The Starry Night

6.18.09 Star Lake Official Poster

6.18.09 Star Lake Official Poster

As Phish pulled into Star Lake, one of their hallowed summer sheds, last night, things felt like they were back to normal.  After the irregular indoor and festival shows of the south, it felt good to be back at a “regular” summer show.  And when Phish stepped to bat in the second set, it seemed that they felt the same way.  Creating a feel-good melange of improv that left everyone walking out with a smile, Phish played a set centered on jams rather than songs, a trend that is more than welcome among their fan base. Despite rather sloppy composed playing by Trey all night- we watched a “Bowie” fall to pieces in front of our eyes- the improvisation carried this show, and in the end, the jams are what count.  And that is why we’ll be listening to this second set quite a bit in between tours.

Phish @ The Fox (D.Vann)

Phish @ The Fox (D.Vann)

Leading off with “Disease,” an improvisational adventure was impending as the band played tightly through the song and far out into other territory in what turned into the highlight of the show, and one of the most engaging jams of the tour.  Moving beyond the composed jam for quite some time, Phish explored some darker places before twisting the jam into a similar ambient-groove that has been popping up all tour.  Following a dissonant and drone path, this murky improv morphed into the intro to “Free.”  While an appropriate and bombastic landing point for this course of improv, it has been avshame to see “Free” cut into a jamless song this summer after having being the staple of so much past summer funk.  At this point the bass bombs move directly into Trey’s guitar solo, leaving any full-band improvisation behind.  Maybe they’ll stretch one out at Alpine- though I doubt it.

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

After an oddly placed “Guyute,” Phish put the pedal back on the creative metal, launching into the tour’s second “Piper.”  Ready and willing to take another musical risk, the band laid it out in a jam that covered diverse territory.  Certainly exploratory, the band took the jam beyond it’s conventions, even building into a slower groove for a bit.  “Piper’s” musical trapeze act took several twists and turns before settling into into a mid-set rest in “Circus.”  But a brief rest it was as the band dropped into another fantastic “Harry Hood.”  This song has been completely revitalized this summer, and each time its reggae rhythms drop, we know we are in for a soul-searching adventure.  Once again taking the “song-of-tour” candidate on a delicate and triumphant journey, Phish crushed their magnificent classic with another unique path to the mountaintop.

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

Following “Squirming Coil,” the band didn’t take a bow, leaving time for one more monster.  After a few moments of silence, the opening of “YEM” sang through the pavilion; the perfect cap on a “Disease-Piper-Hood” set.  By far the most impressive rendition of the summer, the band blew up a vintage set-closing version of the song whose precise grooves and high-energy peaks were just what the doctor ordered.  Providing an all-out dance-fest to close the night, everyone was on a high for the goofy encore that saw Fishman perform his first song of 3.0- Syd Barret’s “Bike.”

Kicking off their four night run with a strong effort in Burgettstown, Phish and their travelling circus now head west to Noblesville and the cornfields of Deer Creek.  Looking to build on the last three weeks, the next three shows potentially represent the most exciting nights of tour.  And if the past is any indication, at Deer Creek and Alpine, anything is possible!

1st set note: Arguably the best versions of “Wolfman’s” and “Tube” since the comeback.

I: Golgi Apparatus, Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around The Room, Wolfman’s Brother, The Divided Sky, Heavy Things, Walk Away, Wilson, Tube, Alaska, David Bowie

II: Down With Disease > Free, Guyute, Piper > When The Circus Comes To Town, Harry Hood, The Squirming Coil, You Enjoy Myself

E: Grind, Hello My Baby, Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, Loving Cup

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209 Responses to “The Starry Night”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Brimley I basically agree – listening in headphones after the fact, there’s a fair amount to like about this show, especially if you like hearing the slow songs. However if I had been at the show I would probably have felt the drag of too many of those tunes too close together, and I can see that the energy in that 2nd set might not really recover from the mid-set chill.

  2. sumodie Says:

    Link to some comments made by Page and Mike on playing with the Boss. Hope I got the hotlink thang right! If not here it is too:

  3. kevin are hollo Says:


    that’s cuz the fox had some sure fire rips! i’m gonna relisten to bits this weekend while working late.


    do you think the 8 hours a day of practice was “drug-fueled?” i had always thought those were the product of sober, serious regimen. if memory serves (it doesn’t), the interviews speak to that.

    i always wonder when people conflate “improv” with “drug induced playing.” one of the coolest things about this band growing up was that there was a mystery about them, a SOBER mystery, that it seemed like their powers were derived from things stronger than drugs.

    that last one took me 18 years to figure out for myself.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    @voopa if so that’s really fucking funny.

