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. BrandonKayda Says:

    Jesus Christ you guys are making acid sound incredible.

    I guess there is always college, right?

  2. Leo Weaver Says:

    nutbag said “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”.”

    OK…you just wrote my story EXACTLY, even the “looking back” part. I’d even go so far as to say I was at a higher level Friday night. Though I was pretty easy on Lucy, kept her around just enough for things to get a little weird and sparkly.

    First time I’ve really gotten to sit down and post my thoughts for the day (actual paying work to do in the office…yay) so sorry for any repeats of ideas already discussed. And just listened to the 8/7 Light, now on Sally for the first time since Friday night…wow. Absolutely something special. This band is evolving quickly and building on every style in their book, using all the tools they’ve crafted over the years. You can hear musical snippets from their various eras. Each portion of ’09 has IMO been a quick snapshot of their history…1st leg reminded me of early 90s, by late 1st leg and RR, they were beginning to sound more like late 90s-04. And they’re just beginning to push the envelope and explore out of the box. Some of the stuff they did at the Gorge is some of the best phish I can recall. And it’s all so fresh. And now Miner, Wax and others talk about the cool/weird things Trey was doing last night…can’t wait to listen now. They’re throwing everything they’ve got into the pot and are stirring up a hellacious musical gumbo…hot, tasty, rich and oh so sweet to my ears. OK…I think I’ve about processed the weekend and am ready to listen back to the entire shows…and off to DC tomorrow for a long weekend with good friends and MPP on a Saturday night. See you fellas at the show…

  3. jdub Says:


    you are a youngin’? Have you not dosed because of lack of opportunity or personal choice.

  4. Leo Weaver Says:

    ^ “psychonaut on the playground of phish.” hahaha…that was funny, thanks wt!

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Brandon – as someone who started heavily using psychedelics much too young I hope you’re getting the point here that they’re definitely not required to experience Phish at the highest level. You have stated your aversion to them, I believe?

    @jdub – that is a tremendously apt metaphor (cheating on the test) and I hope you don’t mind if I flagrantly steal it for future use – I have tried to express that point many ways but never so clearly.

    In essence I agree with most of what Nissl, jdub and lycan are all saying.


    Rather than try to speak in broad terms I will keep it personal. The use of psychedelics has come full circle for me. At first it was the shortcut to peak experience. Then for a long time it was simply a deranging indulgence. Then after some harrowing experiences following the death of Jerry it turned me more back towards a healthier path.

    Without getting to into it, it led me into learning a lot of “mental technologies.” Meditation and things like that. Those things are fascinating once you strip them of the trappings the various belief systems cover them in – for example buddhist mythology is as nonsensical and even oppressive as any other, but fucking A, do those buddhists know some things about getting familiar with the workings of your inner self – mind and other parts.

    So now I find myself, like so many others (which is cool to hear about btw) having very psychedelic experiences without dosing. And that’s great. I love that. It means it’s real.

    But when I dose now, I don’t get those distractions. And it’s not cause I am “enlightened” or any such nonsense. I have all the same internal voices and such as everyone. It’s because I have specific tools at my disposal to maintain focus through the rush. At a show the main way I do it is by focusing outward, not on the music but on the people right around me. I try to get in tune with my neighbors. All that extra energy, I try to send it to anyone that might need it. Someone who is maybe struggling the way I used to. Or I try to just feel people who are vibing the same way I am and resonate with them.

    Now of course that could all just be head trip stuff. Sheer hallucination. But it works like a motherfucker.

    You can expand outwards from there. I had a kind of ridiculously potent moment once when I was thinking that way and they went into Brian and Robert. I ended up trying to send the show energy to everyone that should have been there but wasn’t due to karma or whatever reason. Again, I know that’s probably all just in my head, but it works.

    Now this all probably sounds like distraction from the music, but that’s not how it feels to me. For one thing the need for it usually passes very quickly, like passing through a gate. Once I’ve established that the trip is Not About Me, I’m usually done with the whole internal aspect of tripping for the remainder of the show.

    There’s a little more to it than that, specific tricks I’ve learned, images and concept-structures that work like a mandala or something to help me stay focused, but the details are personal and could be anything, really.

