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”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    Fox Theater in ATL…didn’t realize Phish had played there. What a venue! At 16 years old I saw the Dead there as the start of my first mini tour: Fox -> Columbia SC Halloween -> Richmond. It was the beginning of the end for me, I had seen a couple shows before, but those were the ones that did it. I was into the tour thing, so I thought, mostly to get away from home and sample the wares of Shakedown….little did I know…

    yeah, what a place! so beautiful! I remember the balcony moving vertically quite a bit more than seemed structurally sound, or explicable strictly as hallucination…

  2. Lycanthropist Says:

    can concur that Knoxville had great sound. was there and it was a wonderful show.

  3. Leo Weaver Says:

    couldn’t hear shit after A’ville…there was just a dull roar of phans in the streets afterwards…

    and yeah, the K’ville sound was big and full…reminded me of MSG sound, I guess for good reason.

    @cottle, yeah Atl Fox is a SWEET SWEET place…haven’t been to many “old theaters” like that, but can’t imagine them being much more impressive than Atl Fox…though from what I recall, the sound isn’t great due to it’s non-theater design (used to be a masonic lodge I think)…but it’s not big, so it shouldn’t sound bad

  4. Marshall Says:

    Re: The Fox – the place is amazing. The “sky” ceiling; the ornate 1920s salons and bathrooms. I saw my 3rd and 4th Phish shows there and it all changed for me after that. Nothing has ever been the same. Opening with Reprise still knocks me backwards every time.

  5. whole tour! Says:


    i hear ya (no pun intended)
    i think they blasted it to 11 to compensate for the not so hot acoustics in the ACC.
    the crowd was also pretty loud.

    i thought the next night in knoxville was much better mix and acoustically better arena. pristine with no ring (my precious!

  6. whole tour! Says:

    i know a chick in atlanta that had the ceilings in her house painted by the same artist that painted the fox star cielings.

  7. Chuck D Says:

    What do you think the probability of an orchestra sitting in durring Indio is? Trey playing with the philharmonic surely increases the odds… they already know a bunch of songs.

    There are 8 sets of music. 2 each night, 1 halloween cover set, and 1 orchestra set maybe?

  8. Marshall Says:

    @ Chuck D – I’m sure they could pull it off, but it I were there, it would be a downer for me – mainly because there would be so little improv.

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    interesting @Marshall, similar story, “getting it” at the fox @ 3rd and 4th shows, 10 years apart and 2 different bands. what a trip.

    @lycan – thanks a lot for the CF downloads. I have been really enjoying them…if anyone hasn’t taken the time to check out both of lycan’s bands I urge you to. Chance Fisher is rock & roll, doesn’t sound like a “jam band” in that stereotypical way at all, but a lot of the tunes open up real nicely in the middle or end. Plus, the songs are good, which of course makes a huge difference.

    And his This Side Up improv trio stuff is really pretty amazingly good. It’s really hard to pull off open improvisation while keeping a groove and they’re super tight at it – you know, it’s “interesting” in that jazzy way, but hot and fun and funky. Very impressive small-group ensemble jamming!

    @lycan, glad you went back to Spiritualized. Have you heard Spacemen 3? The band that spawned Spiritualized? The other main guy, Pete Kember aka “Sonic Boom” is another real mad genius. I’ll post some YT in a sec.

  10. Jay Says:

    Loving the Asheville Love 🙂

  11. Lycanthropist Says:

    @ Mr. C –

    thanks very much for the write up.

    no, I haven’t heard Spaceman 3, and to be honest don’t know much past L&G. would love the hook up on some more info.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    you might want to turn your headphones down before clicking

    sometimes Sonic goes apeshit with theremins and moogs and feedback and god knows what all – Kevin from MBV works with him sometimes on this stuff, or did in the past

    sometimes it’s more minimalist
    …such as when he plays Kraftwerk

    what a weirdo

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    my Youtube post on Sonic, the other guy from Spacemen 3, is Awaiting Moderation. It’s weird shit.

    Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies is the main thing to get. All analog. Small band. Best drone/trance rock album of all IMO. Royal Albert Hall is pretty great too, a lot of it is L&G tracks done live if I remember right. The newest Spiritualized album is the best in several years, but still not quite at the level of the above.

