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. Mitch Says:

    they werent my videos but i liked them… wouldnt have been hard to catch this go round tho cause it was like that for 2 hours. awesome from the pavilion on the side i must say because we were watching them long before the rain hit.

  2. Cactus Says:

    There will always be repeats in order for there to be bustouts.

    Greasers will always be greasers and soc’s will always be soc’s.

    @ WALSH – That list of 97 tunes was absolutely tremendous. That had me rolling.

  3. YouCanCallMeAl Says:

    Chi , I feel so bad for you brother, you must have been that guy last night who crept into my dancing space and who I gently pushed aside while he shook his head in shame at one of the best band on earth playing at a venue that was amped…
    If you can’t enjoy yourself at Alpine I don’t know what would every make you content. Stop, listen, look around you look at the sky, out to the valley and forest, think about what your Dad is doing (father’s day). Feel the music don’t just sit there pouting and critiquing.
    People from Chicago always come up to Wisconsin for our beauty the last thing we want is another flatlander complaining and thinking they are god’s gift to the earth. (From all my friends here in Milwaukee PLEASE don’t come to our shows!!!)
    What a great weekend 😉

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    great lightning vids – insane

  5. Cactus Says:

    @ whole tour

    I was hoping for a Ginseng this tour as well. I love that song too, but looks like we’ll have to wait until fall. They’ll bust it out, I’m almost certain.

  6. BrandonKayda Says:

    I was kind of disappointed with the Frankenstein encore. I mean, the keytar filter thing rocked but I guess I was expecting a Curtain With. Maybe it was because of the 30+ minutes of filler left on.

  7. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “keytar rules! in fact the “keytar filter” is a good test for jadedness, if you can’t enjoy a keytarenstein encore, time to pack it in.”

    yes! IMO the best way to end a show/tour

  8. sumodie Says:

    LOL at myself for asking this, but my curiosity wins out -here’s a Phish minutiae question:

    I thought the band never repeated songs when playing multi nights at the same venue. They played KDF twice at JB (JB1 & JB3), though admittedly there was a day off between the 2nd and 3rd JB show.

    I recall being at the 2003 NYE run in Miami when they did a song repeat. At the time it felt like everyone thought it was a mistake, including the band. I seem to think Fishman busted out the song accidentally. And I don’t think I’m thinking of Wilson, though that was played 12/30 and 12/31 as it was left unfinished and then picked up on 12/31.

    Am I thinking of another run? The 4-night NYE run in 1998 maybe?

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    Brandon – on one hand I hear you – many times I have hoped for something in particular and been given something else instead – hard not to feel disappointed. I totally get that. But, your statement contains the word “expecting” which is always asking for trouble. I honestly think Phish enjoy defying expectations.

  10. Walfredo Says:

    One general rule about the band- Any rule that starts with “the band never does” is not a rule that will hold up…

  11. Cactus Says:

    I like Frankenstein as a closer. I haven’t heard last nights yet, and I’m sure it’s no 12-30-97, but the last one from Hampton was pretty damn good. I listened to the first set this AM, and I’m poppin on the second set right now……

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    plus any tour where they do both “Tube, First Tube” and “Brother, Wolfman’s Brother” has something goin’ on, that’s classic

  13. Exree Hipp Says:

    If anything this run has given me a newfound appreciation for 2.0. I am definitely one of the fans that lost all connection to the band during this period (after seeing nearly 30 shows in the 90s). But after this tour reinvigorated me, I have been able to go back to the 03-04 era with new ears and hear what they were aiming at. I still find the playing lazy and sloppy in parts, but the great points are possibly the highest of highs. Trey’s uncompressed tone has a power a lot of his earlier work never did. I am definitely more enamored with summer 03 than I ever have been before.

    I caught the first 4 shows of this leg and had a complete reconnection with the band at times. So grateful to be able to hear it, feel it, and just RELAX while I’m at the show. Been a long time since I just purely enjoyed hearing their songs well played.

  14. snigglebeach Says:

    @youcancallmeal,

    I like the “flatlander” name drop. sounds just about right for this clown. Up in Maine thats about the worse thing u can call someone.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    wait, this can’t be a LP sbd. I can almost hear Mike!

    So they had the kids jumping in the tub? That’s awesome!

    what’s this about a 5 neck guitar? you’re making that up right?

  16. Cactus Says:

    Check the pic out in Miners write up.

  17. gills Says:

    did anyone ever think that they r playing the repeats for a reason. they r older now, and want to maintain a healthy reputation. meaning they r playing for the weekend warrior, so to speak. maybe they only want the die hards (the people who do the whole tour with good intentions) to do the whole run, to keep the scene more functional

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    @cactus yea – but 5 neck guitar? and mike on the new flame bass? with the keytar? that’s the pic I’d like to see (yes I’m looking for it now)

  19. Wax Banks Says:

    I liked last night’s show, and Deer Creek.

    That said.

    To deepen my understanding of the fun, quietly disconcerting summer tour at its halfway point, I’ve been listening these last couple of days to some long ‘2.0’ tracks – the unbelievably cool ’46 Days’ from IT, the ‘Headphones Jam’ from the Undermind sessions, the latter two thirds of 6/19/04, the 2/03 and 7/03 jams everyone knows. Trying to figure out what’s changed, what’s missing, what’s been added. Obviously the technical side of the music is stronger than it has been since 1998 at least, maybe earlier. But it’s equally clear that the jamming is less adventurous. Less patient. And what’s missing, I think, is the deadly electricity that starts flowing after the energy inside a given song-form (and implied improvisatory form) is behind the band.

