Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Tomeka Reid Quartet featuring Mary Halvorson - 8/29/15 at Normals in Baltimore

Tomeka Reid
Sometimes the smallest shows are the best.  Like the one I saw last night in Baltimore.  137 miles each way just to see a free improv jazz group in a side room of a small indie book and record store.  It was a CD release show for the Tomeka Reid Quartet:  Tomeka Reid - cello, Mary Halvorson - guitar, Tomas Fujiwara - drums, and Jason Roebke - bass.  Part of the Red Room experimental music series at Normals Books and Records.  A $6 cover charge granted front row access to some incredible in-the-moment music making.

Admittedly, my main inspiration for going to this performance was because of the opportunity to finally get to see the New York based guitarist Mary Halvorson play live.  I have been obsessed with Mary's music for the last year or more and she's quickly become one of my favorite musicians.  I can't really describe what she does or how she does it or even why I love it so much, but it really resonates with my ears.

Since my friend and I had driven all the way from central Virginia and got there a little early, the concert organizers basically allowed us to sit wherever we wanted and I chose a seat directly across from where Mary would later be playing.  The green Line Six Delay Pedal was a dead giveaway.  I was literally four feet away from her the whole set with a direct view of her fast moving fingers.  I was slightly concerned that the close proximity would be weird or uncomfortable but I don't think it was. Mary is used to this kind of attention.
Mary Halvorson
But, I digress because although my original intention may have been to see Mary, I was incredibly impressed by cellist Tomeka Reid.  This particular project is her quartet, after all.  In this incarnation she's the leader and composer of most of the material, and Tomeka excelled in this role.  I know there are some other jazz cellists out there but this was my first time seeing the instrument played in that style or at that level.  As an amateur hobbyist tenor banjo player, I definitely take an interest in cello technique due to the commonalities of 5ths tuning and longer scale length that both instruments share.

The music of the Tomeka Reid Quartet was equal parts chamber ensemble, classic jazz and freeform improv.  Every tune reached epic heights and touched on different themes and emotions - from light and airy to hard-hitting and heavy.  Having now listened to the CD they were celebrating, it's clear that they were being quite liberal with their interpretations of these compositions last night, treating them as living, breathing things and not some stagnant dots on a page.  It wasn't quite as free as, say Ornette Coleman free - there was always a foundation there - however, it did frequently branch out into some very intriguing experimentation, with a strong melody at the heart of each piece worth returning to.
I was already familiar with drummer Tomas Fujiwara through his work with Mary in the excellent Thumbscrew project with bassist Michael Formanek (who I think was in attendance).  Tomas (pronounced TOH-muh) was extraordinarily impressive.  It was obvious that he has tremendous training and discipline and knows his jazz chops and history, but Tomas has also found a way to be unique and be himself in a virtuosic manner.  I felt like I was seeing one of the world's best drummers in action (which I was), along with definitely one of the world's best guitarists and likely one of the best jazz cellists.

I haven't mentioned bassist Jason Roebke yet because his playing was somewhat beguiling.  Tomeka's cello already fills in a bottom end in a way, so Roebke's bass has to plunge deeper to find its place, which he did successfully for the majority of the set.  The only time Roebke lost me was when he went on one of his particularly out there solos which were quite radical even in this setting.  Not being familiar with his playing at all, I wasn't always sure what to make of it.  There was definitely an edginess there that the more I think about it the more I kind of like.  It kept you guessing, that's for sure.

Altogether, this was definitely the experience I was hoping it would be and more.  Driving up and back to Baltimore isn't exactly a casual night out.  We left about 2:30pm and chose to go the scenic route up 301.  An accident a few cars ahead at the crest of the two lane Nice Bridge over the Potomac from VA to MD caused an hour long setback as traffic came to a complete halt on the bridge high above the river and we waited for emergency crews to clear the way.  Then upon entering Baltimore we encountered massive football stadium traffic.  Fortunately the Waze app provided us with an alternate route for the last few hassle-free miles, although it did take us through neighborhoods straight outta The Wire.  Four and a half hours after leaving we were there!

We still had time to eat a huge, tasty meal at the nondescript Caribbean restaurant across the street and then scour the records for a few minutes in Normals.  I got some Satchmo, Duke Ellington and Tiny Grimes LPs, but the best find was Konono No. 1's "Congotronics" album.  That is some crazy music!!!  Lastly, I should mention that Baltimore organist Liz Durrette warmed up the crowd before Tomeka's set with about 20 minutes of solo improvisations filled with blue notes and creepy cartoon-like motifs.  That was pretty cool too.  And home by 2:30am for a full 12-hour adventure!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Transposing from Major to Phrygian (Rakes of Mallow in Ionian and Phrygian)

Most fiddle tunes are either in Ionian (AKA the major scale, mode 1), Dorian (AKA "modal", AKA "minor", mode 2) or Mixolydian (AKA "modal", mode 5), and sometimes Aeolian (AKA "minor", mode 6).  You don't see many in Phrygian (mode 3), Lydian (mode 4) or Locrian (mode 7), if at all. So, I wondered what it would sound like to transpose* a tune from major/Ionian - the most common and normal sounding of all keys - to Phrygian - a weird, exotic minor mode.

*Is there a more proper term than "transpose" for when you move a melody from one mode to another?

For this experiment I chose the Irish tune Rakes of Mallow because a) it's in the key of G, b) it's a relatively simple tune and c) it was the first tune I thought of!  To do this I had to get the music theory part of my brain working.  I knew that Phrygian was the mode starting on the 3rd note of the major scale, so in other words the G-major scale from B to B (B-C-D-E-F#-G-A-B) would be B-Phrygian.
Rakes of Mallow in G-major
Rakes of Mallow in G-Phrygian
I then made note of those intervals and transposed from B-Phrygian to G-Phrygian.  Those notes are G-Ab-Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G. (FYI: these are the same notes as the Eb-major scale starting on its 3rd note).  I suppose another way of looking at it is, to go from Ionian to Phrygian you flatten the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th notes of the major scale.  I already had Rakes of Mallow written out in mandolin tab in G-major.  Based on that, I wrote it out in G-Phrygian, making sure to convert every A to Ab, every B to Bb, every E to Eb and every F# to F.  Those mandolin tab transcriptions are included above.

Another interesting thing to point out is how the chords changed.  Knowing that the G-Phrygian mode is really just the Eb-major scale starting on its 3rd note, I know that the G-Phrygian mode would use the exact same chords as the Eb-major scale.  (The I chord in Phrygian is the III chord in Major, the II chord in Phrygian is the IV chord in Major, and so on).  Using that logic, I think I wrote out the correct chords in the G-Phrygian version of Rakes of Mallow.

Rakes of Mallow is easy to play in G-major but very difficult and unusual feeling in G-Phrygian, partly because on a tenor banjo in the Irish tuning of GDAE you don't get to use any open strings when playing this melody in G-Phrygian.  (I bet if I had put it in B-Phrygian it would have been much easier because those are the same notes as the G-major scale).  But, I will say that by putting it in the Phrygian mode - with its half step between the 1st and 2nd notes of its scale - the tune takes on an almost Greek or Klezmer sound.

Listen and see what you think!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Characteristics of the Different Musical Keys

Some say that each musical key evokes a different feeling. For example...

C major
The most translucent. Innocent, pure and naive, like the whispers of children. As fresh and natural as an untouched virgin. Stark naked and elementary.

