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)

Tags: ,

296 Responses to “A Stairway To The Stars”

  1. voopa Says:


    My first Piper was at a show you were talking about earlier, Ventura ’97. That shit freaked me out. Felt like I was falling into a sonic worm hole. Not quite the same after that first time tho…

  2. ThePigSong Says:

    Miner 4 Prez

  3. flarrdogg Says:

    Curtain With from the acoustic set is bitchin’.

  4. halcyon Says:

    As with Character Zero, I feel the same way with Piper. It has always been hit or miss. The first few times I really dug the chaos it led into. The Festival 8 show like AW mentioned was different, and I enjoyed it at that.

  5. butter Says:

    the 10-30 show left me wanting a little more……
    which i fully received the next 2 days. For me, this show holds up great on re listens. I was a little cold and adjusting to our new surroundings while it happened. Also, i was behind the left delay speaker for the first set which had a crackle in it. This was fixed by the second set which did not matter that much for me since i decided to go in front of it. I never have that great a time behind the delay speakers.

    Chalkdust got a a little outside its box, which was a good sign early. Trey shredded up the Stealing Time. Stash, well after RR and Gorge this one didn’t do a lot for me, but its always welcome to hear. Cavern always rocks. Being vice president of the Cavern Fan Club, i always enjoy a mid set version.

    As Miner says, the 1000mics of Adrenaline was what the Punch was. Sweet surprise second set opener. The Wolfmans segue felt inorganic and more like a magic trick live. This Piper is a cult classic. I can’t believe when digested live none of us knew it was an “i just wanna see his face” jam. Joy was the highlight of the show for me. This tune really separates me from my old jaded friends and Phish haters. I just Love it. Then things just kept gettin better when new school led the way into great versions of old school tunes. (bowie, hood, golgi)

  6. beepaphone Says:

    COBO shocks my brain!
    COBO shocks my brain!

    11/18/09 BEST SHOW

  7. butter Says:

    Horns really complete Phish’s sound. I think i’ve seen it 3 times now. Its amazing how well they mesh and always sound like they belong and have been there forever. So rich and soulful. Bring on the brass for NYE.

  8. joe Says:

    agreed about the horns. I think trey fancies himself as some kind of throwback big band leader. Liked the hiatus version of his band with the full horn arrangements.
    Back to the topic of songs that bring an adverse physical reaction. I have only one. It is Shine and I’m glad it didn’t migrate over to Phish.

  9. Leo Weaver Says:

    Just catching up from earlier…

    re: Zero…one of my best Phish mental snapshots ever is from the gorge…I’ll confess, zero’s a piss break song for me, due to all the ones I got in the late 90s…I was in the bottom bowl and ran over to a portajon over to the right, behind a little round bldg. while in line the view of the stage and audience was spectacular! the whole mass of people from the stage to the terraces to the lawn above moved in waves as a single amoebic organism, absolutely rocking the f out. add in Kuroda’s lights washing the crowd and it was a helluva spectacle. like watching the crowd from behind the stage indoors but WAAAAAAYYYYY cooler 🙂

    @butter…kudos for the Joy love. It’s easily my favorite new ballad

    re: piper…same as zero, I got a bunch of ’em (never turned to a piss break song tho). I REALLY like what they’re doing with it now and am excited for its future

    @joe…”I think trey fancies himself as some kind of throwback big band leader”…yeah, it fits…it really fits.

    would LOVE more horns…check out 9.26.99 for a great sit-in with M. Ray and T. Green. NOLA show, they SMOKE CTB, Funky Bitch, Free Thought (my fave), and Cavern

  10. halcyon Says:

    If anyone is interested…….

    Summer 09 Highlights



    06/07/09 Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ – Sand, Tweezer
    06/09/09 Asheville Civic Center, Asheville, NC – Ghost
    06/12/09 Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN – Kill Devil Falls
    07/31/09 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO – Drowned > Crosseyed and Painless
    08/05/09 Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA – Down With Disease
    08/07/09 Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA – Sneaking Sally Through the Alley, Light, Bathtub Gin
    08/08/09 Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA – Rock and Roll
    08/15/09 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD – 46 Days
    08/16/09 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
    Backwards Down The Number Line

  11. T. Leo Says:

    Anyone going to Cobo know of any great pre-show bars around the arena that are good for getting into game shape?

