The Show of the Summer

The Gorge 8.7 (G.Lucas)

The Gorge 8.7 (G.Lucas)

I am never one to rank Phish shows- or even compare them much for that matter- but sometimes one night just shines brighter than the others, leaving you with an unmatched feeling of awe .  While there is clearly subjectivity in preferences of musical style, sometimes virtuoso improvisation cuts through subjectivity, creating a virtual consensus about particular shows.  In discussion with many people who saw all the shows this summer, the central talking point always comes back to first night of The Gorge.  While there are plenty of other shows that standout, there was a certain ethereal quality to the band’s improv throughout this show that was unmatched for the rest of the summer.  Trey wasn’t playing guitar-god, and became but a piece of a complex musical puzzle, fitting within the whole, and rarely on top, of the music.  The entire second leg is littered with highlights, but no show featured the consistently patient and organic jamming that defined August 7th at The Gorge.

8.7 (W.Rogell)

8.7 (W.Rogell)

Three of the top jams of the summer came from this show, and it could be argued that the three top jams stemmed from Phish’s powerful return to The Gorge.   But as mentioned earlier, there is no need to rank music.  The band tapped into an energy on this night- influenced by the mind-expanding natural surroundings, and what resulted was- in my opinion– the finest night of Phish this year.

Right from the start, the band’s music had a palpable energy, crushing an opening “Disease” that set a high-spirited tone for the evening.  Merging the wide-open landscape with the wide-open, bluesy-funk of “Ocelot” the band stretched out a relaxing, yet engaging, version of the constantly-evolving song.  Even from these first two pieces of the show, you could feel Phish’s enthusiasm; their music popped with a certain energy and creativity, even within this more contained opening context.

Gorge_Aug07_4

8.7 (G.Lucas)

But the magnitude of this show lied in the enchanting and exploratory improvisation that gelled perfectly all night long.  Each jam was seen to fruition, with no abrupt endings or transitions, and we often found those frozen moment deep into pieces of  improv.  The creativity of each single jam was paramount on this evening, resulting in some of the most sublime music of the entire summer.

The first hint of what was to transpire came with the first set “Stash.”  Following up Red Rocks’ opening-set highlight with another psychedelic success, this jam hinted at the outward planes we would soon visit.  The “Sneakin’ Sally” that came next is a top contender for the jam of the tour.  Crafting a piece of improv so original and diverse in scope, Phish masterfully moved through several distinct stages of music, creating one of the enduring memories of 2009.  As the song morphed into a mid-song, “YEM”-like vocal jam, Phish was letting their mojo flow in whatever way they felt.  But when the vocal jam ended, and the band slammed back into the song, the transcendence began.

8.7 (W.Rogell)

8.7 (W.Rogell)

Progressing out of the funk and into a more abstract rhythmic canvas, they began building the jam out of the song’s structure and into some increasingly nasty territory.  With each member using their instrument as a rhythmic tool, the band was knee deep in completely original music. The improv grew darker and more ambient, where Trey began painting gorgeous melodies over the drone backdrop.  Combining a dark spacescape with uplifting melodies played in Trey’s spiritual register, this part of the jam is incredibly moving.  Fishman decided to lend a quiet backing beat to the music, and soon the band climbed out of the murky ambiance into a triumphant passage that oozed nobility.  The band was totally together on this insane trip, crafting a jaw-dropping Phish excursion that included all band members equally, crafting an opus that was greater than the sum of its parts.  Concluding the set by stepping into “Cavern,” the band left the crowd in awe at setbreak.

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

A chunky “Moma” sparked the second set, which slid into the third-ever version of “Light.”  A song whose exploratory nature was hinted at during Bonnaroo, fully blossomed on this night.  Locked and loaded, this piece saw the band gradually coax the high-paced improv beyond its confines into a more percussive groove.  What was so cool about this jam was that the band continued pushing themselves, even amidst a great jam, and eventually they hit the jackpot.  Organically building from the rhythmic canvas, the band found themselves in a stunning calypso groove that sounded composed.  As they often do when they hit a sacred musical place, the band added a layer of vocal accompaniment, clinching the magic of this inspiring piece.  Seamlessly segueing into “Taste,” the soaring landing point fit thematically with the standout improv that just ended.

