After over 2 decades working for the Phish organization as guitar tech to Trey Anastasio, fan favorite Brian Brown will be retiring in 2018. Brown, 65, has worked as a tech in the industry for 40 years. He explained that the physical toll of the profession has contributed to his decision to retire, including the “heavy lifting, truck loading, [and] 14 hour workdays.” Combining his 10 years as a musician to 40 as a tech, Brown says, “I’ve been setting up concert gigs for 50 years… since I was 15 years old,” adding “Mother Nature is telling me to slow down.”
Brown will be replaced by storied Canadian-born guitar tech Michael Kaye, who has worked with, among others, Paul Simon, Pete Townsend, Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Patti Scialfa, Jon Bon Jovi, and Warren Zevon. Read more about Kaye’s prolific career here. Brown described Kaye as “a great guy, very experienced, and super smart.” He adds, “I’m happy knowing Trey’s going to be well taken care of.”
Kaye was directly involved in the rebuild of Anastasio’s rig that took place at Bob Bradshaw’s Custom Audio Electronics in early December, 2017, and has been working with Anastasio, Brown, and Bradshaw on tweaks and maintenance since, including at Madison Square Garden for Phish’s 4-night 2017 New Year’s Eve run.
Anastasio has spoken highly of Brown from the stage. On July 8, 2016 in Mansfield, MA, after breaking a string during Cities, Anastasio asked Brown to linger on stage, saying, “This is my dear friend Brian Brown. If you like the guitar sound, cheer for this guy right now.” Needless to say, the crowd obliged. At Hampton Coliseum on August 9, 2004, on the eve of the band’s second hiatus, Trey said of Brown from the stage, “I would not be able to play without him… he totally makes all this stuff work.
Since February 2007, Brown has also been building hand-made cables for the legendary Hard Truckers company, famed for its celebrated speaker cabinets and work with the Grateful Dead. Brown’s Hard Truckers cables are made to the same exacting standards as the cables he’s built for Anastasio’s touring rig over the years. Hard Truckers CEO Glenn Goldstein described Brown as a “guitar and electronics wizard,” who “has dedicated his life to the science behind the music.”
Of Trey’s guitars, Brown has said, “Guitars slowly become who plays them. So, it starts out as a piece of wood with a bunch of copper wires and turns slowly into an extension of the person who’s playing it.”
“I’ll always be of service to Trey in the future,” Brown tells me, “just not the primary tech.”
On behalf of TGR, I would like to express my personal thanks to Brian, both for his 21 years of service to one of my favorite guitar players and bands and also for his advice and mentorship on all things rig-related, which helped make this website so much more than I ever could have hoped for when I started it. I’m incredibly grateful.
Definitely noticed Brian taking a back seat to Michael (now I know his name) during the NYE run. He was still around though. I’ve seen his face for 20 years. Congratulations on a great career to Brian!
Brian, from us casual fans to the devoted ones you’ve directly inspired and taught through osmosis, thank you so much for your life’s work. You truly are a mad wizard of guitar tech and it’s been fun to follow you through the years. We only met twice, which I’m sure you don’t remember with consideration to how many folks you must “meet” on the road, but they were:
– Miami 2014 NYE: I yelled to you from the front row behind the stage about “the #2” which had recently been refinished, and you stopped and perked up “the #2? Now we’re talking!” And we proceeded to chat a bit about what was done to it, and I was able to show you a pic of my ‘Doc replica that I had on my phone.
– Vegas 10/28 or 29/16: the second encounter was less “cozy” shall we say. I was the guy who handed you and CK5 the manila envelope titled “Phish Halloween Dossier” which contained four tablature/lyric sheets to two songs which I had hoped would make it back to the band: John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” and Grand Funk Railroad’s “I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home”. Alas, the band has yet to play either (I assumed those ended up in the trash) but you can assume my excitement this year when that pirate ship and sail was unfurled….only to be crushed again. Shiver me timbers…I thought we were gonna get the second one.
Anywho…thanks again, Brian. Your work is appreciated and admired.
I thank you Brian for many years of sonic Ecstasy! I for one appreciate everything you have done to make my favorite guitarist sound epic! Wish you the best and thank you!
The only era of Trey’s sound that’s hard for me to understand what shaped it (technically) is the 99-00 era. Any insight from Brian about what was going on with the rig back then? I’m very curious
Have you checked out my Summer 2000 page? https://treysguitarrig.com/2000/07/01/2000-summer/
There’s also a NYE ’97-’98 page.
I have. I’m familiar with all of that gear, but the sounds he got during era had to have some from some sort of significant custom mod…maybe the amps?
Early to mid 90s sounds just like a boogie with a compressor and two tube screamers. 97 and 03 (although very different) seem easy to replicate with the DR amps and the usual pedals. But something about the 99-00 was so different and seems impossible to replicate. I’ve always been confused by it… Figured with Brian retiring it was my last chance to see if he could shed some light on it.
Thanks for the great site! Incredibly interesting
Looking for my comment but I don’t see it. Was it removed, Ryan?
It should be up there — do you see it now?
I get what you’re saying about that ’99 sound… I really have a feeling has to do with Trey’s Leslie.
Sounds like he has it on “slow” a lot of the time… The Leslie combined with his Whammy pedal was all over Summer ’99 Jams.
Quick question – for the bobby phil and trey trio trey used maple #2 as a backup instead of koa #2. Thoughts, or reasoning why you think he’d do this? I read a couple of your treads about why trey uses koa #1 as opposed to koa #3 and your reasoning is that he’d like to mature the guitar wood, but when i saw maple #2 (the least desirable ‘doc in my opinion) on stage I was shook. Please explain if you’d like
The likelihood of even touching the backup is low.. so less attention is given over the that
Could be Trey had that in NYC and just grabbed it on his way out the door
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Ahh spent a lot of time in this field, well what else I can say except thanks for your services!!
I’m one of the fans that enjoys sitting side/rear stage so I can watch Fish all night. Many times I’ve observed some intense jams, the crowd is going nuts, and Brian is relaxing with his feet up on his chillin’! LOL. I always wanted to know what kind of music he prefers to listen to.
One Year in ( almost) and Brian is missed everyday on the tour- we try to get him back….but he says when pigs fly