Mixed Up in the Midway

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

In the Windy City on Tuesday night, Phish put forth a discombobulated effort that featured legitimate individual jams but flowed like a pile of bricks.  In a second set that didn’t really work, it seemed as though Phish had the pieces of a great jigsaw puzzle, but just couldn’t fit them together correctly.  Pulling out a random assortment of songs in no apparent order or connection, Phish played a second set that sounded more like a mix tape than a live show.  Not to take away from some of the higher moments of the night, they just happened individually with no real relationship to their neighbors in the set.  The jumbled effort will likely go down as the “weakest” show of summer’s second leg, but given what’s been going down the last few weeks, everything is relative.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

That being said, the band opened the second set with the most significant “Number Line” to date; a jam that built off the Gorge’s version, and went far beyond.  The band seems dedicated to using this as a consistent vehicle moving forward, and if the jams are like last night’s- that’s fine with me.  Taking the piece out into its most exploratory and uncharted psychedelic planes yet, Phish got into some slowed down, deeper grooves before this one was cut off a bit too soon.  Moving through the murkiness into more transcendent territory, it seemed that the “2001” that was hanging in Washington might emerge from this jam.  But as the music was passing through a mind-expanding canvas, Trey executed the jam with the ripping chords of “Carini.”  While it was awesome to hear “Carini,” the jolt seemed unnecessary given their organic jamming these days, and they could have gotten there far more creatively.  Nonetheless, as the bombastic song got going, the intensity was something to behold.  While not necessarily longer than normal, the peak of the long-awaited 3.0 debut was monumental- possibly one of those “you had to be there moments”- as i have not yet heard the tapes.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Just as abruptly as it started, Phish ended their dense, growling excursion with an odd switch into “Gotta Jibboo.”  Yet, once again, once the jam got going, Phish shredded it to pieces.  Boasting exciting dance grooves and soaring work by Trey, this rendition was yet another highlight of this awkward set.  The mid-set “Theme,” “Wilson,” seemed like we were briefly transplanted into some random first set, and after forgoing endless creative places to drop “2001” over the past few shows, Phish chose this bizarre, disconnected point to let it fly.  Yet when it did, the wide-open funk no-doubt brought some late set euphoria.  Blasting into an shredding late-set “Chalk Dust,” everything just seemed out of place- wait, have I mentioned that?

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

But as Phish started “Harry Hood” it was like a soft blanket catching us at the end of some strange trip, and as the band set their improvisational course, this one didn’t follow the norm.  Taking the jam on a more ambient, impressionistic path, Phish crafted a unique highlight at the end of an odd night on the South Side of Chicago.  While a Phish show is usually greater than the sum of its parts- this one wasn’t.  In fact, it was exactly a sum of its disjointed parts.  Without very little dramatic and flowing improv that we’ve all of a sudden gotten used to, the entire set felt choppy and poorly presented, albeit well-played.  But hey, all of a sudden, we are spoiled!

As we enter the last four night-run of tour, Phish is sure to turn things up a notch as they pull back into the Northeast corridor.  With four classic sheds hosting the last nights of a special summer, the final weekend is sure to be woven with tales of wonder.  Darien > Hartford > Merriweather > SPAC-  these should be heavy hitters.  I’ll see you there.

Set One Notes: In what was a virtual consensus for weakest set of tour, Phish never really got it going in the first frame.  The only real pieces of note would be the third song “Ocelot,” whose jam crept into familiar territory, and “The Curtain (With)” with another huge, standout version of “(With).”  For those of you counting bust-outs, the band played an early “Paul and Silas” for the first time in nine years (Worcester 11.29.98).  In addition, the band debuted a new Page song called “Windy City,” a slow-moving blues song that seemed like it wasn’t of Phish caliber.  A solid ‘Time Turns Elastic” closed.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Sample In A Jar, Ocelot, Paul and Silas, Windy City*, The Curtain (With), Train Song, Gumbo, Heavy Things, Time Turns Elastic

II: Backwards Down The Number Line > Carini > Gotta Jibboo, Theme From The Bottom, Wilson, 2001 > Chalk Dust Torture, Harry Hood, The Squirming Coil

E: Loving Cup


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551 Responses to “Mixed Up in the Midway”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    Sounds like a good show, none the less. Paul and Silas, Carini, Curtain. Won’t be buying this SBD though. Very excited for Hartford and SPAC. Safe travels Mr. Miner and phellow Phans, see you ion the Northeast.

  2. Trinculo Says:

    Love your reviews, Miner, but I gotta disagree with you here. This show was a high energy, big-city shred fest, and their setlist is one of the most unique so far – somewhat confirmed by your befuddlement at the odd list of songs!

    In the second set, instead of doing the same thing they’ve been doing, they brought out some songs that don’t usually get the second set treatment – ‘Chalk Dust,’ ‘Wilson,’ and ‘Theme’ were all taken out to deeper waters than their usual first set placements have allowed, and the results were Phishy fireworks of a kind we have not seen so far this summer.

