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. Marshall Says:

    @AW – with that 2001 showing first in the second set, it looks like you’re first was in 1993 as well.

  2. albert walker Says:

    Like every great first show.
    Did not know how hot it was until about a year later.
    Started getting into it a little more then.
    Looking back one of the best I’ve seen.
    93 was the beginning of the craziness for sure.

  3. Marshall Says:

    Jazzfest, 4/26/1996

    [Virtual classic tweet]:

    Ya mar, AC/DC bag > Sparkle

    btw – what were those “explosions” during the Bag jam??? Did Page make those sounds?

  4. Marshall Says:

    I realize that I’m probably the only one listening to this show right now, but I’m going to keep it up anyway.

  5. Lycanthropist Says:

    @ aw –

    diggin Royal Trux


  6. Marshall Says:

    Late arrivers can gain admission – just start track 4 at 7:19 pm eastern.

  7. Marshall Says:

    Jazzfest, 4/26/1996

    [Virtual classic tweet]:

    Ya mar, AC/DC bag > Sparkle, Stash

  8. Marshall Says:

    Raging stash type I jam

  9. EL Duderino Says:

    Are we doing first shows?
    Here is mine. Santana/Phish

    08/01/92 (Sat) Poplar Creek Music Theater – Hoffman Estates, IL
    Set 1: Golgi Apparatus, Foam, Poor Heart, Stash, The Squirming Coil, Horn, Llama

  10. Marshall Says:

    Jazzfest, 4/26/1996

    [Virtual classic tweet]:

    Ya mar, AC/DC bag > Sparkle, Stash, CTB

  11. Summer98 Says:

    First show (little buddy mentioned a few pages back – sick Mike’s Groove): 12/7/95 Niagara Falls

    1: The Old Home Place, The Curtain-> AC/DC Bag, Demand, Rift, Slave to the Traffic Light, Guyute, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum, Hello My Baby*

    2: Split Open and Melt, Strange Design, Fog That Surrounds, Reba, Julius, Sleeping Monkey, Sparkle, Mike’s Song-> Weekapaug Groove*, Amazing Grace

    E: Uncle Pen
    *Unfinished, spiraling into a space jam (with digital delay loop).

    Freshman year of college. I’d heard them a lot but never had the chance to see them live. I left thinking: “My life has changed forever and I love it”. They were instantly my favorite band and I was transformed.

  12. themanatee Says:

    Completely –

    good to see the PDX/tar heel connection..granted I am not from carolina but a huge Tar Heel hoops head.

  13. themanatee Says:

    first show…6/16/97 Royal Albert Hall …pretty bazaar place for a first show. I was living there that summer.

  14. MOonSHaKe Says:

    as I was saying, I was 15 when I saw my first Phish show. I was so hooked (lovin dem big puns) I convinced three friends who knew nothing of Phish to drive me up through a snow storm to Rhode Island CT and I got to see my second show. Here it is:

    12-29-93 New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, CT

    1: Runaway Jim, Peaches en Regalia, Foam, Glide, The Divided Sky, Wilson, Sparkle, Stash, The Squirming Coil

    2: Maze, Bouncing Around the Room, Fluffhead-> Run Like an Antelope, Contact, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars-> Walk Away-> Big Ball Jam-> HYHU-> If I Only Had a Brain-> HYHU, Sweet Adeline, Chalk Dust Torture

    E: Nellie Cane, Cavern

    ***note: this NY run was especially cool b/c for each of the four shows, the stage was set up like a massive aquarium

  15. Marshall Says:

    [Classic virtual tweet]:

    Michael Ray is killing it.

  16. Marshall Says:

    Jazzfest, 4/26/1996

    [Virtual classic tweet]:

    Ya mar, AC/DC bag > Sparkle, Stash, CTB (w/ Michael Ray), YEM

  17. wvbrdr Says:

    @summer98, i was at that show also. that split left me in a pile, and mikes groove was sick. i think it was my 3rd show.

  18. MOonSHaKe Says:

    sorry can’t listen to this w/ you guys… i’m at work and they disabled sound

  19. Marshall Says:

    @ moonshake – I think I might be listening to it by myself. But I’m enjoying it (and probably annoying everyone else).

    Coming out of Nirvana section of YEM, btw

  20. Leo Weaver Says:

    so Marshall, what exactly are you doing, where are you streaming this? I’m not the most technologically advanced person…

    And yes, on the couch with tasty beverage and bowl o greens now…ahhhh, better….

  21. Marshall Says:

    @ LW – I’m not techie enough to even begin to figure out how to make this happen (hoping someone else, or Miner will pick up on the idea). For this inaugural “classic show,” my idea was to just spin a show that most people have on the computers or on CD (or tape) at the same time and then go on with the normal show. Tonight’s show began 42 minutes ago (on my computer at least). Would be great if Miner could stream a show, to enable truly collective listening, but that might violate the band’s copyright’s??

  22. Marshall Says:

    @ LW – if you have the Jazzfest show, join in with track 7 about 7:52 pm eastern (if you care to).

  23. Leo Weaver Says:

    ahhh, gotcha…I was impressed you could put something like that together so fast…amazed really if you could pull it off. But it is a great idea!

  24. Marshall Says:

    Would work best with a chat room where you can see who’s in attendance, talk about the music while it plays etc. Without a stream, its probably difficult for everyone to get in sync, and if people don’t start at the beginning, then they’re probably unlikely to join in.

    Anyway, it is just an idea.

  25. Leo Weaver Says:

    yeah, the chat room format would be great..

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