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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2013/08/27
by David Steinberg

Down With Disease! or How My Life Was Saved By Rock and Roll…Again

We stopped at home just long enough to drop off our bags and change cars and it was off to Lake Tahoe. While the venue was just a parking lot in a casino, the surrounding area was just as stunning as it was advertised.

Still though, it will not be the stunning lake views on our hike or the Mockingbird poker tournament that will be remembered. It all comes down to that “Tweezer.”

The thing to remember about the Stateline, NV “Tweezer” is that it was really good before the parts that everyone talks about. There are some stunning melodic spaces with some incredible guitar and keyboard tones. The first twenty-one minutes aren’t a waste of time by any means; it’s just that the next fifteen are so incredible.

It starts with Page exploring some beautiful riffs. Trey then takes over the jam and builds to a peak. The taking a theme and speeding it up into a euphoric blend is my absolute favorite type of improvisation – String Cheese Incident built a career around that for a few years in the late 90s – and I could see them play fast jams forever. Unfortunately, you can’t just build and build. You need the slower sections to make the faster ones fully stand out. So after a little peak, the jam slowed into a stop/start section and the band/fan relationship suddenly reached a new stage.

Slowly at first, but then getting louder, a “Woooo!” scream happened at the pauses in the jam. This seemed to inspire Trey as he suddenly launched into a peak of incredible beauty and power, one that caused me to jump up and down, over and over again with a grin larger than I thought myself capable. The launch around the 28 minute mark of the “Tweezer” jam isn’t just one of my favorite moments of Phish in 3.0. I’d put it with pretty much anything I’ve seen Phish do in their career. I’ve already listened to it dozens of times – perhaps most notably was the day after the show, where I found myself sprinting around the hotel parking lot like a madman, running in circles and dancing, completely lost in the jam – and from that moment two things have changed.

The first is that Phish and the band have a new tool in our arsenal. I know it’s cool to bitch about the post-Tahoe, “Wooo”s but if you listen to how they happen, they’re (well almost… the “Reba” one was a bit silly) always signaled by the band. When they want a cheer, they drop out and give us the pause. I see this as a modern manifestation of the old secret language, but this is one that we helped to create rather than it being given to us by Trey.

The other change was more personal. Ever since the second night of Tahoe, and the sheer bliss of the moment, my life has changed again, this time for the better. I still have diabetes – and if there’s one thing I hope this column does, it’s to inspire people to get checked. We’re not getting younger as a fanbase and catching diabetes early is the difference between having to make a few changes to your eating and exercise habits and facing massive and terrifying complications. – but I no longer feel like I am living the life of a diabetic. Sure, I have to be careful about food choices and I can’t just grab the first thing I see that looks good. I have to be sure to get some serious exercise almost every day. But what I was reminded of in a parking lot in Stateline, is that there’s a reason why I’m doing this. It’s not just an endless fight against my pancreas. There’s beauty out there. Staying healthy is a means. The ends is being able to see as much of it as possible, be it mountain glaciers, epic waterfalls, or a ridiculous peak nearly 30 minutes into a “Tweezer” jam.

Phish helped me make it through the bleak years that were the Cruces era. They introduced me to most of my friends. They helped create the excuses to hang out with my wife in the early days of our relationship. As if that weren’t enough, they now led me out of a half-year health related depression. I know they know that people love their music – it’s why they can have a career playing it – but I wonder sometimes if Phish realize just how many positive effects they’ve had on us. Sure we can get caught up in the world of bitching about repeats or the songs that we don’t like, but it’s good to sit back and remember just how much joy they have brought to the world. So Jon, Trey, Mike, and Page, for all that you have brought over the years, thank you. Your music is making positive differences in the world, far beyond what you are even aware of. You deserve all of the rewards that this world can give you.


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 Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the blog and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

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