Friday 12/21/2018 by FunkyCFunkyDo


[Take the Bait is spirited deliberation centered around the hyperbole of Phish’s music and fandom, passionately exuded via the written words of contributors @FunkyCFunkyDo and @n00b100. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of, The Mockingbird Foundation, or any fan… but we're pretty sure we’re right. Probably.]

The Bait: What was the most impactful singular event of modern era/3.0 Phish (2009-present)?

Funky: The Baker's Dozen. Tahoe Tweezer. Magnaball. Hampton Fluffhead. Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. Kasvot Vaxt. Soul Planet ... obviously. There have been many monumental moments in Phish’s modern era that have had historic musical and emotional consequence. Moments which, as they unfolded, palpably steered Phish and their fans into new, uncharted waters. After all, the ocean is lovKNOCK IT OFF FUNKY! Ahem. These moments led to, or built upon, new jamming trends, in-show soundscapes, and, perhaps, most importantly, improvisational bravery and courage with which Phish had not dared to experiment. The aforementioned volcanic peaks and explosions indeed were monumental achievements in Phish’s modern era that re-shaped the music henceforth. But, I can look back at one moment not yet listed, a moment which might seem lost among today’s heights of Phish, but a moment that I feel changed the course of the band in a way that no other note, jam, or show ever had: Superball’s Ball Square Jam, aka, The Storage Jam.

n00b: Well, there it is, your one Soul Planet joke you’re allotted for the entire run of this series. So before I get into whether or not I agree with you on this, I’d like to actually make a suggestion to add to your list of most impactful moments of 3.0, and that is the run at The Gorge in 2009. Now, I know that most folks tend to think of 2009 (and 2010, and 2011...maybe up to Dick’s 2012, actually) as the band’s most fallow period since the 80s, where the group was struggling to find their voice onstage in the face of their new paradigm as “middle-aged dudes living middle-aged dude lives that also happen to be members of one of the biggest touring bands in the world” and everything that entailed. And I’d certainly agree that early 2009 is the band at their shakiest, trying to do consciously what they used to do unconsciously (to quote my man Bob Dylan), and only intermittently succeeding at sparking improv that stands up today (say, the 6/7/09 Tweezer). But the Gorge run, in my humble estimation, saw the band starting to find their footing both in terms of jams and setlist constructions, culminating in the 8/7/09 show, a two-set masterpiece that serves as one of maybe two or three 2009 shows that could slot into 3.0’s peak years with nobody being the wiser. And while 2009 as a whole still isn’t much to write home about, I think that the seeds of the band’s late-career renaissance were planted in George, WA, even if it took a bit of time for those seeds to bloom.

Okay, so with that out of the way, the Storage Jam. Hit me with it.

Funky: I crushed that "Soul Planet" joke though, did I not?! n00b, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you were trying to seduce me with that sparkling little anecdote of Gorge 2009. I’ll take an aside for a sentence or two to indulge you, and myself for that matter, as I go hard in the paint for Gorge 09. The Gorge 2009 run was exactly what you are alluding to: an outlier in only the most positive sense. A peak of the modern era, that happened in the infancy of the modern era, that still holds up as a greatest show (8.7.09) and two-night run of the modern era. These two Gorge shows are so different in any measurable and intangible way with regards to where Phish was at in 2009. In so many words, these two shows triumphantly said, “We’re back, baby!”

Yet these shows didn’t have the trickle down effect that I am looking for with regards to a singular, important moment in Phish’s modern era. This is because these shows were, in fact, outliers in 2009 and even into 2010 and beyond. They showed what Phish could do, but that flowing sound, stout bravery, and cerebral jamming existed only within those two shows, specifically 8.7.09. When trying to highlight THE most impactful moment of 3.0, I am looking for the residual cosmic noise - the reverberations that eternally echo from a moment, but not prior to it. Waves that ripple as frictionless fluid through sets, shows, and tours to come… even through today. The Storage Jam signaled the rebirth of something important in the world of Phish. Something that had not been showcased or even toyed with, really at all, from Hampton 2009 to the seconds before a musical monster in Ball Square awoke in throws of dissonant ambience. Dark, heavy vibrations rattle the soul and shackle the brain. Music unsettling, yet deeply interwoven into Phish’s historical improvisational repertoire, showcasing just how unpredictable and shocking their music can be. The Storage Jam brought back evil, dark Phish, sure enough, but it also showed themselves that they were once again ready and able to dive down the rabbit hole, just for the fun of it, and return unscathed, if not better for it.