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

The only non-improvisational segment of the second set was a passionate, centerpiece “Fluffhead”- and who can argue with that- and a perfectly placed “Joy.”  Selecting a cohesive and connected setlist, while harnessing the undeniable energy abounding from the geography and isolation, Phish was slowly forming one of the great shows in Gorge history.

Once the opening licks of “Bathtub Gin” hit, the next fifty minutes of the set plus encore would be chock full of top-level jamming, creating tour highlights in “Bathtub Gin”- battling “Sally” for jam of 2009, a magnificently emotive “Harry Hood” that stands out among other leg-two versions, and a “Slave” encore that was like a cherry on top of this Phish sundae.

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

As the the “Gin” jam began, the band playfully quoted “Praise You,” the Fatboy Slim song that found its way into the peak of the Red Rocks’ “Ghost.”  As the band slid through some locked-in, feel-good patterns, Trey was absolutely killing it.  But he soon changed his tune into some dirtier and more aggressive guitar work, urging the band into a creative segment of original groove.  This is when the jam really began going places. Fishman and Mike  formed a driving rhythmic pocket as Trey added fluttery melodic themes above Page’s clav effects.  But as naturally as the band found themselves there, they moved into some slower, behemoth rock textures.  Getting downright nasty, they entered a segment of incredibly spacious grooves that matched the over-sized surroundings.  At this point, Trey played a space-like descending melody over the band’s pattern that would carry the jam all the way to its rest.  Getting more abstract and sparse through its final segment, the band built the jam down just as they had built it up, ending in an ambient, atonal place that suggested an extra-terrestrial encounter.  As the band sustained the wall of sound, Fishman hit the intro drum roll of “Harry Hood.”

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

As the band dropped into “Hood” you had the feeling the version would be colossal given its placement in this insane set and its consistently top-notch performances all summer long.  And as expected, the delicate piece merged with the warm summer night in a glowing ball of bliss.  Taking their time and space to explore the cathartic jam, the interplay of Trey, Mike, and Page during this will give you goosebumps, and it is some of Trey’s most genuinely soulful playing of the tour.  An emotive and extended version of the classic closed a truly epic set of Phish.  And when they came out with a “Slave” encore to close the eve, the musical aftermath seemed fated.  A song that matched the vibe of the set congruently created a final peak of the night; a warm, empathetic piece that provided an introspective mirror of the self.

There were many nights of this past tour that standout in my mind- specifically Red Rocks 7.31 and Hartford as the creme de la creme- but after listening through to each, there is something different taking place during the Gorge’s first escapade.  With magnificent, selfless pieces of flowing improv Phish consistently reached that other-worldy plane we quest for.  The jams of the night often sounded completely effortless, channeling that larger universal energy- bigger than any individual or band- the energy that defines the very fabric of the Phish experience.

***

Winged music noteJams of the Day:

Sneakin’ Sally 8.7.09 I

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Light > Taste 8.7.09 II

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Bathtub Gin > Harry Hood 8.7.09 II

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=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY

8.7.2009 The Gorge < Torrent

8.7.2009 The Gorge < Megaupload

I: Down With Disease, Ocelot, Pebbles And Marbles, Possum, Sleep, Destiny Unbound, Stash, Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley > Cavern

II: The Moma Dance, Light > Taste, Fluffhead, Joy, Bathtub Gin > Harry Hood

E: Slave To The Traffic Light

Source: DPA 4023 (ORTF) > Lunatec ACM V3 + DPA 4028(NOS) > AETA PSP-3 > Sound Devices 744t  (FOB)

***

Gorge_Aug07_10

The Gorge – 8.7.09 (Photo: Graham Lucas)

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482 Responses to “The Show of the Summer”

  1. Mitch Says:

    While the topic of the phantasy tour post is readicculus, I did like some of the comments. “sells milk” “I dunno but he gets royalties everytime the song is played”
    maybe that dude should email you if he’s so interested.

  2. Lycanthropist Says:

    @ phantasy tour Miner discussion –

    hilarious! Hope they dont send all the haters and flamers this way though.
    Guess we will just have to regulate.

  3. Lycanthropist Says:

    @ everyone who has checked out Chance Fisher –

    Thank you guys so much. If you like it, help spread it round. If not, give me feedback. We play tonight, so anyone interested in getting a copy of tonights show, let me know.

    ok back to regularly scheduled programming

  4. JP Says:

    Great capture Miner.

