It’s Only Getting Better

3.7.09 (C. Jones)

3.7.09 (C. Jones)

With a show that brought the fire from the “Sanity” opener to the “Tweeprise” encore, Phish left the audience in awe and salivating for summer tour.  With a setlist that reads as a joke, Phish created a “perfect” show.  The band absolutely left no doubt in anyone’s mind or heart as to who their favorite band on the planet is again.  After nearly twelve hours of emotional and enthralling Phish music, I’m spent.  I will absolutely write about the show in detail, but it is going to have to be after a day of transit back to the west coast.

In a nutshell, the band took their final step from somewhat structured jamming into completely free flowing improv with a 22 minute exploration of “Down With Diesease.”  And the fantasy setlist became a joke when the combination of “Twist > 2001 > Moma” dominated the second half of the set.  Phish is back.  Miner is out.

No Spoilers is up for all three nights!!

264 Responses to “It’s Only Getting Better”

  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    Camman- no offense- you sound like a fool. The overwhelming quality of the weekend was that Nothing was botched.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    This weekend was the greatest- but now it’s REALLY on!!

  3. wizzle1986 Says:

    I don’t think these three shows are a definite indicator of “the 09 sound”. Also about the no huge jams, first of all bigger is not better by any means. I’ve heard phish play numerous 20 minute “jams” that were complete shit, but trey said in the new york times article that they had 80 songs they wanted to play and thats what they did. i believe they did this to gauge what they need to work on and where they stand. there were obviously some miscues, as there were in 93 as well, but they have definitly made a effort to bring back some old-school shit. much appreciated,i think its great

  4. Wilson Says:

    have not heard night 3 yet … will after work tonight.

    my take: they improved night 1 to 2. At some points in the second night, you could hear them improving song to song. Was PYITE totally butchered? Sure, but who anyone who didn’t expect a few rough spots is completely detached from reality. I saw the reunion run last time around. I can tell you – without a doubt – that they are light years ahead of where they were then. Personally, I think the band sounds like they’re really intent on making the overall product better, and Phish was always about being more than the sum of their total parts (or Trey, for that matter). Anyone sitting around waiting to hear Trey “miss” notes and jam in a was that’s unlike 1995 is totally missing the point, and the beauty, of the band.

    My guess: by the end of summer tour they are totally on top of their game. Just listen to that Ghost from night two. It’s pretty damn sharp, interesting, different, energetic, and emotive… it’s bona fide Phish. To get that on night two, we should all be pretty encouraged.

    Welcome back, Phish. I missed you. Now PLEASE come to the west coast. Outside Lands would be nice too 😉 cause i could just walk over to GG Park.


  5. Matso Says:

    @ camman –

    You sound like the most jaded fan in the world and you’ve never even seen the band. Go take some Vitamin D, get some sun, do something to lift your spirits my boy!

    Trey doesn’t need to get better. He is a Jedi. He evolves. I honestly can’t say whether he improved between 1992 and 2004 – I just know his style changed. It’s all a matter of which phase you prefer: some days I go for the firm, solid leadership of a 92 Weekapaug; some daye the delicate lullabies of a 94/95 Reba or Hood; some days the crisp attack on a 97/98 Limb by Limb; and some days the crunchtastic bottom feeding of 03 Type II.

    Today and for the months to come I’m probably just going to go for the bluesy, considered and careful playing of the past three days. I think I’ve said it before here and I’ll say it again: listen to set II day 2 again.

  6. tyler Says:

    It’s odd how some people can completely miss the point, but I agree that it’s probably just a symptom of youth. It seems like these shows were aimed at old school phish fans, as a statement of return and almost an apology for their long slow drift away from greatness. To play three huge shows with that intention is a profoundly wonderful thing on the band’s part. They’re returning the love.

    Now, when it comes to the details of the music, there is no one more objectively analytical than I am. And that side of things is worth discussing, but it profoundly misses the point on its own. The most essential similarity between the Grateful Dead and Phish – and the thing that separates those two bands from all their copycats and would-be competitors – is that the music is means to an end rather than the end itself. It is a vehicle for transporting minds, or perhaps souls, to a place of peak experience. On that level, these shows were obviously an absolute success, and this is the part that really matters.

    So with that in mind, a few words about the music.

    First of all, anyone who thinks there’s anything wrong with that Fluff is simply fired. You’re done: excised from the conversation. There’s a certain level of wrongness that precludes you from ever being taken seriously again.

    Second, as has been mentioned above, there’s a big difference between “practice shape” and “game shape.” When a baller is out for a month with an injury, they can typically still practice some: run some sprints, shoot some buckets. But when they’re back in the lineup, on the floor at game speed, a whole different level of energy is required. And yes, players in their early to mid 20s recover much quicker than us older fellas. So keep that in mind.

    Third, yes Page was the wonderful surprise of the weekend, but let’s talk some Mike for a second. He’s at another level compared to the last time Phish had it together. What a fucking beast that guy has become!