C minor
The sorrow of love lost hangs heavy and faint, echoing the despondent yearning of vacant souls.

Db major
A purple sonorous sinking ecstasy. Witnessing the changes of the moon, howling internally beneath outward silence. Breaths taken become invisible, then vanish into consequences.

Db minor
A bleeding bestial intercourse with the celestial mountain. Dashed hopes of enlightenment.

D major
The smell of victory, proudly yellow and magnificent. An exultation of mirth basking in the wake of its many accomplishments.

D minor
The feminine whims of an orthodox gloom. Gathering platelets and filtering plasma.

Eb major
Dreaming of the cherished sinews. Unforgiving in its nature of brutal adherence.

Eb minor
Anxious dismay of the darkest woe. Hesitating when it should advance, persisting when it should fail. The realm of the phantom.

E major
Crying out an exultation of unfulfilled pleasure. Its intent is your sky blue. Magnificent splendor. Rising above the arguments of the day.

E minor
An uneasy grumbling abated only by the reciprocation of its flame. Attracted to grief, nostalgic for the beefing.

F major
Comfortable in its own skin yet easily agitated. In accord with the deep red luxury of existence.

F minor
Thrilling, chilling and ready to attack. Not satisfied with its position. Looking for the proxy.

F# major
Climbing the forged signature embedded in its foundation. Decisively subjugating the copycats. Responding savagely to fancied slights.

F# minor
Dog bitten but well dressed. Speaking to audience of foiled firebrands.

G major
Blooming in isolation but not out of touch. Thankful for the immortal bond. Projecting agreeable satisfaction.

G minor
Resentful of its missed opportunities. Biting at will. Acting out at predestined schema.

Ab major
Corpse-like with infinity reflected in its pupils. Scanning the horizon for any signs of decay.

Ab minor
Confined to a sticky steam bath until it can no longer gasp or blow. Escaping to even greater panic.

A major
A fulfilled promise returned to its point of origin. Affirming the ever-present state of serenity.

A minor
The clerical order belies a hidden delicate center. It is and isn't what it seems to be.

Bb major
In command of its ethos and optimistic of the future. No need to let go, no need to remain.

Bb minor
A living, mortal thing. Cloaked in the shadow of the eventide. Surrounded by expressionless self-destruction.

B major
The strongest intensity composed of blatant indignation. At every turn the task is omnipresent.

B minor
The key of restraint, expectant of the allotted portions. Losing nothing because it hasn't acquired.

Are You A Sharp Person or Do You Like to B Flat?

People who play music that is most often in sharp keys tend to think of those keys as being the easiest. Those who play wind instruments prefer flat keys. Piano players fall right down the middle with their attraction to the key of C (all white keys - no flats or sharps). What it boils down to is the keys that people are most comfortable playing in are those where the chords or scales are easiest (most common) on the instrument(s) of choice in that style or genre. That might be D for Irish, E for The Blues or Bb for Trumpet Rock.

I don’t want to be one of those people who sees G as being easy but Eb as being hard, for example. I want to see them as equals. When working on an arrangement or interpretation of a tune I’m mindful of running it in different keys, different octaves, different positions and different fingerings. Was that an Irish jig, a free jazz freakout or a downstairs mixup? Who knows? Who cares???

Basically, I am striving to play stuff in as many different ways as I can think of, while understanding the “similarities” of each different way. I can easily spend a whole evening doing this with just one tune or one or A-part or even one phrase. As a result, I am having more fun than ever before practicing/playing music.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mary Halvorson: Meltframe Review

Nothing really prepares you for the opening notes of Mary Halvorson's solo guitar album Meltframe , out September 4th on Firehouse 12 Records. Is a statement being made or is she just having fun?  Or both?  The aggressive, distorted notes challenge the listener to hang on for 4 long minutes.  It's a ride you may or may not want to take again.  That seems to be just fine with Mary.  Easy listening isn't exactly her thing.

Mary Halvorson has appeared on dozens albums over the last decade+, either as band leader, a band member, or special guest.  But, Meltframe is her first completely solo effort and it's been highly anticipated ever since word spread that she was recording it.  Instead of writing music for solo guitar, Mary decided to interpret other people's songs.  Meltframe is an album of covers.

Track 1 is "Cascades" by Oliver Nelson.  I'm not sure if a familiarity with the original recording helps or hinders your appreciation of this take.  I wasn't familiar with Oliver Nelson, or the majority of the songs Mary is doing on this album.  The selections span from the well known masters (Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner), to more obscure(?) musicians (Roscoe Mitchell, Annette Peacock) and contemporaries (Chris Lightcap, Tomas Fujiwara).

"Cascades" gives way to Annette Peacock's "Blood" and every instinct in my body says Thank You to that. Meltframe's initial jarring movement may shake off all but the most devoted listeners, but when you emerge from that craziness a long stretch of beauty begins to unfold.  Tracks 2 through 6 is my favorite part of the album.  I don't care if these are different songs by different composers.  When taken together it flows like one long suite.

I've been listening to Meltframe a lot over the last week, trying to figure out how it is I feel about it, and I always find myself deep in thought at a certain point somewhere along the way.  Invariably, this is during Track 5, a cover of "Solitude" by Duke Ellington.  It would have been impossible to predict what Mary Halvorson's debut solo effort was going to sound like other than hoping it would achieve moments of brilliance, so it's especially poignant that her treatment of Ellington's "Solitude" - the album's centerpiece - is the place where this brilliance is most apparent.

By track 7 she is back to some distortion and pyrotechnics, although it's more fleeting this time.  When it does show up again you are much more ready for it, even appreciative of it. Track 8 "Platform" comes the closest of any to having groove or swing, before that too is abandoned for more good old fashioned noise.

Meltframe closes out with "Leola" by Roscoe Mitchell.  Any statements that needed to be made have by now been made.  Ultimately, this is simply music that Mary Halvorson wanted to make.  Now it's up to listeners to decide if this is music they wanted to hear.  Knowing Mary's past history, my listening to this album has been more purposeful and patient than if I had come by it accidentally.  By sticking with it I feel slightly altered - in a good way.
Mary Halvorson.  Photo by Kelly Jensen Photography


Sunday, August 16, 2015

City Paper Article on Pedal Steel Improviser Susan Alcorn

From the macro to the micro.  As much as I love a band like Phish, who can fill up 20,000 seat sheds all across the country playing incredibly complex music for masses under the guise and convention of a rock concert, I also love the idea of the relatively unknown (or completely unknown) musical explorer who creates challenging and/or artistic music on a daily basis whether there is an audience there to hear it or not.

One such musician who is revered among lovers of improv and the avant-garde, but who is perhaps not well known outside of that community, is the Baltimore-based pedal steel guitarist and improviser Susan Alcorn.  I've only been aware of her music for a few months, but I've quickly gathered up most of all of her recordings that I can find.  Some of these include burned CDs that Susan made and signed herself.  Talk about DIY!

Alcorn's new album Soledad interprets the music of the Argentine tango composer and accordionist Astor Piazzolla.  Spoiler alert: chances are strong that this album will find its way onto my best of the year list.  It's the perfect music for a lazy Sunday morning.  I might be listening to it here shortly.  But first, I wanted to share a link to a well done feature from Baltimore's City Paper on Susan's music and the new album.  Please continue reading:


Friday, August 14, 2015

Remembrances of 50 Phish Shows - Numbers 41 through 50!

