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Some very good live Phish
April 11, 2010 5:31 PM   Subscribe

“So toss away stuff you don't need in the end; but keep what's important, and know who's your friend...” Phish, live at the Rockpalast, Wartesaal, Cologne, February 16th, 1997: Set One Beauty of my Dreams, Split Open and Melt, Bouncing Around the Room, Crosseyed and Painless, Guelah Papyrus, Ginseng Sullivan, Tweezer, part 1 / part 2, Waste, Cavern, Chalkdust Torture Set Two Sample in a Jar, Cars Trucks Buses, Free, Sparkle, Simple -> When the Circus Comes to Town, Swept Away -> Steep -> David Bowie, part 1 / part 2, Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise Encore Theme from the Bottom, Johnny B Goode One of the greatest shows Phish have ever played, captured live on video. [Mouseover for notes.]
I think we were trying to change musically... It's easy to say this after the fact, but we were trying to break through to a different kind of jamming—slower, funkier, more group-oriented, and less guitar solo-oriented. We found it was a little harder to do that in the context of the American tour before that, which was our first full arena tour, ending with this big New Year's show in Boston. When we went over to Europe, playing in these little clubs, that change occurred without us even really noticing it... During 1996, ending with New Year's Eve, we were capping off an era of building things up to peaks a lot and blaring a lot—having there be a lot of sound and a lot of noise. This year, especially since we were in clubs in Europe and the whole feeling was smaller and funkier, we just got into a lot of these sparse, funky jamming grooves. Playing slow and spacious, with each note really having a purpose.
Trey, quoted in Phish: The Biography, by Parke Puterbaugh, pages 164-165


This was two weeks before their landmark Hamburg concert, which was later released as the album Slip Stitch and Pass. You'll notice that this concert vid is interspersed with fan and band interviews. One fan remarks that Phish represents the best music being produced by America today. In 1997, I have a feeling that was true; in fact, it might still be.
posted by koeselitz (117 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
(There is, by the way, a higher-quality version available on Youtube [set 1 / set 2] but sadly the sound is out of sync with the video by about a second and a half. It's worth it for those who'll just download it and watch it in their own video player anyway, though, since they will often be able to fix this.)
posted by koeselitz at 5:41 PM on April 11, 2010


Oh wow - thanks for this post! The hate is sure to be strong in this thread, but Phish put out some seriously good music back in the day. And their shows were uniformly fabulous -- those guys worked hard. I haven't been to a show since the reunion -- different life circumstances and priorities on my end. I hope they've been able to retain/recapture at least part of their magic. If they're even at 10% of where they were in the late '90s, they're more fun than all but the best of the performing bands out there...
posted by plantbot at 5:50 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll chime in first with the hate: How these guys ever got beyond small-club status is beyond me; I guess they came along at the right time with the waning of the Dead. But still, man, I just don't get it (and I've tried, including just now clicking through a few of these vids). Dreadful.

But to each his or her own... rock on, Phish Phans!
posted by Ike_Arumba at 5:51 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I LOVE YOU!

also, I LOVE YOU!

(can't wait for Deer Creek! Wooo! Anybody else going per chance? I saw their two night stint in Cincy last November and holy sweet jesus what a groove that was. My first Phish show was at Deer Creek so I'm totally looking forward to returning to the place where my innocence was lost)
posted by deacon_blues at 5:53 PM on April 11, 2010


Thanks for posting this. It's interesting - I went to one of those Boston New Years shows, and while it was fun (I was 18 and high!), there was definitely something missing in their connection with the audience. I thought it was simply that they weren't great at indoor shows - there's something organic about their music that feels wrong at the Fleet Center - but this makes a lot of sense.
posted by wholebroad at 5:54 PM on April 11, 2010


Ike_Arumba: “I'll chime in first with the hate: How these guys ever got beyond small-club status is beyond me; I guess they came along at the right time with the waning of the Dead. But still, man, I just don't get it (and I've tried, including just now clicking through a few of these vids). Dreadful.”

I understand this point of view, and I wanted to say this: if you've never really like Phish, and figure you'll only click one link in the post... click "Chalkdust Torture." It's an amazing rocker that really displays their talent nicely, even if you're not really into them.
posted by koeselitz at 5:55 PM on April 11, 2010


Wholebread - the Cincy show I mentioned was inside and it was INCREDIBLE. The energy of the place, the people - Trey mentioned at the end of the second night how great it was to play a show like that expressing his wishes they could play the whole week. Inside definitely has its perks.
posted by deacon_blues at 5:56 PM on April 11, 2010


Phish in Missoula.
posted by Tube at 6:07 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


tl;dl
posted by unSane at 6:25 PM on April 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'll be there Deacon. My first shows were also at Deer Creek - the three night stand in 2000 - and I've seen about 20 - 25 shows since, including a few incredible ones since the reunion. One of the most noteworthy moments of the return I think was the inclusion of all the guys' families in the opener at Alpine Valley last summer. If they're including their kids and families on tour, you gotta think a lot of the drugs and such are behind them. I've met both Trey and Mike (separately) walking around NYC, and you really couldn't ask for nicer guys.

Thanks for the links Koeselitz!
posted by krakedhalo at 6:26 PM on April 11, 2010


Clicked on Crosseyed and Painless... and I realize that covering talking heads would be difficult at best... but it's pretty bad. Chalkdust Torture didn't change my opinion of them.

I like some godawful music, though, so...

This Ween cover wasn't bad, actually:


posted by Huck500 at 6:27 PM on April 11, 2010


Hey, unfair, the preview showed the link. It was Roses Are Free 11-20-98.
posted by Huck500 at 6:29 PM on April 11, 2010


Huck500: “Clicked on Crosseyed and Painless... and I realize that covering talking heads would be difficult at best... but it's pretty bad.”

It's actually very, very good. You just have to get past the first minute. But I know it's not for everybody.
posted by koeselitz at 6:29 PM on April 11, 2010


I DON'T LIKE HOW IN JAZZ THEY DON'T SING AND THERE ARE LOTS OF NOTES.

ROCK IS NOT LIKE GOOD MUSIC BECAUSE THEY MAKE ME STAND AND GIRLS LIKE IT.

WHY IS THERE NO MUSIC IN RAP.

I should never, ever read anything anyone has to say about Phish on the Internet. A whole colossal fucking mountain of not-getting-it.

(I'm a 2/26 fan myself. Scent > Magilla > Scent wrecks my mind.)
posted by waxbanks at 6:40 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Got past the first minute, into the 5 minute solo jam section...

I just can't help comparing it to this, and there really is no comparison:

Talking Heads live in Rome with Adrian Belew
posted by Huck500 at 6:41 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I've seen the Rome concert a couple dozen times. And as one of the pertinent Youtube comments has it, I think Adrian would've been proud of the Phish cover.
posted by koeselitz at 6:49 PM on April 11, 2010


And, for what it's worth, sometimes I get fuckin' sick of the goddamned Talking Heads.
posted by koeselitz at 6:50 PM on April 11, 2010


Saw Phish in the basement of Slade Hall at UVM in 86. Saw them at Earth Day in Billings Student Center in 87. Saw them at the Hyde Street Block Party in 88. Haven't seen them since, but they were pretty amazing even as itty bitty boys.
posted by crazylegs at 6:55 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of people love Phish.

Many people hate Phish.

Everyone should see Phish.

I'm not even sure which end of that spectrum I am closer to, and yet that concert experience stands out as one of my life's most... experiencist.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 6:57 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks so much for this Koeselitz, as this tour represents the moment when I "got" Phish-- I had been familiar with them for years before 97 (going all the way back to 1990) but it was the move towards the funk that made me appreciate just how good a band they could be at times.

