I’ve just returned from a 4 day excursion through the wilds of Hartford, CT and Saratoga Springs, NY following the reunited jamband empire that is Phish. If you’ve ever seen a Phish show, or heard anything about them, you know that they are grand achievements in both sound and lighting design, regardless of your opinion of the musical quality. In the next 48 hours, I’ll be posting an exclusive up-close photographic breakdown of their backline and front-of-house rigs, including all the instruments and effects they use, as well as all the gear that populates their legendary soundboard.
I’ll be filling in as many details as I can about the specifics of the equipment they use, plus a brief breakdown of how their industry-innovating Live Phish recordings happen, and recent adjustments to the drum setup. As a bonus, there will be a few more choice shots from the soundboard during the show to show off the majesty of their Chris Kuroda-run lighting design.
Keep checking back over the next day or two as we fill this space with possibly the most detailed photographic document of Phish’s live setup ever published. Please note that in the interest of allowing everybody to enjoy the photos as soon as possible, we will be updating the gear breakdowns over the course of the week. Should be completed by the 4th of July, at which time we’ll start uploading our photo documents of The New Deal and Jojo Mayer/Nerve’s setups.
This guitar is all koa with a maple neck, and the same tapered body shape as the second one. The finish on this one is a darker, redder stain, with a slightly different headstock shape, different (even smaller) inlays, and two chrome-covered humbuckers. The saddles are bronze on this guitar as opposed to the bone of the first two. He used this for the first time in October of 1996, and sporadically for the remainder of the year. In 1997, it completed the transition to his main axe, leaving the two blonde ones as backups. Languadoc states that “The koa guitar is the best of all of them because the wood has the most elegant and solid sound of the three.” The electronics consist of a pair of Schallar Golden 50 humbucking pickups.
As has been noted in the comments, this is not the Koa guitar described at phish.net.
Located behind the Languedoc is Trey’s pre-1998 100w Mesa Boogie Mark III head, running in to his classic Langedoc-built 2×12 cabinet, mic’d by an SM57 and an Royer 121 Ribbon mic (thanks John from The Bunker). Behind the main amp rig is a Goff Leslie, full-sized as opposed to the “top” cabinet he used pre-breakup.
Trey’s smaller-than-usual rack currently features the following units:
Furman M8-L Power Conditioner
Korg DTR-2 Rackmount Tuner
Vintage Ibanez DM2000 Digital Delay
Custom Audio Electronics (CAE) Black Cat Vibe
CAE Super Tremolo
Alesis NanoVerb (x2, 1 set for delay, one set for Room reverb)
Alesis Microverb set to a gated reverb
CAE 4×4 Switcher
Trey’s floorspace is currently less cluttered than probably any other point in Phish’s history, and the layout currently prevents Trey from actuating the ubiquitous post-97 delay loops (see: studio version of “Ghost”). Floor setup currently includes (on Trey’s right side):
Footswitch for CAE Tremolo
Expression Pedal for CAE Bad Cat Vibe
Original Boomerang Phrase Sampler
TC Electronics Nova Repeater Delay
Teese RMC Wah (hidden within a Crybaby shell) ->
Ibanez/Analog Man TS9 “Silver” Modded Tube Screamer (x2, one cranked and feeding in to the other) ->
Vintage Ross Compressor (thanks Chris M in the comments)
Trey’s left side is more for controllers than individual pedals, save for the Whammy:
Digitech Whammy II pedal (externally MIDI controlled)
CAE 4×4 footswitch board (for on/off control of rackmounted units)
Boss FS5U footswitches + Leslie control (all for control of the Leslie)
Mike has also trimmed down his rig. Noticeably absent are the small combo amps that formerly perched atop his setup. Main loudspeakers are all powered Meyer Sound cabinets, a pair of 750-P 2×18’s and a pair of MSL-2 15″ 2-ways. (some reports suggest 650-Ps and UPQs, but I’m 99% sure these are the same 750-P and MSL-2’s that Mike’s been using for a little while)
This rack houses all of Mike’s pedal effects, processors, including 2x Eventide Eclipse, and his CAE switching systems.
The classic Mike effects we’ve been hearing for years. The pedal effects include:
Akai Deep Impact
Source Audio Soundblox Prototype Bass Envelope Filter
Source Audio Soundblox Pro Multiwave Bass Distortion
Boss BF2 Flanger
MXR 10-Band EQ
I believe that the CAE switchers allow Mike to change the routing of the FX as he sees fit, so as such there isn’t a specific “signal path” to the pedal FX.
Classic Eventide DSP4000, Lexicon LXP-15, and 3 CAE 4×4 Switchers.
