Tremendous Times In Tennessee

6.10.09 Knoxville, TN (Lanser)

6.10.09 Knoxville, TN (Lanser)

In a complete blowout at the Thompson-Boling Arena, Phish played a blockbuster show to an absolutely raging crowd of well over 20,000 in Knoxville, TN.  While there may have been better individual jams at other shows, Knoxville was certainly the most solid two sets of Phish we’ve seen this summer.  There was never a point where the show dragged, and with both sets relative marathons, it seemed as though the band didn’t want to leave the stage. In a show whose tickets wound up going for $10 on lot, the first sleeper show of this summer exploded with a dream setlist and precise improvisation throughout the night.

6.10.09 (Lanser)

6.10.09 (Lanser)

Phish came out to a the loudest ovation of the tour, and the energy in the building oozed onto the stage and never left. Sparking the night with a tight run through “Runaway Jim,” Phish then used a “second-opener” to juice the crowd even more with the scratchy opening and full-on grooves of “Punch You In the Eye.” While many other first sets have featured a long list of relatively jam-less songs, last night’s was quite different.  Beginning with the tour’s most extended “Ocelot,” Phish initiated the theme of the night- ridiculously creative “type I” improvisation.  Taking song’s structured jams and absolutely obliterating them from start to finish, Phish showcased their increasingly polished chops while crafting a show that included several classic crowd favorites.

6.10.09 (Lanser)

6.10.09 (Lanser)

Following up “Ocelot” with a tightly wound “Foam,” Trey and Page engaged in some sublime interplay before taking a breather in the summer’s first “Train Song.” With back-to back with tour debuts, Phish unveiled the second-ever incarnation of “Undermind” whose jam built upon Hampton’s premiere with additional twists and solos.  As the band conversed amidst a set that was quickly becoming the most significant opening frame of the summer, that status was confirmed as Trey hit the opening riff to “Mike’s Groove,” ostensibly as the set closer.  The “Mike’s” jam, much hotter than the Jones Beach version, brought some improvised darkness with searing guitar leads and fierce musical interplay.  In a virtually note-perfect “Hydrogen,” the band’s fluidity gelled with their classic composition, leading up to raucous “Weekapaug” jam whose improv took a turn for the spunky and spirited. Phish’s teeth have become sharper and as they carve out jams, there is now a clear intention behind their playing- tentativeness is falling by the wayside.  Not done yet, Phish tagged on solid versions of “Coil” and “Zero” to the end of the set

6.10.09 (Lanser)

6.10.09 (Lanser)

The second set picked up right where set one left off, and before long we were waist deep some in an ominous Phish excursion of “Waves > A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > David Bowie.” Combing three songs from different eras of the band’s career, they created the “dark meat” of the second set. Hitting on a nautical theme with the initial combination, Phish built an awing composed “Waves” jam into a psychedelic ambient outro.  Adding layers of effects and dissonance, the band seemed heading for outer space into “Waves > 2001,” but instead they took a left turn into the heavy drop of the third-ever performance of “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.” Although the band briefly stumbled through the composed section, they crushed the second ever jam to sprout from the song.  It was a very unique experience to hear them break out this song after listening to the SPAC ’04 version eight million times. With that jam imprinted my brain, it was strange to hear the song move to other places. As the improv commenced the jam turned dirty and tumultuous as Trey dug into some heavy guitar work. Although not super-extended, this was such a welcome return to the band’s repertoire, and it feels good to know that we haven’t heard the last from Undermind’s instant-classic.

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6.10.09 (Lanser)

Completing the sinister segment of the second set was that massive “Bowie” that had been looming for several nights.  Busting it out as a centerpiece of the show, the band executed the delicate jam with a passion and precision that we haven’t heard in a from the song many moons ago. Delivering the full-treatment to the psychedelic staple, and once again proving that quality is far more important than quantity, Phish electrified the audience with a full-on jam that was as tight as superglue- a real aural treat.  Using Page’s “Army of One” as a cool-down moment of reflection, Phish took no time stepping back on the gas pedal with the drop of an uncharacteristically late-second set “Reba.”  Once again proving that setlist conventions have been tossed out the window, the band patiently crafted a jam whose delicacy matched that of “Bowie, but on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum.  Much like the Jones Beach version, the band relaxed into the jam, taking the groove to point of virtual silence without ever losing their sense of cohesive rhythm.  Building back into more classic territory, the band created a soothing journey to balance out an  overwhelmingly dark set.  Bleeding with emotional playing, this late set highlight is one that will certainly get some road time in the car today up to Bonnaroo.