  12. punkmug Says:

    @T.Leo – Good question.

  13. joe Says:

    looks like good casino action less than 2 miles away in windsor, ontario…but I’m a degenerate gambler who likes that kind of stuff. Not sure that’s what you had in mind.

  14. punkmug Says:

    A joint with good craft beer would be nice.

  15. joe Says:

    Been trying to resist taunting colt fans on a phish board, but I can’t wait for Sunday. The teams have come a long way from when I first started following them. He is a reminder to fans to always be humble and appreciate the good times. From Wikipedia:
    The Baltimore Colts’ only two wins of the 1981 campaign came by defeating the Patriots. First they won 29-28 in the season opener in Foxboro as Randy McMillan and Curtis Dickey rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns while kicker Mike Wood connected on three field goals. In the regular-season finale in Baltimore (unofficially dubbed “The Toilet Bowl” because both clubs finished with 2-14 records and were battling to get the #1 draft pick for 1982) the Patriots committed four turnovers to two for the Colts and Baltimore won 23-21 as Bert Jones threw touchdowns to Don McCauley and Ray Butler while Matt Cavanaugh threw three picks.

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    the piper from merriweather in 98 is one of the ones I remember mostly clearly taking off and surprising me. It can be straight forward or go other worldly, kind of weird like that.

    I relistened to hampton night 2 recently and was struck by how nice the segue from piper into birds is – at first listen it’s quite jarring, but if you go back, you can actually hear trey leading into the segue for quite a while and they drop it in very nicely if you hear it in that context.

    My favorite pipers are kind of “drive-by” like – you’re in the middle of some crazy dw/d or something and all of the sudden it’s piper and then boom right back into the puddin.. a few in 2009 had this feel to them and for that matter the 10/30 is kind of like that

  17. T. Leo Says:

    FYI, for those going to Detroit. The Red Wings are are playing at home that night, Joe Louis Arena is just on the other side of the convention center from Cobo Arena. It will probably be pretty crazy around the arena that night.

    @Joe – I am also somewhat of a degenerate gambler, but my company that night is not, so I will probably just settle for a bar in Greektown. Lafayette Coney Island is a must, probably after the show. We are staying less than a half mile from the arena, so I’d like to find something on or near Jefferson, within (safe) walking distance.

  18. joe Says:

    I like my pipers long and drawn out, which is not really in the phish 2009 style.

  19. gus Says:

    I think pipers need to have a longer buildup, the 2009 ones have not had much. maybe a minute and a half tops. i looove the oswego piper, with like a 6 minute (?) buildup. but I haven’t listened to that in a while.

  20. halcyon Says:

    Mr C … if you are back on here…your funk mix is awesome…thanks again.

  21. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Today’s setlist may seem short but it really packs a punch. This is why I enjoy doing this. Friday was such a beast it took me a couple of days to get it right while today was like a midweek show on Winter Tour in the Midwest. Not the longest show but there’s some definite heat. Something in there surprises you.

    Slow Start>
    Project ‘74*>
    Day One***>
    Caspian (Love & Hate)****
    Costa Rica*****

    FB (NO2)>
    Mr. Weir


    Short first set with long break. Playing throughout was strong but sparse and concise compared to recent performances. First Bloomberg since, well, a while. I don’t really keep track of the dates. That would be a little obsessive.
    * NYE tease
    ** Archive tease
    *** Zero quotes
    *** Flow tease
    **** Stage Jumper Jam
    ^ Dead tease
    ^^ Stash Jam
    ^^^ Mixmaster Jam, Ticos tease
    ^^^^ Hood tease
    + COBO Jam


    I have to mention, and it may only be interesting to me, that there actually was a 35 minute break between comments today. It provided a good setbreak and the conversation completely changed afterwards. Okay, I’ll stop geeking out now.

  22. voopa Says:

    I love me a good set break

  23. snigglebeach Says:

    keep up the good work TypeIII

  24. Marshall Says:

    TypeIII – I have to admit that I look forward to your setlists as much as I do Miner’s write-ups. And now, your set lists include a bit of a write-up as well. Just like a phish crowd to interact and give something back.

    Great stuff!

  25. Marshall Says:

    Phishthoughts is an all-day affair for me now.

    Miner’s post > comments and reading > TypeIII’s setlist

    Then I wake up and do it all over again.

Leave a Reply