Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Phil & Company

oteil phil onstage

No band had two bass players. I’m sure some Rock Nerd is scurrying to the Comment Section to inform me of some obscure punk band with three singles from Stiff Records, but I stand by my statement: no band had two bass players. If one did, it shouldn’t have. You can double up on any other instrument in the rock arsenal, but not bass because what’s happening in the photo is what always happens when you have two bass players: one does the normal bass playering while the other fucks around way up on the neck; that’s literally all you can do because if both play low notes, it sounds like sonic chili. And not good chill: the stuff from a can with cinnamon added.

Also: holy shit, why is there a third bass guitar in the scene? Is Geddy there? Is that Geddy’s bass? Did Phil and Oteil jam with Geddy Lee and none of you fuckers told me about it? That is information I would enjoy having, and you know this. Why would you keep this from me? Or, if that’s not Geddy’s bass, then to whom does it belong and why is it there?

Wait: was this some sort of bass-off, like when drummers solo at one another? Ginger Baker used to do that bullshit: two drummers would solo at each other, possibly to the death. One guy goes WHAKKATHAKKABOOM, and the other guy goes BOOMTHANKKAWHAKKA, and repeat ad infinitum. I have not one single time made it more than three minutes into any “drum battle” except for this one:


Bass players are like quarterbacks: if you have two, you don’t have any. One bassist at a time.

Also: Oteil’s hat.

Also also: Sunshine Gaydream.

(Yes, some great songs have two bass parts–American Girl and Walk on the Wild Side come to mind–but that’s just a studio trick; no band has two bass players.)


  1. Your favorite: Ornette Colemans Prime Time had two bass players.

    • For European summer festival shows in 2007, after Sound Grammar was released, his touring group had three bassists (plus him and Denardo and that was it).

  2. How often do you see two bass players jam, and both of them are playing six-string bass?

    A few years ago, Oteil’s band opened for Hot Tuna in the cosmopolitan town of Carrboro, NC, and for the third set they did the jam thing. So Oteil has done the double bass thing with both Phil and Jack.

    At the Hot Tuna show., when people shouted “louder!’ Jorma said “it is loud. You just can’t hear. Welcome to my world.” I mean, he probably said that every show, but it was still funny.

  3. Morning Deuce

    June 4, 2016 at 1:26 am


    Spinal Tap

  4. Not sure if this would count, but King Crimson had a double bass attack for a while. Sometimes Tony Levin & Trey Gunn would both play bass though Trey Gunn mostly played his signature played Warr guitar which had a bass register as part of the instrument and Levin also played Stick which has a bass register. My own personal favorite band with two bass players is SF punk legend Flipper. They were excellent to see during the early ’80s. Cop Shoot Cop was a pretty gnarly early ’90s NYC affair that featured two bass players.

  5. I’m fairly confident that the last time I saw RatDog they had Robin Silvestre and Rob Wasserman, for the whole tour.

  6. Robert Hernandez

    June 4, 2016 at 4:24 am

    I saw Phil & phish Gordon do a bass duet at PLF show in 2000 or 2001. Can’t remember if it was Phil’s 60th b-day or NYE. But I saw it. It happened.

  7. Spinal Tap, Big Bottom, three basses

  8. Did someone call a rock nerd?

    Dos – with mike watt from the minutemen and Kira roessler from black flag. They were also married for a time which made them a double bass household. It didn’t last.

  9. Jammys: Claypool on upright, Gordo and Phil on bass guitar, the three of them made it work

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