    Excellent comments this morning – as everyone was saying yesterday:

    1) 8.7 vs 8.8 vs 8.14 vs 7.31 = too much subjectivity involved to ever reach an absolute conclusion, too many additional factors outside of the band’s control – sound issues, people issues, venue issues, etc.

    2) Isn’t it great that we are having this debate at all??? And I love how tightly the debate is trying to stay on the actual music played and energy that existed with it.

    3) Definitely some weak technical moments in each of the four shows above (and I assume in Camden and DC too) – but if that’s the beef you come away with after any of these shows, you should stop seeing Phish shows.

  5. Kenny Powers Says:

    Just a word about the Hartford experience – I also saw the shows at the same venue in 2000, and the whole lot scene is kinda bunk…just a concrete jungle of lots in the middle of a not-so-nice city, at a time of year you’d rather been anywhere else.

    But this year everything seemed to come together perfectly for me: my wife and i decided to pay the $20 to park in one of the private lots closer to the exits, and it was behind/next to this Midas, and we got basically a mini-field of lush green grass with all of the main huge nasty lots surrounding us. To top it off there was a random cluster of trees that perfectly blocked out the 90 degree afternoon sun, and some guy apparently scored an early spot in the corner of the field with his moving-van style truck, set up a whole DJ booth in the rear of the van and had two huge PA speakers and spun tunes for us the whole time leading up to the show! It was a little oasis, totally removed from the industrial bunkness surrounding us.

    And how bout that main entrance into the venue…it was like a postapocalyptic tarmac with crushed glass, nitrous balloons and a rusting freight train next to it. But hey, it all fit together and resulted in an unapologetic onsalught of rock on the SE New England crowd.

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    8-7 is such a great show to listen to; wish I had been able to make it there. That Gin and the one from RR re-opened my eyes to the potential of the song.

  7. JP Says:

    Not that I am surprised or anything, but the amount of nitrous as described at the eastern shows is kinda scary. I didn’t camp at the Gorge itself – was there a lot of nitrous there?? I saw zero in the day use lot. Very cool crowd out in George, Washington as I’ve said repeatedly.

    @Kenny Powers – awesome story – isn’t it straange how when you put a little more effort into something ($20 in this case), often you are rewarded so heavily (totally different lot experience – and added positive impact on the totality of 8.14)

  8. notkuroda Says:

    @Mitch, I’m interested in those Gorge Pollocks. I can’t email till I get home but if you can hold off on selling them until then I’d appreciate it. Obviously do what you’ve got to do but my only regret of the weekend was not grabbing one, so if you can give me 9 hours or so that would be really cool.

  9. rizlamon Says:

    this was my 30th show

    i traveled a helluva long way to see them there and they delivered

    i love this band

  10. JP Says:

    I will take the improv magic of 8.7 over the madness magic of 8.14, but of course, wish I had been at 8.14 too (along with practically any show).

    I agree with Miner that 8.7 is ultimately all about what makes this band truly beyond belief. It also expresses the present and future sound to my ear, while 8.14 is rooted in the past. Not a negative thing, another sound preference I think.

    Good call back there – 8.7 = more type II. Maybe Type III would argue more type III? 🙂 We can at least agree = less type I.

  11. Kenny Powers Says:

    I love how the 8.7 Sally jam has four distinct parts that blend so seamlessly together (was that a totally redundant phrase?).

    I. vocal jam out of main song
    II. nasty groove w/ all four members locking in equally, no real “solos”
    III. ambient cool-down/atmospheric passage
    IV. landing softly back on earth with a triumphant yet beautifully understated “YES!!!”

    not like you have to categorize or label it, but that’s how i think of it. They don’t dwell too long on any of the sections and don’t leave them a moment too soon…although I wouldn’t have complained if it lasted another hour!

  12. JP Says:

    Nice 8.14 analysis Colonel. I’m totally stoked for you to be coming home. My brother has done 2 tours and I know the feeling of joy associated with returning home – salute your service.

  13. Neemor Says:

    Miner,
    It’s funny how even the placement of this PT today was perfect.

    After the settling afterglow of Hartford had finally begun to wane for me, I find that Gorge night one is the go-to disc of the tour.
    Simple as that.
    Described perfectly by yourself this morning (as you so often do), it almost felt like a perfectly placed ballad to have my feelings-once again- validated and paralleled in your writing.

