October 30, 2008

Page McConnell's Senior Thesis Surfaces on the Internet

Trey Anastasio wrote a 1987 senior thesis at Goddard College called "The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday," a nine-song suite telling the story of a retired, middle-aged Army colonel named Forbin who tries to thwart the evil King Wilson and steal the Helping Friendly Book, freeing the Lizards and restoring order to Gamehendge. But along the way ...

Did you know that Page McConnell, who also majored in music at Goddard and was a student there before Trey, Mike and Fishman (Page was given $50/person for recruiting the rest of the band to transfer from the University of Vermont), wrote his own senior thesis called "The Art of Improvisation."

This document is like a Holy Grail of Phish memorabilia, in some ways. Lucky for Phish-heads everywhere, Shelly Culbertson, who at one time was a household name among Phans, posted Page's senior thesis to rec.music.phish back in 1992 with his consent, but it was eventually buried deep in the archives for years.

I think that those who had Internet connections and were already posting to rec.music.phish back in the early 1990s knew at one time that "The Art of Improvisation" existed online. Unfortunately, time forgot about Page's thesis once Rosemary's Digest stopped publishing in 1997 and websites other than Phish.net, like SugarMegs Audio at Terrabyte Station, started coming online, along with more and more resources devoted to Phish that grabbed our attention.

Luckily, some dude named Eric Christopher, according to a post at the Phish.net, recently uncovered and dusted off Shelly's posting of Page's college thesis, and now I am happy to be able to share this with y'all.

Below is the complete original post made by Shelly Culbertson to rec.music.phish in 1992, which includes the full text of "The Art of Improvisation."

Enjoy! And Happy Halloween.


The following is a copy of Page's senior study from Goddard College,
which he has kindly made available to readers of the net. Please
note that it was written almost five years ago.

If you have any comments or thoughts about the paper, please post
them (or mail them to me) -- I'm sure Page would love to hear them!



Submitted in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of
Bachelor of Arts at Goddard College

Page McConnell
December 19, 1987

At the age of four I began taking piano lessons. For the next
twelve years I studied with four different teachers. They
attempted to teach me to read music, a skill I never fully
developed. My dyslexic tendencies made the process very difficult
and a good ear made it easier for me to play by ear. In my early
years of lessons I had no problem playing the pieces that were
assigned to me as long as I had heard my piano teachers play them
for me. As the level of difficulty in the pieces I was playing
increased, I was forced to learn how to read. I struggled with the
process and didn't entirely enjoy it, though the ones that I did
learn stretched my technical abilities. The most difficult piece
that I learned was Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag."

During my ninth grade year I stopped taking piano lessons. It
was during this next stage of my playing that I began to really
enjoy playing. Obviously this was because I was playing for
myself, not for my piano teachers or parents. I spent much of the
next year listening to rock albums, playing what I heard, and
taking my improvisation more seriously. Often I was just
improvising the voicings to the songs that I was playing, but my
ability to do blues improvisation increased also. My first
introduction to the blues was a book I received in first grade
called Jazz and Blues for Beginners. This book introduced me to
blues progressions. These are progressions that alternate between
the I7 and the IV7 chord and generally end with a V7-IV7-I7
progression. Both rock and jazz find their roots in the blues, and
in fact rock has never really left. The majority of rock songs
written are a variation on the I7-IV7-V7 progression. Many do not
vary at all.

I suppose that my main motivating factor for practicing during
my high school years (other than the fact that I enjoyed it) was
that I had some opportunity to perform. These opportunities
generally arose at parties where there would be a piano and I would
play. I was at the time also involved with a jazz band. The group
was founded in fifth grade and I started playing with them in
seventh grade. By ninth grade we had a small repertoire of
jazz/pop tunes ranging from Herb Alpert's "Taste of Honey" to Van
Morrison's "Moondance" to Horace Silver's "Song for my Father." I
had begun to experiment with playing over chord changes, though I
didn't really understand what I was doing. I used my limited
knowledge of blues in these situations, but I usually didn't solo.
What I did understand and enjoy was learning how to communicate
with other musicians. The band was not extremely dedicated. We
practiced very little and had only a handful of gigs during the
years we played together. My soloing may have left a lot to be
desired but I did learn how to comp, to play behind someone else's

Around tenth grade I found a teacher who was going to teach me
"Jazz Improv." His name is Doug Frueler and he has some
interesting ideas concerning improvisation. He had developed a
theory that there weren't 7 modes as taught in Baroque theory, but
that there were 72 modes. At the time I wasn't familiar with modes
at all, and even now I'm not sure how he arrived at the number 72;
however I did learn some important lessons from him. I learned
that there is no right or wrong way to approach improvising and
that as long as you really put yourself into it, it can work. Doug
and his method are perfect examples of this. I also learned some
valuable tools through exercises that we did, primarily the tool of
economy. Doug would have me do exercises where I would have to
form melodies, or play over blues progressions using only three or
four notes. I found that this approach could work and that I
could create interesting melodies with only a few notes.

