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.


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”

  1. c0wfunk Says:

    Mikes undermind destruction is a highlight among highlights .. A peak moment of the 2 shows for me. Extra special into mikesG cuz I had dusted off my old ratty “petes wicked ale” / “mikes wicked bass” shirt for last night.. And one of the aforementioned frat boys said one of his buddies had made the shirt back in the day

  2. ryan Says:

    Were any of you in line at Asheville when the security guard held the door open so that we could hear the soundchek?

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    The town is very pleased with how the show went so we may just get that multi night avl run! I can only dream ..

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’d actually like to request 3 in Portland instead of any of that :o)

  5. ColonelJoy Says:

    I’d be surprised if they returned to Asheville, frankly. Not that it was a bad scene or anything, but I think it was a one time deal for the boyz.

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    its more likely than them playing a significant number of west coast shows

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    they’re more likely to throw a festy in Sadr City then play an extensive western tour

  8. Walfredo Says:

    Completely that is exactly how I interpreted Stealing time. Remember Tom writes these lyrics- he is a middle aged corporate guy not someone who just finished rehab. They speak to me- got memories, got memories, got memories of being free! Stealing time = living for the moment again escaping the faulty plan. My favorite new lyrics by far

  9. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yes, the Northwest is due for some indoor fall shows….way overdue…shit, back in the day they saturated the northwest…I used to be stationed at Ft. Lewis in the mid 90s….Olympia shows!!

  10. BigFatFurry Says:

    It’s definitely not probable…which is why i said hope…but from the reaction of Asheville city officials (tourist economy), they would be open to it. Just a matter of if the band would be up for it and as much as they love the place I think they’d be into it. Portland, OR or Maine? I like both a lot! The show i’ve seen in each place was off the chizzy! Portland, ME particularly.

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    Oregon. New England gets plenty of love already.

    @walfredo – I have not been keeping up on who is writing which lyrics but that makes sense

  12. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yes, being a Maine-Boy, 12-30-93 at the Civic Center broke my twat…very hungover, actually drove from Montreal through Burlington that day before the show..almost didn’t go.

    The Portland ME venue is the perfect size…still an arena, but like 2k bigger than asheville I think.

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    Stealing Time has the best lyric, best arrangement and most potential as jam vehicle out of the new tunes. Ocelot’s a first set keeper, and if you count Undermind as new that’s a winner obviously, and Backwards is obviously going to keep getting love.

  14. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yes, they should do like a 15 night run in Oregon!!

  15. ColonelJoy Says:

    I want to hear another “Light”

    Surprised they didn’t play TTE in Knoxville….the one they play at Roo should be quite impressive

  16. BigFatFurry Says:

    Yup….as will obviously always be the case. How far is the Gorge though? That place is awesome! Last time i saw a wc show was in 97 or 98 and a lot of bitter dead heads were kinda ill towards phisherpeople…..totally weird….i’m sure it’s different now. Personally i luv the NW…i’m sure they’ll be there plenty.

    Last night for some reason I started wondering how long this Phish stint will last. Right now everything’s all fresh and new and happy…hopefully it stays that way. I’m gonna guess they play pretty consistently for at least 3 years…and that guess is based entirely on the fact that i’m guessing.

  17. BigFatFurry Says:

    I hope they don’t play TTE at Bonnaroo….that song is kind of embarassing…until the epic finish of course. Yup i’m a hater…probably more accurately a disliker though. That was one good thing about last night actually as i was pretty certain it was coming.

    That Kill Devil Falls from Asheville sold me though…Ocelot and BDTNL are great too!

  18. Summer98 Says:

    I posted this yesterday but by the time it was approved the conversation had moved along (first time poster, long time reader of phish thoughts). There was a great discussion yesterday about the Gorge and it seems we have some wise NW folks here. I moved to Seattle a few years ago (post-2004) and am stoked for my first Gorge shows. I’ve seen thirteen at Deer Creek dating back to ‘97. Is the on site Gorge camping similar to Deer Creek? I remember some pretty hot Augusts and early mornings in the Indiana corn fields. Some late parties too. Just trying to make sure I can handle the on site camping, I’m not as young as used be. Or should I say, I’m as old as I’ve ever been.

  19. ColonelJoy Says:

    I think they are all happier with Phish as a working band. They will probably have occasional 9 month hiatuses, but no more than that, IMO.

  20. Dave Says:

    Living on the West Coast (SF), it sucks we get almost no shows. It is a serious flight to Denver or the Gorge. My wet dream would be a festival out West one day but I assume that will never happen. I guess I am stuck listening to SBDs my whole life.

  21. ColonelJoy Says:

    Well, the Gorge is in the desert, yes, high northwestern desert, but still the damn desert…..You can handle it, brother.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    @BigFat – I am just venting, I know they will never play a serious extended west coast run. The Gorge is 4-5 hours from PDX depending on how you drive.

    @Summer98 – I blathered a lot yesterday about what the Gorge is like for camping, it’s in the pages before the show started. Summary:

    – in August expect it to be very very hot and dry starting early in the morning.

    – if it’s super hot in the day, people tend to lay low and rage all night. But most of the really epic throwdown happens in the core of the campground. If you camp around the edges and bring earplugs you should be able to sleep – until the sun hits your tent.

  23. oneshowatatime Says:

    Also really digging undermind after listening to last night’s version. This could develope into a HUGE funk vehicle this summer…

    **crosses fingers for massive undermind funk throwdown on the Rocks in July**

  24. HarryHood Says:

    I used to like TTE, but I think mostly because of the novelty of it. No Phish for 5 years, first “new” song, etc…… Now that I’ve heard a few other new bust outs, I’m really starting to dislike TTE. Ocelot is where it’s at for me! Nasty dirty dark chocolate.

  25. ColonelJoy Says:

    Touring, playing major cities and what not, is simply more economical on the East Coast, and they are based there. I know it sucks for west coasters now, no doubt about it.

    Dead were based in Cali, so they played shit loads of cali shows, but undertstanding the economics of the eastcoast, they played there just as much…..but it doesn’t work backwards for Phish.

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