    Now, as for Trey. Overall he played great. Sensational at times, and then he borked a few things. The Mr Miner section in Hood, the Landlady bit, other little moments. Keep some perspective. He didn’t stay in the top speed runs for multiple bars until the second night – and no he may never play the super-extended hyperspeed runs that go on and on, like a ’94 divided sky or ’97 taste, he might not do exactly that again – but COME ON. Whatever. By the time he got to that Saturday Antelope, he was wound pretty freaking tight.

    Musically, from a completely objective perspective, these shows were excellent. Not perfect – but it’s not about perfection. Is there room for technical improvement? Sure. See “game vs. practice shape” above.

    From an emotional perspective, in terms of what the shows meant, of the effect they had on people, these were some of the finest and most important shows in their history. I hope the band knows that. It was an absolute triumph.

  7. kevin are hollo Says:

    i can’t wrap my twisted little head around something:

    mr. miner, you seem like an intelligent fella, someone that’s been around the block. you’ve obviously studied writing to a degree and can wield hyperbole like nobody’s business.

    and while i’m grateful that a small group of us can huddle around our computers and share common space on the web, when you say things like “There is simply no basis for complaint, “anyone who is saying anything negative about these shows is either jealous they weren’t there” reduces this little dialogue we’ve got going to a fucking 10th grade lunchroom.

    OPEN YOUR FUCKING EARS! i’m so sick of the glad-handing and permissiveness of phish fans (who by the way, were not always like this!). go find the interview with trey and co from back in the day, where he talks about how CRITICAL his fans are. and that it’s a good thing!

    i already said how i felt about the opening night, and the joy and excitement coursing through my living room. it was great to be back in that place. but there’s room for a critical ear too, and a loving sense of PUSH for the musicians to keep at it, to keep getting better.

    to publish an article in the times stating your resolve to return to a precision and quality takes real gumption. to not deliver on that demands a healthier critique than this.

  8. guyforget Says:

    Cam – Bonnaroo will be a perfect place for you to experience Phish, not the Fox or any ampitheatre. Seems like more your scene after re-evaluation. you are only 17. This would be like me critiquing Led Zeppelin on thier return to the stage. Rediculous. Sorry man.

  9. camman Says:

    i really am done listening to the fools on here

  10. MP Says:

    I can’t wait to see cam on his back at a show trying to figure out which way is up after 4 hours of fire. We will see about your critiques then. Shut up and dance.

  11. tyler Says:

    There’s an old story about a Zen master trying to teach about enlightenment. In a profound moment of silence late one night he points at the large and beautiful full moon, indirectly reflecting the light of the Sun to their eyes. Unfortunately the student stares at the Zen master’s finger as it points, thinking the gesture contains the meaning.

    Miner, I think, is more interested in *what actually happened* in the room than in details of the music. Objective ears will disclose flaws: certainly. But to obsess over that is to stare at the finger pointing at the moon: missing the point in the deepest possible way.

    Plus, what may (arguably) once have been healthy critique (though that’s not the online conversation I remember from the 90s) has devolved into nothing more than caustic trollery for the most part, to the point where nuanced critique is difficult to maintain without feeding into the frenzy.

  12. los Says:

    pHISH rocks!!!! They’re BACK!!!!! What a WEEKEND!!!!!!!!!!!!

    NEw SOUND Is GREAT!!!!!

  13. guyforget Says:

    Kevin are hollo – some constructive criticism is always that, constructive and thought provoking. If i can speak for miner, since he’s probably on a plane, i simply think that he’s saying that we should just be happy that they are back with a vengeance, and as somebody said earlier, ions ahead of the hiatus return. For some to dissect these 12 hours of music and point out the shortcomings rather than the appreciate the overall point of what this weekend meant is a complete sham. Yes, there were some lowlights, and many highlights, but Miner, like most of the rest on this site are just so thrilled to have this music back, that today is not the time to dwell on the any negativity. you have to realize, those that were there are still floating on cloud 9 and have not had chance to hear the “flubs”. I think it’s only those who were sitting at home enjoying the shows on our couches (thanks to this site by the way) that are being critical. There is a twist of irony in there somewhere.

    over the 3 nights of no-spoilers, did i cringe at moments? Yes. Did i jump up from teh couch and start dancing around my living room like a nut? Yes. There were far more of the latter than former…

  14. guyforget Says:

    and by the way Camman, thanks for cancelling the hotel room in Hampton i gave to you. I had them calling me Friday night asking me when i’m checking in as they have a waiting list a mile long for rooms. I’ll guess i’ll chalk up your irresponsibility to immaturity too.

  15. Wilfred Brimley Says:

    Tyler and Al- Both of your posts hit the nail on the head to me…Well put. One song that was noticeably missing was the Curtain [With]…I think they will bust it out at Bonnaroo or final summer show encore….