Economy is a trait that I try to keep prevalent in my
improvising today. Keeping a melody simple, particularly in the
beginning of a solo, gives the performer (as well as the other
musicians and the audience) something to grasp onto, a starting
point from which to travel. Economy is an element of jazz that is
often attributed to Count Basie. As a pianist and a band leader,
he grew out of the Fats Waller tradition. "Fats had the strongest
left hand in traditional jazz -- a left hand which could replace
not only a rhythm section but a whole band... Today, one can
sometimes hear in the piano solos Basie plays with his band that he
comes from Fats Waller. He plays a kind of "economized" Fats: an
ingeniously abstract structure of Waller music in which only the
cornerstones remain -- but they stand for everything else. Basie
became one of the most economical pianists in jazz history, and the
way he manages to create tension between often widely spaced notes
is incomparable." 1

Economy is a trait I admire in my influences. Bill Evans,
probably my most important jazz piano influence, plays an entirely
different style than Basie yet he incorporates economy:

"He has worked unceasingly to arrive at a clearer, less cluttered
jazz conception,, one with no false starts, no side issues, no
merely showy licks. The logic with which one phrase follows
another is impeccable. Though he sometimes uses locked-hands
chords or moving left-hand figures, a typical Evans solo consists
almost entirely of a single line in the right hand (occasionally
incorporating some thirds) supported by sustained voicings in the
left hand that have been almost brutally pared down until
all that remains is the naked skeleton of
jazz harmony."2

After my lessons with Doug, which lasted only a few months,
I went through a period of relative musical stagnation. I
practiced for my own enjoyment, but I wasn't playing with other
musicians on any kind of regular basis, and my opportunities for
performance were practically non-existent. For the next four years
(one year at home, one year at boarding school, and two years at
S.M.U. in Dallas) my practice schedule was very undisciplined
though I did try to play every couple of days. While at S.M.U., I
majored in music for one semester and learned a lot about a music
education at a traditional institution. There seemed to be two
goals in that educational system: one was to train people to
become concert musicians; the other was to teach the students that
weren't good enough to become concert musicians to be able to teach
the next generation exactly the same thing. At the time I didn't
see how their approach to music applied to my approach to music.
Much of the theory they taught I thought of as common sense. I did
learn modal theory, which proved useful in my early days with Phish
(the band I currently play with) when most of our jamming was done
over modal progression.

At the end of my S.M.U. career (just weeks before I started
Goddard) I took a course called "Imagination, Awareness and Ideas."
The course dealt with promoting creativity, left-right brain
exercises, alpha states, imagination, awareness and ideas. It is
the most important course I've ever taken. I learned how to (or
perhaps how not to) deal with creative blocks.

I took my newly learned insights and came to Goddard in the
Fall of '84. I finally felt that I was in a situation where my
education would be equated with what I was learning. Upon arriving
at Goddard I began to play the piano considerably more than I ever
had before, usually at least two hours a day. Within weeks I began
having musical experiences and feelings that I had never had
before. The feelings could either be described as detaching myself
from the conscious process of playing the piano, or totally
attaching myself, becoming one with the instrument. I became able
to hear music in my head and simultaneously be playing it. The
breakthrough was a result of my ear training, the attitude I had
developed in Imagination, Awareness and Ideas, and the discipline
of practicing every day. The process I am describing is similar to
a process described in Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery
when he tells of a swordsman that is learning to master his art:

"The pupil must develop a new sense or, more accurately, a new
alertness of all his senses, which will enable him to avoid
dangerous thrusts as though he could feel them coming. Once he
has mastered this art of evasion, he no longer needs to watch
undivided attention the movements of his opponents, or even of
several opponents at once. Rather, he sees and feels what is going
to happen, and at the sane moment he has already avoided its effect
without there being "A hair's breadth" between perceiving and
avoiding. This, then, is what counts: a lightening reaction which
has no further need of conscious observation. In this respect at
least the pupil makes himself independent of all conscious purpose,
and this is a great gain."3

This book has proven to be the most valuable piece of literature I
have ever read in terms of helping me helping me gain an
understanding of discipline and helping me define myself as an

I spent that first year (Fall '84, Spring '85) practicing,
recording with the school's 4-track, and playing in a number of
musical situations. I played with three bands., but the most
rewarding musical situation, and the only real musical
communication I experienced was with an acoustic guitar player
named Thomas McCommas. We would play regularly in the Haybarn,
acoustically, and the arrangement was very satisfying. The sounds
of our instruments blended very well and we played comfortably off
each other, having similar musical tastes. Most of the band
experiences that I had that year were not so positive. I couldn't
find anyone on my musical level to play with. I continued to
record the piano and was very pleased with the results.

In May of '85 -- at Springfest -- I was introduced to a band:
Phish. I immediately knew that I wanted to be a member. I moved
to Burlington and joined the band.

It has taken roughly two years for me to figure out what my
musical role is in the band. When I joined there were five of us:
two guitars; bass; drums; and keyboards. The music was extremely
busy and there wasn't much space for me to shape the sound. After
one year one of the guitar players left, and I began to grow into
my space and develop my style. It was during my fourth semester
that I began taking lessons with Lar Duggan a jazz pianist in

Lar has been the single most important person in helping me
develop my improvisation. A master of improvisation himself, he
doesn't suggest directions that he feels are important for me to
follow, rather he will guide me through any direction I choose.
When I began taking lessons with him I felt that the area most
lacking in my playing was my left hand and its interaction with my
right hand. In retrospect that probably wasn't my most lacking
attribute but Lar helped me find exercises that would develop
continuity between my two hands, and offered different approaches
to improvisation such as ones that focused on the left hand and let
the right hand comp behind it. From these exercises I learned many
things, namely that my left hand already led my right hand along
and that my left hand has a better sense of timing.