    Here’s an example. The IT ’46 Days’ jumps off the diving board at 3:20 (on the SBD). The implied opening chords thin out to a one-(minor-)chord vamp within a minute or so; around 6:30 the band takes the volume down a little, Fishman starts one of those roiling uptempo drumbeats that characterized so much of Phish ’03 (cf. Waves, Walls, Seven Below, Pebbles). By 7:30 Trey is building a grungy soundscape and playing the occasional dark figure in his low range, Page is on the Rhodes, and Mike is in his eerie subterranean place, playing those intricate 2.0 bass figures that are to my ears the most Dead-like thing about Phish’s sound. By ten minutes Fishman has cooled out a little along with Trey, going half-speed, but thirty seconds later the band is building intensity and suggesting doubletime rhythms within the kind of ambient-grunge texture they do particularly well.

    All of which is to say: eleven minutes into this climactic tune of the festival the band is playing roughly in their scalar homebase, with the same underlying tempo as at the outset, but they’re in something of a holding pattern, and anything could happen. What happens is a great big ambient ‘space jam.’

    If a summer ’09 tune reached this point, someone would push the jam somewhere – or you’d have a straight-up ambient interlude and the next tune would kick in.

    Nearly a half-hour remains in the IT track, though.

    I love the IT documentary (though Trey looks and sounds frighteningly unhealthy in it). There’s a great sequence with Page talking about how certain musical moments and exchanges are possible only after you’ve dwelled with a jam for ten or fifteen or twenty minutes. Underscoring that interview, and then featured for a few minutes, is a long snippet from just after the twenty-minute mark of the ’46 Days.’ A curtain of noisy guitar/keyboard texture is fading away, and Fish has landed (somehow!) on a sprightly 6/8 beat, counted/accented as two triplets (as in a slightly-fast ‘Jesus Left Chicago’). Page starts playing eerie washes on the Rhodes, while Mike and Trey latch onto Fish’s new time signature, but feeling it differently – in 3, in 4. After a while Fishman starts subdividing his own phrases in 4, keeping up the tempo (the hi-hat hits are at the same speed) but with a new count (accents and snare hits every 4, then every 8, rather than in 3 or 6).

    It is, in other words, a nearly-ten-minute exercise in tension-building following a nearly-ten-minute dark-ambient space-out – and the filmmakers (and maybe Phish themselves?) selected this passage to illustrate one of the central messages of the film and the festival, about patience and empathy and open communication. I think that’s important.

    So by the 29:00 mark Trey is playing more melodic lines in the midrange, Mike is making groovy suggestions, Page is building some syncopated halfway-funk shit on the piano, and Fish throws some goddamn disco into the drumbeat. From there you get something like a quick quiet ‘Piper’ groove, shit goes barroom by 35:00 and everyone’s getting laid on the back of the 4am bus to Funkytown, and when Page hops back on the Hammond you know Trey’s ready to strap on and head home – at 37:00 you have the coolest segue of the weekend, reminiscent of the rocket-liftoff key change leading into ‘Mike’s Song’ on 7/22/97 and complete with suggested modulation from Trey…he takes it back…Page is with him…back…then BOOM, we’re back in the home key. Around 39:00 we’re out, and the rest of 2003 feels like epilogue.

    Why does this shit matter? Because this goofy rock band performs a ten-minute build in intensity, almost without lifting the volume of the music one iota, and it could only have happened after the palate-cleansing, mind-emptying, face-melting blast that fills the song’s second ten minutes. Yet those ten minutes would never have happened in early summer 2009.

    Maybe it’s sobriety.

    Maybe it’s the twenty-five-year itch.

    It’s not some new abstract ‘focus,’ folks – these guys had plenty of focus on that wild summer 2003 tour.

    What they also had was the confidence to wait, to listen in quiet for rhythms that aren’t only sound, to dig in and revise their jams as they went. Writing is revising, of course; that’s the craft. There’s a myth that improvised music is totally spontaneous, but that’s not quite right. Listening is a craft too, waiting is a taxing physical challenge, and what remains for Phish – what could maybe start coming back in August? – is just that: listening, waiting. Letting the music play itself. Sometimes that means ‘noodling’ a little. Sometimes noodling (or math, or ‘space,’ or just cock-rock gone south) gets you thirty minutes into ’46 Days’ and you’ve found another universe.

    That’s the point. That’s the thing I’ve loved most about this band. And if there’s a criticism to be leveled at summer ’09 so far, that’s it as far as I’m concerned: not enough waiting, seeing the other side. Everything up to that point is pure happiness for me, but beyond it is transformation. How fucking good will that feel.

  20. Mitch Says:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gcactus/3650125418/sizes/l/

    pic

  21. Albert Walker Says:

    during the feedback portion of Frank Trey had all 5 guitars goin feedinback

    hillarious watching him go guitar to guitar turning up volume and tone knobs

    is there anything more Phish than a brother opener
    that groove is pure Phish and timeless since it was written around 20 years ago

  22. Wilson Says:

    re: chitown (and a number of music writers around the country who used up print space to say they were over phish).

    I always think it’s funny when people act like it’s an unheard-of, unbelievable, no-f’n-way thing that Phish “doesn’t work” for them any more. Wow. That’s really something. I mean, at this point in my life, I know countless people who have ‘outgrown’ (for lack of a better word) sports, careers, friends, wives, husbands, etc…. Yet we’re supposed to be astounded – just shocked – by the fact that someone doesn’t feel a connection to a rock band any more. Good for you!!!!

    It just makes me laugh a little.

    Thanks for the good work, Miner.

    Can’t wait for the second leg. Come on Shoreline!

  23. Mitch Says:

    http://www.hamerguitars.com/?fa=rick_nielsen

    guitar

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    We don’t want no flatlanders up here in wnc neither 😉

  25. Wax Banks Says:

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

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