A Case of Ice and Snow
Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Cruz, Hoffman
Original Artist: Trey Anastasio
Original Album: Bar 17 (2006)
Albums: Bar 17
Historian: Tim Wade (TheEmu)
Last Update: 2015-03-31
“It was some shit to go through,” Trey would tell Jesse Jarnow following the release of Bar 17 in 2006. That album – as well as its companion piece, 18 Steps – were born in the turbulence and aftermath of Phish’s 2004 breakup. “It becomes cathartic to write this stuff,” Trey continued, “and there’s no value judgment about whether you’re writing good music or bad music. You’re just writing to clear your head.”
Trey Anastasio - “A Case of Ice and Snow” from Bar 17
It’s no mystery, then, why a song like “A Case of Ice and Snow” feels confessional, and almost pleading for understanding. In a 2007 performance and interview with Rolling Stone’s Anthony DeCurtis, Trey described both “A Case of Ice and Snow” and “Wherever You Find It” as “letters to my fans.” That letter is easy to understand. “Strung out,” and with “illusions,” “decisions,” and “walls” breaking down, Trey wanted fans to know that he felt “alone,” “cold,” and “spun round.” “Summer” is “time to grow,” but the ice and snow of winter is bitter and withering. It’s a bleak picture, but a frank metaphor.
Trey spoke of writing “A Case of Ice and Snow” on NPR’s World Cafe in 2006, saying that he tends to “write songs with whoever is in the room,” the room in this case being a boat in the Virgin Islands. “Ice and Snow” is “mostly” Trey, but he was aided by friends John Cruz, a Hawaiian singer/songwriter, and Kevin Hoffman, a non-musician who also holds a writing credit for “Burlap Sack and Pumps.” The first attempts to record the track featured a large compliment of musicians, but it was ultimately left to Trey on acoustic guitar and Ray Paczkowski on organ to convey the song’s intimacy.
In concert, “A Case of Ice and Snow” has maintained the same structure through the years. The tune begins softly, like the album version, with a minimalist guitar lick and delicate touches from Ray, creating a contemplative feel. The song then ebbs and flows, finally reaching a crescendo in Trey’s powerful solo. Check out the 10/24/06 and 12/31/06 versions for a taste of “Ice and Snow’s” potential. Also note that, in a lovely piece of symmetry, the song whose first line mentions “three long years to go” debuted on 4/27/06, just a little shy of three years before Phish’s reunion in Hampton, VA.