music / Columns

Jam Central Station: A Live One

March 25, 2017 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

With Phish gearing up for their summer tour including a return to The Nutter Center in Dayton for the first time in 20 years as well as their Baker’s Dozen set of shows coming up at Madison Square Garden, it seemed like a good time to look at one of the most important albums that they released. A Live One, more than any other single album or show, acted as a catalyst to propel Phish to the heights that they reached in the 90’s and beyond. By 1994, Phish was making an incredible name for themselves as a live band. They were enjoying tremendous success in the wake of the 1992 HORDE Tour, and they had recently signed with Elektra records. They were harnessing the power of the early internet and had a nationwide following fueled by the tape-trading culture. They were moving out of theatres into larger venues, and they had a following that you had to see to believe. What they didn’t have, though, was a live album. The band remedied this by taking some of the best performances from their 1994 tour and turning them into A Live One, an album that is considered not just one of Phish’s best live albums, but one of the best live albums of all time.

This album really was a watershed moment for the band. There were plenty of potential fans that couldn’t really get into Phish’s studio work or who weren’t connected to the tape trading community. A Live One captured some of the best moments from a spectacular tour and wove them together in a cohesive way. The album opens with “Bouncing Around The Room,” one of Phish’s most easily accessible songs. It’s a song that’s hard to listen to and not bob your head along with the beat. This short and simple song is offset by a follow-up of “Stash.” In the first two songs, the band showed off their songwriting sensibilities along with the more classical arrangements. Both sides of the band get ample representation throughout the album. Phish in no way tried to water down their live performances on this album to gain a wider audience. Instead they showed a variety of what they were capable of and trusted that the audience would come to them. Which, of course, they did.

The New Orleans flared “Gumbo” shows another fun and playful side of the band. The breakdown at the end by the Cosmic Country Horns is perfect for the song and almost screams “Party on Bourbon Street.” The “Montana” jam that follows is a short segue into a classic “You Enjoy Myself.” Even though the two are from different shows (and the “Montana” jam wasn’t originally paired with a YEM) the two go together well. “Montana” is more of a trippy jam while YEM is one of the classic Phish instrumental compositions. This is the first song on the album that shows how Phish is able to put together extended songs with improvisational pieces as well as very structured movements. It’s the first (and best) example of how Phish is willing to completely ignore any traditional rules of rock music and do whatever they want. Of course, it’s also one of their most well-loved and most played songs. While this isn’t one of the longest versions of YEM (just over 20 minutes), it’s one of the best and most well-known versions that the band has done. I definitely wonder what folks new to Phish thought when they heard the YEM vocal jam for the first time.

The first album ends with another pair of great songs. They go away from the abstract into an absolutely rocking “Chalkdust Torture” and a great “Slave to the Traffic Light.” Both songs included solid improvisational jams woven within the songs, again showing how the band can mix up traditional rock songwriting with the craziness that they do so well. I’m a longtime fan of “Chalkdust Torture,” and this version is one of my favorites. As for “Slave to the Traffic Light,” it acts as a great substitute set closer for this double album.

“Wilson” starts off the second disc by ramping up the energy level even more. The crowd for this song is extremely energetic, and the band absolutely feeds off of that for the song. The “Tweezer” that follows is a half-hour long tour de force, taking what can sometimes be a somewhat straightforward song into a variety of different directions. The initial breakdown (or wild destruction) of the song at about 4 minutes in is just a foreshadowing of the directions the song would go. 11 minutes in brings a very cool, slow, thudding type of jam that leads into some very odd directions. By the time the song is halfway done it doesn’t resemble the beginning part of “Tweezer” at all and the jam has become a truly unique thing. By about 20 minutes in, the song disassembled into a “noise jam” with Fishman and Gordon holding down a steady rolling beat. What’s most impressive about the song, however, is how effortlessly they transition back into the main riff with about 2 minutes left. After over 20 minutes of improv, the band is so together that they bring it right back to where it all began. You don’t have to love jam music to appreciate that talent.

