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Thunderhead has not been seen in 42 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2022-09-03.
It was played at 0.35% of live shows.
It has been performed live 7 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall

Original Artist: Trey Anastasio

Vocals: Trey

Debut: 2003-01-02

Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)

"Thunderhead" drawn on common themes from Tom Marshall’s emotional backpack and Phish’s stylistic palette. Lyrically we visit the silent prison of miscommunication and lack of genuine connection, with the longing to break free of these patterns ultimately unfulfilled. “And when with them all my words for you, have softly sublimated too” suggests a sugar coating that stands only as a bridge to the ultimate destination for the mismatched in the world: breaking apart . (Although on a brighter note it is certainly the coolest – if not the only – usage of  "sublimated" in rock and roll history).  Each of the verses have a parallel form with three lines voicing the pain of estrangement, and a final line containing potential resolution emerging as beams of light at the end of a very dark tunnel. 

Musically we are perhaps offered a window into the future of tension and release, one endowed with a muted elegance, simplicity, and sophistication. Phish transforms the solitary acoustic framework of “Thunderhead,” breathing life and depth into the song’s water images. Certainly a departure from the more excited tension and release structure that defines so many of Phish’s earlier offerings, “Thunderhead” nevertheless expresses its own interlocking duality. Lyrical images alternate between dark and light, and the musical structure mirrors this pattern, with ominous, stormy metaphors giving way to a breathy, lilting, and suspended melody.

“Thunderhead” was one of two Round Room songs (along with “Pebbles and Marbles”) that made their debuts with the Trey Anastasio touring ensemble before the album’s release. “Thunderhead” premiered on 5/1/02 at Philadelphia’s Indré Studios, a taping with a live audience for the nationally syndicated public radio program Live at the World Café. Outside of Phish, Trey has played the song seven times solo, acoustic. Trey’s solo interpretations do not vary in any significant way from each other; whether for the song’s own merits or for the outstanding music around it, check out Trey’s tour opening performance on 5/21/02 in Seattle, 6/1/02 in Vegas, or 6/22/02 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

“Thunderhead” debuted on the Phish stage on 1/2/03 during the hiatus-ending holiday run, at Hampton. Renditions of the song by Phish are more or less similar; among the six appearances in 2003. Be sure to check out 7/23/03 (between “Antelope” and “Slave”), 7/29/03 (emerging out of a blistering “Crosseyed and Painless”), or 12/1/03 on the 20th-anniversary run. After a nineteen-year gap, “Thunderhead” returned to the stage at their annual Labor Day weekend run at Dick’s on 09/03/22. This version was most likely inspired by the storm the night before, resulting in a two-hour delay and “one long-ass set.”

Recommended Versions: 2003-01-02, 2003-07-29

Albums: Round Room


© Who Is She? Music, Inc. (BMI)

I need a new way to express myself
So you don't need to guess
What otherwise I'd say aloud
And watch it float just like a cloud

High up above you like a thunderhead
But you would just look down instead
And wait 'til foggy skies abate
And vapor clouds all dissipate

And when with them all my words for you
Have softly sublimated too
And you'll just hope that I've moved on
So you'll look up and find me gone

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