Finishing With A Bang

6.20.09 Alpine Valley (D. Vann)

6.20.09 Alpine Valley (D. Vann)

Phish ended their first leg of Summer ’09 in style, playing a second set filled with psychedelic exploration, and composing a masterful final stanza to cap their month of June. Completing a three-week tour at Alpine Valley, the band treated Sunday night’s crowd to a complete show whose second set will stand up against anything from this run. Complimenting Saturday’s upbeat show, the band erupted with darker improvisation in their final performance, leaving us with a gem to listen to during the five weeks off.

6.20.09 (D.Vann)

6.20.09 (D.Vann)

Coming out for their last set of the tour, “Crosseyed and Painless” was the last thing anyone expected to hear, and when they band broke out the cover to the roar of the crowd, everyone knew it was on. Taking a trek through searing percussive grooves, Phish completely killed the Talking Head’s cover as the entire band was taped in to the source. Exiting the verse and entering one of the tightest and most exciting pieces of tour, the band stretched out the rock grooves before launching into a purposeful and directed ambient jam, putting an exclamation point on the several ambient excursions of the tour. Stretching the psychedelia further than previous trips, Phish never lost their cohesion as they built a multi-layered piece of standout improv. Morphing seamlessly into the muddy bass intro to “Disease,” Phish pulled off a memorable transition as they stepped into their staple jam. The band combined two impressive explorations, ripping “Disease” every bit as cohesively as “Crosseyed,” and molding one of the most magnetic musical segments of the summer. Bringing the “Disease” jam “out” as well, Phish put together a textured palette as they wound their way into another abstract piece of aural art. Taking their classic vehicle in a distinctly ’09 direction, the band continued to carve out their newest sound- tightly wound jams releasing into ambient soundscapes. Out of “Disease,” Phish’s improvisational adventure dropped into “Bug,” a song that served as soaring mid-set landing point and whose ending was extended with a subtle pass into “Piper.”

6.20.09 (D.Vann)

6.20.09 (D.Vann)

Quickly adhering to the nights exploratory theme, “Piper’s” jam developed into a speed-funk excursion, led by Trey’s aggressive rhythm chops and Fishman’s driving beats. Riding a rhythmic roller coaster, Trey began to bend his notes, bringing the jam in a more laid-back direction as Page stepped up to complement his playing. Locked together, the band established a layered canvas on which Trey began to solo with ethereal lead melodies. The band progressed into a dense concluding part of the jam, heavily strewn with effects from each band member. With this abstract segment that could have sprang from somewhere deep in Summer ’95, the band concluded their jaunt with a poignant piano transition into “Velvet Sea.” The emotional ballad signified the impending end of tour, but as soon as anyone felt slightly bittersweet, the band picked the vibe right back up with the “dready-mama funk” of “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” A song that has brought thick bass effects and hot clav solos to the table for most of the tour, did just that, adding a spunky moment before Phish dramatically closed their set with a phenomenal “Slave.” The band took their time to nail their chosen farewell jam, building slowly and impeccably into a triumphant punctuation to an amazing set of Phish.

"Brother" 6.21.09 (B.Frye)

"Brother" 6.21.09 (B.Frye)

Last night’s first set was centered around the compositional side of Phish, highlighting “Divided Sky,” “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” and “Time Turns Elastic.” The rocking first half of the frame saw the summer debuts of “Funky Bitch”- as a response to a fan’s sign- and “Brother”- played as a Father’s Day shout out with all of Phish’s kids comically sitting in a bathtub at the front of the stage. Yet, the most compelling aspect of the set was how the band tied together a string of more tender songs to close it out. Flowing naturally between “Horse > Silent,” “TMWSIY,” and “Time Turns Elastic,” the band created a mellower and intricate vibe to the second half of the set. Well-placed as a first set closer, especially in this context, “Time Turns Elastic,” came across better than the its previous mid-second set incarnations, and brought the set to a different sort of peak.