    @snig – I do think the instant gratification feeds into some people’s expectation/criticality issues for sure. But that’s the world we’re in so rather than bemoan it we need to each figure out how to deal with it. I do it by making sure I take “no phish” days anytime I feel myself think “meh another [song X] I should skip it” – listen to something else – come back fresh and free of expectations.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    @kevin – “i always wonder when people conflate “improv” with “drug induced playing.””

    This is a deep question and worthy of discussion. Agreed it’s bad to conflate the two. Also please note I’m referring to the later years here – from the little I know, I agree with what you’re saying about the earlier eras.

    Anyone who thinks that improvisational ability is directly related to drug use can be inarguably refuted by listening to the Remember Shakti show I have in my mediafire. Zakir and McLoughlin are each as clear as dawn on a cloudless day and that show is high level improv at its finest. There are plenty of other examples but that one is definitive.

    However, my observation is that playing while high does have a causal relationship to playing more improvised music and less composed, practice-dependent music, for a couple reasons:

    1) people who party a lot tend to be less interested in practicing and working real hard in general. So, less interest in, and success at, playing difficult composed songs.

    2) improvisation in any artistic field is highly dependent on an egoless, transrational, and timeless mental state. This is especially true in group improvisation where one must be deeply in touch with and responsive to the improvisational gestures made by your co-creators. This state, for most people, is easier to reach under the influence of strong drugs. Unfortunately, this is particularly true of opiates, which tend to suppress turbulent internal psychology and “self-talk,” creating an open and peaceful flow state in which thoughts and ideas flow freely and without painful or distracting internal associations or feelings of doubt.

    Which is to say, it’s harder to play the tricky stuff, and easier to just let it roll. So that’s what people tend to do.

    But you CAN get there without the hard stuff, and then maybe you can do both, plus you don’t have to like, die or go to jail or lose your friends and family and stuff. So there’s that.

    I think it’s important to fight the idea that you have to be high to play that kind of music – it’s a dangerous idea, and inaccurate taboot. But there is a reason so many artists create really free and unique work while strung out, and it’s better to confront that reality than to deny it…

  6. guyforget Says:

    i saw a dude at the fox with a coventry shirt on and i almost went and bitch slapped him.

    I also said to my buddy that i’m going home and burning my coventry t-shirt that i bought thinking it would be my last tangible memory of the band, but since it’s not, i think i may burn that and dance around it to the camden sand.

  7. verno329 Says:

    As regards the instant gratification theme, my stance has always been this: Back when I was trading tapes in the mid 90’s I dreamed of a day when I could have easy access to everything (or at least nearly everything) that Phish had ever played. Once the world of downloading and archiving lossless copies of shows became so readily available I figured that I owed to my mid 90’s self to actually get everything out there that I possibly could, even when it means that I’m looking at a show and trying to figure out whether or not I want to download it and saying to myself “Hmmm…first Sparkle eh? Why not?” There was a period where I was questioning why I was downloading all of these shows that I *might* never to get to listen to…but then during the 5 years of the breakup I was so glad to have all of these *new* Phish shows that I hadn’t heard yet. Made those 5 years a little easier to live with

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    I would NEVER go back to the XLIIs days

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    sometimes the drugs + improv thing is more about Desire — you aren’t as likely to want to space out for a half hour in music if you aren’t as spaced out in your mind – in my experience at least. As always YMMV ..

