As fans of rock, we know there’s a power in playing fast and loud. The music overtakes your resistances and bludgeons you into enjoying it. There’s no sense in trying to fight it because it’s just too damn strong. While that can be so much fun, it’s not the only path to musical perfection. Sometimes it can be about the subtle approach.

If there’s anyone who defines the concept of being able to move people with a fill, with a vocal inflection, that might be Jerry Garcia. Even when he was dying towards the end of his career – in fact because he was dying – he could take a song like “Stella Blue” or “Morning Dew” and have that be the most important thing in the world. Part of what made that so stunning was how little it took, just a slight change in phrasing or a brief pause, and the song felt completely different.

While I never expect to ever see a force of nature like Garcia again, part of the reason why I’ve been so excited by the new wave of Jam Grass bands is that they are so effective at channeling that effect. When song writing and harmonies are put to the forefront, you get beautiful moments. Instead of overpowering you, it sneaks around your logic and reason and transports you to bliss before you can notice anything is going on.

April might bring showers and baseball, but in the northwest, it’s also been bringing examples of this. The first happened on the night of the Mariners’ home opener. The Mariners and A’s were knotted in a tight game on a beautiful night, but when Chris Coglan hit a homer in the top of the 9th, I started to wander towards the exit. I left Safeco Field, wandered towards the International District transit station, and was shortly across the street from the Pike Place Market. Elephant Revival was playing The Showbox and I wanted to catch their whole set. Missing the Mariners go down in order in the 9th was worth it; they played with an amazing grace and elegance. Phish have a moment in “Slave to the Traffic Light” where the bottom drops out and Mike and Trey’s riffs dance around each other. It’s beautiful and stunning and it’s what makes that one of my favorite Phish songs to see. Elephant Revival’s set was like that, only instead of lasting for a minute or two, that moment of grace took up the vast majority of the set. It’s a more delicate spell that required work to stay focused on it, but the dividends were well worth the effort.

A few weeks later was the CD release party for Fruition’s Labor of Love. The event was a show in Seattle followed by two in Portland’s Wonder Ballroom. Since the first of those featured a guest appearance by Yonder Mountain’s Allie Kral, I figured it was worth the trek down Interstate 5. Driving from Seattle to Portland on a Friday afternoon is never a good time – it took me three hours just to get through the 70-mile drive to Olympia – but in an all around great show, there was a moment of pure perfection, one that made any amount of traffic worthwhile.

The release contains a song by Kellen Asebroek titled “The Meaning.” It’s a song about the conflict between having a perfect moment, one so good that it seems like the weather itself is organizing itself to maximize how amazing it is. The problem with a peak experience is that its very nature makes it short lived. The song deals with the balance, of trying to live in the moment, but also knowing that it will end. There’s all of this beauty in a world filled with amazing people, but at the same time, we know that our time here is limited. The better the moment, the more poignant the realization that it will all end at some point.

The song is divided into three parts, that each seem to fit a side of the mood. The first passage is a round through the bittersweet lyrics, backed only by an acoustic guitar. That’s the reflective moment, looking back on the day years later, thinking about how great that was and wishing you could be there again. The second time is a repetition of the verse, but this time with the full band backing. That’s the balanced approach, showing both the joy, knowing that it ends, but seeing that as part of the process. Finally there’s a blissful music outro which has no conflict whatsoever. Why did the breeze stick around to listen to their conversation? Listen to the final two minutes of the song and you might think that nature would want to hang out and dance to that. It’s an incredible expression of bliss, made even stronger with the contrast to the beginning of the song. Even if I hated all of their other material, it would have been worth being introduced to Fruition just to have this song in my life.

So what happens when you take a perfect song, one that I can get stuck on and listen over and over again, and then throw Allie Kral’s sweet violin tones into the mix? You get a moment where the rest of the world disappears and there’s only the music and you. Maybe it’s only a brief period where we still will be both around, but there’s no better way to spend that time than pursuing these moments of bliss.


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 now tweets and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

His book This Has All Been Wonderful is available on Amazon, the Kindle Store, and his Create Space store.