Music/Lyrics: Anastasio, Marshall
Vocals: Mike, Page, Trey
Original Artist: Amfibian
Original Album: Amfibian Tales (2000)
Historian: Kazimierz O. Wrzeszczynski
More akin to a poem than standard verse and chorus lyrics, “Nothing” – along with “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” – had the distinction of being premiered not only in front of a live audience, but at a show that was simulcast in select theaters nationwide. “Nothing” made its Phish debut in the light rain at dusk of the summer tour 2004 opening show in beautiful Brooklyn on 6/17/04. The first set of that show (with songs like "ASIHTOS" and "Free") was apparently influenced by the Coney Island beach and Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the venue, and “Nothing” with it’s reference to the sea fit right in. Reminiscent to the earlier Tom Marshall illusion of being “…on the beach trying to catch a ray” that “…got away” the lyrics of “Nothing” seem to be about not being able to firmly take hold of thoughts, moments in time, and even relationships. Perhaps also it is a metaphor to the fleeting improvisational moments that takes place on stage when the band is in full jamming mode. Musical moments which “smoothly flow”, which we “hope might linger” just enough to be appreciated, but are then quickly “swept off instead”.
The song’s origins can be traced back to Phish lyricist Tom Marshall’s band, Amfibian, and their first studio release, Amfibian Tales. Amfibian's version contains an additional third verse (about feelings of an uncertain future relationship) and features the New Jersey-based duo The Sarahs signing lead. The dual harmonies fit perfectly in the Amfibian version, quite possibly why it is one of the few songs in which the three main vocalists of Phish all sing lead on “Nothing.”
An early demo version of “Nothing” appears on the Flotsam Five unofficial compilation, labeled as being recorded on 9/9/03 with Tony Markellis and Russ Lawton. The Flotsam Five “Nothing” demo is quicker, more bouncy, and tries to stay in the verse-chorus-bridge traditional song format. This demo version of “Nothing” contains a nice soft introductory short prologue that could be a song per se, an opening verse not yet fully composed with Trey filling in with random vocal sounds while he plays and is stopped abruptly during what would be the current solo segment of the song.
The fully developed but not yet matured 6/17/04 debut is a much softer, melodic song that now features extensive "Water in the Sky" type piano playing from Page and is similar in style to what was released on the band’s album Undermind. With the 6/23/04 Deer Creek version, the band seems to still be cautiously feeling it’s way through the bubbly and airy climate of the song even singing an “oooohhh” final chorus. Until suddenly this version gives us a fleeting glimpse into the song’s interesting potential – it doesn’t end but instead moves into the band’s comfort zone of the time, taking a nice dark low turn in the jam segment which progresses into "46 Days."
"Nothing" re-emerged in Phish 3.0 (see 6/6/09 and 6/24/10) but has yet to go beyond the “ooohhh” singing and easy playing style the song seemingly has settled into. Nevertheless, "Nothing" holds high distinction among literate rock fans everywhere – after extensive research at Phish.net HQ we have determined that it is the only song performed by a major touring act that contains the word "ensconced!"