A Saturday Night Special

6.20.09 Alpine Valley (Lanser)

6.20.09 Alpine Valley (Lanser)

One night after Phish played their most adventurous show since their return, the band reeled it in a bit with a well played, yet safe, show for 40,000 deep at Alpine last night.  With copious structured (type I) improv, Phish used a long list of songs to create an entertaining kick-off to Alpine’s two-night stand. When all was said and done, the first set musically outshone the second. With an old-school setlist played triumphantly, Phish nailed a series of classics; while set two featured a few hot spots with some definite musical lulls.

6.20.09  (Lanser)

6.20.09 (Lanser)

Popping off in style, Phish opened the show with “Punch” before launching into a four-song improvisational run of “Runaway,” “Stash,” “Yamar,” and “Bathtub Gin.”  Without much adventure, Phish nonetheless shredded their classics much to everyone’s delight.  Each song brought a quality version, but none pushed the confines of exploration.  In a celebration of Phish songs, the entire show carried a upbeat, happy vibe all the way through- a real Saturday night special.  The highlight of the set came in the set-ending “Antelope.”  With some heavy-handed guitar work, Trey built this jam to a dizzying peak while the band fomented a series of shredding grooves along the way.  The bookends of “Punch” and “Antelope” framed a high-paced set of Phish rock that enraptured the massive Chicago-metro audience, each song bringing thunderous applause.

6.20.09 (Lanser)

6.20.09 (Lanser)

The groundwork was laid for a big second half, but Phish came out with a set which lacked any real continuity, and featuring only a couple of jams.  Each time the band played a piece that contained any improv, they followed it up with a straight composition, creating a choppy, flow-less feel.  The band- no doubt- played well, but their creativity didn’t necessarily shine in last night’s final frame.  The highlight of set came in the highly-anticipated follow-up “Ghost” to Asheville’s standout version. While this “Ghost” didn’t reach the places of it’s predecessor, it still featured an interesting, oddly-cadenced jam that built and peaked with out ever earnestly hitting any deep grooves.  Fishman creating a divergent feel to the jam, playing a more varied beat and not sitting in the pocket with Mike.  This was a controversial version at my post-show soiree last night, and I’m interested to hear the reactions of readers.

Other engaging parts of the set came with a reggae-laced “YEM” jam that segued, unfinished, into “NICU,” and a hot “Maze” that was placed in the spotlight as the number three batter in the lineup. Otherwise, while certainly a great time, the second set didn’t reach into any other improvisational places.  A surprise “Fire” capped the set before the band encored with the Hendrix-esque “Character Zero.”

Alpine Valley (Lanser)

Alpine Valley Last Night (Lanser)

Greeting the weekend crowd with a playful, song-based show, one would guess tonight’s Sunday tour closer will bring some far deeper moments.  Phish has been known to pull out top-notch shows to punctuate their tours, and I have a hunch that tonight may be one to remember.  As we wind down the first leg of Summer Tour ’09, it has been an interesting road with definite peaks and valleys.  Playing live consistently for the first time in five years, the band has been moving though a process of honing their nightly consistency and regaining their improvisational moxie. Certainly moving in the right direction, Phish will make their final step of June tonight, capping their return to the road in what could turnout to be a real throwdown at Alpine Valley. I’ll see you there!

I: Punch You in the Eye, Runaway Jim, Stash, Yamar, Bathtub Gin, Kill Devil Falls, Train Song, Farmhouse, Sparkle, Run Like An Antelope

II: Waves > Sample In A Jar, Maze, Makisupa Policeman, Ghost > The Lizards, You Enjoy Myself > NICU, Prince Caspian > Waste, Fire

E: Character Zero

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204 Responses to “A Saturday Night Special”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    Thank you for the no spoilers all tour, Mr . Miner. It’s so nice to wake up Father’s Day morning to phresh fish. I can’t wait for the next installment.

    How is the mud in the parking lot anyway?

  2. Jon Bailey Says:

    Thanks Miner for everything. This east coast kid that was only able to do the North East run (Plis NY, and NJ) appreciates these tid bits that you give us.

  3. Piper Says:

    Great work all tour Miner. These two Alpine shows are the first of the tour for me. Also thought they were great, solid, and safe. And yes, similar thoughts to the Ghost….Fish was playing “on top” of the beat at the top of the song…I was actually late figuring out that it was a Ghost. Overall, a strange version…kind of “rock-like?” Cheers!!

  4. ColonelJoy Says:


    Kinda had your thoughts when I read the setlist. I’m going to give DC a re-listen, well, set II at least. I envy you, brother!

    Anyhow, I think we need to remember this:

    When we saw this band in the past, it just appeared so easy, so natural. The collective musical intuition appeared effortless. The magic was just that, magic, and we weren’t necessarily cognizent that there was a disciplined and structured method behind the madness. We knew of the legendary rehearsal/practice sessions, the “listening to the heys”, the Oh Kee Pah ceremonies, all that stuff, but it was taken for granted.

