The Set of the Summer

7.31.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

You’ve probably already read my view that nothing from this standout summer quite matched the improvisational majesty of The Gorge’s first night.  But the single set that I find myself listening to the most is July 31st, set two- the gem of Red Rocks, and my personal favorite frame of ’09 Phish.  With an unmatchable energy, the most astounding segue in years, a “Tweezer” that simply owns, and a paradigm-shifting “Fluffhead”- it’s hard to match the non-stop quality of this stanza of music.

lady-of-the-rock-289x400The tone had been set on night one- Phish was far more comfortable than they were June, and ready to explore their songs in earnest.  We got tastes of their revitalized jamming throughout the 30th, particularly in “Stash,” “Ghost > Wolfman’s,” and “Bowie.”  And the message was clear- things were on!  Embodying a far more confident style of play, Phish seemed ready to rule the stage again for the first time this era.  And on night two, they did just that.

Following an energetic first set that brought an extensive exploration of “Bathtub Gin” and a mind-numbing, abstract “Split,” Phish stepped onto the Rocks after a setbreak downpour.  Throughout their career, the band has often been spurned to greatness by inclement weather, and when Phish took up their instruments and played nothing short of the hottest set of summer.

7.31 (G.Lucas)

7.31 (G.Lucas)

Kicking off the frame with a super-charged “Drowned,” the band’s energy was explosive as they slaughtered the song, carrying their steam-engine momentum into some full-powered improv.  The entire band was a collective volcano spewing white-hot musical lava as they careened out of the song’s structure with meteoric jamming.  Trey turned his leads into sheets of sound and effect, cranking the intensity before eventually settling a more percussive pattern.  Without missing a beat, the band shifted into the opening groove to “Crosseyed” in a stunning transition that nobody saw coming.  After so many trainwrecks in June when the band attempted segues, it was amazing to see them pull off one of such mastery in their second show back.  This moment instantly jacked the Red Rocks crowd, who responded with significant fervor.  Things were flying again, and Phish was at the helm directing this heat-seeking excursion.

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

"Crosseyed" 7.31 (G.Lucas)

As the band tenaciously tore into the cover, Kuroda pained the natural backdrop with psychedelic patterns, providing a dose of sensory candy to enhance the ride. Jumping out of the composition into a galloping groove, the band’s virtuoso communication- a central factor in facilitating top-notch jams- was back on display as they began to create.  Not contained for long, this jam evolved into a multi-faceted beast in the vein of  “Crosseyeds” past.  Completely leaving the song in the dust, the band was off, crafting a dark adventure of the sorts we had longed for during June.  Phish was absolutely going off- and it was during this jam I realized everything is moving towards places we’d never dreamed.  A true highlight of the summer, this “Crosseyed” was led out of the darkness by some surreal leads and harmonies from Trey and Page.  Triumphant in every sense of the word, this was one of those times your face hurt from smiling so hard for so long while raging- everything felt right again.  The band collectively peaked the jam, as Trey effortlessly flowed through high-paced, spine-tingling licks in one of the most exploratory 3.0 pieces up to that point.

Creating a soft, layered ambiance to come down from such a high emotional mountain, the music seeped into a mid set “Joy,” a song that continues to pop up amidst the band’s the most exciting sets.  It couldn’t have felt better after the full-throttle roller coaster ride of “Drowned > Crosseyed.”  And once it ended, the opening lick of the Red Rocks “Tweezer” echoed through the night, instantly shooting the adrenaline of everyone into the stratosphere.

"Tweezer" 7.31 (G.Lucas)

"Tweezer" 7.31 (G.Lucas)

My favorite piece of music from the summer, this “Tweezer” is pure Phish crack of the highest grade.  Redefining the song for the modern era, this version set a new-school standard for the psychedelic vehicle. As they bust into jam, we salivated in anticipation of the oncoming dark, musical elevation.  And what resulted was nothing short of masterful.  Coming out of the gates as smooth as ever, the band hit up some rhythmic patterns as Page washed the music with some spacey effects.  Landing in a ferocious bass-led groove, the band was locked into some new-school shit.  Completely overtaking my consciousness in a cascade of nasty grooves, I was this “Tweezer;”  there was zero separation between self and music- this is what I live for.

