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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2007/04/22
by David Steinberg

Ode to Trey Anastasio

When you think you know the ending, it’s easy to mock the story. Everyone knew what was going to happen with Trey’s drug arrest. He’d get a fine that would be trivial for him to pay, community service, and a short period of time on probation. With the knowledge that he would be slapped on the wrist, no one was taking the situation – or the problem it implied – all that seriously. That’s what made the actual sentence so stunning; drug court and 5 years probation is a long time to spend weighing every decision you make over whether or not it could send you to jail. When you have to move to a different county, you’re not getting off easy.
As bad as this is for Trey in the short run (if you can call five years short), the severity of the sentence might be the one thing that could save him. The defining characteristic of heroin, after all, is how hard it is to quit. A short probation period would simply be a game to be played. There are plenty of stories about gaming that system. The increased difficulty of tricking drug court combined with the stiff penalties promised if he gets caught means that shortcuts will seem a lot less appealing.
Trey’s going to have some hard work ahead of him, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last eighteen years, it’s that Trey is an incredibly strong person. There are reasons why Phish managed to grow to the shed circuit. Yes, they were all amazing musicians and Trey and Tom wrote some wonderful songs. They were at the perfect time to take advantage of the Internet without getting swallowed by it. In addition to that, though, they also had Trey’s charisma.
There are certain people who take over a room when they’re in it. Some of that is musical ability, some of that is fame, but that’s not all of it. Long before Phish were playing arenas, Trey had that power, and what is that if not a manifestation of will? He has the ability to defeat it and he has the motivation to do so. What else does he need? How about the wishes of tens of thousands?
The history of our scene could be very different – the 60s happened, the Grateful Dead came out of it and developed an audience based around live performances instead of hit singles, Jerry died, the end. However, Phish came along and showed that the ideas behind the Grateful Dead could work for a completely different band. If you like any jamband outside of the Dead – and if you’re reading this site, the odds are pretty high that you do – you owe some degree of thanks to Phish for spreading the idea. Personally, I know that I owe Phish my current job (my interest in relearning programming was inspired by wanting to learn how to create Phish Stats), my girlfriend (met via the Phunky Bitches, our first date was Hampton 2003, and we got more serious over the course of that year’s shows), and most of the best nights of my life. I just wanted to take this time and space to say, ‘Thank you Trey.’
You have a lot of work ahead of you and it’s something that you have to do for yourself, but you should know that if there is anything that you do need, we’re out here for you. It doesn’t matter if you never play another note for the rest of your life, you’ve brought happiness to more people than you will ever know. Good luck fighting this and if there ever is something that I can do to help (e.g. some math lectures to take your mind off of things), just ask. You might have to beat this yourself, but you do not stand alone.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at
He is the stats section editor for The Phish Companion and is on the board of directors for the Netspace Foundation. You can read more of his thoughts at

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