The Phish and The Whale

6.24.10 - Camden (Graham Lucas)

As Phish rebuilt their foundation throughout 2009, their playing retained a sound rooted in the past, without truly pushing  into original territory. By the end of the year, a compact style of jamming emerged in which the band assaulted their audiences with a plethora of musical themes in a short amount of time – in short, musical density. But as we waited through the first six months of 2010, the question lingered of how this style would be applied, or rather, “When would Phish discover a new sound?” Never known for resting on their laurels, Summer 2010’s opening leg seemed ripe for the band to put one foot forward, and sure enough, that’s exactly what they did.

6.24.10 (G.Lucas)

Trey has historically been the leader of Phish, directing the band’s improv and defining their sound with his guitar tone. Whether firing out machine gun licks in the mid-90s, rhythmically narrating groove epics in the late-’90s, or seething dissonant, uncompressed leads in the post-hiatus years, Phish’s sound has flowed from their front man’s style of play. This summer, Trey honed the use of his whammy pedal, introducing a tone that the community has affectionately embraced as “The Whale” for its likeness to the underwater calls of Earth’s largest mammals. Using pitch bending to reach multiple notes instead of hammering each one with separation, Trey featured this subtler, laid back style from night one of summer tour, and his use of the whale has only grown more tasteful since then. Fusing his “whales” into lighter, upbeat jams like “Reba” or “Hood” as well as darker pieces “Ghost,” “Tweezer,” “Light” or “Bowie,” Trey illustrated the versatility of the tone, and its ability to make psychedelic contributions to all sorts of sonic palettes.

6.24.10 (G.Lucas)

In a symbiotic relationship, Trey’s minimalist whaling allowed Mike to step up and carve out the direction of jams, often providing the lead melody and rhythm simultaneously. Creating more democratic jamming, all band members could present their ideas more readily, while Trey listened and complemented them masterfully. Swooping out of the background, Red often switched gears amidst jams, transforming into the six-string juggernaut we know and love. And when he did, the rest of the band already had vested ideas in the jam, creating a more dynamic interplay, specifically in structured jams. By bending his leads rather than crushing them, Trey’s whaling lent a subtle, impressionistic style, and less in-your-face guitar – a humbler style of play that coaxed his band mates fully into the mix.

This combination of musical factors converged throughout summer’s opening leg, beginning to mold the band’s sound of 2010. In Chicago’s tour opener, the two most significant jams, “Light” and “Ghost,” showcased this stylistic shift that would continue through the month. Many resistant fans soon embraced the whale as Trey employed it more tastefully, and before tour reached its halfway point, inflatable orca whales were being tossed around the front of pavilions in comedic homage to Trey’s new tone. With Mike firmly at the center of the band’s new improvisational fabric, his eclectic and virtuosic chops have never been so apparent. Playing better than ever, Mike has emerged as the silent assassin of Phish, providing ridiculously original leads to virtually every jam. Collectively, Mike and Trey have led the band’s experiments in their emerging sound of 2010.

7.3.10 (W.Rogell)

At the same time, Fishman has stepped up his game, enhancing the band’s ever-changing rhythmic pocket, improving upon what many saw as a drawback in 2009. His drumming has been super crisp, and his unique melodic sensibility – with which he often mimics and responds to Trey’s licks – has returned, bringing another level of nuance back to Phish’s music. Page has been notably down in this summer’s mix, but his playing has been spot on, often comping Mike and Trey, while at others times, joining them in a triple-helix of melodic harmony. Hopping to his piano amidst many jams, Page often contributed a retro feel to the music, while at other times, his sonic textures launched Phish jams into space.

During June and early July, Phish made strides of creativity, chipping away at a new sound that will no doubt evolve as the year progresses. As expected, the band has begun to change again, and in the world of Phish, change has been the one constant throughout the years. While setlists didn’t contain the expected influx of new originals, the sound of 2010 developed within the context of older vehicles. When Leg II picks up in less than a month, it will be interesting to trace Phish’s musical progression along these lines and beyond, as the band continues to forge their path of the modern era.


Jam of the Day:

Rock and Roll > Free” 6.26.10 II

This sublime piece of improv presents one ofthe defining jam of tour.




