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. Mr.Miner Says:

    lol at people freaking on mcgrupp…

  2. SOAM Says:

    I can’t describe the feeling when-I’m in my tour asleep and then

    I wake up with a vision blurred and all my efforts are deterred-love that tune-trey played it for me in Japan in 00-

  3. playitleo Says:

    Man, I would really love to see a vultures tomorrow at deer creek. Probably not likily but it would be sweet.

  4. nonoyolker Says:

    New lot tee idea: The Sea Captain from the Simpson on a boat with a harpoon taking aim at Red shredding while riding a whale. Written underneath: A Song I Hear the Ocean Sing

  5. McGrupp Says:

    Circus–>Vultures

  6. Stupendous Says:

    Can somebody shed some light on the “rules” towards lot shirts…
    To my understanding the band’s name or logo cannot be used…lot officials will shut u down and confiscate em… But what about song titles?
    can these be copyrightd?….I dont think so… but not sure
    certainly the lyrics are….
    Been wanting to try some out…

  7. snigglebeach Says:

    Miner, I also thought it was weird you didn’t mention McGrupp in the post either.

    I was listening to the complete gamehendge couple of weeks ago, and i hand noticed how many of the lyrics i never understood started making more sense. (Mr. palmer, Read icculus, a few other things i can’t recall) but i still do not understand the “He looks too much like Dave” lyrics. any insights on that?? anyone. If my name was Dave i would prob know.

  8. Harpapa Says:

    @ snigglebeach Dave Abrahms – childhood friend of Trey and Tom’s….he of Dave’s Energy Guide fame.

  9. Frankie Says:

    @nonoyolker
    Good one man! I also thought about a Simpsons theme shirt with Alaska and a frame from the Simpsons movie when they are in Alaska…

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    how dare you not mention mcgrupp in your review lol… it’s mentioned right there in the setlist you posted… i’d much rather read a review of the show and HOW they played not WHAT they played, that’s what setlists are for

  11. Leo Weaver Says:

    Hello…my name is Leo Weaver and I’m a Phishaholic. My wife suggested I find a support group so I came here.

    In all seriousness, I’m a longtime lurker, first time poster. A little background…32 y/o, partner/owner in a small but successful site design firm (civil engineering, landscape architecture, urban design and planning). I cut my teeth listening to ’85-’94 shows on good ‘ol Maxells…did this for about 2 years before catching my first show – Lakewood (Atl) July ’97…that was the first of 40-something shows up til now. Most of those came in 97-00 with a few sprinkled from 03-04; got back on the train for the Hampton run and have done Asheville-Knoxville so far this tour, thinking about Gorge, def doing Merriweather.

    @ Brimley…I agree with Asheville being tops so far. IN MY OPINION, the setlist was a really good one, the energy from band and audience was great, and the guys played VERY crisp…maybe the best Divided Sky I’ve heard live and one of the best I can recall from recordings since early to mid-90s (best word I can think of to describe it is “pristine”). And as a guy behind me said after Maze, “Whoa, that was worth the price of admission…” I think JB3 is maybe next in line for me, with Knoxville and Camden following closely behind.

    @ Cowfunk…you going to Portland for Gorge shows? If so, direct flights from Charlotte are $328 R/T right now…you’re more than welcome to park at my house to save parking fee if needed…I’ll even take you to the airport (assuming I don’t go).

    @Colonel…thanks for your service. Best of luck getting back stateside to see the boys live.

    Back to work for now…

  12. nonoyolker Says:

    on second thought, trey should be plugged into the whale with musical notes coming out of his mouth.

    @frankie, alaska may work. simpsons and the boys are peanut butter and jelly!

  13. chitownshanty Says:

    The McGrupp was WEAK! Period.

    Thanks for the bone, Phish.

    They boys are tired; during the end of each set their energy levels were low, you could sense it in the room and you can hear it in the music.

    Good news is…it can only get better.

  14. fromthetub Says:

    @nonoyolker – off topic, but wanted to mention we saw Gener last night in SF. Not sure if you are in the Bay Area, or if you were there, but it was so much fun! I was grinning from ear to ear. “We had the best time at your party. The wife and I thank you very much.”

