A Phish Show at Cobo

3.6.09 (C.Taylor Crothers)

3.6.09 (C.Taylor Crothers)

In a relatively safe opening night, Phish kicked off their Fall ’09 tour with noteably few musical risks, a choppy setlist, and a couple of treats. With a half-empty floor and a laid-back, old-school vibe, Cobo Arena provided an intimate experience, but when the dust settles, this show will be remembered for its sublime second-set “Down With Disease > Free” and a fierce “Mike’s Groove” to end the evening. But in between – and there was a lot of in between – Phish filled the show with straight-forward pieces that amounted standard fare, and far less grit than suggested by Detroit’s urban landscape.

The first, and only, time Phish broke form from one of their jams, they did it in a big way during “Down With Disease.” Following a succinct “Runaway Jim” to open the second set, Phish launched from a blistering run through the composed “Disease” jam into an exploratory segment of music that reached deep into Phish sorcery. Crafting a stunning piece of patient and melodic improv, the band dove into collective communication that hypnotized the audience. Truly allowing the jam to fully develop in a way they haven’t often done lately, the music came to a natural conclusion before Trey began to tease the oncoming “Free.”


Arena Phish (G.Abriel)

The magnitude of indoor Phish came crashing down for the first time with this bombastic “Free.” Featuring raunchier guitar work than most modern versions, Trey seemed to get an extra kick from Cobo’s indoor environs. An experiential highlight of the set, the entire venue seemed to finally catch the same groove, and the audience exploded with that collective energy you just don’t get outside. A perfect landing point for the awesome improv that preceded, the slow-motion groove evolved into a monstrous slate for Trey to rip off lick after lick.

The Fox (B.Kisida)

The Fox (B.Kisida)

A similar phenomenon came in the late set “Mike’s Groove,” when the entire band sat into a slower pattern than we’ve come to accustomed to this summer. The indoor sound increased the dirtiness of the band’s intent, as they truly connected with the essence of the “Mike’s” jam. The entire band offered far more aggressive textures as they built, arguably, the most patient and dirtiest 3.0 version. Just hearing the opening licks of “Mike’s” in an indoor arena injected a colossal shot of intensity to a show that desperately needed it after the slower segment of “Waste,” “Taste,” “Bug,” “Velvet Sea.” A classic late set “Groove” segued into a “Hydrogen” interlude before tearing into an shredding “Weekapaug;” and indoor treat, no doubt.

A quick “Cavern,” and a crunchy “Zero” encore put an exclamation point on a well-played show that was a building block for bigger things to come. That “Disease” jam really seemed like a foreshadowing of a new direction, a lead-less, collaborative jamming that saw the band members check their ego at the door for something far greater. Although the show was certainly a warm up for things to come over the next couple of weeks, their were a few moments that proved indelible.

1st Set Notes:

In a well-played but underwhelming frame, Phish featured a tighter than usual “Foam,” and an out of character, slowly funked out “46 Days.” Though it came a bit out of context and after a long set of standards, this version of “46 Days” got into some engaging arena molasses. Thick as all get out, this standout piece moved from deep groove into an ambient segment that brought a clear shining moment to the set. A “Bowie” carried this momentum to the sets close, setting up a seemingly huge second set that never truly came to fruition.

I: AC/DC Bag, Foam, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Bouncing Around The Room, Sample In A Jar, Kill Devil Falls, It’s Ice, Horn. Mountains In The Mist, Poor Heart, 46 Days, David Bowie

II: Runaway Jim, Down With Disease > Free, Waste, Taste, Bug, Wading In A Velvet Sea, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Cavern

E: Character Zero

Tags: ,

676 Responses to “A Phish Show at Cobo”

  1. butter Says:

    those r good ones to stick with, i am just mind boggled by how socially accepted alcohol is

  2. albert walker Says:

    I never had an alcohol problem per say
    but give me a six pack and I start looking for the fun stuff

  3. BrandonKayda Says:

    This “It’s Ice” is a little rough…still dig that they played it though, rarity in 09′

  4. snowbank Says:

    I always thought of it like this: you have to have chops first. From what I have read, Jerry could not stand to put the guitar down in the early days. Then drugs can help bring inspiration by freeing you from preconceived notions. They essential scramble your established neural pathways. But drugs are not required to do that. If you can learn to control/relax/subordinate your ego, then you can escape your normal patterns. It just requires concentration where as the drugs do it with brute force… at the cost of some quality control.

