Tuesday 08/18/2015 by tweezer

BEHIND THE MUSIC: MIKE'S SONG'S SECOND JAM

[Editor’s note: after the celebratory revival of the “Mike’s Song” second jam on 8/4/15 in Nashville, the folks on the Mockingbird and phish.net teams wanted the whole scoop on what happened, since the instigator was one of our staff. We thought the story was simply too good not to share. Many of our readers will already know the basics of how Drew Hitz (professional musician, music business consultant, Mockingbird Foundation board member), with the assistance of his friend and colleague Don Hart (composer, arranger, orchestrator, collaborator with Trey on “Time Turns Elastic”), turned fan dreams into reality. If this story is new to you, check out the .net recap from that Nashville gig. -PZ]

Don Hart asked me if I was coming to Nashville for the show at the brand new Ascend Amphitheater. He ended up securing me a ticket which was DFC in the fourth row of seats behind the pit. I was hopeful that I would get into the soundcheck, but didn't find out that I would be going until that afternoon.

The soundcheck was fascinating for me. They played a bluesy jam to start, and then Fishman asked if they had time to run “Mercury.” After playing it once through, they then rehearsed and ended up rewriting parts of the second half of the tune. It was a fully democratic process. They focused on the transition getting out of Fishman's Marimba Lumina solo into the next section.


8/4/15, Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN. Photo by Drew Hitz.

They were choosing harmonies, who was playing and who wasn't, how Fishman was getting from the solo into his next drumbeat, etc. They also worked on the next section of the tune. Mike asked Trey if one riff in the transition was going to happen once or twice. Trey said that it was supposed to happen once but that every time he went to play it twice. They decided it would be played twice which made Trey remark "And that puts the rhyme in the middle of the bar, which is weird, but I like weird."

They then discussed the background vocals of the next section. They first discussed whether there should be two or three-part harmony, and who was singing what part. Trey proposed a pattern for singing the backgrounds that was singing a pattern four times, and then two times, with the next two times resting. Mike then countered with singing it four times and then three times, with only time time resting, which he said would be symmetry and a callback to the beginning of the tune, which is in seven. Trey said "I love symmetry," and that is what they went with.

The process of rewriting these parts of the tune were 100% democratic. I was getting to watch a chamber group rehearse as if no one was there. There were only five of us in the audience, and one was The Dude of Life. As a musician, I have dreamed of watching Phish rehearse as a fly on the wall, and the fact that I got that kind of soundcheck was really special. But that wasn't exactly the highlight of the day...

For anyone who missed it, Trey told Don through the mic "We will be back here in about a month or so to record an album." I only pass that along because it was confirmed that it was picked up by mics just outside the venue. The “we” wasn't clear whether it was Phish or TAB, but it sure seemed like he was talking about Phish.


8/4/15, Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN. Photo by Drew Hitz.

Immediately after the soundcheck, Trey met Don, myself, and Don's other two guests next to the stage and spoke with us for probably 15-20 minutes. As he has been every time I've had an encounter with him, Trey was gracious, kind, generous with his time, and genuinely interested in who he was talking to. He's really quite a remarkable guy, as many of you know.

Trey and I spoke about the NSO gig (from 5/22/13) and he mentioned how great the orchestra sounded that night and about how great Steven Reineke, the conductor, was in particular. We then spoke about the crowd clapping along in “You Enjoy Myself” and about how the orchestra clenched from the sound delay and how Reineke's eyes got really big, and he just pushed through.

Trey then asked if we (the NSO) had anything cool coming up. I explained to him that I had infiltrated the orchestra by sending an email to my friend, explaining to him that I regretted to inform him that he wasn't playing the gig and that I was in his place. Trey was very amused. He said that if it helped me get another gig with them that he would write a letter saying how the orchestra sounded great, but that the tuba player in particular was phenomenal. He was cracking himself up at this point.

I had been planning the “Mike's Song” conversation for whenever I saw him again, but only if it felt right. At one point, about ten minutes into the conversation, there was a little lull, and I expected Trey to thank us for coming. I wasn't going to interject after that point, so I thought the moment had passed, but everyone kept talking.


8/4/15, Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN. Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish 2015

I finally had my opening and asked him if I could be "a pushy Phish fan for one minute." He nodded so I asked him "Would you like to break Twitter tonight?" He smiled and said "I'd love to."

I then asked him if he remembered our conversation immediately after the Kennedy Center gig about the second jam in “Mike's Song.” He said he vaguely remembered it, and that he didn't remember them ever doing it. I told him that if they played it again, he might bring down the whole internet.