7.31 (W.Rogell)

7.31 (W.Rogell)

When the band stepped into the next section of improv, Trey rolled out one of the most infectious licks of the entire tour; and the whole band was slamming it down in a dream come true.  That intense inner fire, those rendonkulous dance grooves- it was a feeling I hadn’t felt in so long- like shedding a skin and being indoctrinated into the new universe of Phish. Naturally sliding through the most addictive dance grooves of tour, the band hit a change as Trey nailed a slick rhythm pattern that set up the rest of the jam.  He  would alternate between these rhythm licks and darker leads for the rest of the piece in a dynamic juxtaposition.  As the band wound down, seemingly ending the piece in old-school fashion, they ripped back into the jam, creating a downright raucous.  One of Red Rocks’ defining moments, and one of the summer’s indelible memories, this “Tweezer” ended in a slower repetitive pattern that set up a transition into “Number Line.”

The new song’s first appearance of the tour would be more improvisational than any previous version- the first step in a second-leg evolution that saw it develop into a major jam vehicle by SPAC.  The upbeat jam saw the band weave their quasi-staccato offerings around each others at a spirited pace, taking the jam outside of its norm for the first time.  And then, just as we were catching our breath and when we least expected it- “Fluffhead!”

7.31 (G.Lucas)

7.31 (G.Lucas)

Stamping the already crazy set with their hallowed composition, the band hit the top of “The Arrival” with cathartic enthusiasm, as Trey’s soaring solo led us in what was presumably the final peak of the show.  But when they got to the top of the song, in an unprecedented maneuver, they began improvising out of the peak of “Fluffhead”- an experiential mind-fuck.  And as Phish held the sonic intensity of the jam, they dissolved into “Piper,” leaving “Fluff” unfinished.  Whaaat!?  It was a certain Scooby-Doo double-take moment of disbelief- did that just happen!? It did; and Phish sunk their teeth into a thunderous “Piper” jam that carried no feeling of the show winding down.

7.31 (W.Rogell)

7.31 (W.Rogell)

The band stepped into some blistering textures, as all members came together in a fiery musical tornado, carrying the same sense of connection that had defined the set itself.  One could see the moment in the madness when Trey figured out how this adventure would come close, as he stepped to Mike and Page, sharing his ideas.  Before long, Phish had the fiery passage to a point of relative calm as each member dropped out for piano solo.  Page artistically used his solo to begin The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” and Phish had finally reached the landing point of their non-stop odyssey.  With the powerful cover that was debuted at Red Rocks in 1995, the band came full-circle, closing the incredible set in an homage to the original Fab Four.

This entire episode was like being reborn into the revitalized fire of Phish’s new world, and leaving Red Rocks on the last night of July, spirits were higher than ever.  Taking a step far beyond their their first night’s performance, this transcendent set of music sent us the message loud and clear that June was over and things would be different now.  And so it began- our initiation had ended- and chapter three was now fully underway.  Sparking the rest of the summer, the significance of this night should not be lost, deserving a pedestal among the sixty frames of 2009.  Continuing the musical snowball that started the night before, this night would give the band some forceful moemtum that would carry them  through the rest of the summer.

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

“Tweezer > Number Line” 7.31.09 II




Red Rocks Poster Series

Red Rocks Poster Series

7.31.09 Red Rocks < Torrent

7.31.09 Red Rocks < Megaupload

After perusing a handful of great AUD sources for this night, this one gets my vote.  No matrix has surfaced yet to my knowledge.

I: Runaway Jim, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Time Turns Elastic, Lawn Boy, Water In The Sky, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Split Open and Melt

II: Drowned > Crosseyed and Painless, Joy, Tweezer > Backwards Down The Number Line, Fluffhead > Piper > A Day in the Life

E: Suzy Greenberg,* Tweezer Reprise

* w/ “Drowned” and “Crosseyed” teases

Source: B&K 4022 (ortf) > Sonosax > 744T (Taper: Craig Davis)


7.31 (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 Red Rocks (Photo: Graham Lucas)

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424 Responses to “The Set of the Summer”

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  1. BrandonKayda Says:

    Great post Miner, it looks like I may need to re-visit that set. I haven’t heard it since the morning it came out.

    I need to give Shoreline a re-listen too, that show seems to be the hidden gem of the second leg.

  2. Leo Weaver Says:

    Listened to 7/31 II yesterday afternoon…it’s every bit as good as Miner advertises and definitely top set of tour from what I’ve heard (and I’ve been a huge Gorge homer of late).

  3. afroskully Says:

    Great review… the fluff>piper is just pure magic.

    I love this quote… “The entire band was a collective volcano spewing white-hot musical lava”. ever see the south park episode with Chef singing Hot Lava!? hahahahaha………

  4. PRosin Says:

    Good set but the Tweezer doesn’t compare to Camden’s

  5. Lycanthropist Says:

    Great post as usual Miner.