n00b: It’s something of a bummer that both this jam and the Drive-In Jam, the monster improvisational tentpoles of 3.0, have so few direct progeny between the two of them - an astonishing "Rock & Roll"at (yep) The Gorge over here, a brilliant "No Men in No Man's Land" at MSG over there. It’s a pretty interesting timeline divergence, actually, imagining an alternate dimension where Phish decided to really lean into this dark nastiness of the Storage Jam in 2012 instead of start developing the upbeat blissful hose jamming that has become the modern era’s maker’s mark. And given how much I enjoy that dark weirdo jamming (the Baker’s Dozen "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing" has stuck with me for that very reason), it’s tempting to want to speculate about what the Phish of that particular dimension has been up to since then.

But I digress. I think you’re correct in that the Storage Jam is the truest pivot point of the modern era, and I think that stems from what it represents just as much as what it is. Here’s a fun stat I absolutely love to throw out whenever someone mewls about why a jam didn’t go 20 minutes or whatever - seven jams in 2009 extend past the 20 minute mark, which a) was the most 20-minute jams in 1 3.0 year before 2017 (tied with 2015), and b) three more than all 20-minute jams between 1983 and 1994 (and 3 of those 4 20+ minute jams were "Whipping Posts!" Ah, pre-August 93 Phish, truly an undiscovered country). Now, a few things about that. For one, I doubt most folks can name what they are beyond the two massive 11/28 jams, which I think speaks to their quantity of minutes more than their quality of improv. For another, the next year had a grand total of ZERO 20+ minute jams, which showed that the band had clearly decided to go in another direction with their improvisation. Fall 2010 is what I always call the tour most like early-90s Phish after their reconfiguration in 1994-ish - lots of fun setlists with cool segues and antics, not a lot of deep jams. That’s certainly not a problem, since I still enjoy many of those shows, but it’s not quite what I go for with Phish, and I think most folks would agree.

What the Storage Jam did was usher in an era of the band not just going deep, but going deep with regularity. While the length of the jams has still fluctuated as time has passed, the quality of the improvisation has improved steadily since the Storage Jam, as the band grew increasingly comfortable with long-form improvisation again. And we might not ever know if that would have happened again, without the Storage Jam forcing the band to figure out how to go deep for over 50 minutes and make it interesting and compelling. That a band still not fully reacclimated to each other managed to pull that off is a tremendous feat, and we’re still enjoying the fruits of that effort.

Funky: You just f******I nailed it. I use the phrase, “Jamming fo the sake of jamming,” when I talk about my favorite year of Phish, 2003. To describe what I mean by this, I must first define what I do not mean by it. Phish is a jam band, sure and true enough, improvisation is their nature. But as I alluded to in our previous episode, there are patterns and formulas woven into a lot of the fabric of Phish’s jamming. Now, these consciously-evolving patterns are not lazy, no, they are attributed to the sheer intelligence, commitment, and virtuosity they possess individually and collectively, as musicians and band. Phish seems to, within tours, find an idea and jam around it, practice it, and evolve off of it as shows/tours/years go on. It is brilliant and it works because they are so good at what they improvise as well as how they improvise. Still, there are discernable patterns. By no means is this a bad or negative thing and I don’t want our audience to think that, as those patterns are the central idea(s) which act as a tree trunk to the boundless limbs and leaves, the jams and segments, that might spring forth from that tree trunk. This process is central to how Phish grows their sound, and stays fresh.

But sometimes, some tours, some jams, there is no tree trunk. There are only limbs and leaves. Jamming for the sake of jamming. In 2003 jams blossomed and bloomed with beautiful abandon and patternless symmetry. There was balance and chaos, coexisting. There was a tone to 2003, of course, but the jams had no true root, only the freedom to flutter and glide and swirl and dive as they were supposed to be.

The Storage Jam felt like the first time in the “3.0” years that Phish just detached, uprooted, and went for it. I think it was, very literally, an internal litmus test to see not if they still had it (of course they did) but if this was a direction they wanted to explore again. It is not to say we were devoid of fantastic jams from 2009-Superball, there were some, but as you said, n00b, there was more structure to the shows, and the really big jams were relatively sparse. After Storage Jam, there were instantaneous, mountain-shattering reverberations in that 8.5.11 Rock and Roll -> Meatstick, a jam sequence which can be respectfully and seriously mentioned as “best-ever” or, perhaps, most impactful jam of the modern era. The ensuing Chicago run, specifically the 8.15.11 "Elements Show", further buttressed this reemergence. I’m also going to plug 8.9.11 "Light," as it too, opened unprecedented psychedelic chasms, quaking from the Storage Jam.. With Dick’s and NYE antics (presumably?) already planned by that point (I don’t think this feels like a stretch) I think Phish had proven and accomplished what they had needed to within themselves, need not revisiting the ideas again in Dick’s and NYE. Then, in 2012, we saw our first true flagship year of the modern era, and the momentum started to steamroll, downhill.

