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”

  1. JerZ Says:

    Gumbo is one of my favorites and I have been calling for it every show that I have been to this year. How was the Gumbo? Was it funky or was it more like the first leg gumbo?

  2. HarryHood Says:

    @ afroskully

    I think most people would agree that TTE is a great song. Great in the sense that its very intricate, difficult to play, and well composed. It may actually be one of the most challenging songs that they have ever penned as a “Phish” song even though it’s one of Trey’s creations. I also think that Trey is very proud of it on an artistic level. The problem is that it is horrible in a live setting. It sounds great, but it’s incredibly hard to dance to and people are left standing there with arms crossed looking at each other in a very confused state of mind. Do I sway back and forth? Do I shuffle my feet? Do I run up and down the isles with arms flailing? It’s an I can’t make up my mind on what to do with myself sorta vibe. It can really kill the vibe of a killer show. Not a bad song , I just prefer it when chilling around the house, not when I’m dancing my ass off with several thousand rabid phans……

  3. Wax Banks Says:

    I personally get really psyched about bust outs- my favorite was probably Sneakin Sally back in MSG 97

    It’s worth noting that this is not only the coolest bustout of the late 90’s but one of the best openers of the 90’s, and the encore reprise caps one of the most exciting phish shows of the 90’s. It’s easy to like a bustout when it’s WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY JESUS!! 🙂

  4. nonoyolker Says:

    @ afroskully – the pros and cons of TTE has been discussed ad nauseam. Seems to hold up on studio recording, but is fairly disjointed live. Some of the lyrics are beyond corny. The end jam is pretty nice, but it takes 13 some odd minutes to get there. I remember when it came out, I listened to it back to back to back to back to back… and I actually still enjoy it on tape. Live (to me) it really pulls down a set. To each his own though. I think they are going to play it again before the tour closes, I am just hoping that it is not in Hartford or SPAC (have a feeling it will land in SPAC though…)

    @ Albert Walker – Scooped On the Beach after your praise. I like Neil, have a bunch of his albums, but just never got around to picking this one up. Really enjoying it man, thanks for the recommendation

  5. Patterson Says:

    Two of the best ones I’ve heard so far:
    Time Turns Molasses
    Time Turns Piss-Tastic

  6. BrandonKayda Says:

    On The Beach is great. Tonight’s The Night is still my favorite of his though. It’s definitely his darkest album

  7. albert walker Says:

    love turning on someone to that one

    dark, psychedellic, folk
    so different and non conforming to his earlier work

    def favorite neil and one of my top 10 rock records of all time
    every new school rock band swears by it
    every hipster group cites it as one of their major influences

    love when popular artists make albums that piss off their record companies because they are not just new versions of old hits
    they wanted another harvest and neil give them an underground masterpiece

  8. albert walker Says:

    agree with Tonigh’s the Night
    my second fav Neil album
    I like the darker, crazier Neil
    amazing era would have loved to catch that tour, have heard amazing stories

  9. Little Buddy Says:

    Love tonight’s the night!

    Just finally getting to Gorge day 1 set 2… Wow! Now that’s a Gin! What a great jam at the end there… Totally fresh!

  10. Chalkdustin Says:

    Boys and girls: I turned on the radio this morning on the way to work, and guess what was playing….BDTNL! Studio version!! The station was featuring it as part of it’s ‘new music Wednesday’ feature. I turned up the sound and jammed in my car- got some strange looks- it was a great way to start off the day after only 1.5 hours of sleep last night after Chicago’s show. So is this their official ‘single’ now? I was honestly shocked to hear it, but it does have the ‘live’ feel that we’ve heard about. I dug it.

  11. Little Buddy Says:

    It would be really nice to hear Scents and Subtle Sounds before this tour ends. Preferably at Darien or MPP so I will actually be there for it. Walls of the Cave too…

    I totally agree with JerZ and Wax regarding the Sally at MSG 97. I was way up top with the spinners and people were freaking out in a major way. One of my fav Phish moments, indeed.

  12. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Albert – Props man, much appreciated. Shit is tight

    @ Kayda – Tonight’s the night is bomb. Dig that joint a lot.

    @ Chalkdustin – BDT#L radio play?!?!? Wow, maybe this is their big break! A real chance at stardom!!! I hope they make another music video with a fish motif. I re-watched the old DWD video about a month ago for a laugh. Shit is priceless! Trey rocking a backwards Starter hat live?? Great steeze.

  13. R1 Says:


    “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!!!