  10. verno329 Says:

    @Mr C: AMEN TO THAT! Which is why I feel I owe it to mid 90’s verno329 to grab everything I can in lossless format since I have that option. My younger self would kick my own ass for not taking advantage of these times, and that is something that should be avoided at all costs 🙂

  11. kevin are hollo Says:

    But you CAN get there without the hard stuff, and then maybe you can do both, plus you don’t have to like, die or go to jail or lose your friends and family and stuff. So there’s that.


    so true.

    i remember reading andrew weil’s “chocolate to morphine” as a kid and looking at those first-hand encounters in the back of the book. one or two would talk of the ability to reach these states without drugs, and i would scoff, mutter “pussy” or some such creative slur and wonder where i might find some of these exotic plants i’m reading about.

    fast forwards a bit and i’m living in one of those states full time 🙂

  12. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @completely, i’m not sure how much you’re into Zappa, but since we’re talking about drugs and their affect on improv and since zappa was probably phish’s biggest influence, i think it’s important to note that zappa was one of, if not the only, truely anti drug people in modern music that i can think of (unless you count coffee and cigarettes)

  13. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    but of course drugs are extremely important in the history of modern music – i wonder what would have happened had bob dylan never shared that joint with the beatles so many years ago

  14. Pebbles Says:

    I almost feel more spun getting off a plane and going directly to my office after a show than I used to feel when I was on drugs.


  15. SOAM Says:

    The opiate high is very problematic-it’s like a really hot chick who turns out to be a total dbag- think Heartbreak Kid (Cock me).. the rest of the shit is kid’s play-at first it gives you so much energy and peace and then slowly but surely things change-for the worse

  16. Icculus503 Says:

    Like I said in an earlier post. My most exciting face melting shows was the only truly sober show I have had. Raleigh Fall’99. Set II Sand and Tweezer are the grounds for which Camden 09 was built.

  17. SOAM Says:

    I could not imagine going to a show and partying down like dirk diggler

  18. Piece of Tinsel Says:

    First time poster long time listener. I really enjoy this blog and whole forum in general – thanks Mr. Miner. And I love Miner’s prose, too — whether I agree or not with everything he says.

    There’s some solid discussion going on here. I want to make a few points. To the hard core fan, and not the musically-trained hard core fan — what makes this band worth seeing time and again all over the country are the MOMENTS they create on stage and with the audience. Plain and Simple — it’s the moments they create and not the arrangements they recreate from album to stage. It’s not about how they nailed the composed section of Reba, which would be great if they did nail it every time I saw it. That’s not why i’ve been to so many shows. I used to mock and knock Charlie Dirksen’s dorky reviews in the mid-90’s because he just didn’t get the point of Phish. Talking about the botched transition of Fluffhead at 8:46 into Fluff’s Travels is a total joke – that’s not the point of this whole experiment. We all know that going to the show and experiencing the beauty that is Phish is totally different than hearing the tapes and wondering if it REALLY did sound as good as it seemed live. Hamptons was a perfect example. I thought 2nd and 3rd night we’re unbelievable musically when I was there. After listening to the tapes – different story. Solid but not out of this world. But it doesn’t matter because we all had our Hampton moments, in the form of raw energy, positivity and emotion.

    To most heads, these moments we savor come from huge transcendental jams. The big difference between Phish 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 is the frequency of these moments actually occurring. From ’91-94 there was pure magic on an almost nightly basis. Thats what got us hooked in the first place. Phish was the hidden secret, nobody really knew about them, they were playing in tiny theaters, the crowd was young and totally into the music, and the band was playing and practicing constantly and obsessively. The moments became more sparse from ’95-2000 with the bigger venues, the lack of intimacy, less practicing and touring, band and sound evolution and maturity, and possibly drugs.

    Which brings me to Phish 2.0. I agree with many here in that some of the most inspired jamming occurred in here. Let’s not forget the Nassau 2.28 Tweezer. And the Burgettstown Mr. Completely And the Gorge Ghost from summer ’03. These were huge moments folks — at the show AND on tape. The Nassau, Worschester and Greensboro shows were clearly shredding, fresh and HOT. But by the same token – it’s possible the non-moments outnumbered the moments in Phish 2.0 as a percentage to Phish 1.0. ’04 was a joke on the most part. Repeat City. Anyone who was at the Camden ’04 show and saw the Secret Smile (or was it Two Versions of Me?) encore knows what i’m talking about. But then again, whoever was at the Alpine night 2 and saw the Seven Below was totally blown away by the jam’s originality and ferocity and was reminded once again why they flew there for that gig.

