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. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Son of Snoop is major CFB recruit..

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    That Specimens Dvd came with the purchase of the Undermind record I believe. Pretty good stuff.

  3. Jerome Garcia Says:

    For all you NYC metro area Skrillheads out there. Your prayers have finally been answered.

  4. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @jg- you paging mr. baloney reminded me of this:

    while we were in the vegas airport waiting for our flight after the furthur shows, my girl and i paged jerry garcia to a courtesy phone. over the intercom everyone (five gates full of deadheads) hears: “jerry garcia, jerry garcia, please pick up a white courtesy phone. jerry garcia, jerry garcia” the airport erupts in applause,laughter, and high fives.

  5. gavinsdad Says:

    @dancin – ask @Hoedown…i dont know enuff about “good beer” in AC beyond that one bar in the ground floor of the Trop. i may be able to get some of those…will see.

  6. jtran Says:


    no MSG

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    turns out I’ll be at the Trop 11/1

  8. RoosterPizza Says:

    10/07/2000 is on the livephish app archival releases. First Tube openers are a good thing!

    I have received my tickets in the mail yet? Anyone else not receive tickets yet?

  9. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Queued up Rooster. Burrell & Coltrane > Phish ’00 sounds mighty fine.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    T3 with a late run up to AC… nice work

  11. SOAM Says:

    I was in the vegas airport in 94 after the 3 shows in June (120 degree heat, great sunday (6/26) night show, met Bill Walton in the PhilZone) and they called Hunter, Garcia and Weir to a gate over the loudspeaker-all the heads ran over there only to learn they used codes and gate e meant gate b (or something like that)…most folks look at 94 as a shit year but one of the best shows I ever saw was 10-1-94, 6-26-94 was good too and so was 10-14-94 (two sat nights in BOS and NY and a Sunday hummer in the desert.

  12. RoosterPizza Says:

    Jg has it going on with the music. I am doing dishes with my ipad in the cupboard over the sink. Yes, I am typing on my ipad in the back of the cupboard.

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    there was always scheming, palms. coupling it with 75th anniversary alumni weekend at the camp I worked at for too many years on the Eastern Shore. this is part of why Hartford is a no-go for me. gotta make choices.

  14. SOAM Says:

    jj cale = gypsy woman

  15. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    brent mydland= clifton hanger

  16. buddysmyles Says:

    My 1st five wook encounters: ok just my 1st:
    8/18/96 We packed up our gear & started making trips to the truck, which we handnt seen in 2days. We noticed a dreaded, patchworked & flair-bottomed pants wearing brah passed out under our rig. We continued making trips ftom campsite to truck, thinking each time we would return, he would be gone, but no…. Finally after yelling at the kid with no response, i told my friend to start the truck ( surely that would work i thought) but nothing… So i had my friend slowly pull forward while i kept an eye on “Bob Knarly”. When the truck was clear, i quickly checked on “Bob” to make sure he was actually alive… Yup, just snoring, sleeping on his side with a half full Sammy Smith tucked in his front pocket… Its hard to keep a good wook down (ask any cop) but it might be even harder to get one up!

  17. little umbrellas Says:

    HeadyB. just read your airport post to my peeps here chillin at our place. good one mate. non bb’ers sendin vibes, they loved that.

  18. gavinsdad Says:

    right on T3.

    anyone figure out a way to beat the elevator traffic at the Trop? I remember post show it got pretty damn tough/packed at one of those towers.


  19. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @littleu- did your friends hear that page in the airport?

  20. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    we had to do it twice. the first time i called and the lady said, “gerald garcia” over the intercom. my girl called them again and told the lady that we were looking specifically for “jerry garcia”- then it worked.

  21. Michael Kang Says:

    I think our next album will be called “Sunday Hummer”.

  22. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    it is the little things that amuse us that make this journey on earth a little sillier and easier to deal with.

  23. dorn76 Says:

    Beer bar in the Trop.

    Noted. See you all there before AC Saturday.

  24. Selector J Says:

    You might be a wook if…
    – people are constantly asking you if everything is okay.
    – you have a “lot name.”
    – your lot name is Fluff.
    – you’ve ever tried to trade tourmaline for drugs.
    – you consider begging strangers for a “schwill” a socially acceptable practice.
    – the condition of your dreads make homeless people shake their heads in disbelief.
    – you’ve ever “worked the line” for a nitrous dealer.
    – pride yourself on having the best bunk sheets in the lot.
    – you’ve ever groundscored a pair of Etnies in the Burgettstown lawn.
    – you contracted trenchfoot from not removing said Etnies from your sockless feet until the morning before the start of fall tour.
    – your life’s ambition is to move to Cali and become a sick glassblower.
    – you’ve ever “spanged” for your girl’s bail money.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    there is definitely a joke to be made about which side got designated rage side with these…

    added them to my wife’s christmas list for her though. she just doesn’t know how much she wants them yet.

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