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. fromthetub Says:

    @ Kenny: I play a real sport , I’m not trying to be the best at exercise.

  2. msbjivein Says:

    Good Luck and Safe TRavels Nono. You hitting any others this weekend?
    Im hitting Merriweather that’s it.

  3. nonoyolker Says:

    True, Roggae is definitely due. And god help me, I am calling a Llama opener for what, the 26 straight time?!??! It HAS to happen!

  4. msbjivein Says:

    I’ve been calling Llama and My Friend since RR!! I was for sure My Friend would surface in Chicago.

  5. nonoyolker Says:

    Thanks MSB. Hitting Hartford and SPAC. Merriweather was just to much of a dander in too tight a turnaround. Tour route has been schizophrenic this year. A lot of zigzagging in the NE. Hope you have a great time in MD! They usually throw down there…

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    word Jay. Obviously it’s not actually a paradox because it’s really happening every show right in front of our ears

    Coltrane and Miles bands also had specific methods, rules and tactics for group improv – with Miles a lot of it came down to visible signals though, a lot of stuff I thought was straight magic turns out to be eye contact and hand signals from Miles, once you see video of it

    same with the knitting factory crew, the John Zorn COBRA games of the 90s taking that idea to extremes

  7. fromthetub Says:

    Re: #Line… it wasn’t my favorite after hearing it at Hampton, then it started really growing on me after the first leg of summer. I listened to it in the car on repeat and it totally struck a chord with me… kind of on a deep level… the story of the friendship through the years. I said to my buddy that this song is going to end up going mainstream. Now hearing the studio version, I’m frightened that this is true.

  8. fromthetub Says:

    Someone in our crew has also been calling a Llama opener since Red Rocks! Nono and Msb, I hope we get it!!!

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    re: llama in the Gorge piper – I hear what you all mean but I really think it’s just Fish doing a cool techno style fade-out, like a DJ bringing a sample in and out

    pretty hip, kind of an illyB trick

    Llama represent! Flip the shred switch early, Red!

  10. andyshuf Says:

    Forbin was sound checked at The Gorge night 2. One of the next 4 should hopefully see it.

  11. nonoyolker Says:

    LlamaLee has! That reminds me of a catch phrase bit from a sitcom:
    “What do yah think they are going to open up with tonight Llama Lee?”
    “Why, Llama of course!” (huge studio applause)
    That dude has easily the coolest name on the board. That guy or Larrybirdflu… classic stuff.

  12. Stupendous Says:

    Def mot the signature Llama beat but close in nature and at the time I saw the possibility for llama to close…

  13. BrandonKayda Says:

    To jump into this conversation:

    i really like the way Jerry took his time and noodled around with a lot of songs (Dark Star, Slipknot, King Solomon’s, etc) It helps add to the peak when it comes.

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    that would have been great. the fadeouts on tweezer and piper are the only two really questionable jam moments of that show. The piper one works, but not like a Llama closer would have.

    not sure the place could have withstood the energy blast that would have brought – but I’d have loved to find out

    no complaints though

  15. bread Says:

    If you guys like Kenny Powers (East Bound and Down), check out the Movie “Foot Fist Way”. Same actor playing a WT karate instructor. Pure gold. Will Ferrel said he watched that movie over a dozen times.

  16. fromthetub Says:

    Mr. C. I love the “shred switch” phrase you coined. Perfect analogy.

    We swore that Fish just got shut down with the Llama intro during Piper. “Come on Trey! Let him start it!” Regardless, very cool sounding.

  17. Jay Says:

    Jesus. Just had a flashback to hearing Touch of Grey on the radio for the first time back in the 80’s after listening to the studio version of BDTNL.

    Scared the shit out of me. Not that the songs sound the same just that the song sounds like it’s going to get air time.

    Backwards heads? Line Heads? Number heads? #heads?

  18. Stupendous Says:

    @ bread
    I love kenny Powers! pure genious
    ever since pineapple express i was hooked on that doode

  19. Kenny Powers Says:

    ^he’s super funny in Tropic Thunder too.

  20. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Jay – I kind of agree with the fear of exposure. I got much the same vibe when Framhouse dropped and songs like Heavy Things, Farmhouse, and Gotta Jibboo were attracting a different kind of audience. That album sold a ton too (can’t clearly remember if it had radio success though). That whole time made me a little nervous that they would get “commercial” success, but as you see, they just went on hiatus instead… I actually hated the tracks mentioned because of their pop appeal, but over time they have grown on me (especially Jibboo – bassline really gets the body moving).

  21. nonoyolker Says:

    the first 20-30 min of Foot Fist Way are comic gold. He got “discovered” because Will Farrel saw that and thought he was hilarious. I was actually watching Sweet and Low Down (Woodie Allen movie from the 90’s, not really that notable a movie, just a netflix blind pick) this week and he had a TINY role as an extra. Funny to see him young and skinny.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    can’t beat tropic thunder

    haven’t laughed that continually in several years

  23. Mugician Says:

    Coltrane and Miles bands also had specific methods, rules and tactics for group improv – with Miles a lot of it came down to visible signals though, a lot of stuff I thought was straight magic turns out to be eye contact and hand signals from Miles, once you see video of it

    Which is totally cool. There are lots of ways to improvise. It still takes a heavy amount of skill to follow hand signals (unless they have predetermined meanings… It’s like an orchestra following a conductor but there’s no sheet music. Just one way to do it.

    I play a lot of music with friends, and 90% of my electric music (with and without bands) is all improvisation. A trend has been gaining steam amongst our monthly improv nights at a nearby warehouse: since most of the time, it’s just a shit ton of musicians who all want to be playing, there’s usually a pretty crowded stage at all times (we’re still working on it), and because of that (and the fact that any old musician can join – no matter how crappy he/she is at their instrument), the music is always pretty cramped. And mostly because 3 out of every 5 musicians are a fucking guitarist (not an actual spec, but damn close I imagine), we usually have 3 guitarists on stage. It’s actually pretty stupid, but the way we deal with it is somebody who isn’t playing can pickup this rain stick we have, and if somebody is holding it, you have to follow what they want to do with the music. Usually people just use it to give somebody a solo, since everybody is stepping all over each other’s toes. But it’s pretty cool most of the time.

    There’s a lot of different ways to improv. Like when I’m with my band, it’s all about finding space, and choosing whether or not to fill it, and what to fill it with. It’s highly efficient when nobody is rushing to be in the spotlight, which is hardly the case. The less musicians the better, and in terms of improv rock/jazz/funk stuff, 4 is the perfect number in my opinion. I really don’t have much taste for bands with two guitarists, or two of anything for that matter, unless it’s a horn section. I hated the band I was in with two drummers. It’s all about patience, and when you have patience, there’s a LOT of room in the musical space to do anything you want. It’s really beautiful.

    It’s a little odd writing something so long when it gets interrupted by a 10 minute phone call. I feel like this is pretty disjointed but I’m posting it anyway.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    @mug very interesting. you should look into the John Zorn – Steven Bernstein – etc Knitting Factory NYC scene if you’re not already into it. A lot of the music is too noisy for my personal taste but those guys know everything there is to know about the methodology of group improv. Zorns group Masada is one of my alltime favorites…Sex Mob is also awesome but they don’t do open improv, but they do run off of hand signals very heavily

  25. Mugician Says:

    Interesting. I’ve never heard of any of those groups… Where can I find some recordings?

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