    Once I’m through that part, very early on, the rest of the experience is typically one of being completely absorbed in the totality of the experience without any perception of myself as separate. It’s more like integration than absorption…being part of a giant resonant structure composed of tens of thousands of souls being rung like a bell…

    so I’m not sure if I have a point or not, really. That’s the way I experience it. There’s a lot more to it of course. And with the right preshow ritual I could probably hit that same fever pitch…

    but also, I consider the spirit of lsd to be an old friend, ally and teacher, and I simply enjoy visiting him from time to time to see what he has to teach me. There’s always something.

  6. whole tour! Says:

    excellent perspective mr. c.
    @leo 😉

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Wilson excellent post too

    basic function of psychedelics is to remove barriers

    walls between different parts of yourself

    walls between yourself and others

    walls of thought and language hiding indescribable reality

    “acid” is a very apt name I think

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    I used the word “function” again 😮

    first time was intentionally provocative, second time was unconscious

    last thought for tonight:

    acid is bullshit check

    if I slip and start living a life of BS again acid won’t let that slide, denial can’t stand up to it

    if i dose once or twice a year and it goes well, I’m still on track

    keeps me honest

    time to listen to last nights show

  9. jdub Says:

    @Mr. C – My dad told me that metaphor when he gave me the talk about drugs and seems to fit. Thank you for sharing your personal story because after all that is what it is all about … are own personal journey

    @Wilson – For me, dosing at shows has become much more about the music and less about personal discovery, although that happens too. I think that is the point. IT sounds so F ing good when dosed.

    @all – let’s keep this post about personal expressions of one’s experience and stay clear from the baiting of egotistical ignorami (I think I just made that up_

  10. sumodie Says:

    @BrandonKayda: RE: psychedelics – Since I know you’re on the younger side of the bell curve, there’s no need to rush into things, if you decide this stuff is you for. Set and setting are EXTREMELY important when on this stuff. Andrew Weil’s ‘The Natural Mind’ is a great read on the topic. Yes, while I happen to be very pro-tripping, I would also recommend getting some more years under your belt before making any decisions about ingesting psychoactives.

    There’s too much to say about psychedelics, so I will try to restrain myself instead 🙂 And Mr. C and others have already made some good points.

    Long live Terence McKenna!

  11. jdub Says:

    I have an extra lawn seat for Hartford if anyone is interested

    email me at joshuawinkley@mac.com

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Brandon: as confirmed acid lover I STRONGLY suggest AT LEAST waiting until 18+ minimum and later would be better – and it is 100% optional – don’t feel like you need it. you don’t.

    I started at 15 and it caused me huge, huge problems. Wait, and only do it later if you really want to. That’s my advice if you want it.

  13. willis Says:

    Incredibly interesting thread considering that last night was my first show since getting sober nearly three years ago. Prior to that, I had seen 40 shows (nearly all between 97 and 2000) and the majority (read -> 80%) of them involved psychadelics and mostly a combination of substances at that.

    I agree with so much of the sentiment. One of the concerns I had when I got sober was whether or not I’d enjoy music, and specifically Phish, as much as I had over the prior 15 years. Over the past year, I began to really listen to a ton of Phish again and have downloaded nearly everything since Hampton. Last night, while not my favorite flavor of show, confirmed to me that I can have a multi-sensory, amazing experience, sans substances. It sounds cheesy, but spiritual is the only way I can describe it and generally my thought is that if I have to explain it to someone, they probably won’t get it.

    One thing I definitely learned from the other worldly experiences I had at shows is really how to let go. I learned how to be fully present where i was, in awe of my own senses, without any ties or typical focuses to “real” life, time, or anything else. I don’t know that I would be able to dance (if you can call it that), listen and “hear” the music, and appreciate certain things the way I do if I had not done what I did.

    When people talk about how they learn so much through their use of substances, I agree. I learned that I have a strong mind, I have an amazing imagination, and ALSO that I can’t safely do drugs anymore. Or really anything mind altering. Some people can. I can’t. I nearly always take it too far. The show never stops. And the negatives eventually significantly exceeded the positives.

    But, psychadelics did show me how to see music, smell colors, and really feel “it”. I choose to experience things differently now, but I wouldn’t trade those show experiences for the world.

