Going For It

8.1.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

In Phish’s continuing dominance of the Red Rocks stage, they launched a Saturday night show that carried a heavyweight ninety minute first set as well as another second set strewn with risk taking and creativity.  Since coming to Colorado, it seems that the band is making a point to take all of their jams to unique places, a virtual antithesis of June’s contained and directed playing.  Clearly far more musically comfortable together only a month later, Phish seems like they have rekindled their determination and desire of the mid-Nineties, but with all of the musical acumen they have accumulated over the years, resulting in some of the most magnificent music from the band in ages.  2009 is great time to be a Phish fan, and last night delivered several more reasons why.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

While “AC/DC Bag” opened the show, the moment of truth that so many have awaited came next.  Taking everyone by surprise, and a minute to register, Phish was stepping up to play “The Curtain (With)” for the first time since they finishing their “career” by horribly botching one of their most sacred compositions at Coventry.  We all wondered when the band would confront the piece that left us with the most bittersweet ending possible five years ago.  And last night was the night.  With supreme confidence, the band nailed “The Curtain” and when they entered “With” the mood became reverent.  As a silence drew over the crowd, the band delicately painted the initial, would-be “Rift,” melody through the summer night like a sunset reverie.  Blissfully flowing through the song’s ethereal textures and sublime improvisation, the band played with breathtaking majesty and emotion as a sense of redemption filled the the air.  By far the most significant highlight of the night, all was right in the Phish world again; the past was fully behind us and only the sense of possibility lies ahead.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

The first set fireworks continued with the bust out of “Mound” for the first time since their first comeback show at MSG in 2002- and before that, 1996.  Played with such precision, and having been absent from setlists for so long, it virtually sounded like we were hearing a new song.  Reminded of the song’s quirky rhythms and melodies, it was like visiting an old friend after almost forgetting they existed.  The most standout first set of Red Rocks continued with a triumphant “Jibboo,” that after “The Curtain (With),” felt like a bursting celebration of Phish’s return to to happiness.  Trey stood out, taking the jam into a quiet beginning before bringing it to a soaring peak in the waning hours of a gorgeous summer day.

7.31.09 (A.King)

7.31.09 (B. Carlson)

It was at this point that Phishy antics reentered the scene for one of the first times this go-round.  Trey announced that this would be the “hand signal” portion of the show, and proceeded to make silly gestures to communicate what the next song would be for the rest of the set. A sure fire sign that the band’s heart is back and in the right place, Trey created a mock pig nose, pretended to punch Mike and Page in the eye, continually stretched an elongated tube to allow Fishman to catch on, mushed a dog sled, and entered a pseudo-antelope trot throughout the rest of the set without talking to his bandmates at all.  Like a mini game show before each song, fans had a chance to guess Trey’s signal before the band busted the next song, bringing the element of fun firmly back to their live show.  And their enthusiasm was infectious, as the Saturday night crowd became giddy with the band’s energy.

The “Tube” was the loosest yet, as Gordon laid down some heavy bass lines to compliment Page’s clav work and Trey’s fiery licks.  Maintaining a serious pace to the funk, the band opened up the song a bit more, but the set’s improvisational highlight certainly came in a scorching set ending “Antelope.” Bringing back memories of Red Rocks “Antelopes” of the ’93 and ’94, the band got creative with the song for the first time in eons.  Taking a left turn out of the song’s aggressive grooves into psychedelic debauchery, the band took the jam into maniacal, abstract darkness before crashing back to earth.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

