Phisharoo: A Sample Platter

Bonnaroo From the Pit (@petergavin)

Bonnaroo From the Pit (@petergavin)

Over the course of a three hour set, Phish threw in a little bit of everything, creating a musical melange specifically designed for the massive and mainstream Bonnaroo audience. Following a snooze-fest of a Beastie Boys show that didn’t translate to the huge stage, Phish introduced themselves at 11 pm with the straight-ahead rock of “Chalk Dust Torture.” Indoctrinating the colossal crowd into the world of Phish, the band followed up their popular opener with “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,” “Divided Sky,” and “Possum.”  For those of us that have been on tour, the first quarter of the set seemed a bit boring, featuring songs that have been played multiple times each, but with the onset of “Down With Disease,” a song that was bound to go big after such a tame opening, the show started in earnest. The band tore into the energetic jam that quickly morphed into the first show highlight with a stretched out, dirty segment of improv that remained creatively anchored to the song’s theme.

Bonnaroo (@erichatheway)

Bonnaroo (@erichatheway)

For most of the show, Phish inserted “singles” in between jams to keep the attention of the massive crowd, and one of those jams was a  standout “Stash” that took a psychedelic excursion outside the structure of the song.  Creating a textured jam, the band eased their way from adventurous a type-I+ “Disease” to a more exploratory “Stash,” and would soon enter the most adventurous jamming since their return later in the set.  But before the band launched us into the stratosphere, we were served a healthy dose of swanky funk with the on-point grooves of “Wolfman’s Brother.” Playing meaty versions of some of their classic vehicles, the band eased the audience into their path of improv; a path that would lead to the darkest, most psychedelic adventure yet- ironically stemming from the rock-based “Kill Devil Falls.” Leave it to Phish to create the biggest jam of the night- and one of the most interesting of the 3.0 era- out of the one song that it seemed least likely to stem from. Certainly the type-II highlight of the show- and the tour- Phish was back at IT, creating magic out of thin air under the wide open skies of Tennessee.  If you could only listen to one jam from this show, this would be it- but there was still plenty of excitement to follow.

"YEM" 6.12.09

"YEM" 6.12.09 (@powm)

Segueing out of show’s improvisational highlight, Phish slid into “Free”- a fitting song for the huge open-air setting of the festival.  Mike’s bass leads bellowed across the acres, as fans enjoyed limitless dance space in the over-sized setting of Bonnaroo. A perfect climax to the improvisational odyssey that preceded, “Free” put an exclamation point on Phish’s most “out-there” jam of the tour.  Adding a ballad to diversify their set, and to illustrate the full spectrum of their skills, Phish pulled out a well-placed and poignant rendition of “Wading In a Velvet Sea.” As the band held onto the song’s ending, they once again dropped into the re-focused “Harry Hood.”  Taking ample time to delicately build the jam, Phish crafted yet another patient improvisational journey, taking the audience on a thrilling ride to a soaring peak.  It’s hard to put myself in the mind of someone seeing Phish for the first time- of which there were many- but if anyone had given themselves over to the experience, this “Hood” may have been the piece that hooked them. A gorgeous build of their emotional classic, one would have been hard pressed not to be touched by this improv.  Reminding us of sacred “Hood” experiences under the stars at Phish festivals past, this was another “Wow!-Phish is actually back!” moment, as the confluence of music, memory, and emotion swirled into a colorful ball of bliss.

Bonnaroo (@jaysonmoyer)

Bonnaroo (@jaysonmoyer)

The band collectively turned the last hit of “Hood” into the first beat of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” breaking out the cover for the first time since Stuttgart, Germany on 2.26.97.  Showcasing yet another aspect of their game- cover songs- the band busted out a rarity to please the Phishhead and the Bonnaroo contingents.  Not knowing what time it was, this seemed like the fitting end to the festi-set, but upon the final hit of the song, Phish blasted off into the tour’s second “2001”- a wide open funk session that was a perfect match to the larger-than-life surroundings.  A laid back dance-session in the middle of the night was just what the doctor ordered as we bounced through the warm southern air to the bulbous rhythms.  Complete Phish crack, the magnitude of the experience was undeniable as the band took it to the top, then dropped into a set-closing “YEM” that could be seen from a mile away.

