[Take the Bait is spirited deliberation centered around the hyperbole of Phish’s music and fandom, passionately exuded via the written words of phish.net contributors @FunkyCFunkyDo and @n00b100. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of phish.net, The Mockingbird Foundation, or any fan… but we're pretty sure we’re right. Probably.]
Funky: Well, n00b, if you know of any two words more polarizing in the Phish lexicon, I’ll put pants on while writing my segments. No, I’ll do it. I’ll do it, n00b. Pants, on.
Fine. We can debate public indecency law another time, about which I happen to have much expertise, mainly due to my highly-controversial dance moves and, well, I've said too much. Instead, it's Funky's Story Time. On a personal level, Tahoe Tweezer was a lesson to always go to a show when you’re 50/50 if you can make it work. Always go. I went to the two much-anticipated Tahoe shows in 2011. The fervor around those 2011 shows was unreal. The 2010 NYE Run with its 12.30.10 “Tweezer,” 12.31.10 set 2 (and its Holy Ghost), and the Trey-favorite “Meatstick” NYE gag set the Phish community ablaze with them absolutely being back. One year prior, a mere 143 miles away from Lake Tahoe (totally driving distance, maybe even walking distance) at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA, Phish delivered a time-tested run filled with staccato, funk, and cosmos. Phish was starting to crush it again, and on the West Coast no less. Fully-realized sets, deep jams, antics... they're back, baby! So, two shows, in a tiny, outdoor venue that Phish had never played, in the mountains, next to a lake, in Pacific Standard Time (seriously, when are you guys coming back?), one year after a hyperbole-worthy three-night West Coast run was, in a word ::deep breath:: extremelyexciting.
They’re going to be warmed up; one leg of Summer Tour to get a flow going, then Superball, Phish’s second festival of 3.0 - Phish was going to be dialed in. They were going to be well-practiced and energized. This picture was circulating the internet about how beautiful the venue and locale was. Obviously they were going to play "Gamehendge" because... look at that picture! The rumor had to have been fact. That is the Land of Lizards if I ever saw it. It was shaping up to be all-time Phish. The latent energy from the Greek shows would propel us to new heights. Phish is a West Coast band now. Here's the secret password to Shapiro's archive [redacted], let's just get the multitrack mix released right now... well, right then.
But it is Phish, and Phish giveth and Phish taketh away. Phish did deliver one of the truest hidden-gem shows of the first half of 3.0 in 8.9.11, with its seismic, demonic “Light” that brought forth subterranean tempest that was first unleashed at Superball’s Storage Jam. The show ebbed and flowed with cosmic ease and subconscious fluidity. 8.9.11 was a pretty great show with a really great, highlight-reel jam. Ch-check it out.
Then they followed it up with a swing-and-a-miss 8.10.11 show, save an uber-groovey final three minutes of a sub-nine-minute “Runaway Jim,” weird, but cool. Oh, "Gamehendge" didn’t happen either. ::Price is Right losing noise:: They were entirely usual shows, in the grand, mathematical scheme of Phish. No outliers here. The magical venue? it was literally a parking lot with a stage. You couldn’t see out of the venue, except for a few towering hotels to your right. You couldn’t see rolling, emerald hills dappled with sparkling indigo blue lake water from that picture. You couldn't see anything above fans' heads besides the stage and hotels and sky. But you could bring in all the beer you wanted, so we had that goin' for us, which was nice.
I had a great time. But I was not motivated to go back.
I remember listening to a choppy ustream feed. Back when the streams were pretty unreliable; where you’d be sotked to haer ervey ohter ntoe no mttaer how cphopy it wsa. One sec - super freaky thanks to streamers today, you guys rule and the quality and consistency is amazing, and we all love you seriously big time - back to my shoddy stream of 7.31.13.
I was sitting in a room I was renting. Just sitting. Half lamenting, half not though, after all, I went to the Tahoe 2011 shows. I wasn't missing much. This “Tweezer” now at the, is that right, 20-minute mark? Or did I lose connection at some point and this is another song? No I think this is still “Tweezer.” Sounds pretty interesting. Deep. Then it happened.