n00b: It’s funny that we’re writing this topic right around Trey's second Sirius Q & A since he mentioned there that 2013 was when he really felt like the band’s mojo had returned in this incarnation. I’m probably more inclined to agree with him than you and say that 2013 is the first true flagship year of the modern era, but that’s picking nits and is really due to just how wonderful the Fall tour is. That said, I think Summer 2013 could have been just as good, but the shitty weather that followed the band around really kept them from gaining true momentum, and the tour only showed the improvement of post-Storage Phish in fits and starts. That also said, Summer 2013 DOES have that one jam played in a casino parking lot folks seem to like, so…

I tend to be rather more prosaic than you about this band, so let me try and respond to your thoughts re: 2003. I’m not quite as enamored of 2003 as you are, but it would be practically impossible for anyone to be as enamored of 2003 as you are and I certainly agree that it’s a tremendous touring year, and a lot of it is due to that balance/chaos dichotomy you mention. I’m thinking of the Japanese art style Bill Evans talked about in his Kind of Blue liner notes, where the artist must paint on a thin parchment with a special brush in a way where an unnatural stroke destroys the parchment, so you can’t go back and change anything. It’s imperfect by its very nature, but also achieves a sort of perfection in its spontaneity and simplicity. And 2003’s jamming style is very much that - we’ll always disagree on how much of the jamming is truly wondrous and how much of it is “uh, someone want to go out there and shake Trey awake?”, but when the band really locks in you can hear that harnessed chaos you’re talking about, the band walking an invisible and winding tightrope. It’s what makes the touring year of 2003 so singularly unique, and really, it’s the last year the band worked that much without a net.

That’s sort of interesting that you go with the notion that the band didn’t have to prove themselves after the few fathoms-deep jams of August 2011, pivoting instead towards what they did at Dick’s and on NYE. I’ve always wondered if Trey made that pivot because he wasn’t that comfortable with that level of 2.0-style darkness, like he gazed into the abyss and the abyss decided to gaze right back. We don’t need to explore that too deeply, that’s just food for thought. It’s what makes something like the 12/30/12 "Carini" or the 7/20/14 "Ghost" so glorious a treasure, to be honest - the band just doesn’t jam like that as a matter of course nowadays, but there was a time where they did, and every time they access that darkness it’s like they’re briefly traveling back in time.

Funky: “I’ve always wondered if Trey made that pivot because he wasn’t that comfortable with that level of 2.0-style darkness, like he gazed into the abyss and the abyss decided to gaze right back.” This is a great thought which I am going to quickly expand upon. I think this thought is what drives Trey’s now-more-prominent-than-ever tenacity to make new music and write new songs. His songwriting is now weighted more on impactful emotional and sentimental moments of his life , rather than technically-masterful and virtuosic musicianship . Struggles with substance abuse, the loss of his sister, and emerging from darkness of 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2004, and ultimately his arrest in 2006 drive Trey’s much more "accessible" (read: cornily positive and heartfelt-sentimental) songs both in terms of lyrics and feel. He appears to face his demons, which spawned from music of the head, by writing new music which seems to flow from his heart, and (wait for it) soul. I could be missing the mark, but it sure doesn't feel this way, at least right now, much to the delight of some fans, and to the ::insert Comic Book Guy line here:: of some pitchfork n' torch wielding "vets."

Back to our point. In 2011, who knows, maybe, probably, there was in-house anxiety around the dark side of Phish’s improvisation, rightfully and cautiously so. But, by the same coin, maybe the Storage Jam was created to force Trey and Phish to face those demons head on. To confront them and say, “You exist within our world, we do not exist within yours.” I’ve listened to the Storage Jam two times while we’ve been exchanging these words, and I’ve been able to pick up on sounds, effects, and progressions used within IT's "Tower Jam" and "Soundcheck Jam". I kinda shook the cobwebs from my head when I first heard them, pressed the << button, and made sure I heard what I heard. And I did hear what I heard. And yes, I am doing my best Dr. Seuss impersonation.