Following the first setbreak of the weekend that actually felt like summer, the band stepped out for their sixth set of the run and continued to take daring musical risks.  The anthemic Saturday night set began with the one-two punch of “Rock and Roll > Disease,” both jams entering completely original territory, though not nearly as flowing as Friday night’s spectacle.  After an extended high-energy shred session through the song’s straight ahead rock, thing got more interesting as the music slowed down, moving into some exploratory improv.  Featuring some prominent bass work by Mike and collective stops and starts by band members, Phish was at it again, exercising creativity over safety, putting together a unique, yet somewhat disjointed, jam.  Finally working their way into “Disease” in a less than fluid manner, their classic vehicle took center stage.  Moving into a percussive groove and into some totally original improv, the excursion was both poly-rhythmic and Fishman-centric.  The band wound their way through several innovative segments of non-guitar-led improvisation, and into a completely different vibe than anything we’ve heard so far.  Phish was going for it in what was certainly the most out-there and entertaining jam of the night.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

The rest of the show, though well-played throughout, was fairly straight forward.  When they segued into “Free,” I thought for sure that the band would let loose within the confines of those massive rocks, but the song was- again- wrapped up quickly, used only as a landing point for “Disease.”  The long-awaited return of “Esther” finally came for the first time since 2000; another reminder of an amazing Phish song we have long forgot about, and continuing the trend of accessing the full range of their catalog.  “Dirt” filled in the second-set ballad slot before the band closed with a gorgeous “Hood” that connected with the summer evening in regal fashion.  Taking the old-school jam on a meticulous path to a show-ending peak, “Hood” left every one feeling good after a very upbeat set.  And the “First Tube” encore would put an exclamation point on the night.

While the jams might not have been as cohesive last night as Friday, nobody can deny that Phish showcased their renewed spirit of discovery once again.  With the band taking copious musical risks, each set won’t turn out to be a masterpiece, but it’s all about the ride- and right now, Phish is a pretty wild ride with mysteries lurking around every corner.  And what more can we ask for from our psychedelic juggernauts but to go for the jugular and see what happens.  It’s inspiring to see them so ready and willing to put their ideas out there for testing.  The unknown adventure is what this is all about, and right now, each set is exactly that.  Stay tuned for Sunday’s conclusion- more intrigue awaits.

I: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain With, Mound, Gotta Jibboo, Guyute, Punch You In the Eye, Tube, Alaska, Run Like an Antelope
II: Rock and Roll > Down with Disease > Free, Esther, Dirt, Harry Hood
E: Sleeping Monkey, First Tube


8.1.09 Red Rocks (Photo: Graham Lucas)

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278 Responses to “Going For It”

  1. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    no jibboo had no whale from what i remember, listen to set 2 of RR1 from weekapaug up to the 8:58 minute mark of wolfman’s, when his solo comes in at that time the whale is no more

  2. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    and that’s not a noob question really because the whale is new… trey doesn’t have a whammy bar BTW

  3. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    hah no the whale is when trey uses the whammy to make the notes fall a few pitches (and sometimes come back up) but not a full octave or 5th on loop like it is in jams like jiboo and stuff… its hard to explain in text. if you want a great example listen to early june 09 stuff, he does it in Hoods a lot, like the last 4 minutes of the hampton hood. the hampton taste too.

  4. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    yea its a whammy pedal not bar

  5. llamalee Says:

    whoops – i should only talk about things i know

  6. Frankie Says:

    Funny sight! Gordo on the ‘doc and Trey on the modulus for 7/31 soundcheck…

    I love that they’re having fun like that… what a run!

  7. Mitch Says:

    I’ve been listening to the examples you are mentioning and what I’ve been thinking I’ve been hearing is Trey using less or no compressor and making it crunch like 03/04. I dig the whammy pedal and was wondering why everyone was giving it shit, but alas they weren’t.

    the wolfmans is a good example because like you said at 8:58 it goes back to clean. I followed them in 03 and 04 so for me, I’m ok with the crunch and fuller sounds hes making but I guess thats just a personal taste thing.

    listening to hampton hood now and it def goes from clean piercing sound to a more rounded sound and thats not the crunch I was referring to. I’ll have to start listening more closely for the changes. On this section I def see where the whale reference comes from.

