Everything is Green and Submarine

meddle

During the second set of Sunday night’s stellar show in Hampton (10/20/13), which I wrote about here, my wife turned to me as we basked in the dreamy glow of Kuroda’s lights during the “Tweezer” jam and said “it sounds really Pink Floyd-y.” This wasn’t the first time she’d said so that weekend — she’d described the interstitial space between “Ghost” and “Down With Disease” in the same terms. It wasn’t just the fact that it was spacey psychedelia, it was a certain kind of spaceyness.

Usually when Phish turns to a spacier segment of their jams, they are focusing on timbre, creating washes of music that are intended to sound a particular way. It’s the combination of airy keyboards, lots of effects, often lots of cymbals, and usually rolled chords or arpeggios. For instance, one of my favorite spacey jams comes from the summer of 2003, which was a great time for effervescent psychedelic playing from the band, in the middle of what I consider the jam of the year, the 7/13/03 Gorge “Seven Below.”

Here Trey continues a loop of two notes that he’d set up, Page has a few drone chords going and adds in extra synthesized sounds here and there, Mike is droning, Fishman comes back with a slow beat with lots of cymbal, and when Trey starts playing melodically, it’s static. There’s no direction to his playing, he’s not really “jamming” or “soloing” in the way we often use the term, it’s more like he’s playing multiple notes as part of the tableau of sound. That those notes are presented melodically doesn’t really make it a melody, if that makes any sense.

I don’t think of this as particularly sounding like any other band, it seems unique to Phish’s aesthetic, especially from that summer, that tour. You can hear it all over the IT jams, especially the glacial move from “Waves”->”Bowie” on Day 1 (8/2/03), and of course it’s the basic sound of the Tower Jam.

But Sunday night in Hampton, and indeed ever since Tahoe, Phish’s spacey moments have had a lot more structure, a lot more rhythmic drive. The band hasn’t been content to just create washes of sound and noise to create space, they’ve been making a more conscious effort to play spacey jams. All the elements of a normal jam segment are still there: guitar riffs, steady drumbeat with clear accents, a bass line, sometimes even a chord progression. But they’re combined with the ambient, psychedelic timbre, those synths and warm, fuzzy sounds, alongside ample effects pedals. One reason this has happened is that I think Page has become much more comfortable with his rig, especially with some of the previously less-used pieces, and Mike has also become much more comfortable playing with electronics in his pedal setup (and of course he’s got that killer pedal with the foot keyboard, you know the one, for that “brown note” effect in “Tweeprise”).

And so you get a space jam with all the colors of ambient jams from years past, but with drive, purpose, direction, and more clarity than we’re used to. You get this jam from the Hampton “Tweezer”:

It grows from that same place of total a-everything: arhythm, amelody, etc. But then it turns into a legitimate jam segment, with a two-chord progression, and a distinct sound.

Basically, it reminds me a lot of this:

That’s part of the intro to Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” the crowning jewel from their 1971 LP Meddle. But there were other parts of Sunday’s show that reminded me equally of other parts of that album. Take, for example, this meaty and noisy chunk of the “Golden Age” jam:

The keys and guitar are both pulsating, Fish is erratically hitting anything in his way, and the sound seems to come back into the texture in large waves. I was shocked when it was happening because it was so good and so daring, and even more shocked when I listened back and realized how much it recalled Floyd’s “One of These Days” for me:

So now I’ll make the irrational jump to conclusions: I’m making the case that this year’s Halloween album will be Pink Floyd’s Meddle from 1971.

pinkFloyd

Let’s start off by admitting that my evidence here is FAR from scholarly and sound, it’s merely a wild guess and shot in the dark, as are pretty much every guess at what Phish is going to cover tonight. Still, here’s my logic. Phish has said that they always feel like their Halloween album must be so obvious because it’s reflected in their playing leading up to the show. In retrospect, I’m not sure there’s anything particularly Little Feat-esque about the Fall 2010 tour, in that Phish generally sounds pretty Little Feat-esque these days (especially on laid back funky tunes like “Wolfman’s,” “Ocelot,” even “Alaska”). But especially the music that came after their 1996 Halloween costume sounded like it had been washed in Remain in Light, and as I’ve written elsewhere, part of the reason Fall 1995 was such a great time for Phish is that playing Quadrophenia forced the band to tighten and reign in their unchecked, wild experimentation from the previous summer. 

