The Diversity of 2013

7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

Back in 2009, most Phish jams possessed a common, well-worn course that began with guitar-led, rock textures, passed through a sparser section of percussive grooves and then ended with a quasi-generic, ambient outro. By the time fall tour ended, this formula had been beaten to death, for even many of the band’s better jams followed this path. Regardless of whether they sprung from “Disease,” “Piper,” “Rock and Roll,” or “Drowned,” 2009 jams tended to sound the same. Staggering improvisations were few and far between while the guys built their chops back, as they relied heavily on this formula to navigate their jams. Only come Miami did we see things truly begin to diversify.

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

Fast-forward four years to Summer 2013 and Phish has cast down a completely different improvisational paradigm. Over the past four years, from 2009 to 2012, we saw Phish gradually move away from the templatized jamming of ’09, while adding signature sounds of the present era. But this year, for the first time since their comeback, the band came out with a wholly renewed musical perspective that took their music in new and original directions. Blending styles from the totality of  their career, the band carved a new musical path this year, unrelated to the rebuilding process that—in all honesty—lasted until Dick’s 2012. Throughout this re-evolutionary process we saw flashes of brilliance that reminded us of Phish’s utmost capabilities. Jams like Albany’s “Seven Below,” Miami’s “Tweezer,” the Greek “Light,” the MSG “Ghost,” and the Gorge “Rock and Roll” kept us on the path, believing that the turning point was but a tour away. And then—building on the momentum of Dick’s and MSG—Summer 2013 happened.

It was apparent from the get-go that the band was determined to make things different this summer. Bangor’s sublime “Antelope” gave us the first glaring sign, and then confirmations came flooding in at SPAC with completely original jams  out of “Light,” “Split,” “Carini,” and “Disease > Ghost.” These jams were not only outstanding, they were stylistically diverse—a trend that continued all tour long. Diversity even existed within versions of a single jam this summer. Take, for example, “Light.” In 2012, each version of the song conversed with and built upon the previous rendition, coming to a massive peak in Colorado. Conversely, in 2013, Phish took “Light” in different directions that were wildly unrelated. To illustrate, let’s compare this summer’s first four versions.

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

At SPAC, Phish played a tightly wound, psychedelic tale that evoked the feel of 1995, with masterful command of musical tension  while releasing into a blissful outro that could only have been played this year. Days later at PNC, Trey anchored a dark horse, late-set version with stunningly emotive soloing. At Merriweather, Phish fused hard groove with a sort of free jazz to craft an explosive, avant-garde show highlight. Then, in Chicago, they dropped a third set “Light” that favored delicate, almost ambient, full-band interplay before blossoming into groovier, melodic textures. Four different jams that all sprung from “Light,” yet totally dissimilar—a microcosm of the summer’s improvisation in full.

The diversity of Phish’s 2013 jamming is also evident in looking at tour highlights. Tahoe’s “Tweezer,” Hollywood’s “Harry Hood,” Denver’s “Chalk Dust,” San Francisco’s “Runaway Jim,” the Gorge’s “Undermind,” San Francisco’s “Rock and Roll,” the list goes on and on. But at no point do these jams significantly overlap like so many jams did from 2009-2012; they all contained fresh ideas and unique directions. This is something new to 2013 Phish. Throughout the band’s glory days, they progressed in a very stylistically focused way, meaning that they—largely—concentrated on a single improvisational style within a single tour. Even in the hallowed tour of Fall ’95, one will hear far more stylistic consistency than in Summer 2013. And maybe that is the hallmark of Phish’s current Golden Age? While past eras can be identified by a homogenous musical style, 2013’s “style” is its musical diversity. The band is now able to step between improvisational feels better than ever before, an unquestionable result of thirty years in the trenches together.

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

So what does this mean for Fall Tour? Well, for the first time in three years, the band will be able to legitimately build off their accomplishments of summer. This, in itself, is huge. With the assumption that they’ve had to practice for their Halloween performance, one can assume the guys have been in close contact since Dick’s and are just as excited to hit the road again as we are. The band’s ability to hook up on stage—something that became second nature this summer—should be back in full force when they step inside Hampton Coliseum for the first time since their legendary comeback. But where the jams will go, however, is anyone’s guess.  Throw in a Halloween weekend, some tiny venues and some classic rooms, and considering how the band has been playing, this tour—albeit short—has to be the most anticipated of the era.

For the first chunk of their comeback, I often wondered what the band’s new stylistic focus would become. Would it be “plinko” funk?“ Storage” soundscapes? Maybe bliss jamming? No, it would be none of the above. The place to which the band was building has finally arrived—a comfortable peak where they can code switch between improvisational settings like a chameleon. The band can now reach into their arsenal and pull out just about anything, providing a new drama to modern shows. The intense creativity that once defined Phish is back in full, and the band is cranking out jams and shows at a level and consistency unseen in years. But instead of doing it with one style of jamming as in their peaks of the past, they are doing it with all the tools in their thirty-year repertoire.

BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

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1,224 Responses to “The Diversity of 2013”

  1. halcyon Says:

    Evening folks….been a while

    hope everyone is well.

    have a blast at once t3. heard great things about the play. the movie was really good too.

  2. sumodie Says:

    Palmer, saw the GD release info. A matrix, really? Cool…

    Gravity is on my list. Recently dug both Rush (the formula one race story ~1975, been ages since I liked a Ron Howard film ) and Enough Said w/ James Gandolfini & Julia Louise-Dreyfus, which was very smart & very funny. Both films feature terrific casts

    Speaking of Cape Cod sharks, just read a September New Yorker article about some researchers tagging & tracking Cape Cod sharks (also mentioned the shark attack that gdad helped out with).

    The researchers have a cool website where you can globally track the sharks they’ve tagged:

  3. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    We liked the movie and I planned this weekend for my wife kinda with my trip to AC/camp in mind. It will be fun. I just am more used to going to shows, not Shows.

  4. phishm Says:

    Good listen. Trey with Further in 99.

  5. phishm Says:

    Or Phil and friends. Can’t keep them straight.

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    smuff, that brewery list is too impressive to pull just a few recs off of for you. have a great time. those events are always so much fun.

    I did notice that most of the New England guys stayed home (though a huge contingent of NY breweries), with the exception of the larger outfits and a few others. only Zero Gravity for all of the bounty that is VT, for example. BUT I did see that Ithaca will be there, so that means Flower Power…

  7. Stoney Case Says:

    Verlander pitched some nasty stuff.

  8. snow Says:

    What up Posers?

  9. snow Says:

    Those two nights are some of Miners favorite nights of musics ever, I do believe @phishm. He pamps ’em hard anyway. There is something deeply satisfying about the two bands music being intertwined.

    I’ve been Alaska’d this week. Fly home tomorrow. Medibles are a travelers best friend.

  10. snow Says:

    @Palmer- homie…. What happened to the STL pick?

    @stoney- are you hitting hampton?

  11. snow Says:

    I will have my first batch of Bathtub Gin BHO wax at hampton… if that isn’t incentive enough, I can’t help you.

  12. snow Says:

    MiA is in!!!! Now we are cooking with rainbow ponies!

    Sorry, mixed metaphor. Glad you are making the trip homes!

  13. snow Says:

    There are about 1,000 tickets per night for hampton on stubhub including 3 days passes for $80. Not ‘per night’ but straight up $80.
    There were tickets available from ticketmaster last week.

    I’m thinking there will be tickets below face on lot.

  14. phishm Says:

    Really dug the Stella Blue. Almost a we’re not worthy type nod to Jerry with it being just instrumental. Seriously though. Who else can sing a Stella Blue or Morning Dew but Jerry?

  15. phishm Says:

    I should of said could of should. Lot’s of other Dead songs fit that criteria with me. Hence my dislike for fake Jerry.

  16. phishm Says:

    dangit. could or should. Dang interns.

  17. phishm Says:

    And the alligator is a Trey Page Phish funk jam it seems. Why is it I haven’t heard this show in years? Really enjoyable.

  18. Stoney Case Says:

    Forecast for Hampton:

    Snow flurries

  19. phishm Says:

    I’m very interested in taking a DMT trip. Anyone have any experience with this? From what I’ve read the trips are all similar depending on the individual. I’d love to see the other side if not for 5 to 10 minutes. Just want to make sure it’s the same side that I’ve seen before in some of my more intense trips. Know what I mean dF?

  20. phishm Says:

    Actually I watched the article. Didn’t read it. Anyway. Very interesting stuff. Didn’t know it was part of the brain and nobody knows why it’s there. Just theories. I like theories.

  21. phishm Says:

    I guess to 3 it up even though before Stoney I had 4. Fall tour will be insane. I’m sure of it. Get to as many shows as you can. Just a feeling of course and I won’t be at any, but the one’s on webcast I’ll be there in spirit. Love me some Phish. Night at this last hour. Miss the kids. Hard to sleep. thanks for the open ear. Peace.

  22. MiA Says:

    Hearing weird alarms in my house. Makes a sound for like 15 seconds. Not like I left my refrigerator door open, or my security alarm or even my fire alarm batteries. No apps on phones for weather.

    Weird. And my dog is snoring.

    3 AM… Blech.

  23. phlorida phan Says:

    That was your one week til fall ter alarm.

  24. bob dylan Says:

    3 day pass for 80 bucks? what. the. fuck?

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