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. Gin Says:

    I’ll mention, though I agree with most of what you said about Hartford being more stop/start than RR2 Set 2, that the Piper>Water was very organic, as if Water in the Sky just happened without any preconceptions.

  2. afroskully Says:

    here here danny B!

  3. Matso Says:

    @ Gin –

    I agree, the transition works remarkably well, but still, by the middle of the Water in the Sky, as a listener, I am already thinking about what’s next.

  4. Dogone Says:

    Am I the only one who caught the DEG tease in the transition from Fluff>piper? Listen at 14:05 and tell me that’s not DEG.

  5. thescopi Says:

    Dave’s Energy Guide tease at the end of Fluffhead, anyone?? That made it for me, and I was glad to hear on the tapes that I wasn’t fooled that night…

  6. Matso Says:

    There’s also the abrupt way the DWD comes to an end which means the set cannot compete with RR2 II for flow.

  7. Neemor Says:

    Yeah, Gin….

    I let that one pass but it was a different kind of fluidity to me, not really start/stop.
    The DWD>Wilson was a bit abrupt.
    But the underlying ‘Pong’ theme music that connected Psycho Killer’s ending>YEM was pure genius.
    And that’s not the first time a Catapult has changed my life.
    The way Trey comes in vocally on Catapult….the wavering “IIIIIID” is ridiculous, even on disc.
    The whole string from that Ghost on really is a journey in every sense of the word.
    I felt that in a few places (second leg especially) but never so much as second set Hartford.
    That set (IMO) is best of tour simply because I consider that the most Psychedelic set of Phish I’d heard all summer.
    Miner throws around the word ‘psychedelic’ quite a bit and it’s understandable because much of what Phish does is ‘psychedelic’, but nothing melted my face more than second set Hartford.
    Maybe it’s because there were so many highlights interspersed between the entire run that it takes a really ‘exotic’, stand-out set like Hartford set 2 to draw my attention and pick one clear winner.

  8. Gin Says:

    True, I can understand that the Joy at Red Rocks was a necessary breather, whereas the Water in the Sky was sort of a road bump, although for me at Hartford, I almost needed the breather after the stellar jam in Piper. I feel like that one doesn’t get hyped enough/gets skipped over with all of the great music happening in that second set.

  9. Gin Says:

    Also, I totally agree with the DWD abrupt stop. Wilson was the pinnacle of bad choices to interrupt DWD with, and I was very confused when it happened. That did significantly hurt the flow of the set.

  10. pabalive Says:


    Nail being hit on head.

    After seeing Phish for 17 years, this was the show in the 3.0 phase that reminded me why I do what I do to go see this band.

    Great jams, great song selection all night long, a goofy band with a humor, and and inspired band playing some of the best versions of the classics I have ever heard…aka…SLAVE.

  11. Leo Weaver Says:

    Joy has found a nice ‘home’ sandwiched between big nasty jams…perfect as a mid-set breather. I’ve enjoyed it since first hearing it, and almost was in tears hearing it at the Gorge. In it’s current typical placement, I think it’s really special…all the best things about it are emphasized and really stand out. To speak of it in terms of art, it’s a great CONTRAST (especially texturally and rhythmically) to a crazy jam(s) or otherwise rocking song(s) on each side. And more contrast = more clarity or definition for the individual parts of the whole. I think they’ve found a winner with the song and its new placement.

  12. SOAM Says:

    Minors allegiance is all west coast-he has mad love for all things west of the black muddy river…..But-he’ll come around-it’s more about the music than the venue and Hartford was “it”-

    Am I the only person who can do without Tweezer-it may be the first song I would shelf if I had my druthers-I mean I like Tweeprise better then the song itself……..and I appreciate it as a jamming vehicle but -I don’t really like it that much-in fact alot of times I leave during the start and just catch the jam-

  13. pabalive Says:

    There were a couple things missing from Hartford that would have sent this shown into a completely different stratosphere, meaning possible best show ever territory. This is pure bullshit, and I loved every second of this show, however, its fun to play around with what-if’s.

    1) DWD>Reba Jam….but they cut off the Reba jam for Wilson? – I did not get this at the time, it would have been brilliant if they just played a complete Reba Jam.

    2) Ghost>Psycho Killer – this piece is just sick, however, extending the Psycho Killer jam would have made this extra special.

