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. fromthetub Says:

    @nono – Claude is Ween’s drummer – I believe he’s ventured out doing solo stuff now, singing and playing guitar. Seemed like he was finding his groove a bit, but Gene is a huge supporter.

    Now back to regularly scheduled program… Phish On!

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Chris I think that’s a very perceptive post and a healthy way to look at it.

  3. B. Lee Says:

    WOW.. what a tour it has been… if you haven’t seen Phish YET, I strongly recommend that you quit your job, pack the car, and follow the lines leading north this weekend, its a sight to behold.

    There is a place on the mountain near by
    Deep in a cave but its up rather high
    There in the darkness I safely concealed
    All of the dreams that you never revealed
    And if you go there, and after you do
    All of these dreams would be yours to persue
    The rest of your lifetime, devoid of a care
    If you keep your eyes open, you may find yourself there

    If you DO head north, pick me up in B’ham… I’ve got tix for the whole weekend and no ride 🙁

  4. Leo Weaver Says:

    @Mr. C…nah, I’m in Charlotte, NC, wish I were in Portland, especially considering how I make a living (it’s much more design-friendly in terms of sustainability). But flights are MUCH more affordable from here to Portland than Seattle.

    And your right on Goddard College…Page attended there and I THINK Trey did a little as well (may’ve been Mike). I’ve got an old tape of them from ’85 playing in the basement of one of the dorms there…played a really interesting Whipping Post. Man, I haven’t listened to that one in YEARS, need to go dig it up.

  5. Leo Weaver Says:

    @msb…thanks, good to be here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this website and “message board” comment area since March 7th of this year. It’s my second read every morning.

    @Miner…thanks for all you do here. It’s good to live vicariously through your (and others’) experiences. I’m amazed at your output. If the boys ever come back thru C’lotte, you’ve got a place to stay.

  6. fromthetub Says:

    There seem to be quite a few designers on here. I’m a freelance designer too, but more on the old-school print side. Working for yourself is great for show going. (Flexible time… though no paid vacation days!)

  7. nonoyolker Says:

    @TUB – nice man, new the drummer by site, but never his name. Good looks.

    @Leo, welcome aboard man. Everyone needs to jaw out their addiction with someone other than their signifcant other. My gf was about to kill me before i found this site. Its a nice outlet for sure.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    @leo – I see, I misunderstood ur post – from NC originally myself BTW, go heels!

    @tub – I started out doing print, then freelance web in the mid 90s, then a mix of both thru the early 00’s. I’m very lucky, this job fills the family-man requirements (health care, regular pay to cover the mortgage) but is super flexible timewise.

    Plus, our publishing process takes 3-5 minutes to hit the live servers which gives me legit window to refresh this site frequently :o)

  9. fromthetub Says:

    Darn! I currently do not have a legit window of time to refresh this site! I need to rethink my career path! (well that and print is dying rapidly, ha) 🙂

  10. Stupendous Says:

    @ Mr C
    “So I can’t help you directly unless you want to move to Portland next time we’re hiring”
    I work doing full time design at the moment… My girlfriend just got accepted to do her masters in the University of Oregon in Corvalis….
    so we have been tampering with the idea of heading west….its a bit early to tell right now. I love it in Oregon!

  11. Chalkdustin Says:

    I’m leaving work in one hour than heading over to DC. Is there even any point in trying to get something done in the next hour?

    I think not! Phish on the brain!

  12. Frankie Says:

    Have fun Chalkdustin! 🙂
    Take care of yourself (and your shoes too!)

  13. Stupendous Says:

    @ fromthetub
    Dont get me wrong doode, Im an oldschool designer as well
    working with print right now and minor landing page design in dreamweaver. It drives me crazy though, Im no programmer im just an artist. want to find web guy to team up with…someone who has what i dont have and viceversa!

  14. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Chaldustin, kick ass man! Do the damn thing the way the damn thing needs to be done.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    careful there Stupendous, University of Oregon is in Eugene, it’s Oregon State in Corvallis – they kill people who confuse the two, I’m told.

    (I personally could care less)

    I am a well known pro-Oregon bigot. The only downside (a fairly big one these days) is lack of shows compared to east coast.

    @Chalkdustin – no. no, there is no point. rage it!

    My window is wider than usual today ’cause I’m having to rebuild my computer setup after HD crash. Not the most productive day.

  16. Chalkdustin Says:

    Thanks everyone! I’m functioning at zero productivity today. Should be a good run, but not going into it with any expectations. Just want to have a good time and dance my ass off!

  17. kevin are hollo Says:

    as a devout defender of gamehendge….

    for god’s sake, forget about the botched endings! the major composed sections of both mcgrupp and slave were fucking pitch perfect.

    listen again if you don’t believe. mcgrupp’s metal was as powerful as i’ve heard from those four post hiatus.

  18. Stupendous Says:

    @ Mr C – LOL yeah i knew that looked weird as i was typing its OSU
    in corvalis…I hear ya with the quantity of shows…
    Im also a musician, i remember seeing one of your posts about the scene
    in Portland…anything cool besides hipsters and synthpop hipsters?
    Any heady jazz? POst rock scenes? the west is the best!

  19. fromthetub Says:

    @Chalkdustin’ – Have SO much fun! No sense in even trying to be productive at this point, right?

    @Stupendous – I’m exactly in this same boat… or submarine as the case may be. But still enjoy print a bit more. (Mainly branding and the like) “It drives me crazy though, Im no programmer im just an artist. want to find web guy to team up with…someone who has what i dont have and viceversa!”

  20. hairy pood Says:

    save the whales….save the whales….

    shoot the seals! shoot the seals!

  21. hairy pood Says:

    was the star spanggled banner w/ or w/o mics?

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Stupendous – it’s funny cause for several years I worked for a local promoter (jazz, bluegrass, jambands mostly) and was in the thick of the local scene 24/7 but at this point I’m fairly disengaged from it. I follow it mostly through iTunes shares of my showgoing co-workers and here’s what I know:

    There’s good jazz that ranges from trad to avant-noise. There’s plenty of experimental rock going on that you might put in the post-rock category. Some of it is good and some isn’t, but that’s normal. Lots of Animal Collective ripoffs as you might expect. Tons and tons of indie rock of all stripes – again, some of it good and lots more that isn’t. And there’s a huge and very much thriving bluegrass/acoustic/singer songwriter/old timey scene. A fair number of good African and other world music acts come through as well.

    Pretty much everything except hiphop really. Lots of whiteboy funk of course. This city is awesome but super, super white, culturally speaking. There are a couple local hiphop crews that are OK but nothing to get worked up about.

    Portland is peaking right now. It will last a few to several years, I think – but right now Portland is a very very exciting place to live. Whether you’re young and able to go out 5 nights a week or settling down with kids, I think it’s just a great place to live. AS LONG AS YOU HAVE A JOB. And they’re kinda hard to come by.

    Corvallis is a small college town – just FYI – over an hour from PDX and not a huge amount going on down there.

  23. Mugician Says:

    Hi everybody, hope all is well. I’m really getting itchy here about Phish. My first show is at Shoreline, but I really don’t want to wait that long… I’m thinking of pulling some crazy shit and driving from CO to WI for Alpine. Looking for tickets right now, and my question is, is there a 100% guaranteed way of spotting phony tickets?

  24. El Duderino Says:

    @ Mr. Completely. You’re from North Carolina? My girlfriend is from Raleigh. I guess this will give us more to talk about @ The Gorge

  25. snigglebeach Says:

    If u hold out for Mail order tiks, ( which i have seen a lot of people selling), should be no prob authenticating it…

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