Vocals: Trey (lead) Mike, Page (backing)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update: 2016-02-09
An anagram is a new word or phrase created by rearranging the letters in a word. This simple linguistic tool has been used throughout history as a means of encrypting secret messages. When applied to a person’s name, the anagram can provide strange insight either into their character or the anagramaticist’s feelings toward them. In “Twist” the victim of this analysis is the too often absent beloved of the protagonist. Apparently, neither is happy with the resulting anagrams.
“Twist” was one of several new songs that first appeared during the European leg of the 1997 summer tour, making its public debut in Dublin, Ireland on 6/14/97. Like the rest of these new songs, “Twist” had been played at a private party at Brad Sands’ house a week earlier (6/6/97). Unlike many of these songs, “Twist” did not make the final cut for Story of the Ghost. Nevertheless the song was played pretty frequently throughout 1997. Of the 1997 performances the 8/3/97 Gorge version is a clear favorite. The first “Twist” of 1998 (4/2/98 Nassau) set a new standard for just how far out into space the song could go. Few of the pre-hiatus versions that followed approached the majesty of the trance-inducing groove that first debuted on the “Island Tour.” Those that came close twisted around Atlanta on 7/3/99 and The Gorge on 9/10/99.
“Twist” was rearranged during the studio sessions for Farmhouse that followed the fall tour, as evidenced by a performance in Rochester, NY (12/5/99) where the lyric “and substituting every sound” was eliminated. The studio track itself features a somewhat smug Trey intro and some stray Fishman (and friends) studio banter tacked on the end. Trey and Tom also released it in its original four-track form on Trampled by Lambs & Pecked by the Dove. A monstrous “Twist” played early the first morning of the year 2000, marked the return of millions of TV viewers to the sanctity of their living rooms from the hedonistic swamps of Big Cypress. If only they had been there more of the day, they might have caught a glimpse of how the tune would “Twist” around in the future. This is to say several post-"millennial" versions of “Twist” have been astounding.
The approach of the cyclone is typically marked by an initial low adiabatic swirl around the “Twist” theme. Gradually the rotational energy of the vortex increases as the lyrics are sung. Finally the turbulence and instability of the atmosphere coalesces into a voracious whirlwind of light and sound. Anything that stands in the path of the “Twist(er)” is subject to being flattened or cast asunder.
Particularly strong occurrences of this musical cyclotron prior to the bands complete disintegration in the post-Coventry vortex include: 10/7/00 Shoreline; 1/3/03 Hampton; 7/30/03 Camden; 12/29/03 Miami, 4/16/04 Las Vegas, and 6/20/04 SPAC. Live footage of a couple of the atmospheric disturbances in 2000 were released as Live Phish 04 (6/14/00 Fukuoka, Japan) and Live Phish 05 (7/8/00 Alpine Valley).
During 2009, the wondrous year that Phish returned from their self-imposed Exile in the Emerald City, "Twist" appeared almost exclusively as the filling in a second set jam sandwich, most often coupled with either "Drowned" as a predecessor (6/19/09 Deer Creek and 11/22/09 Syracuse) and as an antecedent to "Piper" (6/5/09 Jones Beach and 11/22/09 Syracuse). The Jones Beach version was also noteworthy for the Latin flavor (Santana's "Oye Como Va") of the jam. This essence has persisted through many of the subsequent versions and was commonplace throughout a period of relative quiescence (only four fairly unremarkable versions) in 2010 as “Twist” continued to get served up primarily as a mid second set dollop of comfort food. This lack of turbulence was merely a lull before the storm, as “Twist” was in such frequent rotation in subsequent years that the stage could have been renamed Tornado Alley.
Those of you who enjoy being teased should check out 9/4/11 Dick’s for “Low Rider,” 6/22/12 Riverbend for “Eleanor Rigby” and “Heaven on their Minds,” 7/8/12 SPAC for “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” 12/28/12 MSG for “Little Drummer Boy,” and 7/26/13 at The Gorge for a shot of “Tequila.” The abnormally brief 6/29/12 Deer Creek “Twist” is also noteworthy for Trey’s anagrammatic atavism on the song’s lyrical theme as he spends some time moving the letters all around as he speaks the names of Mike and Page in several ways. I heard the end result, if you do, it’s not my fault.
If coloring outside the lines is more your thing, you should also enjoy the 6/22/12 Riverbend “Twist” but then proceed with great haste toward the three versions from fall 2013. This terrific trio of torsion rapidly intensified after its 10/18/13 touchdown in Hampton, grew larger during its 10/23/13 twirl through Glens Falls, and became an absolutely devastating supercell by the time it hit Atlantic City on 11/1/13. Clocking in over twenty minutes for the first time since SPAC 2004, the Boardwalk Hall version warned us to fill up our “Long Tall Glasses” and “Get Back,” because it was really “Under Pressure” and it was definitely time to dance.
Eleven of the thirteen performances of “Twist” in 2014 materialized during second sets; the 4/26/14 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and 6/24/14 Live on Letterman appearances being the exceptions. Though the second set placement of “The Eleven” should make you want to check them all out at least once, it is the fall threesome (10/17/14 Eugene, 10/28/14 San Francisco, and 11/1/14 Las Vegas) that wreak the most havoc and in so doing eerily echo the triumphant triplets from the previous year. Where there is “Smoke on the Water” there is fire.
All ten 2015 instances of “Twist” were second set affairs with fully half of those decathletes putting up jam-chart worthy performances. With such a prolific string of medal winning versions, the Jamming Song of the Year title for 2015 was not very hotly contested. The 7/24/15 Shoreline, 8/12/15 Mann, and 12/31/15 MSG versions serve as the towering peaks of the Cathedral Group in a Grand Teton-like range of spectacular musical summits for “Twist” in 2015. Not unlike the landforms they evoked, the intervening valleys (7/31/15 Atlanta and 8/23/15 Magnaball) of the year’s fabulous five, although of shorter duration, are still pretty high in elevation. Climb on up, if you dare.