It wasn't until I began reading music again that I felt that
my right and left hands were working well together. Two pieces in
particular contributed to this feeling of unity: 1) a two-part
invention written by Trey Anastasio, the guitar player and composer
in Phish; 2) Bach's two-part invention #8 in F major. I began
learning Trey's piece the summer after I started lessons with Lar.
The piece was inspired by Bach's inventions and is about as
technically demanding. There is a great deal of imitation and
inversion between the right hand and the left hand. It took me
months to learn it, but once I did I noticed a feeling and an
attitude towards my hands that I hadn't felt before. My left hand
felt stronger and I had more confidence in it. It was performing
the same functions as my right hand. The next semester began at
Goddard, and I was back on campus studying classical piano with
Lois Harris. I started working on Bach's invention #8. I picked
the piece up fairly quickly and had it memorized within a few
weeks. This was partially due to the fact that Lois had helped me
finger the piece correctly. Once I had learned it I played it over
and over because it is so beautiful and so easy to play through, or
rather it is difficult for me not to play through the entire piece.
Once I play the first phrase, there is essentially no way to stop.
The piece moves so fluidly and logically that it is almost
impossible to keep myself from playing the whole piece once I play
the opening notes. I was putting so much energy into the piece
that I decided to drop my classical lessons because I thought that
they were detracting energy that I wanted to be devoting to jazz,
my primary focus. These two inventions have given me confidence
and ability I couldn't have gained any other way.

My playing of the Bach piece has continued to improve. This
semester I set out with an interest in composition. The best way
to learn about composition is by analyzing other compositions.
Bach's invention #8 seemed like a likely place to start since I was
already familiar with the piece and was curious to see how the
melody modulated. I did decide after much analysis that my
discipline this semester wouldn't be composition, but that my true
passion is improvisation. However, my analysis (which is included
in my senior study) has proved very useful to me. My performance
of the invention has improved immensely since this analysis. I
have learned from talking to Lar that this happens because when you
commit music to memory, the brain can remember and recall it, but
when music is analyzed the retention is much deeper and more solid.
A performer that has analyzed music knows and understands the
movement of the melody, where it is headed, and why it is headed
there. The result of my analysis can be heard in my performance of
this piece. Since I have a deeper understanding of the
intentions and movements of the music, my interpretation of the
piece has become much more in tune and responsive to the harmonic
and rhythmic movement of the piece. I still play this piece once
nearly every time I sit down at the piano.

My practice sessions at Goddard for the first few years that
I was here were rather undisciplined. I was disciplined in that I
was playing every day, but the sessions themselves were
unstructured. I would spend hours playing songs (mostly rock),
singing, and improvising over these songs. Most of these songs are
harmonically simple, in fact boring. This was the music I listened
to and the music I played, and I was satisfied with my practice
sessions because I knew that I could become a good rock piano
player that way. Once I started taking lessons with Lar and
listening to jazz, I was humbled. I have made an effort in the
past year and a half to listen to as much jazz as possible and as
little rock as possible. I have found that as one who plays by ear
the easiest way to learn is to listen. I have three major jazz
influences: Bill Evans; Duke Ellington; and Art Tatum. I have
listened to more Evans and Ellington than anything else. From Bill
Evans I have learned to try to play fluidly. I have studied his
solos "the logic with which one phrase follows another."4 I
appreciate him in the say way I find Bach's work logically
graceful. I have directly "copped riffs" from him and I have tried
to develop my own fluidity through relaxation, but I have a long
way to go. I know that I have a good ability to tap into someone
else's flow and comp behind them when they are soloing. My ability
to communicate with other musicians is, I feel, my most highly
developed jazz attribute. Listening to Duke Ellington's band has
also been a great influence, primarily in two ways. First, by
listening to the members of his band, particularly the horn
players, I have gotten a feel for swing. Those guys know how to
swing. They could make their instruments talk, and I found what
they had to say interesting harmonically as well as rhythmically.
I have tried to incorporate the swing feel into my playing, and I
feel that just within the past three gigs that I have any kind of
consistent feel for it. The second way that Duke Ellington has
influenced me is through his (and Billy Strayhorn's) compositions.
My analysis of music moved from classical into jazz as my interest
in composition moved to an interest in improvisation. My analyses
of "Mood Indigo", "Take the A Train" and "Sophisticated Lady" were
not so much structural as they were analyses of how one might play
over them. In particular I studied what scales could be used and
how certain notes in the melodies determined these scales. These
analyses have been integral in my growing ability to play over
changes. The third influence I mentioned was Art Tatum. He has
opened me up to a truly pianistic approach to jazz. I envy his
long runs and his perfectly executed trills, but unless I study
more classical music, I won't really be able to incorporate his
style into my playing.

Back to my practice sessions -- I realized that I couldn't
achieve the status of jazz piano player going along practicing with
the attitude of a rock musician. The rock music that I had been
playing and improvising over was almost all modal or strictly
blues. This made improvising fairly easy as long as I was playing
in the right mode or the proper blues scale. In jazz, it is the
melody not the mode that determines what can and can't be played.
The melody determines the chords of the tune, and these chords
(with the melody inherent) are what the improviser uses to direct
his solo. Modal jamming is a small aspect of jazz improvisation,
but only a fraction of what jazz is. The ability to play over jazz
changes requires a deeper understanding of music and a much more
spiritual approach to improvising than in rock music. One needs to
discipline himself and practice, learn the music and when it comes
time to play leave all preconceptions behind. The object is to
play what one hears at the moment, and any preconceptions about
what is going to be played will have a tendency to detract from the
life of the solo. A good way to achieve this is to sing along
while you improvise. This is a tool which Lar introduced me to, a
tool which I have since heard many jazz greats (including Art
Tatum) do on albums. By singing, even if it isn't audible or isn't
exactly the melody you're playing, you open up yourself to any
internal melodies, and these can be sources of inspiration.

