Reconstructing Chicago

Toyota Park (D.Vann)

Toyota Park 8.11.09 (D.Vann)

Chicago was an interesting night, and I feel some of my initial comments were taken out of context- so let’s revisit Phish’s stop in the Windy City.  Aside from the “Curtain With,” the first set was straight up uneventful- that much is hard to dispute, but the second set presented a whole different conundrum.  The concept of flow is so important to a successful set of music.  You don’t want to feel like you’ve just been thrown through the musical washing machine, catching chunks music randomly and out of context as they hit you.  But that’s kind of what Chicago’s second set felt like.

8.11 (C.Smith)

8.11 (C.Smith)

The intriguing factor of this second set, is that most all of the music is great!  What made the show unsuccessful overall was not the lack of virtuoso jamming, but the choppy presentation of the music that could have been artistically outdone by my middle school lunch ladies and their Sloppy Joes.  There were several standout jams in the set, but when one randomly ended to start the next, that elusive flow went right down the drain.  The “Number Line” was one of the two strongest of the summer; the “Hood” was more unique than most, and Chicago’s second set featured the only “2001” of the tour that didn’t involve a guest.  All the elements were there for a great show, but they just didn’t gel.

8.11 (D.Vann)

8.11 (D.Vann)

After the show, I noted this, and thought of a way the set could have been arranged more cohesively, and just for the fun of it, I recreated the set- as best as possible- in the order I think it was “meant” to be. (This exercise is much better accomplished with an iPod playlist.) And if it went down like this, I guarantee people would be talking about the Chicago show a whole lot more.  This is not to presume that I know how Phish sets should go more than the band does- but just this once, indulge me.  Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but remember, this is all for fun.

Toyota Park (C.Smith)

Toyota Park (C.Smith)

As the “Number Line” got ambient- it seemed the “2001” that had loomed large over The Gorge all weekend was about to drop, merging the futuristic theme the a song that very much represented the band’s future course.  But despite all the times the band sidestepped artistic segues into “2001” over the previous shows, the space-funk be Heismaned again, only to stumble awkwardly out of “Wilson” later in the set.  Instead the band jarringly dropped into “Carini”- a move that squeaked by on shock value- and the fact that Phish cranked the intensity level way past eleven on on this one, so we’ll leave the initial segment alone. (But that “Number Line > 2001” was begging to come out!)

8.11 (C.Smith)

8.11 (C.Smith)

As the band began to build out of  “Carini’s” grungy residue, Trey started chomping away at “Jibboo,” successfully blowing the second segue in a row.  But this time, let’s reconsider.  Since the band missed their first chance to merge with “2001,” let’s use “Carini’s” outro as the intro to the dance epic- it works perfectly.   “Carini > 2001”- now that’s some gritty, urban Phish!  Carrying out the peak of “2001,” Trey would then drop the opening rhythm chords to “Jibboo” continuing the dance-floor portion of the show.  Finishing a full-throttle groove session in “2001 > Jibboo,” concluding a boisterous opening of the set, everyone would need to catch their breath.  Cue “Theme”- a perfect chill-out song after the improvisational fireworks, while still carrying momentum of its own.  As soon as the respite is over, Trey would eagerly hit the opening notes to a late-set “Wilson.” But as the band sustained the final note, instead of crashing into a random “Chalkdust,” they would drop into the drum roll of “Harry Hood,”  forming an old-school one-two punch.  And this “Hood” is no slouch.  With impressionistic painting by Trey and a diversion into minor chords before the peak of the jam, this version was among the best of leg two.  Just when you think the set is over, the ever-present “Coil” would still unfold to gracefully to close the set.

Call me crazy, but that would have flowed much more fluidly than the mix-tape the band dropped in Toyota Park.  And a rocking double encore to close things off- “Chalkdust,” “Loving Cup”- what a beautiful buzz!  Don’t take this too seriously, and if you thought Chicago was the best show of tour, more power to you.  But if you’d like to listen to Chicago’s second set the way it could have gone down, sit back, hit play and relax.



Winged music noteJam of the Day:

Split Open and Melt” 8.10.97 I


This is one of the most unique and ethereal “Splits” ever played- and one that flies completely under the radar.  A true gem from the cornfields of Deer Creek in ’97!



3.1.97 SBD Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < Torrent

3.1.97 SBD Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < Megaupload


Slip, Stitch, and Pass

A pre-FM SBD source of the now-classic show immortalized on Slip, Stitch, and Pass.

I: Cities, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Down With Disease, Weigh, Beauty Of My Dreams, Wolfman’s Brother > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Reba, Hello My Baby, Possum

II: Carini, Dinner and a Movie, Mike’s Song > Lawn Boy > Weekapaug Groove, The Mango Song, Billy Breathes, Theme From The Bottom

E: Taste, Sweet Adeline

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208 Responses to “Reconstructing Chicago”

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  1. bry Says:

    Miner, I am a huge fan of u and ur work, but I believe u are headed down the wrong path with this post. I say this simply because u are trying to say that ur artistic reasoning is up with the ranks of the band u love. This seems like new ground for u, and I hesitate to encourage it further…just my u know what.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    Not to quote myself or anything but:

    “This is not to presume that I know how Phish sets should go more than the band does- but just this once, indulge me. Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but remember, this is all for fun.”

