A Fox Fantasy

The Fox (@rstrauss)

6.16.09 The Fox (@rstrauss)

Stepping from the summer’s biggest stage to its smallest, Phish entered St. Louis’ Fabulous Fox Theatre Tuesday night, in a show that was circled since the tour’s announcement as the night of the summer. Ironically, for the performance that people flew across the country for and paid upwards of $400 get into, Phish played an underwhelming show that stood out as the least engaging of the Southern Run.  While nothing was played poorly, the band played a straight-ahead rocker that featured little improvisation in a show that couldn’t possibly live up to its hype.  The theatre was beautiful, it sounded great, and the lights looked spectacular with the full-rig contained in such at tiny space.  The stage was set for Phish to blow up- but they didn’t.  Nonetheless, the experience was of Phish at the Fox was certainly unique and we were left with a few musical highlights from a mid-week stop in the “Gateway to the West.”

"Slave" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

"Slave" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

In a first set that many contained many classic songs, the two improvisational highlights lied in the second-song “Ocelot” and the set-closing “Slave.”  The playful “Ocelot” stretched into its most interesting rendition yet, as Trey’s solo led the band in what might be considered the songs first “jam.”  Phish’s songs sounded pristine, crisp, and loud in The Fox, bringing a special appreciation for songs like “Brian & Robert,” “Rift,” and “Horn,” and a short, but very sweet “Reba.”  My group of friends all laughed in jest as the band busted into yet another “Possum” to end the first set.  But instead of stopping there, the band dropped the tour’s second “Slave,” and it was stunning.  A jam that built with utmost delicacy resonated through the theatre, seeming like the song was made for the environment.  A piece of Phish beauty, this was a throwback to the theatre days of ’93 and ’94 as Phish crafted a tightly woven tale of pure magic.  Though as the band was in the middle of peaking the jam, someone (Fishman, from memory), abruptly moved into the closing segment, causing a more-than-awkward ending to an otherwise gorgeous version.

As the lights dropped for set two, it certainly felt like the band was going to throw down the gauntlet, and with a “Halley’s”opener, the course was set.  Entering some rock grooves right out of the gate, it was evident we were finally seeing the band improvise on the rarity once again, and that mere fact was great.  In the clear highlight of the show, the band creatively drove the jam within the lines for quite a while before eventually segueing into an ambient segment that seemed to point towards something huge.  Emerging out of the murkiness came a surprise second-set “Runaway Jim” that received more intense treatment than its first-set summer counterparts, creating a searing cap to the set-highlight amidst the regal surroundings.

"Reba" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

"Reba" 6.16.09 (@yemblog)

What came next was the slowest portion of any second-set in recent memory.  Beginning interestingly with the tour’s first “Frankie Says” (aka “Relax”), the band included some brief improv to the song, adding a bit of intrigue to the second-set bust out whose music seemed appropriately placed in The Fox.  However, after relaxing, the band again centered the slow, fifteen-minute composed “Time Turns Elastic” squarely in the second set.  Even the ornate surroundings couldn’t justify the song’s placement in a set which never truly recovered.  Following, “Time Turns Elastic,” the band inexplicably selected “Sleep” to complete the nearly jam-less half-hour. “Relax > Elastic > Sleep.” Hmmm.

The band obviously had to drop something significant at this point in the set, and they went with “Mike’s Groove.”  The “Mike’s” bounced off the walls, creating a larger-than-life feel in the tiny theatre- a certain experiential highlight- though the song’s improv remained standard.  A brief run through “Weekapaug’s” composed jam capped any sort of full-band improv of the night, as Phish closed the set with “Booogie On” and “Charater Zero.” Many will say “Boogie On” was a highlight, but in reality, all they did was spotlight Page’s outstanding clav solo amidst some pedestrian funk- great for some, boring for others.