It wasn't until this semester that I began to take on a much
more serious attitude towards practicing. This has been due
largely to my reading of Zen in the Art of Archery. My primary
source of discipline this semester has been working out of C.L.
Hanon's The Virtuoso Pianist, a book designed "for the acquirement
of agility, independence, strength, and perfect evenness in the
fingers, as well as suppleness of the wrist."5 These Hanon
exercises have helped me with all these areas. I began doing these
exercises daily and working with the metronome. After I had worked
through the first twenty exercises in the book I began to speed up
the metronome as recommended. I was having problems with muscle
cramping and a general tightness in my body. I went to Lar for
advice, and he helped me position my body and hands so that they
were in a much more natural position. He suggested that I focus my
attention on relaxing instead of trying to hit every note, or
focusing on the metronome. He said that I should constantly be
checking my wrists and elbows to be sure they aren't tight. He
mentioned that playing with a metronome can sometimes lead a
musician to start playing like a metronome, which sounds lifeless
and inhibits one's ability to swing. Concerning the tightness I
was feeling all over, he thought it might be from improper
breathing. He suggested that I try screaming a phrase over and
over while playing the Hanon exercises. This approach seems rather
unorthodox, but it got results. By concentrating on my voice and
lungs, not only did my breathing regulate itself, and by body
loosen up, but I played the exercises with more conviction,
emphasizing each note.

The importance of proper breathing did not just apply to these
exercises but turned out to be the most important aspect of feeling
comfortable while improvising. I learned this through Lar and I
learned this through Zen in the Art of Archery. In this passage
the master is describing what is necessary for the artist to let go
of himself for the sake of the art, in this case an arch with
" ... Thus between these two states of bodily relaxedness on the
one hand and spiritual freedom on the other there is a difference
level which cannot be overcome by breath-control alone, but only by
withdrawing from all attachments whatsoever, by becoming utterly
egoless: so that the soul, sunk within itself, stands in the
plentitude of its nameless origin.
The demand that the door of the senses be not closed is not met
by turning energetically away from the sensible world, but rather
by a readiness to yield without resistance. In order that this
actionless activity may be accomplished instinctively, the soul
needs an inner hold, and it wins by concentrating on breathing ...
The more one concentrates on breathing, the more the external
stimuli fade into the background."6

I am fortunate enough to be in a band that gigs regularly, and
this has given me many opportunities to practice my relaxation
techniques. While playing in front of people, if I feel myself
tightening up, or am not feeling inspired (especially during
solos) I concentrate on breathing and everything usually falls
into place.

About the same time I began to understand relaxation, I began
playing jazz regularly with a sax, drum, and bass player. We
primarily play jazz standards though more recently we've gotten
into originals written by our sax man (my advisor) Karl Boyle. I
have used these sessions not only to improve my playing but to
gauge my improvement as a jazz musician. As the semester went on
I began to be able to play these tunes with much looser feel, and
even felt comfortable improvising over songs that I had never seen
or heard before such as Karl's originals.

My proper breathing, my playing out, my listening to jazz and
my discipline have given me a new confidence. I know that even
though I have a long way to go that I am a good jazz player. This
confidence has helped me approach improvising with fewer
preconceptions about where the music is going to go. I don't have
to worry because I know that my improvisations will lead me to a
good place musically, and if they don't I have the confidence that
I will be able to get myself out of any awkward musical situations,
and in fact use these situations to create tension.

At this point (the end of the semester) I took my skills to a
recording studio where I would learn even more about my playing.
We (Phish) went to Boston to record a three song demo. The
experience of working in a recording studio is different from any
I'd ever had before. The energy level was high though it was much
different than playing in front of people. We laid down the
initial tracks. I didn't feel very comfortable with the playing at
the time, and in fact I didn't think it was very good. However,
upon listening to it a few times I found that much of what I'd
played was interesting. I'd learned another lesson: even if I'm
not moved by what I play, it doesn't mean that it's not good. As
a musician I need to become as good as I can, and believe that what
I'm playing is good, even if I'm not have an amazing musical
experience. Hearing the work I did in the studio has given me even
more confidence.


1. Berendt, Joachim E., The Jazz Book, p. 223, Westport,
Connecticut., Lawrence Hill & Co., 1975.

2. Aikin, Jim, "Bill Evans".. Contemporary Keyboard, Vol 6,
No. 6., p. 45, June 1980.

3. Herrigel, Eugen, Zen in the Art of Archery, p, 82, New
York, Vintage Books, 1953.

4. Aikin., p. 45.

5. Hanon, C.L., The Virtuoso Pianist, New York, G. Schirmer,

6. Herrigel, p. 38.

October 29, 2008

Sen. John McCain Is a Liar and Here is Proof

I've been trying to ignore the presidential race and all things political here at The Wagger, where I generally report news and information related to the band Phish and nothing else (although this Blog did not start out that way), but there is something going on today I simply cannot ignore. It disgusts me and needs to be uncovered for what it is -- a desperate attempt by a desperate man willing to do anything to become President of the United States.

So, here comes political rant No. 1 for the 2008 presidential campaign. Please excuse this interruption to The Wagger's regularly scheduled program.

Sarah Palin is leading a charge today, helped along by none other than a report from the far-right-leaning FOX News, for Sen. John McCain, saying that a Los Angeles Times article that came out six months ago reported that Sen. Barack Obama was at a dinner in 2003 where a professor, originally from Syria, called Israel the perpetrator of terrorism in that part of the world. Palin then said, "It's not known how Sen. Obama responded to that remark."