In all fairness, though, when they are "off," whether it be musically or energy wise, I can grant some legitimacy to the haterade spews forth, and their studio albums, with the exception of Joy, I find to be uniformly bland and lacking any of the je ne sais quois of their live shows. Don't worry, though, people. One day, hopefully you will hear YOUR "Wolfman's Brother > Boogie on Reggae Woman" (or whatever song makes everything fall into place) and get it.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:13 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Swell bar band.
posted by ovvl at 7:18 PM on April 11, 2010


In seeing Phish live, I found that I liked them a lot better if I put on mental blinders to ignore the crowd. Phish fans - at least back in "the day" when I saw them - did not deserve the great band they got.

"Swell bar band" just about captures it. I would add: Swell bar band with an unbelievable guitarist. Trey doesn't get nearly enough credit - partly because Phish fans don't seem to fully grasp the musicianship on the stage.
posted by The World Famous at 7:32 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if they were fortunate enough to realize the privilege of your presence among them, The World Famous.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 7:40 PM on April 11, 2010


How could they miss him? He was the one holding a broad brush.
posted by Sailormom at 7:43 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Reformed hippie here.

Loved Phish back in the late 90s when I was into such things. I think what most impressed me about them was their skill as improvisers. Actually, they were the first improvisational music I was ever exposed to. It was pretty mindblowing to me -- the idea of music being formed at this exact moment in history, never to be made the same way again, nobody knowing quite what's going to happen next -- what the next solo will be like, what song would come next, whether or not THIS version of this song would wind up going down in history as BEST PERFORMANCE EVER. (actually, my first Phish show is considered to be one of the best shows of that tour. but I digress) It was all so exciting to me -- I could totally see what the big deal was about.

Later I discovered the Dead, MMW, and a whole host of forgettable jam bands. This was the musical path that ultimately led me to jazz, and the conclusion that "if jam band musicians were any good, they'd be playing jazz." Which I guess was a bit harsh on the whole, but in many cases, true.

These days, the only "jam band" I listen to is the Dead -- not on regular rotation, but occasionally I'll get a hankering and that's all I'll want to listen to that day. For some reason, it seems to work especially well on road trips.

I've tried listening to Phish again, but I just can't get back into it. I can forgive their "cartooney" sound, their "we can play anything" approach to covers (just because you can doesn't mean you should), the interminable jams (did the world really need a 36-minute-long Tweezer? If I'd paid to see that show, Id've been pissed) -- all of that I can write off as "Phish being Phish." What really kills their sound is their absolute inability to write anything resembling song. Sorry guys, but this is what happens when you let your random stoner buddy write your lyrics for you. "Oh hey, I guess we need some lyrics now. Let's just ask Tom. Hey tom? Where's Tom? Is he still crashed out on the couch? Hey, somebody wake Tom. I remember he wrote some funny stuff last time we were on mushrooms..."

This isn't to say that Phish didn't have some excellent songs -- Billy Breathes, in particular, is a great album, as is Junta, which dates from a period when they were still doing something that resembled prog rock. But ultimately, I think it's this lack of songwriting that doomed most of the jam bands. And this is why, for me at least, the Dead's music is enjoyable long after I shucked off the hippie lifestyle and left the drugs behind. The Dead knew how to write a song. Brown Eyed Women and Red Grenadine? That is a song. St. Stephen? That is a song. Let it Grow? That, my friends, is a song.

And it really is too bad, because Phish really is a good band. They're top-notch musicians, excellent improvisers, and when they're on, they have an incredible group dynamic. They're a good band that could have been a great band, if only they'd had some songwriting muscle behind them. Unfortunately, I'm not a hippie anymore, so I'm not going to put my mind through contortions pretending that the lyrics to Stash actually mean something. It's sad, because it prevents me (and others) from taking them seriously as a band.

Anyway, I didn't mean to pour on the haterade. Just wanted to share my own personal experience of Phish, as it's been tempered by age and time.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:46 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I could never stomach the thought of seeing them again after the whole "Mike Gordon Thing".

Regardless of the official disposition, the entire thing was just so shady that I find myself disgusted at the thought that the rest of the band would tolerate his presence going forward.
posted by mikelieman at 7:46 PM on April 11, 2010


I wonder if they were fortunate enough to realize the privilege of your presence among them, The World Famous.

Well, Trey kept playing "me and my arrow" and pointing at me, so I suspect that they did.
posted by The World Famous at 7:47 PM on April 11, 2010


How could they miss him? He was the one holding a broad brush.

You could literally hold the world's broadest brush in your hand and fit right in at a Phish concert. I regualry wear my B.P.O.A fez when I see them, and when I saw them last November, there was a 6 foot tall dancing banana in front of me. Drugs were not involved. (Speaking for myself, at least. I have no idea if the banana was chemically enhanced or not).
posted by KingEdRa at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not a Phish fan, but I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to mention a thread that Carrie Brownstein (late of Sleater-Kinney) post on her Monitor Mix blog last summer. It was called "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Phish" in which she seeks to do exactly that.
posted by hwestiii at 7:55 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw Phish at the Campus Club in Providence, RI in March of 1992. It was great, but I think they were played out by '97.
posted by Wash Jones at 7:57 PM on April 11, 2010


mikelieman: “Regardless of the official disposition, the entire thing was just so shady that I find myself disgusted at the thought that the rest of the band would tolerate his presence going forward.”

Please don't go there.

Yeah, sure. I don't know anything about what happened, and I have only heard rumors and seen a single news report, but I am outraged that the rest of the band, who are certain to know him better than me, and the police, whose job it is to investigate crime, and most of all the parents of the kid, who are her guardians, don't seem interested in initiating an intensive investigation based solely upon my hunch.

posted by koeselitz at 8:01 PM on April 11, 2010


Well speaking from my own experiences in and around a Phish show, I can say that the next most readily available things to halucinogins were musical instruments. And I can say, as someone who has had a great deal of formal musical education from a young age, that not all of them were expertly played, however, it was apparent to even my trained ear and cynical nature that nothing had ever been as important to me as this music was to the community surrounding it.

I enjoyed my time there in the company of the most gracious strangers I've ever encountered, reserving judgement of something that was obviously bigger than and wholly outside my understanding.

Anyone who can experience a Phish concert with the notion that they are among few appreciating the academic aspect of it is missing the point.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:18 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone who can experience a Phish concert with the notion that they are among few appreciating the academic aspect of it is missing the point.

That's really not what I was trying to say, so sorry if that's how my comment is being interpreted. My sense is that, whereas Grateful Dead fans seem to vastly overestimate how good a guitarist Jerry was, Phish fans seem to vastly underestimate how good a guitarist Trey is - even as they revere him as being amazing. They're a great band. The fans (at least when I was one of them) were a nice and interesting community. I really don't understand the hate, actually. I don't really know any musicians who have listened to Phish and don't like them.
posted by The World Famous at 8:23 PM on April 11, 2010


You are dead on there. I don't think your comment was especially inaccurate, generalizations aside. But I had to respond to "Phish doesn't deserve their fans..." I mean, which type of fan do you think they'd sooner give up?
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:53 PM on April 11, 2010


Oh, I think Phish totally deserves not only the fans it has, but fans it doesn't have yet, as well.
posted by The World Famous at 9:00 PM on April 11, 2010


Thanks for posting this. I've always liked the "Simple"s from this era and this one is nice. I've also heard--and it makes sense to me--that this funkier, more groove oriented Phish stemmed from the Halloween, 1996 costume set covering "Remain in Light."
posted by pasici at 9:03 PM on April 11, 2010


Always happy to see a Phish post (and ignore the hate), but "one of the greatest shows Phish have ever played" is going to get you into a lot of arguments. I don't think this one's in the top 100, and it's not particularly great video either. Yes, Europe was the beginning of the more spacious cow funk sound, but there's a lot better stuff out there to introduce people to Phish with.