Getting Into The Fox (@yemblog)

Getting Into The Fox (@yemblog)

Experientially, the show at The Fox was no doubt something special, but musically- it honestly wasn’t.  The “Slave” and the “Halley’s > Jim” will find their way onto end-of-tour compilations, but everything else was pretty much straight ahead playing.  The band never got the improvisational itch during a show that follwed Bonnaroo’s blowout with some of the best jamming of the tour.  Maybe that wasn’t the point of last night, but the show sure felt far lighter than any show since Great Woods.  Looking towards the last four nights of leg one- the return to the Phishy haunts of Star Lake, Deer Creek, and Alpine- all seem to be no-brainers.  Three venues, highlights on the map of any summer tour, mean even more on this first run through in 2009.  As we leave the mid-week hype behind us, we are about to enter the land of plentiful under-face tickets, and enough room for everyone, as Phish will conclude their early-summer tour with a four-night run that is sure to produce plenty of Midwestern music for our listening and dancing pleasure.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Ocelot, Brian & Robert, Sample in a Jar, Rift, Ya Mar, Reba, Train Song, Horn, Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light

II: Halley’s Comet > Runaway Jim, Frankie Says, Time Turns Elastic, Sleep, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Character Zero

E: Star Spangled Banner, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, While My Guitar Gently Weaps

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596 Responses to “A Fox Fantasy”

  1. ColonelJoy Says:

    Island-Run is kind of it’s own entity in many ways, though I agree it was largely a follow-on from 97’…. I don’t really hear that Roses jam brewing in 97′ so much, maybe in that MSG Bag…it seemed to come out of nowhere almost

  2. McGrupp Says:

    Highlights of last night:

    Rift was great to hear, as was Horn.

    Reba was on fire…listen to the jam all the way, Trey finishes it off nicely with an extra phrase.

    Halleys was sweet sweet rock n roll with a beauty of an extendor jam.

    That’s All Folks!

    PS – Great write-up Miner.

  3. Jer Says:

    I make the Island Tour ~ ’97 comparison because I really don’t hear stuff from summer ’98 in those jams…the Roses is probably my favorite piece of Phish improv ever, so it’s really hard to make any sort of comparisons to it. I wish they would have played about 10 more shows that month.

  4. Col4bin Says:

    98 was an awesome year, the 8-2 and 8-3 at DC are particularly sweet to me because my birthday is 8-3, so I’m biased when it comes to those shows. Still 98 was prob my favorite summer tour.

  5. Jer Says:

    8-8-98 and 8-9-98 are highlights of my youth.

  6. ColonelJoy Says:

    Jer,

    I think the funk definately carries over to summer 98’…it’s just tighter, more refined, though not necessarily better.

  7. fromthetub Says:

    I’m a little behind here, but this made me laugh out loud! Loudly. 🙂

    @ Mr. Completely- “…since Trey is, as he has been reminding us, a submarine, that seems appropriate”

  8. Summer98 Says:

    I love summer ’98 (hence the name). I’ve been lurking, love the conversation and had to jump in.

    To me summer ’98 is the peak. It represents a union between the rocking 94-96 and grooving 97. They were so on their game, every night. While there were some repeats that tour (Zero, Moma, Ghost) I feel like the variety was outstanding. A great mix of short rockers, funk grooves, sweet ballads, and spacey “whoa where are they going with this” stuff. Moma and Ghost were outstanding all tour. Piper and twist were fresh and experimental (the Merriweather piper is my favorite all time). They were really locked into everything. And, every single show had a bust-out, a “thanks for coming, we love playing for you guys … here’s something to talk about until next time”. It seemed like they could play anything, and play it really well. (Rhinoceros, sabatoge, terrapin, sweet jane, trenchtown rock, and the list goes on). And they were having a blast: “Bob Weaver ladies and gentlemen, Bob Weaver”. So many peaks for me it is hard to list them all (or remember them all).

    I may also be somewhat biased as that was the only tour I’ve done an extended run on. I went from DC through to the Wheel.

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Frankie – I’m with ya

    When I’m not at the shows, I’m in it for the music, and I can hear flaws, or musical choices that don’t work for me as well as others.

    When I’m at the shows, the music is merely the surface we dive through on the way to the depths, or perhaps the vehicle we ride – yes that’s a better analogy. A submarine? Perhaps an overly Beatlesque reference, but apt in context I suppose.

    We ride the music into the depths, powered by the feedback cycle of attention and energy between the band and crowd. As long as it’s working, the details are secondary.