It was then that he asked how it used to go. That is when I whipped out my phone and hit play. It was already cued to about five seconds before the chords that lead into the second jam of the 7/14/00 “Mike's.” I explained that they now played those three chords four times that lead to the composed ending which resolved to “I Am Hydrogen,” or whatever else they were going to play. He nodded along while listening.

I then pointed out that they used to play those chords only twice, and then would modulate down a half-step to F-major. As that happened on the recording, he said "We did?!" He then said it sounded like they were about to go into “Simple,” and I told him that they didn't. He asked what they went into, and I said an open ended jam in F. He said "Ooh, I like jamming in F." I then pointed out that this version went on for another 7:30 before dropping into “Frankie Says.” You could see he was processing.

He then told me what he told me after the Kennedy Center conversation. He said, "Well, if we ever do this, it will only be because of you because I have no memory of it whatsoever." He then said that I could come up on stage with a selfie stick and take a photo. I asked him if I could make a speech, and he said that would be fine.


8/4/15, Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN. Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish 2015

I pointed out to Trey in a joking manner that he didn't even need to tell the other guys, that he could just drop down the half-step and they would follow him. This didn't even need rehearsing.

Five minutes later, at the very end of the conversation, I caught myself very quietly singing “Mike's” to myself, because I was so excited. I apologized to Trey for singing it and told him that it was subliminal, and that I got the request in and that the messaging was over. He laughed. I then told the Dude of Life in front of Trey that I needed him to sing the half-step modulation for Trey in about 30 minutes to reinforce the message. Everyone laughed.

I then watched Fishman practice for about 20 minutes, and thanked Page for getting off his tour bus in the middle of his dinner 20 years ago to talk to me and some other folks. I told him how much that inspired a kid in music school.

After I got out of there, I tweeted:

"I just played Trey the transition into the 2nd jam of the 7/14/00 Mike's Song. The rest is in God's hands." So the entire Phish twitter-verse knew about this before the show happened. My phone started blowing up after retweets from YEMblog and others. At least I thought my phone was blowing up.

The second set started with “Golden Age.” I was mildly bummed they didn't bust into “Mike's” right away, since that would have been a giveaway in that slot that it was going down. Then “Light,” and “Shade.” The ballad in the three-hole usually sets up something big, so I started to get excited, although I was trying to keep my expectations under control.

At that point Trey walked over to Page and talked to him for a few seconds, and it was all Trey talking to Page and Page simply nodding. My heart started beating a little faster. Then he walked over to Mike and they talked for almost 30 seconds, and my heart started racing. Then a brief conversation with Fishman, and he dropped into the opening notes of “Mike's Song,” at which point I almost shit myself.

I covered my mouth with my hands, and Don was staring at me and I told him that this was the tune I spoke to Trey about, and that he talked to all the other guys and I was blabbing. I do remember saying "I think this is actually @#$!ing happening," which put a huge smile on Don's face.

They got to the tramps section and for the first few minutes I was dancing like I was 19 again. But then I just stood there, since the moment of truth was coming at any point. I just stood there, clenched.

Then the three chords came once, twice, and a third time. I was like “NOOOOOOOO,” and then thought that maybe he was going to play them four times and then drop down. Then the composed ending happened and I tweeted ":(".

But then, sure as shit, as soon as they got to the end, Trey plowed right through with a little “Simple” fake out, and we were off and running. I made the touchdown salute, and then started freaking out. Don was on Cloud Nine, as we've become really good friends and he was loving me having a meltdown.

At that point my phone basically became a brick. I showed Don twenty minutes later that the notifications from Twitter were coming into my phone so fast that you literally could not make out a single word on any of them, as they scrolled by as fast as they could. My phone was blowing up for a full 24 hours afterwards. I got 800 new followers and enough offers for a free beer to get us all drunk for a full week.


"Mike's Song" – Phish, 8/4/15, Nashville, TN. Video by LazyLightning55a.

Obviously, the rest of the “Mike's Groove” was absolutely stellar. Don was mesmerized by the “Weekapaug” and the Sabbath-esque jam. And the leading back into “Weekapaug” with the “still waiting's” from the “Crosseyed” thrown in was just all surreal. And just when I begin to get about 5% of my shit under control, they encored with “Slave.”

Seeing that music, at that venue – incredible sound, great location, amazing view of the city and river – with Don (first time I'd seen a show with him) would have been an all-timer experience for me, even without my interaction with Trey or the online Phish community. Add it all up and it was one of the greatest days of my life.

One addendum to the story: After Don saw what a big deal it was to me, and after he saw the Internet meltdown that occurred afterwards, he offered to pass along a thank you email from me to Trey.

In that email I was able to thank him for a bunch of stuff, including all of the money that Phish has given to The Mockingbird Foundation over the years. I told him that it helped us to fulfill our mission and made sure the thank you was from all of us.