Here are my memories of the 41st through 50th Phish shows I've been to.  For numbers 31 through 40 click here.

2010-06-15 (nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA)
The nTelos Pavilion in Portsmouth is a fan-friendly venue in an urban setting.  The general admission seating and laissez-fare attitude of the surrounding lot and neighborhood seems to work out.  This was the first of many stupendous shows here.  I especially remember the early 1st set Slave and the Tom Waits song Cold Water.  Most people didn't recognize it but I love the Mule Variations album so this song was a treat to hear, even though it didn't really fit in.

2010-07-01 (Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek , Raleigh, NC)
The friends that we met up with at this show brought with them a saying that some weird guy had said the night before...not at a Phish show.  It went "Mike Jordan, he retired".  Which morphed into "Mike Gordon, he retired", which eventually morphed into "Mike Gordon, he retarded".  It was fun to say that as we were walking into the show.  A Llama opener is kind of like getting thrown a curveball.  Roses Are Free and Time Loves A Hero were good to hear.  Divided Sky always pulls me in.  Our group of friends cozied up in the same row during the 2nd set so as not to take up any more space than we were supposed to.  It was all very cordial.

2010-07-02 (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre - Charlotte, Charlotte, NC)
The saying "Mike Gordon, he retired" was still going strong this next day.  Buried Alive was an awesome opener.  Vultures kicked ass.  What was going down was the best band in the world was playing live music and I was there to hear it!  During the 2nd set we got down pretty close on the Mike side.  Man, I love that song The Lizards.  YEM went over well as a 2nd set ender.

2011-06-18 (Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek , Raleigh, NC)
Starting with two instrumentals is unusual.  This show's catchphrase became "Go back to Mexico!".  I think we told that to Curtis Loew.  It doesn't really make any sense.  I'm a sucker for 2nd set Prince Capsians and My Friend My Friends.

2011-06-19 (nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA)
Hey cool.  We're back at Portsmouth.  Maybe I was becoming one of those jaded vets, but the cynic in me thought the Phish songcatchers overreacted to the Harpua opener.  I was like, "uhmmm...I saw that one in '94".  Also, why they gots to play Alaska?  That 2nd set had the fire though.

2012-08-26 (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre - Charlotte, Charlotte, NC)
I haven't mentioned this yet but it's kinda my thing to go pee during Moma Dance whenever that song comes up, whether I really have to go or not, but I usually do have to so it all works out.  Especially if it's in the first set.  What you see going on while walking to the toilets while that song is playing is just as entertaining as the music itself.  So, I remember doing that this show, but it's all kind of groggy.  No details whatsoever of the drive there, hanging out, post-show or anything.  I do remember the Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page, and I remember the Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, and Trey poking fun at Fishman's songs Tube and My Sweet One like he did at the Asheville show a few years earlier.  I think this is the only show from 2012 that I went to.  We skipped the Portsmouth shows.

2013-10-19 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
The Bathtub Gin opener kicked serious ass.  Moma Dance was next - time to pee.  It was nice to hear something new like Steam being played.  The Wingsuit/Fuego songs wouldn't debut until Halloween and we didn't know of their existence yet, so new songs were few and far between at this point and welcomed when they did appear.  Steam is not a bad song.  It kind of reminds of the Stephen King Gunslinger books.  I must apologize to my friends Mike and Vickey for puking all over the hotel room later on in the middle of the night.  (Note to self: don't drink liquor during the show).  They have kids and they're used to my foolishness so they know how to handle that situation.

2013-10-20 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
A greasy, waterside breakfast helped remedy my hangover.  Fresh friends who hadn't been the night before joined our tired old selves for night two of this stand.  Halloween was looming and rumors of what album they would play were swirling around.  Was that a Traffic style jam during Tweezer?  I think I heard some Allman Brothers in there.  That Tweezer got out there.  It rivals the more famous one from Tahoe this same tour.  What was the deal with that Takin' Care of Business?  Ginseng Sullivan and Paul And Silas in the same show?  I was liking it.  This was the Hampton we were used to.

2014-07-29 (nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA)
Summer 2014.  Laura and I spent a lovely morning in Norfolk enjoying the downtown area, harbor and museums before taking the ferry over to Portsmouth and meeting up with our friends in the infamous unofficial Portsmouth parking lot that we always manage to hang out in pre-show.  Everyone there was cool.  Getting to know some intelligent, funny and obsessed younger fans was a bonus.  Mike Gordon rode through on a golf cart and I shouted a request for Yarmouth Road which he obliged the next night.  I loved, loved, loved this show.  While it was happening I enjoyed it in the moment as much as any show ever.  That's all you can ask for, right...being in the moment?  Every aspect of this show reinforced my love for this band.  We have family in VA Beach so we cabbed it back.  Our cab driver was an old black lady named Rosetta who said she liked "writing poems and playing with water in her backyard".  I quote.  I think she was an angel sent from on high.  Oh wait a second...I'm an atheist.  Nevermind.  Rosetta gave me her card and said to call her the next day when we needed her services again.  Then she took my 40 bucks.

2014-07-30 (nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA)
Back at it up and early this day.  Another pleasant morning in Norfolk and then we met up with our friends at the Bier Garden in Portsmouth just after lunch time and laughed about how crazy the night before was.  Back to that same parking lot for some more socializing and strange coincidences.  Then, sure enough, it was showtime and this one rocked as well.  I remember being in a really good mood, perpetually.  Nothing too serious or pensive...just goodness.  After the show we wanted to keep hanging out with our friends so we piled in a car and went back with them to their hotel, only to discover that their hotel was only 4 blocks away from where we had been earlier in Norfolk each day before taking the ferry to Portsmouth.  That would have been good to know in advance.  When it was time to leave I called up the cab driver Rosetta from the night before, but instead of her again she dispatched some crazy white dude to give us a ride.  He was all over the road; I think just to see what our reaction would be.  It wasn't a pleasant escort back to the beach like the night before.  Oh well...he got us there, and didn't charge as much!

That's it.  That's all 50 shows.  (Today becomes number 51 by the way).  Sorry I couldn't be more descriptive of the actual music but I'm lucky that I can even remember the dates and locations.  I really should get back to playing banjo now.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Remembrances of 50 Phish Shows - Numbers 31 through 40

I'm recounting the 50 Phish shows that I have attended.  Here's numbers 31 through 40.  This stretch includes Coventry, the Hampton Comeback shows and Festival 8.  For numbers 21 through 30 click here.

2004-08-14 (Newport State Airport, Coventry, VT)
Everyone who made the trek to Coventry has a story to tell about it.  In our case, Laura and I plus our friends Mike and Daniel set out early from Southwest Virginia in good spirits with plenty of time to get there.  Mike's SUV was loaded up with camping gear and other supplies.  Somewhere in Connecticut we started to have pretty severe car trouble so we overnighted there while his car went into this random small town shop.  The fixing was going to take more than a day so a friend of the owner of the shop rented us a very old mini van to use for the rest of the way while the car was getting fixed.  Of course this minivan completely broke down and fell apart on the side of the highway in Vermont.  We were still 100+ miles south of the festival, but more than a couple hours north of where we had picked up the van.  The person from CT drove up to meet us towing some 1980's Oldsmobile two-door sedan.  We had to down-size quite a bit to fit 4 people plus camping gear into that car but it got us there.  Or at least the outskirts of the festival.  After an overnight stuck in traffic several miles out, we decided to set up camp on some Vermont redneck's property a few miles from the festival and hoof it in.  A local woman - with a baby in the car! - kindly picked us stragglers up the first day and chauffeured us to the gate since she had special access as a resident.  