"Chalk Dust Torture" 6.12.09 (powm)

"Chalk Dust Torture" (powm)

However, the Phishy smorgasbord wasn’t over just yet.  As Trey and Mike jumped off their trampolines and into the beginning of the “YEM” jam, the band entered some excessively relaxed funk that looked to be the onset of another patient jam.  But as soon as we got acclimated to the grooves, the band seamlessly, and surprisingly, segued into “Wilson,” bringing some audience participation into the mix.  Following a brief, yet fierce, version, the band tore back into the “YEM” jam in cathartic fashion.  While they certainly could have let the “YEM” jam play out a bit longer, they had a curfew to deal with and an encore to play, hence the vocal jam arrived a bit prematurely.  Stamping the show with “A Day in the Life,” Phish played a classy cover in front of such a diverse crowd.

Combining straight rock and roll, funk, bluegreass, compositions, covers, and sublime improvisation, Phish created an ideal sampling of what they are all about; a formal introduction to the greater masses. In one of the more unique slots ever played by the band, they pieced together a set that pleased just about everyone in attendance.  Closing out the main stages for the day, Phish left their indelible mark on Bonnaroo 2009- an imprint that will only become greater with their festival closing two-setter on Sunday night.  Despite all the clusterfucks involved with this festival, once you arrived in the open field- with all the room you could ever imagine- under the sky and the all-mighty power of the Phish- things couldn’t have been better.

Chalk Dust Torture, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, The Divided Sky, Possum, Down With Disease, Alaska, Stash, Golgi Appartus, Wolfman’s Brother, Poor Heart, Kill Devil Falls > Free, Wading In The Velvet Sea, Harry Hood, Highway To Hell > 2001 > You Enjoy Myself > Wilson > You Enjoy Myself

E: A Day in the Life

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356 Responses to “Phisharoo: A Sample Platter”

  1. msbjivein Says:

    The drive from Sea/Tac to Gorge is a must do. Especially if you haven’t done it before. The drive from Spokane sucks balls. Unless you like NW dessert landscape.

  2. Lifeboy Says:

    Yes, the drive from Spokane is uninteresting to say the least.

  3. Zaxxon Says:

    I’m just being a prick. I wasn’t there, but I just can’t imagine their set not being kick ass. I’ve seen them on the large stage more than once, and they rocked it. I’ll have to wait for a recording and judge myself. How was the new song with Nas? Thanks for all you do, but I do find your reviews to be a little overly optimistic. I guess that balances with the normal hyper-critical reviews that you usually see by Phish fans.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ cheers…yeah, I think the Beasties show was alright, but unless you were up close, you weren’t really “in it”

  5. Summer98 Says:

    Mr. Minor: Thanks a ton. Great reviews (if a fluffy at times), great writing style (it is nice to see people express themselves in complete sentences), and great no-spoilers and other downloads. I’m not exactly sure how you put this all together but it is excellent.

    I’m having a hard time expressing my excitement for the Gorge. After living on the east coast for most of my life I moved to Seattle a few years ago, after Phish brokeup, it’s hard to watch this tour unfold without being able to see a show. It is as though I’ve traded Darien, SPAC, GW, Star Lake, etc. for the Gorge since there are no other reasonably close shows. Not having seen a show at the Gorge, I know it is going to be great. I’ve seen many photos and it has been high on my list of things to do for a long time. I think it may be the pinnacle of the summer tour as they will be rested but still in the groove. I just can’t contain the excitement as I watch and listen to the show-by-show improvement. I’m clearly annoying the hell out of my wife, who also loves phish but it is not as intense about it.

    It is clear that they seem to be getting better every night. Hitting more of the composed stuff and opening up the jams further every night. They also “sound” healthy. There is a vitality that I haven’t heard in a while (as mentioned before, perhaps since the Feb. 2003 run). I remember thinking in Vegas 2004 that Trey may just keel over on stage. Their music is so complex, there was no way they would be able to put it back together without getting healthy. It is great to have them back but man am I missing the east coast right now.

  6. halcyon Says:

    @ summer 98…..I too can not wait for The Gorge. That is one place I have always wanted to see a concert at, and seeing one of my favorite bands will make it all the more complete.

  7. Alex O Says:

    How much bearing will the festival shows have on the St. Louis Fox Theatre show?

  8. ColonelJoy Says:

    Another good short Wolfmans….this one a little on the funkier side as apposed to hose Trey

  9. ColonelJoy Says:

    Billboard seems to agree with my assessment of the Yomans work put in by the band last night…

    “Phish put on what for most bands would be a powerhouse headlining performance, but it was clear restraint was a factor “

  10. Gunnah Says:

    Has anyone else noticed that Trey has been giving that black henley T quite the workout this tour. Haha I think he has worn it every show, it even appears that hes wearing it under his flannel at JB 3. Just an observation… It’s apparently his new lucky shirt.

  11. oneshowatatime Says:


    that’s exactly how i would describe the beasties when i saw them head line langerado a couple years ago.