    Gorge 8/7/09 not only encompassed some of the great Phish jams, certainly of 2009, arguably of all time, but the overall feel of the show had to make one wonder if this setlist wasn’t not only written down prior to the show, but actually REHEARSED.

    Thanks for the Jams of the Day, you have yet again started my day off well, but also doomed it to be another day of half-assed work where I ‘steal time’ from this ‘faulty plan’.

    It’s a wonder I still have employment after this summer!

  14. Neemor Says:

    Miner is a drug mule.
    HA Ha Ha.
    Phantasy kids are funny as hell sometimes!

  15. JP Says:

    Cool breakdown Kenny Powers.

    I told this story about the Sally before on here, sorry for the repeat:

    Abbreviated version – A girl right behind me from Colorado who scored seats in the VIP section (there were TONS of extras for 8.7, people couldn’t seem to give them away), about 10-15 seconds before they bust into Sally, yells out:

    “Sneakin Sally!!!”

    As it dawns on me that they are in fact playing Sally (and getting pumped for what I thought would be a wild funk exploration), I’m wondering if that “call” really happened, did I in fact hear that?

    Talked to her after Cavern to confirm. Yes, she had called it.

    “Cool…..what’s your name?”

    “Sally”.

    Oh yeah!

  16. Neemor Says:

    Interesting point about the Camden encore….HOWEVER….

    Best encore 09-

    Burgettstown. Hand’s down.
    Classic Phish Antics.

  17. Neemor Says:

    Ken Powers…

    Your post about Hartford was brilliant.

    Thank you.

  18. Phish...Yup Says:

    Love having the Jams of the day back. Even though I have every show, listening to those singled out sick jams always starts the morning off right.

  19. sumodie Says:

    Another excellent analysis today, Miner, thank you. Another great blog opportunity to spread the word to folks who may not realize how much the audience and setting impact any particular evening of phish. And how awesome is it that we have two excellent 2009 shows that illustrate this so perfectly -3.0’s yin and yang!

    ***

    Also, couldn’t help but add to the Miner mythology over on the other PT discussion today:

    “Miner’s students gave him their milk money so he could go on tour and write the blog, which will then incorporated into the upcoming year’s lesson plans for classes in English, music, and communications/IT.”

    Actually, the latter half of my mock posting sounds pretty cool…..wished I could have been part of such a project when I was in high school 🙂

  20. notkuroda Says:

    another thing about 8/7, I mentioned on the board my desire to take that roller coaster ride with a little help from my friends, mission accomplished!!! So again, hard to be biased about that show.
    Those who prefer night two, I totally get it. I actually think it was a much cleaner show, with more subtle musical highlights, check out Yamar from the Leo part on, I also think it was my favorite Tweezer and Wolfman’s from a summer where I heard both songs a bunch. And Rock and Roll….wow. Not as twisted as Sally or Gin, but an improvisational masterpiece all the same. Seemed like they knew exactly where they were going the whole time. Great YEM as well. Excellent show

  21. punkmug Says:

    Yep. This was a classic show. When will a matrix show up for it? That matrix from 8/1 that was posted the day is sublime.

  22. HarryHood Says:

    @ Colonel

    “But hey, at least we aren’t arguing about how much trey sucks anymore:)”

    AMEN!

  23. Wax Banks Says:

    Couldn’t help a quick comment:

    THAT IS NOT ‘PRAISE YOU.’

    It’s a generic I-IV-VIIb-IV jam, familiar from ‘The Mango Song’ and ‘Cavern’ and the final ‘movement’ of the 6/19/04 ‘Limb By Limb.’ You can also hear the same chordal movement in, surprise surprise, the ‘Light’ played a half-hour previous.

    That progression only makes explicit an implied flatted-seventh turnabout that pops up in many of Phish’s canonical i-IV and I-IV funk-rock jams, i.e. YEM and Mike’s and so forth. You can hear the same implication in the 12/1/03 Wolfman’s Bro, at the climax.

    I like a song tease as much as the next guy, but c’mon.

  24. HarryHood Says:

    ^ Stop talking like that I can’t understand you…..

  25. tela'smuff Says:

    I would agree with you hear Miner. Although Hartford would come in as a tie. They were both great shows for some of the same, but also different reasons.

    I also want to note that I am going to claim that the Anything But Me from SPAC is the best version of that song. Period.

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