Songs and setlists are sure to shift in the upcoming chapter of Phish. While they will almost certainly retain a number of classic songs, their frequency possibly decreasing, more room will need to be carved for new material. Not only for the songs that already exist in Trey’s catalog, but also for songs yet to be written. Somewhere within this return, you can be sure Phish will find their way back into the studio to create another, if not multiple, new albums. In finding an equilibrium with their future setlists, you can be sure the band will dip into their post-hiatus material. Despite a lot of negative fan feedback, I personally think the two post-hiatus albums are amazing. I am not trying to prove any point here, but they really are the only two Phish albums I listen to- Round Room and Undermind. Both albums flow beautifully from beginning to end, and have distinct vibes. Yet, my point here is not to defend these albums, but to discuss all the material on these albums that Phish barely got to explore in their brief “second phase” of existence.
Featuring so many creative songs, these albums will certainly provide improvisational vehicles for the future Phish. We got a glimpse into the potential of some of these songs, and others- not so much. Let me get a little more specific here. Round Room brought us such launch pads as Seven Below, Waves, Pebbles and Marbles, Round Room, and Walls of the Cave. All five of these songs have proven that they are legitimate Phish jams, with Seven Below and Waves having already gone to incredibly deep and psychedelic places. In terms of Undermind, we have already bore witness to sacred explorations of Scents and Subtle Sounds and The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, while they were still in their infancy. Let’s familiarize ourselves with what will most likely be resuscitated from Phish’s sudden demise.
ALBUM: ROUND ROOM
Seven Below is already synonymous with “Phish jam.” A proven monster, you knew this song had big things in store with its majestic New Years Eve debut, amidst new crystals of snow. Having been played significantly during ’03 and ’04, almost all versions went off in one direction or another. Sandwiched in Disease in Vegas ’03, and busting out of its shell at the Chicago show of the same winter, Seven Below earned its stripes unusually quickly. With a ridiculously dark and psychedelic jam deep into the second night of the Gorge, the song officially became a huge vehicle. Featured in the IT’s Rock and Roll > Seven Below > Scents, and blowing up into a dark groovefest at Alpine June of ’04, the song was as big as any during the post-hiatus era. Expect a lot more from this one!
Another song that has already reached great heights and depths, Waves will almost surely return as a massive jam in the future. Some of post-hiatus’ most interesting jams grew from the nautical epic- see 8.2.03’s 40-minute dark triumph, SPAC ’04 first set’s intricate and ambient exploration that eventually segues into the intro of Bowie, or Lakewood 03’s Waves > Tweezer. A great set opener as well, Waves is a versatile masterpiece that can remain in composed shallow water or plunge into the abyss at any moment.
A personal favorite, this song has provided two beautiful and ambient journeys with its Vegas ’03 and Nassau ’03 winter appearances. Only performed four times ever, this is one that Phish held back on. A syncopated rhythmic melody that inadvertently evokes musical references to Blondie’s reggae cover, “The Tide Is High,” this song has a quirky calypso and very Phishy feel. With great potential for patient, layered jams that could define a large part of the new Phish, Round Room is a song to look out for in the future.
Walls of the Cave
While performed quite a bit within the year and a half it was alive, the song never really reached its potential. Generally remaining within sped up rock territory, it only appeared as a true improvisational vehicle at the LA Forum on Valentine’s Day, as the massive second set centerpiece of Walls > Carini. Almost two distinct songs within one, the compositional part carries the feel of an eerie fable, symbolically referencing the Twin Towers tragedy, while the disjointed jam takes off as a straight rock and roll romp through the silent trees. Placed in significant slots, closing several sets, Walls served its purpose. Hopefully, if it remains as part of Phish’s setlists, it will begin to do much more.