Palin was talking about a guy named Rashid Khalidi, who from 1976 to 1982 was reportedly a director of the official Palestinian press agency, WAFA, while in exile from Beirut. Khalidi often spoke to reporters on behalf of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, according to the LA Times article Palin is referring to.

The LA Times article says, and I quote: "His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been 'consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases . . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table,' but around 'this entire world.'"

The article also says "a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, 'then you will never see a day of peace.' One speaker likened 'Zionist settlers on the West Bank' to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been 'blinded by ideology.' Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground."

So, Palin blatantly lied because right there is Obama's response to the statement, which was not even made by the man Palin claimed to have originally said it.

The LA Times article goes on to quote Hussein Ibish, a federal employee and senior fellow for the American Task Force on Palestine, saying "I am confident that Barack Obama is more sympathetic to the position of ending the occupation than either of the other candidates, Ibish said, referring to the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that began after the 1967 war. 'More than his rivals for the White House,' Ibish said, 'Obama sees a 'moral imperative' in resolving the conflict and is most likely to apply pressure to both sides to make concessions.'"

That is a direct response to Obama's position from one of the main guys with the U.S. whose job is to deal with the 2,000-year-old conflict in Israel.

Also, McCain said on TV today that Bill Ayers, the so-called Chicago terrorist and the guy who served on the same board as Obama several years ago, was also known to have been at the same dinner. Nowhere in the article is Bill Ayers' name even mentioned. Apparently, the LA Times has a tape of the event but will not release it saying it violates a source agreement. McCain says that tape is important because it shows Obama in the presence of Ayers at that dinner, again which occurred in 2003. So what if Ayers was there? A lot of prominent Chicagoans were there. It's not like Obama was holding hands with Ayers.

Additionally, McCain's press spokesman, Michael Goldfarb, said today in a written statement, "Khalidi was a frequent dinner guest at the Obama's home and at his farewell dinner in 2003 Obama joined the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers in giving testimonials on Khalidi's role in the community. The election is one week away, and it's unfortunate that the press so obviously favors Barack Obama that (our) campaign must publicly request that the Los Angeles Times do its job -- make information public."

What the article actually says is, "While teaching at the University of Chicago, Khalidi and his wife lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood near the Obamas. The families became friends and dinner companions." It does not say he was a frequent guest in Obama's home; in fact, in the second paragraph the LA Times article says Obama often ate dinner at their house.

Furthermore, the article says, "Obama has called himself a 'stalwart' supporter of the Jewish state and its security needs. He believes in an eventual two-state solution in which Jewish and Palestinian nations exist in peace, which is consistent with current U.S. policy."

The article is freely available to the public, although McCain's campaign claims otherwise; you, I and anyone else in the world with an Internet connection can read it by clicking here. So, McCain's spokesman is also lying about the availability of the LA Times piece, just like Palin said.

This whole thing is such a concocted scheme of B.S. it's almost impossible to believe that McCain and Palin think that no one will check their claims. If I'm checking their assertions you can believe CNN and other news organizations are checking them as well.

So, the assertion McCain, Palin and their campaign is making is that Obama is down on Israel, supports the views of the PLO (which has become a two-bit player in Middle Eastern politics, especially since Arafat died followed by the rise of Hezbollah). Furthermore, they are trying to say Obama has sympathetic leanings to terrorists and cannot be trusted as President of the United States to keep the peace in the Middle East, and in fact could eventually be responsible for the complete dismantling of Israel and the Jewish state.

This is utterly and completely shameful and disgusting. I no longer can view McCain as a capable leader on any level, or even as a decent person. Spreading lies and disinformation like this, which I believe I have completely dispelled in this e-mail through easily available sources, are a crass abuse of power and a cheap attempt to win election to the White House. How could we ever trust a man running for the most powerful office in the world who blatantly takes printed words, and twists and distorts and spins them for his own pathetic, egocentric needs, well beyond the normal spin associated with politicians? How could we ever present someone like this to the world as the best choice to lead Western civilization and a role model for societies everywhere? Why, when things like this continue coming from the McCain/Palin ticket, do intelligent people continue to overlook such actions and say to themselves, "This is OK to do because it could help elect McCain, whom I would rather see in the Oval Office than Obama?"

And why doesn't someone from GOP leadership step up and say enough is enough? Run against Obama. Point out weaknesses in his policies where they exist. That's best for every voter -- every sentient being -- in the country.

This entire scenario makes me feel ashamed to have ever wanted to elect McCain back in 2000, and for still believing in him as a good person, a true American who stands for truth and good in all things, as recently as this morning.

What do you think all of this? I mean, if The Wagger can uncover all of these lies using a desktop computer with a cable Internet connection and no special access to any database that is not available to the general public, so could anyone else.

I believe this situation really exposes how desperate McCain has become, and the GOP because no one is calling for McCain/Palin to stop with the ridiculous lies. And if people actually believe McCain's assertions -- FOX News ran with this story and printed it as truth, so many Americans do/will -- then I think the widely-held truth, especially in Europe, that Americans are generally uninformed and idiotic has come to pass.

And now, we will return to our regularly scheduled program of reporting all things Phish.