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


Comments

, comment by YouSuckAtTucking
YouSuckAtTucking Cool, thanks for the full story!
, comment by kcollins4
kcollins4 Awesome! Thanks for the story!
, comment by Sir_Wookington
Sir_Wookington very very cool. glad you had an amazing show!
, comment by stimbuck
stimbuck Great story, thank you for sharing!
, comment by SaltyDog
SaltyDog That is so freaking cool man. Thanks for the story and your perseverance in trying as hard as you possibly could to make the Mike's 2nd jam return.
, comment by vtspeedy
vtspeedy As someone who saw Phish once in 2003 but basically a 3.0 noob, I'd heard of the 2nd Mikes Jam, but it was just an idea, a thought. But wow - what a night, what a show, what a jam. Thank you so much for pulling this out of the ether for us! Forever grateful! And appreciative that the band continues to be an open and living organism where your passion sparked that magic.
, comment by Mikesgroover
Mikesgroover Opportunity knocked and you took it, thanks for sharing. The result speaks for itself, I think.
, comment by Gumbo72203
Gumbo72203 This is awesome. I wish they would go back to the original arrangement of Mike's Song for the 2nd jam, but.... we get what we get. It's interesting to note though that there is one version of Mike's Song they played early in a tour in the last year or two where it seems like Trey subconsciously went back to the original arrangement of playing the tramps closing chords twice, because you hear him start to play the ending descending riff while the other guys are still playing D > E > F# and he's like "oh shit" and hits the D major chord. Kinda funny and odd.

A bunch of songs have been totally redone for 3.0.... Mike's Song and Gotta Jibboo are the biggest with whole sections getting changed/removed, and then Brian and Robert, Roggae (removing the composed Type I section), etc.
, comment by negev79
negev79 "Ooh I like jamming in F" is my new favorite sentence.

Thanks again Drew! Such a great story.
, comment by Feel_The_Bern
Feel_The_Bern Great read! Thanks!
And yes, Trey was talking about a Phish album, because TAB has already recorded Paper Wheels, set for release later this year.
, comment by Just_Ivy
Just_Ivy That's a hell of a Phish story! THANK YOU!!
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew Wow thats all so incredible! How on earth could Trey really not remember the Mikes Jam though?!?!? Blows my stupid mind.
, comment by chillwig
chillwig great write up on an historic moment. thanks again drew!
, comment by gankmore
gankmore Well done!
, comment by curleyfrei
curleyfrei I am just all smiles after reading this. What a great way to start the morning. :-)

And what an incredible night for you, and for all of us.

From all of us, THANK YOU!!!!
, comment by The_Book
The_Book What a great read.
, comment by phearlessphreaks
phearlessphreaks Awesome story!!
, comment by fluffhead108
fluffhead108 Awesome.
, comment by CHASMAZE
CHASMAZE Thanks for sharing!
, comment by GottaJibboo
GottaJibboo thanks dood
, comment by hoeveler
hoeveler @PhishMarketStew said:
Wow thats all so incredible! How on earth could Trey really not remember the Mikes Jam though?!?!? Blows my stupid mind.
Addiction is a helluva thing: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/trey-anastasio-opens-up-about-past-drug-addiction-20121115

We're just glad he's better now!
, comment by drunkoldlady25
drunkoldlady25 Legendary!
, comment by Fluffhead
Fluffhead I love that Trey sounds just like us... "it sounds like we're about to go into Simple!"

Great story Drew, thanks!
, comment by YoureAHosemaster
YoureAHosemaster True story:
One of my best friends has a friend whose mom works for a company called "Show Pros" at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Alpharetta, GA. They're the folks that cater to needs in the green room for bands and 2011 was the second year in a row she would be providing service for Trey. We saw this as a perfect chance to try and put in a request. We discussed what we should request and I came up with Water in the Sky in the slow way they played it when it debuted in '97. I did this for two reasons: 1) I love the song played that way and 2) I would know that my request got played and that it was not a coincidence.

On the day of the first night (6/14/2011), he got her number and called her and made the request. She called back about a half hour before the show and said that Trey laughed when she made the request on our behalf, asked what our names were, and said "They have good taste." I was pumped that they might play it that night but alas nothing. Still, cool that Trey acknowledged us.