    ^^ Can you still have fun?

  3. ATL 007 Says:

    Relax br…..
    Big big difference between fun and nasty…and this subject is pure respectful fun.

    On another subject I have been addicted to the 12-30-97 AC\DC Bag this week. Always great to get back into that. Talk about type III throwdown. !

    Have a good Thursday all

  4. 20YearsLater Says:

    I’m the guy who objected to Miner’s original Chicago post… and I will here recant those comments. I really enjoyed Miner’s ‘Reconstructing Chicago’ post – and of course ‘bry’ above missed the point of your fantasy setlist – but I got it loud and clear. I’ll admit it – the Chalk Dust Torture DID seem a little random, as did Wilson…

    Ok, so set 1? Fine, I’ll admit that too. I’ve tried really hard to dig “Windy City,” and it just isn’t happening. When they get to the “la la la” part, I cringe a little – perhaps they haven’t finished writing the lyrics? But then why would they play it live? Uggg…

    I think that Time Turns Elastic is incredible and highly enjoyable, and this is surely one place where my opinions differ from Miner’s (unless I’m mistaken). I was three rows back from the front rail during set 1, and watching the band get through this insanely difficult and gorgeous song was nothing short of mesmerizing. It does seem to me that Miner has given TTE chance after chance, which I can respect. Not every Phish song is for everyone.

    Finally, it is hard to say why reading a bad review of a show that I went to affected me the way it did. For some reason, I took it personally – why did I do that? I think somehow Miner’s Chicago review temporarily became part of my memory of the show, which is weird and counter-intuitive. Perhaps it is a testament to Miner’s powerfully persuasive writing – for Phish fans there’s nothing better out there.

    Thanks, Miner.

  5. Jam on Dude Says:

    I still believe first set Ocelot was best of tour and along with the flawless curtain with should give the first set more musical weight. 2 cents.

  6. Ocelot42 Says:

    I agree that the flow was choppy, but I’m also happy to hear that the quality of the individual songs are acknowledged. (Same argument can be made for the Joy album, IMO. May lack cohesion, but taken individually, the tracks are fantastic.)

    Lsat night I was thinking back about Deer Creek and the only complaint I had about its second set. I thought of a YouTube clip that sums it up pretty well. The truck you see speeding along at the beginning is the jam that came out of Drowned. It’s in control and has shows no signs of letting up. Then along comes the “Twist Truck”. That sums up that segue to me.

  7. Bryant Weathers Says:

    I found BDTNL to be the best of the tour, but they ended it way too early and it was essentially chopped by Carini.

    Kill Devil Falls opener for the first set had my hopes up high, followed by the Sample…but your right, it kind of lost its touch from there on….

    Lets face the facts, just like Shoreline, Toyota Park was a “night off” for the band, just a “pit stop” if you will…to bigger and better places.

  8. Kbill23 Says:

    Good Split!

  9. Tmwsiy Says:

    Great thoughts. Phish does throw down stinkers periodically. Nothing wrong with reasoning what may have made it better. Why do somehave to take this so darn seriously? It’s all for fun. Relax.

  10. ub40 Says:

    i was re-listening to chicago yesterday and agree with mr. miner that there were some great highlights but a lack of flow was apparent. i also think the shift from the wonders of RR to the gritty urban chicago scene, probably had a big influence on why mr. miner felt this show was lacking a bit.

  11. fat bastard Says:

    20 years later last paragraph-im with you…it was like the day after you hook with a chick and the nxt morning your buddy tells your friends she was ugly.

  12. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    Interesting take on an interesting show! Thanks for sharing.
    Maybe the boys are experimenting with “mini sets” within the two big sets. LIke in Hartford, the abrupt start of Piper made it seem as if the last couple songs they played were an extension of the first set, sort of a psudo 1st>2nd, then the real 2nd set started with Piper. Just a thought.

  13. chunkys Says:

    I dont really see what the deal is here. The great thing about a phish show especially 3.0 is the setlists you never know what they’re gonna play. And a big part of that is in transitions and lot of times “flow” is only defined by the listener.

  14. cal Says:

    i’m a toyota park defender too, but i love the concept of today’s essay, and i will readily admit that my love of the show was highly influenced by a song selection taylored to my tastes/desires. plus, i love that first-set “gumbo” as well as the excellent “tte” that closed it.

    on a bit of a tangent, has anyone tried rearranging JOY? i have arrived at what i think is a much better running order:

    Backwards Down The Number Line
    Kill Devil Falls
    Time Turns Elastic
    Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan
    Sugar Shack
    I Been Around
    Ten Years Later

    …particularly if you do some judicious cross-fading (tyl>light for sure).

  15. fat bastard Says:

    listened to joy for the first time yesturday although ive already heard all live versions-kdf still rocks, so does light. i love joy but the acoustic dumbed down version on the album cant hold a candle to any live version ive heard.