    Spacemen 3 – hard to describe, kind of 80s psychedelic punk rock or something. Just search for them on youtube. I love that stuff, but it’s not for everyone.

  14. Marshall Says:

    I’m so closed minded to new music these days – its a negative result of being addicted to Phish.

  15. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah Sonic is some PRETTY spaced out stuff.

    I could see my ears imploding if I wasnt careful. haha

    gonna check out those spiritualized albums and spacemen3 (whats not to love about psychedelic punk rock 80s style?)

  16. Leo Weaver Says:

    me too Marshall…I did lots of musical exploration during the 04-09 void. Gravitated pretty heavily towards reggae, dub, and world stuff. It’s been GREAT getting so much recommended thru this board. Gotta figure out where to store it all then find time to listen!

  17. Marshall Says:

    When I was in college I could get turned on to all sorts of bands and enjoy just about anything live. Probably because I had the time. Now, with time as precious as it is, I’ve become very stingy and do not give very many new bands much of a chance. If I’m going to see live music 10 to 20 nights a year (and at age 37 that’s about the extent of it), if Phish is touring, they’re going to get the lions’share of that allotment. One Phish show is worth 5-10 shows of anything else, IMO. Phish is like a jealous wife in that sense.

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    I never listen to Sonic’s recordings but would travel far and pay much to see him live.

    He creates 3D “audio sculptures” that, I am reliably informed, are incomprehensibly cool to experience in person.

    @Marshall – an understandable effect! I have always been musically OCD *and* ADD – I tend to listen to nothing but one kind of music for weeks or months, then burn out and switch to something else.

  19. Lycanthropist Says:

    @ Mr. C –

    Uploading a couple TSU shows and few more CF shows for ya…

  20. Leo Weaver Says:

    Marshall, that’s great shit…my my how familiar that sounds, though you’ve got a couple of years me 😉

  21. MOonSHaKe Says:

    Mr. Completely: I thought I was getting too old for this, you must be older than me. Grateful Dead@Fox Theater? Was that in the early/mid 80’s? My first Grateful Dead show was in 93 and I was 15, and that was when they rocked the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, NC. First Phish show was also that year, during the summer.

  22. albert walker Says:

    All this spiritualized talk keeps me wanting to make a recomendation again I’ve mentioned before

    Roytal Trux
    start with Thank You- produced by David Briggs (Neil Young fame) and a little easier to take in
    If you like it check out Cats n Dogs- a little more out there

    Guitarist Neil Haggerty does not write in keys or scales. THis is pretty much Ornette Coleman writing Rock. Free Rock I guess you could see.
    I’ve heard them called the Grateful Dead of scum rock, which is pretty funny.

    Neil is famous for being in Pussy Galore with John Spencer before they broke up and started bands with their girlfriends.
    This would become Boss Hog and Royal Trux.

    I love this band. Hard to describe. Record geeks love this shit as a modern day Sticky Fingers- Exile era Stone style band, only way more abstract and out there.

    Great shit. I’d love to hear what people think. One of my favs

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Moon, I just turned 40 this year. My first Dead shows were @Hampton in spring of ’85, I was 15. Fox was that fall, 10/28 and 10/29, I was 16 and cutting high school. Both are good but not great in retrospect, with high moments of course. Columbia for Halloween was an insane experience, the town was NOT ready for the GD on Halloween, and neither was I, really. The show wasn’t great except for a huge Shakedown and fun Werewolves of London. Nov 1st @ Richmond is a justly famous show, one of my top 10 that I saw live, and a Dick’s Pick…

    I grew up near Chapel Hill, in ’93 I wasn’t living around there but it was fun to come back to town for the Dead. The only Dead shows I saw that year.

    FWIW re: getting older, I had my best show experience of all time at the Gorge, so don’t worry about that too much. It’s different, but it’s not worse.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    @albert, I will check them out as soon as possible. I’ve had them recommended before but not by anyone who could express why.

  25. Leo Weaver Says:

    Can’t imagine GD in Columbia…wow, what culture shock…both ways. Can only imagine the “insance experience”…

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