Moments In a Box: The Midwest

6.19.09 (D.Vann)

6.19.09 Deer Creek (D.Vann)

Finishing up our run through tour this week, today we will look at some of the most transcendent moments of Phish’s final June leg.  Having built improvisational momentum over the previous weeks, the band certainly kicked it up a notch for their final four nights.  Contained within this weekend were some of the most exploratory jaunts of the tour, foreshadowing what awaits come August and beyond.  Though hard to select just a few, here are some moments in time that no one will dispute.


“Oceans > Drowned > Twist” Deer Creek, 6.19 II

Take your pick, because this entire segment of music is pure money.  Following an unprecedented hour-long rain delay before the second set, sparked by a monsoon and copious lightning you might see in National Geographic, the house lights finally went dark.  Just as promised, they started set two at 11pm, and given the torrential circumstances, we all knew we were in for something special.

6.19.09 Deer Creek (D.Vann)

6.19.09 (D.Vann)

Playing off the soaking wet surroundings, the band took things out with the welcomed heavy drop into “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.”  Exactly five years to the day that the band unveiled their SPAC epic, they used it to launch the best set of June.  After breaking out the template in Knoxville, we knew that the song was back in the mix, and we would eventually get that next big version we had so eagerly awaited.  And on the five year anniversary of its definitive excursion, we had waited long enough.

6.19 (D.Vann)

6.19 (D.Vann)

Taking the song beyond its guitar-led jam and into an ambient wonderland of percussive rhythm and psychedelic sorcery, Phish delivered.  Given its context, the highly-anticipated jam couldn’t have been delivered at a more powerful time.  As the band worked through a spectrum of deep mystic textures, Trey sprinkled some of his magic atop, guiding our way through the forest beautifully.  As they wound down their improv to a piano solo, Page transformed the piece with a seamless transition into “Drowned.”  Moving from “Oceans” to “Drowned,” Phish was definitely toying with their setlist while annihilating the jams that stemmed from each song.  The Who cover similarly transcended its structure into a dirtier jam that wound its way to some high speed funk chops.  Combining two stylistically different pieces, Phish- inspired by the weather- took the crowd by storm.

Potentially a bit prematurely, Trey came in with the opening chords of “Twist”- a third creative jam strung together to begin the set.  With some of the tightest playing of this opening triumvirate, “Twist” was an ideal and familiar landing point for this segment of madness.  Given the context of the band’s contained playing all tour, this “moment” was incredibly encouraging.




“Tweezer Reprise” Deer Creek, 6.19 E

!!!!! - 6.19 Deer Creek

!!!!! - 6.19 Deer Creek

Following the band’s most creative and exploratory new-school set, and sheltered from the insane weather slamming the amphitheare, Phish let loose.  With lightning bolts framing the stage- and one particularly awing strike on the right side of the pavilion during the song’s initial build- everyone’s heads were on the verge of explosion.  There are musical moments, and then there are experiential moments of unbridled energy, passion, and adrenaline; those when life simply can not feel any better or more exalting.  This was one of those times. Everyone– from Trey marching like a madman on stage, to the last soaking fan on the lawn- was so alive at this moment, energy coursing through our collective existence, as mother nature and Phish converged in a spectacle like none other.  Sure there have been rainstorms at shows, but this was different.   This was 2009; this was Deer Creek; and Phish had just played the greatest set since their return.  They weren’t playing “Taste” when lightning struck close by (a la Raleigh ’97), they were playing freakin’ “Reprise” in a complete deluge!  Sometimes, life just doesn’t doesn’t get any better, and when you saw the band framed by lightening bolts, peaking the show- well, I get goosebumps just thinking of it.




“Piper” Alpine Valley, 6.21 II

6.21 Alpine (D.Vann)

6.21 Alpine (D.Vann)

After blasting off the last set of tour with the unexpected and ambient-laced highlight of “Crosseyed > Disease, Phish landed in a soaring version of “Bug” to wrap up their initial segment.  But as the ending of the song was carried out, Phish wasn’t about to slow down, slipping into “Piper.”  While the other two “Pipers” on tour (JB, and Star Lake) were exploratory and adventurous, they weren’t necessarily the most cohesive pieces of improv.  This would be different.

6.21 (D.Vann)

6.21 (D.Vann)

Cannonballing into the jam, the band wasted no time hitting the gas. Immediately they locked into some full-on, take-no-prisoners, type playing.  After the earlier adventures of the set, the band was warmed up and navigating the music as one entity; one of those times when they seem like a four-headed monster.  Trey and Page engaged in some fast-paced interplay, while Fish sat into a series of breakbeats that gave the music an urgent, sprinting feel.  Stopping, starting, and cutting on a dime, Phish ran though this jam like Barry Sanders effortlessly evading tacklers.  Completely in tune with each other, the band nailed one of June’s tightest pieces of improv.