As for the show(s) itself, I can't say much for them.  The overwhelming gravity of the situation affected perceptions of it.  I was hopeful when they opened with Walls of the Cave.  I even had delusions that this could still be a great finale to Phish's career.  But, it fell way short of expectations.  I still have never listened to these shows ever again.  The whole event put too much of a strain on our friendships that I've never wanted to go there.  I know that I was difficult to be around this weekend.  I do remember liking the song Friday on Saturday, as crazy as that seems.  See you in four-and-a-half years.

The butterflies in the stomach feeling on the eve of a Phish show that you've been waiting for is omnipresent.  Never has this been more palpable than at these Hampton comeback shows.  We somehow scored tickets legitimately without having to go through scalpers. I think I just randomly called up Ticketmaster and happened to catch it at a time when tickets were available and ordered over the phone. The same group of four from the Coventry debacle were back together for these shows.  A lot had changed from 2004 to 2009, obviously.  We had shots of Patron tequila in Hooters the day of first concert which foreshadowed the Mexican Cousin which would come around in night two.  But going back to that first night, anyone who was there remembers the sense of catharsis that overwhelmed Hampton Coliseum the instance that the first notes of Fluffhead were recognizable.  Those first few seconds spoke volumes toward the collective sigh of relief that it conveyed.  The actual show or shows can't be described in any way that makes sense other than saying the proverbial "you had to be there".  Phish wasn't just back.  They were back and determined to make good on a legacy that they had left tarnished 4.5 years ago on a muddy Vermont field near the Canadian border.

By Asheville in June 2009 it was back to business-as-usual as far as seeing Phish goes.  Asheville is a great little city and we had a large group of friends that descended upon it, similar in a lot of ways to the Greensboro 3-1-03 show.  A super-fun time was had hanging out beforehand and the show was great too.  The Asheville crunchy coolness was represented well as the outpouring of love from the audience was among the most authentic and universal I have ever experienced outside of the Hampton shows 3 months earlier.  Joy, teary-eyed-ness and jaw-dropping awe were among the many emotions passed through on this night.

The next night in Knoxville was a continuation of the party.  What great place Knoxville is!  The city that never sleeps...or at least on this night it didn't.  We stayed in a really cool downtown hotel and we were able to walk to the lot from there, even though it was a long distance.  The Shakedown was especially raging outside this arena.  Out of control.  The Waves into A Song I Hear the Ocean Sing was a highlight for me.  After the show we were amped up and kept going to bar after bar.  We even got into a cab that was playing Phish and made the driver blast it, circling around the block of our destination an additional time or two for the sheer enjoyment of it.  We finished the night at a hotel bar full of Phish fans that stayed open waaaaay later than it was supposed to.

Flew out to Palm Springs for Festival 8, with a stopover in Dallas.  The plane was delayed a few hours in Dallas, and it was obvious that multiple fans were going to be on the same flight from there, due to the unusually jovial atmosphere in the airport bar at that gate, despite the wait.  As we boarded the plane a sketchy dude on some weird drugz hit his head as he was sitting down next to a mom and her toddler.  From beneath his sunglasses he said "Maybe we'll get an Althea" which caused me to lose it!  The mom made the flight attendant move this dude to a different seat and I don't blame her.  He hit his head getting into that seat too.

These polo grounds where the Coachella festival is held were a lovely place to see Phish.  It felt lightly attended as far as Phish shows go, but that laid-back California vibe was in full effect.  Maybe not as laid back as High Sierra, but close.  In late October in the desert it would be in the 90's during the day and as low as 39 degrees at one point in the early hours of the morning.  I wasn't prepared for that kind of cold. 

The entire first was excellent, but I especially liked the blimp-like artwork floating during Harry Hood.  Very avant-garde artsy.  Whatever kind of cart that "puppet" was attached to wheeled right by me.  I got completely lost trying to walk back to the campsite afterward.  The grounds were bigger and more confusing than I had thought.  

I'm not a Stones fan.  I was actually hoping for the longshot MGMT album this year.  So, when news spread on Halloween day that it was Exile on Main Street I was nonplussed.  I think I took a nap on the soft, manicured lawn while that set was being performed.  The acoustic set on 11/1 was quite special.  I loved it.  It would have been better if everyone had just sat down and chilled during it instead of having to dance.  Save your energy, folks.  Dancing during that set seemed unnecessary.  After thoroughly enjoying and savoring the final two sets later that night we packed up our tent and slept on a blanket out under the stars before flying back home to good old Virginia.

We had another large group of people at this show and I'm pretty sure we were all in mutual agreement to party harder than ever before.  It was preppy Charlottesville, so why not?  This might have been the tipping point as far as that goes.  The climate was snowy and icy but the show went on.  Our hotel was right across the street from the venue.  Not all of my memories of this show are positive ones, but that is independent of the music, which was right on the money.  It was satisfying to hear not one, but two songs with Virginia references in them - Old Home Place and Sweet Virginia.  That completes 2009, which, 15 years in, was my busiest year of seeing Phish.

Remembrances of 50 Phish Shows - Numbers 21 through 30

There are already lots of blank spaces where my memories should be of the 50 Phish shows that I've attended, so I figured I better write down whatever it is that I can still think while I can still think of it.  Here are shows 21 through 30.  We are now entering the dark side.  Featuring Kid Rock and Jay-Z.  Oh no.  For numbers 11 through 20 click here.

2000-09-27 (Fiddler's Green, Englewood, CO)
This was my one time seeing Phish in Colorado.  Coming from the East Coast where most everyone was gung-ho about Phish, the Denver crowd seemed a little skeptical.  Not quite as universally into it.  Maybe it was the overly corporate venue.  Things have probably changed out there now.  The song My Friend, My Friend can get weird and on this night it seemed especially so.  The You Enjoy Myself was a little truncated to allow room for the Loving Cup encore.  After the show we started heading toward Vegas and after driving for a couple hours we slept in the back of my pickup truck at some random little league baseball field off the interstate in the rural Colorado mountains.  Woke up in the morning only to discover that two other cars from the Phish show had done the same thing!

2000-09-29 (Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV)
Laura and I got married before this show!  It was a quasi-elope, because although we knew about it a week or two in advance we didn't tell anyone until after it had happened.  On the shuttle ride from our hotel to the venue the song We're An American Band was playing on the radio and I predicted that Phish would play it tonight...and they did...for only the 2nd time ever!  A good guess, I guess.  Although it was ruined by Kid Rock on vocals, as was a good portion of the 2nd set.  They needed a hook to get that idiot off the stage.  What a big mistake it was inviting Kid Rock out to play with them.  The end was near.

2000-09-30 (Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV)
They put this show out on DVD.  Unfortunately the dry, desert climate didn't sit well with me.  I was running a fever by lunchtime, had a sore throat, and felt increasingly more sick as the day went on.  I still went and enjoyed the show, but it was the most unwell I've ever been at a concert - as in like actual illness stay-home-from-work sick.  This show of course had the first Esther since 8/9/98 VA Beach - another show that I was at.  Trey butchered it and it was shelved again.  Esther died.  There's also that bizarre synchronized duel on stage between Trey and Mike.  This would be the last show for 2+ years as Phish was about to take their first hiatus.

