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. Mr. Completely Says:

    dancing and having fun is a form of music appreciation

    I didn’t mean like meditating on it or something

    but yeah, good point

  2. Nissl Says:

    I would agree you’re right about the effects varying person to person. I’ve never been lucky enough to get that kind of effect. The few times I’ve done anything in the last several years all I get is extra energy that comes in a form that makes me expend extra energy to stay focused enough to enjoy the show. Not because lots of difficult material is coming up, it doesn’t really these days, but just because the ol’ brain tends to get a little scrambled. If I don’t put in some serious effort I tend to wind up partially ejecting from the show (not losing touch with reality… hopefully you have a general sense for what I mean). Of course mushrooms and acid are somewhat different in that respect. Sober/high it still takes effort but vanishingly little for me these days.

    I don’t know at this point what I would tell somebody who has never experienced ego loss states. Ultimately people benefit from identifying and thus removing inner emotional blocks. That is a task that over time is often better performed sober but for most some help (whether psychedelic or psychotherapeutic) may be necessary to get over those early hurdles or even realize they’re there in the first place. Eh, perhaps it’s simply time for ME to move on. But I thought another perspective would be good to throw up there.

    And yeah that Gorge experience, I was in a similar state as you both nights and holy shit.

  3. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @Mr.C – Fair enough. I guess, when I want to really appreciate music, I use head-phones, helps block everything else out. At a show, there is such a plethora of stimuli that the music is just one (though still the main one) factor in the evening. Yeah its the music that makes me shake my ass, but I really like the collective. I like being in the crush of people. I love the knowing smiles from fellow phans at the first note of a great tune (like the great response to Gumbo last night!), all of that contributes to my good time. The experience is an in toto thing for me, at the show I can’t just separate the music from the totality of the experience, and I wouldn’t want to.

  4. butter Says:

    @MR. C – nice breakdown

    @GP 420! – last night did that for me just fine too, (3 shirts – 2 wet in back pack from sweat , 3rd worn out of soccer field medium dry)

  5. butter Says:

    @Nissi – although i value the use of psychedelics , your opinion is much appreciated and an interesting and important one.

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Nissl what a great perspective and insight you have

    very interesting

    I have to run but might check back later and respond if I have time, another really interesting post

    @GP420 – I hear ya, totally – I was trying to be brief for once – but I see the difference you mean

  7. snigglebeach Says:

    The only time i do any drugs besides weed, is at Phish shows. so i like indulge. I would not have a clue where to get lsd except at a show.

    I hadn’t taken a tab in 4 years, i have done it 5 nights this year already (with saratoga coming) I have never had a less than awesome experience at a Phish show while indulging. when straight, or drunk, i have had mediocre nights. (although not many)

    This Chicago show, while not a standout, seems pretty decent to me. Sounds better than Shoreline.

  8. Nissl Says:

    Now what is the function of a Phish show (or any similar show)… there’s a koan for you. I don’t have a good answer. I have thought about that a good bit but I don’t know that there are any good answers, certainly not any that are easy to put into a couple pithy sentences and maybe not any that fit into words at all. Even the word function makes me squeamish.

    What are psychedelics doing? Warily backing away from getting into metaphysical arguments, let’s say strongly stimulating a system. Depending on the nature of the stimulation and the system you can have long-standing, often unhealthy boundaries disrupted or temporarily erased but you can also get some disorganization. Even overwhelming amounts that cause that system to cease functioning effectively for hours at a time.

  9. butter Says:

    WOW – are you a doctor or psychologist Nissi? You sound like you have some experience with psychedelics. Have you reached your threshold or been shown the light and don’t need them anymore?

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    Wax- nice breakdown of the Hood. I thought it was amazing and your analysis is totally on point. I took it as an impressionistic painting by Trey who then took a turn for the darker / minor (?) chord progression and watching the band adjust and resolve the jam was awesome. Def a very creative Hood!