Here’s a little rundown on Fish’s current setup. I got to chat with his drum tech Scotty for a while after taking the photos and he had a few specific insights as to what’s going on with the kit. For example:
- the 2nd snare is a Yamaha Brass snare that actually belongs to Trey, and is 30-50 years old (I would assume that they had Yamaha change out the lugs with the Nouveau lugs back when Fish was playing a primarily-Yamaha kit). This is the first time that anyone can remember Fish using 2 snares, and despite its presence, Scotty doesn’t remember him hitting it once at the 1st night of SPAC
- the main snare is in fact a DW 7×14, acquired just before this tour. It “cuts” much better than the Black Beauty of old, believe it or not.
- the rest of the kit is a mixture of Noble & Cooley CD Maple toms (thanks Matt in the comments), a vintage Ludwig kick, and no longer includes any Yamaha or Ayotte toms
- the concept behind the tom arrangement is as such
- the 6 and 8 are located off to the left as part of the left-side “percussion” setup, which is allowing Fish to move much more efficiently around the kit, with his elbows tucked in, as he generally prefers
- the 10 and 12 are further left than before, ultimately giving Fish a classic jazz 3-piece arrangement with his bass drum, 12″ tom, and 14″ floor tom. This allows for closer ride placement, a more comfortable posture for Fish, and more use of the 12 for articulations (i.e. the “entrance” to David Bowie)
- the 14 and 16 are where they’ve always been, although slightly covered up by the closer ride
- Fish had been using coated Ambassadors on the toms, but for this tour they’ve been experimenting with clear Emperors, which has made mic’ing the kit much easier
- Earthworks mics on the toms, Royer stereo mic for overhead
- the “little drum” in front of the kick is in fact a Yamaha Subkick, which uses an 8″ speaker as a microphone transducer
- cymbals are a mixture of brands and sizes, mostly older Zildjian, including a vintage Zildjian ride, New Beat hihats, K crash, A Cst splash, etc, some Paiste prototypes, and an odd UFIP and Wuhan here and there.
-hardware seems to be of the “whatever’s lying around” variety
- mostly Vic Firth Peter Erskine sticks
I really can’t beat Alex G from the comments on Page’s setup, so here’s his breakdown:
Rhodes Mk II, made somewhere from ‘75-’79 (the “73″ on it refers to the # of keys). He usually runs this through a phase shifter (now an mxr phase90, previously a maestro), but I don’t see it in the pictures, maybe on the floor?. On top of that is his beloved Yamaha CS-60 polyphonic synth (1977 i think?). Those are super rare and are a pain to keep in tune, hence the Sabine tuner placed on top of it.
1967 Hammond B3 organ going through a Leslie 122 rotary speaker (the classic Hammond setup). The organ was modded by the Goff brothers who added fine control/boost of chorus and percussion, and who removed the tubes, replacing the internal amp with solid state circuitry. On top of that is a Bob Moog Signature Little Phatty synth, which I believe he got fairly recently. The small module to the left of the Moog is a tuner, as the synth is all analog.
Wurlitzer 106p. These were made in the early 70s and sold in sets of EIGHT, all mounted on (the same) folding frame for classroom instruction. The internal mechanics are very similar to a Rhodes, except with reeds instead of aluminum tines, thus the sound is a bit “barkier” if I can call it that. I have never even seen one of these, let alone see someone play one. Page acquired this somewhere along the line during the Summer 2010 tour.
2001 Yamaha C7 grand piano fitted with German Steinway hammers (an exact replacement of the one he used from 93-01) for better attack and brightness. The piano has Helpinstill pickups fed to an Avalon DI and an Earthworks microphone system to capture the piano’s acoustics. Atop that is his Hohner D6 Clavinet fed through a Fender Deluxe amp (shown below). He usually uses a myriad of effects on that, you can see the mxr phase90 on top, but I’m not sure what he has on the floor. Typically a wah (vox recently, crybaby in the 90s), sometimes a boss distortion and/or digitech whammy.
Front of House sound is run by Garry Brown on a Midas XL8 Digital board.
From top to bottom, we have:
Waves MAXX BCL
Crane Song HEDD 192 Signal Processor
Dolby Lake Processor
Apogee Big Ben
Rane C4 Quad Compressor
Empirical Labs Distressor
Midas DL451 Modular I/O
On this side we have:
API 8MX2 8ch Mic Pre
Crane Song HEDD 192
Crane Song ISIS EQ
Manley Stereo Variable MU Limiter/Compressor
Tascam HD-R1 x2
Midas DL451 Modular I/O
Klark Teknik DN9696 Hi-Res Audio Recorder
Glyph GT103 w/ 1 drive
The left side of the Live Phish racks includes:
Apple Mac Mini
Presonus FP10 Firepod
Both Kuroda and his assistant are running full-size MA Lighting grandMA 2’s.
Kuroda’s grandMA2 is equipped with an M-Audio Axiom 61 for tactile control over the lights. The first 2 octaves are marked as “wipes”, the middle octave as “sprinkles” and the last 2 octaves as “scrim ex w/ color”. The black keys with green tape are each marked with different colors. In the scrim section, the keys are marked with letters and numbers. There is also one white key in the sprinkles section labeled “Bowie Pt 2″.
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