Phish sounds like they’ve been practicing, listening to, and internalizing Pink Floyd these days. And it’s not just because two jams from Hampton bear an uncanny resemblance to tracks from Meddle. It’s the overall style of jams, with a funky character that’s still laden with psychedelia, that leads me to think this. Remember, Pink Floyd in the 70s was pretty funky, even though we don’t always think of them that way. Consider “Have A Cigar,” “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” “Pigs (Three Little Ones),” or this funk jam after the lyrics in “Echoes”:

There are other reasons, of course, why this album would be great for Phish. “One of These Days” is a driving, menacing tune, which Gordon would absolutely slay. More so than other albums they’ve played, Meddle would lead itself to extended improv. Certainly during parts of almost every song (except maybe “Seamus” and “San Tropez”) there could be moments to stretch things out far beyond where Floyd took them. The album is only 46 minutes long, so they’d need to stretch it out a bit to fit it into a full set.

The album wouldn’t require any guests, since Floyd has the same instrumentation as Phish. Some of you may be griping “but they already did Floyd, remember?” Of course they played all of “Dark Side of the Moon,” but it wasn’t on Halloween, it wasn’t rehearsed. It was a beautiful idea that came together at the last minute and they pulled it off pretty well, but it’s not without serious problems (I mean, they learned it in an afternoon!). Meddle, on the other hand, would be polished, practiced for weeks, listened to for longer, thought about. In short, it will have become ingrained into Phish. Indeed, I think it already has.

“Fearless” would be a great song for Trey to sing, perhaps with acoustic guitar, and is probably Floyd’s best verse-chorus pop/rock song , “Pillow of Winds” could get stretched out wonderfully, I can practically already hear Mike singing “San Tropez” and Fishman singing “Seamus.” And “Echoes.” Oh, “Echoes.”

There probably isn’t a Phish fan alive who also loves Pink Floyd that hasn’t daydreamed about Phish covering “Echoes” at one point or another. Ever since I discovered the song (which was after I started listening to Phish), I’ve had a fantasy of hearing that “ping” at a show. As a composition, “Echoes” actually mirrors how Phish is jamming now. They start with a song structure, then it moves into funk, then space (deep space), then it gradually builds back up with a huge peak. Each of these sections could get lengthened: Floyd’s album version is 23 minutes, Phish could turn this into 35 minutes if they wanted, especially by jamming out the part after the lyrical return (the album version sort of just fades away…).

So that’s my case for Meddle. Granted, after the Reading show, and after reading a post from the guy who called the Little Feat album in 2010, I’m more inclined to believe the current rumor of the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat A Peach, which would be an entirely different beast altogether. Parts of the Reading “Down With Disease” smelled strongly of “Mountain Jam,” and Kenwood Dennard would be the perfect steady Butch Trucks to Fishman’s wild, jazzy Jaimoe. We’d have to deal with the fact that every song on the album, even the ones recorded without Duane Allman, feature slide guitar, something Trey has never utilized. But Phish used to cover “Whipping Post” all the time, and they slayed it without a slide. Plus, they could always ask one of their friends, like Seth Yacovone, or maybe one of the guys who actually plays Duane’s parts in the Allman Brothers Band (Warren Haynes or Derek Trucks) to join them. The more logical ABB choice, for me, would be Brothers and Sisters, mainly because it features Chuck Leavell on the piano as a much more prominent role in the band, and only one guitar throughout. Page would kill Chuck’s solo on “Jessica.”

But that’s the beauty of this Halloween gag. Even in this age where information gets leaked and everyone knows everything, we’re still awake at 1am the night before Halloween, wondering what we’re gonna get.

 

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~ by Jake on October 31, 2013.

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