Wednesday, 5 August 2009

We Have Moved!

Due to some technical issues, we have moved to a new site. Please update your bookmarks!

The new address is:

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Phish 3.5

Throughout the evolution of Phish, there have been diverse phases which have altered the direction of the band. '94 is clearly an example of exploratory jamming, '97 is the 'cow funk' period, '03 is the frowned upon period, to name a few. However, no matter which you favor most or whether you dislike an entire period, there is no arguing that each has had an impact on the band. The band's ability to improvise within the context of a new frame has allowed them to progress through each stage, coming out a different and more capable band in the end. There is no doubt that we have entered into a new stage of Phish improvisation. This past weekend at Red Rocks shows that the band has fully taken on its new form, with increased comfort, and will explore it for the foreseeable future.

The transition to this new form has been slow, and most likely occurred in late '99. After the legendary all-night Big Cypress set, the band took a different turn. With a more rock-focused direction, the band entered into the millennium changed. The
band pursued this form in early 2000, however the hiatus would prevent us from seeing any further into the bands' new improvisational approach.

The return from the first hiatus in '03 prevented us from fully experiencing the bands new direction, as they were largely unpracticed and impeded by outside factors. Some highlights from this period offer a glimpse into the exploratory realm that the band would eventually reach. The shows from Camden in '03 and Saratoga in June '04 are particular highlights. These shows exhibit some very outside jamming, reminiscent of where the band is today. There are many more (the two night run in Cinci '03, IT, Brooklyn etc). During this period the band took some exploratory leaps, which many people have criticized harshly. Perhaps because Trey flubbed too many notes during the composed sections, fans ignore the incredible jams and progress that took place.

During the second hiatus, each member was given an opportunity to hone their skills at their respective instruments. Using with an edgier, more distorted tone, Trey continued to develop his new style that he had introduced in '03. Equipped with a bag of new licks, he continued to perfect his sound. TAB offered him the perfect chance to work out the details of his new style before rejoining Phish. Page was offered the chance to lead his own bands, as was Mike, allowing them both to improve their writing and playing. Jon took the opportunity to play with numerous musicians from several different genres of music (including another Ernie Stires student, Jamie Masefield of JMP), developing his multifaceted skills further.

Returning to Hampton in March of this year, the band sounded entirely different than their '03-'04 shows. With a much larger focus on rhythm, and equal-part, concise jams the band made their way through their old numbers. Although the band seemed uptight due to the circumstances, it seemed this was the direction they were taking. Most people know Mike has been critical of Trey's note-heavy solos, and Page has rarely taken the forefront. Thus, when we saw Trey take a step back in many of the jams, and Page take a step forward, we were left thinking this was the Phish 3.0 sound. Concise, funky, equal-part, rhythmic-based jams, along with Trey's edgy guitar tone.

However, the June shows shoved all of these notions aside and presented us with an even newer direction. The band exhibited very rock-based playing, highly focused on Trey's solos (which were note-heavy). Nonetheless, the band impressed us at every stop along the tour. Bringing along some aspects of Hampton's shows (Page's greater stage presence) and leaving others behind, they continued to evolve. Still focused on more concise jams, the Quartet felt as though they were getting more comfortable each step of the way.

By the Alpine shows, the band seemed to have fully evolved, developing their new sound. Each member was representing a greater part of the whole, in-line with their King Sunny Ade approach. In Burgettstown, for the first time, Page would lead the jam in
Tube from the end of the lyrics until the bluesy interlude. This demonstrated the new equal-part mentality. After these shows, mostly everyone was pleased. The jams were extended, more experimental, more psychedelic. The band that everyone loved was back, and making a statement with the experience they had gained.

Then came Red Rocks and the band shoved the June shows aside. Anyone who has
listened to the shows from the past four nights knows that the band has taken yet another step. This time, we are hearing the band with the experimentation of '03, the tightness of 98, only now with greater experience. The rhythmic focus of Hampton was brought along, and appears in many jams. Trey's guitar, still edgy...but tastefully so. The Stash from Red Rocks night 1 is reminiscent of some of the versions from '95, featuring dark, outer-wordly improvisation. The entire second set from night 2 provides a great example of Phish's new direction. Featuring far more relaxed jams than the June shows, the Red Rocks shows are bold statement from the band. The composed numbers were played with precision (other than a little Bowie flub), and the jams were more drawn out than before.