I didn’t go to the 2013 Tahoe shows. I could have. Knew people who had tickets, had a place to stay. Was going to BGCA that weekend, so I’d be in town, relatively speaking. The fever of Tahoe had definitely broken after 2011, and people weren’t nearly as rabid for their return. Especially for weekday shows after a Gorge run. They were "skippable" shows, even though I could've gone. So, I opted to save a couple hundred bucks and two nights of sleep. Recover from Gorge, get rested for BGCA, maybe be able to afford three San Francisco meals instead of two with my money saved.
Any show can have a moment like Tahoe Tweezer. History. But not every show does. Average-great... yadda yadda. You just never know. That’s the beauty of Phish. It… that magic… that song or that segue or that set or that show can happen anywhere, at any time. It might happen your next show, but only if you decide to go.
I learned that day, if you have the means to get to a show - get. to. that. show. There are plenty, hundreds, thousands of shows that are out of our reach for all sorts of reasons beyond our control. However, there are few just at the tips of our fingers. We have to stretch to get to them, but, they are within our grasp. Reach. Stretch. Go to those shows. That’s when history happens. Probably.
Sigh. Can I be any more dramatic?? n00b, I clearly have fond memories and fond lamentations tied to Tahoe Tweezer. But not everyone does, oddly enough. Thus your scrupulous analysis is needed. Is Tahoe Tweezer good? Or bad? Are we so out of touch? Or is it the vets who are wrong?
n00b: Ah, the 7/31/13 "Tweezer," light of my life, fire of my...wait, let’s try that again.
Ah, the 7/31/13 "Tweezer," one of the most furiously divisive pieces of music ever played by those lovable lads from Vermont, and (if you ask this hombre) also one of the absolute greatest pieces of music ever played by said lovable lads. As we’re writing this for Phish.net, I’ll throw in my own memory related to the Tahoe Tweezer from when it was played (I, too, was not there - I heard it on an audience stream in my apartment in San Diego, and yes, shout out to the intrepid in-show audience streamers of the world) - from just about midnight West Coast time on August 1, 2013 to the moment the lights dropped to kick off the first show of the BGCA run on August 2, 2013, Phish.net’s forum absolutely did not talk about anything else other than the Tahoe Tweezer. Debates about its worth musically, if it sparked a brand new era for the band, if it stood up to the great "Tweezers" and great jams (ah, but I repeat myself) of the band’s long and august history...you name it, that angle was covered. There’s never been anything like it in my time as a denizen of the forum, and quite frankly, I hope there never is again.
So, with that in mind, that’s gonna make this particular tete-a-tete between you and I rather difficult, because how are we going to be able to find a new plan of attack on one of the true totems in all of Phish’s history? I once wrote up a post summarizing Tweezer's 2013, and for 7/31’s entry I cribbed from this description of Slint’s post-rock masterpiece Spiderland: “you try saying something new about the Tahoe Tweezer”. It is quite possibly the most discussed jam ever played by the band, with opinions running from “not even the best Tweezer of the year” to “one of the greatest jams ever played” and everything in between. What, possibly, could we add to the discussion at this point?
You know what? Let’s get back to the basics. Let’s talk about the Tahoe Tweezer, not in the context of its place in Phish’s Mount Olympus, but as part of a second set of a show played in the middle of Summer 2013, one of the least beloved tours of the modern era*. Here are two things you might not remember thanks to the half decade that has passed: 1) the tour actually has two legs, by dint of the almost week-long layoff between the Chicago and Gorge shows, and 2) it rained a ton. Like, almost nonstop for the East Coast leg. The SPAC shows (if memory serves), the MPP shows, the Jones Beach show, the Alpharetta shows, the Toronto show (to the point it was rescheduled), and the Chicago shows (leading to the first non-special-occasion 3 set show probably since the 80s or early 90s - they’d probably have made much more of it today, to be honest) - all of those shows were plagued with at least some rain, and it’s really kind of a miracle the band was able to get ANY traction during those shows. It all led up to a strange tour full of major ups and downs, with a few great shows and jams scattered throughout (7/5, the maybe-even-more-divisive-than-this-jam 7/6 "Melt," 7/14, my beloved 7/16, 7/22), but nothing in terms of a true blowaway musical experience.