On the next night, before, as Forrest Gump would say, "God showed up" (They stopped in the middle of Mound first set for a massive thunderstorm that blew through), they played my fucking request! My head almost exploded and I can't think of many moments in my life that have produced such sheer, instantaneous moments of joy as when they played the opening chords. One of the greatest days of my life.
, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece of Phishtory!
, comment by shaunfunk
shaunfunk awesome story!
, comment by E_nice
E_nice That is an amazing write up. Great story!!!!!
, comment by tweezer
tweezer @YoureAHosemaster Great story! Love it!
, comment by drshaws
drshaws 1. Great story.
2. Great jam. Still amazed what they put out for us to hear. All after a brief sub-2 minute description of "Let's go do this" (considering Trey didn't remember it) - and we got that. Fantastic.
3. Tuba players unite.
, comment by turtledb
turtledb Excellent story!
, comment by DonGordleone
DonGordleone This is absolutely awesome. Thank you!
, comment by Rollings
Rollings That is the most amazing thing I have ever read on the internet. Seriously.

Thank you so much for sharing.
, comment by loonieguy
loonieguy And the rest is phishtory! Thanks for sharing the awesome story!
Take care of your shoes.
, comment by thebutler
thebutler So awesome. I would give anything to hear them mess around with re-working a tune like that in person.
, comment by funkdubayous
funkdubayous dude that is such an exciting story. thank you
, comment by RobPJohnson3
RobPJohnson3 You sir are a great American! All right-thinking people shall sing songs praising you for your work.

What other band would do this because of a chance conversation with a fan? Can you imagine even the Dead doing this? "Bobby, I really liked the way you guys used to do the full Weather Report Suite, instead of just the Let It Grow part. Could you do that tonight?" And then it actually happens? That night?

It's the feel good story of the year. Drew wins. Phish wins. We all win.
, comment by forbin1
forbin1 Great backstory! Thanks for sharing and for asking!
, comment by sehnert
sehnert Incredible story written incredibly well. Thank you!
, comment by theothr1
theothr1 without a doubt, that is absoposifuckinglutively the coolest first-hand Phishy anecdote i've heard, yet!!!...aaaaaand thank YOU!!!!
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad Great story. What I'd love to read is a list of Drew's 10 favorite 2nd jams.
, comment by YoureAHosemaster
YoureAHosemaster @tweezer said:
@YoureAHosemaster Great story! Love it!

Truly one of the best moments of my life. The fact that the band would take a day to relearn (I'm sure it didn't take long) a song it hadn't played in that style in 13 years just to satisfy a couple of random fans speaks volumes to what kind of people they are. This is why we continue to go see the Phish from Vermont! See the movie, read the book!
, comment by blazeonbob
blazeonbob Great story. One of my favorite aspects of Phish is their connection with the fans. Last year in San Francisco they opened with Walfredo to honor my friend Adam 'Walfredo' Berger who suddenly passed after various members of our crew approached members of the band, Tom Marshall and the their crew. It was a special moment and only made me love them that much more.
, comment by Piper72
Piper72 Great story, thank you Drew!

Now, if we could just get them to bring back the ACTUAL tramps for the tramp section... :)
, comment by tweezer
tweezer @MikeHamad said:
Great story. What I'd love to read is a list of Drew's 10 favorite 2nd jams.
Let me work on that!
, comment by tweezer
tweezer @drshaws Are you also a tuba player? As with Phish fans, #weareeverywhere
, comment by Jephwa14
Jephwa14 Life is a beautiful gift. Drew, you experienced and then subsequently shared a moment that was absolutely AWESOME for all of the fans of this band.

Great stuff and so happy to hear about your experience. Rad!
, comment by Ocebatalope
Ocebatalope Excellent story. Thank you for sharing.
, comment by MangoFeet84
MangoFeet84 Best.Day.Ever. What a dream come true!! Thanks for being a badass super fan
, comment by agree499
agree499 Thanks very much for sharing this wonderful story. I literally laughed until the tears streamed down my face!
, comment by unsilent_bob
unsilent_bob Great read and thanks for sharing!

I know I'll get flamed unmerciful for this but the first jam they go into right after the usual Mike's ending sounds like something Widespread Panic would play. They do those dark, funk jams a lot.
, comment by Blooby
Blooby I am a fan but not an OCD fan. When the moment happened, I really couldn't get all that excited except that it was a nice moment. Your story, though, was fantastic. I will have to go back and listen just because of your words. Big smiles...
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @PhishMarketStew said:
Wow thats all so incredible! How on earth could Trey really not remember the Mikes Jam though?!?!? Blows my stupid mind.
really, really cool story. believe it all verbatim but the trey forgetting part. i suppose it's possible one could forget a year, or a tour, but how did he think the band filled up those 12/95 second sets like hershey and niagara and so on
, comment by tensionland
tensionland God do i love this story. Many thanks to u for having the balls to bring this up. I always loved that part of Mikes Song...missed it and miss it. This band is amazing. That is all.
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