.

Halloween '95 Pollock

Following the band’s Quadrophenia set on Halloween ’95, “Drowned” first resurfaced on New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden as the second set opener. And for the first time, Phish shaped the jam with their own creativity. Following the song’s rocking outro, Phish entered a churning land of piano-led grooves. Focused on percussive playing for much of its first Phishy incarnation, Trey took the lead towards the end of the jam, taking the piece through some dynamic improv and to fruition, (and through an eternally debated, though dubious, “Fire On the Mountain” tease somewhere in the slower ending of the jam). The first bust out of “Drowned” succeeded with flying colors.


Skipping ’96 all together, “Drowned” appeared once in Europe’s Winter ’97 tour, and once at the band’s Waterwheel Benefit in celebration of Phish Food in Burlington during March of ’97. Remaining dormant all the way through December, when the song returned during the latter half of Fall ’97, a new beast emerged. The cover first came back to life in the first set of 12.3.97 at The Spectrum, as the song adopted the straight up funk stylings of the tour, cloaking itself in danceable rhythms for the duration. A perfect example of a song merging with Phish’s present focus, there would never be “Drowned” like this again.


6.6.09 (G.Lucas)

In fact, when the song showed up only a week later in Rochester, New York, the band took the jam 180 degrees in the other direction. After improvising proficiently around the song’s chord structure, Phish hit a point where the charged out of the song, full speed ahead. Eventually slowing into a bluesy and soupy psychedelia, the band jumped ship into an ocean of darkness. The jam crawled with an ominous pace, yet the band remained fully connected; a perfect example of virtuoso playing. Taking this exploratory piece further into the underworld, Trey took the subtle lead on this life-or-death musical mission. Moving away from conventional beats, Phish explored a shimmering realm of ambient playing as Trey continued to play spine-tingling licks amidst this milieu. People always marked Fall ’97 as a funk-only tour, but this “Drowned” is another in a long list of pieces that proves that Phish were at the top of their game, regardless of any number of dance jams. Eventually blending this near-perfect jam into the debut of “Roses Are Free,” the Rochester “Drowned” quickly jumped to the top shelf of Fall ’97 offerings.


Phish continued playing “Drowned” throughout ’98 and ’99 to differing musical places, but more often than not, forming  unique and creative pieces. In this prolific period for the song, some of the more successful versions came at Ventura ’98, Albany ’98, Tucson ’99, and Hartford ’99, peaking with the sacred version in the middle of the night at Big Cypress.

In their final tour before hiatus, Phish threw down an one more instant classic at Darien Lake, and this one became a monster. When “Drowned” appeared as the opener of set II, the band remained anchored to the song for about six out of 30 minutes of pure improv. While Fall 2000 may have been hit or miss, on this night the band most definitely had it. On the course of an incredibly compelling jam, the band passed through periods of subtle groove, textured playing, and outright alien-encounter-psychedelia. Taking the jam on perhaps the most sublime ride of its career, the band delved deep into the dark side of Phish sorcery, crafting, arguably, the defining jam of Fall 2000. This multi-staged organic escapade provided outlandish music where the band allows any connection to form and structure drop away, within subconscious communicative mastery.  Layered realms of space-aged sounds emanated from the circus tents of Darien Lake, as the band dove into the void on this stormy evening. For a true appreciation of this masterpiece, grab the LivePhish release, but for now, check it below, crank the volume, and prepare for blast off.

The Who - Quadrophenia

The Who - Quadrophenia

In the post-hiatus era, Drowned appeared four times, and three developed into legitimate excursions. A blistering rock and roll-based version ended the first set of 6.20.04 at SPAC, while, the band featured a more exploratory and meandering venture a year earlier in Charlotte ’03. In a musical oxymoron, “Drowned” provided one of the highlights of Coventry, late into the third set of the first night with a delicate tuned driving jam, starting from almost nothing at all.

Ever since its inception as a Phish cover, “Drowned” has been a vehicle to diverse improvisational places. Although the improv grew predictable in 2009, “Drowned” still exists as an almost-guaranteed open Phish jam. As the band steps into 2010, and things begin to  move in new directions, “Drowned” will find its niche. Whether in rotation or just guest-starring now and then, when “Drowned” drops, an adventure will follow close behind.


Jam of the Day:

Drowned > Caspian” 12.12.99 II

This dark-horse ’99 “Drowned” from Hartford, CT goes out to my brother, if you’re out there listening.




11.25.98 “Knickerbocker Arena,” Albany, NY < Torrent

11.25.98 “Knickerbocker Arena,” Albany, NY < Megaupload

Sensing a theme yet?

I: Punch You In the Eye, My Soul, Roggae, AC/DC Bag, Lifeboy, David Bowie, Sleep, Driver, Good Times Bad Times

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Golgi Apparatus, Drowned > Prince Caspian, Piper, You Enjoy Myself, Been Caught Stealin’, Llama

E: Something, Guyute, Free Bird

Source: Microtech Gefell 210 > Aerco > SBM-1

Tags: ,

546 Responses to “The Diversity of “Drowned””

  1. garretc Says:

    Ah, well now I definitely forgive you @GD, good sleuthin!

