The Final Four

The Gorge (G. Lucas)

The Gorge (G. Lucas)

If you’re a Phish fan, the summer of 2009 has been something of a fantasy; easily the most exciting season in years.  Beginning in Fenway Park on May 31st, we have whittled our way through a fascinating summer of band re-evolution, and we have finally arrived at those last four east coast shows that always seemed so far off in the distance.  Beginning tomorrow at Darien Lake, Phish will begin their four-night swan song on their historic summer tour.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Beginning with three weeks in June, Phish tour was once again a reality as we navigated the Northeast, Mid-South, and Midwest en route to a three-week return to the road.  With flashes of whole-show brilliance in Camden, Bonnaroo, Deer Creek, and Alpine, Phish was beginning to get there, but something was missing-  where was the band’s signature exploratory jamming?  As the first tour wound up in the Midwest, the band began to delve a little bit deeper, foreshadowing what was to come.

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

But over the course of four unforgettable nights at Red Rocks, the entire Phish 3.0 paradigm shifted.  In a caterpillar-to-butterfly-like metamorphosis, the band’s style was all of a sudden more relaxed, confident, and focused.  The contained playing of June was history, and Phish began creating unique and original jams at almost every juncture.  Like an eight-set suite, Red Rocks, alone, featured more musical exploration than three weeks in June.  Our band was back, and the tightness they had honed over the course of the year had merged with a renewed spirit of exploration, resulting in an asteroid crash in our collective reality.  Highlighted by an insane second set on July 31st, of the like we hadn’t heard yet, Red Rocks ’09 will eternally be remembered as the run that Phish got their mojo back.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

After a mid-week stop at Shoreline that seems to be settling into the dark-horse and overlooked show of the second leg, Phish moved up to The Gorge for two of the most musically sensational nights of tour.  With two magnificent shows differing in nature, Phish showcased their full improvisational diversity in the Northwest.  Strewn with musical highlights and the most laid back vibe of tour, The Gorge will no doubt go down as two of the best nights of music this summer.

Chicago (C.Smith)

Chicago (C.Smith)

And after a one-night stop at the stadium setting of Toyota Park in Chicago, we have come down to the final four shows of summer.  You can be sure that this triumphant conclusion to Phish’s summer will blow up.  Back where it all began, with four shows in the northeast, the band will begin their final run tonight in the amusement park setting of Darien Lake.  With a true sense of excitement surrounding this "homecoming run," the band has much to be proud of after the past two weeks.  Over the course of a summer, Phish has fully returned to prominence, and these four nights are going to be a celebration.  And I have a hunch that some of the tour’s most incredible is about to unfold.  Check it out…

458 Responses to “The Final Four”

  1. albert walker Says:

    as a hack jazz guitarist I’ve heard it all of 2009

    just listen to the individual runs
    he’s really developing themes
    just playing more melodically
    in the later years was either shredding or making noise
    really lost that style of playing
    listen to the early 90’s stuff and you’ll hear it
    he was a jazz geek growing up
    I learned Parker’s Donna Lee from an old 89 Phish recording

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    well as Jerry-head (and Trane fanatic) the idea of lengthy and well developed melodic lines suits me fine

  3. msbjivein Says:

    I’ve been hearing a lot about the sound on Page side not being all that. I was Mike’s side across from FOH and it sounded good. At least for a stadium I thought it sounded 1,000,000 x better than Phen.

  4. albert walker Says:

    Jerry is my fav guitarist also
    but we all no he tended to noodle
    this was what made Trey so amazing in his prime
    he knew where he was going and exactly how to get there and where he would stop on the way
    very planned out hitting all the changes perfectly
    Jerry liked to feel around, pull the band in, find things, very different style of playing
    in mid 70’s when he started listening to more fusion, and soul, hanging out with Merl his playing started going more in this direction
    you hear it when the came back on those 75 help slips, very directed playing

  5. msbjivein Says:

    What are the chances that Trey busts out a Les Paul tonight???? That would be sic! Doubt it happens. But would be a great tribute.

  6. Jay Says:

    4 bar rule? Jesus, Phish is amazing.

  7. Joe Says:

    Darien Soundcheck: How High The Moon, Magilla, Sugar Shack.
    Les Paul getting props.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    my buddy who called the 4 bar rule really knows his shit but I’d like to hear it confirmed by other people that know what they’re talking about before we decide it’s real – it certainly sounds about right to me, though

    yeah Jay, it’s pretty amazing whether or not it’s actually 4 bars. disciplined creativity sounds like an oxymoron, right?