Of course the band changes directions again for “Simple.” The straightforward riff and song are offset by very clear and very abstract lyrics. It’s classic Phish and it works very well. Each song is multifaceted, and this is one of the most obvious examples of that. Simple fades into “Harry Hood.” While I’m not a big enough Phish fan to rank this among other versions of the song, I’ve been told that this is one of the best “Harry Hood’s” that the band has ever done. F rankly, I’m not about to disagree with that. Page, Trey, and Fishman work together to create a layered extended jam that moves through multiple styles and arrangements. “The Squirming Coil” closes the album with the best and most passionate piano solo on the album. Trey gets highlighted more than any other member of the band for this live collection, so it was nice to see Page get to send the band off with this song.

While this might not be considered the best live Phish release, it was the first, and it was a benchmark moment for the band. They were able to get their live performances, the lifeblood of the band, into record stores and out to fans and potential fans. After HORDE and signing with Elektra, the band was ready for a big move, and this was it. It wasn’t long after this that Phish was headlining arena and ampitheater shows across the country. The rest, of course, is history. It’s not surprising that a Phish, a band that made their mark early on with live performances, used a live album as a major stepping stone. It’s also not surprising that they were willing to take so many chances on the album, from having a half-hour “Tweezer” to including multiple previously-unreleased songs. And, in hindsight, it’s not at all surprising that the album came out as well as it did. Phish has been doing things their own way since day one, and A Live One is another shining example of how well that works for the band and the fans.

Northwest String Summit adds artists
Yonder Mountain String Band’s annual Northwest String Summit announced some additions this week. The festival will now include Todd Snider & Great American Taxi, Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, Noam Pikelney, Split Lip Rayfield, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, and many others.

Hoxeyville announces lineup
Michigan’s Hoxeyville Festival announced their 2017 lineup this week. The festival will once again feature Greensky Bluegrass, this time performing two nights. Also on the lineup are Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Sam Bush Band, Fruition, Joshua Davis, Larry Keel Experience, Billy Strings, and many others.

Phish add dates
Phish added a handful of dates for the runup to their Baker’s Dozen shows this summer. This includes their first visit to The Nutter Center in Dayton, OH since 1997.

July 14 Chicago, IL – Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
July 15 Chicago, IL – Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
July 16 Chicago, IL – Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
July 18 Dayton, OH – Nutter Center
July 19 Pittsburgh, PA – Petersen Events Center
July 21 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
July 22 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
July 23 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
July 25 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
July 26 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
July 28 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
July 29 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
July 30 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
August 1 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
August 2 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
August 4 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
August 5 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
August 6 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
September 1 Commerce City, CO – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
September 2 Commerce City, CO – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
September 3 Commerce City, CO – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

Primus and Clutch announce tour
Primus and Clutch will team up for a tour this summer. The bands will be on the road together for a month in July and August and do a run through a good part of the country.

July 17 Charlotte, NC — Uptown Amphitheater
July 18 Raleigh, NC — Red Hat Amphitheater
July 20 Detroit, MI — Freedom Hill Amphitheater
July 21 Rochester, NY — The Dome
July 22 Lancaster, PA — Freedom Hall
July 23 Boston, MA — Blue Hills Pavilion Bank
July 25 Portland, ME — Maine State Pier
July 27 Burlington, VT — Lake Champlain Festival
July 28 Asbury Park, NJ — Stone Pony Summerstage
July 29 Philadelphia, PA — Festival Pier
July 30 Pittsburgh, PA — Stage AE
August 1 Milwaukee, WI — Eagles Ballroom
August 2 Mankato, MN — Better Stone Amphitheater
August 4 Cedar Rapids, IA — McGrath Amphitheater
August 5 Kansas City, MO — Crossroads
August 6 Dallas, TX — South Side Ballroom
August 8 Tempe, AZ — Marquee Theater
August 9 Las Vegas, NV — The Joint
August 11 Bonner, MT — Hettlehouse Amphitheater
August 12 Troutdale, OR — Edgefield II
August 13 Eugene, OR — Cuthbert Amphitheater
August 15 Seattle, WA — Marymoor Park
August 17 Stateline, NV — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
August 18 Berkeley, CA — Greek Theater

Winter Wondergrass California
March 31-April 2
Olympic Valley, CA
Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Hot Buttered Rum, Fruition