6.26.2010 Merriweather Post Pavilion. Columbia, MD < Torrent

6.26.2010 Merriweather Post Pavilion. Columbia, MD < Megaupload

Official Merriweather Poster

On Saturday night of tour’s peak weekend, the band dropped one of their strongest performances of the summer with a second set to rival any. “Rock and Roll” and “Tweezer” provided two of the month’s most memorable highlights, while you just can’t mess with “Wolfman’s,” “Slave,” “Reprise” combo that closes the frame.

I: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, AC/DC Bag, Sugar Shack, Tube, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea*, Stash, Backwards Down the Number Line, NICU, 46 Days, Suzy Greenberg

II: Rock and Roll > Free, Fast Enough for You, Sparkle, Tweezer > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Wolfman’s Brother,  Slave to the Traffic Light, Tweezer Reprise

E: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times

*Debut, Neutral Milk Hotel

Source: Schoeps mk4v> KC5 > M222 > NT222 > Aeta PSP-3 > SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz) (Taper: taylorc)

Tags: ,

990 Responses to “The Phish and The Whale”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    jesus H christ on a crutch, this album is sick as fuck

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    new iTunes Genre: Acoustic Facemelting

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    3 point shooters who hit big shots in pressure situations are not as common as they seem

    see: Allen, Ray – 2010 Finals games 4-7

  4. El Duderino Says:

    Straight up. that dude couldn’t buy a basket. too bad to Ray Allen is a class act

  5. Robear Says:

    Hershey had a great first set.

    including the monster combo of ‘bouncin’ > sparkle’ and the summer’s only ‘It’s Ice’.

  6. BingosBrother Says:

    Author = SOAM “I do wan 2 pla da gaim toonit cos yo hog hit my moms yo…..”

    I believe this statement was made regarding Brons friend tearing up his moms vag.

    Best thing I’ve read pertaining to all this basketball talk. Shit is surrounding me. A basketball court is where you put wrestling mats.

  7. albert walker Says:

    Will perdue was a fuckin bad ass

  8. joe Says:

    surprised our canadian friends here haven’t chimed in with Bill Wennington. (or Rick Fox)

  9. El Duderino Says:

    Bill Cartwright

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    if Ray-Ray had shot just his average across those remaining finals games, Artest never comes into play and the Celtics are 2010 champs easily.

    really sad.

  11. snowbank Says:

    Allrighty, as no one requested, I put together a survey for the BB on Leg one.

    Click here to take survey

    I am going to keep the survey in “Testing” Mode for a couple days. Please take a look and suggest jams that I am missing. I was limited to ten questions.

    The last question is where you should make suggestions!! hard as I try, I don’t read ever comment on the board.

    Once I get all the corrections and additions, I will reset it and go live. At that point I will add a security question that should separate out those who do not put in much time here from those who do…
    probably something like: Which BB’er originally had bane?

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I believe the classic rock tease Mike played was some frampton. Do you feel like we do, maybe?

  13. Gavinsdad Says:

    Raleigh div sky is what impregnated me

  14. flarrdogg Says:

    B.J. Armstrong

  15. Gavinsdad Says:

    And t3, since ur here, I have had tears of joy moments listening to “eat this question” in my minivan up on volume 11. Aynsley dunbar holds that that tune together. Easily a top 5 FZ song for me.

  16. El Duderino Says:

    Raleigh divided sky was perfect.
    Just the right length and executed to perfection IMO.

  17. Gavinsdad Says:

    2nd’ing old man Cartwright.

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    @t3 I hear that maybe that’s it..

    doodoo dahh dooo dah dooo
    duna nahh nu nu naah

    er somethin 😉

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    no Carini > FYF > 2001 for item 5?

    oh in the comments. OK.

    I also nominate FYF as a Phishy Moment.

  20. snowbank Says:

    got you Mr C

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    I put it in the comment field as requested.

    good survey!

  22. snowbank Says:

    There were just too many high points to even hope to get #5 or #3 right… hence the trial period.

    I did actually go back to the convo in Memories of Being free, but crowd sourcing is easier…

  23. snowbank Says:


  24. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    @g diddly
    awesome. I found a great version of Zappa plays Zappa doing it on YouTube today. I’m on my phone and can’t link it right now but if you search by the son title it’s the first thing that comes up

  25. joe Says:

    just finally checked out the video type 3 (I think) posted. that’s was awesome. can’t imagine the amount of work that went into making it, nevermind the actually brain cells to think it up.

Leave a Reply