Original Artist: Trey Anastasio
Albums: 18 Steps
Last Update: 2011-10-05
“Low” is very much a period piece from Trey, from after Phish’s 2004 break-up and before he found sobriety. The song is clearly about escape – ”put a place inside, where you can go, away” – and given the period, drugs are likely to figure prominently in the escape themes. Ultimately, the listener can decide to digest these themes to a point where they symbolize a place of comfort or one of despair.
The studio version of “Low” on 18 Steps is a fascinating juxtaposition of themes: the dichotomy of a light, rollicking upbeat melody contrasted with the unassumingly dark lyrics, layered with strings, all within the radio-friendly confines of a three-and-a-half minute track.
Outside the studio, “Low” has had a strong propensity for improvisational exploration since its debut at Higher Ground on 4/1/05. In the live performances, Ray Paczkowski’s organ lines are reminiscent of and perhaps inspired by the Who’s “Who Are You.” Thematically the song assumed an at times manic/depressive range, with expansive jams that routinely exceeded fifteen minutes and contrasted quiet and melancholy with balls-to-the-wall explosiveness.
“Low” often anchored powerhouse second sets during this period. Highlights include a monster 15-minute jam on 10/7/05 in Asheville; 10/30/05 closing the Vegoose festival in Las Vegas and featuring an extensive “Carry On Wayward Son” tease to close the set; 4/27/06 in Atlanta, a 13-minute version feeding heavily off of a “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”-esque jam – a theme that was reprised on 11/3/06 in Boone, NC during an explosive four-song second set. “Low” has a much different feel and jam quality when combined with the additional layer of horns; be sure to check out 12/28/06 and 12/31/06, after Trey’s December 2006 arrest.
“Low” only appeared in TAB setlists in 2005 and 2006, yet was strangely absent during the summer months. Perhaps its makeup is only suited for performance when there is a chill in the air? While many TAB songs come and go only to re-appear years later – whether coincidence or correlation – “Low” has yet to appear since Trey returned to the stage after drug court-mandated rehabilitation in 2008.