Initial Processing

6.19.09 Deer Creek (D. Vann)

6.19.09 Deer Creek (D. Vann)

With tour having just concluded, there are so many thoughts swirling in my mind about the past three weeks and what this tour represented to the band and to us, the community.  It was an amazing feeling to be back on the road with Phish again, and by all accounts, Phish was very happy to be back on the road with us.  Throughout the tour, the one constant was the infectious energy that characterized each show.  Exploding from both the stage and the audience, the enthusiasm that oozed from the band and community each night was intense.  Everyone you saw- whether it was their first show or three hundredth- was giddy over the band’s first tour in five years and the limitless potential that lies in the future of Phish.

6.19.09 (D.Vann)

6.19.09 (D.Vann)

As expected, this tour was the next step of Phish’s “re-evolution” that started in Hampton, and will continue later this summer.  The band’s improvisation became more and more adventurous as the tour progressed, as this tour was part a much larger process- certainly not a destination.  Playing with an urgency and direction that was lacking in their last go-round, Phish used this early-summer run to get their sea legs back, re-acclimating themselves to the road in a whole new, sober, family-oriented atmosphere.  This change of scenery was never more evident than with Alpine’s “Brother” opener, which brought the family vibe to the forefront of the stage- literally.  Overall, the playing throughout this tour was incredibly encouraging, and bodes very well for late-summer and beyond.

The past three three weeks have also hinted at new musical directions that Phish is moving towards in their third incarnation.  Rededicated to playing tight compositions, the band’s precision was one facet of their game that jumped out at almost every show.  Sure, there were some flubs and mistakes- that was inevitable- but for most of the time, the band was very attentive to playing their songs carefully and without flaws.  This held true for longer pieces such as “Divided Sky,” “Fluffhead,”and “Time Turns Elastic,” as well as the composed sections of larger vehicles like “Reba” and “YEM.”  Throughout the tour, Phish tore through their most complex segments with a welcome accuracy.  Akin to years past, many eclectic compositions were in regular rotation.

6.21.09 Alpine Valley (D.Vann)

6.21.09 Alpine Valley (D.Vann)

In comparison to the looser funk era of the late ’90s and the exploratory post-hiatus years, Phish’s improv was far more direct and to the point.  Instead of letting jams settle or vamping over rhythmic patterns, this summer’s Phish dove straight into things with a purpose, also driving up the pace of their improvisation, resulting in creating shorter, more densely compact jams.  The result of this musical shift- hinted at in March- was more rock-based jams and a virtual absence of whole band funk grooves.  Even dance-staples like “Tweezer,” “Ghost,” and “Wolfman’s” saw themselves focused on whole-group builds and sustained peaks rather than laid-back grooves.  This served as a reminder that Phish, at their core, is a rock and roll band.

Deer Creek (D.Vann)

Deer Creek (D.Vann)

As the tour progressed, we watched them become more and more comfortable taking musical risks, delving further into exploratory improvisation by the time they pulled into their final four nights.  Yet, their intent on psychedelic experimentation was clear, while not omnipresent, in the tour’s first two shows with Fenway’s “Tweezer > Light,” and Jones Beach’s “Harry Hood.”  Focused strongly on structured improv for most of the tour, the band crafted many standout type-I jams which helped them lie a foundation for the more exploratory playing that seeped its way into shows slowly but surely.  A musical pattern emerged from their improv as well; the cultivation of a new sound.  Defined by cohesive, directional jamming Phish often progressed from rock-based textures into dissonant and contrasting ambient improv, forming a dynamic flow to their jams.  As we listen and re-listen to these shows, it will be interesting to see what other observations arise about the hybrid of new-school and old-school Phish.

Deer Creek (D.Vann)

Deer Creek (D.Vann)

Another piece of the emerging picture of Phish 3.0 is their array of new- and excellent- songs that were debuted over this tour.  Some played in full rotation, and some played only once, it is clear that Phish has many new choices in their repertoire to pull from.  Combined with their already vast catalog, the new rule for Phish shows is, “Anything goes!”  All songs are fair game- from “Destiny Unbound” to “Lengthwise,” and from “The Connection” to “Crosseyed”- setlists now contain songs spanning the earliest years of Phish to the unreleased.  New pieces, such as “Ocelot,” “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,” “Kill Devil Falls,” and “Backwards Down the Number Line,” hopped right into rotation and began to grow in improvisation with each subsequent version.  Others, like the “Sugar Shack” and “Twenty Years Later” only appeared once, leaving much to be discovered come August.  Songs such as “Light,” “Let Me Lie,” and “Joy” fell in between, appearing a couple of times during the three week tour.  Needless to say, Phish’s upcoming album could be their best yet, and we have barely scratched the surface of the many musical realms that these new pieces will take us- (see Bonnaroo’s “Kill Devil Falls” and “Light”).  Never shy with pushing their new material, this could be the strongest new batch of songs we’ve heard from the band since the summer of ’97.

The next chapter of Phish has arrived.  The next month-plus will give us time to give a closer look at all of these musical trends, specific jams and more.  While certainly a building block for August and beyond, this June run had its fair share of incredible moments and magical Phishy rides.  And by the looks of how tour ended- with the two most improvisational shows in the last three- the band is just beginning to hit their stride.  With only a little over a month before their long-awaited return to Red Rocks, we finally have plenty of new Phish jams to keep our ears busy until then!



6.19.09 Official Poster

6.19.09 Deer Creek Noblesville, IN < TORRENT LINK

My favorite show of June- by far.