October 26, 2008

Trey Anastasio Band Richmond Setlist

Set One: Push On ‘Til The Day, Sand, Ooh Child, Tube Top Flop > Cayman Review, Drifting, Backwards Down The Number Line, Money Love and Change

Set Two: Sweet Dreams Melinda, Mr. Completely, Gotta Jibboo, Sitting In Limbo*, Alaska, Shine, Water in the Sky@, Strange Design@**, Sample In A Jar@,

E: Burlap Sack and Pumps, First Tube

* - Last Played 05/14/2005 [119 Shows]
** - Last Played 11/08/2005 [97 Shows]
@ - Solo Acoustic

The last time I saw Trey in Richmond was the first show he did following Coventry. I was in the front row at the Landmark Theatre and he played Sitting in Limbo, one of my favorite Jerry Band songs of all time. Nice.

That marks the end of the tour. Hold your breath. Something big is in the works.

October 24, 2008

Trey Anastasio Philly Setlist

Set One: Cayman Review, Last Tube, Drifting, *Gotta Jibboo, Alaska, Ooh Child, Money Love and Change

Set Two: Backwards Down The Number Line, Sand, Tuesday, Spin, Greyhound Rising, Push On ‘Til The Day

Encore: Moesha

*Crowd chanted "Let’s Go Phillies" before start of song.

Next up, final show of the tour at The National in Richmond, Virginia, my old stomping grounds. This show is SOLD OUT.

October 23, 2008

Trey Anastasio Orpheum Theatre Setlist & Fishman Benevento Dates

Set One: Push On 'Til The Day, Heavy Things, Dark and Down, Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Drifting, Tube Top Flop, Mr. Completely, Shine

Set Two: Last Tube, Sweet Dreams Melinda, Sand, Let Me Lie, Backwards Down The Number Line, The Way I Feel, Gotta Jibboo, Sample In A Jar*, Wilson*, Bathtub Gin*

Encore: Tuesday, First Tube

Show Notes: *Trey solo acoustic

Next up, tonight, October 24 at Philadelphia's Electric Factory, home base for the Disco Biscuits. Trey blows through town on a night off for the World Series, which of course the Philadelphia Phillies are played against the Tampa Bay Rays. Trey is a hardcore Flyers fan, I wonder if he likes the Phillies too.

By the way, Jon Fishman has been tapped to play four shows with Marco Benevento. Any of you who caught the GRAB Band shows during Summer 2006 will remember how tapped into things Marco is. Fishman added to this bill makes this tour a must see for all live music fans. Seriously.

Here are the dates:

Marco Benevento Trio featuring Reed Mathis & Jon Fishman
November 7 / Real Art Ways / Hartford, CT
November 8 / Drom / New York, NY (w/ Nathan Moore & Mike Gamble)
November 9 / Mexicali Live / Teaneck, NJ (new show)
November 10 / FlynnSpace / Burlington, VT (w/ Nathan Moore)

October 21, 2008

Trey Anastasio Band Lupo's Setlist

First of all, sign the petition to get Hampton simulcast in theaters, like Phish did in the past with Brooklyn and Coventry.

Now for the Lupos setlist: (Photo courtesy of Musical Stew Daily)

Set One: Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown > Last Tube, Tube Top Flop, Sweet Dreams Melinda, Cayman Review, Ooh Child, Alaska, Backwards Down The Number Line, Gone, Sand

Set Two: Push On 'Til The Day, Gotta Jibboo, Drifting, Simple Twist Up Dave, Water In The Sky*, Brian and Robert*, Back On The Train*, A Case Of Ice and Snow, Tuesday

Encore: First Tube**

Show Notes: *Trey solo acoustic; **with Scott Muraski (Guitar), Oteil Burbridge (bass) and Bill Kreutzman (drums)

Up next: The Orpheum Theatre in Boston, Mass., Thursday, October 23 at 7:30 p.m. This show is SOLD OUT.

Question: Does anyone know why Trey is now calling the song Tube Top Flop rather than Tube Top Wobble?

On a side note, I found this interesting article on Phish and the Jewish influence on the band.

As for the hottest topic of the year, is anyone out there willing to pay the exhorbitant amount of money the scalpers want for tickets to next year's Hampton run? The highest I've seen so far is $6,500 for two tickets to the March 6 show.

Please, do not buy tickets from scalpers, no matter how tempting it may be. And in case it's been so long since you thought about it, remember that scalpers print fake tickets that look like the real McCoy but are not. An easy way to tell is to burn one of the corners of the ticket. Real tickets burn normally. Fake tickets bubble up.

If you're still hunting, and don't plan to stop, like me, best of luck. Hopefully I'll see you there. I am going to Hampton regardless. I at least have to be at ground zero.

Why? Besides the obvious, here are some ZZYZX stats, by way of the Mockingbird Foundation, on previous Hampton runs.

And by the way, the Hidden Track Blog over at Glide Magazine has a thread going on about a guy who got Hampton tickets over the phone. I too was taking the phone route, which has never failed me. In late 2002, I landed tickets to all three nights of the Hampton run for the post-hiatus shows. Here is what happened to me last weekend, as I originally posted at Hidden Track:

I ... got on the phone about 9:30 a.m. — 6:30 a.m. in Oregon where I live — and managed to keep myself in the system for half an hour by asking the automated Ticketbastard “Bot” to keep repeating the information it just told me. Right at 10 a.m. (7 a.m.) I said yes to two, three-night ticket packages. Then, the system asked me for my billing information. I entered it but the system told me it was an invalid number. I tried it again with the same result. Mind you, this is a debit card I’ve had for months, used it online and offline with no problems whatsoever. Anyway, I entered the information a third time, and when the system said it was an invalid number it then hung up on me.

I had two tickets to each night in my hand and lost them because of an f’ing computer!!!

Come to find out on Monday, my bank put a freeze on my card, saying they thought it was stolen because someone was trying to buy tickets to a concert in another state where my card had never been used. So, the bank denied the transaction, saying they were looking out for my best interests.

