A Stairway To The Stars

10.30.09 (Photo: Graham Kucas)

10.30.09 (Photo: Graham Lucas)

With all due focus on Phish’s mastery of The Exile Set and the bombast of Festival 8’s final frame, the shadows cast have already engulfed the 30th, a show that was anything but forgettable. Setting up Halloween with a flowing second set of tightly woven improv, Phish played a show that spanned the emotional spectrum from uplifting to macabre. Surrounded by colorfully lit palm trees and and giant, flame-throwing tiki-torches, the band opened their musical carnival by stringing together several popular jams while molding an artistic set with a distinctly Phishy flavor.

Indio_Oct 30_09

10.30.09 (G.Lucas)

The band kicked off the second half with 1000 mics of adrenaline to the dome in the form of a festival-sized “Punch,” as Trey’s crack-like guitar scratches burst from lowered speaker towers that practically stared us in the face. With all the room in the world to move, the concert field collectively exploded as Phish tore into the full-on opener. Using the composition to set up a drop into a larger vehicle, the only question was which they would choose. Gordeaux quickly answered this question with his signature bass feedback, signaling entry into “Down With Disease.”

10.30.09 (W.Rogell)

10.30.09 (W.Rogell)

Launching into one of the year’s most consistent jams, Phish brought us on a magic carpet ride as they crushed the melodic, structured jam. Though several minutes into this scintillating “Disease,” Trey changed into a series of quasi-distorted rhythm chops, signaling a break from the song’s form. The already thrilling adventure turned menacing as Trey’s guitar tone transformed into an uncompressed growl, pulling the band into darker territory. Page hopped onto the clav, Fish switched up beats, and the band merged into sparser grooves – seemingly on the verge of  something bigger. Washes of sonic psychedelia coupled with a slowed, then diminished beat, soon created an effect-laden transition into “Prince Caspian.” Throughout this initial portion of the set, Phish displayed cohesive playing with a fierce intention behind their improv. Exuding confidence through their instruments, the band built a gorgeous version of the imaginary tale before forgoing the song’s final power chords for a piano transition into “Wolfman’s.”

10.30.09 (G.Lucas)

10.30.09 (G.Lucas)

The subsequent sequence of “Wolfman’s > Piper” contained the most adventurous jamming of the weekend, as well as Phish’s darkest Halloween experimentation. Spring-boarding off a series of swanky grooves, Phish took us into the netherworld with an ambient exploration of the occult. Syrupy funk dripped from the speakers onto the first festival audience in six years, in a confluence of motion and catharsis. The band locked into slowed down dance rhythms that included equal contributions from all members, quickly building into a show highlight. The mechanical precision of the over-sized grooves brought that physical rush of excitement inside, that ability to conquer the universe as it raced through my mind. The limitless room to move only enhanced the aura of freedom, and as the grooves wound down, Phish dropped into space.

Crafting the weekend’s “Halloween jam,” Phish evoked memories of the insane depths plunged by “Wolfman’s” on Halloween ’98, with a harrowing ’09-style ambient excursion. Building a terrorizing wall of eerie psychedelia Phish summoned the dark spirits with their cryptic musical mysticism. Sculpting one of the most ominous jams of the year, the band sufficiently explored this haunted realm before the passage bled into “Piper.”

10.30.09 (W.Rogell)

10.30.09 (W.Rogell)

Another one of ’09s strongest songs, “Piper,” reached a place of organ-led, sparse, rhythmic playing that maintained the music’s fast-pace while opening up space within for unique offerings. This jam grew into a truly engaging piece of Phish, as the band continued to break down the music into an increasingly divergent place. Morphing into an awesome melodic plane with shimmering rhythms and seemingly-composed melodies, Trey added a vocal layer over top –  much like the Gorge’s “Light” jam – and the band arrived in some truly sublime music. Only after the next night – and upon further listening – did it become evident that Phish had previewed their Halloween costume at the end of “Piper” with an “I Just Wanna See His Face” jam. One of the outstanding highlights of The Exile Set got some practice the night before; much like the band used the “Mike’s” jam in Tallahassee on 10.29.96, to covertly jam on Remain in Light’s “Houses In Motion.” This Stones-laced “Piper,” one of the most beautiful musical moments of the weekend, delicately dissolved into “Joy.” The band used the poignant ballad as a landing point for their extensive improv, as everything flowed perfectly through this sequence.