    I know I’m rambling – but let’s dumb it down, guys. Phish is about moments. Musical, friendship, communal vibe, and soul searching journeys. These moments don’t come in the form of a Heavy Things. They come in the form of the Sand at Camden. This Sand is undeniable HOSE. I was there 6th row center and I left speechless. I was convinced the tapes would prove me wrong as they often do but they didn’t this time. The best moments are when you’re there, you experience IT, and then you listen to the tapes and you feel vindicated. 22 minutes of pure shred – as a Band and NOT as a Trey. That’s what it’s all about.

    To close the ramble, the only part of Phish i love to compare with the Dead is the epic decades long body of work and journey that both bands will leave as their legacy. The Dead 1.0 made their mark on rock history from ’65-73 – mostly the PigPen years. Non stop crazy hard psychedelic unparalleled experiences. Then, miraculously, they completely reinvented themselves in Dead 2.0 in ’77 and rode that wave for a few years magically. A totally different sound but equally powerful. The big question – will Phish pull off a Dead 2.0 in their 3.0 incarnation? Phish 2.0 ultimately failed because of the drugs – plain and simple. And I agree, it happened damn fast. Trey wanted to be a rockstar, he was wearing trendy clothes and hanging out with Kid Rock in Vegas. Nuff Said. Now Trey is clean, the Band is fresh, they are traveling with their family and keeping their demons at bay. They have a solid chance to get to the top again. The jams are fresh, Trey’s solos are fresh, and their hearts and souls are into it. At least on this tour. And at least for now. Let’s celebrate this magic – not dissect it and rip the composed flubs from some song. That’s not what it’s all about.

    This is a great forum – glad i found it. Roses for Free tonite?

  19. Leo Weaver Says:

    Good conversation today…a little off topic now, but would like some help from you guys. I’m shopping for some headphones and would like some recommendations. I don’t need anything really serious, but do want good quality at an affordable price (was that a commercial?). I’ll be listening mostly to downloads (primarily “live” stuff) thru my laptop or ipod. I’ll plug into my home system from time to time and probably my car as well. When not listening to Phish, there’s no telling what might be playing…I do a little of everything except that new country shit. I don’t want to spend more than $100-125…and it’d be GREAT if I could pick it up at a Best Buy (not much patience). Thanks guys…happy listening, happy weekend…cheers!

  20. voopa Says:

    Damn straight!

  21. Selector J Says:

    Raleigh ’99 was badass.

    It was my second time at Reynolds Coliseum. The first time, I was probably 12 or so and went with my dad after a UNC game at the Dean Dome (Mr. C’s not the only Heel’s fan on here), we trucked it over to Raleigh and caught the 2nd half of a NCSU vs. UVA game. I remember it being foggy from all the cigarette smoke drifting in from the concourse. I thought it was weird people were allowed to smoke during a basketball game.

    The second time was that huge energy Phish show. Trey came out with his beanie on and just ripped through rocker after rocker in the first set and then 2nd set had that Sand. I remember looking down from the stands at the floor and being very jealous of the absolute freak out dance party going on. I kind of remember Reynolds being really smokey that time, too. Didn’t seem as weird, though.

  22. Wilson Says:

    Reynolds ’99 … it must have been 115 degrees in that place.

  23. andrewrose Says:

    @ Leo Weaver

    I recommend a pair of SONY MDR-7506s. To me they offer the best combination of sound, comfort and portability. They’re a full noise-reduction, ear surrounding headphone, but they’re just small enough so can walk around with them plugged into a ipod and not feel like a dufus. Great sound, and pretty durable. I’m on my second pair in about 7 years and I use them a LOT.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Leo Weaver – I really like my Sennheiser HD202s! They are not audiophile headphones but they’re very nice. I got 2 pairs of last year’s model for like $25 each at Amazon – this year’s model is like $50 I think? Not sure about getting them at Best Buy, but that’s so far under your budget you could pay for fast shipping. I don’t like Senn microphones but their headphones have very nice sound for the money IMO.

    @f0ol – good point to bring Zappa into it. But Zappa’s bands (in most eras) didn’t do a lot of full band improv, more like vamping behind solos, so it’s kind of different territory in that sense, but dead on as it relates to difficult composed stuff certainly. From the interviews I remember, Frank forbade his band members from being high not out of some philosophical anti-drug stance – Frank was all about freedom – but simply ’cause high people couldn’t play his music flawlessly which is what he demanded.

  25. mr. icculus Says:

    four free Alpine lawn seat 2 for each night must pick up near Pittburgh PA

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