  11. neemor Says:

    Just wanted to throw this out for a quick re-listen…what Michael Gordon does throughout the Bathtub Gin from the 8/7 Gorge is nothing short of some of the best playing I’ve ever heard out of him. Holy crap. Remarkable. I guess that’s why I remarked.
    phishshows.com-give it a quick listen starting especially at 1:50 (sweet) and from the 12 minute mark. That is playing a bass at its finest.

  12. neemor Says:

    When it’s all said and done, possibly my favorite song of the second leg upon further inspection.

  13. neemor Says:

    ….and continuing on into Hood with the Molester Bass. Damn.

  14. BingosBrother Says:

    Anybody at last nights show hear a demon coming out of the speakers during Wilson? I don’t know if it was Trey messing with us or if it was an actual demon, can’t wait to hear the tape to confirm. First set not very good except Gumbo which was too short. 2nd Set smoked however in my opinion. BDTNL jam was great. Then the heavy metal funk of Carini which turned the place into some sort of evil Matrix style dance party. Mike was killing during Jiboo on into Theme which was a very nice treat. The car in front of me on my way to pick up my Dad was a 2001 license plate, which made that jam all the better especially since they finally stretched it out a bit. Again Mike just killing it. Hood……..Made me weep. Coil was a sweet treat for my brother Jimmy who’s last Phish line he heard was at Deer Creek 04 was “little Jimmy’s off to camp” and this was his first show back and his first show sober(Congrats kid!) I know a lot of people are hatin on this show for some valid reasons but I’ll definitely have this 2nd set in rotation for a while and that nasty MF Carini forever. On a side note, for the last month my Dad’s been sayin if they play Carini he”ll be so satisfied he can leave right then. I turned to look and he was gone. Nice call Pop.

  15. Lycanthropist Says:

    Nissl –

    Very informed posting. I imagine one could spend quite a long time discussing metaphysics and philosophy with you. I want to respond, but goodness, I don’t even know where to start.

    I will say this though, when it comes to psychedelics, I have definitely aged past them for the most part. Tripping at a show can be a lot of fun no doubt, but I agree that it requires too much inner control and strength just to be present. When I was younger and first started tripping, it was an experience like no other. It opened my mind to so many possibilities and wonders. I was able to see through myself for the first time. I was able to absorb myself in everything around me.

    But as I grew older, developed intellectually, spiritually, and philosophically there was a paradigm shift in my behavior on psychs. Where it used to inspire me and strip me of my ego and my preconceptions, now I find myself all to aware of myself and it almost becomes a dumbing down process.

    I know I reference my band a lot and I’m gonna do it again and again because its what I do. We used to love playing on acid, and we used to be good at it too. But now, we become to self-aware, to self-conscious and we have to work at being there in the music.

    What I am saying is this. I love to trip, but I have to be somewhere special with someone special and have a specific purpose or goal in mind. Doing it in a concert setting just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I like to absorb the music the best I can with the cleanest mind I can.

  16. Old Willey Shakes Says:

    Late post but have to get this out of my system. That Light Calypso jam from the Gorge is magic in my book. One of my favorites of 09 by far. They should make that into a song. Last night was a good show after listening, finally done with whole thing. Don’t know why everyone seemed to bug out! Good board today overall, i rarely post and prolly wont till after tour, going out to the last 3 of this tour after catching all of RR. it will b intersting to see how they end after catching the begin. i hope everyone just chills and enjoys the music, there back and playing for us which is what we’ve all wanted for a long time. I’m not a huge critic but i think i know when they really nail it and i’ve felt that a bunch this tour and really that’s all this guy can ask for.

  17. Nissl Says:

    Thanks a lot for the responses guys. It’s really a great experience to have this kind of conversation; even among show-going friends or on other boards there isn’t much interest in trying to discuss this kind of thing even though it touches on how we live our lives every day. I have to go run some errands after work here but will definitely check in and respond at length in a few hours.

  18. oneshowatatime Says:

    I’m enjoying tuning into this discussion on psychedelics… many of these thoughts have crossed my mind over the years. Many have been discussed with friends and strangers. Many questions remain…

    Good ol’ use of the noggin! That’s why I love Mr. Miner’s page–you’ll rarely or nary find such a discussion on PT.

