Classically trained pianist Holly Bowling reimagines Phish on solo piano.
To say that pianist Holly Bowling is a big fan of Phish is a bit of an understatement.
Bowling, a classically trained pianist who began playing at the age of five, has attended over 300 Phish shows. Her passion for the music of the Vermont based masters of jam has spilled over into her latest musical project, a collection of fifteen classic Phish tunes reinterpreted for piano entitled Distillation of a Dream: The Music of Phish Reimagined for Solo Piano.
Phish fans will revel in the solo piano treatment given to tunes like “Harry Hood,” “Waste,” and “Fly Famous Mockingbird.” Even more impressive, though, was the attention Bowling gave to the transcription of three live cuts, “Twist,” “The Wedge,” and a 37 minute “Tweezer” from the Lake Tahoe show in July of 2013.
Yes, you read that right. Every note of a 37 minute “Tweezer,” painstakingly transcribed and played on solo piano. Never before has obsession so easily slipped into a maniacal beauty.
I recently caught up with Holly Bowling to chat about that epic “Tweezer” and how I might get my wife to dig Phish a bit more.
BRO – You’ve been to 300+ Phish shows. Favorite show of all time?
HB – My favorite show is always the next one I’m going to! But I think my favorite show I’ve seen has to be 7/31/13, just for the Tahoe “Tweezer” alone. There are shows that are more complete, but the Tahoe “Tweezer” is the highest musical peak I’ve seen Phish attain, and that carries the show for me.
BRO – I can’t get my wife to listen to 37 seconds of a Phish tune. You transcribed a 37 minute “Tweezer” for piano. Is there still time to help my wife “get” Phish on that level?
HB – There’s definitely hope! I’ve heard from several people that Distillation of A Dream is a good way to get people into Phish who don’t “get it” yet. It’s sort of a hidden agenda with this record. You throw on this solo piano album around your family, your girlfriend, your coworker, whoever . . . and maybe they’re into it without realizing what they’re listening to. They ask you what it is and you tell them, “Ha! You’re listening to music by Phish right now and you like it!” Try it out on your wife and let me know how it goes.
BRO – As a classically trained pianist, you are well familiar with the composers most of us know – Bach, Beethoven, Mozart. How do the guys in Phish stack up in comparison?
HB – Oh, man. I can’t stack composers up against each other like that. But I will say this – as different as they are, I’ve had moments where Phish’s songwriting has taken me to the same inward place as listening to Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” and I’ve felt the same blissful rush of energy and loss of self while playing Beethoven’s “Waldstein Sonata” that I am always chasing at Phish shows. So they’re both able to achieve IT, and that’s what matters, as far as I’m concerned.
BRO – Put together your favorite setlist for me.
HB – For me, a perfect set is less about song selection and more about where the songs go once they break away from the composed structure, but my favorite songs in a live setting are “Tweezer,” “Ghost,” “Piper,” “Sand,” and”Twist,” especially the way they have been playing it this summer!! That would be a really solid five song second set right there. If I really get to design a completely unrealistic dream setlist, though, it would start with “Soundcheck Jam” and end with a “40 Minute Anything.” Maybe I’ll throw in a triple encore with with two songs I’m still chasing – “All Things Reconsidered” and “Izabella” – and top it off with “Sanity.”
BRO – Page turns up sick and the band calls you to fill in. How quickly are you on the plane?
HB – That would be the happiest day of my life. I’d be out the door so fast, I might even forget to put pants on.
Holly Bowling will be in Colorado and California over the next couple weeks before returning to the East Coast for shows in New York and Vermont at the end of the month. For more on when and where you can catch Holly live, please check out her website.