2003-01-04 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
By the time 2003 rolled around we were living back in Virginia.  While Phish was on the first hiatus we filled the time by flying to the High Sierra Music festival a couple times and getting into other bands, but it was nice to have Phish back.  I'm looking at the setlist for this show now, hoping to jog some memories of it, but not much is coming to mind.  I remember the night before, the drive to the show, hanging out in the hotel room beforehand, but not much about the concert itself.  I think I remember being glad that they played Pebbles and Marbles, being a fan of the Round Room album.

2003-03-01 (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC)
The tapes may or may not live up to it, but it was one of the all-time best Phish shows I've attended.  Ironically, while hanging out on the day of I remember doubting if I could even recognize a "great" show any more, circa 2003.  There was magic in the air, the type of magic that can turn crystals into fool's gold.  Lots of good friends and lots of good fun.  There was a point in the evening where every song seemed to be going back to that same transcendent place.  The songs were merely vehicles for the hose to spray its flow.  There was definitely a Trey fist pump at the end of this night.

2003-07-25 (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre - Charlotte, Charlotte, NC)
This show kicked off one of my most favorite three night runs ever.  Party all day and rock all night, and then get up and drive to the next place and do it all over again, and again.  The specifics sorta bleed together.  There was a muscle-bound crazy guy in the parking lot shouting "Where's My Momma" when his hippie girlfriend disappeared.  We figured she wasn't going to come back but she did.  He was not someone you wanted to mess with.  "Where's My Momma?" has remained a catchphrase to this day.

2003-07-26 (HiFi Buys Amphitheatre, Atlanta, GA)
Is this the place in the ghetto?  Piper > Mountains in the Mist, Waves > Tweezer.  Yeah I think I remember that as being awesome come to think of it.  How could it not have been?!  I lost my voice yelling "Where's My Momma?" after the show.

2003-07-27 (ALLTEL Pavilion, Raleigh, NC)
I remember someone stealing my cooler and thinking I was going to die in the car ride afterword as it became clear that our DD was not fit to be a DD.  Besides that, again, not much.  It's like I wasn't even there, but I know I was.  Maybe this show shouldn't even count on the list if I can't remember anything about it musically.  If I really try hard maybe I remember the Seven Below.

2004-06-18 (KeySpan Park, Brooklyn, NY)
My friend Daniel was the only one brave enough to go with Laura and me to this New York show.  We stayed in Mahattan and took the subway over to Coney Island.  I liked it over there.  The minor league baseball stadium was a good place to see Phish.  There were some interesting bars nearby and authentic pizza.  We looked for Paris Hilton but didn't find her.  The New York crowd was very New York.  This was the show with Jay-Z making a guest appearcance in the 2nd set.  I wasn't into that at all but it seemed like the band was getting a kick out of it.  It made me feel like a tourist.

2004-08-09 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
It was hard to get tickets to this show but I got one.  The night had a melancholy feel to it; very different from the celebratory times at Hampton in the past, especially the post-setbreak part of the evening.  The band was not healthy at this point in their career.  There are definitely highs and lows across a trajectory like Phish's and this night was a low.  We would soon go back for one last hurrah, though: Coventry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Remembrances of 50 Phish Shows - Numbers 11 through 20

I counted up that I had been to 50 Phish shows from 1994 to 2014.  I'm about to surpass that number but in honor of that nifty milestone I thought I'd jot down the first things that come to mind about each of the 50 Phish shows that I have attended.  Below are shows 11 through 20.  For shows 1 through 10 click here.

1997-11-22 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
I didn't know that they could possibly top the night before but they did.  A Mike's > Hydrogen > Weekapaug for the ages to start the show.  Followed by Hood.  A jammed out Halley's opened the 2nd set, if I remember correctly.  That whole 2nd half had such energy.  Such importance.  The Bouncin' encore was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard or witnessed in my life.  Probably my all around favorite two set show, this one.

1997-12-28 (USAir Arena, Landover, MD)
It's funny how much your mood on a given day can impact your intake of the show.  This was a Sunday and I guess Maryland still had blue laws, meaning no stores sold alcohol on that day.  That was a mild bummer and we had nothing else handy to set it right.  This show never quite jived for me.  I remember the Scent of a Mule being cool, though.  At the time I think I was wishing that I was going on to the next three nights at MSG and didn't appreciate this show for what it was.

1998-08-07 (Walnut Creek Amphitheater, Raleigh, NC)
It rained hard before and/or during the beginning of this show.  Weird, unexplainable memories remain of climbing up (proverbial?) walls during Forbin's, and of falling to pieces during Limb By Limb and landing to reform.  It was a quite literal interpretation of the song.  This show inhabits some weird, surgary pockets of the brain and I'm not sure how it got into those places.  It remains a mystery.  Drove home listening to a Grateful Dead tape with a killer Dark Star on it.

1998-08-08 (Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD)
This show had a trippiness coming from the stage.  I don't know what was going on but Phish was playing differently this night.  Not necessarily better, just different.  Double pumping Wedge and NICU to kick things off gave it a Dead-like feel that suited the atmosphere of MPP well.  Sweet Jane was an odd way to end the first set.  Page looked certifiably crazy on the big screen while singing it.  Piper carried that second set on its back.  I've never seen a show that relied so heavily on this song in that placement.  Not all of the crowd was on board or riding this wave.  The Sabotage encore was a complete left turn from the mellow and minimal approach being offered this night.  I don't know how they did it.  Everyone on the lawn jumped about two feet forward the instant that song began.  I felt like a poser because I didn't even recognize Sabotage or know what it was.

1998-08-09 (Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Virginia Beach, VA)
It was a long, traffic-filled drive from Columbia, MD to Virginia Beach and we were tired out when we got to the VA Beach Amphitheater.  Two previous nights of Phish had taken its toll.  There was very little time to hang out in the lot before going into the show.  I think we had decent pavilion seats this night, but never found them, choosing to look for alternative seats, which we eventually had to vacate.  Frustrated, we ended up at the very back of the lawn, which allowed for the first truly relaxing moments of the day.  I didn't instantly recognize the Terrapin Station encore.  I wasn't expecting anything like that.  It was unbelievable and made it all worthwhile.  Afterward, walking back to the car there was complete silence all around.

1998-11-21 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
This show had  what seemed like a very long first set.  Just when you thought they were going to take a break, they would tack on another song, and then another song.  Having seen Sabotage a few months earlier at Merriweather, I was ready for it this time when it opened the 2nd set.  Other than that the 2nd set felt kinda lite, although Ha Ha Ha was fun to hear.  For some reason we didn't go to the night before this one at Hampton.

1999-07-08 (Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Virginia Beach, VA)
I really don't remember much about this show.  Looking at the setlist now, I do remember the Fee jam, and the Meatstick.  The Meatstick dance craze was sweeping the nation that summer.  I definitely didn't pick up on any Days Between jam during BOAF that might have happened.  The Syd Barrett Terrapin must have been a joking nod to the previous year's Terrapin Station encore at the same venue.

1999-07-09 (Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD)
I don't have too many vivid memories from this show either, other than knowing that I was really digging it.  The Farmhouse was especially well received by the crowd on the lawn.  I'm sure I was in approval of that What's The Use.  Two Meatsticks in two nights?  That was OK at the time.  The Sweet Emotion quote in Mike's Song was fun.  This was before glowsticks became a nuisance.  The glowsticks went well with the music during the Harry Hood encore on this night.