    3) YEM – this was there opportunity to put an exclamation point on this show, to bring a rousing YEM to close out the best show of 2k9, but, the guitar came off and the bass line led us into the vocal jam way too soon. Maybe there was a time constraint thing going on? IDK.

  14. pabalive Says:

    About the song Joy…just have a hard time being told to be happy. Its just way too direct and cheesy for me. I would love this song to find the shelf, but, I don’t think it will happen.

  15. albert walker Says:

    I have heard Hartford for the first time this weekend
    I love the show, but from a jamming perspective, just not quite up to west coast.

    The DWD is all right but not as good as other versions
    the segue into Wilson’s is pretty harsh and yes I don’t quite like Water in the Sky in the 2nd set
    Slave was beautiful
    Love the vibe and energy of the 1st set and Forbin’s Mock is amazing.
    Birds jam is pretty interesting.

    I agree with Miner that although Gorge 1 with the just ripping 1st set could edge out for best show of tour that set II from RR is the pure fire.
    From a jamming perspective top to bottom I don’t think it can be beat. Besides catching you breath during Joy, all in your face jamming.
    Great stuff.

  16. Neemor Says:

    Imagine if they finished the Reba jam and Trey started whistling!
    Joly shitballs. Talk about sackscrapers!

    The Psycho Killer was a spur of the moment thing for Trey. If you listen, you can hear him pick up on the PKiller riff (almost) about three stanzas beforehand. It wasn’t meant to keep going, it was all wrong, but it was also so right in the moment.

    I had no problem with YEM, but I do think there were time constraints.
    I think at that point in the show and the tour, it was time for Trey to take of the guitar and just effin dance. It fit the whole theme of the set.

    I miss Lifeboy.

  17. albert walker Says:

    I have finally studying the Gorge run and wow what a Tweezer
    Did not know what to expect since it was in the 1st set
    but there is some very beautiful inspired jamming there
    If not for the RR version (my fav jam of 2009 also) this Tweezer would be one of my favs also

  18. pabalive Says:


    Yeah, imagine whistling…we would have all lost our shit.

    Its funny because during the show, I don’t recall being all that upset about shortening YEM. I was completely exhausted. The DWD, Piper, Ghost>PK took a lot out of me. Not to mention that I was raging during the first set from the opening notes of PYITE. It didn’t hurt that I was ten rows back in front of Gordo.

    @Albert Walker – DWD jam is real nice and exploratory, but yes it lands abpruptly. I recall thinking WTF? Finish the jam.
    I love the sped up WITS, so, I really liked it as a cool down point in the middle of the second set, much better than being subjected to Joy.
    But the Piper was sick, very reminiscent of Alpine Valley Piper – which I thought was the best of 2k9. Then the Ghost>PK is really well played with some very deep grooves.

  19. MOONSHAKE Says:

    If Hartford wasn’t the bees knees, it wouldn’t be causing all this controversy. =^)

  20. Leo Weaver Says:

    @AW…with you on the not knowing what to expect from a 1st set Tweezer…thought, “hmmm” to myself when they went into it. But with the sun setting behind the ridge beyond setting the sky ablaze with color, it was phenomenal…even with the masterful playing and great jam aside.

  21. albert walker Says:

    I did think the Water was very well played
    and I loved the Piper also
    I think the rock jamming without the build has created some intereseting versions in 2009.
    I did enjoy the Alpine and thought the RR had nice moments also.

    I was just comparing II set Hartford to my 2 fav nights of RR and both nights Gorge and I think it still lacks some of the heat from the west coast.

    Love the show and of all I missed probably the one I wish I was at, but just lacking some of the 2nd set punch IMO of other shows.

  22. SOAM Says:

    Yeah, Joy is somewhat flaming-we want you to be-HAPPY-it’s esentially a chick song.

    Fuckin Hartford was Mary’s Melons for sure-it was like the vibe and music of Worc-98 11 years later-not as sharp but damn good and gaining steam-Hartford>Spac tell me there will be epic runs-not just shows-perhaps as soon as this fall-I’m still a LITTLE FUCKED UP from summer tour.

  23. Neemor Says:


    Makes these discussions/comparisons near impossible, the show did not lack punch.
    In fact it opened with it!

  24. Neemor Says:

    If there’s a must-see venue out West….

    is it Gorge or The Edge?

  25. albert walker Says:

    and a great one at that, Mike just killing it, no flubs
    I love the 1st set except Zero.
    Does not seem to fit the set and has never been one of my favorites
    Punch- AC/DC= Wow! very well played

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