  16. R1 Says:

    @Kevin – I agree that critique is legitimate, healthy, and sometimes interesting. but i also agree that a vigorous critique of the music from the past three nights is perhaps inappropriate. i always listen with a critical ear, but critique must be considered in the context of the work, and the context of these 3 shows doesn’t lend itself to intensive fault-finding.

    camman, i am no longer interested in anything you have to say. not because i don’t believe your opinions are legitimate or interesting (which i don’t), but because you seem to think they are more valid than those of who have seen and heard more than you have

  17. SoulHo Says:

    After listening to all three shows, my take is that up until the Antelope during night 2, the music sounded very contrived. But of course it did, they hadn’t played in 5 years and I’m fine with that. In my opinion playing the shorter versions of songs is one way to re-invent the phish 3.0. Obviously the band will reflect on the playing and realize where future expansive jams can occur. No one can disagree that hammering through this superfluity of songs was an absolute confidence booster (Trey especially).

    When I go back and re-listen to Its Ice, I really appreciate what they did in trying to find the open spaces in the ambientesque segment. In my opinion, this marked the first turning point in the run. With Mike and Page louder in the mix now, I think to slow things down and explore are exactly what Trey needs to find more notes. I also think SOAMelt and Reba would have had an entirely different feel had they been arranged later in the set after It’s Ice.

    The fact that songs like Foam, My Friend, My Friend, and even Scent of a Mule were attempted on night 3, speaks volumes as to how re-dedicated and special the phish is this time around. DWD ~14 minute is a peak to the end of the summer tour.

  18. kevin are hollo Says:

    no one’s obsessing (‘cept maybe poor cam), and i’m certainly not trolling.

    and i too went to bed friday night with a stomach full of churning froth.

    yes, the weekend was important, necessary, and an overall good thing. i’m sure being there was a total blast! crowd noise/energy can be a very powerful thing.

    i guess i’m just struggling for a voice of reason amidst the classic “best ever” ness that has plagued phish since their day’s at nectar’s.

    there were moments in tweezer that sounded like pure whole band improv to me, in fact, i counted three distinct melodies that surfaced in the new chord progressions that emerged. i was all boners.

    as for the active vs passive listening bit, guy, i’m just as critical at shows too 🙂

    but i’m also the one who’s gonna be breakdancing AND doing ballet at the same time.

  19. b23 Says:

    Hee hee! It gets better and better. “Done listening to the fools.”

    Those ungenerous, unfriendly, would-never-go-way-the-hell-outta-their-way for a kid they’ve never met fools?


    May we all be blessed with such fools.

  20. tyler Says:

    gee R1, thanks a lot for condensing everything I meant to say in 2 longwinded posts down to one concise gem ;o) very well put

  21. wizzle1986 Says:

    oh, and by the way, i absolutely do not like farmhouse, but this one had a jam that ive never heard before. please correct me if i am wrong, like i said i pretty much hate farmhouse, so i usually dont listen to it, but i think this was one of the more rockin versoins, anyone?

  22. tyler Says:

    lol kevin nice – I did not think you were trolling – my point was that between the “best evers” and the trolls (who are largely ppl who think their first show was Best Ever and the most recent one sucks in comparison) its very very hard to find that middle ground.

    Also, what R1 said about context.

    It actually sounds like you and I share a similar perspective.

  23. contact420 Says:

    Does anybody like that their doing Undermind as much as me? I love it and hope it’s in the main rotation now, and that’s coming from a cat that’s seen Phish since ’92. It seems so happy to me, puts a smile on my face!

  24. guyforget Says:

    Point Taken, Kev. i’m not in favor of “best evers” either. Niether songs nor shows, because i always feel my ideas of “best evers” always happen to be ones i’ve seen live!!

  25. Weyoun42 Says:

    Well, I hesitate to enter this discussion precisely because I am a n00b who won’t see a live show for the first time until 6/19. But, I think I have a pretty good grasp on where my perspective is coming from. People who were at the show got pure joy. People listening to the no-spoilers got pretty close to that. I waited and got the SBD’s and listened to them on Bose headphones. The way I heard it, every flub, botch, boink, bort and every other type of misstep was magnified. It wasn’t until I took the ‘phones off and played the stuff to an open room that it improved. I guess I’m saying that, depending on how you heard it, the shows simply sounded different.

    In all honesty, the mistakes were generally few and far between. But, if you’re listening to the shows with crystal clear sound, a completely sober mind and your entire attention focused on them, the mistakes are going to sound horrendous. They sounded horrendous to me, but I put them in perspective. Was this a good beginning? Hell yes. Is there room for improvement? Duh, that’s the whole point. I don’t care if they came out and played the best shows of theirs lives, there is still room for improvement. It’s all about evolving. If you want the security of a “clean show” every time, go see a band where the set list is the same every single night and every song clocks in at a radio-friendly 4 minutes. Me, I’ll be at Deer Creek to see what’s new.

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