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:

    LOL doesn’t really cover it

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    Wax – totally concur with both long and short forms – basically I would only say that this tour had the feeling of rebuilding a foundation. I really like what they’re doing now, I would call the tour a complete success overall, and at the same time I hope we see more lengthy open improvisation back in the mix.

  3. Albert Walker Says:

    I was talking to some kids in our section comparin Hampton to the Alpine run and how far they have come

    it’s nothing short of amazing how much this band has tightened up over the course of this tour

    just listen to something simple like the slave from Hampton and then Alpine. they are really gettin it together

    another example would be lizzards, shit the bed first time through and I struggled to find a mistake in the Alpine version

    I feel as they get more comfortable in the songs and the structures we well get back to the 30+ min jams

  4. old dude Says:

    wax, i see what you did there.

    reading that was metaphorical.
    a taxing challenge.
    nice noodling.

    (that said, i agree)

  5. ColonelJoy Says:

    Once again, Wax Banks reading Colonel’s mind with nasty precision.

    The jamming was the weakest it’s been since pre-93, or maybe summer/early fall 96′. DC and Alpine showed promise in this respect. I loved the whole Piper at Alpine, but they leave themes behind too quickly, or they (Trey mainly) aren’t paying any attention to what else is going on. I can only think of two jams on tour that were really complete thoughts, not disjointed….Camden Sand, and Ash Ghost, and neither really come close to the best 03-04 jams, frankly.

    chittassholeguy (can’t remember the fella’s handle) actually made some good points about Trey’s reliance on whaling-effects and lack of melodic soloing. He has work to do, or listening to do or whatever.

    That being said, one of the reasons the jams might be so messy at this point is that everyone is really puting ideas out there, particularly Mike and Page are expressing themselves more, not waiting for Trey…they’re pushing themselves into the music more, forcing themselves to be heard….I like that, but if Trey isn’t paying attention then I don’t know.

    Even though Page and Mike were sticking their necks out it still appeared Trey was ultimately determining where things would go, mostly into muddy ambience for a few minutes…next song…

  6. whole tour! Says:

    lol nice pic, mr.c!

    anyone else starting to get the over the top rock star flamboyant excess of these ‘frankenstein’ encores? 2009’s biggest ‘inside joke’…lol

    3.7.08 hampton: 1st page on KEYTAR

    06.10.09 knoxville : 1st mike on flame bass/page on keytar

    06.21. 09 alpine: 1st trey on 5 NECK GUITAR, mike on flame bass, page on keytar

    what’s next? fishman on neil pert style drum cage, or even better! fish on tommy lee style flipping drum kit over the crowd? i love it!

  7. whole tour! Says:

    i think the unseen (at least on tape) energy between the band and crowd is the 2009 mvp. it was more energy than i’ve ever seen and is something overlooked by not being at these shows in person.

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    What’s with the obsession with time? When a show starts I don’t want to even know how long it has been because what is happening has nothing to do with time!

    Sorry if I’m contrary today .. Workin on 4 hour sleep

  9. Cactus Says:

    @ WaxBanks

    I like what you said about the music playing itself. Definitely right on with that.
    I remember reading and article way back and Trey was talking about how when he’s in the zone, he just sees notes flying at him. Reminded me of what you’re saying.

  10. Albert Walker Says:

    @ Colonel

    I did all of summer 96 and fall
    if you think they were not jammin you are losin a lot of respect here
    I’m not goin to start bashin 2003-2004 (I only saw 4 very painful shows)
    but if you think it was hotter than summer 96 you may want to go back and do some listening my friend

    if you don’t think the crosseyed, piper, from Alpine or set II Deer Creek compare to 2003-2004 I think we are listening to different shows

  11. Brian Says:

    Camden Sand & Tweezer were both ON POINT. Easily the best jamming I’ve seen live since Camden in 2000…Jiboo>Magilla>Saw It Again>Twist.