YEMblog has been keeping video playlists of recent shows in HD, and Phish 2009 is still an amazing band. There's a movie coming out soon -- PHISH3D -- documenting last year's Festival 8, where they covered the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street in full. The trailer's pretty sweet. Here's the acoustic set they played. Etc.
posted by muckster at 9:13 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good reading about the state of the band in 2009: Richard Gehr's review of the Madison Square Garden run in Decemenber. "Phish has now fully entered their – and our – Obama phase."
posted by muckster at 9:16 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing with Phish is that a lot of people seem to have a pretty firm idea about them without having listened to an awful lot of it. That's why I liked the Carrie Brownstein thing, and this review by a non-fan in Esquire: "You must like Music. Not genres of music....You must like all music."
posted by muckster at 9:28 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is one of my favorite shows. I listened to this yesterday, in fact. It's really good music to work to, and there's so much of it readily available for streaming if you're not committed enough to download your faves.

Thanks much for posting it.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:40 PM on April 11, 2010


I don't think this one's in the top 100

If you can really think of 100 Phish shows that are better than this one, and you honestly believe that as someone who has a category of "top 100 Phish shows," I'll totally listen to all of em' (and if anyone knows where to find the show with Gold Soundz from [94 mebbe?], I've been looking for like ten years now...).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:47 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Gold Soundz show you're looking for is 7-21-99. You can download it here.

Sorry if that sounded headier-than-thou, but yeah, I'm pretty sure I could name 100 shows I like better, starting with 12/31/99 (the 7 1/2 hour sunrise set for the Millennium), 2/28/03, the Island Tour, the Remain in Light show, the Clifford Ball, the Great Went, It, Fukuoka, 12/30/97, and so forth. The Wartesaal is good stuff, sure, but I always feel they expand much better in front of a large crowd. Here's First Tube from the Fall, or While My Guitar Gently Weeps from Halloween 94.
posted by muckster at 10:06 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Behold the spreadsheet

It's apparently 7/21/99, Solipsophistocracy.

I'll toast with anyone who wants to meetup in Atlanta the 3rd and 4th. Got my lottery tics!

When I went to Hampton for the re-reunion last year I was surprised at the 20-year-olds I flew up with. Total fans, and it was their first show, a real event for them (and me in my own way). I was surprised, but I guess this happened with the Dead way back when, probably a couple of times.
posted by mblandi at 10:09 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sorry, botched the download link.
posted by muckster at 10:10 PM on April 11, 2010


Yeah, wasn't sure if I wanted to link the spreadsheet. There you go.
posted by muckster at 10:11 PM on April 11, 2010


muckster: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps from Halloween 94”

Holy crap, I haven't heard that in thirteen years. I had that tape back in high school; it nurtured me through some tough times. I am going to have to go find it (since your link is blank, and since I want the whole show anyway.)

Thanks for reminding me of a whole lot of good stuff, folks. And even if I personally think this show is near the top (seriously - this transfer of it isn't good, but the flow on a well-tracked one is fantastic, I think) I really like hearing other people listing their favorites, since it's always more to listen to.
posted by koeselitz at 10:18 PM on April 11, 2010


Man, it's late. Here you go -- While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
posted by muckster at 10:21 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Give a man Phish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man Phish and you feed him for a lifetime.
posted by chavenet at 10:42 PM on April 11, 2010


Holy crap, that spreadsheet. I just filled some gaps in my collection of shows I attended.
posted by emelenjr at 11:13 PM on April 11, 2010


The first time a friend of mine (very talented musician) heard Phish, his reaction was, "Man, those guys are way overqualified to play that kind of music."
posted by gottabefunky at 11:37 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


That said, some of the Phish shows I saw in the 90s were some of the most intensely joyous musical performances I've ever experienced.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:44 PM on April 11, 2010


Too bad Antelope Greg isn't a MeFite to defend Phish, although he's probably shoving people around somewhere near the front in these videos.

And yeah, I don't think it's a stretch to say that this show isn't even top 100, but it's still one of the better ones (from one of their best tours). That quote from Trey about playing the small European clubs and Phish's sound totally changing makes complete sense if you compare the Fall '96 tour to Fall '97 (which I think most Phish fans agree was their strongest tour). In a similar vein, one of my favorite tours was Japan '00, before their last pre-hiatus tour. It got kind of obvious that something about Phish was being seriously degraded (turns out it was Trey, via drugs!), and it really started to show with Phish, mostly Trey, flubbing through the composed portions of songs. Some of those jams though, oooh boy. Easily the most ethereal stuff they ever played. Even though the rest of the album isn't that strong, the "Twist" -> jam from Live Phish Vol. 4 is some of my favorite Phish ever, and probably a good indication that they were ready for a long and well-deserved break from performing together.

Still, great video if you love hefty, Pepé Le Pew-era Trey pretty near the top of his game. And that spreadsheet is pretty indispensable, even if it's kind of the death-knell of people trading shows.

And ugh I'll never understand why Trey doesn't get an extra five minutes on "Waste" to noodle around at the end ... such a blah song, but Trey's "Waste" outro is always so goddamned beautiful I don't know why he ever stops
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 3:04 AM on April 12, 2010


All I know about Phish comes from Ben'n'Jerry's. Actually, they also told me all I know about The Grateful Dead. I wonder what other educational flavours they will come up with next?
posted by mippy at 7:54 AM on April 12, 2010


Serious question:
Can anybody explain why they like Phish?

As a non-Phish-fan, it all really sounds like lazy solos overtop of unchanging whiteboy 12bar blues, played by a rhythm section who all has the flu.

Haven't you all ever heard like, Muddy Waters, or anybody?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2010


As a non-Phish-fan, it all really sounds like lazy solos overtop of unchanging whiteboy 12bar blues, played by a rhythm section who all has the flu.

Haven't you all ever heard like, Muddy Waters, or anybody?


Which Phish song are you listening to? I'm asking in complete seriousness. Because, based on your description, I think you might have accidentally listened to the Rolling Stones instead.
posted by The World Famous at 8:27 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Serious question:
Can anybody explain why they like Phish?


I don't think this is actually a serious question, as it is unanswerable. Hey, can anybody explain why I can't stand Elvis? As a non-Elvis fan, he sounds like just any other fucking cracker singing into his shoe.

Anyway, thanks for the post. I will take any and every chance to listen to "Bouncing Around the Room" whenever the opportunity comes along.
posted by Skot at 8:48 AM on April 12, 2010


Which Phish song are you listening to?
The ones in this post, for instance.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:48 AM on April 12, 2010


Which Phish song are you listening to?
The ones in this post, for instance.


I'm sorry - I still don't understand. Are you saying that every song linked in this post is unchanging 12-bar blues? Because if that's what you're saying, I'm not sure you know what you're talking about when you refer to 12-bar blues. Likewise, if you're saying that, to you, it all sounds like 12-bar blues, then you're, what, paying attention only to the instrumentation and not to the chord progressions or the notes themselves?

Is there a specific Phish song that you can point to that you think consists of guitar solo over a 12-bar blues progression? Because honestly, you described the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin above, and I don't think Phish sounds a thing like the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. And I don't think "this sounds like drunk white guys playing Muddy Waters songs" is really much of a negative criticism of the Stones or Zeppelin, as accurate as it is.