1999-07-23 (Polaris Amphitheater, Columbus, OH)
Conversely, I have lots of memories of this Polaris show.  My first and only time at this venue.  We drove up the day before.  It was a good 11 hour drive from where we were coming from.  Laura brought along her sister for her 1st and only Phish concert.  A non-fan, but we all had a great time and share lots of fond stories of this trip.  The reason we went to this show was because Columbus, OH was a good meetup place for some friends going to school in Indiana.  We met a guy named Star Man before the show who lived up to his name.  This seemed like the first time that possible drug abuse might be marring Phish's playing.  That Birds of a Feather seemed impacted in this way.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the whole show immensely.  The Fast Enough For You was especially poignant.  Third Meatstick in a row for me!  There was a big rainstorm during the Rocky Top encore and we all got soaked.

2000-09-25 (Sandstone Amphitheatre, Bonner Springs, KS)
Laura and I moved to Colorado at the end of the summer in 1999 so there was a 14-month gap in seeing Phish during this time.  When they finally did come around we were ready, but we also felt more like grownups than ever before.  It was kind of like a pre-marriage honeymoon.  We stayed at a quaint bed and breakfast in Bonner Springs and went to a winery before the show, which was a newish experience.  I remember drinking this nice Riesling directly out of the bottle and sharing it with a wook in the parking lot, who shared his orange flavored malt liqour back with me.  We were really close this show from the start - like 4th row - closer than the tickets convey.  Hmmmm.  The Beatles song Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey was a nice treat.  It was only the 2nd time they had played it and they haven't played it since.  It got really cold that night - in the 40's - hence the first set Tweezer.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Remembrances of 50 Phish Shows - Numbers 1 Through 10

Not my actual ticket
Yesterday I tried to think of how many Phish shows I had been to and counted exactly 50 of them.  I think that's correct.  It will soon be 51 because I am planning on going to see Phish at the end of this week.  In honor of those 50 times past, I thought it would be fun to briefly write about the first things that come to mind about each of these shows, if any!  Not so much about the music, but just the experience in general.

Here are shows one through ten.  

1994-06-30 (Classic Amphitheater, Richmond, VA)
My first show.  I went with my friend Mike who has been to a lot of shows with me over the years - most of the ones on this list.  We heard Phish being interviewed on a local rock radio station driving in.  They were talking about covering a classic album on Halloween and how fans could vote on the selection.  Was impressed by size of the "scene" in parking lot.  Remember thinking that Trey was a full-on rock star.  Sean Hoppe of the local jamband The Headstone Circus got pulled on stage during Harpua for Honky Tonk Women.  Made it home safely this night, somehow.

1994-10-27 (University Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA)
They played some Gamehendge stuff and I wasn't quite sure what Gamehendge was yet.  I wasn't too impressed by the show at the time, believe it or not.  On the ride back I stopped for gas but it was late and the gas station was closed.  My friend Porkchop reached out the door of the car and grabbed some flowers out of a flower pot at the gas station.  That was a big hit.  Ended up having enough gas to get home anyway.

1995-06-16 (Walnut Creek Amphitheater, Raleigh, NC)
This whole show was good but I remember the 2nd set being exceptionally good.  Like, really good.  Jammed out Runaway Jim into Free.  (Free was their new "Southern Rock" song).  Boyd Tinsley from Dave Matthews Band sat in on fiddle during You Enjoy Myself.

1995-06-17 (Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge, Bristow, VA)
Divided Sky opener. Do I recall that or not???  It's hazy.  People were hitting the ground before the show even started. Trey was in a really playful mood this night. Fishman had a coat rack on stage.  Three Little Birds encore with Dave Matthews was a big letdown.

1995-11-22 (USAir Arena, Landover, MD)
Great show.  Night before Thanksgiving.  I imagined some back story for Run Like An Antelope while that song was playing - like there was a history of a certain dance that fans did during that song.  I either imagined it in my head or heard the guy behind me telling his friend that that's what you did during that song or thought it was real and started doing the dance itself.  Also thought that the venue had turned on the house music during The Taste That Surrounds.  Was quite certain I peed my pants during Strange Design but when the set ended I realized that I hadn't.  Rode back to Richmond with my friend Eric and his then girlfriend.  Impromptu.  Not sure they wanted me in the car with them at that moment.  We stopped in a Subway for a sandwich and my sub fit together the way Africa and South America must have once fit together.  Like Pangea.

1995-11-25 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
Thanksgiving weekend.  Multiple Poor Hearts.  Kung, Mike's Song, Rotation Jam.  Didn't we call it "Keyboard Calvary" back then?  Crowd was lackluster where I was for the 2nd set.  Hampton hadn't quite gained legendary status at that point.  Got ride back to Richmond after the show and was dropped off at home alone in the big house we lived in on Grace Street in Richmond.  (We sure used to drive back from shows a lot back then, huh.)  Had to go down into the spooky basement for something that night and pretty sure I saw the reflection of a ghost in the glass door with my back to the basement steps.  Creeped me out, and I'm an atheist who doesn't believe in ghosts.

1995-12-31 (Madison Square Garden, New York, NY)
Probably the best show I ever saw.  First time in New York City.  My ears fell off while hanging out outside the venue beforehand.  I listened to conversations and sounds from the pavement for a while until the ears returned to my head.  MSG seemed swanky inside.  We left our original seats because the usher kept telling my friend Chris that he couldn't smoke a cigarette there.  Wound up somewhere high up in the arena.  There was a dog inside there who had been to like "9 or 10 shows".  No joke.  I was jealous because this was only my 7th show.  I danced next to and/or kinda in sync with some hippie chick for all 3 sets.  She gave me a hug outside later.  When the show ended I looked to a woman next to me and exclaimed "you might think it's over, but it ain't over!". I think I frightened her.  We rode the bus back from New York to Richmond immediately after the show.  Sat next to an old wise man who had oodles of sage advice, but I can't remember what any of it was.  Secular fate had placed him there.  Sleep wouldn't come so I wrote poems and watched an Andy Griffith marathon at our neighbor's house the next day.

1996-10-25 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
Long 10 month gap between seeing Phish.  Hampton is just 90 minutes down the road.  I knew about 20 people from VCU at this one and we were all pretty much together for the first half.  This show will always be remembered for The Naked Dude.  Some very young looking naked kid - like pre-puberty - was flung in the air from behind us during setbreak and landed directly next to me.  He hit his head hard as he landed backwards in the seat with his legs pointed up and muttered "This is a dream".  I said to him "No dude, it most certainly is not a dream".  We tried to talk some sense into him but there was no talking sense into this guy.  Too bad it wasn't a naked hippie chick. I was about to push him over the rail and let him fall to the floor when security came and begrudgingly took him away to a padded room.  Besides that I remember Kuroda doing lots of white lights and feeling kinda old already (I was 22 at the time).  Billy Breathes was toooooo slow.  After the show in the hotel room there were a bunch of people in and out, all over the floor.  The movie That Thing You Do had come out and we dedicated that song to a balloon that was magically hovering above the air conditioner.  Not a good way to impress girls, or was it?  Then we watched some cat litter infomercial all the way through.  Rusted Root might have been on late night TV that night and they were obviously hopelessly out of touch with what was going on...with their leather pants and all.  Snake was at this show.