It felt like Phish hit a stride in this “Piper,” powerfully uniting their musical ideas, taking risks and succeeding; a process that wasn’t omni-present on tour.  This was an instance where the music took on a life of its own; the music was playing them.  Ridiculously dense, filled with copious musical thoughts, this “Piper” was an encouraging piece of psychedelia as the tour wound down.  Getting exploratory without losing their cohesion is a mark of success in Phish’s current progression of their craft.  Heading into leg two, Deer Creek and this Alpine show upped the ante of what’s to come.  But looking back, this “Piper” is right up there with any jam of June.





11.16.1996 Civic Center, Omaha, NE < TORRENT

11.16.1996 Civic Center, Omaha, NE < SENDSPACE

phish-kiel-center-96This download comes as a result of much reader discussion.  Lauded for its otherworldly “Hood” which saw Trey hold one note for almost three minutes straight, this show was both unique and enthralling.  Boasting an odd setlist with even more peculiar execution, Phish crafted a wild ride on this night in Nebraska.  See the “Hood” video below!

I: Poor Heart, Down With Disease, Guyute, Gumbo, Rift, Free, The Old Home Place, David Bowie, Lawn Boy, Sparkle, Frankenstein

II: La Grange, Runaway Jim > Kung* > Catapult, Axilla > Harry Hood, Suzie Greenberg, Amazing Grace

E: We’re an American Band^

*w/ Vibration of Life


Source: Unknown

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245 Responses to “Moments In a Box: The Midwest”

  1. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    building off of yesterday’s Tweezer>2001 discussion, I remembered a show I went to in 1993 which had it flipped: 7-17-93 at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. 2001>Tweezer to open Set II and it got a bit crazy from there. I need to listen to this show again, but it has one of the three Leprechauns ever and a ripping GTBT closer (as my memory serves).

    sorry about the diversion, but definitely a memorable gem to check out if you can…

  2. Uberchef Says:

    Nice to see that old school ’96 setlist. Reminds me we never heard an Axilla in June! Or a llama for that matter. Where have those crazy heavy metal songs gone to hide…

  3. Matso Says:

    Having listened to a fair bit of 2.0 over the past few days, I don’t think it’s worth holding up 2009 to it just yet.

    We’ve heard a lot of very nice, focused playing from the boys this summer, which was perhaps lacking at times during 03 and certaily 04. But compared to 2.0, there have been very few jams that will really endure in the context of the band’s overall output, and among the handful that there are, at least a few of them were at Hampton. Let’s wait until we get through August and then come back to this debate.

    (Someone did a comparison of the “no royalties” jams from the StarLake 03 and Alpine 09 C&Ps the other day, which made a pretty convincing argument about how far the band still has to go).

    Anyway, it doesn’t really matter if they don’t get back to those heights just yet. For the time being, people are coming back from shows raving about them. It sounds like the vibe has been as good as it ever was. The boys are healthy, the fans are happy, the party is fun again.

  4. jay Says:

    matso – “The boys are healthy, the fans are happy, the party is fun again”

    right on.

  5. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Matso – 100%

  6. Bapslap Says:

    Holy shit, that Omaha Hood is sick!!!
    I was not familiar with it until now. Trey’s sustain is incredible.

  7. whole tour! Says:

    it was always fun, but now more than ever!

  8. themanatee Says:

    “potentially a bit prematurely”…love it.. by that do you mean aborted?

  9. whole tour! Says:

    it dosen’t get much attention, but the ‘nothing’ from mansfield is very nice!

  10. Frankie Says:

    Yeah that NOTE is something… just pure energy from Trey as he loves the effect it has on the people up front! Just like that 7.6.98 Ghost clip on youtube where he sticks out his tongue in enjoyment of what he’s playing when he puts it in overdrive…

    Before that, i thought the longest Trey note was in the 7.6.94 Landlady in Montreal… i think it’s like 1 minute though… still rang in my head last summer when i worked on that very stage…

    Anybody know of other long record-book notes held by Trey?

  11. ColonelJoy Says:


    As I have stated agnauseum, People are getting excited about jams, that while good, are rather insignificant in the greater historical context.

    The live experience is truth, but so are recordings, and recordings, those spun over and over for eternity, really separate the legendary from the you-had-to-be-there…

  12. nonoyolker Says:

    @ The Good Col. – Couldn’t have said it better myself. I want to buy you a beer when you’re back stateside.

  13. whole tour! Says:

    what it boils down to, for me at least, is that ‘the feeling’ has returned and from my experience the force is stronger now than it has been in a long time.

  14. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Frankie, I seem to remember a really long held note in the 8-3-91 Stash (Set III opener) at Amy’s Farm which always captivated me. Trey holds it through the entire “Maybe So/Maybe Not” chorus.

    In the grand scheme of greatest shows ever, this one probably doesn’t hold up, but it is still a classic three setter from LONG ago. One of the tapes that got me completely hooked.

