The ‘Horrible, Non-Grooving’ Jam That Made Phish Break Its No-Analyzing Rule

“We all came off stage and we had just played this horrible, non-grooving version of ‘Gotta Jibboo.’”

By Team JamBase Feb 28, 2024 12:24 pm PST

It’s part of Phish lore, it is quoted in The Phish Book, if you have read a lot about the band over the years you will know that in the late 90’s, Phish instituted a “no-analyzing” rule for themselves at set break and after the show.

Speaking in Richard Gehr’s The Phish Book, guitarist Trey Anastasio explained:

“The areas of risk and safety switched places between ‘96 and ‘97. One thing we did different is we instituted a new no-analyzing rule for the fall tour up through New Year’s Eve. We decided we wouldn’t talk about what occurred onstage between sets or after the show, and we didn’t. As soon as we got offstage, that was it. Whatever happened, happened, and on to the next thing. It felt incredibly liberating to me.”

Keyboardist Page McConnell expanded:

“We didn’t go on tour planning not to analyze it. It was something we came up with the second night, in Salt Lake City. Somebody said, as a joke, ‘God, wouldn’t it be amazing if we went through a show without analyzing between sets?’ And as the tour went on, somebody would start to say something between sets about how we played, and the other three of us would say, ‘Are you analyzing? No analyzing!’ It built and built. The one show we actually did sort of analyze was not the best show of the tour — and I’m not going to tell you what it was.”
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But like every rule, there are exceptions: Fast forward three or so years and the band was doing press for the upcoming release of their album Farmhouse and Trey spoke with Jefferson Waful for jambands.com. An exchange in that 2000 interview touched on the state of the no-analyzing rule.

Jefferson Waful: I want to shift gears just a little bit and concentrate a little more on the live setting. I know that at the end of ‘96 you implemented the no-analyzing rule concerning your live shows. How strictly do you adhere to that? Is there really no analyzing at all?

Trey Anastasio: No, it’s not as strict anymore. Last tour it was kind of like, we still weren’t doing a lot of analyzing. You know, we were just having a great time backstage, but when it needed to come up, it did. For instance, that song, “Gotta Jibboo,” we were learning someone else’s groove. So, that’s kind of a hard thing for bass players and drummers to do if it’s not their natural feel and it just wasn’t working in the beginning. We were really unhappy with it.

I remember we played one show right before the last Hampton show [Providence Civic Center, December 13, 1999]. We all came off stage and we had just played this horrible, non-grooving version of “Gotta Jibboo” and everyone was steaming around the band room, like gritting their teeth (laughs). Everybody wanted to say something, but we were all just kind of storming around, honoring the no-analyzing rule.

Finally, there was just an outburst and everybody started yelling at the same time, “What the fuck,” you know? (laughs). And, lo and behold, by talking about it, we figured out what was wrong. Fish wasn’t “swinging the ride.” That’s basically it. He was playing the ride straight. It’s a swung feel, you know? Imagine if you were playing the drums. Even though the kick drum is in the same place in the pattern, if you’re right handed, it’s like (Trey sings the melody).

It’s basically the simplest swung versus straight and he had been playing it straight, but it wasn’t feeling right and his solution had been to kind of play it louder, you know? He was trying harder, which doesn’t work either (laughs). As soon as he said that, the next time we played it was in Hampton, it was the first time it was really great and that was right before we went into the studio. Had we not analyzed it, it may not have ended up on the album.

Want to hear this alleged lack of swinging the ride? Listen below:

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While the band does not sit for many interviews in the current era, it did seem like the no-analyzing rule was alive and well back in October 2016 when they spoke with Patrick Doyle for Rolling Stone surrounding the release of their album Big Boat. Here’s Doyle’s and the band’s analysis of the no-analyze rule at the time:

But perhaps the most important rule of Phish these days is the no-analyze rule: Bandmates are not allowed to comment on one another’s playing. The rule dates back to the late 1990s, when, several years into their run as an arena band, they realized they were spending their 15-minute breaks between sets criticizing one another.

“We’d basically point out the things that we thought weren’t so good,” says drummer Jon Fishman. “And everybody would be a little bit down on themselves, and then we’d spend the first three or four songs of the second set being really self-conscious.”

The no-analyze rule was so successful that it was sometimes taken to extremes: Fishman remembers raving about a particular song, but being quieted by McConnell.

“I was like, ‘But it’s a positive thing!’” Fishman says. “Page said, ‘Yes, but by virtue of you saying something positive, I could imply that there were other things you didn’t like as much’ …

During one of the shows in their end-of-tour run in Colorado, “there were some bumps in the road,” says Anastasio. While playing their funk rave-up “Moma Dance,” the rhythm section (Fishman and Gordon) was totally out of sync. At one point, Anastasio couldn’t help himself, and he spoke up, telling Fishman to look not at him but at Gordon.

“[Trey] was implying we were not connected,” says Gordon, who was stung a little bit initially. “But he was right. I do want to connect with Fish. I don’t mind reminders about that.”

As they walked offstage, the bandmates stopped; there was an awkward pause. Then there were shrugs. Anastasio smiles as he thinks about it: “Nobody said a word.”

Phish next plays for four nights at The Sphere in Las Vegas followed by their just-announced 26-date Summer Tour. Only the four people in the band room truly know just how much analysis is or is not allowed these days.

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[Compiled by Team JamBase.]

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