6.10.09 (Lanser)

6.10.09 (Lanser)

As “Reba” was coming to a peak, I thought back to Camden’s “Tweezer” set-closer, thinking they would again cap the set unconventionally; but this is when things just kept going.  Tearing into “Julius,” a song that Trey has owned this tour, it seemed the band would rock out to close the night.  Yet, upon the the conclusion of the biographical saga, Trey instructed his bandmates to drop into “Cavern”- a song that would without a doubt close the set.  But once again, Phish wasn’t done.  As they sustained the last note to “Cavern,” instead of bringing down the crashing final note, the band rolled into the reggae rhythms of “Harry Hood.”  Not wanting to leave the stage, Phish built another show highlight out of the fifteen minute closer, reassuring us that we can indeed feel good about “Hood” in Summer ’09, as they played a third consecutive standout rendition as the ultimate resolution to the set.

Ending the show with the return of the “key-tar” for “Frankenstein,” Phish chose a fitting encore to cap a bombastic show.  As we wandered off onto the campus of the University of Tennessee’s, it was crazy to think that the next time we’d encounter our band would be in front of nearly 100,000 people at Bonnaroo this weekend.  With the southern run heating up, Phish is poised to slaughter the mainstream mega-festival.  Confident and happy as ever, it will be more than interesting to see what develops in Manchester.  If they continues to build off of the playing of last night, everyone is in for a real treat.

I: Runaway Jim, Punch You in the Eye, Ocelot, Foam, Train Song, Undermind, Mike’s Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, The Squirming Coil, Character Zero

II: Back On The Train, Waves > A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing > David Bowie, Army Of One, Reba, Hello My Baby, Julius > Cavern > Harry Hood

E: Frankenstein

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221 Responses to “Tremendous Times In Tennessee”

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  1. Jon Bailey Says:

    You lucky lucky bastards. I wish I was down south with you guys.

    Thanks for the highlights Miner.

    Pish 2009….we’re so lucky to have them back.

    Everything seems right in the world!!!

  2. Brimley Says:

    As usual a nice descriptive, adjective laden write-up Miner…Bonaroo indeed will be interesting to see how they play, what they play, what guests they might have with them, etc…I can tell by your writing that you’ve been on tour for awhile Miner, so get some rest and have a blast at the Roo…

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    nice run through .. crazy energy pervading throughout last night for sure — when the band would slow down and get psychespacey the whole crowd would just freak out in waves of cheering out of nowhere. It was great. reposting my comments that I had at the end of the asheville post…

    fun show last night – completely different vibe / crowd than asheville .. the entire asheville civic center would fit on the floor of that huge arena we were in last night. The band had the whole big arena rock thing going huge. Definitely quite a frat boy / college scene thing going on. The energy in the room was Big time for sure. I very much enjoyed the night .. I am glad to have been to both shows and experience two such completely different phish lands.

    Musical highlights: undermind was completely sick. Mike went absolutely nutso at the end which I think was why trey fired into Mike’s song. The Mikes>h2>groove was tight and smokin, nice old school version. I like this suite in this role as big first set moment.

    second set was mellifluous – waves>sihtos was a very nice surprise and both very nicely jammed. I have no idea of how time was involved with these jams but it was happenin for sure.. again the night was marked by breathtaking accuracy in bowie, reba, etc. There were lines in bowie that trey nailed tonight that I swear I haven’t heard him hit maybe ever.

  4. whole tour! Says:

    best show i have ever seen.

  5. nonoyolker Says:

    No cross-eyed this tour so far, ‘roo will have David Byrne guest appearance for the jam.
    Great write up miner, grabbing the show now. Setlist looks raunchy…

  6. bread Says:

    WOW! I can’t wait until DR CRK, ALP VAL. -Long time lurker finally posts.
    Thank you Mr. Miner for making these months of waiting go by faster.

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    glad you had a great time whole tour!! Where did you end up in that giant cavern behemoth of an arena? We were in the back of 105 under the overhang, just off to fishmans’ side.

  8. whole tour! Says:

    serious, knoxville killed asheville. the sound in knoxville was perfect.

  9. whole tour! Says:

    serious, knoxville killed asheville. the sound in knoxville was perfect. plus knoxville security was ever willing to leave everyone alone. by far the best lot scene perhaps ever. i doubted they could’ve topped asheville, but they did with bells on. i am seriously considering bonnaroo. epic does not describe how amazing these 2 nights have been!

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    well you know I don’t like to get into show vs show battles – but My personal experience at asheville couldn’t be topped .. last night to me was Big and Fun, but a hair diluted, asheville to me was deeper .. a lot of that is my personal thing hometown show, down front, friends all around, etc .. and the venue . I didn’t experience / see any of the security issues you had at asheville either. But last night was a complete free for all. It was a time I was Very glad there were no inside alcohol sales cuz it woulda gotten out of hand. I was also a little more tired / sore last night than I expected .. found some very nice brownies that certainly emphasized the zoned out vibe for me, but found some particularly nice dream spaces during the second set!

