The Axis of Phish

Leg One 2012 (M.Stein)

Anyone who paid attention to Leg One of summer tour can attest to the incredibly fresh and dynamic jamming on display throughout. Improvisational passages covered insane amounts of ground in a limited time frame, while still moved fluidly between ideas. Though laced with a distinctly modern sound, jams throughout tour, simultaneously, carried a retro feel. The main reason for all of this was the re-emergence of Phish’s central axis: Trey and Fishman.

Traditionally, before the onset of the groove era in 1997, Trey and Fishman formed the improvisational backbone of the band. Fishman had a propensity to follow the ideas of his lead guitarist—an unconventional style, as drummer’s usually lock with their bassist to form the “pocket. Fishman’s co-leadership of jams pushed Trey out of his comfort zone and into original territory. And this unconventional cooperation produced unconventional results—Phish music as we knew it through 1995.

And then came The Cowfunk Revolution of 1997. As the band focused on groove-based playing for the next several years, Trey and Fish moved away from their improvisational partnership. During these years of rhythmic focus, Fish and Mike—with his new Modulus bass—linked up to form the deepest pocket Phish fans had ever heard. Instead of a consistently “moving” in a jam, the band “settled” into funk vamps as Trey, with loops and rhythm chords, and Page, with clav patterns and keyboard effects, painted the top of the music. All of a sudden, the dynamic of Phish music changed completely, ushering in a new wave of fans while many older heads grew disenchanted.

Leg One 2012 (M.Stein)

This summer, however, the axis of Trey and Fish has returned in full force. When listen to any of the jams from Leg One, one can hear Fish following Trey around time and time again. This musical dynamic, not only explains the retro feel of modern jams, but also their density, as the pocket never settles. Profoundly changing the sound of their music and enhancing the adventure of their jams, with their return to their early improvisational ways, Trey and Fish have completely revitalized the band.

When Trey stepped back from a jam this summer, and began to add effects and tonal color, Fish couldn’t fall back on the pocket—because a stable pocket was never there in the first place. More often than not, Fish shifted with Red, morphing into more abstract, minimalist textures, while coaxing fresh ideas from Mike and Page. When this movement happened smoothly, the band showed a clear intent to explore spacier and non-drum directed soundscapes. Many of tours most stunning jams stemmed from these instances—Cincy’s “Twist,” Deer Creek’s “Back on the Train,” Alpine’s “Light,” and Jones Beaches’ “Golden Age” provide but a few examples. At other times, however, when Trey downshifted within a jam, Fish seemed to lose his musical “marker.” If Page or Mike didn’t step up with a new idea quickly, the band’s engine sputtered and lost momentum, sometimes falling prey to ambient fade-outs or abrupt endings. Examples of these alternate occurances—in varying degrees—can be found in Cincy’s “Down With Disease,” Blossom’s “Piper,” Jones Beach’s “Tweezer,” and SPAC’s “Roses Are Free.” All told, however, this new-school/old-school communication has brought the band to new levels of improv over Leg One, and with a little polish, could really shoot their playing into the stratosphere come Leg Two.

The Trey-Fish axis has been central to Phish jamming from the beginning. The quirky and symbiotic musical relationship between the guitarist and drummer has always created a palpable motion within jams—the music was always going somewhere now. That time-warped adventure resulting from dense improvisation has returned in full bloom this summer. Distorting minutes into lifetimes while covering a wide spectrum of feels, 2012 Phish jams are as efficient as ever. Riding the foundation that brought them to prominence, inspired with new ideas, and playing as well as ever, the band is smack dab in the middle of making this summer one of their most memorable yet.

6.7.2012 – Worcester (Chris Klein)


Jam of the Day:

Ghost -> Boogie On” 6.7 II, Worcester, MA

In honor of @RobsGonePhishin, who almost wrecked his car while raging too hard at the wheel to “Boogie On.” Glad things worked out, buddy, we’re glad, glad, glad that you’re alive!

[audio:,] Tags: ,

544 Responses to “The Axis of Phish”

  1. poop goblin Says:

    I don’t know anything. Older I get the more I realize that.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    and I’m not trying to be cruel

    I just want you to understand you can’t convince people of everything. Semantics will only get you so far, and semantic tricks can be alienating.

    And I don’t think I’m right when I say you’re wrong. I don’t actually “believe” anything. I know a few things. Very few. Facts I mentioned earlier. I have a lot of opinions. They’re all subjective.

    One fact I know is that most of the “is” statements we all make should be “I think” statements. I think.

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    I mean, according to your working definition of the word, it appears “propaganda” is just a synonym for “communication.”