Wanee Festival
April 20-22
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Bob Weir, Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, Blackberry Smoke, Matisyahu, JJ Grey & Mofro

Sweetwater 420 Festival
April 21-23
Centennial Park
Atlanta, GA
Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, moe., Lettuce, Slightly Stoopid, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Anders Osborne, Dark Star Orchestra, Twiddle

Summer Camp
May 25-28
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Primus, Gov’t Mule, The Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Mike Gordon, EOTO, The Floozies, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams KWahtro, The Wood Brothers, The Motet, TAUK, Twiddle, The Werks

May 25-28
Cumberland, MD
The Travelin’ McCoury’s featuring Dierks Bentley, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition, Jeff Austin Band

Dark Star Jubilee
May 26-28
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Dark Star Orchestra (x3), Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Tuna (acoustic and electric), Keller Williams and KWhatro, Rumpke Mountain Boys

Revival Music Festival
May 26-28
Harmony Park
Geneva, MN
Galactic, Yonder Mountain String Band, Turkuaz, Antibalas, Big Something, The Hip Abduction, The Main Squeeze, Aqueous

Nelsonville Music Festival
June 1-4
Nelsonville, OH
Ween, Emmylou Harris, Rodriguez, Son Volt, Sara Watkins, Parquet Courts

Mountain Music Festival
June 1-3
Wonderland Mountain
New River Gorge, WV
Umphrey’s McGee, The Revivalists, Twiddle, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Big Something, Spiritual Rez, The Southern Belles

June 8-11
Manchester, TN
U2, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Big Gigantic, Greensky Bluegrass, Umphrey’s McGee, Turkuaz, Twiddle

Disc Jam
June 8-11
Stephentown, NY
Break Science Live Band, Dopapod, Turkuaz, The Motet, Manic Focus, TAUK, Electric Beethoven, Aqueous, Consider the Source

4 Peaks Music Festival
June 15-18
Bend, OR
Moe., Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Moonalice

Mountain Jam
June 16-18
Hunter Mountain, NY
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The String Cheese Incident, Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Elephant Revival, Shovels & Rope, The Revivalists, The Infamous Stringdusters

Electric Forest I
June 22-25
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, My Morning Jacket, The Revivalists, Lotus, Big Gigantic, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Electric Forest II
June 29-July 2
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Lotus, Big Gigantic, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Friendly Gathering
June 29-July 1
Waitsfield, VT
Twiddle, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Turkuaz, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Moon Hooch

High Sierra
June 29-July 2
Quincy, CA
Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, Galactic, Mike Gordon, Fruition

June 30-July 2
Turin, NY
Moe., Blackberry Smoke, Fishbone, Railroad Earth, Ryan Montbleau, Twiddle, Floodwood, Kung Fu

Camp Bisco
July 13-15
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
The Disco Biscuits (6 sets), Bassnectar, GRiZ, Pretty Lights, Lotus, Twidle, Turkuaz, Electric Beethoven, Break Science, Beats Antique, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Werks

Northwest String Summit
July 13-16
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, JJ Grey & Mofro, Elephant Revival, Fruition, Turkuaz,

Levitate Music & Arts Fest
July 8-9
Marshfield, MA
Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, Ziggy Marley, Lake Street Drive, The Revivalists, Twiddle, JJ Grey & Mofro, Rubblebucket

Deep Roots Mountain Revival
July 20-22
Marvins Mountaintop
Masontown, WV
Brandi Carlile, Lettuce, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dr. Dog, The Motet, JJ Grey & Mofro, Moon Taxi, White Denim, TAUK

Floydfest 17: Freedom
July 26-30
Floyd, VA
Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & Broken Bones, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Shovels & Rope, Turkuaz, TUAK, Fruition

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
August 11-13
Alta, WY
The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s

August 18-20
Wellston, MI
Greensky Bluegrass, Sam Bush Band, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Fruition, Joshua Davis, Larry Keel Experience, Billy Strings, The Accidentals, The Crane Wives

August 24-27
Arrington, VA
The Avett Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, moe, Greensky Bluegrass, John Butler Trio, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, TAUK

Hillberry Music Festival
October 12-15
Eureka Springs, AR
Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Dumpstaphunk, Dirtfoot

Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!