    Finally, ‘Windy City’ kicked ass and everyone around me was digging the crap out of it. Maybe you were in a bad mood last night???

    This was an excellent night of Phish – NOT the weakest night of the summer! Don’t believe everything you read, people!!!

  3. RobAins Says:

    Anyone know if they are creating setlists before the shows? I remember reading a twitter post during RRN1 that a stage hand was placing the setlist at each band members spot, right before they took the stage. But it’s twitter, so who really knows…. I def do not think they were at the one show I saw this summer (Camden) judging by the amount of conversation between each song……

  4. DaWedge Says:

    Lovin’ the honesty Miner. Sure hope they bring it in Darien Thursday night under the bigtop. From what I remember they love playing there. I think Trey even says that at the end of the first set last time I was there.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    @Trinculo – def had highlights, no doubt. Most pieces ripped, but the Chalk, Theme, Wilson were pretty standard versions…and as I said, its all relative, man….I had a great time 🙂

    …Just listened to the Number Line- def highlight of the show

  6. Brian Says:

    I really love the way BDTNL is being fleshed out. The Gorge version has a great jam into Piper. Definitely excited to hear this one after reading the review!

  7. Little Buddy Says:


    Yeah. Darien has been home to three very very good, if not great shows. The boys seem to like Western NY (the two Rochester War Memorial shows in 97 and 99 are exhibits a and b). I’m really hoping for something unique under the big top tomorrow. Most importantly, they got that TTE out of the way last night, so maybe we’ll get an antelope or something a bit more exciting to end the first set. I’m still praying for Mikes>Mist>Groove and a Bug encore. No expectations though, right ; )


    Miner prefaced his reviews of this tour before the Red Rocks run asking everyone to understand that these reviews are subjective (obviously!) and not to get all up and arms if you don’t agree. I wasn’t there so I have no freakin’ clue how the show was. Miner gave his take and you can give yours, but I think accusing him of being in a bad mood might have just slightly crossed the line being that he provides us with this great forum and thoughtful reviews. I respect your take too though and I look forward to listening.

    So glad Carini is back!

  8. nonoyolker Says:

    Nice write up Miner, seems very honest. I do like that Curtain (With) was not a one and done. Good to fully shake the demons of the past by putting this bute back in rotation.

    @ Brian – totally agree on #L. Great to see this song stretched into a jam vehicle. Seems to be getting better every time.

  9. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    Darn, looks like I won’t get my Theme in Hartford.

    I’m very interested to hear this show now, looks like this review is going to stir up some heavy commentary. 🙂

  10. DaWedge Says:

    @Miner @Trinculo. Both comments are just great examples of why we love this band. Different strokes for different pholks. I saw a 98 YEM in Albany that I thought was the best YEM they’d ever played, only to read reviews the next day about how they botched the YEM. I’ve been reading Miner for a while and rarely post. But like each friend I go to each show with, we all may love Phish musically for different reasons, and Miner definitely has a type of Phish show that he digs. and when he doesn’t hear that type of show he tells us. So I always know what I’m getting into before I track down a SBD. But either way, Phish is going to please and disappoint on any given night, depending on what you’re looking for. There have been plenty of sets that Miner disliked that I actually thought were quite good. BUt there have also been some jams al la Camden that Miner spoke quite eloquently about that I couldn’t agree more with. One things for sure, the jams will continue, the band is back, and we should all lap up every freakin minute of it. here’s to hoping for a Darien Reba under the big top.

  11. BrandonKayda Says:

    Setlist wise, this show does seem disjointed, then again I haven’t heard the tapes, so playing-wise, it could be stellar. I don’t know.

  12. tela'smuff Says:

    i’m happy i didn’t take a sick day then drive 5 hrs back home immediatly after the show. Although it may have been worth it to knock Paul & Silas off my list!

    surprised no Tube or Halley’s last night with the meteor shower.

    you’re going to get one of these shows every tour. Mine was Alpine night 1 this summer. I’m happy that BDTNL is getting it’s due, but I wish they would do the same with Stealing Time!

  13. Kenneth Powers Says:


    I was just thinking last night about something you said in your Toyo review: how we’ve been spoiled as of late, which is probably going to color our perception of these late run shows. Red Rocks and The Gorge just laid down some serious damage on us, and the boys are human after all.

    I wonder if the fact that RR was 4 shows at one venue and 2 at The Gorge somewhat disguised the fact that there were certainly some lower energy, discombublated parts of those shows. In other words, many of us might compartmentalize the RR four night run as one single, big, “Red Rocks” show since the backdrop and the scene and the energy was the same (more or less) the whole time. Same for the Gorge in a two-day extent.

    But when you break down single shows, maybe we’re a little more critical when a show’s second set doesn’t start with an epic jam launchpad into a silky smooth segue into another epic jam (think Drowned -> C&P from 7/31), or at least contain “usual” 2nd set meat in the middle.

