The Power of Songs

The Acoustic Set (G. Lucas)

The Acoustic Set (G. Lucas)

Take away the psychedelic improv, monstrous dance grooves, countless effect pedals, digital delay loops, multiple keyboards, envelope filters, and all of the accoutrements of a full-on Phish show, and the songs remain. Lyrics, melodies, and rhythms, stripped down to their naked core; vulnerable souls of their electric kin. Phish has never been known for their pure songwriting prowess, and they have rarely tapped into this energy in their career. Hence, the band surprised everyone when they announced the inclusion of a full-length acoustic set at Festival 8. It would be a first at a Phish festival, and showed a willingness explore a new side of their music.

As we walked to sun-drenched concert field at the crack of noon, few knew what to expect from the band who had played exactly two full acoustic sets in their career. Would they play songs we had never heard before? Would they eliminate favorites from the night time festivities by playing acoustic versions? Would they play Gamehendge like it was story time? It was anyone’s guess. With an iced coffee in one hand and a spliff in the other, I sat down on a blanket to enjoy the show. Having never sat for a moment of Phish in memory – less one “Scent of a Mule” (when I was wholly overwhelmed by the speedy bluegrass and had to sit right there on the arena floor amidst knee-slapping dancers) – I actually looked forward to kicking back and listening to what the band had in store. Certainly the peak of the Festival 8’s mellow vibe, many would return to camp unexpectedly touched by their afternoon experience.

The Acoustic Set (W.Rogell)

The Acoustic Set (W.Rogell)

For the first time in my life, I didn’t stand up when the band hit the stage. Others did, but I decided to fully embrace the experience. The show started with a whisper, opening Sunday morning with a gentle rendition of “Water In the Sky.” As the band meticulously played through many of their mellower songs, it became abundantly clear that the band – and particularly Trey – had practiced unplugged. Not known for his acoustic playing, Trey sounded crisper than any other time in his career; a far cry from his sing-alongs on his solo tours. The band’s vocals, which sounded so strong all weekend long, was another key facet to this set’s success. An obvious reflection of their healthier lifestyle, Trey and Page, especially, sounded more dynamic – and controlled – than ever before.

Between the heartfelt playing and poignant vocals, the power of Phish’s songs emerged. There was no jamming, there were no antics or trickery, just the aural fabric of Phish music. The patience and soul that Phish showcased on this afternoon (and in The Exile Set) illustrated a musical maturity that many never imagined from Phish; an ability to access our deepest emotions not by blowing our minds, but by warming our hearts. Over the course of two hours, the band melted their audience with ballads – “Strange Design,” Mountains In the Mist,” “Let Me Lie,” and “Talk;” Phish favorites – “Bouncin’,” “Curtain (With), “Wilson,” and “McGrupp;” and a couple debuts – “Invisible” and “Sleep Again.”

The Acoustic Set (G. Lucas)

The Acoustic Set (G. Lucas)

But the most powerful moment of the set may have been the last. As the third song of their encore, the band played the post-hiatus ballad, “Secret Smile.” This ardent composition appeared only six times in Phish’s second chapter, and never more bittersweet than in Vegas ’04. Appearing late in the first of three shows that allowed everyone to see the band unraveling, Trey’s voice sounded more strained as ever, as his guitar seemed to cry in desperation through his dripping solo. A month later, Phish announced their retirement. So when Phish brought out “Secret Smile” for the first time since Vegas ’04, it carried a profound emotional weight. Translating differently than before, the song likened hymn of happiness and redemption. As the band extended its delicate ending, one could hear a pin drop on the grass field as the eloquent energy captivated everyone. Many of us became flooded with emotion – an appreciation of being back where we belonged. No funk licks, triumphant jams, or psychedelic experiments were necessary to deliver this message. As we sat there, immersed in the soul of Phish, we could feel it undeniably. And it was good.