Then they got to the West Coast, and you could feel the band getting more comfortable as they were clearly happy to get away from the weather for at least a little while. Both Gorge shows have lots to recommend them and are fun from top to bottom, and even the first Tahoe show is a rollicking good time. But (even with 7/27 II, one of the era’s top sets) there still hadn’t been a true knockout experience to speak of in the tour, and one couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in that, especially given the way that 2012 had ended (with the beloved Dick’s 2012 run and a very fun NYE run). It definitely felt like, for all the good music we’d gotten to that point, that we were waiting for a true reckoning from the band.
And that’s what we got. Boy, did we get it.
* that’ll be a fun Take The Bait one day - how the modern era tours stack up to each other
Funky: It really is comical how divisive it is, as you mentioned, where people vehemently surmise that it was merely the 2nd or 3rd best “Tweezer” of 2013 (for real though, 11.2.13 "Tweezer" is a unstoppable groove freight train sashaying downhill on a frictionless track - it is among the sultriest pieces of pure dance music Phish has EVER performed). Some people divinely preach that it was, unequivocally, the best jam Phish has ever played... and unto Icculus, ye proclaimed, "Lo! It was good." Then there are many opinions in between those two extremes.
What we can all agree on, however, is that Tahoe Tweezer is as recognizable of a Phish jam as there is. But why is that? There are plenty of “named jams" that stir the pot on just how great… they are or are not, among the pantheon of Phish jams; Fukuoka Twist, Island Tour Roses, Denver Ghost, Nassau Tweezer, Dick’s Simple, Gorge Rock and Roll, Radio City Ghost, Providence Bowie, Went Gin, to name just a few. Still, none of those jams - jams from all eras of Phish, encompassing all sorts of sounds and styles - none of those get the debate going like Tahoe Tweezer. Maybe there are a couple readers who don’t recognize one of those jams I just listed but know full-well what Tahoe Tweezer sounds like back to front. Woo! So, that presumed “fact” must mean something: Tahoe Tweezer is different.
This is the Kuroda-cam view of Tahoe Tweezer. 26:55 - 27:45. Trey has gone on record in his Sirius XM Radio interview this past year, saying that 2013 was the year Phish got their mojo back (thanks to .net user @ProfJibboo for the transcription). 2013 Phish, to Phish’s leader, is the year when Phish started to re-become Phish again. That sentence made my brain hurt, but really, it is hard to argue against, headache or not. Look at Trey’s reaction in that video. 26:55-27:45. Read/listen to his thoughts on when Phish started to really get after it again. Coincidence? I don't think it is. Directly stated or not, I'd bet Tahoe Tweezer was lingering Trey's mind while answering that question.
Look at his genuine, simultaneous elation/surprise/wonder/gratitude that his grin says at full volume without speaking. How can anyone watch this and think that this moment is not an extremely impactful moment for Trey and for Phish? A moment that catalyzed the modern era’s improvisational growth curve, which is still ascending today. A moment that lead to more extended jamming, more chances, and yeah, more woos (but if we are being honest, Trey eggs on today’s woos with reckless gratuity). Who can listen to this, and watch that, and say, “Nah, not a big deal.” <- This is the crux of the now six years’ worth of debate over Tahoe Tweezer. And now four+ pages of us writing without saying much. Ha! The rich really do get richer! Woo!!
Catalyzed. A phrase I used in the previous paragraph, causing .net chemists both professional and recreational to bemoan my rather liberal grasp of the English language. In its literal definition, catalyst means, “a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.” Catalyze means, “to cause or accelerate a reaction.” Chemists are nodding skeptically, thinking, “Okay, you rogue. So far, so good. Don’t mess this up.” A catalyst makes something else happen, perhaps quicker, faster, hotter, ect. For the sake of Phish, let us substitute “substance” with “jam;” “chemical reaction” with “improvisational breadth;” and the last phrase about not undergoing permanent change, well, jams are inherently unique by nature and unchanging after they happened, so, I suppose we could reach to say that Tahoe Tweezer has not undergone any permanent change since it happened... but other elements of Phish have most definitely changed.