I: Backwards Down the Number Line, AC/DC Bag, Limb By Limb, The Moma Dance, Water In The Sky, Split Open and Melt, Lawn Boy, The Wedge, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, The Connection*, Ocelot, Fluffhead

II: A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing > Drowned > Twist, Let Me Lie, Tweezer > 2001 > Suzy Greenberg, Possum

E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise


Source:  Schoeps CCM4V’S (din) > Lunatec V2 > Benchmark AD2K >
Sound Devices 722 (24/48) – Recorded by Z-Man

headcountCheck out Andy Gadiel’s guest blog on summarizing Phish’s massive presence on the internet in this new age! CREEK6_19
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327 Responses to “Initial Processing”

  1. andrewrose Says:

    First things first:

    I’m 29, have a kid now. First show was 7/6/94 when I was 13, here in my hometown of Montreal (and they haven’t been back since, D’oh!). I didn’t know what I was getting into, but had a blast. Didn’t see them again until Clifford Ball in 96 given my age at the time, but saw about 45 shows through 2003, mostly in the North East from 97-99. It was day 2 set 2 at the Great Went that ‘hooked’ me, so to speak.

    Second, SOAM has always has had it’s ups and down through the years, but I’d argue it hit a peak in ’99. I recommend everyone check out the 30 minute SOAM->Kung from 7.15.99 (great show, long beautiful Meatstick, too), and the 12.31.99 SOAM->Catapult, which I still think is one of the slickest, danciest, grooviest pieces of music the boys ever dished out, and certainly my ‘on-tape’ highlight of Big Cypress.

    And finally, while I still have some listening to do, I feel like I have to agree with WaxBanks on his assessment of Phish 3.0 so far. I’m a passionate and excitable listener .. I had tears listening to the Fluffhead opener in Hampton on the no-spoiler download. I want nothing more than for Phish to hit new and different heights, and have listened to almost the whole June tour–certainly the sets / jams that have been pointed to here as highlights.

    Maybe this is just a case of the kind of Phish I love most, but despite some great jams (6/2 Reba), some really well executed composed songs (6/9 Divided Sky), and some nice song>-jam->song meat that is the foundation of a great Phish show (6.19 Tweezer->2001), I really feel that overall, 3.0 has a long way to go before matching any previous year in Phishtory, musically.

    I do understand and appreciate to an extent the argument that they’re working on their ‘Type I’ chops. But I also think that the whole ‘I prefer a focused short jam’ argument has been taken a bit far here. I haven’t heard one jam so far from this tour that really sounds other-worldly, like they tapped into some mystical dimension 6 minutes into a jam, and took it to outer space for another 15. Maybe that’s because in most cases the jams have been 6 minutes, if they existed at all. I do like a ripping straight ahead Julius, I really do. But a whole show dominated by this kind of playing, with one or two short gestures towards jams that don’t ever really go to *THAT* place, and nary a segue, is not the Phish I knew and loved. (I also really don’t like the new songs that much, and it’s the first time I’ve felt this way about a ‘new batch’. I thought Seven Below, Waves, and Pebbles & Marbles were great additions to the repertoire last time around, but of all the new ones, only Ocelot really stands out. Oh, and Mike’s new tune. But Mike’s songs always get short treatment.)

    I realize people don’t want to hear this. Especially when you’re at a show, or fresh off a tour… I remember the feeling. You want every show you’re at to be Phishtoric, to be the best they’ve ever done. And in a way, they are. If it’s your first show, if you’re with the right people; if you’ve never seen a Foam and after 40 shows it’s bestowed upon you in the middle of a charming set … But at the end of the day, when the tapes have settled, if you’ve been paying attention all these years, you know which shows were musical magic and which weren’t. Of course there are a million factors and a million personal tastes to factor in. Maybe you’re like me and you love a long beautiful Bathtub Gin or Halley’s. Or maybe you’re a Jim or Antelope guy (hi Matso!). But I feel like we all should know when the true HOSE (remember the Hose?!?) comes pouring down. I’m not sure it has in 3.0.

    I think one the reasons Wax faced some criticism earlier in his criticism of this blog stemmed from a certain expectation he had of Miner to ‘tell it like it is’, so-to-speak, because he does for the most part have great taste in Phish! (Desert island set 12.6.97 II? Hello buddy, I’m right there with you to the death!) And let me take this moment to echo the appreciation that’s been given for all his work and writings here. The No Spoilers, the daily posts… if for nothing else to have someone provided a forum for interesting Phish talk with some sense of Phishtory.

    I think that’s the crux of the matter here. If you’ve spent as much time (and money!) with the band as many of us now have, late 20s and 30s or 40s, kids, jobs, you have a certain expectation. I don’t necessarily expect them to be as good as they were in 97, or 99, or even 2003 (and Wax, I disagree you on one count here… what’s wrong with 2.26.03 set 1?? It’s perfect! Please listen to it today). I can go to a 3.0 show and enjoy it immensely. But I won’t pretend it’s the best show they’ve ever played just because I’m there and it’s happening right now. That wouldn’t be fair to those golden years we had.

    But I believe they’ll get there again. I just don’t think we saw it in June 09.

  2. jonathan gollatz Says:

    hey man,
    i just wanted to say thanks for all the work you put into this site. yours is the first site i log onto every day. your take on phish seems to be very similar to mine. i tell all of my friends to check out your site. i’m an east-coast ciyt dweller and was only able to make it to camden for summer I and plans are in the works for merriweather. so thanks for the page and keep up the great work.
    stay kind,

    jonathan gollatz

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