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”

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  1. buddysmyles Says:


  2. buddysmyles Says:

    1st^ Thanks Miner… In Phull Phall Phish Phever mode now!

  3. mayhem Says:

    Thanks Miner. Checked the site out at 30,000 ft and was happy to see a new post.

    While I do agree that summer ’13 was the best yet, and the jams were very diverse, I’ve always thought all or most of 3.0 was characterized by more diverse jams then previous eras. They just jammed more this tour (late 2nd set jams).

    I think in 1.0 & 2.0 jams could tend to sound very similar throughout tours.

    Also, love that they finally switched back to an analog board this tour.

  4. Snigglebeach Says:

    Ahhh, do love me some fall tour. Can’t come soon enough

  5. Phamily Berzerker Says:


  6. voopa Says:

    Regarding tba’s comment from the previous post, an outdoor SF Bay Area NYE show would probably never happen for Phish or anyone. And I’m pretty sure that the residents of Mountain View would not alter curfew rules, especially for Phish.

    But that’s just my opinion of course. I could get into specifics, but gotta scoot off to work.

  7. vapebraham Says:

    nice article, miner. ’13 phish is awesome. time to spin some. 3 fall shows lined up = stoked.

  8. Kaveh Says:

    Morning BBers!

    Nice writeUp @Miner…great way to start NYE lottery week!

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    don’t have the time for a full Cliffy post today, but 10.7 is chock full of 1.0 history:

    89 Lewiston, ME (Bates) multi-thematic Bowie and more in a classic setlist. I definitely had this tape bitd.
    90 Sayreville, NJ 1st show in NJ, full of some pretty funny banter about the state. check out the Buried Alive intro especially.
    94 Bethleham, PA (Lehigh) 1st show of Fall Tour, 1st full Guyute, 1st Foreplay/Long Time. My old home town!
    95 Spokane, WA another example of the band gaining steam on that Fall tour. Absolutely beautiful Hood.
    99 Nassau, NY Not the most notable Nassau show ever, but a pretty big Mike’s Groove with the H2 placed outside the Groove in the encore slot which hadn’t happened in like a really long time or something
    00 Mountainview, CA and speaking of Shoreline, the final show of 1.0. everyone knows this YEM but the Gin is quality too. Odd show what with the vibe and everything.

  10. vapebraham Says:

    10.7.99 – Mike’s>mcGrupp — $$$. also check out the jibboo, bowie, tube and bott.

  11. vapebraham Says:

    speaking of mike’s, try 7.13.13 — a whaley good time.

  12. vapebraham Says:

    just shuffled into 8.2.13 Meat bustout. What a first set that was!

  13. sumodie Says:

    ~75 minutes remain for PTBM requests

  14. dorn76 Says:

    Miner. Nice man. We are witnessing a band at a peak of their powers.

    Now it’s time to complete the circle and unlock the dark scary stuff. Go out there, Trey. We are with you. Let those patient spaces bleed, throw a dash of Storage in my Carini, dive deep for SOAM, bend Stash like a funhouse mirror.

    I can listen to 2013 Bliss Phish all day though, don’t get me wrong.

    Toronto Disease. THE TRUTH.

  15. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I have fond memories of that Nassau show.. total wtf moment with that encore. Good stuff.

    Also the Lehigh show…good times.

  16. vapebraham Says:

    spinning 7.13.13 Destiny Unbound ($$ version) and reading that the song was shelved for years b/c “one of the members of phish” thought (thinks) that the tune is too similar to a grateful dead tune.

    when the the tune came on i got a distinct dead vibe, but i can’t pinpoint what tune it resembles. has sort of a brother esau lilt and flavor to it. thoughts?

  17. vapebraham Says:

    dub and star wars heads spin track 8. weed war:

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


    see how quickly you can match the lyrics to the songs you know you know, you know?

  19. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Hey get your phish phast on…

    New local flavor I’ve been diggin on. Check them out on

  20. vapebraham Says:

    chicago ’13 Energy – loose and gooey. a longish, trippy, spacious, jazzy, mildly storagey version — $$$. it seems to have slipped under the radar; not on miner’s best jams of ’13 lists.

  21. little umbrellas Says:

    with Dorn on this one. we like it dark, and we are ready.

  22. ren Says:

    Morning Gents!

    Glad to see a new post up here. Thanks Miner!

    Putting lotto entries in before I’ve even received my last round of tix is an anwesome feeling! Can’t wait to see where the band ends up come holiday time. Good times ahead for sure!

  23. aj Says:

    stupid PTBM wont let me check out when purchasing MSG tickets…

  24. LukasChuck Says:

    That was a close call. Came back from a long weekend in rural Virginia celebrating our anniversary and I almost forgot to put in my ticket request for NYE.

  25. garretcorncob Says:

    Finally got around to Dick’s, so I get to come hang out again! Until I fall behind on fall tour, that is. Gonna have to put together Miner’s jams playlist and relive some summer tour.

    I agree with Miner’s consensus of Dick’s: night one great, night two amazing, night three, well, they had some credit built up.

    Kinda hurts to not be able to hit any of fall OR NYE, but that’s life when you’re an unemployed graduate. But I got a degree… Might be scheduling a job interview today or tomorrow though, finally. And my newly taken up woodworking hobby is about to bear fruit as I finish up my first project, a workbench for myself, in the next couple days.

    And this season of soccer has been quite something so far. As I’m sure you all are well aware.

    So yeah. Hope you gents and ladies are doing well.

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