Finishing In Style

8.2.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Phish concluded their triumphant Red Rocks extravaganza with another eye-popping show that was anchored by a stellar second set of fluid improv.  With the help of Grateful Dead drummer, Billy Kreutzmann, Phish once again showcased their new-found desire to explore the musical unknown, concluding their stay in Colorado with one of the most impressive sets of the weekend.  Blending in with ease, Kreuztmann added complimentary rhythms and percussive nuances, while often playing overlapping beats with Fishman- giving us a taste of what Phish might have sounded like with a second drummer.  Having played with both Trey and Mike in their side-project, Serialpod, Billy K clearly felt comfortable onstage with Phish, and turned out to be a outstanding guest that certainly enhanced the music, and provided symbolic significance on the weekend of Jerry Garcia’s birthday.  In a venue the Dead also played in their heyday, Billy was the third member of the Grateful Dead to join Phish onstage, providing a special surprise ending to the band’s magnificent stay between the iconic rocks of Morrison.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Before Kreutzmann joined the band, however, Phish had a bit a business to take care of themselves.  Opening their third consecutive second-set with a cover, this time “Boogie On Reggae Woman” was the chosen vehicle to commence the psychedelic festivities.  Phish took the rarely-extended song on an odyssey that strayed miles from the song’s structure, and like the best jams this weekend, featured several unique segments of bold, cohesive improv that connected seamlessly and artistically.  Phish was tapped in again last night, going for it and succeeding with flying colors.  Taking the set opener far beyond the funk, the band got into some high-paced dance rhythms as Trey threw down continual nasty licks with Jedi-like confidence, while Mike held down the bottom end with uber-creative playing- a characteristic of his entire night.  Taking the jam beyond faster grooves into a darker milieu with dissonant guitar growls and sustained organ swells, Phish was again creating totally unique music on the spot without hesitation, tickling that part of us that has been waiting for this for so long.  Passing through a segment of rock grooves, the band eventually reached a more subtle and percussive canvas, and wound down the set opening excursion masterfully.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Following up the massive opening jam, and after a brief pause, the band dropped the big Red Rocks “YEM” that everyone was so eagerly anticipating.  Moving through the compositional opus sharply and cleanly, Phish was playing this one like they meant it.  Placing “YEM” early in a set rather than at the end always makes it more exciting and dramatic, two words that could definitely be used to describe last night’s version.  Tearing apart every aspect of the song, the band oozed energy and enthusiasm as their music pierced the night air with sublime interplay.  A version played with more passion and creativity than any we’ve heard in this era, the Rocks were certainly rocking as ten thousand deep got their groove on.  But just as Kuroda covered the stage in darkness and smoke for the vocal jam, a second drum set was set up on the down low.  And when the band concluded with a rhythmic vocal pattern, Fishman and Kreutzmann- un-introduced and in reflective goggles- began subtly drumming along.  Picking up the groove, the band segued perfectly into “Undermind.”

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Interestingly, when Kreutzmann joined the band, they unveiled many of their most rhythmically intricate pieces.  Between the chunky grooves of “Undermind,” the space-funk of “2001” and the odd time signature of “Seven Below” and “Waves,” Billy clearly wasn’t sitting in just for kicks.  Taking their collaboration seriously, Billy and Fish went to work creating dynamic percussive patterns throughout the rhythm-based “Undermind,” in the best version to date.  As the song wrapped up, Trey, Mike, and Page, turned to the drummers and stared motionlessly while Fish and Billy went into their own version of “Drums.”  Drum solos can sometimes become lackluster moments at shows, but with two of the greatest drummers on earth sitting next to each other, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Getting into some polyrhythmic patterns, the drummers showcased why they are the backbones of the two most legendary improvisational rock bands in history.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Without stopping, the band joined back for the beginning of “Seven Below,” centering the post-hiatus launchpad in meat of the show.  As they worked their way cohesively through the initial build of the jam, Gordon was littering the music with disgusting bass lines, and the two-drummer combo added a rhythmic density to the piece that would soon depart the song’s structure for the most psychedelic segment of the show.  As effects were layered into the mix, the drummer’s added an organized chaos, creating a primordial musical stew.  Trey began a repetitive lick in the midst of this madness that turned the jam up to 11.  These were some of the most unique moments of the weekend, as Phish threw down some heavy music that barely sounded like themselves, and soon, it was apparent that we we heading for the “2001” that everyone knew was coming Sunday night.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