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i definitely wouldn’t use the word crunch to describe the whale, i think harsh is more accurate, at least for the higher notes

  9. Mitch Says:

    awesome pics frank. thats so funny looking at them, i had to do a double take because its so familiar but bizarre.

    about time for people to start filing in.

  10. Mitch Says:

    on the hood there was no crunch, on the wolfmans it sounded (crunchy came to mind) but harsh works too.

  11. Mitch Says:

    Anyone know how to get Dave Vann’s job? Just found his website and he gets to photograph everything. I wonder who you have to know to get started doing this.

  12. Frankie Says:

    It just hurts not being there watching that cam Mitch… beautiful day in CO! What a cool view! Is that Denver in the distance?

  13. Mitch Says:

    indeed the mile high city off in the distance

  14. EL Duderino Says:

    Anyone notice how much weight Mike has lost? Wow, I think he’s been hittin’ the tread mill every morning like my man Trey!

  15. Phish...Yup Says:

    You know phish is bringing the heat when I’m stoked to see a choppy webstream tonight and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m calling 2 out of 3 Mango, Sally or Tela tonight. Would have called a Harpua but i think they’re waiting for a massive one the 3rd night of Indio.

  16. Summer98 Says:

    Yeah, I noticed that weight lose. He looks good.

    Standard calls for tonight:
    YEM, twist, slave, KDF

    Harpua or Col Forbins

    I can’t believe they can leave such a magical weekend without a narration.

  17. Mitch Says:

    Said it before and I’ll say it again… Mango song is at Gorge because Team Mango is going.

    I would love to hear a Tela or Forbin. I hope they play one of those at the gorge. Anyone watching this red rocks webcam? everyone is filing in.

    And yeah, I saw that Mike looked thin too. Good for him.

  18. Summer98 Says:

    Gorge: t-minus 123 hours until show time. Work will be difficult this week.

    I’m so stoked for my first Phish 3.0 experience. It will be like reconnecting with a dear friend you have not seen in years. Except of course that friend can melt your face.

  19. Summer98 Says:

    Love the webcam. I’ve never been to RR but now that I’m a west coaster (moved to Seattle in 2006) I may just have to make the trip. Looks magical.

  20. Summer98 Says:

    and small

  21. pebbles Says:

    I have just made it all the way through 7/31. I would just like to echo the sentiment so many have already articulated: Something is really clicking here.

    This is the kind of jamming that the type_Iers can love, and (just about) everyone can agree on– it sounds like every note is intentional and purposeful– like they are nailing a brand-new composition, one which they are making up as they go along.

    If they manage to sustain this level of playing, (or, dare we hope, elevate it?) for the rest of tour, this tour could end up being one of their definitive runs. If they rein it in a little bit, it could still be a killer tour. I think any questions anyone had about their abilities, dedication, or drive, have been answered definitively.

    What a superb summer to be a Phish fan. I am getting a body high just thinking about it. So. Freaking. Good.

  22. AintNoTele Says:

    Does anyone have the whammy 2 trey uses for the whale call? I have one and can do the weeeooooo’s perfectly, but the whale call is an elusive beast, I can’t figure it out…are we sure it’s the whammy? If so, let me know the settings so I can pull some aquaman shit and have moby dick mating in no time

  23. Stupendous Says:

    Just finished doing no spoilers on last night…
    First set was bust out heaven, second set….meh
    Esther thumbs up. Tonight will be the heat.
    My pix
    Yem Opener, Reba Closer Set 1
    Wildcard: Lizards, Forbins>Mockingbird
    KDF Opener, Slave Closer Set 2

  24. pebbles Says:

    @Phish…yup. I’ve been thinking that we are due for a Sally or Mango song all day.

    Also, I think a wicked Theme this way comes.

    Whatever they play, I have a lot of faith it will look dope on paper, and there’s a 95% chance it will sound as good as it looks. I’d forgotten how much the long runs make for great setlists.

  25. Summer98 Says:

    The canopies are off the piano and drums. Getting closer to RR night 4.

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