    That’s impossible to take seriously, no matter how you dance around it.

    So I mean that I reject both the worldview that imagines this construction, and the semantic falsehood that creates it.

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    Which are semantic tricks? Seriously asking because I’m not sure I know what you mean.

    The definition of propaganda I’m using is: Information, especially of a bisased or misleading nature.

    Plord’s daughters kittens are surely information of a biased nature. Not misleading, no. But biased information.

    Next, how is action possible if we only think we know what we say we know? And what I mean is: couldn’t your view and the view of many people who claim that view be more an excuse for inaction.

    Or more properly a way to quiet people who wish to work against the status quo.

    So, for me, if I only think that its okay to steal from Walmart if you’re starving, and the State knows its wrong. Then what ground do I have to stop them from imprisoning my clients.

    It sucks to type right now, because I wish you could see the soft tone and quiet demeanor in which I would ask this question.

    Do you see what I mean? If I only think something then how do I stop you from acting when you think the opposite?

  5. sumodie Says:

    Definition of PROPAGANDA

    1. capitalized : a congregation of the Roman curia having jurisdiction over missionary territories and related institutions

    2. the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person

    3. ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    Your primary semantic trick is the defining statement. You very frequently say “something IS something” and then proceed down a long rhetorical train from there. I agree with very few of your premises, so none of your rhetoric is meaningful.

    You aren’t using the entire definition of “propaganda,” which I also looked up to make sure we were talking about the same thing. Immediately that part it mentions politics, right?

    That’s a pretty naive definition there, though, isn’t it? Isn’t all communication biased, based on the postmodern understanding? So according to your construction, yes – the *exact* same argument could be made about any communication that isn’t constrained to simple fact.

    Couldn’t it?

    So yes, you have just conflated “propaganda” and “communication.”

    I reject this conflation as simply false, and quite obviously so.

    @sumo’s definition is much more reasonable, and rules out your construction.


    As for action and inaction – I am not arguing for inaction. You seem to feel that you must have passionate beliefs in order to take action. This seems like a religious mindset to me. Perhaps not. Certainly it is a mysterious one to me, though.

    It seems to me like strongly held beliefs just make it more likely that you’ll take wrong action.

    The world is not knowable. This is a statement of scientific fact. You will never understand it. Neither will I. No one will, ever.

    Denial of this condition is not a functional response. You just have to accept it and learn how to take action anyway.

    Since I don’t understand how it could be a problem, I won’t venture to propose a solution. Action and understanding, such as it is, come without effort or force. Action is the natural state of an energetic person.

    Peace for tonight. Family awaits.

  7. voopa Says:

    I like kittens too. Oh no!

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    And here’s a quote about propaganda that I thought I was trying to communicate. I probably did a terrible job.

    “All writers are propagandaists. Writers who claim differently, or who otherwise do not understand this, have succumbed to the extremely dangerous propaganda that narrative can be divorced from value. This is not true. All descriptions carry with them weighty presumptions of value. This is as true for wordless descriptions as mathematical formulae – which value the quantifiable and ignore everything else – as it is for descriptions.”

  9. Andrew Says:

    Whoever posted last week or so about the JazzFusion.TV site – I love you.

    I’ve been on DIME and EZ before that and shared/collected tons of good stuff, but it’s amazing to have so much of it consolidated into one treasure chest.

    I heart Rich Rivkin too for taking the time to put that site together.

  10. William H. Bonney Says:

    posts not showing up…oh well…

  11. Andrew Says:

    You can only peel so many layers off an onion before you realize its a fruitless task and you’ll just be left with nothing.

    The older I get the less I care about what makes it all tick.

    Spend my days enjoying the kids and just being thankful.

  12. Shpongleyez Says:

    Trying to post about Hood. Seems to have gotten swallowed by the ether. Good Hood from Leg 1? Butter, you recommended one on Wednesday. Anyone?

  13. Shpongleyez Says:

    Actually, it was Tuesday eve in person that butter recommended it. But I’ll take all comers

  14. Shpongleyez Says:

    West coast folk?

  15. BrandonKayda Says:

    Hey @shpongle. What up?

  16. Shpongleyez Says:

    Lookin for a particularly good Hood from Leg 1. I know there’s at least one…

  17. voopa Says:

    My top leg 1 Hoods (subject to change)


  18. Shpongleyez Says:

    Spac in pole position, eh? I think maybe it’s the JB one I’m thinking of. Thanks, voopa

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    I’m really sorry about tonight everyone.

    I gotta stop doing this. I work myself into anxious fits and I’m just really sorry.

    I won’t be like this anymore. I wish I never started talking like that.

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