    This is also my favorite single set of the second leg. I remember listening to this the day it came out and feeling my jaw drop lower and lower with each song.

    That Drowned -> Crosseyed was truly the first time we could use the “->”.
    The jamming was sublime. We all know that the Tweezer stands out as a star performance of the summer. The Fluffhead > Piper is just pure fun. And we got our first taste of the majesty that would become #Line.

    This was the first true 3.0 set IMO.

    Just wonderful stuff.

    Just to say, don’t sleep on 8.1 a show that often gets overlooked in the midst of RR2 and both Gorge shows. The Rock and Roll > Disease is amazing.

  6. Matso Says:

    What makes this set so fantastic isn’t just the playing in the individual songs (which is fantastic), but the flow of the set as a whole. There are essentially three movements:

    1) Drowned -> C&P > Joy

    2) Tweezer > #L

    3) Fluffhead > Piper -> ADITL

    Within each segment, the band keeps the energy up and the audience engaged as well as in any other segment of Phish from this summer (eg. Knox SIHTOS->Waves->Bowie, Darien Drowned->Caspian>Rift), but the difference here is that the momentum is maintained as they move from segment to segment (unlike the slight slow-down or disappointment that most ordinary sets feature in one way or another).

    In comparison, Hartford II, as energetic and out of control as it was, sounds a bit stop/start (Wilson>Slave, Piper>Water) and Gorge 1 is just not quite as elegant (the Taste then Fluffhead and Joy then Bathtub are just slightly more hesitant).

    In RR2 II, after the deep breather in Joy, the boys kick is forward again with the dangerous thrill of those opening Tweezer notes; then from the shred fest at the end of #L into the gentle embrace of Fluffhead (before the catapult into its bopping sing-along); later they pour gas onto the inferno at the end of Fluffhead with a scorching Piper only to find respite in the soothing melody of ADITL (of course knowing that stage will finally burn down once and for all in a final incoherent sonic ascent). It feels like you’re pretty much always exactly where you want to be in a show with this one (or at least to my ears).

  7. Lycanthropist Says:

    very nicely put matso

  8. Kenny Powers Says:

    @PRosin, kind of comparing apples to oranges. they’re two totally different musical beasts. but i hear what you’re saying: the Camden Tweez did more for you, i can dig it.

  9. Kenny Powers Says:

    and don’t forget the brief Dave’s Energy Guide tease the bridges Fluffhead and Piper! I know we had that chat about teases last week but I firmly think this was a DEG tease…which keeps in spirit the next night when Trey keeps quoting songs from earlier in the set during, I think, Hood? They were just super playful and old school those couple shows.

  10. Robear Says:

    Prosin, surely you jest ; ).

  11. Lycanthropist Says:

    good morning Robear

  12. Neemor Says:

    “I was this “Tweezer;” there was zero separation between self and music- this is what I live for.”

    I felt this on two occasions this summer.

    1) Deer Creek: ASIHTOS>Drowned

    2) Hartford: Ghost>Psycho Killer>Catapult>Icculus

    The first was nature induced, brought on by an intense storm the likes I’d never seen coming over top of the venue. Not only melded myself to the music, but the electricity in the sky rolled in as well.

    The second found me switching off between screaming so loudly that nothing came out, to biting through my shirt, to tearing up, to smiling so hard my cheek bones swelled for two days.

    This summer had its moments and I count myself lucky to have been immersed in a few of them.

    I’ll give props to this second set, one for the ages. The Tweezer was where they truly stretched their wings for the second leg and got the ball rolling. Good call Miner, nice write up.

  13. AbePhroman Says:

    Yeah this Tweezer was pretty good.

    My favorite jams of the summer though still the Camden Sand and SPAC Number Line.

  14. Robear Says:

    Thanks Mr. Miner, I’ve been waiting to find a good audience copy of this show to download, and once again, you’ve provided! The quality of the recording brings the energy right through that poured off the stage. Kuroda really picked up on the diverging, intersecting, themes of the ‘Tweezer. One of those times when it was hard to tell who was leading the changes……Chris, or one the fab four….

  15. Robear Says:

    ….Chris or one OF the fab four.

    Excuse the typo, no coffee yet, son’s up early!

  16. Neemor Says:

    I do not remember at any of my shows the light looking like what CK5 provided during the C&P.
    Was that a RR specific rig or something, or was he holding those lights for the Rocks specifically? Or did I just miss them?