1997-07-21 (Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Virginia Beach, VA)
My future wife's first show.  I was the Phish "expert" at the time and of course they proceeded to start off with 4 brand new, never before heard songs:  Ghost, Dogs Stole Things, Piper, Dirt.  That kind of put her and me on equal ground for the first portion of the show.  This was the early days of the internet and I wasn't online very much back then, but I figured these were some of the new songs they had debuted in Europe earlier that year.  We collectively saw The Man Mulcahy during that Character Zero first set closer.  The portion of the show with the saxophone guy (Leroi Moore) could have been put to better use, as in not having him out there at all.  A waste of precious time.  Sit-ins rarely work with Phish because too many allowances have to be made for the guests.  This was the type of show that left you hungry for more.

1997-11-21 (Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA)
11/21/97 grabs you from the first note and never lets go.  This was my first taste of that Fall '97 phunk and it seemed like Phish had really taken everything to a new level in just a few months.  If you didn't like this show you didn't like Phish.  Plain and simple.  It was a new era of playing, jamming, improvising.  A more mature, unexpected sound that was exactly what we wanted to hear, even if we didn't know it yet.  A seat had opened for Phish in the annals of music history and they pulled up a chair.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Portland Collection Volume 3 Now Available

A third volume in the Portland Collection series of tunebooks is now available.  Just like the previous two spiral-bound books, this collection contains over 300 tunes from the repertoire of the Pacific Northwest: traditional Irish, Appalachian and Québécois tunes, recently composed jigs and reels, and more.  Altogether, the three volumes in this series represent one of the most comprehensive modern collections of fiddle tunes.

What I like about these Portland Collection books is the variety of music that is included.  In addition to numbers that are smack dab in the middle of the Celtic and old-time traditions, respectively, they also feature the types of contra dance tunes that land somewhere in-between and are often overlooked in local jams and sessions.

For example, in addition to the keys of D, G and A, and "A-modal" and "E-modal", you can also find tunes played in F, E, Bb, Gminor...even F#minor!  It's fun to just go through the pages and randomly find tunes to play as an exercise in sight reading and discovery.  The only criticism I might have is that because these are written to be dance tunes, some of the more feral oldtime tunes that might otherwise be crooked can be squared off for the purposes of this book.

As always, the authors Susan Songer and Clyde Curley recommended that you find an audio recording of the tune to supplement the notation.  Ultimately you want to be able to play these them as you feel them and not be bound by someone else's transcriptions or chord suggestions, but this book provides a great reference point.

You can order a copy here:

Here's A List of the Tunes in The Portland Collection Volume 3:
A Jig
Aaron’s Key
Accordion Crimes
Acorn Stomp, Part 2
Across the Black River
Adirondack, The
Adriatic Bridge, The
Aimé Gagnon
An Titim Fada see Long Drop, The
Argo’s Reel
Asturian Way
Auld Fiddler, The
Bank of Ireland, The
Bank of Turf, The
Barter’s Hill
Battle of Waterloo, The
Beauties of the Ballroom
Bell Cow
Belle of Lexington, The
Bells of Dover
Berkeley Reel
Bert Murray see Auld Fiddler, The
Bibb County Hoedown
Bijoux, Reel
Billy in the Lowground
Bird in the Bush, The
Bird in the Tree, The see Bird in the Bush, The
Bitter Creek
Black Rock
Black Scoter, The
Bloom of Youth, The
Blue Bonnets Over the Border
Blue Earth Special, The
Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine
Bonhomme, Reel du
Bonnie Isabel Robertson
Boring the Leather
Bound to Have a Little Fun
Box Man, The
Boyne Water
Boys of Antrim, The
Boys of Malin, The
Boys of the Lough, The
Brendan McMahon’s
Broue, Reel de la
Brumley Brae
Buckle Up the Backstrap
Buffalo Girls
Calling Wood, The
Castle Aaaa, The
Cat Fish Jig
Cat in the Hopper
Cemetery Road
Champaign Jig Goes to Columbia, The
Cleveland Park
Clog de Pariseau
Cloud Nine
Colonel McBain
Come Under My Plaidie
Concert Reel, The
Cranberry Rock
Cripple Creek
Crock of Gold, The
Crook Brothers Tune
Cruinniu na mBad (Gathering of the Boats)
Cuckoo’s Nest, The
Cumberland Gap
Dailey’s Reel
Darkies’ Dream see Acorn Stomp, Part 2
Deer Walk
Denver Belle
Derrane’s see Hardiman’s Fancy
Deux Lisa, Le Reel des
Dilbert’s Jig
Divine Reel, The
Donegal Lass, The
Donnybrook Fair see Joys of My Life, The
Dowd’s #9
Drummond Castle
Dunmore Lasses, The
Eighth of January
Erik’s Reel
Evil Red Three
Exile of Erin, The
Faubourg, Reel du
February March
Fée des Dents, La
Fiddler’s Dream
Field in the Forest, The
Fine Times at Our House
Fly Fishing Reel, The
Flying Fox
Folklife Reel
Francine Desjardins see Hommage à Mes Amis Musiciens
Franco-American Reel
Fred Finn’s
Fremont Center
Funnel in the Tunesmith’s Truck, The
Gadeliderot, Le
Gallagher’s Frolics
Gallope de Francine Desjardins, La see Hommage à Mes Amis Musiciens
Gigue des Capuchons
Gigue des Montagnards
Gigue des Sucres
Gigue des Touristes see Quadrille de Beauharnois
Gigue du Plateau Mont-Royal, La
Gigue du Salon
Gillian’s Reel
Girl Who Broke My Heart, The
Goglu, Reel du
Goodbye Girls
Goodbye Girls, I’m Going to Boston
Greasy Coat
Green Fields of Woodford, The
Green Willis
Grondeuse, La see Marmotteuse, La
Happy Hollow
Hardiman’s Fancy
Hava Na(jig)ilah
Haymaker’s Hoedown
Heather McCarthy
Hector MacDonald’s Reel
Helena, Reel
Hens’ Feet and Carrots
Homeward Bound
Hommage à Arthur, Marcel et Phylias Pigeon
Hommage à Gilles Laprise
Hommage à Harmonica Jean
Hommage à Mes Amis Musiciens
Hommage à Montmarquette see Clog de Pariseau
Hommage à Ojnab
Hommage aux Pigeons see Hommage à Arthur, Marcel et Phylias Pigeon
Homme à Deux Femmes, L’
House in the Glen, The
Huffing Up Great Gable
Hull’s Reel
Humours of Ballinafauna, The
I Buried My Wife and Danced on Her Grave
I Get My Whiskey from Rockingham
Immigrants’ Dream see Acorn Stomp, Part 2
Indiens, Reel des
Iron Mountain
Jack Daniel’s Reel
Jackie Coleman’s
Janet Beaton Jig, The
Jigermyster, The
John Brain’s see Brumley Brae
Johnny’s Wedding see Colonel McBain
Joys of My Life, The
June Apple
Juniper Jig
Kentucky One-Step
Kiss the Bride
Kitchen Jig, The
Klezmer Kerry Polka #1
Knockdhu Reel, The
Lads of Leith, The see Beauties of the Ballroom
Lady of the Lake
Laington’s Reel
Laird o’ Cockpen see Cat in the Hopper
Lark on the Strand
Laurie in F
Lennon’s No. 4
Life is All Chequered see Come Under My Plaidie
Little Daisy
Live Oak
Liza Rose
Lizzy in the Lowground
Log Cabin, The
Long Drop, The (An Titim Fada)
Longford Collector, The
Lord Mayo
Louis Riel
Love Shack, Reel du
Maghera Mountain
Magnolia One-Step
Maid in the Meadow, The
Marche de Queteux Pomerleau
Marche des Elèves, La
Marmotteuse, La
Martin Reilly’s see Martin Rilly’s
Martin Rilly’s
Mary Devlin’s
McDuggle’s Reel
Ménage à Quatre: Bourée No. 3
Menteries, Le Reel des
Merryn’s Reel
Miller’s Reel
Miss Barker’s
Miss MacPherson Grant’s Jig—of Ballindalloch
Miss Thornton’s
Molly’s Graduation
Moon Behind the Hill
Moorit Lamb
Morin Farm Jig, The
Mortgage Burn,The
Mouse in the Kitchen
Mrs. Norman MacKeigan
Mrs. O’Sullivan’s
Multnomah Falls
Munster Bacon
Munster Hop, The
My Little Dony see Oh, My Little Darlin’
New Fiddle, The
New Money
New Mown Meadows, The
Ní Felis Gratis
Nine Points of Roguery
Nord, Reel du
North River Fox, The
Obama’s March to the White House
Oddville Cupola
Oh, My Little Darlin’
Ol’ Bob
Old Chattanooga see Chattanooga
Old Horse and Buggy
Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket, The
Old Yeller Dog Come Trottin’ Through the Meetinghouse
On the Danforth
Orage du Québec, L’
Out with the Boys
Paddy Fahey’s Reel No. 3
Paddy on the Turnpike
Parry Sound Reel, The
Party Tune, The
Peacock Rag
Phone Call, The
Pipe on the Hob, The
Pipe Slang, The
Plowman’s Folly
Pont de l’Etang, Le Reel du
Portland Gypsy Reel, The
Pottinger’s Reel
Première Partie de Quadrille
Pride of Cluinte, The
Printemps, Le
Puppeteer, The
Quadrille de Beauharnois
Quadrille des Ancêtres Figure 2
Quadrille Montcalm
Racine le Beau
Ray’s Classic
Red Boots, The
Red Prairie Dawn
Reel à Répondre see Répondre, Reel à
Reel de la Broue see Broue, Reel de la
Reel de la Rue de Gaspé see Rue de Gaspé, Reel de la
Reel de Rivière-du-Loup see Rivière-du-Loup, Le Reel de
Reel de Saint-Etienne see Saint-Etienne, Reel de
Reel de Valleyfield see Valleyfield, Reel de
Reel des Deux Lisa, Le see Deux Lisa, Le Reel des
Reel des Indiens see Indiens, Reel des
Reel des Menteries, Le see Menteries, Le Reel des
Reel du Bonhomme see Bonhomme, Reel du
Reel du Faubourg see Faubourg, Reel du
Reel du Goglu see Goglu, Reel du
Reel du Love Shack see Love Shack, Reel du
Reel du Nord see Nord, Reel du
Reel du Pont de l’Etang, Le see Pont de l’Etang, Le Reel du
Reel Helena see Helena, Reel
Reel of Rio, The see Rio, The Reel of
Reel Ti-Bé see Ti-Bé, Reel
Repeal the Poll Tax
Répondre, Reel à
Riding on a Load of Hay
Riff City
Rio, The Reel of
River Bend, The
Rivière-du-Loup, Le Reel de
Road from the South, The
Road to Errogie, The
Road to Lisdoonvarna, The
Road to Rio, The see Rio, the Reel of
Robe de Mariée, La
Rockingham Cindy
Rod ta Houll, Da
Room 211
Rue de Gaspé, Reel de la
Safe Harbor
Sail Away Ladies
Saint-Etienne, Reel de
Saint-Germain, 6/8
Sally Was a Poor Girl
Salt Creek see Salt River
Salt River
Salty River Reel
Seamus Cooley’s
Seán Frank see Colonel McBain
Seanamhac Tube Station
Seeking Turf
Seize the Day
Shakin’ Down the Acorns
Shaking Off the Acorns see Shakin’ Down the Acorns
Sheepskin and Beeswax
Sherburn’s Breakdown
Simple Tune
Single Man, The see Girl Who Broke My Heart, The
6/8 Saint-Germain see Saint-Germain, 6/8
Sleeping Lulu
Sleepy-Eyed John
Slippery Kate
Soirée Chez Alcide
Sparkle of Starlight
Sporting Paddy
Step Around Johnny
Such a Boychik!
Sugar Hill
Surveyor’s Reel
Susanbirds of Wendell, The
Swords into Ploughshares
Taggart’s Reel #3
Taking Care of Mom
Tatter Jack Walsh
Terrebonne Depot
Terwilliger Tempo, The
Ti-Bé, Reel
Tongadale Reel, The
Torn Jacket, The
Tracy’s Turn
Troll Soup
Trombone Rag
Turlute à Lisan Hubert, La
Uncle Bob’s Boogie
Union Street Session
Up Downey
Up South
Up the Steep Pitch
Valleyfield, Reel de
Wagon Wheel
Watermill, The
Weighing Anchor
Whelan’s Old Sow
White Buffalo
Willie Hunter’s see Ray’s Classic
Willie Mcguire’s see Auld Fiddler, The
Windy Gap see Tuttle’s
Winter at Pemaquid Light
With Ourselves
Woodridge Breakdown
Zinnia’s Favorite

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Phish Type II Jamming

The majority of the music Phish plays is improvised in some way or another. Much of that improvisation follows the standards set by jazz and rock n’ roll where the soloists improvise within the chord changes and/or structure of the song of the moment. However, Phish will sometimes takes things a step farther - into uncharted waters - in what is called Type II jamming.
Essentially, a Type II jam is an improvisation that departs from the structure of the song from which it sprang. In Phish’s case this usually means that a new impromptu structure (keys, modes, rhythm, tempo, timing) is created along the way. This is not to be confused with “free jazz” or what the Grateful Dead called “Space” - music that is seemingly devoid of focus or a destination.

No, unlike free jazz or Space, you can isolate virtually any segment of a Phish Type II jam and, although you may not be able to identify which “song” it is, the music will still resemble a composition, albeit a spontaneously composed one. A Type II jam does not have to come out of a song itself, but Phish usually uses established songs as springboards for this type of exploration, and virtually any song in their repertoire has this potential.

Type II jamming is not exclusive to Phish, but they are certainly the best at it. For many fans it is that sense of the unknown – the risk/reward potential of this type of experimentation – that keeps them coming back for more. Most Phish shows will have at least one instance of Type II jamming where a listener might forget what song it is, but the great shows find a way to return to this undisclosed location again and again.

If Phish can turn this on or off like a faucet – and one tends to think they can – then the question becomes why are they so selective about when to do this? Do they not want it become formulaic or forced? By keeping the element of surprise intact / that feeling of suspense / that “anything can happen” attitude, then I suppose it makes it all the more special when they construct spontaneous masterpieces like the Riverport Gin, the Worcester Jim, the Nassau Roses Are Free or the Tahoe Tweezer.

The time has come for a group of talented improvisers who have studied the way Phish orchestrates their off-the-cuff compositions to focus exclusively on their own type of Type II jamming. Cut to the chase.  start there...get there...finish there.  Or would that be too much of a good thing?