While the June shows' jams often felt like long solos, the Red Rocks shows contain close interplay between each member of the band. Trey and Mike can be heard going back and forth on the
Ghost from night 1, locking in and out of melodies. There is no doubt that the band has taken yet another step in their evolutionary process. It is amazing how Phish continues to evolve. Like Miles Davis, the band constantly breaks new ground, moving into uncharted musical territories each time. Not only is Phish back, they are back in a new and different way. They are constantly trying to use their abundant creativity to push the band forward in new, interesting musical directions.

Anyone who is seeing the band in the next few weeks is brimming with excitement at the possibilities that surround every show. The transitions are becoming smoother, the jams are getting longer, Phish are being Phish again (Trey's musical charades) and things seem to be getting better each step of the way. All signs point to these upcoming shows being very, very good. As Phish continues to develop their new style, it is interesting to look back on the impressive leaps the band has already made this year.

What is your favorite Phish era? Post your opinion in the comments section below.

I have posted the video of the jam from
Stash on Night 1 at Red Rocks below.

(All pictures courtesy of Dave Vann)

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Gypsy King

Django Reinhardt is one of the greatest figures in jazz music. Throughout the world of guitar, there is an admiration for Django that is so strong, it is almost a religion in itself. This deep admiration is a result of his highly innovative and distinct guitar playing which lead to him becoming one of the greatest guitar players who has ever lived. Django's influence stretches to all types of music (literally), and he can be seen as one of the pioneers of the lead guitar concept.

Born in 1910 to a gypsy family in Belgium, Django learned to play banjo, violin and guitar at an early age. At the age of 18, Django lost the use of two of his fingers on his playing hand while escaping from a fire. As a result, he was forced into developing a new style with his remaining two fingers. During leads, Django would only use his index and middle finger, making use of his injured fingers only when playing chords. The song
Jessica by The Allman Brothers was written as a tribute to Django, as Dicky Betts wanted to write a song he could play with only two fingers. After meeting violinist Stephane Grappelly, Django's playing changed considerably, creating a dynamic which included both rhythm and lead players.

Django's lead work is rich with colourful melodies that express his unmatched creativity. His ability to construct phrases that take the listener on a musical journey is one of the great wonders of the musical world. It is as if the man himself is simply a conduit in which music is passed through. As great as his capabilities as a lead guitarist were, his ability to play rhythm is just as impressive. Django's precision is particularly noticeable, which is suprising considering his handicap.

Django's influence on improvisational music is endless. Trey has said that Phish would always listen to Django's music while in the recording studio. In a 2002 High Times article, Trey is asked who his jazz-guitar hero is. This was his response: "Probably Django Reinhardt. I spend the most time listening to him. I listen to a lot of Django at home.
" Jimi Hendrix is also believe to have named the Band of Gypsys because of Django. His playing can clearly be heard in Jerry Garcia's soloing, who was admittedly a huge fan. Perhaps his musical companion Stephane Grappelly said it best:
"He did more for the guitar than any other man in jazz. His way of playing was unlike anyone else's, and jazz is different because of him. There can be many other fine guitarists, but there can bever be another Reinhardt. I am sure of that."
Below I have posted a few videos highlighting Django's guitar playing. Due to the age of the recordings, they are all audio-only.

Here is a video of Django playing
Minor Swing, a song written by him and Stephane.

This version features Django playing his electric guitar (a rare occurance) with Duke Ellington. They are playing
Honeysuckle Rose, the Fats Waller song.

This next video shows Django's influence. The video is of Phish's
N02 from the White Tape. Listen to Trey's solo at 4:55 to hear some Djangoisms.

Red Rocks Recap

Here are the streams and downloads for each of the nights from Phish's Red Rocks run:

2009-07-30 Night 1
Stream pt 1
Stream pt 2



2009-07-31 Night 2
Stream pt 1
Stream pt 2



2009-08-01 Night 3

Stream pt 1
Stream pt 2


2009-08-02 Night 4
Stream pt 1
Stream pt 2


Red Rocks Night 4

Here is the setlist from Night 4 of Phish's Red Rocks run. The download will be up as soon as possible. This week we will have in-depth reviews from each night of the Red Rocks run. The band heads to Shoreline next. More Dead-member appearances are highly likely.