Needless to say, Monday afternoon I closed my account and opened a new one at another bank.

God, they were in my hands!!!!!


October 20, 2008

Trey Anastasio Band Higher Ground Setlist

Set One: Gotta Jibboo, Peggy, Dark and Down, Push On Til The Day, Sweet Dreams Melinda, Sand

Set Two: Burlap Sack and Pumps, Money Love and Change, Last Tube, Let Me Lie, Drifting, Alive Again, Tube Top Flop, Windora Bug > Ruby Waves, Moesha, Dragonfly

Encore: A Case Of Ice And Snow, First Tube

Next up, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008 at Lupos in Providence, Rhode Island. Check here for tickets.

October 19, 2008

Trey Anastasio Band Palace Theatre Setlist

Got this up a little late, sorry about that.

Set One: Sand, Drifting, Peggy, Cayman Review, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Shine, Dark and Down, Push On Til The Day

Set Two: Valentine, Alaska, Simple Twist Up Dave, Let Me Lie, Gotta Jibboo, The Way I Feel, Brian and Robert*, Back On The Train* > Farmhouse*, Bathtub Gin*

Encore: Bug

Show Notes: *Trey solo acoustic

Next up, the Higher Ground Ballroom in Burlington, Vt. tonight, Sunday, October 19, 2008. This show is a benefit for the Seven Below Arts Initiative. Tonight's show is SOLD OUT.

October 18, 2008

Shut Out of Phish Hampton Tickets

I got shut out of all three shows!

Did you get tickets?

I know a dozen or so people who got shut out. I actually was in the phone system and given the option to buy two tickets for each night and it would not accept my debit card, saying it was an invalid number, but it's a brand new card I've used online and at a cash registers plenty of times already.

This reminds me of the Radio City Music Hall fiasco several years back, when scalper technology booted everyone offline.

Have you checked prices on eBay? They are out of control. I encourage everyone reading this, no matter how tempting it is, to not buy tickets on eBay. Hopefully, we'll get some relief once they announce more dates, 200,000 more tickets are in circulation and demand for Hampton is way down.

October 17, 2008

Trey Anastasio Band Chevrolet Theatre Setlist

Any complaints here? I think not. Nice to see Water in the Sky and Case of Ice and Snow.

Set One: Drifting, Tuesday, Sand, Peggy, Dark and Down, Money Love and Change, Sweet Dreams Melinda, Push On 'Til the Day

Set Two: Light, Gotta Jibboo, Alaska, Shine, Windora Bug, Burlap Sack and Pumps, A Case of Ice and Snow, Dragonfly

Encore: Water in the Sky*, Waste*, Sample in a Jar*, First Tube

Next up, the Palace Theatre in Albany, New York. You can score tickets for tonight's show by clicking here.

By the way, if you're like me, and plan on throwing everything you have into getting tickets to see Phish in Hampton, Va., here are the phone numbers to call: 757.671.8100, 757.872.8100 or 804.262.8100. And of course, everyone's favorite nemesis, Ticketbastard.

October 16, 2008

Trey Anastasio Roseland Ballroom Setlist

Here is a great blow-by-blow account of the show, including a complete intrusion by Sen. John McCain! Seriously.

Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB
October 16, 2008
Roseland Ballroom
New York, NY

I: Sand, Cayman Review, Let Me Lie, Gotta Jibboo, Dragonfly, First Tube

II: Alaska, Last Tube, Sweet Dreams Melinda, Valentine, Drifting, Brian and Robert*, Chalkdust Torture*, The Way I Feel, Spin

E: Heavy Things, Burlap Sack and Pumps

* Solo acoustic

Next up, the Chevrolet Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, October 17. Tickets are still available.

Trey Anastasio Band Tour Starts Today

Trey Tour starts tonight at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, site of the VH1 special and last-minute performance from May 2000. Hopefully, Big Red will be back to machine gun status and rip our heads off with some oldies and goodies.

In other Phish news, mail order (excuse me, online ticket requests) for Phish's Hampton Coliseum shows in March 2009 is over. You'll have to duke it out at Ticketbastard with scalpers who have technology to boot everyone offline and off the phone when tickets go on sale to the general public Saturday, October 18 at 10 a.m. EST.

If you're really a glutton for punishment you can try to get tickets the old 20th Century method -- by telephone!
(757)671.8100, (757)872.8100 or (804)262.8100

Of course, Phish says they plan to announce additional 2009 tour dates sometime in the near future. Everyone say a little prayer for me that they will at least come to Portland, Oregon and play Portland Meadows (site of LivePhish 17, my ex-wife's first show, and at the time my personal acid test to see if we had a future together; she was hooked for life during the wind-up in Guyute -- leaned over and said to me, "How many days in a row are we going to see them?" The answer: two more at The Gorge -- July 16 & 17, 1998) or at least the Rose Quarter if not to Oregon then to The Gorge, which is only about five hours away as the crow flies from my adopted hometown of Bend, Oregon.

Please ignore any Republican ads Google is throwing on my site. They are not welcome and I'm trying to fix the problem. Don't click on them.

Here is a good article on Phish and the possible resurgence of the Jamband scene over at Yahoo!

You have seen the video splash page posted to Phish's website, haven't you?

What else is going on ... Oh, of course! If you haven't heard Trey's new masterpiece, Time Turns Elastic performed at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee with Orchestra Nashville, you can download it here.

Even better, here is video footage of Divided Sky from rehearsal that afternoon.