Water in the Sky, Back on the Train, Brian and Robert, Invisible*,Strange Design, Mountains in the Mist The Curtain (With), Army of One, Sleep Again*, My Sweet One, Let Me Lie, Bouncing Around the Room, Train Song, Wilson, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters

E: Driver, Talk, Secret Smile



Jams of the Day:  11.1 – The Acoustic Set

Secret Smile


Mountains In the Mist


The Curtain (With)




header-miami-2009Yesterday, with an announcement that amounted to a mere formality, Phish unveiled their four-night New Years Run at American Airline Arena in Miami, FL. Though the community has known this for months, and it was confirmed, in jest, in Festival 8’s Phishbill, it’s always fun to get the official word. This will be the band’s first New Years Run since Miami 2003. Anyone who was there in ’03 can tell you there is nary a better place to spend New Years than on the beach with the Phish. Sunshine by day and psychedelia by night – the situation can not be beat!

The ticket lottery is currently underway and ends this Sunday, November 15th at 11.59 pm. See you there!



11.12.95 O’Connell Center, Gainesville, FL < Torrent

11.12.95 O’Connell Center, Gainesville, FL < Megaupload

Fall Tour '95 T-Shirt

Fall Tour '95 T-Shirt

This is the next show after Atlanta’s Fox Theatre run that kicked off the second half of Fall ’95. The first of four consecutive Florida shows, Phish continued to fire on all cylinders during their 54-show romp, building historic momentum throughout November and December, peaking their style of play.

I: My Friend, My Friend, Llama, Bouncing Around the Room, Guelah Papyrus, Reba, I Didn’t Know, Taste That Surrounds, If I Could, Split Open and Melt, Hello My Baby

II: The Curtain > Tweezer > Keyboard Army, Sample in a Jar, Slave to the Traffic Light, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin’ Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Possum, Tweezer Reprise

E: Fire

Source: Unknown

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664 Responses to “The Power of Songs”

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  1. butter Says:

    just got back from Ian Anderson does acoustic Jethro Tull in Santa Rosa, CA at the Luther Burbank Center. (now know as the Wells Fargo Center)
    Interesting, great musicans, playing blues, jazz, classic rock, london/ british rock. Ian Anderson is like a wacked out elf on steroids.
    6 piece band:
    clavinet/ accordian
    6 string acoustic bass
    Flute/small bodied acoustic guitar : Ian Anderson
    acoustic guitar: mostly flamenco style
    violin (persian american woman who brought some indian sound)

  2. butter Says:

    Miner – beautiful description of the acoustic set. I really feel like you were able to convey the feeling of being there to someone than wasn’t.
    We will listen to this set forever.

  3. butterflyeffect Says:

    I know there are some serious Mist haters out there, but I absolutely love this version. I’ve listened to it just as much as With and McGrupp.

    Also, people haven’t talked much about Casino Boogie from Exile. A real scorcher, IMO.

  4. jdub Says:

    I’m with you about the Mist butterfly. I really enjoy this acoustic version. I didn’t pay much attention to it before and never saw it live. So no preconcieved notions about Mist. Great write up as always Miner. The whole set is really well played music.

  5. bhizzle Says:

    Happy Veterans day to all you, especially you peeps that it was created for and to you currently active!

    Amen on the Casino Boogie…I think the problem with not talking about Casino Boogie is that we haven’t finished raging about the tunes we first started to rage about. Minus the first couple “warm up” tunes, I found the entire Exile set insanely remarkable.

    Also shame on all you who instantly downplayed the acoustic set when first hearing the announcement.

  6. Marshall Says:

    Good morning all. 11/1/09 makes me wish that there was an afternoon acoustic set before every Phish show. A top-five Phish experience for me. I did sit for much of it, but must admit that the sounds improved very dramatically when I stood up, so I’m glad I did for Curtain (with) and the remaining tunes. Maybe the sound would have been equal for the sit-down had every single person sat, but alas, that is impossible.

  7. JKurl Says:

    Great review Miner, haven’t stopped listening to this set since the 1st. Great soundtrack to fall.

  8. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    the acoustic set was such a great time. I know there were people looking for a full on jam session but the combination of the warm sun, early start, soft grass, and Hippie Speedball made for a great early afternoon where I was. We spent most of the sets just right of the soundboard (when loking at the stage) and it was perfect for this one as we could sprawl out on the blankets and laugh our heads off in the California sun. McGrupp has always been a favorite of mine (and one I’ve managed to catch a bunch too) so that was a definite highlight for me. I really dug Sleep Again and the take on Invisible with Page filling Leo’s role in the music.