As the drummer’s made the initial hits and settled into a groove, their beats became infectious.  With slower, more accented backing, the band was able to get more creative with their funk cover.  Following the first theme, Fish and Kreutzmann got into some distinctly divergent beats, creating much jazzier feel to the song and inviting Mike to add some simply redonkulous bass lines, continuing his masterful night.  In all the Phish-Dead fusion, no band has ever thrown down a “2001” and this one grew into the closest thing to “type II” material we’ve ever heard from the song.  In another set of non-stop highlights, “Seven Below > 2001 > Waves” stands out as one of the brightest passages.  When the band took “2001” to the top, they didn’t sit there, but instead moved into some outro funk that quickly transformed into “Waves”- a song that Trey, Mike, and Billy played together in Serialpod.  The rhythmic familiarity that Billy brought to the song facilitated a soaring rendition that saw some all-star guitar work by Trey leading the charge.  This inspired improv capped an incredible non-stop segment of music that had started with “You Enjoy Myself” before a dirty “Charcter Zero” closed the set and concluded Kreutzmann’s stellar sit-in.

Pollock Red Rocks Print

Pollock Red Rocks Print

When Phish came out for their last encore of the weekend, there was a feeling of joyous appreciation for everything that had happened since Thursday- and taboot, everyone knew that “Slave” would be the musical confirmation of that emotion.  But before Phish finished one of the greatest four night stands of their career with their majestic show stopper, Trey honored his daughter’s persistent request of “Bittersweet Motel” whose simple, heartfelt melodies fit the ending of such a special weekend.  And when “Bouncing” started, a triple-encore was imminent.

The past four nights were nothing short of the most magical Phish in memory.  Challenging themselves and us, like the band we know and love, things could not be more encouraging as we start a new week of our lives.  Any expectations anyone could have possibly had for these shows were so far surpassed that it’s silly- and this was only the beginning of tour.  Whatever happened over the past five weeks has transformed Phish into a whole new monster who will be visiting the Bay Area on Wednesday.  I’ll see you there.


Set One Notes: A marathon first set was one of those “list of song” sets, but had many pieces that stood out.  Opening with “Roses Are Free” got the party started right, though the band didn’t take it anywhere.  “Prince Caspian” was the first piece to really stand out in the night, as the oddly-placed first setter got the full treatment, and a stirring “Reba” brought us from light to dark in an ideal sunset soundtrack.  The set also featured the second-ever versions of Page’s “Beauty of a Broken Heart” that was debuted in Hampton and Mike’s “Sugar Shack” that was debuted in Camden- both welcome additions to Phish’s catalog.  The band closed with “Kill Devil Falls” that got into a jam the vain of Bonnaroo’s version, but not quite as extensive, illustrating the band’s desire to explore their new pieces.  This was one of those well played, but fairly tame sets that set up something much bigger after the break -and it did its job quite well.

I: Roses Are Free, Wilson, NICU, Prince Caspian, Get Back on the Train, Reba, Grind, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Sample in a Jar, Sugar Shack, Waste, Kill Devil Falls
II: Boogie on Reggae Woman, You Enjoy Myself > Undermind* > Drums* > Seven Below* > 2001* > Waves*, Character Zero*
E: Bittersweet Motel, Bouncing Around The Room, Slave to the Traffic Light
* with Billy Kreutzmann


8.2.09 (Photo: Graham Lucas)

445 Responses to “Finishing In Style”

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  1. EL Duderino Says:

    Billy K. got to love that shit! Phil will be at Shoreline guaranteed! The Gorge here I come, both pistols loaded and ready to go!!!!

  2. pebbles Says:

    I’m glad to hear that Miner liked the Kreutzmann sit-in. I was ambivalent when I saw that he was in for most of the second set, but if Miner says it was good, it probably was. I’m glad we have a couple of days to digest these shows before the next one.

  3. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    amazing, amazing weekend. Loved every minute of it!

    If anybody needs a pair of tickets for the Gorge (both nights) I somehow traded two Darien Lake for them this weekend. I can’t make it but would love to help somebody else out. I’m willing to overnight them out to anyone in need and will entertain below face offers since I only am in for the price of the two Darien Lake tix.

    b_crossen at hotmail dot com

  4. notkuroda Says:

    wow, just wow

  5. R1 Says:

    no spoiler torrent links don’t seem to be working.

  6. notkuroda Says:

    So we ought to organize the Gorge get together. I nominate Mr C.

  7. Matso Says:

    @ pebbles –

    Me too. But now I’m dying to hear this.

