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. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @joe- i think they will debut at least three or four.

  2. tela's_muff Says:

    heady – email sent.

  3. sumodie Says:

    Shite, think i spied Dirtwolf at the store the other day. Cant keep up with whats out there (plus I love Flower Power)

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Back to Kenny Burrell…After Midnight. Perhaps his most well known sessions for Blue Note.

    & shit I’m back in NJ this wknd visitng amigos & def gonna try to pick up some DirtWolf & 11.11.13 & have a side by side taste test. I will report my findings.

    Hooray beer!

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Dorn – good call on the Founders the other day. Didn’t have the Centennial , but the Pale is mighty fine. Still have a couple of Sculpin taboot

  6. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Flow Pow! Thanks for the reminder sumo. Haven’t had those delicious IPAs from Ithaca Brewing since being back in PA for Xmas this past yr.

    Saltwater & wild trout stream fly fishing meatstravaganza & an amalgamation of heady brews making this upcoming holiday wknd trip to the Jerz uber h3tty. Get my first taste of Dirt Wolf in the Dirty Jerz. Fitting I’d say.

  7. aj Says:

    You may be a wook if you know what a chinger is and have used one

  8. tela's_muff Says:

    i’m attending the Great American Beer Fest tomorrow night. i’m taking brewery recs if anybody has one. 580 breweries, so i’d like to have some specifics to work with. here’s a list of attendees. i’ll be live tweeting my thoughts on IPA’s. i imagine late night the tweets will involve different levels of filth and flarn.

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    Chingers are honest tools to have in your belt. And for those that require “burners”, there is a new app called wickr that you’d be wise to acquire.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    TEla’s- when you hit up Marble , see if my friend Ted is there… He’ll hook you up.

  11. joe Says:

    one of these days I’m heading over to the fancy beer store in the next town over to scope some of these out. Place looks like tube sock heaven for you beer enthusiasts. I could point the out of towners in the right direction if you are in the boston area prior to worcester shows. seems like it has all the heady brews.

    craft beer cellar it is called and it looks like they are starting franchising.

  12. tela's_muff Says:

    will do Palmer. that’s an introduction a year or so in the making! look forward to it.

  13. Gavinsdad Says:

    I don’t require a burner but I def need Wickr

  14. Stoney Case Says:

    dang Palmer! What happened in the game? And they lose Jones for the year? Yikes. Underachiever’s mixtape, starring Houston and Atlanta

    vaper has better herbs than me right now.


  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Great Eddie Murphy Raw reference Smuff. Flith flarn flith!

    Holy schnikes that’s a lot of brew. Some TX brews that I like that will be there:
    Austin’s 512 Brewing’s 512 IPA
    Austin Beerworks Fire Eagle IPA
    Karbach Brewing’s Hopadillo IPA or Rodeo Clown DIPA
    Real Ale Lost Gold IPA
    St Arnold’s Endeavor IPA

    Enjoy hippie!

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    Truth gd. If u don’t want da gubment reading your texts, wickr it up.

  17. tela's_muff Says:

    Thx JG! I’ll be sure to add them to my list.

  18. BingosBrother Says:

    Julio Jones, david wilson, cj spiller…my ff team rules.

    6/20/95 on lp app. Holy Mikes!

    On 1st spin of island tour 1st show, have to say I was pretty underwhelmed. Twist is dank, but the rest minus a $$ Stash is pretty meh. On to night 2…

  19. dorn76 Says:

    2 Roads Brewing out of Stratford, CT. See if their tasty Double IPA is up to your snuff.

  20. phlorida phan Says:

    Telas, cigar city out of Tampa has an IPA called jahlai, spelling? Def worth it.

  21. garretcorncob Says:

    What up kids? Guess who’s about to go have his first job interview since graduating?

    No points for guessing me.

    Not a fancy shmancy job or anything, but I would be pouring beer into growlers for a living, which doesn’t sound too shabby. If I get it, that is… Knock on wood…

    *knocks on wood*

  22. dorn76 Says:

    Couple of recent biz trip favorites:

    Tallgrass Brewing from Manhattan Kansas, Ethos IPA.
    Knee Deep Brewing from Lincoln, CA, Hoptologist IPA (gal at store said it beat Pliny in a blind test, ha).

  23. tela's_muff Says:

    Awesome. Thx guys. Keep them coming.

  24. dorn76 Says:

    These Green Bullets are tasty. Too pricey though, and with the “triple” label I’m surprised it’s less hopped up than even their WC IPA.

    But the 9% is nice. (best Borat voice)

  25. voopa Says:

    +1 for Knee Deep.

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