    Over the previous 4.5 year Phish lost their foundation, and while rebuilding it now, they haven’t necessarily agreed on a direction. Bricks are left to be mortared in place. Make no mistake, they have been playing well in places, occasionaly inspired and locked in, but the majority of this tour has still been a feeling-each-other-out-fest.

    The better news is that while things are clearly not together yet, they appear very commited to the music. Apparently they are going back into the studio to do more work on an album that was already assumed to be the best Phish album ever. It is good to know that they care enough about their work not to spend the next five weeks apart, but to continue to work.

    Make no mistake, they are listening to themselves. They will discuss the first leg of this tour and account for it on the next. Three of the last four shows have been described as mearly average at best, and these are all shows at venues that folks assumed would be off-the-chain.

    With one show to go it is safe to say that this tour has shown advancement from Hampton, but not so substantial that we can call them fully back. If we expected them to be at this point, that would be unfair, but if we believe there isn’t significant progress to be taken on from here, then we are frankly, delusional.

  5. halcyon Says:

    “They will discuss the first leg of this tour and account for it on the next.”

    Just in time for when I get to see them in August. Oh Yeah!

  6. Holger Says:

    The athmosphere at Alpine was great. I met my two new phriends I made at DC. Trey’s guitar really makes me high if you know what I mean. I was once again speechless after the show. I had a huge smile on all the time and I am happy Trey and the band seem to have so much fun on stage. You need to watch Trey jumping, dancing, smiling – he’s like a little child unwrapping his xmas gifts. Big props also to CK5 for insane lighting during “Fire” which was a big and welcomed surprise! Can’t wait for tonight before I have to fly back home to Berlin, Germany tomorrow:(

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    looks like another phish show was played last night! Cheers to that 🙂

  8. ColonelJoy Says:


    When I get back to Germany from Iraq, I want to see the Berlin Philharmonic. That is the last thing on my list to do before I leave Europe forever at the end of October. Hopefully I can see them do Ludwig Van’s 9th, but anything will be fine.

  9. Holger Says:

    @ coloneljoy: did you know they had a “fire”? The rooftop of the philharmonic was burning. I live very close and could see the smoke. But dont worry it got safed. All fine and ready to serve you. Take care in Iraq and be safe! I really hope Phish will play another EU tour. I think thats good to bring them back to the roots as they play tiny venues compared to the ones in the US. I saw them in Munich and Nuremberg in ’97 in front of 500 people. I told friends to partizipate in a competition for 2 tix by our local newspaper and they won cause nobody else applied:)

  10. Jeff Says:

    Holger, I was at that Nuremberg show as well, and I think your guess of 500 people in attendance might be high.

    Fine work, Mr. Miner. I’ve enjoyed your thoughts on the tour. I was only able to make it to Camden, but thru this blog I feel like I’ve gotten a good sense of how this entire tour has gone.

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    “The band- no doubt- played well, but their creativity didn’t necessarily shine in last night’s final frame.”

    this notion that phish can’t be creative while staying within the boundaries of their songs is driving me a little crazy recently. What I’ve been hearing this tour (haven’t heard last night) is oozing with creativity and life as they engage in this “feeling-each-other-out-fest”. Listen to the great Wahhh Wahh descending pattern I’ve been hearing from page in Boogie On or Tube and in a few other places. Listen to the clever turns that Trey has been working out in the jazz solo section of The Landlady in PYITE. Listen to Page playing with instrumentation as in Possum we’ve heard an organ solo which is very rare if not a first, he’s used 2 or 3 different synth tones + the clavinet in the first suzie G solo as the tour has progressed …

    This tour is oozing with creativity, Type I, Type II, MisType or whatever you want to call it – these are still artists creating magic each night.

  12. G-Man Says:

    My first show since SPAC 04 last night. It’s good to be back! I know superlatives are a no-no but I’m calling funniest Makisupa ever.

    Woke up this morning:
    Peeing in Jah cup
    Woke up this morning:
    Called my parole officer

    Policeman came to my house.

  13. Flaco Says:

    I gotta tell you I was pretty down after Coventry and the garbage they had been playing for years prior-2.0if you will. I love the shows I’ve seen and listened to. They are back and their spirit is good. No more “going through the motions”. I’m happy I even just get to say that. It’s a better place with phish back

  14. chitownshanty Says:

    I was there last night….talk about energy. Man that place was OVERFLOWING with Goodness. I have been to 100+ shows ((disclaimer)).

    Without getting into too much detail at this point….if I didn’t mention a song, it’s b/c it was truly not worth mentioning.

    Here goes a brief review:

    Punch: smokin’ tight

    Runaway: light years better than the Fox version

    Stash: risque selection 3rd song; they were feeling good as a UNIT, and it went into the deep played TIGHTLY

    Yamar: nice breather, energy still very high

    Bathtub: excellent version and jam, not too exploratory but the band’s playing was so ‘together’ it was beautiful

    Antelope: excellent closer, and it was INTENSE. The build was huge and they nailed it IMO.

