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Keep the Balance and Participate: Phish's 'Stash'(1992-???)

Updated on August 23, 2012

Phish in ther Favorite State of Mind: Vermont


The Birth of a Song

When Tom Marshall (lyricist) and Trey Anastasio (composer) created their humble masterpiece 'Stash', I don't really know what they thought they were really getting into, but they were in it for the ride. It's debut on the album A Picture of Nectar in 1992 had fans head's spinning from the beginning. The band (Trey Anastasio on electric guitar, Mike Gordon on bass, Page Mc Connell on keyboards, and Jon Fishman on drums) induced quite a mixture of feelings in audiences all around the world. And this was just from a small "jam band" from Burlington, Vermont who never promoted themselves except through live performances.

Contrary to one might think, the song is not all about a "spaced-out jam" leading to a yet another crescendo. The song's structure is very jazz-like and basis and is progressively structured like the great artists of old--everyone from Dave Brubeck to the textures of John Coltrane, and so on. There are no guitar chords played until the very end before its jam. Page adds touches of elan here and there on piano, Mike's bass is very deep and powerful, and Jon juggles his hands throughout, even in the gentle pauses where the audience loves to clap along. It is if they are running feverishly from or to something in whole. Tom Marshall's lyrics possibly explain why.

The songs words are full of odd and verging on the verbose images. They are very confusing, yet fluent. Perhaps that was Marshall's intention. Trey matches the lyrics perfectly with his guitar licks and there is a sense of momentum being built up, not a crescendo but a harriedness, as if one is desperately looking for something that is just out of reach. Was this all their intention when they wrote "Stash"? We'll never know. But there's something beautiful in that.

"Live" Photo of Phish in Concert


Becoming "One" with a Song

When the lights come up, and the smoke drifts, and the balls fly one can't help but lose oneself in something that is completely ethereal--that is, if one doesn't have a sense of humor about oneself. And the taking of psychedelics is not the point here, and not necessary. The band lays down a path for Trey to explore his genius (which in time has become a road for all stage members)--and that is "losing himself to the energy" all around him (as he has said in repeatedly in Rolling Stone magazine). This includes the audience. A chi exudes itself from all of us that all of we'll never understand. And that is why Trey says in the song 'Lizards', "Let go." It all makes for one remarkable experiences for all the senses, for all the fans, and for everything that is (or isn't) alive. One might say that it is just being oneself, and that's a wonderful way to be. So let it all out and feel the groove. 'Stash' has it 'a plenty.

The Progression of a Song Played "Live"

The important thing while listening to music over the years is not how to hear or feel how a song has lost some of its tempo, thickness, or vibrancy (or has gained), but how well the band and audience communicate with each other. Some shows can be darn right evil, some blissful, some so-so. But one's willingness to come to a show and interact is the key. There is a subtle balance to them all and that only happens when people continue to love the bands and their music, and to see them live! Jimi Hendrix, without a doubt the most talented electric guitarist that ever lived, of course never made it past 27 years old. He would have mellowed with time perhaps, maybe gained a little wisdom of music theory, how to communicate with his trio better, and had a better life without so many philistines clinging to him. But I think he would have enjoyed, as others, how he matured as a musician and helped maintain the ever so precarious balance in musical life. All of the arts need nutrition.

The Phishbow: We End at the Beginning



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