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:

    @Marshall – it’s only rubbing it in if I omit the often-repeated story of how I saw Phish 5-6 times in 90-92, decided they had “obviously plateau’d”, burned out on touring rock bands in general, got really into bluegrass, jazz and experimental music, moved out west and didn’t see Phish again until 1999….?

    That’s right: first show in 90, zero shows from 93 to 98.

    and as an 80s Deadhead it was made clear to me time and again how thoroughly I’d missed the Good Old Days, and there was no rebuttal, it was true. It was still great though, and we got a kind of mini-peak in 89-91 that I was lucky enough to catch a great deal of.

    Older fans always make younger ones feel like they “just missed it.” sometimes it’s true. So what? If it’s still good, it’s good. But a lot of times it’s not true.

  2. Leo Weaver Says:

    wow Sumodie…beginner’s luck or something…had that 93 show on XLII and was always one of my favorites…as close to a “dream setlist” as possible for me pre-95 or so

  3. Marshall Says:

    @ Mr. C – good points. Only way to be there for sure is to be there from the beginning and never miss a beat.

    I missed out on shows from 92 and 93 that I should have caught (Roxy anyone???) but such is life.

  4. sumodie Says:

    RE: Asheville and Knoxville

    I too have a lot of love for Asheville….leg 2 doesn’t change that. LWeaver, I was about 4 people back in front of Trey -guess we passed each other in the crowd.

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

    Knoxville reminded me of MSG too -first time that’s ever happened. The sound was fantastically clear.

  5. Marshall Says:

    15 minutes until show starts …. 4/26/96 Jazzfest. Hit play at 7pm eastern.

  6. BrandonKayda Says:

    I enjoy Sonic Youth, their big feedback explosions are awesome, but can blow out an eardrum

  7. sumodie Says:

    “Its the same with every band I’ve ever gotten into – it felt like the stuff I’d just missed was IT. Just a product of my consciousness I think.”

    In my youth when I was discovering all that amazing ’60s music I used to think this all the time.

    But with Phish, I know I caught the wave at exactly the right time -for once in my life 🙂 And I probably won’t do it again for another band -but once is enough…

  8. Marshall Says:

    @ Sumode – it seems that what you say is in fact true. 92 and 93 were perfect years to get on the train.

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’ve been lucky to catch lots of insanely great shows over the years and have lots of wild times so I like to tell that story any time people might think I could be frontin’ – just keep in mind, no matter how massive your own Phish related blunders, I made a bigger one.

    Unless you too voluntarily skipped 6 full years of peak era Phish when you definitely should have known better….no? didn’t think so.

    I’m jealous of people posting show stories here every day

  10. MOonSHaKe Says:

    Okay… now I know why all the regulars are so nice and clever on this board… they’re all around my age and are *experienced

  11. Marshall Says:

    @ Mr. C. I went on my own hiatus beginning in 99 (until this year’s reunion). I didn’t miss the best years (in most people’s opinions), but I did miss a lot of funk and spacey-jamming.

    Jazzfest – spin it in 7 minutes if you’d like to have some collective fun.

  12. Leo Weaver Says:

    ^ “In my youth when I was discovering all that amazing ’60s music I used to think this all the time.

    But with Phish, I know I caught the wave at exactly the right time -for once in my life And I probably won’t do it again for another band -but once is enough”

    Preeeecisely…and I feel like a lucky sumbitch to have found the wave and grabbed on. Sometimes I feel sorry for all my friends that didn’t grab it with me when they had the chance…then I just call them idiots 🙂

    And if you switch all that god-awful orange (sorry to any UT fans) to purple/green, the size and volume similarities between K’ville and MSG would be unmistakable I think. Same goes for Greensboro Coliseum…

  13. Lycanthropist Says:

    unfortunately i didnt get to see them for the first time until 2000:

    1: First Tube, Wolfman’s Brother*, Beauty of My Dreams, Golgi Apparatus, Limb by Limb, Bug, Poor Heart, Roggae, Chalkdust Torture

    2: Gotta Jibboo, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sand, Harry Hood -> Dog Faced Boy -> Harry Hood**, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome***, Hold Whatcha Got***#, Uncle Pen***, Freebird##

    E: You Enjoy Myself

    just to maintain a LITTLE cred (lol), I was listening to them heavily in 96 and forward, but I had no idea of their live scene until about 99… and they dont come southbound often..

  14. Lycanthropist Says:

    @ Mr. C –

    TSU uploads complete

  15. Chuck D Says:

    Marshall –

    I think the collective listening experience would be awesome while there is no tour. I think a little prep and planning would greatly improve the next go around. I wont make this one, already got plans, but it definately is intriging to me… GL

  16. Marshall Says:

    Jazzfest – 4/26/96 – tonight’s experimental “virtual classic Phish show” begins in 2 minutes. Play it on your own system.

  17. Marshall Says:

    @ Chuck – agree re: planning. I just thought of this an hour ago.

    Show starts in ONE minute.

  18. Leo Weaver Says:

    Marshall, good idea, will catch it on your next go-round…clocking outta here for the day…will catch up with you heads when on my couch with a tasty beverage and bowl ‘o greens! It’s been fun…

  19. Marshall Says:

    Ya Mar

  20. BrandonKayda Says:

    I guess there was no way I could’ve seen them in their peak 🙂

    Luckily I found them months before the reunion was planned…

  21. MOonSHaKe Says:

    RE:unfortunately i didnt get to see them for the first time until 2000

    Lycanthropist: OMG! 😉

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    iTunes random shuffle just hit me with BBFCFM, Joni Mitchell singing Coyote and a Public Enemy song back to back to back – my brain just exploded – shuffle off

  23. Lycanthropist Says:

    I know right!

    Really sucks. And Im 28 years old to boot! oh well. it was a great show
    so the next two nights in Atlanta too.

  24. albert walker Says:

    That would be my first.

    1: Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, The Divided Sky, The Horse-> Silent in the Morning, It’s Ice, Sparkle, Split Open and Melt, Esther-> Poor Heart, Cavern

    2: Also Sprach Zarathustra-> Run Like an Antelope-> Sparks-> Walk Away-> Have Mercy-> Run Like an Antelope, Mound, The Squirming Coil, Daniel, You Enjoy Myself, Purple Rain-> HYHU, Golgi Apparatus

    E: La Grange

  25. Marshall Says:

    AC/DC Bag beginning now.

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