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. Selector J Says:

    Double Encore!

    Shameless self-promo>irie ites

    (in other words, my show on kvrx.org comes on in ~ 45min.)

    Loving those setlists, too, Type III.

    Been glancing at the comments all day. Haven’t had the time to post too many of my own. Count me as a sucker for Joy, also. It’s impossible to hate on that one knowing the back story and I’ve become a lot more open to setlists as aw stated in a more haiku-esque form waaaay earlier during the Caspian (Love and Hate).

  2. Marshall Says:

    Chatter> Simulcast > Bloomberg from today’s show was a little sloppy; although the Bloomberg reached a high point of 09.

    Geek out.

  3. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    In case anyone is interested, moe. played Stash as part of their Halloween set, along with other covers such as Echoes, Eyes of the World, and Darkstar. The composed section of Stash is a bit shaky but once they get into the jam it goes somewhere. I like moe., and I know they are covering a band that is admittedly very difficult to cover, but this kind of points out a fundemental difference between the two bands for me. moe. is at one level and Phish is on another plane altogether. I will listen to these covers maybe once or twice and then not again. Then I go back to Exile and realize I’ve already listened to certain songs from that performance many times. I can’t get enough of Torn & Frayed, I Just Want to See His Face, and Shine a Light. They truly took a masterful album and made it their own.

    Anyway, the whole moe. show is a pretty fun listen if anyone is interested. Click my name for my mediafire link.

  4. Marshall Says:

    Reading the setlist from the 1990 show that Miner posted reminded me again how unique Phish is in the world of music. For 98% of bands that exist, if you looked at setlists from shows 19 years apart, they wouldn’t resemble each other at all. In Phish’s case, 10 of the songs played in the 1990 show were played at F8 (and many of the rest were played this year). Moreover, the old songs were played not as some “bone” thrown to the crowd for nostalgic purposes, but as modern-day heat.

    On an different note, i Googled the lyrics to Reba today because I’ve never been able to follow them. After reading them, I’m shocked that Trey can make it through the first two verses without getting tongue-twisted. I could barely read them with the right syncopation, and I wasn’t trying to play a guitar.

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Damn. I should have known the Selector J double encore would be coming! It is a Monday, after all.

    thanks for the kind words. It really is all about Miner and the commentariat though. I just do the chronicaling.

  6. Robear Says:

    You guys are crushing the late night set! Great points, Marshall.

  7. jdub Says:

    I just watched disc 2 from th IT DVD and Reba was dynamite. I’m on my iPhone so a short interlude

  8. stitchstash Says:

    @ Marshall– just had to give you another point of view on the wisdom teeth situation. I too did not want to go under and chose the other option. BIG mistake in my opinion! I was crying so hard I could barely breath and they had to call in two people to help hold me down. I don’t mean to scare you but reading your comment gave me a terrible flash back. Granted, my tolerance of pain is pretty low. But do keep in mind I was also given some good drugs to cope with my pain.

  9. Marshall Says:

    OK – I’ve never really paid much attention to the lyrics of Phish tunes; to me the vox is just another instrument.

    But damn … Esther … that’s some heavy shit. Stay away from Armenian men with dolls in buckets.

  10. Robear Says:

    Selector, thanks for the reminder. I’m cued up and ready for some roots.

  11. jdub Says:

    Marshall-To me phish lyrics are like messages out of th Da Vinci code … Whimsical rhymes wrapped around heavy nuggets of wisdom

  12. Marshall Says:

    Thanks Snitchstash. I had two removed by surgery with full anasthesia, but I was thinking maybe I could get by this time with just the nitrous, which I’ve never had at the dentist. You’ve got me thinking the opposite now. Were yours erupted (meaning, they were showing in your mouth, as opposed to being impacted, or still under the gum)?

  13. Robear Says:

    Nice, turning up the bass right now.

  14. Marshall Says:

    @ Jdub – it’s just interesting that I’ve been listening to Esther for more than 15 years but never bothered to pay attention. I finally heard the angry mob of joggers line at the festival because I’d been discussing that as a costume with Robear earlier during F8.

  15. sumodie Says:

    nicely put, jdub

  16. Marshall Says:

    Anyone know why the timestamps on this site are Mountain Time? At least that’s what I see.

  17. butter Says:

    Yea Marshall, Esther encore at 8 was hauntingly surreal. “Late one Fall night at a fairground near town”

    I was just coming to after the crazy Light>Slave and Trey told that story so perfectly

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Marshall, I believe they were on PDT but did not fall back to PST.

  19. stitchstash Says:

    I let all of mine grow in. So yes, the one I had taken out was erupted. If I ever had to do it again I would definitly go under. Just my opinion though. You should get a few more opinions just to weigh your options a little bit better. Not to metion you can hear everything being so close to your ears and all. I’m sorry to hear your having problems with your wisdom teeth.

  20. butter Says:

    i think the time stamp was pacific and just didn’t “fall back”

  21. butter Says:

    Molars Reprize

  22. butter Says:

    the N20 at the dentist is mixed with too much oxygen

  23. jdub Says:

    I broke down the entire hatford show this summer into a connective story with each songs overall wisdom telling a story of life, completing the journey with YEM’s nirvana state after Trey told us to read the book. Quite profound when you break it down. And I think they scripted it… Call me crazy

  24. Marshall Says:

    Butter – is it you who has the girlfriend/fiance/wife who is from Atlanta?

  25. jdub Says:

    My first high is clearly remembered as being under nitrous at age 12 in a dentist chair, la la land

Leave a Reply