Bouncing Around the Room
Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Vocals: Mike, Page, Trey
Albums: Lawn Boy, A Live One, Stash, At the Roxy, Live Phish 13, Live Phish 19, Walnut Creek, Sharin' in the Groove, JamGrass, High Neighbors: Dub Tribute to Phish, Hampton/Winston-Salem '97, Niagara Falls, Ventura, Chicago '94
Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)
Last Update: 2014-06-26
If asked to name the quintessential Phish songs, most fans will immediately reach for those that combine compositional excellence, whimsical humor, and improvisational pregnancy – “YEM,” “Harry Hood,” “The Divided Sky,” or “Bathtub Gin,” for example. No such list of essential and representative Phish songs would be complete, however, without an offering of straightforward and muted elegance, lilting and beautiful melodies, and accessible lyrics. This latter style is often associated with the growing maturity of the band through more recent offerings such as “Waste,” “Farmhouse,” or “Joy.” But it all began with “Bouncing Around the Room.”
“Bouncing” presents many consistent themes from Anastasio/Marshall compositions: communication gone awry, a woman, nautical imagery, dreams, and a light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever the ultimate meaning (or lack thereof) envisioned by Tom and Trey, “Bouncing” provides equal opportunity hooks to lure in a diversity of fans: the young lovers can find themselves holding hands and gazing into each others eyes; those inclined to psychedelic flights of fancy can find prisms and echoes and a crystal haze through which to view their surroundings; the crowd as a whole can rejoice in being in a familiar space, back seeing their favorite band, as once again we all bounce around the room. Or one can investigate the venue’s rest facilities, as some do whenever the song is performed.
"Bouncing Around the Room" – 4/29/90, Woodbury, CT
“Bouncing” is one of the most frequently played songs in Phish history: it has been performed in over one quarter of all Phish shows. The only Phish originals played more often are “YEM,” “Mike’s Song,” “Golgi” and "Possum." The song is also consistent: the longest gap between performances was 21 shows in 1998. “Bouncing” has never been used as a vehicle for improvisation, though given the “anything goes” nature of Phish performances this statement could certainly be proven false by the time the next show rolls around.
Given the frequency of performances it is almost impossible to miss; be sure to visit the Lawn Boy and A Live One versions, as well as any number of otherwise amazing shows when “Bouncing” was performed: 11/2/90, 10/13/91, 4/16/92, 3/22/93, 12/31/94, 7/1/95, 8/17/97, 8/9/98, 7/4/00, 2/28/03, 8/2/09, or the acoustic version from Festival 8 on 11/1/09.
For a change of pace, visit Trey’s solo acoustic sets where “Bouncing” was played on 5/3/99 and 5/7/99, or his solo acoustic rendition on 8/2/08 at the Newport Folk Festival. For a complete curve ball, visit the version by Arlo Guthrie & Xavier on Mockingbird’s Sharin’ in the Groove CD. Perhaps the most lovely rendition of “Bouncing” ever offered was in the collaboration between Trey, Dave Matthews, and Orchestra Baobab in Dakar, Senegal that was featured in the 2004 VH1 InsideOut “Trey and Dave Go to Africa” special. During that program Trey noted that the song’s musical structure was originally conceived in the style of a West African folk song.
Trey, Dave Matthews, and Orchestra Baobab, "Bouncing Around the Room" – VH1 “Trey and Dave Go to Africa” special, 2004
The up and down history of “Bouncing” fan popularity proves an old fashioned adage: if you stick around long enough, you are eventually going to come back into style. After the song’s debut it was received enthusiastically with large segments of the crowd taking the admonition of the song’s chorus to heart, and literally bouncing up and down around the room during the song’s performances. As the Phish fan base exploded in the middle 90s, “Bouncing” acquired a vocal group of detractors. Some fans (often quite new to Phish themselves) derided new and young Phish fans as “Bouncing fans” if they seemed to enjoy this song any more than a “super-fatty-dank [insert jamming song here], brah.” “Bouncing” doesn’t jam, and to some fans this is the kiss of death.
"Bouncing Around the Room" – 11/1/09, Indio, CA
This tide has seemingly turned, however, and many now place “Bouncing” back in the ‘classic’ category where some felt it deserved to be all along. While still attracting many new young fans who love the tune, look around a Phish show in the Phish 3.0 era you’ll witness clear signs of a "maturing" crowd. Far from the typical media stereotype, the fan base (and, of course, the band) brings an appreciation for truth, beauty, and simplicity. “Bouncing” fits that bill to a tee, and is clearly here to stay.