The entire performance, as reported by Andy Gadiel (the creator of Jambase and my primary source of Phish news and information for years) unfolded like this:

Set One: XL (Scearce), Divided Sky (Anastasio, arr. by Don Hart)*, Concertino (Hart)**Orient and Occident (Part), Le Tombeau de Couperin (Ravel)
Set Two: Time Turns Elastic^ (Anastasio/Hart)
Encore: Let Me Lie**^ (Anastasio, arr. by Don Hart)
*Trey on electric guitar
** Trey on acoustic guitar
^ Trey on electric guitar and vocals

Check out Trey's performance from the Newport Folk Festival, which is now streaming at npr.org

And of course, Phish @ The Roxy in Atlanta is out. Read about it here.

October 3, 2008

Phish Setlist from October 3, 1995 in Seattle

Since Phish announced its triumphant return, I've decided to randomly start posting past setlists here as a way to generate some good 'ol Phishy memories, and to keep up the excitement.

So, I'm going to start with one of the top five shows I ever saw. I wanted to add some of my memories from this stellar show -- the same day OJ was acquitted -- but I've been writing (working) all day and have to get off the computer. I'll try to post them in the morning when I have fresh fingers and flowing thoughts, but I usually it hard to return to a post:

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 1995
Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA
Opening Act: Baby Gramps

Set One: Maze, Guelah Papyrus, Foam, Fast Enough for You, I'm Blue I'm Lonesome, Free, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday Reprise, Sample in a Jar, You Enjoy Myself

Set Two: Timber Ho!, It's Ice, Sparkle, Harry Hood, Billy Breathes, Faht, Sweet Adeline, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil
Encore: Rocky Top
Show Notes: Faht was played for the first time since June 19, 1994 (99 shows).

Notice there are no transitions between songs? That screwed us up that night ...

October 1, 2008

Phish Reunites for Hampton Run

Well, it finally happened. If you're like me and the first thing you do in the morning is check your e-mail, you had a nice surprise, thanks to the Phish home office in Burlington, Vermont. (By the way, check out this nice little video splash page they put up. Anyone have an idea where the spacey jam comes from?)

Yes, Jon Fishman, Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon and Page McConnell finally put their collective heads together and decided to resurrect what is arguably the greatest rock'n'roll band of all time, Phish.

The boys announced this morning, one day after Trey's 44nd birthday (I wonder if it was decided officially yesterday, giving Trey one of the best birthday presents of all time in the process), that Phish will reuinite March 6, 7 and 8, 2009 at the The Mothership, otherwise known as the Hampton Coliseum, for a run of shows that costs $49.50 per ticket.

I'm a little disappointed ticket prices jumped so much, but not surprised either. And it figures this would happen. In 2000, my ex-wife and I moved from Oregon to Raleigh, North Carolina to be on the East Coast so we could catch more shows. We had just spent five days in the Everglades at Big Cypress and were excited at the prospect of seeing Phish more than three times a year, which was about how often you got to see them if you lived in the Pacific Northwest and had a career to manage.

Ten months later, Phish goes on hiatus. Then, they get back together and all seems well. Huh-uh. About a year-and-a-half later, coming off of a terrible Las Vegas run (listen for yourself), Trey posts "The Letter of Doom." So, they split up "for good," my ex and I get divorced 20 months later, she moves back to Oregon with our then one-and-a-half-year-old son, I follow a year later (couldn't stand being away from my boy), and now we find ourselves living up the street from each other in Bend, Oregon.

We're still great friends. In fact, we just drove to Portland together -- about a six-hour, round-tripper -- to see Mike and his band play on August 23, my 37th birthday. Then, Phish announced they are getting back together and once again I find myself on the wrong coast with gas and airline ticket prices through the roof

Is it karma? Have I really been that bad in my life to deserve this torture? Eyee! Somebody help me!

I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make it to Hampton, even if it means sleeping in the back of some strangers bus, or in the parking lot of the hotels across the street from the coliseum.

Anyone have any ideas how I can pull his off when I am already barely getting by month to month? Please post comments with ideas. Any idea is welcome.

What Does "The Wagger" Mean Anyway?

Wagger is a term used by print journalists to describe a writer. Not sure why, but writers for newspapers have been nicknamed Waggers long before I ever started working as a print journalist, which was in 1994 (I can't believe it's been that long).

An old editor of mine named Ted Natt, whom I worked for at the now-defunct Sandhills Business Times (too bad 'cause it was a great newspaper), had the e-mail address anoldwag@ ...

When I originally launched The Wagger I intended to include original news stories, but it hasn't worked out that way. Hopefully sometime in the near future that will change and I'll start publishing original feature stories about Phish on this Blog. Keep your fingers crossed.

Here are the more homogenized definitions of Wagger from the dictionary ...

11 Dictionary.com results for: wag

1.to move from side to side, forward and backward, or up and down, esp. rapidly and repeatedly: a dog wagging its tail.
2.to move (the tongue), as in idle or indiscreet chatter.
3.to shake (a finger) at someone, as in reproach.
4.to move or nod (the head).
–verb (used without object)
5.to be moved from side to side or one way and the other, esp. rapidly and repeatedly, as the head or the tail.
6.to move constantly, esp. in idle or indiscreet chatter: Her behavior caused local tongues to wag.
7.to get along; travel; proceed: Let the world wag how it will.
8.to totter or sway.
9.British Slang. to play truant; play hooky.
10.the act of wagging: a friendly wag of the tail.
11.a person given to droll, roguish, or mischievous humor; wit.

[Origin: 1175–1225; ME waggen <>vaga to sway, or vagga cradle]

wagger, noun