Our chemistry lesson complete and chemists everywhere are rolling their eyes in contempt. So, what a perfect time to talk about the jam as a catalyst ::dodges lit Bunsen Burner:: Tahoe Tweezer wades through some meandering, deep, psychedelic murk for the first 17 minutes of the jam. It is a harbinger of 10.20.13 Tweezer's maelstrom, for sure. Gnarled and knotted textures, tense to listen to, thick and heavy. It grasps like opaque, abyssal tentacles, forming a whirlpool of menace and mayhem. That jam is dark, and some of its fundamental elements are concocted directly within Tahoe Tweezer. Yet, that is not how Tahoe Tweezer is remembered. Those dark minutes are almost entirely forgotten. But why? Something else happened. Something… catalyzed (eh, ehhhhhh?!).
History happens. A sunrise painted in harmonized, rhythmic vibrations. The beat shifts, Trey’s brightens his tone, Page twinkles like phosphorescence rising out of the abyss of the deep ocean. Some rapid rim taps, some flourishes of major keys – and then, a chain reaction happens. A chain reaction within the jam, within the crowd, within Phish. All parts of the equation, acting in unison to create a new “element” so to speak. One syllable is all it took; one syllable was the catalyst of Phish before and after and during Tahoe Tweezer. How ironic for a band that is not known for its speaking parts. Yet, this one syllable is all it took for the band and its audience to never be the same. Woo!
n00b: So I’m glad you brought up the video of Trey’s unmistakable glee during the “woo” portion of the jam; for the record, I would note that, if you’ve ever seen the multicam video Page is just as thrilled during that part.
Funky: You're right, much better view of them both in that video. Carry on.
n00b: Not only is it something I like to bring up on the reg whenever anybody mewls about Trey goosing some “woo”s (although even I’d admit the sell-by date on “woo”s seems to be rapidly approaching), it also establishes something about the audience-band interactive relationship we only occasionally think about. Musicians, along with stand-up comedians and maybe actors in a play, are the only performers that get instant reviews for their immediate performance, whether it’s applause in the former’s case or laughter and/or applause in the latter’s. That leads to a particular dynamic between the performer and the audience, a sort of symbiotic relationship in which both sides can push the other to new heights by virtue of that give and take. With Phish, audience interaction has been the name of the game during their careers - shit, one part of Baby Phish’s uniqueness stems from the Secret Language, in which they actually provoked their audience to give them the reaction they wanted. I mean, that’s sort of part and parcel with Baby Phish wanting to prove how smart they were (and they were, let’s not get it twisted), but at the end of the day it’s all about that symbiotic relationship, and that give and take.
What’s so wild to me, about the “woo”s, is that during the 7/31/13 "Tweezer" they were not prompted by the band at all, but in fact arose entirely organically during the performance (although, if memory serves, it was an EDM audience deal imported to Phish - still, though, symbiotic relationship again, if seeing Daft Punk play live is any indication). That’s why Trey is so delighted - we already know that he loves audience participation and that instant feedback, and not only is he getting it, but he’s getting it *in a way he’d never gotten it before*. And you can not only see that happiness entirely pay off when he demolishes that peak, but also in every “woo” he’s tried to goose, successfully or not, since. Trey doesn’t do drugs anymore, so any sort of high he’s going to get is likely going to be on stage (or from something his family does, I suppose), and the moment of the first “woo” in the 7/31/13 "Tweezer" is probably one of the highest highs he’s ever had in his life, maybe THE highest. Small wonder he’s spent 5+ years continuing to chase it.
