a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

The Line

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Fishman/Gordon/McConnell

Vocals: Trey

Albums: Fuego

Debut: 2013-10-31

Historian: Jeremy Welsh (jwelsh8)

Last Update: 2014-08-06

Debuted as the third song of their Wingsuit set from 10/31/13 when Phish covered their future selves, the “moment of truth” song “The Line” could have been written by the band for that very evening. As Trey explained later in the set:

“Dedicated with much love to the incredible Darius Washington, Jr. that song is about his experience when he missed those two free throws at the end of the Final Four Michigan State game. We love him, and we can relate." 

Actually, Trey, Washington missed two of three free throws while playing for the University of Memphis against Louisville in the 2005 Conference-USA tournament. But who’s counting? 

2005 Conference-USA basketball tournament, Memphis vs Louisville

While the verses feature Trey singing over keyboard work from Page – alternating between organ and piano – the melodic inspiration for chorus reaches back before Darius was born, to the autumn of 1983. It is clear the main melody grows out of the soaring “Prolonged Exposure” from the project known as Bivouac Jaun, known to fans through the earliest known recording featuring a member of Phish. (In this instance, Trey on guitar with possible assistance from Marc Daubert). There is something fitting about Trey selecting a section of music from over 30 years ago for a song all about looking forward.

The lyrics are written from the standpoint of Darius, standing there on the parquet floor of the FedEx Forum in Memphis in front of his home crowd, just before the shots were taken. The line “Big D is watching / I remember what he taught me / don’t let him see you cry” references Darius’s father, Darius Senior, who firmly nudged his son to walk Beale Street that evening, not allowing him to dwell on the misses.

We have all been told how to handle times of stress where you are put on stage: You have done this before, stand tall, control your breathing. Take your time, nail these shots, and your whole future is in front of you… But that doesn’t always hold true. Sometimes, no matter the amount of preparation or skill that you may have, it just does not work out. The shots don’t fall. For whatever reason, the rim just continues to get smaller in front of you.

On that Thursday evening in Atlantic City, Phish stepped up to the line. They had debuted songs before, played in front of hundreds of thousands of people in sold out venues, taken chances and succeeded. But this night, when expectations of fans may have been elsewhere, the band stepped to the line not knowing if they would end up victorious. The future (of the songs that would be played, at least) was ahead of them. They clung to the notion that it would all be fine with a song about a tragic hero, taking melodic cues from the prehistoric past, looking to the future.

Did they end up winning in the end? That is still up for debate. What is not up for debate is that “The Line” has lived past that game in the Spring of 2005, and the one evening in October of 2013. Moving from third in the order, “The Line” was chosen as the second song on Phish’s 12th studio album, Fuego, following the dense title track. And after having been played its second time during the first set of 12/29/13, the third “public” appearance of the song came on 6/24/14, the day Fuego was released. Phish chose “The Line” to represent Fuego on their sixth appearance on Late Night with David Letterman

”The Line” – 10/31/13, Atlantic City, NJ

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Renaissance Reply
Renaissance Yes. More importantly all of us there won. Let's say they play a costume,, novel and fun, but honestly how many of you listen to the costumes of Halloween's past? Instead we got the real Phish experience...the Unexpected! And it was a real treat. Plus, that 3rd set was pretty damn great. Yea...we won.
Score: 10
mgouker Reply
mgouker I feel like a winner. Thanks, Phish, for taking the chance.
Score: 6
TelaJewel Reply
TelaJewel No doubt in my mind.

Hearing The Line and Trey's flubbed intro on Halloween night instantly reminded me of few shows I saw in Ann Arbor in '93. For an encore the first night they did BBFCFM. They had the mic booms up and both Mike and Trey were laying there for what seemed like an awkwardly long period of time both waiting for the cue from each other. Turns out it was Trey who "dropped the ball". The following night during I Didn't Know -

"Trey and Mike put their microphones in the same position as they were for BBFCFM, and Page brought people on stage to give testimonials about how they felt about it. “Special guests” included Brad Sands and Chris Kuroda. Trey admitted his guilt in the mishap and the song continued."

Trey said he felt like he was in the final seconds of the NCAA championship game with seconds left and he called time out. A reference to University of Michigan Chris Webber who, in the final seconds of the '93 NCAA championship game against UNC, called time out when U of M was actually out of time outs resulting in a technical foul and blowing any hopes Michigan had of pulling off a win.

"We have all been told how to handle times of stress where you are put on stage: You have done this before, stand tall, control your breathing. Take your time, nail these shots, and your whole future is in front of you… But that doesn’t always hold true. Sometimes, no matter the amount of preparation or skill that you may have, it just does not work out."

Like Darius, it didn't work out for Chris that night on the basketball court. And like Darius he ended up with a spot (though much smaller) in Phishtory.
Score: 2
jking007 Reply
Yes. Great experience from a great band.
Score: 2
phishhead2110 Reply
phishhead2110 Phish is the most incredible musical entity on the planet in my opinion. They not only are a talented group of guys, but have developed their own genre(s) and sub-culture. Though I realize that they have extended the hippie culture with an ever expanding membership, there is something truly unique going on here. They are the only act in the music business other than maybe Lady Gaga (on a tiny scale) to have a career built around communication with their audience. It was never about money or fame... Phish is the only band that is so heavily based on musical communication between members. Their jams are comprised of a conversation between members on stage. As with any conversation there are elements of mood, tone, ambition, agendas, manipulation, love, support, anger, joy, disappointment, and total elation. It's amazing to experience the expression of emotion and sentiment first hand and how well this translates to recording while still leaving a completely unparalled experience behind for those who attend their shows. I hope that we have many more years to enjoy our beloved quartet.
Score: 1
lpenoza Reply
lpenoza When I listened to The Line from Dick's 2014, the power and potential of the song became clear. No thought or analysis was needed - from 1:45 min mark until the end, all 4 agreed on a point of focus that hints at it's potential for live performance. This band continues to feed my musical appetite. FUCKYEAHPHISH
Score: 0
rudy79 Reply
Coventry. This song is a metaphor for that horrible weekend in 2004. The band hurriedly decided to call it quits two months earlier and turned another Phish festival into their version of The Last Waltz. With a mud-crusted crowd in attendance, many of whom had abandoned their vehicles and walked miles to arrive, and a national theatre audience watching, Phish epically failed. They had almost five years to absorb that memory before reuniting in 2009, opening at Hampton with Fluffhead, a statement song that made clear they were rehearsed and ready. Coventry is a painful memory, but lessons were learned and a new generation of phans have experiences and memories that may not otherwise exist.
Score: 0
hamburger_helper Reply
hamburger_helper The way Trey describes this is accurate. 'he missed those 2 free throws'... ya, #1 was not relevant, he made it and got them within one point. #2 and #3 are the free throws that Trey is talking about. He missed those 2 free throws. You know, the ones that would have won the game. The 2 free throws that would have won the game. Not the 2 of 3 that would have won (tied) the game. I don't know why everyone is taking that quote and spinning it. It's accurate. The 2 free throws that matter are the one to tie and the one to win. AKA the 2 free throws that Trey is talking about.
Score: 0
orangeman91 Reply
I felt like I hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning of game 7 of the World Series when I heard / saw them for the first time to open the 2010 summer tour at Toyota Park. Completely changed my view on what music is and can be. I think we all win for loving this amazing band that only wants to give to the people that step up to the line to listen to them.
Score: 0
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