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. dorn76 Says:

    Good luck Corncob. Resist the urge to correct the interviewer’s grammar.

    I’m going out! Joke around the house is that Thurs is my “bowling night”….Basically head to a buddy’s for NFL, tubes and IPA’s.

  2. dorn76 Says:


  3. the Baker Says:

    Lace ’em up!
    Game 5
    Win or go Home
    88 minutes do shadows
    Lots of K’s& broken-bat “can ‘o corns”

  4. jdub Says:

    It struck me today how close we are to fall tour. Right around the damn corner. And I need a place to crash after Rochester. Any beds or floorspace available?

  5. the Baker Says:

    “of shadows”…

  6. jdub Says:

    Knock ’em dead Corncobb

  7. jdub Says:

    A’s or Tigers? Some great baseball and we haven’t even gotten to the CLS’s. I love this time of year, especially when my team is in the thick of it.

  8. joe Says:

    looking forward to seeing if Sonny Gray can repeat the performance from the other night. (same for Verlander too) either way, I hope it goes 20 innings and all arms get tired for Saturday night. no preference for a winner, either team will be tough in the alcs.

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    Have a bowl for me dorn.

  10. gavinsdad Says:

    “A bowl 4 me”

    Best PT kook ever and I’m not even a PT guy

  11. jdub Says:

    you know that little tracking ball on the top of the standard apple mouse? worst product ever. It works for about a week, maybe that.

  12. Stoney Case Says:

    Jtran, your infinity hook up coming thru for the Tigers game on TBS. Thanks dog

  13. BingosBrother Says:

    Abowl4me is epic.

    Horsehole is my fav poster on the net ever though.

  14. sumodie Says:

    Yes I did spy Dirtwolf in my local the other day

    and yes it’s long sold out

    However, for the first time ever my store had sixers of Ballast Point Sculpin IPA! $14 & change

    Finished first time run thru of the Ventura box set, courtesy of the new car stereo. Thank god Ive got a working CD player & ipod jack

    It’s the little things in life, mmmmm

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    Dirtwolf in my fridge right now. I have a problem. I can’t really drink by myself. Need some company.

    Cape Cod bound tomorrow – mon w family. Quick jaunt to see good old friends.

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Sumo- you see the details of the next dave’s Pick? Super duper matrix.. Sounds off the hook. Show from 1980..

  17. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Anyone catch that flick Gravity? Heard it was cool. Going to check it out tomorrow in 3D in the IMAx

  18. Dorn76 Says:

    Throw a wave to exit 61 in CT on I-95, @Gdad.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Say hi to my dog when you drive past the exit for rt. 151 @gdad
    She will be on cape while we are in NYC for a weekend with Broadway. “Once” for those who have heard of it. Glen Hansard’s creation that went from successful film to Tony-winning production. Yes, I am justifying it.

  20. Joe Says:

    Nice Gdiddy. I love fall on the cape with nobody around. We have access to the in laws place more during fall than summer so end up there most during this time of year although we’re close to bridges while I believe you go to the real part enjoy

  21. Stoney Case Says:

    Can’t wait for the Hampton Tweezer, Ghost and Energy! Also the next Reba. Trey pretty stingy with those last summer.

  22. gavinsdad Says:

    Will do boys. And yeah @joe we go all the way up to the sticks. N. Truro.

  23. phlorida phan Says:

    Telas….. Sweetwater IPA also, of hotlanta

  24. joe Says:

    not sure if the sharks are still around but be ready to spring into action if needed.

  25. BingosBrother Says:

    Once is the only musical I’ve ever enjoyed. Go to cd for family driving music.

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