Capping off three-weeks on the road, Phish will have plenty of time to rest up for their late-summer run, and we’ll have plenty of time to break down what has happened over the course of the band’s first full tour in years. In the five weeks before Red Rocks, we will discuss, analyze, and investigate all the musical mayhem that has fully back returned to our lives. The future looks promising for our Fab Four, and we are all lucky to be a part of it.  Much more to come in the upcoming days….as for now, I’m signing off. Miner- over and out.

I: Brother, Wolfman’s Brother, Funky Bitch, The Divided Sky, Joy, Back On The Train, Taste, Poor Heart, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkanu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Time Turns Elastic

II: Crosseyed and Paiinless > Down With Disease > Bug > Piper > Wading In The Velvet Sea, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Grind, Frankenstein

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297 Responses to “Finishing With A Bang”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Maestro – I have never come into Spokane, but it is slightly closer than Seattle, and I would imagine there’s less traffic (compared to Seattle metro). Other PacNWers on here have previously recommended Spokane. So if you find a reasonable flight, I’d say it makes sense.

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    Seattle -> Gorge = ~160 miles over a mountain pass
    Spokane -> Gorge = ~140 miles thru open country

    so yea slightly shorter and maybe quicker. not a huge diff. I’d prob. decide based on flight and rental costs.

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    small little nap and phone rang .. but felt good..

    gorge is me + wife so all the expenses are X 2.. and a man’s gotta pay the mortgage. Wife being a teacher = no summer pay so we gotta work it out.. We’ve been around and around about it but it’s just not going to work. I’m blessed to have merriweather pavilions and a bunch of family up there so it’ll be great.. the real blood family kind who has become phish family too! Best kind!

    I’ve been listening to the sbds and thinking a lot about the bass tone – someone mentioned here “just mix it like A Live One” … I went to school for audio engineering and man let me tell you – you have to work for a bass tone like they got on their live *albums* .. these fresh off the sbd just after the show mixes don’t give the engineers time to isolate and work that bass tone with a compressor and the other things you need to do to make it work. I used to mix some mic tone and some direct tone, feed them both into a compressor, right along with the kick drum, and boost those low frequencies. that you need for punch. And mike’s money tone is so much in the mid-low register that they’re emphasizing those aspects instead of that real low bottom. The size of the wave involved means you are just never going to get that “live” bass sound without some work. And you know – I think I caught one moment where there were effects on the aud that didn’t even show up at all on the sbd (fenway destiny?) so it makes me wonder what’s going on with that recording rig and how much of an after thought it’s been.

    So I love the sbds, and after all of the crappy sbds I’ve heard over the years (mid 80s dead I’m looking at you) that are just stage mixes or whatever, they’re good enough. But I wonder if we’ll ever get a true “live album” again or if that is over for the Phishies now that everything goes right on the market.

  4. freshtracks420 Says:

    First off, just want to thank Mr. Miner for all of the energy that he pours into this site!! Please ignore all the haters and know that your insights have been much appreciated by myself over the roughly last year since I first became aware of your efforts…and I think that the response from everyone else on this board shows that you are appreciated by many!! Second…just wanna say that I can’t wait to finally get my first taste of Phish 3.0 in-person…got tix for the whole left-coast run (Red Rocks night 2 will be my 100th Phish show and I couldn’t be much more psyched for it!!). I hope that everybody is ready to throw down…7 shows in just 3 different legendary venues…yeah, this should be sweet!! That Chicago show is also looking really tempting…have to see what happens with the good ‘ol job! Also heard from a somewhat “inside” source that Vegas/Sam Boyd for Halloween could be a definite possiblity. Having attended the first 2 years of the Vegoose Fest at the same venue on Halloween weekends past, I can say that it would be a great fit, IMO. You couldn’t ask for a nicer time of year to find yourself in Las Vegas, and a sweet outdoor show at a small stadium sounds preferable to the Thomas and Mack personally. I attended Halloween ’98 and the ’00 + ’03 shows there(T + M), and feel that the Sam Boyd would afford a much more enjoyable experiece for everyone! My memories of the ’03 T + M shows was that it was just so uncomfortably crowded…so I’m thinking that Halloween ’09 would just be too much! At any rate, if either happens I’ll plan on being there. If it does end up being down at Sam Boyd…I’ll post to tell ya’ll about my favorite little Vegas casino to stay at (not glitzy or on the strip, but just perfect for me and my peeps for a Phish stadium show in south Vegas)…gotta make sure that I get my reservation first, though 😉 !! Anyway, can wait to see everybody….and for those of you heading for Red Rocks or The Gorge for the 1st time…get ready to be floored! Hands down best 2 venues in the country!! I’m originally from back east, and have seen GD/Phish at most of the revered venues across the country…Deer Creek, Alpine Valley (my personal favorite of all the “sheds”), Merriweather Post, Darien, Hampton…but despite my sincere reverence for all of those places and my tremendous experiences there, none hold a candle to the natural granduer of RR and the Gorge! Get ready…the goods are about to be dealt…in dramatic fashion! Vamonos muchachos… I can’t wait! BTW, hope to encounter you along the way Mr. Miner…I must at least know your face from tours past!

  5. Walfredo Says:

    Spokane is a dump and Seattle is beautiful- but if the plan is to go to a concert for a weekend at the Gorge it won’t matter at all. The drive from Seattle to the Gorge is really pretty- but come on? Who cares… Both are good entry points to the Gorge- Spokane is a little closer- if the flight costs are the same- it would work better and the airport is way less hectic.

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    great insight – this might be a case where the “barely good enough” is the enemy of the great – no reason to go back and rework something that’s already been quick-released

    so it’s up to the AUDs and fan matrix projects I guess

    FWIW c0w – nothing can help the 85s and earlier – straight room mix to cassette, sheesh – but some of the early Healy matrix boards were actually recorded on 4 track PCM, with 2 aud and 2 sbd tracks. the reason those are so fubar is that the tracks are not synced, Dan didn’t delay the board feed to match the aud, but in theory those can one day be fixed up…

  7. Hunter Says:

    I too would love to hear “She Thinks I Still Care”. A classic country tune from one of the greatest vocalists of all time, George Jones. I remember listening to the Hampton SBD’s and getting a little teary-eyed from how beautifully Mike sang it. When he’s really on, Mike is my favorite singer in the band. Very reminiscent of the “high lonesome sound” of bluegrass singers like Tony Rice and Ralph Stanley.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    …but a “best of tour” or “best of year” live album with full remastering (really like ALO) would still work and make sense for Phish I think. You could pull a couple pretty heady disks’ worth of music just from this opening stretch…

  9. Geoff Eddy Says:

    Thank you so much Miner. What a great thing you have done. I am going to make a donation right now. Get some rest. How kind you are! I’m pretty sure karma is the operating system of the universe and you should get a nice pay off for this one.

    Peace. Geoff

  10. AintNoTele Says:

    speaking of the gorge, does anyone wanna ride in with me, I have a VIP camping pass and only one is needed per car. Just throwing it out there…its me and my lady going so we have some open seats

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    – turns out I don’t even really mind Bug as long as it isn’t a set closer…Big Red has always been feelin’ this one for whatever reason

    – I was bored of the long Piper build-ups, I like these more explosive ones that get right to the point. I like the dance party section early on, and if the jam doesn’t fully cohere, at least they went for a second deep jam later in a 2nd set.

    – so now we have at least one really slick version of every classic composed/big-crescendo tune they’re playing, right? Divided Sky, Fluffhead, Maze, Bowie, Hood, Slave, YEM – each of those tunes had at least one version from this tour that’s pretty much superb…that’s cool.

  12. Mr.Miner Says:

    (Shorter Wax Banks: I miss the enormous ‘Type II’ jams, but maybe last night is a sign they’re on their way back.)