  9. barb Says:

    The new song Invisible really stood out to me when listening to the acustic set. Great song. I also never realy liked Mountains until this set.

  10. jdub Says:

    Off topic, but Spookie Day Pride has a great song about what I assume you’re refering to Type III, coffee and pot

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    you got it, jdub. every day at *8* started well that way. We even had a Green Mountain coffee vendor near us in Hunky Dory. Made it more like home here in New England!

  12. bhizzle Says:

    One cup of coffee is in my daily regiment…that is unless there is a wake and bake…then it just tastes nasty too me. odd…

  13. HarryHood Says:

    Great write up Miner. I’ve been waiting for this one since I listened in on the Sirius broadcast. When the Acoustic Set was officially announced on the 8’s website, I was definitely feeling like Phish was wasting a perfectly good electric set during a much anticipated festival. Wow was I ever wrong! I myself got up that Sunday morning, got some things going around the house, grabbed a coffee and listened in. It was a nice sunny day in Northern NY, and the music flowing out of my computer speakers was the perfect way to start the day, aside from actually being there. I remember wondering what the vibe was like for those that were sitting there enjoying a coffee, 8 shaped donught, and sharing a J in the warm sun. This write up conveyed that feeling perfectly.

  14. Pencilneck Says:

    What a set that was. It has gotten the most replay over here, and i have been sharing it with some of my co-workers. Much love for the acoustic set.

  15. Mitch Says:

    Didn’t get to read the post yet but I just listened to the feat 8 Reba for the first time since listening to the live stream. HOT HOT HOT! and the flub is just funny. Man that was money!

    Fall tour fools!!! Get on the dang bus!

  16. HarryHood Says:

    Has anyone recieved their lottery tix yet? Seems a little late with tour starting so soon.

  17. Litteringand Says:

    got my cincy tixs yesterday.. boom goes the dynamite

  18. gratefulcub Says:

    After Coventry, the With was a huge smile moment. I know they did it once on Summer Tour, but this felt like the moment that erased “We’re going to start over, because I’m in the wrong key.”

    I was raking leaves listening to the iphone for the beginning, and layed on the couch for the rest. It was so much more than I thought it would be. It was spot on perfect, and a great way to spend a fall afternoon.

    re:Mist. I’ve never been a hater, but every time I have seen it live, it has been misplaced. Cincy 03 it came shortly after Mike’s I believe. Everyone I was with had the same reaction, “Good song, but WTF?”

  19. SOAM Says:

    Taste that surrounds?-FL 95

  20. gratefulcub Says:

    Oops, completely misremembered Cincy, which was a Walls, Mist, Sample close to the first set.

    It was the Hampton return that has the Mikes>Mist>Weekapaug

    Regardless, the acoustic version was tremendous. I love WITS, and this is the way it was always meant to be played.

    On a personal note, my best friend, the one I ‘Phishstalked’ is Robert, I am a Brian. So, we always refer to Brian and Robert as ‘our song’, in a completely platonic way, not that there’s anything wrong with that;)

  21. HarryHood Says:

    I’m still waiting on Albany and MSG Tix by mail. Anyone recieved these shows yet?

  22. kenny powers Says:

    i got my lottery tix a week ago. good to hear others haven’t gotten them yet b/c my friend hasn’t either and we were starting to think they messed up his order. assumed they would be shipping them all in a 1 or 2 day span, but guess they’re spreading it out.

  23. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


    Taste that Surrounds was a precursor to what is now Taste. You’ll see it as “Fog that Surrounds”, then “Taste that Surrounds” before it was eventually reworked in the Billy Breathes sessions to become the “Taste” that we know today. It’s very similar but give it a listen if you have the chance. Neat evolution of the song.

  24. msbjivein Says:

    Really Really Great write up Miner. This has to be one of my favs. Since I wasn’t there. Thankyou.

  25. jay Says:

    The patience and soul that Phish showcased on this afternoon (and in The Exile Set) illustrated a musical maturity that many never imagined from Phish; an ability to access our deepest emotions not by blowing our minds, but by warming our hearts

    Yes. maturity (on many levels) is overwhelmingly evident. Well said Mr Miner.

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