|Originally Performed By||Trey Anastasio|
|Music/Lyrics||Anastasio, Marshall, Herman|
“Plasma” is apparently a conversation of sorts (perhaps between Tom Marshall and Scott Hermann) with one voice taking the view that people don’t change despite their best efforts, and the other expressing a belief in personal evolution. Maybe. Really, though, close examination of the lyrics is a secondary concern here. What “Plasma” is really about is an insanely catchy guitar lick (or horn line, depending on the era of TAB) that often serves as a starting point for some outstanding jams. Think of it as TAB’s “Seven Below” in that respect.
“Plasma” made its debut on 7/14/01 at Berkeley’s Greek Theater and – like many of the versions performed throughout 2001-02 – was played close to the vest, with this particular version clocking in at a bare bones three-plus minutes. Other versions from this era stretched out a bit more, allowing the horn players room offer solos on the “Plasma” theme. The first version to truly do service to its title, is the 10/22/02 Burlington performance that descended into deep space before smoothly returning to the “Plasma” theme. Also not to be missed are 5/27/03 and 4/11/04 from the Phish-infused Easter gig at Higher Ground (that segues into Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”).
TAB, “Plasma” – 3/5/11, Oakland, CA
“Plasma” had a few small performance gaps in 2005, though the lack of practice did not seem to affect the 11/18/05 Albany rendition. The under-appreciated year of 2006 features many strong versions of “Plasma” including 10/8/06 (a screaming, ascending peak reminiscent of “Tweezer Reprise”), 10/27/06 (laid back and, at times, almost Dead-like beginning with an intense finish), 10/31/06 (a spacey transition into an epic – really! – “Bar 17”) and 12/31/06 (slow, patient and must-hear). For representative recent versions, check out 2/19/10 Chicago or 3/5/11 Oakland. Outside of TAB, Trey has played “Plasma” at several G.R.A.B. gigs (see, e.g., 7/1/06) and twice with Phil Lesh: 10/28/06 in Vegas with “Phil & Trey,” and at the 10/20/07 Phil & Friends gig during his “silent” period.
Any discussion of “Plasma” would be incomplete without noting the double live album showcasing TAB’s 2001-02 material that takes its name. Presumably, Trey felt that the music produced by the dectet was as highly charged as its title track that was pulled from the 6/9/02 Cleveland show.
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