  15. notkuroda Says:

    sorry col, I really disagree. I think camden’s sand, asheville’s ghost, and deer creek’s asihtos>drowned were very significant.
    Plus, I hate to beat a dead horse, but I’ve listened to the island tour a couple of times and don’t get the hype at all. When I ask people why it’s so revered, I’m told “you had to be there”

  16. cal Says:

    “But compared to 2.0, there have been very few jams that will really endure in the context of the band’s overall output…”

    i absolutely agree. and there are lots of 2.0 jams that deserve to be canonized; they’re just overwhelmingly not examples of my style of phish. to be honest, until this year, i experienced way more impressive music at tab shows than at phish shows. i sort of felt like trey was trying to turn 2.0 INTO tab, maybe not consciously, but i felt his inspiration during those years was more suited to tab, especially with the horns.

    and overall, even though 3.0 has featured some incredibly sloppy shows and a couple with no major highlights (again, in terms of what I’M hoping to hear at a phish show), the best moments have been better than anything i’ve heard since 2000.

  17. notkuroda Says:

    ps, if you’re stating it adnauseum maybe you shouldn’t hold such a strong stance that other people’s opinions are wrong

  18. Frankie Says:

    @Type III
    Yeah that show looked like a lot of fun. Loved the pictures i saw of it in my old Pharmer’s Almanac with the homemade tarp on top of the stage…

    You’re lucky to have been there at that time & space… i was 10 years old…

  19. Kaveh Says:

    Phish 3.0 is just getting started, and I like the new direction that the band is playing. It isn’t going to be the same as it was, plain and simple, nor should it be. Phish has always been a band of progression. Granted it builds on everything Phish has done up to this point, but the path has to be new and fresh. Phish is doing that. But with a new and fresh path, comes learning and steps, as we have all seen even in this short period time of the first leg of Summer 2009. The vast difference in confidence and band interplay between Fenway and the last night of Alpine, has been a wonderful and great thing to see and listen too. Along with everyone else, I’m enjoying the ride.

    Plus, I just think it is great to see Phish live again!

  20. whole tour! Says:

    wasn’t phish the original ‘TAB’? 😉

  21. R1 Says:

    @notkuroda: “Plus, I hate to beat a dead horse, but I’ve listened to the island tour a couple of times and don’t get the hype at all. When I ask people why it’s so revered, I’m told “you had to be there””

    whoaaaaa – definitely did NOT have to be there (although i sure as hell am glad i was) to appreciate what was special about those shows. let’s see, just to throw a few things out there . . . the Roses>Piper?!?!? Hello? The 4.2 Birds? The 4.3 Mikes. The 4.4 Tweezer>Taste. Epic 4.4. Ghost.
    Just FUNK dripping from the ceiling all day long.
    Each to his own, but for my money, best 4-day run ever.

  22. whole tour! Says:

    j/k lol

    i really like them both and GRAB

  23. nonoyolker Says:

    @ notkuroda – “I think camden’s sand, asheville’s ghost, and deer creek’s asihtos>drowned were very significant.” – Most definitely, these jams are very good. Throw in Camden Tweezer too. I danced my ass off and it definitely holds up on tape. I think the point is to imagine 10 yrs down the road, with the entire bredth of the phish catalogue at your finger tips, which jams are going to stay in your rotation? What stays on the ipod when space is limited? First leg ’09 seems like a good learning/growing time for the band. A time for them to get together and dust off those dusty strings and figure each other out again. Fun as hell, but over time, i think a lot of material will fade and be considered a “learning process”. I am definitely loving the boys being back, healthy, happy, and am having a great time at shows. Those EPIC nights will surely come with time.

    Also, I can’t help you at all on the Island Tour. Some unbelievable material in a 4-day span. Top shelf start to finish

  24. Matso Says:

    @ notkuroda –

    Really? I think the Island Run is some of the greatest Phish ever (if I had to pinpoint when they peaked, this would be it). To cite just a smattering of the excellentness: the Stash, the Twist, the Roses into Piper, Loving Cup and then Antelope followed by a frickin’ Carini encore!!, the Tweezer, the Birds, the YEM, the Yamar and on and on?? Did I mention the Roses?!

    I don’t mean to get tough here, but the Camden Sand and DC SIHTOS -> Drowned would have been weak spots in that four night stand (the Asheville Ghost would have survived, but probably not made it onto the highlight reel).

    @ cal –

    I respect your preferences and understand that 2.0 wasn’t everyone’s bag. Not sure I agree that Trey was trying to move Phish in a TAB direction though. TAB at the stage was still very horn-driven Latin-tinged stuff. Phish was all dark rock rhythms.

  25. Frankie Says:

    Nice Kaveh, i feel the same way… right now shouldn’t be compared to other eras from the past, it’s too soon and we don’t know what they are shooting for yet… lots of tricks left in their sleeves i’m sure… Their legacy is too heavy, they have done things no other band has ever done before but they are playing their hearts out and finding new ways of improvising together again. I have faith in their power to reinvent themselves once again and i feel really grateful to be there and witness it in the process…

    What other band thrives for that 20-something years in their career?

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