I’m also glad that you mentioned the first half of the jam (boy, Funky doing all the work and n00b piggybacking, talk about a handy summary of this series), because it’s one of those things I like to throw at people that say this jam is just the woo portion or that the 10/20/13 "Tweezer" is so much better because it’s so much nastier (“the Godfather to 7/31/13’s My Cousin Vinny”, to pluck a metaphor entirely out of thin air). Not only is it as Godzilla-destroying-Tokyo powerful and nasty as you described, but it flows so naturally out of the first puddling into space that the band takes that you really get that “did they rehearse this section before bringing it out on stage?” feeling that only comes from a particular kind of great jam section. It features some of Mike’s best work during the entire jam (as often happens when Trey is playing a repeated riff, leaving Mike the room to roam his fretboard), and some of Fish’s best work as well. And it even has its own peak, if not quite as strong as the more famous “woo” section peak, as Page really leans on his electric piano keys and Trey’s trilling hits interstellar overdrive. 10/20/13’s "Tweezer" is an absolute masterpiece, I will never say different, but you can’t get there without going here first.
Oh yeah, before I get to the last point I wanted to hit - let’s spare a word for the last section, aka the “Dear Mr. Fantasy” section, probably the least remembered of this mammoth improvisation. Yes, it brings back the “woo”s for one last ride, but it also has its own very distinct flavor (mainly due to Fish, who basically yanks the jam in whichever direction he sees fit) and to me feels like the portion of the jam that would be most at home in the mid-90s. I think that’s why people hear "Dear Mr. Fantasy" in it, among other things - there’s a real classic rock feel to how almost inevitable the jam sounds, as it pushes towards the one and only way this jam can conclude, with the old-school "Tweezer" ending (and a few more woo’s, for fun). And then the jam finally winds to a close, "Tela" starts up, and (on the audience recordings) you hear a full minute of crowd chatter as everyone in attendance processes what just occurred.
Okay, so the bit about named jams. I think we all know that a jam being referred to by the city or venue (or, in some cases, the run) in which it was played is a shorthand for a jam that reaches true greatness, or at least has attained that status in the fan community. I noted the jams you’d listed as examples, and agreed with all of them...except for one. And the one I didn’t agree on was the one you’d probably least expect - the Gorge Rock & Roll. Now, you know I love the 8/5/11 "Rock & Roll" as much as you do, as it not only plumbs depths only 2003 Phish was really comfortable exploring, but it ends with one of the sickest grooves the band’s ever cooked up and one of the best segues the band’s ever pulled off (yes, it -> into "Meatstick," but nobody’s perfect). But I don’t know that the fandom necessarily thinks of that "Rock & Roll" as the “Gorge Rock & Roll” - I’m certainly willing to be corrected on this, by the way - and the reason why is because I think that, at that point, most folks didn’t really think there were any jams that deserved that kind of appellation. At least, not until 7/31/13.
We’ve already discussed the turning point of 3.0, so we don’t need to get into when the modern era really made its move towards greatness. I think we can agree, though, on two things:
As much good music as there is prior to the Storage Jam, not very much of it compares to the music Phish made from about 1993 to 2004; and
The post-Storage Jam Phish still had some kinks to work out.
We remember Dick’s 2012 as being a massive run (still, over half a decade later, one of the top moments of this incarnation of Phish), but we sometimes forget the choppy and inconsistent Summer tour that brought us there (heck, the show right before 8/31 is the infamous Oklahoma City show, one of the least liked of the era). Without a Fall tour in either 2011 or 2012, the band hadn’t had the opportunity to truly build on the lessons taught to them by the Storage Jam, in a way that, say, Fall 2018 helped consolidate the lessons learned during that year’s Summer tour to deliver a truly strong and beloved tour. And so came 2013, and the inconsistent tour I’d mentioned above...and, then, all of a sudden, came this, this jam of unmistakable power and depth and, above all, breadth. I’ve always been of the opinion that length in jams doesn’t matter compared to quality, but I don’t deny that length PLUS quality makes a nigh-unbeatable jam, and now you’ve got a jam of quality longer than every other jam played between 2009 and that night by at least 11 minutes, and a jam longer than all but seven other jams IN THE BAND’S HISTORY. And it’s a small wonder that the jam instantly attained its appellation as the Tahoe Tweezer, and has had it ever since.