Set One

  • Roses Are Free
  • Wilson
  • NICU
  • Prince Caspian
  • Back On The Train
  • Reba
  • Grind
  • Beauty Of A Broken Heart
  • Sample In A Jar
  • Sugar Shack
  • Waste
  • Kill Devil Falls

Set Two

  • Boogie On Reggae Woman
  • You Enjoy Myself >
  • Undermind >
  • Drums >
  • Seven Below >
  • 2001 >
  • Waves >
  • Character Zero


  • Bittersweet Motel
  • Bouncing Around The Room
  • Slave To The Traffic Light

Show Notes

Undermind through Character Zero with Bill Kreutzmann on drums.

The Return of the Curtain (with)

Last night, the epic Phish tune The Curtain (with) made a prominent return amongst the mountains of Morrison, CO. The song, which was last played almost five years ago (8-15-04), to close out the band's break up festival in Coventry, VT, has been on the minds of Phish fans ever since. Rumors of the song being "shelved" due to its emotional weight, or because of its inidcation as the end of Phish as we knew them, have been swirling since their return. The perfomance of this song at Coventry was disappointing. The song was restarted, and fans were left feeling unsatisfied.

The Curtain (with) is a unique song in many respects. To start, the lyrics are not written by any current member of the band. In 1987, Trey combined his music with Marc Daubert's lyrics to form the song. When asked about the lyrics, Daubert stated the following in a Hidden Track interview:
“When I was much younger, my parents tried to get me to believe in God...They forced me to go to church on Sunday. I rebelled eventually and was left at home on Sunday mornings. This was the best time for me to practice music. So, music became my religion. Eventually, that became confused and entwined with the meaning of this song. ‘Chanting words from a song’ is the correct phrase. ‘Please me, have no regrets’ came from the baby’s mouth. The song that the baby is singing is an expression of sacrifice. There can be no love without sacrifice. This is the greater meaning in these words.”
Listeners can immediately notice the stark contrast of these lyrics to any other Phish song. The lyrics are dark and philosophical, and give the song a very different sound. Another interesting aspect of the song is that the melodic ending was made optional on February 7th, 1988. After that point the song developed two names, adding the "(with)" to the end of the versions featuring the melodic ending that would later be tacked on to rift.
The song was first played on 8-9-87 at Nectar's (this show was also the first for Divided Sky, Fee, Harpua, and the Sloth) and has only been performed 13 times prior to last night. The shortened version has been played many times, however, after '88 the longer version was shelved for 12 years. Returning on July 12, 2000 at Deer Creek, the song would be played several more times on that tour, establishing itself as a latter day fan favorite. A notable version from this period is the one from Columbia on September 17th, 2000.

Last night's version of the song makes an strong statement about the band going forward. There are no limits or boundaries. An
y song can be played at any moment, regardless of its history or baggage. The placement of this song last night (reminiscent of Deer Creek 2000) could not have been better, as it prepared the crowd for the spectacular show that was to unfold as the night went on. The future is looking very bright based on the display Phish has been putting on the past few nights. Looking back on tonight's setlist, it is clear that any song's destiny is unbound.

I have posted below the link to the debut of The Curtain (with) at Nectar's in '87. Also, watch this video of Phish practising The Curtain (with) prior to their show in Brooklyn 2004, and another of them performing The Curtain from 8-17-96.

1987-08-09 Nectar's, Burlington, VT

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Red Rocks Night 3

Phish performed their 3rd of four nights at Red Rocks tonight. By all accounts, this was one of the bands best shows in many years. The download for the FLAC from last nights show is below.

2009-08-01 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

Set One

  • AC/DC Bag
  • The Curtain With
  • Mound
  • Gotta Jibboo
  • Guyute
  • Punch You in the Eye
  • Tube
  • Alaska
  • Run Like An Antelope

Set Two

  • Rock and Roll
  • Down With Disease >
  • Free
  • Esther
  • Dirt
  • Harry Hood


  • Sleeping Monkey
  • First Tube