    So I would speculate that it takes more confidence to jam without the drugs.

    I guess it goes back to Plato and the difference between bravery and stupidity. It takes a lot of bravery to jam sober. You have no excuse like “i was high man”. Drugs make you stupid enough to not worry about the risk you are taking… false confidence. “Wow! I was so high and it sounded great!” Was it so great or were you just high?

  5. c0wfunk Says:

    snowbank that’s fantastic …

    For full disclosure – I have to say our tuesday night jams are anything but sober affairs, and tend to get better when plied liberally with various sacraments. But one of our things is trying to bust people into a new comfort zone with music, and pulling people out of their preestablished patterns, whether they are nonmusicians or musicians who are boxed into their personal “song” paradigm – so a little kool aid helps that a lot.

    re: ice + jams – the ice last night had no jam at all .. I even rewinded cuz I thought I spaced and missed it, but, unlike the hampton one which spaced at least for 30 seconds or a minute, Page descends his piano line and transitions almost immediately into the build back to the end section.

  6. Neemor Says:

    Suddenly a lot of light bulbs went on in here!

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    still 2 pages behind

    I believe the Gorge Sally is still the only open improv in the first set thus far in ’09.

    Typically they have been laying down one closed jam per first set, usually about midset, in the form of a Stash or Gin or something; and sometimes the Split finale.

    Open and closed (or “contained”) are the terms I use instead of the odious “Type I/II” business

    note that a jam can happen within a given song and the end of the song can be played and it can still be “open” – for instance the Gorge RnR – in fact that one is even more interesting ’cause it goes fairly far and yet still returns to RnR cleanly.

    Obviously the distinction is a fuzzy one right at the border with many arguable cases

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    hm yeah I’d have to say you could have “open jams” that were type 1–the run through multi-songs quickly madness from 93 and 94 comes to mind – and closed jams that were very type 2 .. stash as you mentioned is a good example of that.

  9. voopa Says:

    That meeting was brutal. Glad I didn’t have a laptop in there, I would have cracked up over these posts; images of glowsticks flying around the room and lasers everywhere, a fat SBD playing over the PA…

  10. snowbank Says:

    I just want to clarify the end of my post – whether or not the jam sounded good, the drugs allow you to suspend judgement and go with the flow. They also calm the ego saying “if this jam sucks then people are not going to like you”. again, it comes back to being ignorant of all of the fears that would keep us from taking a risk like a free flow jam.

    Also, I have grouped all drugs and they all work a little different. In the end the effect is that the ego goes night-night for awhile.

  11. BrandonKayda Says:


    …in-case you couldn’t read it in normal lower-case 🙂

  12. BrandonKayda Says:

    How sick would a 46 Days->Cities have been?

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    Be cool @AW keep it irie


    Total refutation of the hard drugs = creativity lie is John Coltrane

    He was on junk early in his career. He was a very good player at that time. One of the better horn players around.

    Then he got clean and became the greatest musician of his time, and IMO the greatest single musician in recorded history. That last part is arguable but his creative impact on music isn’t. The number of times he revolutionized music in his brief career is staggering – and all of the really important stuff happened while clean.


    I don’t like any of that ’83 Dead stuff really. Or any of the early 80s – except for the straight ahead rockers as noted. Jerry shreds on some of that. But the St Stephens are terrible. The Helps are bad; The Slipknots are bad at the start and end, occasionally the middle part – the open part – is OK.

    There are great shows from that era. Every time I say I don’t like it ppl post counterexamples and they do exist. But overall, the drugs were just really fucking with them then.

    The main thing hard drugs do to musicians is make them very unreliable.