And the point I’m trying to make is that (and, again, someone can tell me different, I’ve only been a fan since 2011) before that point in 3.0, that sort of instant crowning just hadn’t happened yet. People celebrated the heights that came from 2009 to July 30, 2013, but not quite in the same way as they did the heights from the band’s first incarnation (maybe not the second, so much…). And then, out of nowhere, came a jam where people DID celebrate it the same way as the heights of the band’s first incarnation...and that’s a lot to deal with, especially for folks for whom nothing the band has played in this era matches the heights of the band’s first incarnation. So that’s why I think this jam is an inflection point and a lightning rod in a way other jams are - in a historical sense, it really does stand alone. You could argue any number of jams played after it in 3.0 (maybe even before) that outdo it from a musical standpoint, and I wouldn’t argue very hard. But I don’t think you can argue any jam played in 3.0 outdoes it from a purely historical standpoint, and even now that’s a really big thing. And quite frankly, I’m glad that’s the case. Talking about this jam was exhausting then, and remains so now. Well, present form of talking about it excluded.
Funky: It is funny how you say talking about this jam is exhausting. It is. Until you listen to Tahoe Tweezer in its entirety again. Then I’m like, or rather, we’re like, “Omfg this is so good.” Let’s write 10 pages about it.” Which is exactly what we are doing.
It is special that a single piece of Phish’s catalogue, some 0.0001% of all of their music ever played (that’s a made-up figure, but it seemed legit when I thought of it), can create this much marathon discussion. It does not necessarily matter if you’re on the “pro” side of Tahoe Tweezer or the “con” side. What matters is that we are still talking about it, and its importance, or its insignificance, in the Phish world with regularity, from August 1, 2013 through today.
Still, when I read the non-lovers’s opinions of Tahoe Tweezer, it seems to me to focus around the “woos” rather than, well, the other 34 minutes of music. The dark, the brooding, the dawn, the peak(s), and the explosion. How odd. Haters gonna hate… on a 35 minute jam because of some spontaneous vocal stuff. Hood responders and Stash clappers and vocal jammers and Two-more-timers and Can’t-I-live-while-I’m-youngers and Twist wooers - well, maybe not Twist wooers - are unionizing in support, right? Maybe so, maybe not.
There is no true objective analysis of art, or Phish; you like what you like. BUT. Not liking something versus not appreciating/respecting something’s significance and importance are not mutually exclusive. Don’t argue with me, argue with Trey and Page during the time-stamped portion of the video. Their looks and reaction, and Trey’s ongoing attachment, says more than you or I ever can (well, I actually bet we can write a little bit more, like the one time I caught the ferry to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville at the time… ahh forget it). This jam meant something to Phish. Therefore, it means something to me, and I will sing its praises fearlessly, not to re-live the moment (which I was not as), but to appreciate the moments that are ahead of me; moments which would not have been possible without this version of "Tweezer."
n00b and I used this topic with purpose, as it is important in Phish. It is important to talk about and to remember, because this jam was one of a few handful of true peaks of the modern era, if only on the merit of how much it is talked about. But also because it is one kickass jam. It is important to reflect on hinge moments in the band’s history, to understand where they’ve come from, how they’ve evolved, and where they went… right to where we are right now. Would 12.29.18 “Tweezer,” complete with woos, have happened in the manner that it did with Tahoe Tweezer? Probably not. How many other jams can we say the same thing for? Twenty? Thirty-one? Forty-tWOO!! I had to, sorry.
n00b: And I think that’s the most important part of all of this - nobody would give a shit about this jam, length or no length, if there wasn’t that much quality to it. It’s never a show like 7/15/14 or a jam like, say, the 11/2/18 "Sally" (though that "Sally" does bring the heat) that gets debated so hotly, because nobody would care enough to really put their back into having an opinion on it. It’s your 7/13/14s and Tahoe Tweezers of the world that get that level of occasionally-angry argument, because they’re the true totemic moments of the era, and thus worthy of that level of emotion.
But hey, emotions dim, arguments wind down, and memory fades. The 7/31/13 "Tweezer" will live forever. Let me go ahead and hit play again...
 Included call and response "Wooo" with the crowd
Tweezer, Antelope, and Tweezer Reprise included a call and response with crowd cheering back "Wooooo."
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