    HAHAHA – you sound like an ass. Don’t believe everything you read? You mean don’t believe that what Miner expressed was really his opinion? It was actually the OPINION of someone else? Your review is just as valid and I was happy to read it . . . until you go to the point of trying to discredit the man who has given you the forum to broadcast it.

  14. BrandonKayda Says:

    12-30-97 set II is one of my favorite Phish sets ever. Pure insanity

  15. Brian Says:

    totally agree about Scents. would love to see it brought back out. The massive version from Camden ’03 was one of my true Phish highlights from that year.

    could do without Walls, but thats just me!

  16. Jay Says:

    I think peoples general problem with TTE is in the live concert setting. An Orxchestral fugue in a Rock and Roll atmosphere. People find it hard to adjust and accept and thus produces disdain.

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    12-30-97 was such a fun night! the whole show was ridiculous. definitely a top highlight in my phishtory.

  18. Mike M Says:

    Got to agree with Minor on most points. First set definitely lacked much character. I was really hoping Gumbo would go somewhere but was wrapped up quickly with the old ending. I too didn’t care for the new Page tune, but my wife loved it so who knows.

    2nd set kept my attention but had a noticeable lack of flow. BTDNL and 2001 were my highlights.

    All said, it was my weakest show of 2009.

    A little comentary on Toyota Park:
    1) Horrible Traffic Getting in (to be expected in Chicago)
    2) Zero Ambience – A mini-stadium if you will with a huge toyota logo above the stage. Not any great viewing areas except for maybe the front half of the “lawn” which was covered in aluminum. No scenery to speak of except for the planes leaving Midway. Worst place I have seen a concert.
    3) The crowd – Largely college-age but they put out good energy.
    4) Security – Not an issue where I was sitting but I witnessed at least a couple of dudes being chased by Big Red-shirt dudes and subsequently tackled and hog-tied just for sneaking on to the floor. Seemed a bit abusive considering the circumstances.
    5) Beer Lines – The one redeeming quality. I could grab a beer, take a leak and get back to my seat within 3-4 minutes.

    I’ll grant you, my last shows were Red Rocks so I am pretty biased, but I really am not sure why Phish management picked the place and hope it doesn’t become a regular stop.

    Additional Commentary:
    I genuinely like the new songs (even TTE on occasion) and don’t mind that they are played every other show. However, I would really like too see them mixed up in terms of set placement. Ocelot seems to always fall very early in the first set and BDTNL early in the 2nd set. How bout a little variety? Ocelot 2nd set opener? BDTNL as a set closer. Its just getting too predictable and consequently losing a little bit of spark.

  19. Mike M Says:

    I did also want to mention that amidst the predictions of “extra tickets lying on the ground”, extras were in fact in high-demand and I easily got face for mine.

  20. msbjivein Says:

    Miner, Your review sucks dude. IMO I think you missed it last night. I guess you can’t get ’em all. I do agree that we’re spoiled for sure.

  21. BrandonKayda Says:

    MSB, what did you think? I keep hearing bum reviews and I’d like to hear something a bit more positive. First set looks great. Second set seems disjointed, but i still haven’t heard the tapes, so I can’t judge a show by the setlist alone.

  22. Chalkdustin Says:

    Additions to Mike’s venue commentary:
    -too many kids just there for the party who couldn’t care less about the music and couldn’t handle the scene (i.e. the girl who looked like she was dying as she was passing in and out of consciousness with her eyes rolling up in her head, and her douchey boyfriend who hesitated before taking her off the floor and to the medical crew; then the several other teenagers who passed out during the show). don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see younger fans, as I’m pretty young myself, but it got really annoying when people were passing out and falling into me.
    -what was with people trying to throw glowsticks at the band??!! really now, I was absolutely shocked at the effort people put forth to lob their sticks onto the stage. are you kidding me?

    Aside: this is Miner’s opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree, but do it respectfully. He is trying to capture his personal experience and if you had a different one, explain it to us to give us a new perspective with with to form our own opinion.

  23. msbjivein Says:

    My Face is still melting! Being in the moment I can’t see how you could have taken anything negative away from this show. I know Miner is just speaking his OPINION. Like someone said ealier “Different strokes for different folks”

  24. fat bastard Says:

    @ miner

    i think the band really feeds off the crowds energy and vibe. last night was filled with young kids and imo tons of people who’d never been before. way different from deer creek and alpine and im sure rr and the gorge. lame crowd=subpar show. and why throw glow sticks on the stage??? it was pissing me off and i was hoping trey would’ve said something.

  25. R1 Says:

    msb – just wondering, how many shows have you been to?

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