This was not coincidental, the placement of these intergallactic vibrations, this was methodical, because these noises don’t really exist within a whole lot of Phish’s catalogue. Instead, they emerge when Phish is at the event horizon of musical improvisation. Phish toed that cosmic line once again, a line which once collapsed had sent them to the brink of oblivion… but not at the Storage Jam, no. They emerged from the cosmic abyss after some 50 minutes of deep space exploration by dropping, almost too poetically, into “Sleeping Monkey” of all songs… “my sleeping monkey is revived…” I think this synthesized on some level the full-band notion that they could, on command, go really dark, and really deep, and still guide themselves out of it. A microcosm, perhaps, of their reemergence of resurgence as Phish.

n00b: Just real quick on the point about Trey - I fully agree with you about the songs that he writes, and I legitimately feel like this is something people ignore just so they can get in their digs on "Set Your Soul Free" or whatever. Like, I recall someone saying “I’m now convinced Trey was ‘replaced’ by a clone from one of those Illuminati cloning centers sometime around 2008”, and my response was “is that what we’re calling AA now?”. And, I mean, I certainly don’t think Trey’s newer stuff stands up lyrically or musically to, say, "Fast Enough For You" or "Llama" or whatever, but at the very least I understand why he writes those songs (and even then there’s a "Mercury" here or a "No Men in No Man’s Land" there that doesn’t fit that criteria), and I’m fine with their place in the catalog (which, at the end of the day, is a small percentage - it only feels larger because they always play their newer songs more often than older).

Let’s sum up. I’m fully with you that the Storage Jam was the band testing themselves to make sure that they could dive back into the depths of their improvisational ocean and not get a round of the bends, and they pulled off that deep-sea dive in spades. And to go back to the Drive-In Jam, I think that’s one reason of why I love that jam so much (besides, y’know, the musical aspects) - the Drive-In Jam is the sound of a band that doesn’t have anything left to prove as far as their ability to dive deep goes, because they’d already proven it. The Drive-In Jam could just stand on its own merits, and its merit is that it’s a fucking incredible jam. But it wouldn’t exist without what they pulled off on Night 2 of Superball.

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, comment by uctweezer
uctweezer Thanks guys - another great read. You make good points, but to me, the real pivot point was the 1-2 punch of tCTSotHH > FTW.

Yes, by Fall 2013 they had gotten back their improvisational sea legs. But with Vegas ‘14, they built on their improvisational recovery and began to push out into “Phish is doing new, inventive things.” They dropped an entire album on us with amazing production taboot. The Miami ‘14 run - check that Ghost and that Paug, for example - was them taking their new freedom for a spin. And when Trey went into the basement to do right by Jerry, he re-emerged with a widened repertoire on his guitar, refined chops, and was ready to truly move Phish from beyond a band looking to regain its form, to a band looking to evolve further. And we all know how Summer ‘15 played out, and what’s come since...
, comment by DemandOpener
DemandOpener I agree with @ucpete's point. With the exceptions of Summer '12 and Fall '13, it felt as though every Phish tour prior to the moment they unveiled the Chilling Thrilling cover were very up and down. A veritable roller coaster ride of peaks and valleys (and that's including Fall '14). Since then, and particularly since Trey took part in the momentous Fare Thee Well event, the entire band has been firing on all cylinders creatively. Excepting only Summer '16, the band has been on an unstoppable tear since Chilling Thrilling, and as much as I love the Storage Jam and FYF and Tahoe Tweezer and Fall '13, I just can't deny that things have just been on a whole new level since 10/31/14.
, comment by FunkyCFunkyDo
FunkyCFunkyDo I agree, in part, with @uctweezer. In 2015, there was a defined, dramatic shift in the music and the "improvisational courage" that I speak of, and I think (know?) that came as a direct result of Fare Thee Well and Trey's committment to refining his chops and expanding his repertoire. But, I still can't help but believe that shift was sparked 4 years prior. That's when the seed was planted; it's growth was small but consistent. Although Storage Jam's ripples were only directly echoed within the last leg of Summer Tour 2011 (Gorge, Tahoe, Chicago), I think those 55 minutes of pure, raw, unhindered, and unexpected improvisation broke down a mental barrier of just how deep Phish could go again and into the future. It would take time to fully realize that depth, but I do believe it would not have played out the way it did without the Storage Jam.
, comment by n00b100
n00b100 IMO, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect with what @uctweezer brought up (and I obviously agree 10/31/14 and FTW are major milestones in 3.0, I'd be a moron if I didn't) and what me and Funky were sort of getting at, in that 2009/10/early 11, for the many treasures they contain (and they absolutely contain treasures, I'd think only the most jaded-ass vet doesn't think this is the case), wasn't quite what *we* consider Phish yet, but more the members of Phish trying to recapture what it was that marked the band in their peak years and sort of fumbling their way towards it like when the lights in a room get turned off and your eyes need to reacclimate. And that's what the Storage Jam was, to me (and, presumably, Funky) - the band finally having hit that reacclimation, and returning to the status of the band we knew and loved. Yes, absolutely, the quality of Phish's tours has improved mightily since 10/31/14. But my and Funky's argument is that it took the Storage Jam to put the band on the trajectory to *get there*, and that is why the Storage Jam constitutes 3.0's major turning point. Shrug.