    Overall, the intensity of the 1st set was a level 12 (out of 10). I know there were a lot of repeats in there, but for those who haven’t been on the full tour, which seemed like the majority of people, the song selection was good and the level of playing together was top notch…this kept me with a 1st set perma-grin for the evening.

    2nd set:
    Waves was a cool opener and it was a nice jam that I thought held some promise to the set.

    As for the rest of the set……meh.

    Maze is Maze. Heard a zillion of them and they never change. Same with the rest of the songs in this set….same ole same ole, NOT impressed.

    Ghost was cool.

    YEM–>NICU: saw it coming a mile away, not the most perfect segue. But you could tell Trey wanted it from the beginning of the YEM jam.

    I’m really not sure what happened at set break.

    Did they just run out of juice?

    The 2nd set failed in comparison to the 1st and quite honestly, I could’ve left during set break and been TOTALLY CONTENT.

    That’s how I feel.

    We’ll see what tonight brings.

  15. ColonelJoy Says:


    We have stood near each other. I was at both Munich and Nurnberg in 97’…the Nurnberg Ghost is quite famous, as you are aware. That venue in Nurnberg was crazy…an ivy-walled palace courtyard…

  16. ColonelJoy Says:


    Yes, they are experimenting with different sounds and approaches, no doubt, but magic requires gelling, and that has been sporadic.

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    col .. to that I saw “pffft” you know we disagree there .. not to engage too much in hagiography (ht to waxbanks 😉 ) but I’ve heard a ton of magic throughout this tour – you may disagree on the intensity of the magic, perhaps – and it would be insane to expect – say – fall 97 or june 95 magic at this point – but If you were at the shows – you felt the magic, sometimes before the band even got onto the stage. As Chitownshanty mentioned above – the majority of those at the shows were not on the full tour, many at their first show in at least five years and I’d wager if *any* of these had been miner’s first show back he would have responded in such glowing terms as he did after Hampton. I wager you will respond the same after your first show back. And if not – well that’s inside my friend.

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    to that I “say” pfft of course.

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    “experimenting with different sounds and approaches”

    sounds like the creative process to me.

    **passing microphone to the left and taking a step back**

  20. chitownshanty Says:

    PS – I was a bit CHEEZED out with the audience. 🙁

  21. Al Says:

    @Holger: Hey, das gibt’s doch nicht dass hier auch ein Deutscher Phishhead ist! Ich wohnen bei Bremen! Ich war 2003 in Camden und IT. 1997 in Köln.

    Just listened to the Burgettstown show. Man, that one is soooo sloppy! No wonder Trey & the guys let a quality show like Deer Creek follow. I think they had to.

  22. ColonelJoy Says:


    I obviously await my first show back with giddy trepidation. I’m not suggesting the experience wouldn’t be magical, or whatever….hearing the notes flote to my ears….Phish’s notes tend to do so as if shot from heaven…nothing catches your ear quite like it….

    BTW, I’ve canned my relisten to DC (for a moment only) in favor of a sweet copy of Bonner Springs 99’….a show often put down, but one with crazy experimentation. The band had been off for 7 months, and Trey had been doing his solo thing, so obviously they hadn’t been working together in awhile or rehearsed. I had seen the 98′ New Years run, so what struck me about Bonner Springs, when I was there, was how divergent it was from the whole 98′ sound, the tightened funk/rock sound of 98′ was giving away to a smoother, textured psychedelic jamming.

    You can hear it immediately in the opening Bathtub, which oozes with new sounds and textures previously foriegn to us, and that pervades through the whole show, IMO. By the time I saw the band again at Deer Creek, they had brought it full circle…it was completely developed. Some of my fave Phish is probably that My Friend>Left Toe>Whipping Post from 7-25-99….an amazing sequence.

  23. YouCanCallMeAl Says:

    CHi I like your analysis, I enjoyed the second set simply because I haven’t been to that many shows. I have waited a long time for the boys to nuke Alpine. From an energy standpoint the people around me were really really phun. + all my friends were there.
    Tonight will be much better I believe…
    Oh and Chi if you didn’t like the crowd at Alpine its because if was full of flatlanders (from illinoise)

  24. Spoof Says:

    Didos to Chitownshanty (Go Tribe!) the energy for the first set was great. I was feeling really good after the that set. The set was tightly played and was looking foward to the second at break.

    Didos to c0wfunk on the creativity bit. I have been thinking the same thing for some time. I’ve enjoyed listening to all the new little things. And I will agree about the intensity-I was likin’ it last night. Though my hopes were ambitious- I was atleast hoping for fall 99.

    Maybe the difference between you and Minor is where it’s at. He tries to find it in the psycho, and you find it in the parts. Not that you both don’t like the other but you’re diggin’ an apple and he’s diggin’ an orange.

  25. CJ Says:

    Looking forward to hearing this show along with tonight’s. On paper this looks like a solid, “safe” show, which is fine by me. After Star Lake and Deer Creek (IMO the best back-to-back shows of the tour, easily) this show does seem like a step back, but tonight could be ANYTHING 😀

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