    If they had only played one show at RR and it was the last night, I would have thought “really nice first set, kinda boring 2nd set” (and that’s just me personally because i’m not a huge fan of guest sit-ins that take up the bulk of the 2nd set). But since it was just a sliver of one big kick-ass run, I kind of gloss over it as no biggie.

    So I can see how if the 2nd set of last night didn’t flow or do it for you, it would color the show as a whole in a negative light for you. I don’t think it means you were in a bad head space or anything. A musical galaxy as complex and nuanced as Phish’s will yield an equally broad scale of reactions and opinions from the fans…which is what makes it so real.

  14. albert walker Says:

    # line and Chalkdust both well played
    I don’t know if Chalkdust was standard thought it had a pretty tight little 2009 jam in it
    but yes 1st set I could have taken a nap during
    TTE is terrible, knew we’d get it
    I liked that there were no ballads in the 2nd set, but I don’t like Wilson there
    1st set song
    def had the big venue big city, vibe
    2nd set really had my attention, though
    thought it was fun
    my 11th show in 2009 though so the diversity probably found interesting

  15. HarryHood Says:

    I’m hoping for a huge Mike’s at Darien…. Haven’t really seen the bomb dropped on this one yet this summer and Darien seems like the right setting for some dark and dirty jams. The amusement park setting has got to stir an Esther into the mix as well. I know this song gets bagged on, but I personally love the multi-layered playing and the slow build-up jamming at the end.

  16. Kenneth Powers Says:

    ^also love Esther but highly doubt they’d drop that twice in one tour.

  17. tmwsiy Says:

    miner- can you clarify your statement, “possibly one of those ‘you had to be there moments’- as i have not yet heard the tapes.” I’m assuming that means for further reflection after having heard the show live? I’m confused- how are you writing this review?

  18. albert walker Says:

    I found the jarring move from #line to carini kind of interesting
    I like Miner was hearing a 2001 out of #line
    then the jam someway gets to the opening power chords of carini
    from the happy, cheezy #line (not dissing like the song) to the heavy frat boy screams, fist pumps, and headbanging to carini
    the dramatic change of tone and emotion was kind of cool

  19. afroskully Says:

    @harry… i hope you’re wrong about esther…i’m praying for that one in hartford! =)

    but totally agree with you on that tune.. such beautiful and dark songwriting in there.

    Every time i read a TTE is terrible remark, I’m just curious as to what people don’t like about it. Of course everyone has their likes and dislikes, but i am puzzled at the constant disdain that comes up. I see TTE as a more matured composed trey song in the vein of fluffhead, but instead of having all those zappa-esque composed parts, it’s parts are tamer and more song-oriented. It’s an interesting take on that type of songwriting for me, considering the levels of beauty and weird that songs like fluffhead or reba can get to. TTE doesn’t climb as high to the peaks and intensities of the other composed stuff, but it’s chock full of real heart-felt parts that i feel really flow nicely together. And the ending is a pretty cool wrap-up as well.

    I think it works better mid-set rather than closer, but that’s my 2 cents on this controversial song. Love to hear what y’all think.

  20. HarryHood Says:


    “the heavy frat boy screams, fist pumps, and headbanging…”

    Was AC/DC in town???

  21. BrandonKayda Says:

    So you enjoyed the show Albert?

  22. cotuitkid Says:

    was at the show last night. first set seemed like they were having tech problems. did anybody else notice that? i think that lead to long pauses between songs and disjointedness. still, thought ocelot was solid and liked the ragtime end to gumbo quite a bit.

    it seemed like the boys came out angry for the 2nd. not at each other, just at the way the 1st went down. this night was all about heavy. heavy riffs, huge gooey bombs from mike. 2nd set highlight for me was the Jibboo and Wilson>2001.

    1st show i’ve seen in ten years. i’m officially re-hooked.

  23. JerZ Says:


    I remember you saying before that you do not get too excited about bustouts, and your comments about Paul and Silas seem to reflect that. I was just curious why. I personally get really psyched about bust outs- my favorite was probably Sneakin Sally back in MSG 97, but I enjoy just about every bust out. I am just curious why they do not excite you. With a relatively weak show like this one, the bust outs would have been my highlight if I was there.

  24. Danny B Says:

    Even though I have warmed up to the idea of hearing TTE live, I am happy they got it out of the way last night. That means we probably won’t get it again until SPAC. They (or at least Trey) love playing it, so I’m sure it will pop up again before the end of tour.

    I would have loved a nice Carini in Darien, but there are still some great songs that haven’t been played all tour.

    Jesus Left Chicago, lots of gamehenge material, Mist, MFMF and Sand (at least not since first leg)

    A really solid Mike’s Groove would be nice, they have been getting better since the start of summer tour, but they haven’t really nailed it yet.

  25. albert walker Says:

    I pretty much enjoy everything these days
    it seemed like AC/DC was in town
    the floor felt like a bad frat bar, probably similar to fenway vibe
    I found the energy humerous
    Miner’s review is pretty accurate
    but maybe a little more negative than I would give the 2nd set
    1st set pretty dull
    not a TTE fan though, closing with it kind of kills the set for me

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