Phish got right back to business as they dropped into “Bowie.” Just before the band popped out of the intro, Trey dropped one last bit of misdirection, whispering, “We’re gonna give you a little hint about the Halloween album now.” Pranksters until the end, Phish followed the joke with a concise, yet smoking, rendition of their classic. More true to form than in past years, ’09 “Bowies” have remained type-I all the way, and this one followed suit. Nonetheless, the band showcased their spot-on communication as they built perhaps the song’s strongest outing of the year.

"Burble" (G.Lucas)

'Burble' During "Harry Hood" (G.Lucas)

Combining two of their oldest pieces, Phish unveiled their first (non-Coventry) festival “Harry Hood” in ten years. A hallmark of The Clifford Ball, The Great Went, and Lemonwheel, there has always been something incomparable about a wide-open “Hood” in a vast field, under an never-ending sky. As the band brought back a treasured tradition, they also introduced “Burble,” our partner in hallucination for the weekend. As the band sailed into the ethereal jam, a balloon structure, likening a massive pharmaceutical, floated gently over the crowd. Kuroda used the piece as a backdrop for his own work as the entire experience created a tripped-out, blissful conclusion to the set. While playing through this masterfully nuanced “Hood,” the superb quality and creativity of the actual music got overshadowed by the artistic eye-candy. The holistic spectacle, however, made for an uplifting and psychedelic start to the band’s first-ever west coast festival.

Making our way out of the concert field for the first time, we passed by The Coil, through the haunted castle, and around the decorative grounds Phish created for the weekend. Surrounded by giant art installations, exhibits with artists busy at work, and other sundry attractions, the distinctly mellow vibe of Eight contrasted with the monstrosities of yesteryear. As we made the short walk back to our free-for-all campground following an exciting show, we still had six sets left! Was this heaven? No; it was the long-awaited return of the Phish festival!

Set 1 Notes:

10.30.09 (G.Lucas)

10.30.09 (G.Lucas)

Just as everyone predicted, Phish opened their first festival of the modern era with “Party Time.” More polished and confident than Merriweather’s debut, this slapped a smile on everyone’s face just as things revved up. A raging, above-average “Chalk Dust” kicked the energy up a notch, setting up a drop into the liquid funk of “Moma Dance.” A mid-set combo of “Stealing Time” and “Stash” stirred up the witches’ cauldron with their paths of sonic sorcery. “Stealing Time” stretched into its most significant incarnation to date, pushing the song a bit further towards the brink of type-II exploration. “Stash” followed its late-summer pattern of blow-out versions, this time with a shift into a major-key for a section of the jam before landing back into darkness; a highlight version no doubt.

I: Party Time, Chalkdust Torture, Moma Dance, NICU, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Stash, I Didn’t Know, Poor Heart, Cavern, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Ocelot, Time Turns Elastic

II: Punch You In The Eye, Down with Disease > Prince Caspian > Wolfman’s Brother > Piper > Joy, David Bowie, Harry Hood, Golgi Apparatus

E: Character Zero

10.30.09 Indio, CA < Torrent

10.30.09 Indio, CA < Megaupload


Jam of the Day: 10.30 II

“Wolfman’s > Piper > Joy”

The highlight of the first night.




10.30.90 El Dorado Cafe, Crested Butte, CO SBD < Torrent

10.30.90 El Dorado Cafe, Crested Butte, CO SBD < Megaupload

Circa 1990 (Unknown)

Circa 1990 (Unknown)

Here a show from Phish’s first Halloween weekend in Colorado during 1990. This is the night before Halloween, sticking with the theme of the day. This old-school SBD includes the debut of “Llama” and more than a few classics in early form.

I: The Landlady > Bouncing Around the Room, Donna Lee, The Asse Festival > Suzy Greenberg, Uncle Pen, Cavern, The Squirming Coil, Possum

II: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Magilla, Foam, Reba > Llama*, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Fluffhead, Hold Your Head Up > Terrapin > Hold Your Head Up, Buried Alive > David Bowie

III: Paul and Silas, The Lizards, Good Times Bad Times, Contact, AC/DC Bag


Source: SBD


Indio_Oct 30_14

10.30.09 Indio, CA (Photo: Graham Lucas)

10.30.90 Indio, CA (Photo: Graham Lucas)

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296 Responses to “A Stairway To The Stars”

  1. butter Says:

    i took a great friend of mine to her only two GD shows which were Soldier 95 too, changed her life.