Now, if you're saying that you find Phish's music uninteresting or overly noodly and uninspired, I understand that (though I disagree, for reasons of taste). But your specific criticism - that every song linked in this post is white boy 12-bar blues that sounds like a Muddy Waters rip-off - just doesn't make sense at all, unless it's part of a broader criticism of basically all rock music. Or unless you and I have fundamentally different understanding of what "12-bar blues" means. But you did say "unchanging" which makes me think you are maybe listening to some specific Phish song that, uncharacteristically, has no modulations.

Can you explain your description? Because if you asked most musically-inclined people to name 10 contemporary music groups that sound like white people sloppily playing 12-bar blues, I don't think Phish would show up on anybody's list.
posted by The World Famous at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2010


Of note: 12 bar blues does have chord progressions! I also did not say this is specifically a Muddy Waters ripoff.

any other fucking cracker
At least get your slurs right. Crackers are from Florida or South Georgia, and Elvis is from Mississippi.

I never knew Phish fans really have their blood boiled by the Rolling Stones. Sure, they actually did cover Muddy Waters and other contemporary blues songs, but they had stage presence, and the business sense that brought that music to suburban audiences, which wouldn't have been possible otherwise. Elvis the "cracker" did much the same. People like them because they had soul in what they put out, and what they were putting out was new and different compared to the mostly exceptionally boring popular music that was around just prior to their existences. Please also note that they were all doing this while the member of Phish were either not born yet, or were still weaing diapers.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:37 AM on April 12, 2010


Oh good, this is devolving right on schedule. You're right, Threeway Handshake, there is not a single Phish fan who doesn't hate the Rolling Stones. We all sign that when we first order tickets. Never mind that they've been covering Loving Cup for years and just played all of Exile.

Anyway -- is any of this 12 bar blues: From the original post, Cars Trucks Buses? First Tube? Also Sprach Zarathustra? Avenu Malkenu? Etc -- anyway, the thing that always attracted me to Phish is exactly the unpredictability. They're extremely versatile, and at a show, you never know what sounds you're going to hear next.
posted by muckster at 9:53 AM on April 12, 2010


Of note: 12 bar blues does have chord progressions!

You answered my question, then, and I now see the cause of the confusion, as I don't think you really understood what you were saying about Phish or what I was asking you. See, 12-bar blues doesn't "have chord progressions." It is a specific chord progression in and of itself. "12-bar blues" is the name of a chord progression. You might be interested in reading about it here. For further information, you could read up on 8-bar blues and 16-bar blues, as well as other common chord progressions.

(By the way, the Phish song "Poor Heart" uses a modified blues progression, but it is modified enough that I'm not sure it qualifies as 12-bar blues.)

I never knew Phish fans really have their blood boiled by the Rolling Stones.

I like the Stones way more than I like Phish. But your criticism of Phish above was a very accurate description of the Stones - and not of Phish. Given that you were apparently unaware that 12-bar blues is the name of a specific chord progression, that probably explains why you didn't realize that you were describing the Stones. And again, the Stones are a great band that literally consists of "lazy solos overtop of unchanging whiteboy 12 bar blues, played by a rhythm section who all has the flu."

But again, I'm trying to be open-minded to your critique, and I would still like to know if there is a specific song linked above that you think is an unchanging 12-bar blues progression. Since I don't think of Phish that way, it might open my mind a bit if it were pointed out to me.
posted by The World Famous at 9:54 AM on April 12, 2010


At least get your slurs right. Crackers are from Florida or South Georgia, and Elvis is from Mississippi.

*rolls eyes*

Some casual surfing reveals this to be debatable, but if it makes you feel better, substitute "jackass."
posted by Skot at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2010


Muckster, not to specifically harp on you, but your Last.fm profile has you clocked at 12,000 Grateful Dead tracks, and 10,000 Phish tracks, and only a few other related artists (like the Jerry Garcia Band) otherwise. And most others seem to be like that too. I think I see the point now of why y'all like them (monoculture). So you can put down your hackey sacks and pitchforks, I've got my answer. Thanks!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2010


The single thing Phish does better than any other band is the massive orgasmic jam crescendo -> washout. They do it better than any other band I've ever seen, and it positively annihilates audiences. My theory is that it's a type of music illusion or hypnotism, and you're either susceptible to it or you're not. If you are, you basically wet yourself every time. If you are NOT, you grow bored and just want to leave.

Also, listening to Phish is fun, but reading the haters and the lovers bicker online is almost as fun... Troll on Threeway!
posted by joecacti at 10:02 AM on April 12, 2010


Uhm, ok, thanks for the casual insult. Yeah, I listen to an awful lot of Dead & Phish, but I'm not embarrassed about the other musicians on that list. There aren't many other "jam bands" on there (can't stand most of them), but I don't know what to tell you if you consider Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Dylan, Duke Ellington, and anyone else in that long tail "a few other related artists." Phish and the Dead have led me to a ton of interesting music. The "monoculture" diss don't stick.
posted by muckster at 10:04 AM on April 12, 2010


The single thing Phish does better than any other band is the massive orgasmic jam crescendo -> washout. They do it better than any other band I've ever seen except for Sonic Youth, who is way better at that.

Fixed.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:04 AM on April 12, 2010


So, I take it you've never been to a show, then?
posted by muckster at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2010


They do it better than any other band I've ever seen except for Sonic Youth, who is way better at that.

I've seen both, and I'd call it a draw, personally. They're hard to compare, really. One of the most awesome rock and roll "meditation" moments of my life - feeling "one" with the music, universe, whatnot - was the massive feedback crescendo washout at one particularly brilliant Sonic Youth show that really did match or exceed anything I've seen Phish do. But it's a whole different vibe, and the effect depends a lot on time, place, and where the listener is at that point in their life on a very personal level. And when it comes to rock and roll, I think I'm a bit more of a fighter than a lover, so I'm maybe not the best person to judge between Sonic Youth and Phish.
posted by The World Famous at 10:18 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bickering aside, I wonder does anyone do a light (or video) show as complementary to the music as Kuroda's work with Phish?

By complementary, I mean in sync with the song structure and direction, and precisely on rhythm, not just washes of color or imagery and hopes for serendipity.

I saw Album Leaf once and while I liked the show, it just seemed like random archive.org footage behind them, which was cool in its own way, but foregoing a lot of possibilities.

There was an awesome video post on the Blue recently, and it seemed like there's some exciting video mix programming and live controller work going on. I'd love to see someone who really nails it with solid music.
posted by mblandi at 10:43 AM on April 12, 2010


To be fair, Phish is at their weakest when they're doing their funk/blues pastiches. And don't get me started on how they mangle bluegrass. Phish's strongsuit is (was?) semi-composed jam symphonies, with a strong hint of Looney Tunes and Zappa.

It's okay, I feel the same way about the Dead doing blues numbers post-Pigpen. But I guess you gotta take the good with the bad; if you want your epic Weather Report Suites and China Riders, you're gonna have to deal with Bobby disastrously failing at Lovelight and Little Red fucking Rooster.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:04 AM on April 12, 2010



The single thing Phish does better than any other band is the massive orgasmic jam crescendo -> washout. They do it better than any other band I've ever seen except for Sonic Youth, who is way better at that.

Fixed.

-Threeway: Links? I'm listening to Sonic Youth right now, I dig it. But if you have a specific reference to Sonic Youth doing that crescendo-washout jam I'd like to hear it.
posted by joecacti at 11:32 AM on April 12, 2010


Threeway Handshake: “Muckster, not to specifically harp on you, but your Last.fm profile has you clocked at 12,000 Grateful Dead tracks, and 10,000 Phish tracks, and only a few other related artists (like the Jerry Garcia Band) otherwise. And most others seem to be like that too. I think I see the point now of why y'all like them (monoculture). So you can put down your hackey sacks and pitchforks, I've got my answer. Thanks!”