    I agree that the sense of adventure and ‘attack’ isn’t quite at 97-99 standards. There’s been a more subdued vibe from this tour in general. But that doesn’t bother me. So long as there’s logic to whats happening, which there certainly has been throughout this tour. That was my biggest complaint about 03/04. Some high points, but so many jams that just ended up as big build-ups because there was nothing else to do.

  12. Cactus Says:

    That said, I agree.

    There were moments for me at the Lemonwheel and IT that were both musically transcendant. Patience and listening and a willing to eff up is what will have to happen in order to reach those peaks again. Hopefully, we’ll all get there sooner than later. And it’ll take some time, I mean, we gotta start to walk before we can run no?

  13. SOAM Says:

    Wax Banks may be the most brilliant phish fan ever-I mean exqusite insights-intelligent surmising-astute observations-god damn-but for me-I’ll take a 12 of bud -6 doobs – 2 caps and my running shoes and just slash up the lawn like an NFL running back on acid -during frankensteins Tower

  14. ColonelJoy Says:


    I’ll give you summer 96′, but early fall was pretty light on the jam….late fall picked up nicely

  15. ColonelJoy Says:

    @Al again,

    The comparisons you mention against 03′-04…they compare well in execution, but they still come off abbreviated to me….just me, man

  16. Albert Walker Says:

    if we are forgetting how bad it got
    listen to Vegas 2004 run (sound of band imploding)
    not good

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Colonel – I think you overstate the messiness of the jams and are being somewhat over-critical (though you’re good at it, and do it in a respectable way). Agreed that they’re following up on some jams – which I think are, often, pretty great – not taking that 2nd, 3rd, 4th step, as outlined in cogent detail by Wax B.

    But what they *are* doing, they’re doing well, I think.

    In any case, it’s good to have divergent opinions here. Don’t want anyone saying we chase off anyone who critiques the music strongly.

  18. Albert Walker Says:

    I hear you Colonel, I just never really understood the fascination with 2.0
    probably just missing something you all see
    maybe the new Phish is just closer to my 93-97 era band than the 98-2004 band

  19. whole tour! Says:

    by atlanta and especially west palm 96…it was big time, get in your bombshelter and put your helmet on jams. i still have the scar tissue from the ‘crosseyed > antelope’. i got a blank space where my face should be.

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    we need to get Wax and SOAM together at a show – the two extremes of Phish fan spectrum – I love that this band attracts all kinds

  21. Albert Walker Says:

    quick story
    during the Piper a 200 pound sorority chick with 2 fists full of glow sticks with another cow of a friend set in our 15th row section and proced to jump up and down screeming during the whole jam

    when they began trying to grind on me and my bro as we danced I had enough

    I immediately held a section vote (20-0 landslide) that they were the biggest dochebags in the venue and were no required to leave

    luckilly they did

    only at Phish

  22. snigglebeach Says:

    Good Times

  23. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yes, after Halloween it was a go in 96′ for sure. I particularly like the Seattle show…fucking sick.

    I wouldn’t say I’m fascinated with 2.0 in the least, no more so than any other era. I just recognize that on the whole, it really didn’t suck. Most people just assume it sucked without really listening, or so it seems. Now the first four shows MSG>Hampton sucked completely, no doubt. It was horrible, but by the end of the winter tour they were cranking, and that carried into summer, but it definately peaked at IT. By Miami the drug problems were really taking hold, though the run was reasonably solid.

    Like I said earlier, the grand-daddy of whanking fests is certainly the Miami Suzy…..though it whanks so much it’s nearly entertaining

  24. Cactus Says:

    Listening to Piper from last night, right now and I think it’s smokin’. Usually it starts a little slower and softer, and really builds, but this version definitely works. No doubt about it. I hear a little jam funk midway through the song a la summer 97.

  25. whole tour! Says:

    what is astounding to me is HOW GREAT the 2003 miami run was, then the horror of vegas 04.

    12.29.03 set 1 piper and set 2 have an amazing undercurrent to the jams…almost like being in the ocean, and the ‘zen’ notes from page along with mikes bass were like floating bouys. hard to explain…give it a listen. no doubt there were epic jams in 03. it will take time to play that ‘fearlessly’ especially being sober.

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