  2. garretc Says:

    @Mr. Miner
    Well, tomorrow is 2 weeks from the full release of Phish 3-D, perhaps a discussion of what songs we might see in the film? Just an idea, if you’re lookin’ for em…

  3. KWL Says:

    oh shit. I need a new topic for tomorrow!

    ^that’s funny. good luck miner! throw up a picture & a show from the archive & we’re still all happy.

    for what it’s worth, if your troubles with the phish organization get so bad that you need to pull or really scale back the streams & downloads, I for one would still continue to visit the site, for your writing and for the community we have here.

    and for the smiley. $.02

  4. ChefBradford Says:

    Mr Miner, re: TTFF

    I love TTFF, I really do

    but if it comes down to not doing TTFF and keeping your site running, free of Red Light (or whoever) interference, or posting TTFF and taking flak, I’m for no TTFF. We know various places we can find these songs, although at potentially lower quality

    If you can let this community know exactly what we can do that would best allow you to run this site the way you want to, I think we can rise to it

    I’ve made a couple of contributions

    I’m sure I can continue to make small contributions to this worthwhile site without fucking up my world

    Let us know what we can do, bud, please

  5. SplitOpenAndSparkle Says:

    One of my buddies jsut offered to give me, my g/f and another one of our buddies a ride to alpharetta for the 7/4 weekends….he decided he wants to and all i have to do is get him a lawn seat for 7/3 (which is where we’ll be). which i figured to be no problem. He even says we can all stay at his folks house in Alpharetta (huge place)!! No paying for a hotel or a rental car>>>JACKPOT!
    So i stated to do some snoopin around for a ticket……DAMN!
    a lawn ticket looks just as scarce as any other for 7/3….WTF!

    SO, if anyone is looking to bail on an extra….ive got some cash for ya (face and fees). Sorry no trades, beings how these are the only two shows we can make it to (geographically, we’re in a tough spot)….
    Otherwise ima gonna have to fork out the big bucks on stubuknowwhat.
    sigh……(i would pay extra for the ticket, keeping in mind what the ticket is getting me in return, but i understand that practice to be frowned upon round here)
    Please Help if ya can….peace

  6. Andrew Says:

    Checking in late and found synchronization with this site once again, I just pulled 12-12-99 out of the closet this morning for my drive and had the second set cranking. Sometimes jams like this make me feel a like wook 🙂

  7. Andrew Says:

    ^ see, wooks can’t type or phrase sentences correctly…back on it just thinking about the piece.

  8. ChefBradford Says:

    Split- I’ve been frustrated with my own 7/3 situation. It isn’t listed as sold out, and yet it’s been impossible for me to find anything through legitimate channels, and I’m not giving money to a fucking scalper, period

    My current plan is to show up and find something

    even if I end up sitting in my fucking car

  9. garretc Says:


    But why wouldn’t you just bring your normal car to sit in…?


  10. garretc Says:

    I’m sorry that I made a joke about your lack of ticket situation though… You’ll get in!

  11. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Señor Miner,

    Write about how the band is so masterful at nothing.

    For example, you could drop into an era and describe how at certain times, in certain songs, on certain tours; nothing could have been better and at the same time nothing was needed.

    Boogie On 9-18-99 @ Chulajuana, as far as this version goes, nothing is better!

    Somehow I think you’ll do fine.

  12. Andrew Says:

    Miner – go deep with the ballads.

    I fell right in line with your ‘The Minutes Seem To Last A Lifetime’ piece.

    The jams take us there, but the melodic journeys of the delicate songs really set the atmosphere.

    Maybe a landing pad theme?

  13. ChefBradford Says:

    alas, I no longer have access to a ‘fucking’ car

    at least, not as far as I know

    My dad had, for awhile, a Porche Boxter convertible, which he let me drive whenever I needed it (I was 26/27, living at home, rideless).

    THAT was a fucking car

    I shit you not, my friend, I’m pretty sure that car was what got me a relationship with my last serious girlfriend

  14. garretc Says:

    Hmm, I could go for @Andrew’s suggestion!

    I have an extremely soft spot in my heart for Phish ballads…

  15. Stupendous a.k.a The Beasel Says:

    How bout w00ks vs. Juggalos for an article

  16. Stupendous a.k.a The Beasel Says:

    and the term Miracle and what it means to them..

  17. ChefBradford Says:

    re: ballads

    I still think that Page’s “If I Told You” has some seriously vast potential

    if you can call that a ballad

  18. lycanthropist Says:

    just finished set. super hot

  19. voopa Says:

    “How bout w00ks vs. Juggalos for an article”


  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    but if it comes down to not doing TTFF and keeping your site running, free of Red Light (or whoever) interference, or posting TTFF and taking flak, I’m for no TTFF. We know various places we can find these songs, although at potentially lower quality

    ^ not a matter of getting flk. I would just get flak if i publicly asked for donations on the main page. Nothing would come of it in the end….

    needless to say, i’m about to post another 10!

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    Maybe a landing pad theme?

    ^ I like this. Will do it next week for sure.

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