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. Marshall Says:

    Trey sure does get his “backward step-head down bob-knee bend-forward step-grin-repeat again” on during Zero. Pure Joy!

  2. Wax Banks Says:

    The 10/30/09 Hood is basically Jones Beach v2. I didn’t know anything about this ‘Burble’ thing until today but I haven’t heard such patient full-band chordal movement in this song in ages. At the start of the jam they head over toward the ambient space from the Jones Beach version, but Mike hangs out on A for a while and the whole band just stays with him, sustaining and suspending, then everyone down to G, slowly gently as one to F#m, then back and forth between F#m and G and off to A for one last gathering of strength…and then the return to the usual Hood chords around 8:25. Gorgeous!

    Between the Hood and the Wolf > Piper this is a strong second set – yet I’m given to understand they actually played other songs in the set too. Unnecessary but much appreciated! 🙂

  3. Wax Banks Says:

    (I don’t mind that recent Hoods have been less cathartic/overpowering than the pre-hiatus norm. The jams themselves have gotten more interesting, on average, since the band first went away, which buys back goodwill spent by the relatively restrained climaxes.)

  4. Marshall Says:

    Gonna need to listen to Hood again. Must confess that I was captivated by the Burble at the time and the band faded into the background.

  5. albert walker Says:

    Agreed Wax this Hood and several others in 2009 have the Jones Beach vibe

    The reason I think the Jones Beach version is the gold standard of 2009 is when Trey brings in the middle eastern modes towards the end. Like you said this version is more a whole band exploration of how they can play with the chord structure, but I love when Trey pushed you ears away from the major in that Jones Beach version.

  6. albert walker Says:

    his use of tone and feedback actulaly probably makes the Indio version more of an whole band sound
    not really any Trey runs, just contributing to the overall color and texture of the jam

  7. Marshall Says:

    The JB Hood went somewhere I’ve never heard before.

  8. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @Marshall – Trey sure does get his “backward step-head down bob-knee bend-forward step-grin-repeat again” on during Zero. Pure Joy!

    Reminds me of Bobby during the end of Throwing Stones, he would just keep going forward, actually drop to one knee, fist pump, etc. Total Rock Star moment!

  9. albert walker Says:

    Only difference is Trey won’t spit on you!

  10. Marshall Says:

    Trey wants to be a rocks star all the while not realizing he is.

    Hipster-doofus rock star maybe, but definitely a rock star.

  11. voopa Says:

    I don’t mind that recent Hoods have been less cathartic/overpowering than the pre-hiatus norm. The jams themselves have gotten more interesting, on average, since the band first went away, which buys back goodwill spent by the relatively restrained climaxes.

    Well said, my thoughts exactly!

  12. BTB Says:

    Zero is a tune that I take a piss break, but it does sound pretty good as backdrop music in the John. It’s one of those tunes that catches you every once and a while and rocks you.

    Anybody see the Video of Trey rocking out to the F8 FREE??? Woah, he’s feeling the groove. Kinda funny

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    if Trey ever starts wearing those little banana-hammock Daisy Duke short-shorts Weir used to rock all the time, I’m gone for good. just sayin’

  14. flarrdogg Says:

    ^LLFA @ Trey won’t spit on you!
    Bobby- stone washed denim nut-huggers, pink izod, velcro sneaks.
    Trey- not so much

  15. flarrdogg Says:

    same time- mr.c- maybe great minds do think alike?

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    never forget the day the down front rail rats broke out little parasol umbrellas during Estimated, just before the Spittle Jam section

    best audience participation ever

    Strongly prefer Trey’s mode of onstage enthusiasm…a little more modulated

  17. Mdawg Says:

    lol @ “Burble,” our partner in hallucination for the weekend

  18. halcyon Says:

    A little late to the zero conversation, but that is one song that I can not figure out if I like, love, or just want to leave alone. There have been some great versions, and plenty of meh versions I have listened to. I can’t quite put my finger on it as to why it is a divisive song for me. Whatever right?

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    probably just the energy in the room at the moment halcyon. when a critical mass of peeps buy into that song, it becomes a rager, really brings the room into focus

    I-I-I-I [BOOOM]

    or it can just fall flat for no good reason

  20. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    RE: DOTD, arguably from an epic period in the band’s development. I would encourage those of you who enjoy the early years, which I still do, to seek out the pre-Red Rocks Colorado shows. There are uncut gems out there. Señor Miner is kind enough to share when and where he can, you may need to dig elsewhere.

    It is now official: since discovering that a neighbor a block over owns the nearest dive bar to my office where no one asks any questions and they grill up a mean burger for lunch, I have done more Jaeger shots than when I was in college or on Phish tour pulling from the bottle in the lot.

    I may need a new job soon, for my own safety.

  21. voopa Says:

    Are you the dude I sold my extra to for $10 and a double shot of Jaeger from a dirty glass on 12-4-94?

  22. arbitropia Says:

    Piper is one of 2009’s strongest songs? I’m pretty sanguine about the current state of the Phish, but Piper is quite specifically THE song I feel needs the MOST work. It’s lost almost all of its Piper-ness.

    Also, Mr. Miner, you’re mixing your drug metaphors, and dangerously so. 1000 mics of adrenaline combined with Trey’s crack-like guitar? That’s a recipe for an ambulance ride.

  23. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    ^No, but it would have been a deal @ $8 paid in quarters, with spit polished shot glass.

  24. albert wakler Says:

    I love new where the new Pipers are going

    I don’t think the everyone keep playing faster and faster and faster until we trip over each other really fits into the 2009 energy

    They have been stripping it down, opening it up and finding some very slick organ led jazz, funk jams

    for 1st leg Alpine’s version was nice. leg 2 had great versions at RR and the Gorge and I believe Hartford.

    I think by the end Piper’s were getting pretty played out themselves. Not getting real excited by them. I think Trey is trying to find a new direction for it.

  25. albert wakler Says:

    I was never really a Piper guy though kind of after my time
    out of the couple hundred shows I’ve seen I can’t remember one Piper

    I know I saw some great ones but for some reason they never stuck in my memory like my fav Tweezers, or Mikes, or 2001

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