You're an idiot. If you want to go, I'll go right now: I'm certain I know a fuckload more about music than you do. Music matters to me a good deal.

For one thing, by the way, your weird example of Sonic Youth is laughable. What you're describing is nothing like what Sonic Youth do, unless you're describing their first (self-titled) EP. And honestly they haven't been much good since their first record, Confusion is Sex, so I can't see why you're going on about them. Finally, even Thurston Moore has said himself that Jerry Garcia's guitar playing and presence had a fantastic effect on his own art. Thurston's not a twat; so why are you being one? Isn't he, like, the uber-hipster to you people?

The only reason - the only reason - that people like you don't like Phish is because you want an excuse for your prejudice, and because you grew up hating hippies. That's always been remarkable to me, honestly - the fact that they get lumped in with the hippies, and with jam bands. There is nothing wrong with jam bands, honestly, and the Grateful Dead have some fantastic moments, but Phish are not within that genre at all. If anything, Phish belong within the new-wave spectrum between the Stone Roses and Can. And the fact that people will read that and go agog is a strong indicator that they've been miscategorized since their inception.

Seriously, listen to Can and see if it's something you can get into, if you haven't already. Can were doing the same thing that Phish does when they were around in the 70s - long, spiritual, modern improvisational experimentation, seeking that next epiphany and building it all up before tearing it apart. They had the same influences - a jazz training, modern listening habits - and similar styles in mind. Really the only things that separates them as bands are a couple of decades and a hippie following.

It's nothing but pretentiousness to claim that Phish aren't a worthy band. I can understand not being into them, but to try to claim musical superiority to what they do is silly and false. Moreover it's pretty clear you don't know much about music as it's actually played. I can play a twelve-bar blues, on a piano, on a guitar, on a trumpet, on a goddamned accordeon if you want it - and there is not a single twelve-bar blues in the entire two sets I linked. You're apparently just one of those people who seem to think "twelve-bar blues" is a sort of ethereal thing you think you hear rather than an actual technical chord progression.
posted by koeselitz at 12:04 PM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


joecacti: “But if you have a specific reference to Sonic Youth doing that crescendo-washout jam I'd like to hear it.”

Listen a bit to this - they do it there. If Threeway thinks he's heard it on other albums of theirs, either he has some crazy shit that didn't get released much commercially or he hasn't got ears.
posted by koeselitz at 12:06 PM on April 12, 2010


Rain on Tin is like that. Probably many live versions out there as well.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:22 PM on April 12, 2010


When did I besmirch Jerry Garcia's guitar playing? Is his reanimated body part of Phish now?

Can is great. This I know. As is Neu!, Cluster, Faust, Popol Vuh, Gila, and the rest of the early-70s Krautrock gang. I tend to like them all the best when they started to venture into the Brian Eno ambient space (see Harmonia) - one of the really good ones is Neu!'s 75 album, where the band members essentially warred with eachother and split the record, with half being more rock-ish, and the other being more ambient.

Anyway, feel free to fish through my Last.fm profile, but sadly there's no plugin for my record player to send it updates.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:37 PM on April 12, 2010


If you're truly interested, you might want to go see Phish this summer. It explains a lot.
posted by muckster at 12:49 PM on April 12, 2010


Muckster, I am no longer interested in trying to like them. A while back, I was taken to one of their shows... in maybe southern-ish Florida in the mid 90s? I don't remember the date, but the people who I worked with were REALLY into 'em and I just didn't understand why.

I still didn't after the show.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:52 PM on April 12, 2010


Oh. I see. Ok then.
posted by muckster at 1:35 PM on April 12, 2010


mblandi: I wonder does anyone do a light (or video) show as complementary to the music as Kuroda's work with Phish? By complementary, I mean in sync with the song structure and direction, and precisely on rhythm, not just washes of color or imagery and hopes for serendipity.

Check out the work of Jeff Waful, lighting director for Umphrey's McGee. He's much respected in the lighting gear industry for his work using the very latest technology, showcased by a baker's dozen of Martin MAC III Profiles (drool). You can view his work on the band's YouTube channel. Plus, check out this case study from Martin, a 'Day in the Life' video that showcases some of the technical gear and techniques, an interview Waful conducted with Chris Kuroda, and a bunch of pretty images on his portfolio.
posted by prinado at 2:28 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Muckster, not to specifically harp on you,

Dude! It's so good to see you! I know who you are!

You're a dick!

But that's okay, lots of people are dicks! But maybe, you know, you could go be a dick somewhere else? And leave this thread alone??

P.S. I like Phish.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 6:14 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's nothing but pretentiousness to claim that Phish aren't a worthy band.

Oh, fuck off.
posted by unSane at 6:20 PM on April 12, 2010


unSane: “Oh, fuck off.”

Feel free to give a counter-argument, uS. And note that I said very clearly that I don't mind people saying "I'm just not into them" - I've been cool with that all through this thread. Threeway Handshake's whole "they're nothing but twelve-bar blues" thing was nothing but nonsense, and any competent musician knows it. There's complexity to what they're able to do even if you happen to think they're a bit ridiculous and silly, which I completely appreciate.
posted by koeselitz at 6:40 PM on April 12, 2010


Well, 'worthy' of what?

Are they technically competent musicians? Sure. In the most limited sense imaginable.

The comment about 12BB was way off in terms of what chord progressions they are playing, but the wider point (I assume) that was being made was that they have taken technical facility with a realtively small subset of musical idioms and made it a centerpiece of their performance. Groove/Jam bands do this, of necessity. I like a few: Fela Kuti, for example, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Sketches of Spain era Miles. But Phish are just so damn... shallow.

So, worthy of what?
posted by unSane at 7:03 PM on April 12, 2010


Can you describe what you mean by "relatively small subset of musical idioms"? Genuinely curious.
posted by muckster at 7:55 PM on April 12, 2010


unSane, you're obviously just not a competent enough musician to be able to question this band. But, you are competent enough to apparently be the only one to comprehend my "sounds like whiteboy blues" in that i meant they are a jam band, and you know, have to jam overtop a rigid framework. You absolutely cannot bring up other jam bands, especially jam bands from the no-wave NYC era. To do so is pretentious, and is folly.

koeselitz, who certainly must have at least a PHD in music theory, as well as being an award winning multi-instrumentalist and composer, already knows this. He knows more about music than we can possibly imagine.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:15 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whereas Threeway Handshake has a much cooler last.fm account than anyone in this thread. So watch the fuck out, because if you like the Grateful Dead, you are "monocultural," and he will steal your hacky sack and laugh at you.
posted by koeselitz at 9:10 PM on April 12, 2010


And Sonic Youth ain't no fuckin' No Wave band. They may have wanted to be for about five minutes, but No New York says otherwise. Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 9:13 PM on April 12, 2010


but No New York says otherwise
That's because the album was released in the late '70s?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:24 PM on April 12, 2010


No, it's because it sounds nothing like them.
posted by koeselitz at 9:28 PM on April 12, 2010


So they're not a jam band that came from the No Wave era, like how I said?

Let's go to the tape! Hmmm, no mention of Sonic Yo... oh wait. It turns out that not only did Thurston curate Noise Fest, "an influential festival of no wave noise music performances," but Sonic Youth, "associated with the No Wave art and music scene in New York City," actually made their debut performance in it.

So I guess me calling them a jam band from the No Wave era in NYC was totally wrong.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:44 PM on April 12, 2010


Really the only things that separates Can & Phish as bands are a couple of decades and a hippie following.

You wish.