  9. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Albert – I think c0wfunk said something umpteen months ago in a similar Jerry/Trey comparason debate and I thought it was dead on (and if I am wrong to whoever did say it, I appologize, my memory is reminiscent of a revolving door these days…). Strictly paraphrasing, but:
    “Jerry plays like light being refracted from a diamond. Trey plays like a laser beam”

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    @albert I think on good nights Jerry maintained that focus through about early ’78. A lot of his long solos in Fire (or the Scarlet > Fire transition) seem to be thought out that way. Another example is the Dancin’ solo from 2’26, my old favorite. It’s not long but it’s perfectly structured including the constant small tonal adjustments.

    No doubt that Trey had/has another level of sophistication and crisp execution though

  11. wvbrdr Says:

    @ albert, im heading over to a friend of mine tomorrow for dinner to play him some 09 goodness, he hasn’t listened to phish in a long time. he’s a jazz guitarist and a huge dead head too. I know what i like, but from the jazz perspective, what should i play for him that would totally melt his face? I’m thinking Gorge Gin and Sally, RR Drowned>C&P.

  12. albert walker Says:

    I would go RR Stash or Gorge Gin
    Drowned C&P is a little more straight up psyche rock
    but all great
    Gin tends to have some good melodic themes in it and Stash chords are copped from an old Monk tune

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    and anyone that digs improv will get that Sally jam

  14. msbjivein Says:

    I need to listen a lot closer but they might be doing the improv practise they started back in the day where one band member would start off and every bar a different member would add something different to the jam. It would go around to each member over and over. So every bar changed. This might be what we’re hearing. Maybe they added a couple bars to the technique to make for. Would make sense in a 4/4 time signature.

  15. albert walker Says:

    I’ve heard it’s the best of 2009, but still have not heard the sally

    I’m not very tech efficient, can’t figure out how to get the free downloads
    don’t really want to either
    need to convince one of my friends that tapes to give me the whole tour
    I really am a vinyl go, have not collected much since the XLII days

    but everyone i trust raves on the Sally
    My fav cover to hear besides Mighty diamonds, Have Mercy
    Old rasta in me

  16. Kenny Powers Says:

    @ albert, another one of my fave quotes from that show is:

    “i’ve been blessed with the arm of a rocket, a cock like a burmese python, and the mind of a fuckin’ scientist”

    all the funnier because he has no arm whatsoever (anymore), blew his load before he got that hot teacher’s bra off and is dumb as shit. ok, sorry for the abrasive verbage. but damn, that show is comic gold if you’re into that sort of thing. which i am.

  17. msbjivein Says:

    4 not for………….

  18. albert walker Says:

    don’t watch much TV
    but growin up white trash myself
    the mullet white trash humor is the shit
    that cat was in a shit load of movies too last year
    funny cat

  19. voopa Says:

    albert, you write some weird ass haiku, man!

  20. nonoyolker Says:

    My spidey sense is telling me that Hartford is going to be the heater these last four shows. I am thinking some gamehendgey goodness in the form of a forbin>mock and a TITANIC Mike’s segue second set throw down. Just a gut feeling. Been so apeshit busy at work, I forgot I am linking up with the circus tomorrow. God I love the boys being back! Still feels very surreal. I never thought we would have new, *fresh* music to study again. Makes me want to sing Trey/Light style: OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH OOOHHHHH, OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  21. msbjivein Says:

    Study up NONOyolker you have a Test tomorrow!!

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    whoa I totally hear what you all are getting at re: the Chitown Hood

    like some FZ style sideways weirdness, just blows up the middle, weird tonalities – band isn’t 100% on board but they don’t bork it either

    unlike JB Hood they pull it back together – very cool shimmery weirdness over the “feel good” ending

    i like it

  23. Kenny Powers Says:

    speaking of the circus nonoyolker, how fitting would a Roggae be tonight in the great big tent that is Darien?

  24. Jay Says:

    @MrC “disciplined creativity sounds like an oxymoron, right?”

    Not really. I think the kind of improvising Phish is displaying is only because of this practiced and disciplined creativity. As apposed to say the current incarnation of The Dead and Phil and Friends where they think the magic will just happen on stage. I think this disciplined practice has freed them up from the mechanics and they can naturally unleash their creativity and communication and act on it in real time (every 4 bars so it seems).

  25. nonoyolker Says:

    Word MSB. I still need to give the Chicago show a spin. Just haven’t had time yet. Seems to be getting some good feedback. Figure I’ll give it the ol’ once over on the fung shui bus to Hartford tomorrow, that is as long as we don’t break down, crash, catch on fire, explode, etc…

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