  12. ColonelJoy Says:

    Hate to say it, but the improv in Kill Devil was pedestrian, very reprentative of poor 2000>03,04 jamming….I prefer the Asheville version (believe they played it there..)

    However, the Hood is the best one they’ ve played, unless you like the Ambient JB one….

  13. oneshowatatime Says:

    “I’m clearly annoying the hell out of my wife, who also loves phish but it is not as intense about it.”

    i can definitely relate to that. my girlfriend is gonna lose it with me soon…

  14. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yeah, my wife has yet to see a show….she is at least pretending to be interested….Everything after Hood seems top notch….

  15. ColonelJoy Says:

    YEM>Wilson>YEM transitions are very smooth….I’m not even sure it was intended on the way into the sandwhich anyway…

  16. Jack O Roses Says:

    Listening to the 17+ minute Down From Disease from last night.

    Basic in the beginning but Trey starts to get it really ripping after about the 6 minute mark! Loving it. This version definitely crushes the version I saw at Fenway….

    I was loving this whole show last night on the stream. Anyone hear the guy slinging “water and brownies.” LOL! Can’t wait to get to KDF, Hood, and YEM->Wilson->YEM!! That was sickness!!

  17. El Duderino Says:

    @ c0wfunk, I was told to fly into Seattle. First off it’s a little closer to the Gorge but not by much. Second and most important is the ride is much more beautiful! Spokane is in the grasslands area of WA. things are flat. Seattle may be a little cheaper to fly into as well.

  18. JP Says:

    ColonelJoy – to each their own, especially with the more “out there” jams like what was on display with KDF > last night. This is Phish exploring the edges of (their) sound for my ears (a la Island Tour) and that’s ultimately what makes them like none other for me. Can understand not being into it, but certainly one of the more interesting musical avenues that makes Phish Phish. Saying that, haven’t heard the Asheville version or any other. It’s great that Phish has enough going on for people to love so many different aspects of their music/experience, etc.

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    thanks for all the travel tips – i’ve got family in seattle so may end up that route. more family in Portland too so may sneak in a trip down the coast. Tickets right now for 350ish greenville -> seattle .. more tempting all the time. I love that phish is back in the mode where it’s like “what will they do next!?!”

  20. JP Says:

    Gorge – I’m an east coast transplant to WA and have been to the Gorge a few times (Phish 99 and 03) – anyway – I agree with all the posts so far – for me, it is a choice between flying into a busier scene (SeaTac) to make your way to the show on a far more interesting and diverse drive from west to east OR flying into a likely smoother entry (Spokane), but driving for hours through a fairly monotone high desert landscape (which is basically what you get at the Gorge, except in way more dramatic fashion). I think if you are new to the NW (unless you love deserts) or on some sort of tight scheedule that can’t accomodate heavy traffic out of the Seattle area, head to SeaTac and go west to east to the Gorge – pretty sweet drive once you hit I-90. Also totally agree with the poster who mentioned how diverse eastern WA is – totally beautiful in many, many areas – just not so much on I-90 from Spokane to the show.

  21. Snowbank Says:

    Thanks for the no spoilers – have listened to each since 3.6.09! I feel like I am on tour.
    Gorge- Some more notes… the camping lot is a party. Biggest downside is the party and no lake… which sucks during the heat of the day. I no longer stay there… I will be at Qunicy Lakes Wildlife Refuge, which someone has eluded to above. There are five small lakes, tons of room and its quiet. But I need my sleep with a kid and all. Anyway, google it and come join us! Or there are tons of little places by the river that you can find too. The biggest reason to come from Seattle is that everyone else is! It’s fun to run in heads on the freeway and at gas stations, etc. Just a thought.
    Girlfriends – Have hope. My lovely wife has been sick of Phish since about ’98 (she is more into Wilco/Jerry). BUT she actually said this morning that Phish is playing so awesome that she is getting excited about the gorge. so put that in your pipe and smoke it!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    actually I am a big fan of that desert landscape! I’ve spent a little time in the high desert east of portland and have traveled around up there and also the deserts of the four corners area. As a lifetime east coaster the spread out big feel of the desert does me just right.

  23. AintNoTele Says:

    Has anyone gotten their gorge tix in the mail yet?

  24. guyforget Says:

    ummmmm, dessert landscape……

  25. voopa Says:

    Like Lifeboy mentioned, that campground just a few miles from the Gorge is sweet. Ginko/Wanapum State Park.

    If driving from Portland is an option, the route East along the river to Biggs is nice, and Yakima’s only an hour from the venue- good place to stock up.

    Loved last night, very excited to see what they do tomorrow!

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