This site is no longer maintained. Use or

Go to
Current setlist
Use anyway Mobile


Pebbles and Marbles

Pebbles and Marbles has not been seen in 12 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2023-10-15.
It was played at 1.4% of live shows.
It has been performed live 28 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall

Original Artist: Trey Anastasio

Vocals: Trey (lead), Page (backing)

Debut: 2003-01-03

Historian: David Steinberg (zzyzx), Katie Holloway

A perfect companion to “Waves,” “Pebbles and Marbles” begins by describing a watery muse who is fire starter, fish lover and stargazer. Like one of Homer’s sirens, she is dangerous and compelling. Light is an apt metaphor for inspiration, and she craves all forms of it, candescent, and stellar. She respects above all the sources of light farthest from her, the stars themselves. She gives the poet ideas he would not have otherwise considered; planting seeds and illuminating things that he otherwise would not have inspected. He mulls over her independence from him (she’s on her own course) and his satisfaction with that state of affairs; he tells himself he wouldn’t have it any other way, although he doubts she knows it, which calls into question for the first time her tangibility; is she actually a real friend, or simply the writer’s muse, a projection of his imagination?

Tom Marshall compares the yields of inspiration, the “things on his mind,” to pebbles and marbles. These physical objects are tangible and accessible but dull and lifeless, so unlike his lady friend’s sea creatures, stars and fires. Pebbles can be picked up on a beach and held tight, but are made of cold stone. Marbles reflect and internally refract light but don’t create it. The very random and transient nature of the creative process is accented. Left alone with his little pieces of stone and glass, he wonders: Did the marble fall from his own hand? Does the muse even exist at all? The wistful final verse extends the query to relationships, and the listener is invited to consider not only Marshall’s relationship with his muse, but all our relationships and the spoken and written words that glue them together. Are they real bonds, or just transient mutterings, meant for the moment? The final lines contrast the listener’s paradox with that of the poet’s; is a poem or song we relate to really about our own lives? Is it a pebble left just for us? Or is it our wishful minds projecting patterns on a random rock in the sand?

Watch Pebbles and Marbles on YouTube "Pebbles and Marbles" – 8/7/09, George, WA

“Pebbles and Marbles” started its musical life in Trey’s solo band as the instrumental “Nothing But an E Thing.” While doing a radio promotion for his Trey Anastasio release on WBOS on 4/30/02, Trey played a new song. It started out as “E Thing” but then went into a section with Tom’s lyrics added. This version of “Pebbles and Marbles” – performed solo by Trey on an acoustic guitar – was reprised a month later on a KMTT appearance in Seattle before the first show of his band’s spring tour. While this performance was unfortunately overshadowed by his throwaway on-the-air joke about a Phish reunion in Hartford on November 17th, it got enough attention that people were expecting to hear it at that night’s show at the Paramount. “Pebbles and Marbles” was indeed played, but rather than the solo version that people were expecting, this was a full band performance. The song was played six times on this tour amidst rumors that Trey really thought of it as a Phish song.

Those rumors turned out to be well founded. In October the Phish community – already excited over the end of the hiatus – was stunned to learn of a surprise studio album to be released. The first track on the album would be “Pebbles and Marbles.” Three versions of this song already existed but none of them seemed likely to be how Phish would perform it. Sure enough, the Phish version marked yet another change for this song. Even that wasn’t the end of the story, as an orchestral version of the “E Thing” intro was released on Trey’s album Seis De Mayo under the title “Prologue.” If you’re wondering what kind of rock the pebble in “Pebbles and Marbles” is, it is obviously metamorphic.

Watch Pebbles and Marbles on YouTube "Pebbles and Marbles" – 8/4/13 San Francisco, CA. Video by LazyLightning55a.

The studio track demonstrated both the advantages and disadvantages of the Round Room recording process. Unfortunately, there are a few minor flaws (such as Trey coming in late on a vocal) in the composed section of the song. This is not something that people expect to hear in a studio album and it was cause for complaint. On the other hand, the jam section at the end captured Phish’s energy in a way that few studio tracks ever have. "Pebbles and Marbles?" More like molten lava!

It didn’t take long for “Pebbles and Marbles” to make its live show debut. It appeared late in the first set on 1/3/03. The Round Room version of this song was so strong, an unusual question for Phish fans was asked: would the live version be as good as the studio? Fourteen minutes later no one was worried about anything other than finding some water to rehydrate after dancing to that jam. With an interesting opening composition, a fascinating set of lyrics, and a jam akin to “Down with Disease,” it’s not surprising that this song quickly became a fan favorite. 

Alas, Phish setlists too frequently have lost their marbles. "Pebbles" was one of the rarer Round Room songs in 2.0 era - even the much-disparaged “Friday” was played more frequently in that period. Phish haven’t taken their marbles and gone home, though, as “Pebbles” has appeared a few times a year since their 2009 return, including on 12/31/11 MSG, 8/4/13 San Francisco, and 8/3/14 Alpharetta, GA.

Albums: Round Room, IT


(Anastasio, Marshall)
© Who Is She? Music, BMI

She started a blaze from one tiny spark
I didn't even detect
She loved the light, was dismayed by the dark
The stars though she seemed to respect

The faint light that flutters at night to the earth
Would land in her eyes and collect
Luminous creatures she'd find in the surf
I never thought to inspect

Pebbles and marbles like things on my mind
Seem to get lost and harder to find
When I am alone I am inclined
If I find a pebble in sand
To think that it fell from my hand

She gave me ideas
Planted the seed
But she never stopped to reflect
The course that she's on, wherever it leads
I never would redirect

Pebbles and marbles like words from a friend
Make us hold tight but are lost in the end
When we're alone we all seem to tend
If we find a marble in dust
To wish someone left it for us

Stats for "Pebbles and Marbles"Back to Songs

© 2024 The Mockingbird Foundation
Powered by
Designed by Adam Scheinberg