For the record, in case anybody has never read that Bill Evans essay in the Kind of Blue liner notes, it's here:
, comment by humalupa
humalupa I see the Chicago shows that closed the 2011 summer tour as the detonation of the charges the band set during the Storage Jam. They were the manifestation of the promise of that jam as it applied to regularly-scheduled two-set shows. For me, Chicago 2011 is the earliest portion of 3.0 to which I'll regularly listen, and the greatness of those shows can be confidently discussed without quickly attaching the "for 3.0" qualifier. There were good shows that came first, of course, but that run was solid, even night 3, which I truly enjoy from an antics standpoint.

For me, 2015 was the year in which that qualifier could be dropped entirely, and with the exception of a little engine-sputtering in 2016, we've remained there since. I'll definitely agree that there isn't a singular moment in 2015 on which everything pivots, but for me, as I was following the 2015 tour in anticipation of the Blossom show (which was my first since 2009), when I saw the setlist of and then listened to 7/31/2015, it was a moment of clarity at least for me. I knew then we were well past the days of giving a show like Utica 2010 a deluxe release because it kinda-sorta brought us back to the halcyon days; instead, we were legitimately in a later-period golden age.
, comment by lostboy01
lostboy01 i was on vacation in philly catching up with family (longwood gardens, etc.) during the fourth of july weekend when superball ix took place. however, i streamed “from the archives” (and portions of the sets when I could) via sirius xm and remember being blown away with the bethel waves soundcheck. whole new territory! like "holy s**t, this is completely new!" territory.

fast forward to today and the above discussion. i hadn't thought about the bethel waves soundcheck or the storage jam in quite a while. but, i remember everyone going ape shit that weekend on .net and via text messages from those on the ground. i will say this: i don’t think either jam has been given its proper due in quite some time. i just think there has been too much good stuff since they initially dropped and they have been put on the backburner. in fact, it took me a minute to even seriously consider the notion of the storage jam by @funkycfunkydo as THEE turning point of 3.0. with that said, i wholeheartedly agree with funky that the storage jam was the actual turning point of 3.0. but, i think it was properly set up by kevin shapiro with the bethal waves soundcheck the night before on “from the archives.” you know, to get the listeners' ears properly tuned for what was to come. in fact, i think both jams go hand-in-hand (even though they were played a few weeks a part) due to their proximity with superball. so, maybe superball in general was the turning point for 3.0? ahh, not going there…

below is a snippet of the .net blog post from 7/1/2011 discussing the “from the archives” set. (bolded added for emphasis of intriguing, insightful, and foreshadowing take):

"Waves" - Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel, NY - 5/27/11 (Tech Rehearsal)

Well, spank my ass and call me collect. Phish may well be more comfortable these days improvising when there's no crowd in front of them (see today's post-"Ginseng" soundcheck jam). This "Waves" is a full-blown 29-minute revelation, emphatically type-II, and undeniably the best known version of this song that Phish has ever played (including the iconic IT reading). This is one of those rare Phish jams in which Page prods the conversation to a darker place. When he does so the rest of the band nearly always follows, and they do so here to great effect. What follows is pure distilled hose. By the time we wake up tomorrow, this recording will be highly sought-after, and hopefully widely available, because it's a tearjerking gem that every fan must hear.

