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”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    It was great to listen to this festival in real time on Sirius radio. That Punch definitely got things going right in that second set. I hope they’re back in Indio next year, I will make the trek. Thanx for all the music!.

  2. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    nice write up. I know I was transfixed on the Burble for longer than I realized and we ended up following it around the field for a while after the show. Good times.

    Also, that DOTD holds a special place for me. My brother lives in CB and gave me a crisp analog of this one year which I still play from time to time. If you ever get the chance to visit the Eldo I highly recommend it. Leftover Salmon actually played their first show together there way back when. “A sunny place for shady people” indeed.

  3. Adam S Says:

    It’s actually a “burble,” and this one in particular is a “closed burble.”


  4. Marshall Says:

    Morning everyone. I mixed “Split Open & Melt” from night 2 of Red Rocks at The House of Live Phish. I don’t have the official LP release of this song (not available except with entire show purchase), so I haven’t been able to compare my mix with the official mix.


    If anyone’s interested in checking it out, I’d love to hear what you think. I had the following tracks available: Drums, Bass, Keys, Guitar, Page Vox, Trey Vox, Audience, and Delay. I could also pan each track, in addition to shifting the levels.

  5. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    I know its not Phish related, but I would highly, highly recommend everybody download some, or all, of project 1974 from the Grateful Dead over at etree. If you can only get a few, make sure you get #’s 4,5, and 6. 6-30-74 is a freaking revelation and sounds amazing.

  6. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    I still havn’t listened to much of the fest outside of the little I got to hear on XM, and a few songs that were replayed over the last couple weeks. I need to get my ass to some downloadin.

  7. Marshall Says:

    @ GP420 – do I really need 4 versions of the same show?

  8. Danny B Says:

    Annyone know when Miami is going to be officially announced?

    I know that they had the David Bowie/UB40 thing on the 8 Phishbill, but I am wondering when the lottery will be starting

    Already booked plane tickets and hotel. I know that it is definitely happening, but I still can’t help but feel nervous. Miami would not be too much fun wothout these phish shows, although my grandmother lives in a retirement community in Delray Beach where they give out pretty stiff drinks for free, but it’s no phish show!!!

  9. Marshall Says:

    I’m asking genuinely. The etree folders in that project contain multiple sources for each show. Maybe that’s a good thing, but surely the better source has been determined after 35 years…

  10. Marshall Says:

    @ Danny B – some have said that the Phishbill indicated tix on sale by Nov 20.

  11. Phish...Yup Says:

    Glad to see Night 1 getting some love. Very underrated show.

  12. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @Marshall – no you do not. I generally only select one version of each show. I like matrix mixes, so I will generally select one of those if it is available, if not, I like the “bertha” boards which were sent through a custom D>A converter that sounds really warm. If that is not available, I select the miller sbds. Charlie Miller does a fantastic job of converting reels to digital, so his stuff is almost always great, and sure to not disappoint. The only other consideration I have is to check the file sizes, I don’t want to accidentally download a show that is clearly missing a big chunk, unless it explicitly states that only a first set is available, etc.

  13. Danny B Says:

    Marshall- Nov.20th sounds good to me. Thx man.

  14. Diceicle Says:

    Glad to see this review. I listened on sirius and also thought the wolfman’s>piper was one of the best jams of the year!!! I was in a daze laying on my living room floor in the middle of the night. Straight mind melting. Loved IT!!!!!!!! Can’t wait for Fall tour.

  15. Marshall Says:

    OK, thanks a bunch, GP420. that def helps cut down the size.

  16. kenny powers Says:

    re: Dead ’74 project, the Miami 6.22 and 6.23 matrixes also sound spectacular.

  17. halcyon Says:

    GP420… how are these projects tracked? Are they listed as the 74 project?

  18. Robear Says:

    halcy, good morning brutha’! At least you’re not a Lions fan.

  19. Robear Says:

    You cats have me inspired! I love the psyche-jazzy ’74 sound. Add ‘Dead ’74’ project to today’s list of tasks.

  20. halcyon Says:

    morning robear….giants still stunk it up …. hope your weekend was great…

  21. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    you want to talk about teams it hurts to be a fan of? Try being a Notre Dame fan. My life is schadenfreude for others, one week after another.

  22. halcyon Says:

    type 3 .. a friend flew out from colorado for that game to only have Navy win ..

  23. Robear Says:

    0-2 vs. Naval Academy, last two years. Ouch.

    Halcy, the Giants played to lose last night. Inexplicable.

  24. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @halcyon – just search for Project 1974 with the band as Grateful Dead. It will return more hits than just those, but they are listed as Parts 1-10, like I said, highly recommend the summer stuff, May and June particularly, though 8-6 from Roosevelt Stadium is off the hook too.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Robear, actually it’s 1-2 with the two losses at home after 43 years of expected victory… Last year they really tried to lose to Navy, being up big until the 4th quarter when they almost gave the game away with multiple onside kick recoveries and other shenanigans. Holistically, I haven’t felt good about my fanhood of this team since 1993. And that year had it’s own demoralization as well. At least I was spending most of my time going to Phish shows.

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