  2. Marshall Says:

    past midnight here in the east. i’m out. peace

  3. Selector J Says:

    laterz, too. packin it up at the radio station.

    g’ night all.

  4. stitchstash Says:

    Does anyone know if the live stream was only for F8 or can we expect the same for fall tour?

  5. jdub Says:

    Beware of lurkers Marshall, nice chatting

  6. jdub Says:

    We can only hope phish gets Sirius for fall tour, I haven’t heard anything

  7. butter Says:

    probably not gettin live stream for fall, it would be dank tho

    i loved the last Soldier shows, if you thought is was great, it was

  8. jdub Says:

    Soldiers was great if for no other reason than a chance to see the GD together for the last time

  9. stitchstash Says:

    Actually, my first show was the summer tour closer at Soldier in 94. That sealed the deal. I remember people still singing Not Fade Away as they were spilling into the parking lot. But after 95 I was ready to quit school and go on Dead tour. I guess it was kind of a blessing in disguise.

  10. butter Says:

    yea gotta take it as it comes, everything happens for a reason, goodnight folks

  11. stitchstash Says:

    good night as well!

  12. jdub Says:

    Take care kind folks

  13. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    I don’t know if I am prepared to anoint Phish the greatest band ever. They are definitely one of the best two or three touring right now. Really, the only one that I would fly across the country to see. But ever….that’s a whole other ball of wax. I would definitely put them up there, but there are a few bands that I think, at least at one point were better than Phish. Off hand, Beatles, particularly Rubber Soul through Sgt. Peppers, Stones in studio and live, ’68-’73, Grateful Dead, particularly circa ’73-’74. Hunter blows Marshall out of the water as a lyricist, but again, just me. Miles Davis, at least two and possibly three different bands (classic ’56 quuntet, mid 60’s quintet, and early fusion era).

    All that said, Phish is what I most want to see right now, and at the end of the day, that is sort of what matters. As Townes Van Zant said “where you been is good and gone, all you keep’s the getting there”

  14. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    re: moe covering stash…
    wow. never thought i’d see the day. my favorite part about it is the guitar harmony for the composed part, and the CROWD! holy shit. the crowd is singing every single word so loud… i cant imagine having been there, even though i pretty much vowed never to see moe. again.

    the jam ended up pretty nice even though they stumbled during the composition a little

  15. jdub Says:

    I’m iphoning in bed, probably a bad habit, bit I think you did a nice job describing great bands GP420. I think beatles, dead, stoned, (foe mainstream). Then I realize how much phish has done and is still doing in the context of the world and I have to give them a strong vote for #1.

  16. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @jdub – I agree that right now, they are the band I want to see live. However, they aren’t making the best studio albums right now, and never have, and that is part of being a great band. Further, what they do is certainly unique, and because they are right here, right now, and pushing boundaries, it is difficult to compare them to bands that no longer exist. There are plenty of groups that constantly pushed the envelope (Miles certainly comes to mind first) and even though his later stuff doesn’t stand scrutiny, in his prime, he was the MAN.

    Bottom line, I have a real problem with using superlatives. Drove my ex-wife nuts. I hate the words “best, greatest, worst, etc.) anything with an -st at the end is probably not a word you will hear come out of my mouth. Thus, I must conclude that Phish is not the best ever, because the notion of a best ever is just not something that I can really get my head around.

  17. GuitarPicker420! Says:


    This is just hilarious. “How would you know what [pot] smells like Wolf?”
    -“Lets send it to Lou Dobbs”

  18. GuitarPicker420! Says:


    Try this again, definitely worth a quick laugh.

  19. youenjoy09 Says:

    ^haha stoners

  20. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    congrats miner on 203 fans in the first day of ur fan page

  21. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    I tried turning a few people on, some of the got it, some didnt. Those that did still aren’t die hard fans, but will gladly come to a show if I take them.
    I always thought I was getting in on the lobby floor of something that was going to take off to astronomical levels as time went on. But the Phish community seemed to balance itself out instead. All the better I guess, more for us!
    I recall a show in 99 during setbreak when I overheard this guy ask this girl, “so what do you think so far?” and she replied “omg! Its the new generation!” I smirked at the thought of another one getting sucked in, and at the fact she thought it was “new”. And I now smirk at the fact it never really took over the generation like she thought it was.

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