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”

  1. halcyon Says:

    @ Marshall … Growing up in LI there was a store which would sell Maxell II’s of almost every show out there. The cost mainly went to the cassettes. It was a precursor to the instant gratification days which we live in. Still remember receiving tapes in the mail, like a kid in the candy store I was always so excited to open up and see/listen to the contents.

  2. Marshall Says:

    Blanks and Postage. Ahh, the golden years.

  3. KWL Says:

    sorry if this is a repost, don’t think it worked the first time:

    awesome lycan!!!

  4. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I remember the first time I dug up the nerve to approach a taper pre-show to ask about setting up a B&P. I think I was more nervous than the first time I asked a girl out on a date.

  5. Marshall Says:

    245 shows since BDTH was played. It’s a lock!

  6. BTB Says:

    @III – ha, nervous nelly you.

    I’m thinking they bust out some Kiss and BDTH would be pretty funny.

    @Beep – steal that soap dispenser man. No better way to end up in the clink then going down for a soap dispenser. That one is hard to explain!!

    @Lycan – cool man. Get yourself some skyline chili in the nasti. All we need are more people to quite there jobs and fly accross the country and this is a party.

  7. Marshall Says:

    Vernon Downs NY – 8/12/98

    Set 2: Mike’s Song -> Simple > Rift, Loving Cup, Sleeping Monkey > Weekapaug Groove, The Squirming Coil

    Encore: Burning Down the House~, You Enjoy Myself

    ~ first and only time played

  8. Marshall Says:

    Oh, and the Vernon show was ALSO on a Wednesday.

  9. Marshall Says:

    @ Type3 – I need to hit the hay. Where’s that set list man?

  10. Robear Says:

    wow, you all are talking about songs at Cobo. I am busting at the seams! BK, no Phish shows in the city of Detroit (the Palace Does Not Count) since ’92. I have a plane ticket to fly to Detroit for the show. At this point, it’s up to my ex. to come through and watch the kids.

  11. Marshall Says:

    @ Rob, you are such a nice guy I can’t see how she could ever say no.

  12. BTB Says:

    @marshall – nice work on that set list. And the super creepy Wednesday revelation. It must be. Therfore it is.

  13. Lycanthropist Says:

    robear are you goin to be @ cincy?

  14. Robear Says:

    fwiw, I found a website awhile ago discussing the Cobo ‘Renovation’. I can’t find it now. It stated that there were renovations planned for the part that houses the Auto Show. If I remember correctly, the article said that the ‘Arena’ section, where the show will be played, will remain untouched. Anyone remember that article? I think someone posted the link here, way back when the rumors started.

    Nice Lycan. If things work out, I’ll be in Cincy too.

  15. Marshall Says:

    That Vernon show was the last show before Lemonwheel. Cobo is the first show after F8. The revelations keep piling up.

  16. Robear Says:

    Marshall, she’s been really cool this year. Problem is, she’s having a baby. Due anytime. Past due in her eyes. That’s the reason I had Jacy @ Halloween with me. He’d be a handful if she went into labor.

    I’m tempted to bring him! Might be too much cigarette smoke at the indoor venues though. Tough to plane travel with too.

    okay, there’s some of my personal life, for those that don’t know me yet!

  17. beepaphone Says:

    this is crazy perfect – that will be worth the trip alone

  18. T. Leo Says:

    Wikipedia is stating that Phish will be the last concert, but there is some dinosaur exhibit will be there around new years:

  19. BTB Says:

    Keep digging…there is more…

  20. T. Leo Says:

    So don’t steal that soap dispenser!

  21. Robear Says:

    um, no, it’s not mine.

  22. Marshall Says:

    It’s coming down …


  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    back in my day we had to listen to maxells barefoot uphill both ways in the snow

  24. beepaphone Says:

    hope it all works out for you, Robear

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    @jdub and @gp420: you guys ever read Ken Wilber?

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