  19. whole tour! Says:


  20. posternutbag Says:

    Love the heady discussion, wish I was around to partake. All I can say is that I was sober (no-hallucinogens) on Friday at the Gorge, and partying with Lucy on Saturday, and got to the same “level” each night.

    Looking back though, I wish I had switched nights so that I could have experienced Kuroda’s lights with the crazy wind. Unbelievable, even while “sober”.

  21. jdub Says:

    I have to chime in on the old psychedelic topic because it is one that has engaged my thoughts since my first trip.

    Tripping is like cheating on a math test and getting away with it. You get all the answers right and taste success but at the end of the day you have no idea how to do it yourself.

    It takes a lot of work to reach enlightenment and for good reason. It’s a complex state that is deeper and more universal than we could ever imagine. Dose gives us a chance to witness that without doing the work, like getting the answer to a math problem without solving it.

    I think that is why the older we get the less we get from psychedelics. We realize its limitations when we have to go to work on Monday or walk your 3 year old from the edge of his tantrum.

    Let’s not forget that herb is a psychedelic, just a smaller dose. And I would argue has a similar stunting affect the L has with prolonged use.

    Beside all that, the phish experience gives us a chance to have a peak experience pretty easily. If in the right state of mind one can trip out completely sober with the help of 4 talented musicians, 15,000 high energy souls, and a light show to keep you focused on the singular energetic orgasm. It’s just easier to dose…

    Great conversion topic and one completely intertwined with the music we so love.

  22. jimbuck Says:

    That show was the shit and if you don’t know why you are clueless a feuling Trey’s next manic episode of disenchantment. Could it have been any louder? How was Trey’s right hand? Yeah it’s etting dialed in. Now i can start using 3 digit numbers to count shows but #99 was sweet. Any musicians out there or just setlist nerds? Stop worrying about how cool you seem to strangers and listen to the band. The only rule is it begins “Happy..” “Happy…” oh my freinds.

  23. Wilson Says:

    Regarding psychadelics. I’ve done my share. Loved it, woudln’t trade those experiences for anything. But I don’t anymore, somehow I just don’t do well on them now, probably because I have too many responsibilities in my life to let go that much, to be that gone. Only ever tripped at 2 Phish shows, back in 1994/5. I think I tripped at every Dead show I ever attended before that. And Pink Floyd, and Tull, and…well, every concert before that.

    As far as what psychadelics are good for, I think you have to keep in mind what they do: They unleash serotonin, or dopamine, or some other neurochemical into your brain in large amounts. This has the effect of making a person’s mind hyper-aware, hypersensitive, and brain synapses happen faster and easier and with a broader scope. This is a great state for self-discovery, creates a very post-modern existintialist perspective around us by which to see the world stripped down of constructs, we dig deep to the roots of existence and all that other fun mumbo-jumbo. I think we could have a long long long conversation here about how psychadelics have changed who we are and how we see ourselves and the world around us. But I wouldn’t say that self-learning process is best done at a Phish show. That’s better on a trip to the woods, camping, conversing with friends, etc.

    The really great thing about tripping at shows is that the heightened neurochemical effect doesn’t just help with introspection and awareness of the usual elements of existence, it heightens all of your other sense too. Things taste more, smell more, you see more, and you HEAR more. For me, that is/was the best reason to trip at shows. You can hear so much, all the little details, the pick on the strings, the gravel in the voice, the stick hitting the drum, the musicians moving with each other, having a conversation. And you can really get into the minds of the people playing the music. Phish is great for that: Following the mental choices of four people communicating musically–it’s awesome. I think I still get there now without drugs, it’s a learned exercise. But, I did want to chime in and give my two-cents about why it’s cool to trip and go to concerts: Your sense of listening is heightened. Nothing especially deep here n what I’m saying, it’s pretty simple. Listening to music kicks ass when your tripping, and there is a scientific reason why that is so.

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    I wish I knew how to join in on this conversation with absolutely no drug knowledge/experience….

    Have fun dudes.

  25. whole tour! Says:

    ^it’s never too late to build your resume as a psychonaut on the playground of phish.

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