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    not working or stalled, ralph?

  9. nonoyolker Says:

    Can’t wait to listen to this second set w/ Billy, looks sick. I am only caught up listening to the first two nights and they have been very encouraging. Really liking the Wolfman’s, Moma, Stash, Ghost, Gin, and ALL of set 2 nite 2. They are sounding confident and PATIENT. Really positive signs to start off a second leg.

    Also, the SBDs are sounding a TON better. Not perfect, but yes, YOU CAN HEAR MIKE! Vast improvement. Can’t wait to listen to night 3 and 4 now.

    Hope everyone had a blast and made it home safely! Sounds like it was a raging time.

  10. Danny B Says:

    Oh Man!!! What a weekend!!!! I have been getting calls all weekend with some amazing stories. Wish I could have been at these shows, my girlfriend went to last nights show and loved it, the Billy K sit in sounds amazing. All I can say is please keep up the momentum Phish, only 11 days until I am under that big tent at Darien Lakes!

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    does anybody know what the set break music during the rain storm on Friday was? I was totally digging it but couldn’t place who it is.

  12. Chalkdustin Says:

    Morning all. Had an unexpected death in the fam late last week, so just getting caught up on everything now. Have a lot to listen to and read, plus have to pack for the trip out west this week. So much to do! The weekend sounds like it was amazing for sure. So glad everyone had a great time and hope you’re all home safe.

  13. R1 Says:

    Torrents now working, Miner. Before they weren’t opening at all.

  14. Marshall Says:

    I think its cool that Billy K was there for a set, but I have to say that listening to it (as a percussionist myself), for the first couple of songs, it sounded “sloppy” and “uncoordinated,” …. “muddy” if you will. Don’t for a second think that I’m dissing either drummer – its just that dual drumming is not easily pulled off. Mickey and Billy did it great together, but they played together every night. Fish and Billy don’t and it showed, IMVHO.

    I’m sure if was a cool thing to witness in person though. For me, I’m glad Phish has but one drummer.

  15. Marshall Says:

    listening to 2001 now …. in the loosely paraphrased words of Mike Gordon from Bittersweet Motel, it sounds “like a [Billy and fish] are playing a whole bunch of notes.”

  16. Matso Says:

    @ nonoyolker –

    The AUDs I’ve been listening to (from phishtunes) have sounded great and to my ears, the live sound is now perfect. Mike sits prominently right in the middle of the mix and is impossible to ignore in pretty much any context (not just the funk). I love being able to hear Mike even when Trey is shredding or during a lot of the compositions where his lines are sometimes difficult to pick out (check out RR3’s Curtain, for example). So if he’s still a little low in the SBDs, I suggest getting a quality AUD.

  17. stash Says:

    hey y’all, first time long time. really diggin this new tight sound of the boys. two drummers can really be done right. i’ve been listening to the 10-23-96 hartford show recently – very cool. chillin to first set of last night now.

  18. TheCamelWalk Says:


    Will last night’s show be made available via Megaupload?

    Hopefully so as my company’s stupid firewall prevents me from accessing torrents, but not MegaUpload. And I am jonesin’ to hear me some Billy K./Fishman “Drums”.

    Thanks for all the work, Mr. Miner & crew, to keep us informed!

    So appreciated!

  19. Ben Says:

    “but with two of the greatest drummers on earth sitting next to each other”

    Please, that’s just laughable

  20. albert walker Says:

    drums came out, we all said Billy
    only one drummer warrants rollin out the whole kit for

    very great show Boogie On 2nd set opener kind of bummed me at first but I thought they might try to stretch it
    the jam at the end was some of the best improv of the weekend

    2001 was undefinable and amazing
    all the Billy songs suited his swinging jazzy, psychedellic drumming
    could not have asked for a better weekend run

    workin this morning unfortunately, no rest of west coast for me

  21. EL Duderino Says:

    Glad you had a great weekend AW. Of all the shows @ RR last night would have been the one I would have liked to have seen! Safe travels to all!!

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    mega will be up some point today

  23. notkuroda Says:

    Chalkdustin- sorry to hear about your loss

  24. albert walker Says:

    my girl last night was a little spun and noone told her about billy
    after undermind she turns to me and says, for some reason during Undermind I was thinking of the dead the whold time

    hmmm, I under why?

  25. stash Says:

    just sank into the kdf – very smooth first set, like an ice cold yager shot. now to carry the buzz through to the 2nd set.

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