Pebbles and Marbles
A beautiful and poetic Trey composition, Pebbles and Marbles is a Phish song whose jam never did much in its six appearances. With its most extended improvisation coming as part of the much maligned Vegas ’04 run, this is another song whose potential has yet to unfold. As it has appeared, its Phish-rock jam resembles the textures of standard Down With Disease improv. Another song that could evolve into great jams during Phish’s next stage, we will wait and see what the future holds for this potential beast.
Scents and Subtle Sounds
The most majestic of the post-hiatus compositions, Scents has already illustrated a propensity for both bliss and psychedelia. With mystical opening verses about living in the moment, appreciating the subtleties of life, and finding a metaphysical way to experience the magic of the moment forever, the song gives way to a gorgeous uplifting jam that resembles a modern-day Harry Hood. Taking no time at all to establish itself as a jam vehicle, this quickly became a fan favorite in the summer of ’03. With quintessential explorations happening in Camden, NJ during both summers of ’03 and ’04, the band has proven that the song can be used to build ambient sky-reaching soundscapes, as well as provide gorgeous climbing journies. I can only hope they decide to put the song back together, and perform the initial verses, instead of starting the song halfway through. Losing its continuity after its truncation, Scents was never short on producing intense improvisation. Expect a lot more from Scents, as it seems like the perfect song for Phish to keep under the magnifying glass.
The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing
Phish’s performance of this song at SPAC on 6.19.04, immediately vaulted itself into the “best Phish jams ever.” With a dark composed section leading into virgin territory, what came out were sinister grooves, newly discovered psychedelic realms, and a melodic guitar led resolution for the ages. This is one of those jams that practically sounds composed, with some Trey licks for history. I will put this jam up against any other- it’s that good. All of this in the second time it was ever played- the first being an “album length” version at Coney Island. I’ve gotta’ believe that this will be one of the newest and brightest launch pads for Phish in the forthcoming era, and I am incredibly excited to see the future songs that will spring from the Ocean.
Having been brought out only two times, its second Deer Creek ’04 performance led into a mellow ambient segment eventually turning into Slave. A whimsical song about the transient nature of life, its catchy melodies and lyrics fit its subject well. This delicate jam could definitely grow into a more patient, mature piece of Phish improv. We will see what happens, but if Phish continues to play this one expect some very unique textures to result.
Untouched by Phish, I called this as the second set opener for most of those June ’04 shows. Unfortunately, I was never right. Having been played a couple times pre-Undermind (the album) by Trey’s solo band, it seemed like a likely addition to Phish shows. With symbolic, yet fun lyrics, and an infectious groove, Phish could build some creative jams out of the title track from their last album. I still feel Phish will open one of the Hampton sets with this song- it just seems so appropriate, but I’m no longer putting any money on it. You can be sure when Phish does finally play this, I will be one of the happiest cats in the building.
Maybe the band will play all of these, and maybe they will play none at all. Its hard to say what will make up their yet-to-form newest musical portfolio. Odds are that at least some of these post-hiatus launch pads will find their way into regular rotation. And let me just say, it is just so great to be talking about what might be in Phish’s upcoming rotation! Anyhow, look out for these 2.0 jams to make a significant splash in v.3.
(I would have made a compilation- there are so many great post-hiatus moments-but I can’t post official sbds. Oh well.)
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY
The show directly before the all-night Glens Falls Halloween affair, this one is a segue-laced, well-played show that features bust outs of Buffalo Bill after 220 shows and two years, and The Who cover, “Sparks.” With a Sleeping Monkey sandwiched in a second set Antelope, and a significant mid-set YEM, this show is full of high paced Phish fun. This pristine soundboard recording provides a crystal clear replica of the evening before Phish’s initial musical costume.
I: My Friend My Friend, Sparkle, Simple, Runaway Jim, Foam, Lawn Boy, Split Open and Melt > Buffalo Bill > Makisupa Policeman > Rift
II: Down With Disease > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Sparks> Uncle Pen, You Enjoy Myself, HYHU> Bike > Run Like an Antelope > Sleeping Monkey > Run Like an Antelope
E: Harry HoodTags: Comeback, Jams, Songs