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. Albert Walker Says:

    camman

    I’ve heard other Phishies call getting a hard tix a “miracle”
    just so you know a kicked down tick is a “miracle”
    it needs to be free

    congrats anyway and hope you had a great show

    hopefully they got TTE out of the way, kinda lame song
    I’m sure I’ll hear it at red rocks, but hopefully not creek-alpine now

  2. Chalkdustin Says:

    Holy shit Cam, you finally did it. Must have been insane to be in your shoes. My hat’s off to you, kid.

  3. camman Says:

    i do recall picking up my jaw off the floor during setbreak after possum ended.. it was 8 rows back

  4. tela'smuff Says:

    @camman – i hear ya. good for you man! I’m glad you got in! times have changed though. Now, if you really get IT, you better be catching a ride from Starlake>Alpine!

  5. Al Says:

    My Setlist reaction this morning: “meehh”

    3 Songs that should be shelved for the rest of the tour:
    1) Possum 2) Sample 3) Character Zero

    3 Songs that should be played / more often:
    1) Timber 2) Scents & Sounds 3) Crosseyed & Painless

  6. nonoyolker Says:

    Nice Cam, congrats on the first show homey. 8 rows back is pretty cherry too, nice work young buck!

  7. nonoyolker Says:

    what is the tally on Character 0 this tour too – 5 times played? cripes.

  8. Phermonter Says:

    Mr. Miner, I really appreciate your reviews of the shows. I feel like there are others out there that get it and can deliver the “phacts” when reviewing a show for folks, but I’m sick and tired of reading garbage bullshit reviews from people complaining all the time that they didn’t get to hear their favorite songs, therefore “the show sucked!”. Anyway, keep it up. Thanks for keeping a respectful amount of musicianship in your thoughts on shows. See ya ’round.

  9. BTB Says:

    Posted this late last night, worth the repost i hope.

    To all those going for the Midwest Run – here’s a run down of songs not “busted out” on the first leg so far – to the best of my knowledge…

    Crosseyed and Painless
    Tela
    Mockingbird
    Forbins
    Emotional Rescue (hmmm…)
    Harupua
    TMWSITY etc.
    Buffalo Bill
    Camel Walk
    Curtain
    The Mango Song
    Icculus
    Kung
    The Landlady
    McGrupp (damn it! they just busted it out!)
    Sleeping Monkey
    Vultures
    Weigh
    Mound
    Carini

    Any others?

  10. axillalot Says:

    no mention of mcgrupp in your review miner? listened to it this morning, and while i’m glad they played it, they completey blew the build up at the end of the song, and then abandoned it, leaving it unfinished. very disappointing. oh well, at least they played it. and very glad to see rift finally played. DC > alpine cannot get here fast enough. leaving tomorrow night!!!

  11. tela'smuff Says:

    this Rift was brutalized by Trey. Another case where the tone doesn’t work with the song and he can’t get his head around it. although i guess he’s struggled with this song for years now.

  12. Woo Says:

    I hope the boys are getting amped for the next four shows… I know I am.

  13. Mr.Miner Says:

    @matso…as I said above I had a blast…and the possum wasn’t ripping 😉

  14. camman Says:

    tela…

    i cant do star lake, but i got just a smidge over 200 dollars to my name to try to get to Deer Creek with.. i just dont have a car or license… trust me.. i got IT… prolly at least 10 times last night…

  15. Woo Says:

    I’m predicting a Harpua one of next four shows.

  16. Phnom Pencil Says:

    They haven’t played Llama yet, I think…

    I may get flamed for this, but I’d like to see them do a lot of the Undermind songs. Some of these new songs started quite standard and now are showing the first signs of jammy goodness, the Undermind ones can go the same way I suppose.

    I’m sure it takes plenty of practice to get the music back up to scratch, tho… I’m certainly not complaining about the number they’ve played so far.

  17. msbjivein Says:

    I haven’t heard a Possum this tour that wasn’t ripping. They’re killing that tune right now. Listening to last night now. I like how they opened w/ 2 new tunes.

  18. BTB Says:

    camman,

    where do you live bro, I have an empty car and am cruising from SL to DC with no real time schedule

  19. Phnom Pencil Says:

    Although it probably won’t be the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if Curtain were retired for a while, a la Destiny Unbound. Could reopen some wounds.

  20. Pence Says:

    surprised you didnt mention the encore Minor, which stuck out to me the most. Ive been waiting for the McGrupp bust out.

  21. hooks Says:

    man, i was thinking it’d be more intense at the fox too, but I shoulda known they were a bit tired after roo… relax-tte-go to sleep. thats awesome. expect the unexpected. looks like a cool show anyway, and a great first show

  22. Danny B Says:

    Congrats on the first show Camman. It really doesn’t matter what anybody else has to say, you will always remember your first time, popping the phish cherry. It’s rare that anybody’s first phish show is the best phish show they will ever see, it happens, but it is pretty rare. Go to Alpine or Deer Creek, you will be able to get a lawn ticket for cheap if you try hard enough. Those venues are way different than the fox, big outdoor ampitheaters won’t rival the sound of an intimate venue like the fox, but they are lots of fun. Dude if I lived down south I would hook you up with a ride, but I am stuck in NYC, at a desk, counting down the days till Darien Lakes, Hartford, Merriweather, and SPAC. And whatever you thought was amazing from last night, was amazing, because you were there experiencing it.

  23. tela'smuff Says:

    cam – $200 is more than enough to see those 4 shows. you’ll be able to buy tickets for $10 at each show easily. that’s $40. You can eat grilled cheese each day in the lot, at most $15 for food. Another $15 on liquids. Kick down $40 for gas, another $40 towards camping. That’s $150, which leaves you with $50 towards misc expense.

    Now, get your little ass on tour!

  24. Chalkdustin Says:

    @Cam, I got a DC lawn with your name on it if you make it there.

  25. ColonelJoy Says:

    Plain and Simple, I doubt any of this will get on my ipod. This was a poor effort, barely ascertainable as Phish….vapid. Why even bother with Rift? The Halley’s “jam” was actually capitulation, as they faded into that same ambient space that the other pointless jams have rolled into.

    For those of you talking shit about 03’….this would have been the worst show on the 03′ summer tour, without question.

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