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    don’t get me wrong – I had a Great time last night!

    It was a lot like the difference between my first and second shows – hampton & charlotte fall 96. Hampton was a small, intimate inside joke kind of thing, where charlotte was the big song, big anthem rock show. Both great in their own ways, and the reason I never want to go to just one show!

  12. MW Says:

    MAN ALIVE! a week until some old friends cruise into town and phish is hitting their stride. it will be nice to see them after roo cause it will be plenty of jammin, which will tighten the boys cohesive playing even more (yes, it’s me comforting myself because i can’t see them sooner) but to touch upon my post yesterday…

    expect the unexpected! phish is established and they can do what they want when they want. shelved songs=thing of the past. enjoy the ride. i wish i could be there at roo…takes me back to 02, 03. have fun phanners and be safe.

  13. MW Says:

    also ‘roo + phish = tons of ambient jams and a little something up thier sleeves, no doubt.

  14. ColonelJoy Says:

    I guess I have to download this one, too….maybe I will stick to the Waves>Ocean>Bowie

    Can’t wait to hear that note that has never been reached before. I’m not doubting it. They have been shredding.

    Odd, but I sort of had fantasies before this tour about how Phish could sound…what the true potential is. They are beginning to sound like that….searingly tight and powerful yet free…

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    regarding last night’s lot scene .. “best ever” meh .. it was a little schwilly for me – had the ladies with us a little freaked out for sure below the surface of that crazy maze of a parking garage. Afterwards where the pavillions and hip scene had been during the show it was a borderline violent nitrous ghetto (almost saw an altercation / runover between nitrous zombies and a car trying to leave)

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    had been before the show i mean — there was a pretty cool little scene happening on top of the parking garage, much commerce afoot, but it took us a while to find our way up there. then as I said, afterwards we looked to cruise one more time and just found balloon land.

  17. ColonelJoy Says:

    BTW, no, forget it. I won’t comment on the TTE album….who cares?

  18. whole tour! Says:

    i was tapers section last night!

  19. Danny B Says:

    Roo will no doubt be special. My prediction is that the late night set will be for the phans, and the day set will be for everyone. Meaning that the late night set will probably be really jammed out, bringing out all the little pockets of psychedelia they have been hinting at all tour. Then the sunday set will feature plenty of straight up rock and roll. I could be wrong, they never fail to surprise me, so who knows. Special Guests are also a definite possibility, although as we all know, they can kill the momentum of an otherwise great show. David Byrne seems to be the one person that would be an exception. Warren is also a posibility, but things tend to get less phishy and more bluesy when joins them on stage. If the late night set is just a big jam session with lots of special guests it could be cool, but I know a lot of people who will be dissapointed. Oh well, i’m still super jealous, and wish I was going. Have Fun Everyone!!!

  20. MW Says:

    last day of watching students take finals so i won’t be all over the posts here, but…

    i was thinking that the one nice thing about alpine will be the lack of nitrous mafia. every board dealing w/phish is talking about that scene and i for one will not miss it.

  21. msbjivein Says:

    WOW!!! Phish is on Fire! The Next Shows The Best Show!!!!!!!!

  22. Albert Walker Says:

    after I download a new show the last one becomes unlistenable
    Fenway did not seem bad until I heard 3rd night Jones Beach
    Then i heard Camden and that Jones Beach show seemed kind of weak

    How long can they keep just gettin better
    Seems like there is still a good deal of tightening up and improvement that can still come

    makes that 2nd leg of tour look even more promising
    almost like the first leg was just a long practice session

    midwest close out run will be hot no doubt Avenu Malkenu and Cross Eyed at Deer Creek no doubt

  23. Litteringand Says:

    Got an idea for a lot shirt: A picture of ALF holding a knife and fork with a caption that says “Ocelot, Ocelot where have you gone?”. I’d buy it

  24. msbjivein Says:

    I got 7 songs right on my show call. That’s about 2-3 more than I have been able to call.
    Ocelot,PYITE,Hood,Charactor0 set closer,BOTT,Bowie,Frankenstein encore!!
    These guys are so HOT right now it’s rediculous!

  25. RobAins Says:

    My Nitrous experience at Camden was non-existant. I honestly didn’t see (or hear) it anywhere. I’ve been reading about how it was all over the place which has me asking myself what I was on. (beer and herb) Maybe it was the lot I was in? Anyone else in the Campbell’s Field Lot? (Right next to the Camden River Sharks stadium) I saw some balloons on the ground when I arrived, but that was it.

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