    I’m interested to hear the Whale in person. I think perhaps we’re missing a lot of the amp tone and I suspect I might be able to grasp what he’s going for more directly if I could hear that. I always have to remind myself when listening to recordings how much of his tone is simply absent from any but the finest FOBs.

    cf. 11-27-98 post-Mirror in the Bathroom solo – sounds like just a typical blast of squall in the SBDs but a nice AUD reveals one of the most twisted phrases ever uttered by a guitar.

  10. SOAM Says:

    Miner has not been posting everyday like earlier in the tour-I hope he’s not doing the hard stuff.

  11. Bapslap Says:

    From Billboard, an article about Phish and Springsteen:
    “After Bonnaroo, Phish quickly resumed its own tour in St. Louis June 16, and will release a new album on the band’s own JEMP Records this fall…”

    This fall?…I guess the July 28 date was bumped.

  12. AintNoTele Says:

    i thought the call was good live, it just doesnt transfer well out of the venue

    i was just checking out what.cd and remembered someone saying here that they were a part of it…could i get some more info on the site about how trading works and policies. i hear nothing but good things about the site, just make sure to follow the rules. hlhaun at edisto.cofc.edu

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Bap – there was rumor a week or so ago that they had decided to do more work on the album after performing the tunes live. So perhaps that’s true.

    Apparently Fuse is going to do a Best of Bonnaroo thing this weekend and Phish is mentioned. I have a nice crisp $20 that says we get to see them with the Boss. Who’s my sucker?

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    @AintNoTele, you go to College of Charleston? I’ve done a bunch of web work for them.

    And hey, didn’t Trey and a couple other guys go to Goddard? I’m working for them right this minute. Huh!

  15. AintNoTele Says:

    i think trey is using his digitech for the whale call. it acts like a feedback enhancer effect. the languedoc is a feedback monster as is but i think that pedal makes it more controllable. he doesnt have to work as hard to get the feedback swell. its funny, i know a few people who have had the same digitech and they all say that was their least favorite effect. the pitch bender on that thing is nuts too, trey uses it in the prague ghost perfectly then jumps around like a mad man having a blast. i love this vid, that effect is at the 3:50 minute mark, you can see it in treys face!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lWi1dGT9UY

  16. AintNoTele Says:

    yup, i’m working in the psych lab at cofc

  17. ColonelJoy Says:

    @Completely,

    Trey definately needs to be experienced in person to get it. Hopefully, for me, The Whale will prove the same.

  18. Brimley Says:

    Just finished listening to the Ashville show for the third time and my opinion after listening to every show except the Fabulous Fox Theatre show is that it now sits at number one- the Stash! is really well played with a very nice peak, the Divided Sky is almost perfect, the BDTNL has a raging peak, and the Ghost has some definite “team playing”…All other songs not mentioned were good also and there’s a definite energy to the show that I sincerely hope they bring to Alpine….thoughts?

  19. dyda Says:

    ah ha ha ha! the day has finally arrived! see you all out on the road!

  20. SOAM Says:

    Colonel-love ya man-but ain’t it time to go out on patrol.

  21. Frankie Says:

    At Fenway, Trey’s tone sounded really good to me at… there were issues with sound because of the wind and also because it wasn’t loud enough to drown all the people talking (!), probably complaining about Trey’s tone… 🙂

  22. ColonelJoy Says:

    Brimley,

    You are a good listener. Check out the Maze, too, brother….peak is reached in a non-traditional, very rewarding manner…

  23. ColonelJoy Says:

    SOAM,

    Are you wishing that I go on patrol? You Bastard!!

    Good night everyone. Starlake will bring a nugget or two…no quesiton!!

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    no hard stuff. just sleep 🙂

  25. Stupendous Says:

    I thought I heard the whale on the 1st set towards end (either possum or slave) Is that it?….. Im really excited for “something” to develop as a characteristic of 09 improv “sound” whether i like it or not, not sure
    i agree it might have to be experienced live…
    still havnt made it to 2nd set Halley’s

    @ Mr Completely & other web developers
    Im a graphic designer, graduated from Ringling in FL. Very creative.
    I got web 2.0 graphics style down…Always looking for work.
    Would LOVE to work with some like minded individuals!!!!
    If any one knows of any opportunities and wants to share with me
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