  16. halcyon Says:

    Fun post. Sometimes shows do not have continuity as much as others. Playing Monday Morning Quarterback sometimes helps to appreciate what just came before you.

  17. beepaphone Says:

    I really enjoyed Chicago, but couldn’t agree more that it didn’t quite gel. Great post.

  18. Mitch Says:

    Been a while since I posted but I’m back! I wanted to let you all know that the cheesy gorge mango postcards finally came in. To anyone who would like to get one in the mail send me your address and I’ll send them out as soon as I can.

    tickets at facemelt dot net

    please include your address, real name and pthoughts name

  19. PBS Says:

    Posted this last night pretty late, and realized that it was likely too late to have gotten read. Was enjoying the “best of” concert experiences thread, and thought I’d finally share. Anyway, one more time around…

    I’ve been lurking on this site since the Hampton shows, in an effort to fulfill the overwhelming jones stirred up by the return of the phinest band in the land, as they approached my home-base venue, the Gorge. I’ve read so many of the “regular’s” posts here, that I feel I know many of you in some odd way. Some of the most intriguing reading I’ve experienced in years. So thanks!

    First off, thank you, Mr. Miner. Your writing and reviews bring a sense of ownership to your readers with each show that passes – accompanied with the no spoilers dls, you provide something that is unrivaled in the music blogspace, to my knowledge at least. Kudos sir.

    In 1995, when I was a mere lad following the Dead around, I landed in Columbus, OH post tour, where I met a ladyfriend who was WAY into this not so well known band (at least in my circle of friends) from Vermont. Little did I know it would shape the way I view music and artistic talent for the rest of my life. On the topic of magical concert experiences, the Deer Creek show we went to was the closest I had ever felt to the experience of a Dead show. That being said, there is a grand difference between seeing a band of incomparable talent and artistry at the end of their run as opposed to catching one at the beginning of their peak. The energy was unbelievable…I was instantly hooked.

    Since then, I’ve been at the right place/time to have seen the boys at some of the finest points in their career. Though I don’t have dozens of shows under my belt, I was fortunate enough to see The Clifford Ball, The Great Went, Hampton ‘98, a couple of Gorge runs (the best of which was this year, imo).

    Anyway, to add to the mix of show experiences, I’ll throw in my top 5 – High Fidelity style.

    1. Grateful Dead – Eugene ‘93 – where it all started for me.
    2. Phish – Deer Creek ‘95
    3. Allmans – Great Woods ‘97
    4 Clapton – PDX ‘02
    5. Stevie Winwood – Gorge ‘08 (opened for Tom Petty, and I could have left after his set. He was on my bucket list for sure, and did not disappoint.

    Have a good one!

  20. albert walker Says:

    Miner is right on about the flow, but I still had a great time during set II. Real fun, good time set that was played actually pretty well compared to some of the other 2nd leg nights.

    I think Trey’s guitar solo on Jiboo is one of the best of 2009 so far.
    Not necessarily the entire band but Trey works that solo beginning to end with some real nice flow and tasty playing. Fishman is playing some nice jazz, funk grooves also.

    I can’t remember if it was Fishman or not but someone seemed to try to be leading them to 2001 during the #line jam

    I actually liked #line > Carini. I think the dramatic shift is what makes it work.
    Carini is a little sloppy but real fun and Trey throws in some old school psychedelic, ambient shredding during the jam.

    I think the flow fell off during the Theme Wilson section.
    Theme was bad though. Real sloppy and jam went nowhere.

    1st set had decent Ocelot but not as nice as the Gorge version.
    Decent Curtain with but just not as strong as the Red Rocks version which was close to perfect.
    Loved Paul and Silas (need to bring back more 1st set bluegrass !!!)
    Just did not have enough jamming to be able to withstand the TTE closer.
    To me one of the more uneventful but not necessarily poorly played 1st sets I’ve seen in 2009.

    Crowd was terrible. Wow!!!
    Had no effect on me enjoying the show but I thought I had taken a time machine to a frat bar during my freshman year of college that held about 20,000 people. No one puffin and bear spilled on you from all directions.

  21. beepaphone Says:

    I’m going to rearrange Rift, Billy Breathes, and Hartford ’09 second set!

    ahhaaaha but seriously…

    Now after listening to Joy for a little over a week, it has been growing on me in a BIG way. It does have some weaknesses, but the very tracks, like Sugar Shack, that annoyed me at first, now seem to sparkle like gems. That little guitar riff with the syncopated break-down has become the soundtrack of my life that repeats in my head.

  22. Chuck D Says:


  23. fat bastard Says:

    anyone get BASSED last night?

  24. Mitch Says:

    I got BASSED in BK and had a down right awesome fun time. Way more fun than I thought I’d have. Pissed at myself for leaving before the encore with a buddy cause I live a long train ride away from WBurg and missing one of my fav radiohead songs. Anyone know where to get a copy of these shows. I didn’t see 1 taper at WBurg.

  25. Mitch Says:

    Coldplay cover last night?? hahaha, oh mike.

    I’d like to hear that she said, she said for sure.

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