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    @sumodie, any time you feel like it I’d love to hear more of your perspective

    as mentioned earlier you are a reliably insightful poster and clearly have an informed view of hte topic

  15. Johnny B Says:

    I have to agree with the article in that the band was all over the place last night. The sound also wasn’t quite right for some reason, maybe the metal floor? However, I cannot agree it was the weakest show of the tour. It’s hard to even quantify this show stacked up to others this tour because frankly the band is still getting going and each night has brought something a little different and new and exciting for 3.0. Curtain With and Gumbo (albeit short, yet sweet) saved the first set from utter destruction, but the second set is something new and exciting I had a great pleasure in witnessing. Though lite on segues (real lite), the execution of the material and improv in the second set was on point and down right nasty at points. I don’t have the privilege of attending every show on a tour like our gracious host of this site (thank you Mr. Miner), but after listening through everything so far I’d say the South Side experience will last longer than projected (like the Jibboo, I can enjoy that all day). In short, Chicago was grand and fun, yet weird and different, but that is life and that is this band.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    @jdub, that is about one million times awesomer than the usual dad drug talk, kudos to your old man

  17. sumodie Says:

    Thanks for the last couple of comments, Mr. Completely. Perhaps we can return to the pysch subject after summer tour when we’re all chomping at the bit for Indio and beyond.

    I’m leaving my expectations at home and hitting the road for Darien in the morning. And I’m still not fully packed & ready -what else is new….

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    enjoy your show(s)! good night all, if anyone posts more on the subject I will read up tomorrow

  19. Mugician Says:

    Well, I have to say… I’d love to join in on these conversations you guys have, but they always start too early for me (around 7am my time). So I guess I’m reduced to random pop-ins like this:

    Anyone take a listen to IT recently? There’s a LOT of really REALLY good playing during it. It’s probably one of my favorite collections of recordings. I haven’t listened to Clifford Ball because I don’t have it, and I haven’t really listened to The Great Went because I kind of don’t have the attention span these days… But IT really rocks. Solid stuff.

  20. Wilson Says:

    Hmm, a couple of things. First, to BrandonKayda–I don’t want to advise you, everyone needs to find their own way, but I will slightly disagree with sumodie about waiting until you are older. Of course this is all relative, but I think acid is a young person’s drug, and by that I mean 18ish, not 15ish. When you have kids and a regular job and adult responsibilities tripping can be hard, because you really have to let go of a lot for it to be good.

    To Mr Completely: “Acid is a bullshit check” is the clearest single phrase you could use to describe the experience, I’ve used the same description myself. In my earlier post I said something about post-modern existintialist thought, whcih is just a fancy way of saying “seeing through the bullshit.” The bottom line is that so much of our reality is contrived and created (and this isn’t hippie-speak, academics use these same terms), and acid pulls the curtain back and gives a glimpse at the underlying reality behind the bullshit. That’s why if you watch a movie on acid the actors look like they’re reading lines, politicians sound like they’re lying, peoples motives are revealed. Silly things about people’s egos become transparent.

    A great book I read recently is called “Reality isn’t What it Used to Be” by Walter Truett Anderson. This book has nothing to do with Lsd, but the parallels are there. In the book he talks about the continual slide through history towards a more post-modern perspective. For example, a few thousand years the world was full of mysticism–the sun was a god, rain could be brought on by a dance, crops grew if you pleased the gods, and so on. But it was bullshit. The age of science and reason has changed the way we look at things, everything, to the point now that we are firmly-rooted (here in the US) in a post-modern perspective where we question everything and demand proof before we accept something as true. History isn’t history, all forms of history are told through someone’s perspective. Truth is relative. It’s all very profound, slightly discomforting. But, um, yeah, like Mr C, said, acid is truly a bullshit check. All the other stuff, things that unexperienced believe about acid, like it has something to do with hallucinating and stuff like that, don’t get it. That’s just a side-effect.

  21. whole tour! Says:

    phish soundchecked ‘sultans of swing’ in chicago.
    dire straits for indio?

  22. Wilson Says:

    Oh, I have to add this, just to be cheesy, but back on the bullshit check thing. The movie the Matrix, the first one, the good one, was a clear metaphor for lsd. Neo took the pill to see the truth, to escape the constructed reality, the Matrix. Everyone who has had lsd got this when they saw the movie. And, the truth isn’t always pretty, though it can be, but it can be a really important thing to see.

  23. jdub Says:

    Well said Wilson

    On a side note … Has anyone ever heard Gordon play as good as he has been. It seems he is sticking two notes were there was once one and is making the music bubble with a charming, chugging rhythm.

  24. Wilson Says:

    have not posted since Shoreline/Gorge.
    God, it was stellar. The band is kicking.
    Leo Weaver, you made some great points.
    That is all.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    fucking A, Wilson, that’s brilliant. all of it. thanks for that.

    glad I hit reload one more time

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