Dave's Energy Guide

Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
MusicAbrahams, Anastasio, Fishman
Phish Debut1985-04-06
Last Played1995-06-28
Current Gap1126
HistorianDave Abrahams; Mockingbird Staff


A lot of folks think this tune is basically the digital delay loop jams that Trey occasionally initiates in an especially exploratory set (see 5/7/94Tweezer,” 12/29/94David Bowie,” etc.). However, this is not the case. “Dave’s Energy Guide” – named for Dave Abrahams, Trey’s friend and the co-writer of the tune – has nothing to do with digital delay loop jams. Originally titled “Memo to Fripp,” it is a composed piece of music reminiscent of King Crimson’s “Discipline,” (from the album of the same name).

Trey has made no secret of his respect and admiration for Robert Fripp, the guitar player and composer extraordinaire behind King Crimson, a band that has always been on the cutting edge of rock-prog-proto-electronic-noise. However, it was Trey’s friend Dave – also a big Crimson fan – who invented the initial “DEG” theme after being blown away at an early ‘80s Crimson concert he attended with Trey and Tom Marshall on March 6, 1982 at Alexander Hall at Princeton University. Seeking to emulate Robert Fripp’s intricate, precise picking patterns in his own guitar style, Dave created the first “DEG” theme as a practice exercise. The pattern he composed – designed around a 5-6-5-7 structure – is built out of repeating parts, which are extended to always keep the total number of notes between repeats at an odd number.

One summer in the mid-‘80s, Dave and Trey attended the National Guitar Workshop. On one of the performance nights, they decided to play the still-unnamed song, with one guitar playing 5-6-5-7, and the other playing 5-6-5-6. This way, although the two lines would usually be out of sync, they would cohere every 22 repetitions. The performance went miserably, and with the revelation that their song was, in Dave’s words, “formulaic b.s.” they left the venue exhilarated.

Soon after Phish was formed, Trey happened to catch sight of none other than Jon Fishman at a party playing a diamond-shaped pattern on an acoustic guitar. Trey immediately seized upon this theme and incorporated it into what would then be called “Dave’s Energy Guide.” The “Energy Guide” portion of the title derives from a yellow, diamond-shaped, municipal utilities sign that Trey hung on his mic stand during some early performances of the song. Additionally, Trey explains on 5/3/85 that the “Energy Guide” is provided for those poor souls having trouble “directing their energy.” But seriously, folks...

The “Energy Guide” has never been found too commonly on its own in a setlist; it usually comes about as the product of an especially exploratory jam. Some fine examples of the tune include 4/29/87 (excellent version segues out of “Melt the Guns”), 8/5/88 (sandwiched by “Cities”), and 9/13/88 (again in a “Cities” sandwich and followed by a raging “Antelope”). The song became increasingly less visible through the late ‘80s, and was more or less extinguished as a full-performed entity by 1988. 

However, this wasn’t the end of the “Energy Guide.” Miniature jams of the song or quotes of one or more of its themes showed up frequently in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, most notably on 11/30/89 (“SOAM”), 3/29/91 (“Tweezer”), 7/14/91 and 4/21/92 (“Possum”), 4/30/92 (“YEM”), 12/30/93 (“Bowie”), 6/14/94 (“Possum” yet again), and 6/16/94 (“Stash”).

More modern shows saw even less of “DEG,” though teases and jams did occur in the 6/22/95Maze,” the 3/1/97Wolfman’s,” the 4/4/98Brother,” and the 11/29/98 “Possum.” Absent for over a decade, the band clearly still feels the "guide" in "Phish 3.0": check the 14:00 mark of the 7/31/09 "Fluffhead."

"Fluffhead" with "Dave's Energy Guide" tease (@ 2:05 in the clip) – 7/31/09, Morrison, CO

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