    Many players get on junk and have six to 18 months of great, very inspired creative playing. That’s the part that’s hard to acknowledge. Then the shit gets in the way, chops deteriorate, the minds ability to focus deteriorates, and it all goes to shit. No one escapes unscathed.

    GD 1978 is the canonical example of this. Early ’78 is one third slop, one third average and one third mind exploding genius. As the year goes on the ratio just slowly tilts to the bad side. By the end of the year they basically sucked almost all the time…barring a few notable counterexamples.

    Not. Fucking. Worth it.

  14. BrandonKayda Says:

    I still liike that they jammed out 46 days in the first set…that one is never jammed on much anyhow

    good stuff.

    You guys think Friday Cincy tomorrow will be big?

  15. gus Says:

    @BK – where’d you get the show? are you just listening to no spoilers, or did you get a tracked version?

  16. BrandonKayda Says:

    I think I am turning into slime….46 days

  17. BrandonKayda Says:


  18. BrandonKayda Says:


  19. voopa Says:

    @Mr. C (and others)

    I’m almost through this great biography of Coltrane, Ascension. Not too starry-eyed, but not overly critical either. Recommended.

  20. gus Says:

    ooh verry nice, thanksss

  21. snowbank Says:

    Mr C – I think that makes a lot of sense. If you have the chops to begin with, I think they stick with you as you use. The result will be some amazing things and some terrible things because you are experimenting without discretion. As time wears on, the chops will fade. And then you can only be as brilliant as the chops you have left.

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    nice tip voopa it’s on the amazon wishlist for xmas now 😉 I’ve read miles’ autobiography (funny as hell) and mingus’ autobiography (which is a serious trip – he talks about telepathy with other musicians in a very authentic and serious way) but I haven’t read any about Trane – did he write one himself ever?

  23. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @Mr. C – I agree with your assessment of Coltrane up to a point. Frankly, I can’t listen to much of his stuff after A Love Supreme. It just becomes cacophonous to my ears. I understand the concept of what he was trying to do, I just find the end results to not be my taste. Now Giant Steps and A Love Supreme, those are definitely two of my all-time favorite albums. McCoy Tyner laid down some sick stuff on piano in those bands too. Plus, I love his stuff with the “early quintet”, like Workin’, Steamin, Relaxin’, etc. Just readicculusly good. Obviously Kind of Blue too. But his later stuff, I just don’t get it.

  24. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I adore the Gorge RnR. Now I know what to listen to on the way home from work. Thanks, Mr. C!


    totally different subject…

    my friend and I were emailing today about 1994 shows that are “must haves” for the collection and I came up with like 15 just off of the top of my head. Man, that was quite a year for Phish!

    c0wfunk was asking about eras with huge first sets? Check out some of these shows (my parenthetical notes are not necessarily about first sets though…)

    Laguna Seca Daze (both days are solid but Claypool-Gordo duel in YEM on day one is hot)
    The Bomb Factory (no introduction needed)
    OJ Show (Whadda ya say, OJ?)
    “GameHoist” (1st set Gamehendge, 2nd set Hoist album)
    UIC Pavilion (Mind Left Body Jam!, Spam! Vocal jam)
    Columbus (Mike’s Fest with the Midnight Rider Catapult)
    Big Birch (with the Wilson/Cavern craziness)
    Great Woods (another Gamhendge 1st set)
    Sugarbush (2nd set is fantastic – Antelope opener)

    and that’s without even touching the Fall Tour or NYE run!

    I love Phish 3.0, I totally dig the cowfunk era, and the ambient-ness of 2.0 has grown on me, but 1994 was when I really cut my teeth on seeing shows and I have a lot of great memories of that year. And it only got better from there when we were hit with the power of 1995.

    Hopefully some of these shows bring back great memories for others as well.

  25. voopa Says:

    Not that I know of, c0wfunk…he did go way before his time tho. Maybe eventually he would have done one. Although Blue Train > Giant Steps > My Favorite Things > A Love Supreme kinda sums it up, dontcha think?

    That Miles autobio is fantastic!

Leave a Reply