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. jay Says:

    people asking for extras in the lot of a movie theater was a hetty moment

    Looking for a Miracle …with extra butter!

  2. Marshall Says:

    I still think close circuit would be the way to go – and to particular bars/clubs, instead of movie theaters. There’s at least one joint in every decent sized city that would host.

  3. jay Says:

    closed circuit is definitely the way to go. Going to a theater to see a show is like seeing Phish at the mall 🙂

  4. Chuck D Says:

    The movie theater I went to in Denver was a party for sure. Joints, glowsticks, people next to me trippin mush, great close ups of the band doing their thing. Set break was hillarious, the high school kids that check tickets were completely overwhelmed by 1,000 phans crowding the door to get fresh air.

    I know the f8 simulcast was cool based on what people said about it, but I cant imagine it being as cool as the movie theater gig.

    That being said, it would be even cooler if smaller venues hosted it (ei. The Fox in Boulder). Then there would be a legit bar, management would be much more accoustomed to the type of crowd… but I guess they dont have the required video projection equipment. Hrmmm…

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Boulder Theater might be one place that could pull it off with a little help on the closed circuit feeds since they already do movie showings. I caught more than one of the “From the Vault” video nights there about 5-7 years ago with a ton of people getting down for serious.

  6. voopa Says:

    “I guess they dont have the required video projection equipment. Hrmmm…”

    That won’t be an issue in a year or two…projector technology is being built into cell phones.

  7. Marshall Says:

    “projector technology is being built into cell phones.”

    one more distraction to deal with at shows.

  8. jay Says:

    projector implants next? We can all jump in and out of each others “movie”.

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    speaking of fests….rate the 8 of em please.

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    closed circuit is definitely the way to go. Going to a theater to see a show is like seeing Phish at the mall

    agreed. People made it work, but it wasn’t really kind.

    IMO F8 streaming at home was way cooler even without vid. If there was video, we would have invited people over and made it a party.

  11. albert walker Says:

    I don’t watch the band really ever when I’m there
    and I’m not the most social cat around

    so streamed high quality audio to the crib is about perfect for this kid

  12. jay Says:

    yea, I remember the PPV for the Dead Shoreline show. We had a huge house party with speakers in every room and in the back yard. We had people getting down hard. Soooo much fun.

  13. Marshall Says:

    Reason I vote for the bars/clubs broadcast is because feeding off of other people’s energy (not just virtual energy) adds to the excitement.

  14. RamblinOnMyMind Says:

    @Marshall – I just took a listen to some of your SOAM mix. The bass definitely sounds cooler on your mix than on the SBD. Fish’s drums sound different, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. They don’t sound like they do on most recordings. I kind of feel like that’s what they would sound like if i was literally standing in front of him while he was playing, if that makes any sense. Maybe the snare hits harder on your version, but it also sounds a bit echo-y. Trey’s intro chords sound a little flat on your mix, almost like a different tone than the SBD. The SBD has a sharper Trey and Page, while yours has a sharper Mike. Like I said, I can’t pinpoint what’s different about Fish. Mike fans should definitely check it out. (Are there heads who aren’t Mike fans?)

    Bear in mind, I didn’t listen to the whole thing and didn’t give either of them the scrutiny they deserve, but I thought I’d just pass along my thoughts upon an initial sampling. Didn’t mean to sound critical. I have no idea how I would work out the balances and stuff, but it sounds like you did pretty well. At some point I’ll see if I notice any nuances that emerge in one mix vs. the other when they get to the jam.

    Oh, and great song title!

  15. snigglebeach Says:

    Hey Bingo,

    Kinda reminds me of my last trip to Maine. Such a shame those monsters shrink to about 25% of the size when they get cut. I love weed

  16. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    I remember going to the theater to see the Brooklyn show…first couple songs (Dinner and a Movie, Curtain With, Sample maybe?) everyone was behaving themselves.

    But man oh man, when that Moma started, everyone got out of their seats, groovin in the aisles and tokin’ toward the top. Life was good. 🙂

  17. Marshall Says:

    @ AW – great day for the market. What’s tomorrow bring?

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Ramblin, did you pick up that Hideaway I uploaded?

  19. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @Marshall – tomorrow expect a pull-back for, at the very least, profit taking.

  20. albert walker Says:

    Market loves the 10.2% unemployment number
    I’ve been bearish lately, and it has obviously been the wrong call
    Now that the fed has basically said rates will stay at 0% people are piling into risky assets hiding from the downward moving dollar
    I can’t condone buying at these levels but I don’t want to miss out either. Just cut back my leverage a little and hold on for the ride I guess.
    Great bull markets climb a wall of worry, and this one scares the shit out of me.

  21. Marshall Says:

    @ RamblinOnMyMind – thanks much for the listen and the feedback. If you listen to the rest, I’d love to hear more.

    I’d never used ProTools or a mixing board before, so I didn’t get to crafty with it. I basically heated up Mike and Fish a little (about 3 – 5 decibels), keeping Page and Trey pretty flat. I didn’t manipulate the tone of any track; not even sure if could have, but the professional mix probably contains some (just a guess). I panned Fish a little to the right since that’s his location on stage. I panned Mike a little left to balance out the low end. I panned Page a little left since that’s his location, and Trey a little right (for balance). I panned Page vox a little left and Trey vox a little right. All the pans were intended to give the stereo “image” some width. I kept the Audience track pretty high as I prefer AUD sources over SBDs and like the feeling that you are in the audience. As the song progressed I played around with individual track levels, trying to keep it from being too glaring (a couple of times I failed at this). Once the jam got going, I introduced the Delay track. I wasn’t exactly sure what this track (or “effect”) was doing but thought if it would work anywhere it would work in the jam. That’s all I can remember.

    Thanks again for listening.

  22. albert walker Says:

    If for some reason we fail at 1100 again and get some good volume on the pullback market is still a little vulnerable to a good technical move down

    If we break through 1100 it is quiet time inbetween earnigns seasons and we will probably make a run for 1200

  23. Marshall Says:

    @ AW – I compliment you on your ability to multitask (follow dynamic market while open and still follow the PT board).

  24. RamblinOnMyMind Says:

    @Mr C – Weird that you just asked that! I’m listening to it for the first time right now and was going to say something about it when it was over. (Had to do a little searching in the comments to get a link that worked for me).

    Now it’s coming to a close. Probably not going to make a Jerry vocal highlight compilation, but good god what did he do to his guitar?! It’s a pretty bright, happy vibe and then all of a sudden it’s like a demon entered the guitar and started jamming over that same upbeat organ and drum rhythm. Admittedly I don’t have too many JGB shows so haven’t listened extensively, but that’s a new sound to me. Very cool. I also just like to listen to hear Jerry play blues with his band because you can really hear echoes of his “primal dead” era playing, but in a completely different context. Thanks so much for pointing this out to me! That Bo Diddley solo will need to be listened to quite a few more times.

  25. sumodie Says:

    the original ugly american comment was well taken but probably needed a little xtra clarity. all it takes is a few bad apples for a particular group of people to develop a bad reputation, americans overseas, phish fans, etc. seems to be human nature to talk about the negative few than the positive many.

    i seem to be an odd fan as the only song ive ever hated on was jennifer dances. yes, ive gotten tired of overplayed lesser songs in the past, and song placement is especially crucial for many of the songs some folks intensely dislike, eg. caspian.

    surprisingly, though i wouldnt have chosen to hear as many zeros as i did this year, every one has really raged, esp. at F8. however, caspian’s placement has been a disappointment a few times this year, esp. at hartford if i recall correctly.

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