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I remember standing through the rain of the extended set break just knowing they were going to rip up the place when they finally came back out. This is the full set that captures it all for me from Late Summer. There are other very notable highlights from several shows, but as a unit, this works very well. The Tweezer has such an infectious element to it and the shear energy of the Drowned>C&P is undeniable. Love the DEG mini-jam out of Fluffhead too…

  18. Robear Says:

    Number Line sounds very triumphant to me. Like a brass band, marching through a grassy field, playing their favorite songs. Besides the re-invigorated band chemistry we’ve seen this summer, how about the era of song writing we’ve entered? Exciting times!

  19. Danny B Says:

    Unfortunately I missed out on all the west coast shows this summer, but I have had time to listen to every show, and I have to agree that this set had some of the greatest jams of the summer. My personal favorite being “Tweezer”.

    I also love the first night Gorge, the jams just have room to breathe a little bit more.

    But all that being said……We need to analyze Hartford. There is a lot more going on than just jams, and bustouts. The reason hartford was special was because Phish started injecting Pop culture into the framework of the show. The rant in Icculus is relevent, “Psycho Killer” was a response to the crowd singing it before the band took the stage, and the loop that Trey set before catapult and continued to revist throughout the set is something that hasn’t been done since Phish returned.

    In my opinion Hartford is where Phish became relevent again, to non-Phish heads/ Regular Phish heads/ Everybody, Hartford is the only show where Jamming/Humor/Narrative/Spectacle collided. (except maybe SPAC w/ Harpua and the Katie Perry song)

    What makes Phish important is the ability to take old compositions and keep them fresh and relevent. And while second leg of tour is chock full of great shows and jams that have been pushing old compositions into new territories, Hartford was a statement by the band to the fans.

    Hoping for more Hartford analysis in a post miner. but other than that I couldn’t agree more about this tweezer from red rocks, and the first night of the Gorge is absolutely stunning.

  20. fluffdead Says:

    Does anyone notice a common song segueing these sets to make them the best sets of the tour. THAT SONG WOULD BE P I P E R

    JB – 6-5-09 -Down With Disease> Twist1, PIPER> Backwards Down The Number Line, Free, Twenty Years Later2, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Slave to the Traffic Light

    RR – 7-31-09 Drowned> Crosseyed and Painless, Joy, Tweezer, Backwards Down The Number Line, Fluffhead> PIPER> A Day in the Life

    Alpine – 6-21-09 Crosseyed and Painless> Down With Disease> Bug> PIPER, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Slave to the Traffic Light

    Hartford – 8-14 Down With Disease2> Wilson> Slave to the Traffic Light, PIPER> Water in the Sky, Ghost> Psycho Killer3> Catapult> Icculus4> You Enjoy Myself

    Bonus Sets that were also solid

    Gorge- 8-8 Rock and Roll> Makisupa Policeman, Alaska, The Wedge, You Enjoy Myself, Backwards Down The Number Line> PIPER, Grind

    3-7-09 Hampton Set II: Rock and Roll, Limb By Limb, Ghost, PIPER, Birds of a Feather, Wolfman’s Brother, Prince Caspian, Mike’s Song> I am Hydrogen> Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero

  21. Neemor Says:

    Miner will be going in depth with Hartford, I’m sure.

    I’m being patient.

    His write up the day after (8/15) was spot-on, though.
    I agree Danny and have been saying since that night (along with others) that Hartford encapsulated all that is Phish.

    I consider it the perfect show and I think the fact that it happened in 2009 makes this whole thing that much more exciting for the future relevance of the band.

    Here’s to Winter ’09 Tour.

  22. Alex Says:

    That second set made the hour+ in the rain worth it. Best set of summer by far.

  23. sumodie Says:

    The RR2 set 2 was one of those experiences where you knew the entire audience was having its face melted as one. The electricity connecting the band, the music, the setting (!), and the audience was very palpable. The transitions were so freakin amazing yet somehow they also felt so normal, so right, as they occurred.

    I agree with Miner’s take on the set II songs, but I have to add that ‘Joy’ simply blew me away that night -the song no longer felt like a tenuous newbie. I was completely floored by the majesty and power of the song that night, and its placement was perfect.

    Matso, your idea of the set having 3 movements is excellent.

    Here’s hoping the stars align and we get multiple sets of this caliber during fall/winter.

  24. MOONSHAKE Says:

    I’m also waiting for in-depth analysis of Hartford and I agree totally w/ Danny B and Neemor especially the statements ‘Hartford is the only show where Jamming/Humor/Narrative/Spectacle collided’ and ‘Hartford encapsulated all that is Phish’

  25. Chuck D Says:

    RR Tweezer is so tasty. During the jam Trey finds a great rift that he just keeps floating around and Mike is dropping bombs behind him. Fish is locked in too… Great piece of improv.

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