How Trey Anastasio Brought Jerry Garcia’s Influence on Tour with Phish This Summer

Trey Anastasio, Guitar World'sJanuary 2016 cover star, couldn’t wait to show off his rejiggered stage rig to Guitar World's Alan Paul.

To be more specific, the Beigel Sound Tru-Tron 3X Envelope Filter had Anastasio’s eyes twinkling in full force.

As Paul discusses in the new issue, Anastasio’s gig fronting the Fare Thee Well (GD50) shows in Santa Clara, California, and Chicago is what led the guitarist to rethink his stage rig for the first time since 1986. The exploration stuck with him as he glided from Dead tour to Phish tour.

Right out of the gate, discerning Phish fans noticed the Tru-Tron envelope filter's funky new vintage-style vibe at the band’s tour opener in Bend, Oregon, on two new songs that were debuted. It’s the signature sound of 1970s-era Grateful Dead funk, which extended into Phish’s repertoire, old and new, as detailed by Live Music Daily.

In terms of the new material, the Tru-Tron can be heard in “No Men in No Men’s Land” and “Blaze On,” the latter of which bears a resemblance to the Dead’s “Touch of Grey,” lyrically speaking. The new material was reportedly written during sessions with Anastasio’s longtime writing partner, Tom Marshall, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks in early 2015.

The timing is notable because it took place after Phil Lesh wrote to Anastasio asking him to join the Dead for the Fare Thee Well shows. In short, Anastasio was already researching and rehearsing the Dead material when the new Phish songs were written.

When I asked Phish fans—via Twitter—for examples of where Jerry Garcia's playing style was clearly influencing Anastasio during Phish's 2015 summer tour, several responses rolled in. There's the 13-minute mark in Shoreline Amphitheatre’s “Light,” which is distinctively “I Know You Rider”; 5:55 to 6:20 in “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” performed at Philadelphia’s the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, reportedly resembles “Playing in the Band.”

Of course, every fan and every ear is different. According to musicologist Jake Cohen, the GD50 influence on Anastasio is much less tangible; he views three more global effects that are indicative of the influence beyond mere isolated moments. These include listening to the music that inspired Garcia, working on his own playing fundamentals and, from a technical perspective, learning focusing on melodic mid-tempo solos, a staple of the Dead's catalog.

“One of the things Jerry was best at was playing a solo on a song that followed the melody but deviated just where it needed to, and Trey had to learn that approach,” Cohen explained in an email. “Trey's work practicing for solos on tunes like ‘Wharf Rat,’ ‘Row Jimmy,’ ‘Loser,’ ‘Crazy Fingers,’ ‘Althea’ and other medium-tempo tunes directly influenced the way he played [Phish] songs like ‘Roggae,’ ‘Winterqueen,’ ‘Wingsuit,’ ‘Dirt,’ ‘Reba’ jam and plenty of other moments in jams throughout the summer.”

Read the full Anastasio interview in the January 2016 issue of Guitar World,which is available now.

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