And Can had a hippie following btw
posted by dydecker at 9:52 PM on April 12, 2010


Seriously, get a better perspective on music. You like Can? Neu? The Rolling Stones? Sonic Youth? Fine. So does every hip young person of our generation. And understandably so - they're great bands. But they didn't make their music just so you could come in here and pontificate about how much better your music is than anyone else's.

Seriously, drag Damo Suzuki or Mick Jagger or Thurston Moore in here and ask them what's so goddamned wrong with being "monocultural." I'm not, and apparently that fact gives me more worth in your eyes than others; but what's so goddamned wrong with liking a particular band a whole lot? What's wrong with liking the Grateful Dead so much you've listened to 12,000 tracks? What's wrong with liking related music? Seriously, what on earth in that simple fact means that you're less of a thoughtful or interesting person as far as music is concerned? That's the pretentiousness I was talking about above, and it fucking steams me.

I mentioned up above how much the Talking Heads get just so goddamned boring to me sometimes, and I said it not so much to dis on them (yeah, I've got every solo Byrne album, so believe me, my mind is open) but because it gets so tedious to hear this predictable line of music criticism. Forty years ago, Lester Bangs & co blazed a new frontier; now, everybody's so stuck in that new frontier it's as though their feet are embedded in concrete. Brian Eno? Brian fucking Eno? Give me a break. That stuff is fun for a while, but doesn't it get old after a bit? Doesn't it just get kind of tiresome for music to have to be so cool all the time, for it to have to be the most obscure shit anyone can think of?

I am, to be completely honest with you, absolutely convinced that Phish represent the next frontier in music. I'm convinced of that for several reasons, but the largest is this: of all the bands that have appeared in the last twenty years, Phish clearly puts more spirit into their work than any other. I believe that can be argued almost conclusively; you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a band that has been around that entire time, that has put as much practice and performance time in, that cares as much as Phish do about what they're doing. And yes, I know the stock responses; the thing is that they all really boil down, I think, to the fact that it's hard to 'get into' Phish, or that they're too 'loud and obnoxious,' or that they're off-key. Those are, I should say, the only really legitimate criticisms; and though I think those criticisms are mostly borne of an unwillingness to go the distance of listening to something that seems cacophonous, they don't bother me as much as the illegitimate criticisms, some of which you're repeating: that Phish plays "whiteboy blues," that anyone who really likes them is "monocultural," that they're narrow or closed-minded or stilted or whatever else people like to say.

There have been times when I've felt what I think you're expressing - Phish is loved by many, many people, some of them very silly. It's comforting to have your own music, to like stuff that no one else likes. I spent a long time delving into the darker recesses of musical culture, seeking those holy grails of rock, and I've found some pretty awesome stuff. The Raincoats? Rock my socks off. The Fall? Always different, always the same. The Swell Maps? Yes, they're one of the greatest jam bands ever.

But I come back to this place, and I ask myself: is it acceptable for me to hate a band solely because so many people like it? Trey, Mike, Page, and Jon aren't idiots, and they aren't as musically stupid as a lot of people seem to think. Trey has always said that Remain In Light was his favorite record when he was growing up; they've covered Pavement, as noted above, and when they did Trey pointed out that covering Pavement had always been something he wanted to do. In other words, they're paying attention. It's just that they wear their hearts on their sleeves, so there isn't really room for the "my favorite band is more obscure than your favorite band" merit badges.

In the end, the remarkable thing is that there's music everywhere. It's all around you. You might feel as though Phish are just another silly, ridiculous band, and that's your right; but understand that maybe, just maybe, you're being dismissive of something good that's staring you right in the face. The finest things are hidden in plain sight; some of the greatest artists have found broad appeal whilst hiding their beauty right in front of the faces of their admirers. Phish evokes simple emotions, and they aren't ashamed to play a loud song or a rocking song or a pretty song or a sad song. Is that hackneyed? Is that bourgeois? Is that wrong? Maybe it is, but frankly I got tired of postmodern experiments in posture a long time ago.

I'll bet Mark E Smith digs Phish. I'm absolutely serious.
posted by koeselitz at 9:59 PM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm curious what Phish fans define as "great improvisation." My standard is set by two Grateful Dead performances: the jam after Truckin' into Epilogue on 5/26/72, track 21 here, and The Other One on 4/28/71, track 4 here, reg. required: there's clear communication and interplay, energy, invention, and a sort of narrative or journey as the band drives into uncharted territory.

I'm just not hearing that in Phish, for example in the Chalkdust Torture recommended here, the Loving Cup, or a Tweezer Reprise recommended to me in another Phish topic. I hear a strong but traditional classic rock jam, well done but nothing unknown to fans of The Who, Blind Faith, Jethro Tull, Jefferson Airplane, or probably many other classic rock bands.

Are we talking about different things? I would love to be pointed to more jams like the two above (by any band, really). I'm just not finding them in Phish (or in 98% of the Dead either, for that matter.)
posted by msalt at 10:08 PM on April 12, 2010


I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying "Brian fucking Eno" is good or bad because he produced Trey's favorite album? And just who's saying that it is wrong to like Pavement to cover them? Even I've covered Pavement.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:36 PM on April 12, 2010


msalt: “I'm curious what Phish fans define as "great improvisation." My standard is set by two Grateful Dead performances... I'm just not hearing that in Phish, for example in the Chalkdust Torture recommended here, the Loving Cup, or a Tweezer Reprise recommended to me in another Phish topic. I hear a strong but traditional classic rock jam, well done but nothing unknown to fans of The Who, Blind Faith, Jethro Tull, Jefferson Airplane, or probably many other classic rock bands. ¶ Are we talking about different things? I would love to be pointed to more jams like the two above (by any band, really). I'm just not finding them in Phish (or in 98% of the Dead either, for that matter.)”

I can understand kind of hearing that classic-rock thing on a first listen, and it is pretty strong in "Chalkdust" and a lot of the stuff I linked here, but I think it's not really what Phish is about at all.

First of all, I should say that the Grateful Dead you quote is really quite early stuff, and not what a lot of Dead fans would cite as the peak of their career, as fine a time as it is. I have a feeling you know this, and I know you're talking about the Dead stuff that appeals to you (you say you don't find what you're looking for in most of their music either, so there's that.)

Either way, if you've spent much time listening to the Grateful Dead from around '76 or '77, that's more like what Phish do. And even then, Phish really don't have their roots in folk music the way that the Grateful Dead do.

Phish improvisation has a lot more to do with prog and free jazz than with folk-rock and classic rock, honestly. They tend to fiddle a lot with time signatures and keys apparently because they like the discord of it, and some of their best moments are when they'll simply layer audacious noise upon itself before dropping into a groove apparently spontaneously. I don't think the Grateful Dead would ever have been so feckless about taking joy in cacophony, to be honest; they had their own style and way of doing things, and it was in many ways limited not so much by the members of the band but by something larger they all seemed to be part of. Phish doesn't have similar restrictions, and they tend to use that freedom as a tool.

This is just a high-quality clip that I happen to be watching at the moment, but I've always loved their tune It's Ice, and particularly their performance of it at their Clifford Ball concert in 1996. The direction that jam takes about halfway in is sort of typical of them - weird, atonal shit, sort of playing under the radar of the chords and then gliding back into the (yes, fairly complex) structure of the tune.

Of course, a lot of us are pretty sure that the quintessential Phish song is "Reba." There are a couple of really good versions, but here's the one I'd recommend.
posted by koeselitz at 10:56 PM on April 12, 2010


Threeway Handshake: “I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying "Brian fucking Eno" is good or bad because he produced Trey's favorite album? And just who's saying that it is wrong to like Pavement to cover them? Even I've covered Pavement.”