  15. SOAM Says:

    The rules on lot tee’s? wtf-some dude was selling VAGINA shirts a while back so I d say it ‘s all good bro-rules-we don’t need no stinkin rules-beeatch

  16. snigglebeach Says:

    I think he sold one of those. don’t forget it was printed with pink letters

  17. nonoyolker Says:

    @ f-t-tub, you saw gene band? How’d they sound? They came around a while back, but i was away on biz. Ween and affiliates always put on a hell of a show. Always a great time. Glad you had fun. I am not Bayside, live in Boston. The scene there has always been pretty live whenever i’ve visited.
    Your party is fucking hillarious. First time i heard it i laughed out loud.
    “Hey there fancy pants! Play the songs that make us dance…”

  18. nonoyolker Says:

    I just listened to that track again for the first time in a while, still hillarious!

    “There were candy and spices and tri-colored pastas. The meat carved was drawn from succulent juices, served on platters of the purest gold. We had the best time at your party…”

  19. fromthetub Says:

    @nono – the fancy pants reference just made me laugh out load. (all the comments here today are cracking me up). Gene band sounded great, although it was just him, a guitar, and a microphone, not really a “band” per se. It was amazing/hilarious to watch him do Ween songs w/o Deaner, singing his parts, etc. But made me realize how incredibly talented he is as well. And he was having a blast on stage, so happy. Claude Coleman opened, and sat in for a couple encore songs, including Big Jim.

  20. kts Says:

    Stupendous, its a trademark issue more than a copyright. The band name and logo are both trademarked (both in connection with a musical act/recordings, as well as for a bunch of merchandise products, including clothing). By law, they pretty much have to enforce these trademarks or else they can lose their protection. My guess is the song titles are not considered trademarked. And any copyright protection for a song title consisting of a word or short phrase would be weak at best. So, I think song titles are OK.

    Here’s something that’s interesting. The Phish org. has registered a trademark for the term “Phish” in connection with “providing a data base of information [and interactive discussion groups] on a global computer network in the fields of music and entertainment.” This goes back to 1996, but as far as I know, they’ve never seriously enforced this, have they?

  21. fromthetub Says:

    “Creampuffs and bourbon and the music was louder
    My wife was competing in a game of chance
    The party raged and the guests were screaming
    I could have danced all night “

  22. msbjivein Says:

    Where’d the cheese go At????
    Play it LEO!!!!!!! Welcome aboard dude!

  23. nonoyolker Says:

    @ftTUB – Ah, i thought it was gene band, not solo. That must have been a really cool experience. Those two are way more talented than anyone gives them credit. I said it before, our generation’s Beatles, only on scotch guard inhalants. Never heard of Claude Coleman, but i’ll do some digging and give it a shot.
    You got me on a Cucaracha kick. I just listened to “With My Own Bare Hands” and almost kicked a hole in my office wall. Love that track

  24. Chris Says:

    I agree with previous posts. I’m not totally into the whale. But, Trey’s always had something (drums, loops, and now the whale). I think he needs something other than straight guitar to keep it interesting. I think he’ll keep going to the whale until he makes it work. With the way he is using it all the time, it seems like he would agree with us that it hasn’t fully come together yet.

    I don’t agree that if you don’t particularly like the whale you should pack it up and move on. It is part of the 2009 sound. I have been listening to Phish for 15 years and just got it back. I’m not going to move on now. I’m going to enjoy the 2009 sound as best I can and see what experiment comes next.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Leo does that mean you are another Portlander? I am considering hosting a PT Pac NW get-together the weekend of 7/11.

    However, flying into Seattle is a better move for the Gorge IMO.

    @Stupendous – I no longer do freelance web design type work, or normal xhtml coding at all really – I now do (brace for jargon blast) custom XML tagset coding + Ajax-style clientside interactive chrome building custom front-ends on a big database. (/jargon) So I can’t help you directly unless you want to move to Portland next time we’re hiring, but I wish you luck! Freelance design is a competitive and tough but very fun field to be in, and the flexibility is great for anyone that likes to pick up and go to shows!

    ============

    McGrupp…the “looks too much” line is, to me, the single most grating bit of silliness in the Phish canon, and the actual song part of the song has never interested me at all. The outro jam is great when played well, though.

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