Hey, Kevin, how about a Live Bait of just soundchecks? Please?
, comment by FunkyCFunkyDo
FunkyCFunkyDo My words can only act as fleeting highlights, as n00b nailed it - again. Storage Jam was Phish's first, true unfettered improsational foray into wide-open, free-form jamming. If you think about the potential of 3.0's "big stages" prior to Storage Jam (Festival 8's firey but cool Stones cover, NYE 2009 with the cannonball but not much musical exploration, NYE 2010's Meatstick) everything was "fun" but nothing, I would consider, was adventurous (and yes, I know how much Trey looooooooooved thge Meatstick gag). Still, it was all kinda safe, kinda wacky, and definitely Phishy... but didn't take a whole lot of "courage" to plan and execute. Creativity, yes; courage, no.
Knowing that context, the Storage Jam really came out of nowhere - totally unprecedented in "3.0" Phish, tapping deep into cosmic wells that were flourishing in 2003 and the late 90s... but untapped from March 2009-July 2011. Once Phish re-tapped that well, well, the proverbial floodgates opened to anything and everything that happened since the Storage Jam's conclusion.
, comment by dueyv9
dueyv9 From a timeline standpoint I would say the Bethel 5.26.11 Waves Soundcheck
, comment by MiguelSanchez
MiguelSanchez Interesting take and one certainly hard to argue against. I think Super Ball opened that Pandora’s Box again, which probably makes it the most pivotal moment. Pete beat me to the FTW mention. That was my first thought, but it’s hard to say FTW because that was a Trey thing, not a Phish thing, but it’s the catalyst that triggered 2015. Super Ball opened the musical Pandora’s Box, but I think FTW, Summer ‘15, and/or Vegas ‘14 opened up a psychological Pandora’s Box. After those, they finally had that “we are some bad ass mother fuckers” attitude back. As good as Fall ‘13 was, I still didn’t see/feel that full swagger they had before come back yet. By the end of Super Ball, they were dripping with “bad ass mother fucker” attitude, deservedly so.
, comment by MomentsandSeconds
MomentsandSeconds according to what I just heard Trey say about Curveball and the creation of Kasvot Vaxt.

Seems to me as the most important part so far...
, comment by topolewb
topolewb Dick’s Fuck Your Face show is the turning point for me.
, comment by Spudster
Spudster Camden Sand '09 - stopped utterly sucking ass
Greek '10 - Trey stopped strangling cats
Superball Storage Jam - 20+ minute jams back for good
Halloween '13 - prolific soundwriting output returns
Summer '15 - Fare Thee Well rekindles Trey's self-confidence
Baker's Dozen - setlist construction renaissance, first sets return in force
, comment by JMart
JMart try the berkeley 2010 shows.
, comment by Spudster
Spudster I'm glad someone mentioned the Meatstick NYE madness. I've always thought that was one of their finest gags.
, comment by funkbeard
funkbeard The Storage Jam was it.

Before the Storage jam, the focus was on becoming masters of playing the tunes once again. Getting the songs up to speed.

After the Storage Jam, there was renewed focus on the art of imporvisation.

I have long thought this to be true.
, comment by jmitchell
jmitchell Trey @ Fare The Well
, comment by funkbeard
funkbeard At the same time, I think the band makes efforts to create turning points whenever possible.

'09 - Return, yet rough

'10 - The year ends with Trey abandoning rapid-fire playing and embracing slow, melodic phrases in his soloing.

'11 - Superball is a demonstration of song mastery, and, yes, the Storage Jam.

'12 - Making the grooves more masterful. The Long Beach Rock and Roll, and the actual departure into bringing that spirit night after night at Dick's.

'13 - The introduction of the analogue sbd, terrible storms. Secret Smile at the Gorge is the year's hidden treasure, and the Tahoe Tweezer follows. Also, the band starts really writing music again, debuting an album at Halloween.

'14 - The band starts figuring out how to swing the groove, to lead with the words rather than the groove. Many sets sound disjointed and many flubbed. Some are, on the other hand, incomparably brilliant.

'15 - 2015. A year of great grooves. A fattening of the sound. Not sure how I'd describe it. Band more unhinged, playing for the connection on the groove, rather than just in the arrangements.

'16 - Band striving for mastery of short songs. Fewer jams throughout the year. Band actually sounds at an impasse for much of fall tour, for unknown reasons. But they emerge triumphant at Vegas with the deepest jams of, possibly, their career. See Disease->Birds of a Feather.

'17 - Band has attained perfect unity. Trey steps back into the lead. Phish are a band that benefit most from taking on monumental challenges, and they rise to the occasion. At the 12/29/17 show, they play one of the tightest sets of their career, as though envisioned by one person thinking.

'18 - Building on the triumph of 2017, the band casts off all pretention, and allow the spirit of improvisation to permeate every aspect of their music. Some songs and shows are naturally more mellow, but the music, at its core, is the most authentic and honest. The band challenge themselves, I think, to play a greater show every night than the show before. An incredibly consistent year with an embarassment of musical riches.
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