I said "Brian fucking Eno" because, yeah, he's kind of played out, in a way. I get tired of it after a while. I'll listen to those records again, I'm sure, but the past few years as we all 'discover' him and learn to use his name as some sort of cudgel, it gets old. So I don't mind disavowing him for a while. "Blank Frank" will always be there for me to come back to.

Seriously, guy, I was mostly pissed off at your out-of-hand dismissal of muckster based on nothing but his silly last.fm playlist. He's made some great comments in this thread, I have some respect for his musical taste, and the fact that he might not have a copy of Before and After Science on original vinyl at home doesn't change that for me. Hell, he might in fact - I don't know. And neither do you.

And lumping the Grateful Dead and Phish into some sort of 'monoculture' judgment (yeah, I'm harping on it, but it bugged me) really wasn't fair. The Grateful Dead have been dismissed for generations - I think the only reason they're not dismissed so much any more is because our parents hated them, and it's cool to like things that our parents hated, right? But when it comes down, you lumped Phish and the Dead right there in the same ball.

I don't know. Maybe I'm making a big deal of this. But is it really fair to act as though there's really nothing more to be learned from people musically just because they happen to fancy music that you haven't dug yet?
posted by koeselitz at 11:03 PM on April 12, 2010


So I guess me calling them a jam band from the No Wave era in NYC was totally wrong.

PEOPLE! PEOPLEPEOPLEPEOPLEPEOPLEPEOPLEPEOPLEPEOPLEPEOPLEPEOPLE! There is a difference between "jam bands" and bands that jam. "jam bands" are largely useless. Widesread had lyrics but all their songs sounded the same, SCI had talent but their songwriting skills WERE SOMEHOW WORSE THAN PHISH, OH MY GOD HOW DID ANYBODY LISTEN TO THAT CRAP SERIOUSLY I DID DRUGS TOO AND EVEN THEN I COULDN'T UNDERSTAND THE APPEAL. They all do covers of "Cissy Strut," and they all suck. They all try for some annoying funk ideal that history left behind 40 years ago.

Bands that jam are interesting. Thevelvetundergroundpinkfloydtheallmanbrothersthegratefuldeadlittlefeatcankingcrimsonyolatengosonicyouthmybloodyvalentinecreedencesantanarushyesevenrushhadtheirmoments AND YOU KNOW WHAT, I'll even include Phish because they were obviously doing their own thing and not just jumping someone else's train like widepsreadstringcheeseacoustichookahumphrees DISCOBISCUITS I WOULD HAVE GIVEN A PASS HAD THEY HIRED A DECENT VOCALIST BUT OH OH NO BROWNSTIEN HAD TO SING THAT FUCKER DIDNT HAVE VOICE WORTH A DAMN SO FUCK YOU BISCO YOURE IN THERE TOO galacticleftoversalmon I WONT INCLUDE MMW BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY HAVE THE CHOPS TO DO REAL JAZZ.

But you get my point. Jambands are so annoying even jambands.com and relix.com are all about indie rock these days. Bands That Jam are eternal and timeless and awesome and will always have fans.

Yes, I am drunk. Take from this what you will.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:28 PM on April 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


koeselitz: Thanks for the pointers, I'll check them out. FYI though, the Dead had plenty of dissonant noise early on, esp. when Tom Constanten was still in the band (until 1970). Even that 1971 Other One I linked to has plenty; check out side 2 of Anthem of the Sun for example, which has the first major label feedback/noise track I know of (1968, same as JA's sillier "Small Package of Value will come to you shortly").

Pegging Phish as a prog rock band makes sense and also explains why they don't send me; I got bored of Yes and Face Ditch and Henry Cow etc. after a year or two because it all felt like "look at me I am so clever and skillful", what one of the Marsalis brothers confessed to as "talent attacks on the audience" that weren't actually fun to dance to or watch.

Also, I love everything Afroblanco has posted here. That is all.
posted by msalt at 11:42 PM on April 12, 2010


The velvet underground pink floyd the allman brothers the grateful dead little feat can king crimson yola tengo sonic youth my bloody valentine creedence santana rush yes even rush had their moments.

Translating, I read 'creed even had its moments' and knew I had to check it again.
posted by acro at 5:05 AM on April 13, 2010


Creed did have its moments.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:01 AM on April 13, 2010


'72 was a great year for the Dead. I wouldn't be too quick to file Phish under prog rock, either -- it's a big influence, certainly (see Trey's recent speech inducting Genesis in the RnR Hall of Fame, and ensuing covers) -- but I don't get that "talent attack" feel from them at all. As for the quintessential Phish song, I'd have to go with You Enjoy Myself. It's their most played song, combines the silly lyrics that upset Afroblanco with varied composed parts, a big funk work out, trampoline antics, and a vocal jam outro. The version I linked is from Madison Square Garden in December. (part 2)
posted by muckster at 8:55 AM on April 13, 2010


I've tried to be polite, but honestly? That right there is the biggest pile of trite musical wank I have experienced in many a year. Good Lord, people.
posted by unSane at 9:04 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


So... you're digging it, right?
posted by muckster at 9:11 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, koeselitz's links are very proggy, a lot of complexity for sure but not very satisfying. As improvisation, the question for me is, how could this fail? The early Dead failed often, and sets like the ones I linked to were the payoff. These guys noodle in other time signatures, then come back to the original song, but it's like that standard freakout bands do at the end of an epic live number, except in the middle of the song.

The "You Enjoy Myself" -- frankly, it's just dull. Lots of long slow build up, no payoff.

Overall, I just don't see much heart or soul or emotional investment by this band. It's like a very proficient mix of classic rock, prog rock and Dead jams, but each element is done better by other well known bands (e.g. The Band) who might actually be moved by their own songs.
posted by msalt at 10:28 AM on April 13, 2010


I've always enjoyed The Divided Sky as a musical journey.
posted by Sailormom at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are a few big payoff moments in the YEM, but it's definitely not a song that I liked much the first time I heard it -- or the second, fifth, or tenth. When it finally clicked though, it didn't let go.

The emotion's there, mostly in Trey's solos. As koeselitz said, Reba's a good place to look for that, or Bug, Farmhouse, Dirt, Waste, Harry Hood, When the Circus Come to Town -- like with the Dead, the ballads gained weight over the years. The bust has certainly left Trey more humble, and I think it shows. Torn & Frayed was a real moment of truth somehow, you can tell the tune sums up perfectly where the band was at the moment, and I love the solo out of that -- it starts as a Stones song but by the end it's pure Phish.
posted by muckster at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


This just came on my iPod: Gamehenge 09, "a kaleidoscopic joyride through bizarre sound demi-genres" by a whole bunch of hipster noise bands:
Whether you are a Phish fan or not, they have become a ritualistic-psychedelic necessity for a distinct and vast niche of the American people. The massive collection of new artists featured on Gamehenge 09 offer a refreshing vantage point from which to reconsider Phish's psychedelic music tradition and to shed light on possible future avenues. The point of this release is to breath new, forceful vision into this modern piece of Americana mythology.
posted by muckster at 11:17 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The most naked emotional Phish moment must have been Wading in the Velvet Sea from Coventry, their "last" concert and likely their worst show ever. Here, Page McConnell breaks down in tears while he's supposed to sing the first verse. Later, Trey does some sobbing. Here's a better version of the song, one of their best ballads.

