15 Shades of Trey

Before getting hip to soliciting 100 BMG CD’s for a penny, the third album I bought with my own (babysitting) money was Harvest, by Neil Young.  I  just about broke my seventh-grade Walkman flipping between the anti-war lyrics and upbeat tempo of Are You Ready for The Country?and the hopeful frustration of the human condition within Heart of Gold.

Fifteen years later, I finally saw him live in Fall 2012 on his tour with Crazy Horse, an adapted Rust-reinactment-and-then-some; full of energy, and robust in sound and stage presence, as the three frontmen leaned in toward each other as if it was someone’s garage.  Yet the foursome kept the audience fully-engaged, and didn’t stop playing for over two hours.  It left me wanting a whole lot more of that feedback-laden siren song by Neil Young, who I’ve always considered to be an amphibian of rock n’ roll.  Much like the adaptable creatures who can live in both water and on land, he coexists so seemlessly in the worlds of electric and acoustic output, and thrives in both environments.

So when Crazy Horse guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro injured his hand this summer, and led Neil Young & Crazy Horse to cancel their Lock’n Festival performance, I was bummed to say the least.   I think a lot of people were.  In fact, Lock’n even offered refunds to anyone disgruntled by the change in scheduling, as Neil Young & Crazy Horse were a big draw to the already-stacked Lock’n lineup.

Who would fill in in just over two weeks’ notice?  Who could get all the way to Arrington, VA, to play one set, at the end of everyone in music’s busy summer touring schedules?  Who would fit in musically, on a bill full of rock, blues, and jam headliners, and be able to later sit in with Furthur for half their Saturday set?  Who also makes the BEST guitar-playing faces in music?  Trey Anastasio, of course.

Known for his wailing, improvisational, and nimble guitar-playing style, Anastasio seemed to have no problem personifying those same characteristics in action, and mobilized to VA to fill the empty spot left by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Upon closing up a two-month, 25-show, cross-country summer tour in Commerce City, CO, with Phish celebrating their 30th year playing together just six days before, he would now take the stage with his fifteen-year running, softer-rock outfit, TAB (Trey Anastasio Band).

And how appropriate for this interchange to take place, as Anastasio has noted how iconic Young has been to him in his career performing and melting our faces thru guitar shreds.  In a 2011 Rolling Stone interview, he recalled:

“In the Nineties, we (Phish) played a festival with Crazy Horse.  At the end of Like a Hurricane, Neil went into this feedback solo that was more like a sonic impressionist painting.  He was about six feet back from the microphone, singing so you could just hear him over the colorful waves of hurricane-like sound. I think about that moment a lot when I’m playing. Traditional concepts of rhythm and keys are great, but music is like a giant ocean. It’s a big, furious place, and there are a lot of trenches that haven’t been explored. Neil is still blazing a trail for people who are younger than him, reminding us you can break artistic ground.”

And Trey has done just that; a regular musical Jack Cousteau.  At 48, he has been rumored to be creating a new album with Phish, released an 11-song LP entitled Traveler last fall with TAB, and just this past summer on July 31, led Phish through a 36-minute Tweezer jam that categorizes just who Phish are as musicians.  They are definitively experimental, and fearless to leave the original, customary structure of a song behind through improvisation when venturing into type II territory, sculpting each song into its own unique experience.  The Tahoe Tweezer was an affirmation that Trey continues to live out Young’s teachings that you can, in fact, still break artistic ground at any point on your creative journey.  

One of the  most endearing things about Anastasio is that while he is playing, he is just as into it as us.  He makes the most amazing, contorted faces, known to fans as “Trey Face,” as he plucks from note to note.  And when it sounds like he’s really shredding or skipping around on tough chords, it certainly shows his efforts by his simultaneous facial expressions.

Fortunate enough to shoot some of the TAB set at Lock’n Fest, I now bestow upon you 15 Shades of Trey.  Out of over 100 still shots of this genius puddy-face guitar hero, here are some of the best and most Jim Carrey’d faces you could ever hope to see.



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