    ^^ agreed. Deer Creek and Alpine 2 shows they are just getting back into form

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    the feedback from that ludicrous guitar during Frank is cracking me up

  14. Leo Weaver Says:

    @ tele…hmmmmm…you got an extra for each nite? Anyone? Damn the wheels are turning fast now…

  15. hairy pood Says:

    @tele- where are you driving from?

  16. Leo Weaver Says:

    @tele well first…where u heading in from?

  17. Selector J Says:

    @Mr. C
    For me, the ‘long Piper build-ups’ is where it’s at. And by ‘long build-up,’ I mean looong! Every Piper since ’99 or so (whenever it started opening shows), I’ve felt the beginning gets off and sprinting too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the song but I get nostalgic (not in a grumpy way) for the ‘old Piper.’

    @Miner: Welcome back (assuming you’re at home)! I’ve had a blast living vicariously through you these past few weeks.

  18. whole tour! Says:

    just hit star lake ‘tube’

    as borat sez: it is NIIIIICE!

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    getting home tomorrow…a day of rest is necessary 🙂

  20. hawkinbj Says:

    Deer Creek is definitely where it was at. The psychadelic spacey jamming was there, decidedly so.

    I’m absolutely exhausted after this 4 day run.

  21. BingosBrother Says:

    Wow, what a great weekend. Saturday and Sunday could not have been more different. Saturday was scorchingly hot with a lot of drunk people who apparently love to sing all the songs they know and bump a lot of Phish pre-show. Phish played a great rock show to a crowd that was looking for one and I still loved every second of it. In the lot there was no shakedown to speak of and a long line of people waiting to be processed at the pop-up cop shop. Dude next to us got popped and they told his wife he’d be back in 15 minutes after paying a fine for possession. $425 for puffin on a plant. Sunday was a whole different ballgame. Very chill, decent shakedown, and no cops patrolling every 5 minutes. Either Makisupa gave them the message or the boys told them to back the fuck off. And man did it show in the music. A double brother opener! Once again, A DOUBLE BROTHER OPENER! Oh snap was it on. I nailed the Crosseyed 2nd set opener also after hearing Talking Heads during setbreak and that always make you rage just a little bit harder. I know most people aren’t into Bug but it’s one of my favorites because of the lyrics, so if you saw a solitary man dancing Page side on the concrete near the restrooms, that was me. Boogie On and then a perfectly played Slave took the rest out of this old man’s legs and we were out. God I love this game.

  22. Exree Hipp Says:

    I also l preferred the longer piper builds. I felt like after it got album-ized, its pace went all screwy in the live setting.

    Most of the tunes that have been significantly reworked in the studio came out worse, imo. Free, Limb, Piper all suffered to my ears. The summer 96 Frees are some of my favorite things the band has ever played, and that Clifford Ball Free points at the shoegaze direction they could have gone in. I really feel like if they had covered Loveless for Halloween 98, they would have stepped into a realm of textural performance we can barely imagine. It could have been a new upping of the ante of the democratic style jams they had in fall of 97, namely the 11/30/97 Bitch and Wolfman’s, and the 12/30/97 Bag.

  23. voopa Says:

    I liked those pre-album arrangements as well, and the pre-album version of Back on the Train, which had the vocal harmonies below Trey instead of the traditional above, which made it unique. Ah well…blame Bryce, I guess…

  24. chris Says:

    I’m just thrilled that the band has found their creative side of jamming by the end of this tour. I should have had more faith as i impatiently waited but i gotta say dear creek and alpine 2 have what i’ve been looking for. They’ve found their new signature jamming style and as mr miner eloquently stated rocking numbers that go into cohesive and dynamic ambient sections. This is evidenced by the asihtos>drowned>twist and xeyed>disease and piper. I love what page is doign in particular w/his clav. Kudos phish my fav band

  25. c0wfunk Says:

    page + clav + 09 = omfg

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