And in case that left a bad taste (it should), this thread wouldn't be complete without this twenty-minute Down By the River freak-out with Trey and Neil Young going head to head.
posted by muckster at 12:23 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks muckster. My mind is blown that this band could make Down By the River boring, even with Neil Young singing for them.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:19 PM on April 13, 2010


Thanks to various for your patience and pointers. I think I'm looking for a very specific type of improv -- each instrument moving separately yet in sync beyond the given song, listening and reacting to each other closely. I've heard it in the Bill Evans trio, and some Dead, but it's pretty rare. I don't think that's what Phish is trying to do at all, though.
posted by msalt at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good god, Neil Young is lame.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on April 13, 2010


Seriously? I could watch that Down By the River on repeat all day. We're clearly not even on the same planet tastewise, 3way.

msalt, once I got over the inherent irony of "I'm looking for a very specific type of improv," I think I know what you're talking about, and I'd say that style is an ideal for Phish as well, especially in the years following the watershed tour koeselitz linked in the original post -- less focus on building peaks behind Trey and more spacious jams that develop at their own pace, with all four players interacting. I don't know that I can find anything specific on YouTube, but if you're so inclined, search out 11/17/97, 4/2/98, or 6/14/00 (or msg me.) If you dig early-seventies Dead, I think there's plenty here for you to discover.
posted by muckster at 2:47 PM on April 13, 2010


once I got over the inherent irony of "I'm looking for a very specific type of improv,"

I know what you're saying, but I think that kind of focus is actually the essence of improvisation. Hate to name drop, but I was lucky enough to take a film class from Gus Van Sant before he was famous (before he finished Mala Noche even). He made the point that most film improvisation is just bullshit, lazy directors who just haven't finished the script and think they're going to pull it out in the bottom of the ninth by sheer pluck and determination.

On the contrary, he said, that never works, because the pressure causes you to tighten up and stifles that creative impulse you need so desperately at that point. The the only way improvisation works (in film anyway) is if you plan every shot meticulously, scripted and storyboarded. Being fully prepared, you relax enough that -- if you have the nerve -- you can throw all those notes away and go with your inspiration.
posted by msalt at 11:09 PM on April 13, 2010


Yeah -- I'm not a huge fan of van Sant's, but I agree you gotta be prepared in order to let go. Here's a bit about Phish's improv exercises from a 1995 interview:


ATN: There's a sense in so much of your music of deconstructing and restructuring melodies and rhythms. Where do you think that sense came from, because that's something that seems very different from even what bands like the Dead or whomever are doing.

Anastasio: That's sort of what we think. That's why we think people don't want to listen to the differences. It's like there's a big group of bands and everyone's the same. But in either case, that came from a lot of different places. Deconstructing and restructuring melodies, that probably came from writing a lot of fugues and stuff early in our career. The fugue teaches you about variations on a melody, exhausting every possibility. I hear that when I listen to Sonny Rollins. He'll jam on very simple melodies, and build it up for a long time. He's into the slight variations. Which kind of traces back to a gospel type of thing I think, where the song would go on for a long time, and they would take the melody around and each person would have their own little variation. The exact study of that would be like writing fugues. So the fugue in "Fluffhead," that's all theme and variation type of thing.

From an improvisational point of view, we do these exercises in band practice called "An including your own hey," which is a communication and improvisation exercise. Like I'll start with a very simple melody, and then each person joins with me in a simple repetitive counter melody until we form a bed of sound. When we each hear that the other three members are locked under their bed of sound we say, "Hey." Then the person to the right, which would be Page, alters his melody, and then we all alter our melody--it doesn't need to be a melody, it can be whatever the heck we're doing--until we've got a new bed, and then we say "Hey." That sounds like a really simple thing but it's hard to listen to three things simultaneously. And if you say "Hey" when somebody isn't ready yet, they know that you're not listening to them. So all four band members need to be listening to all of the other three continuously, and this thing goes around in a circle very fast. And it trains you to ditch your ego, not play anything from a riff, ego standpoint, and try to train you to only play by listening. Listening first, and complementing. And, it teaches each person to switch roles from being the leader to being the support person.

That was just the basis of a lot of our exercises. Then, we started really getting into it. So we started doing things like "Filling the Hey hole," where we'd do the same exercise, but you can only play in the spaces. No one can ever play on the downbeats together. It's totally wild. And that trains you to really be supportive because then you become part of a cog in a machine, with each person filling in different parts of that note. And then we'll do it focusing only on one aspect of music. So then we'll do it for a half an hour purely on texture. Or we'll take one note and only jam doing the "Hey hole" exercise, but only do it by varying texture, or by varying speed, or dynamics, or melody, or harmony, but always focusing on reorganization. Like that.

We've been doing these exercises now for a number of years and its had a huge effect on us, it just trains you to be a lot more open and to listen a lot more carefully. On "Tweezer," [a thirty-minute version off A Live One] you can hear a new section every two minutes. Every different variety. The textures change, the tempos change, the harmony changes. Or like in "Stash," [also off A Live One] in the jam in that, despite the fact that the general pulse stays the same through the jam, we're improvising by changing the harmonic structure of the song as it goes along. So if you listen to the jam what we've got is rhythmic patterns going against each other that are in different time signatures from each other. And that's a really cool thing. And then, there's actual good block harmonic structure that was improvised. It's normally just a D-minor jam, but the whole time you can look back at it and figure out what the harmonic structure was, going to the five chord, and the five of five, and to the two chord, and I don't really know other bands that do that. The thing is, you couldn't do that in a normal soloist, backup band atmosphere. The backup band is trained to support, define the chord progression and let the soloist do his thing. We kind of look at it from a different light, more from a King Sunny Ade band perspective, where there is no soloist, everyone is playing.

The other thing is having the groove speeding up and slowing down, that's a traditional no-no, like if the drummer is lagging everyone will glare over at him, "Keep the pulse, practice with a metronome, keep the pulse going." What we did to get over that was these exercises where we'd get in a circle and practice each person speeding up and slowing down and we'd follow them. For a couple of years, Fish and I would get into this thing where if he started to lag I'd be glaring over at him hitting my guitar louder trying to get him to catch up, and this is something that's happened in every band I've ever played in. It's like a typical problem, and no one ever does anything to solve it, so what we did was, we started practicing slowing down and speeding up, and now, it's something we want, so when he starts to lag, then we'll just lag with him. And then he'll lag really hard, and the next thing you know you got jams that are speeding up and slowing down. Nobody really does that. Usually a long jam consists of a groove and soloists taking turns playing on top of it, and there might be a harmonic structure, like in jazz where everyone's playing over the chord changes of the song, or it's free, and everyone's going in all different directions. But in terms of making that shit up spontaneously as you go along, the only way to do it is to practice spending hours doing it as a group or it just won't happen.
posted by muckster at 9:37 AM on April 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Trey's explanation is a good one, I think. Phish truly is fugue music more than it is "jam" music.

For those looking for full-band improvisation, I would direct you to the "album" Bastard Universe by The Church. It's sort of a surprising source for improvisation, except for fans of The Church familiar with the band's songwriting process that often includes recording long improvisational sessions and then making songs out of the good bits. It's an entire album completely improvised by the whole band in the studio, without any guitar "solos" or other solos to speak of. And it's 80 minutes of brilliant awesomeness by one of the greatest and most underrated bands ever. It's on Grooveshark and elsewhere on the web for anyone interested in checking it out (it was released as a "secret" bonus disc enclosed with a limited run of the band's Hologram of Baal album. I strongly recommend it.
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on April 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Popped in A Live One tonight, just for shits and giggles.

Harry Hood and Slave to the Traffic Light held up surprisingly well. Tweezer, YEM, and Squirming Coil? Not so much.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:11 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Digging Bastard Universe. Thanks for the recommendation, The World Famous.
posted by muckster at 2:44 PM on April 16, 2010


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