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

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676 Responses to “A Phish Show at Cobo”

  1. c0wfunk Says:

    re: late trane –

    I’m in the camp of appreciative but not my bag too .. I try and try to listen, and there are certain moods where it fits, but usually it just kind of stresses me out. And cacophony is my thing. There is this driving thing behind it all that just makes me want to get out of my skin. But yeah I”d listen to McCoy Tyner play almost anything. His “guitars” album he put out a few years back was really fun – he did tunes with many of our favorite jazzy and jamband guitarists (mark ribot, derek trucks) and bela.

    I loooove trane’s early stuff. Giant Steps was a road staple for me back in 98, one of my favorites for a nice sunny afternoon drive through the middle of god knows where. I also love his work with monk, another favorite pianist of mine, that was recently unearthed..

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    @snow – I liked your post a lot. The one thing I’d say in response is that every person’s relationship to drugs is personal. This is true for artists and is doubly true for addictive drugs IMO where you basically form a relationship with the high.

    I didn’t know Jerry, but I have several friends who knew him well. When they talk about his drug use and why he could never kick it, they all seem to think that he carried some kind of deep wound from his youth inside. If you read biographies of him you might guess what that might be, but it would just be speculation. In any case, the theory I have heard goes that this darkness made it hard for him to release his creativity fully onstage, and that the hard drugs let him push past that.

    Blow makes you feel powerful, it magnifies the ego, lets you plow ahead without worries. The worries exist but are irrelevant. Opiates, in my experience, make you feel safe and comfortable. The worries go away. Never got into the junk, stayed at the opium level, but have heard that description. By late ’77 or so, Jerry was into speedballs, both at once. So it just put him beyond whatever was blocking him.

    The ONLY reason I will get into discussing this AT ALL is that Jerry is gone and we might hopefully learn a lesson from his suffering. I WILL NOT speculate as to Trey’s psychology or what using might have meant to him or what effects it had, positive and negative. IT’s OK in the abstract but when you’re talking about a real person it’s just none of our business IMO. Just wanted to put that out there up front.

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    hm – at first glance none of those shows have jams in the first set at all….

    huge first sets maybe, but no “type II open jamming” really there was very little of this type of jamming in 94 at all. Maybe I’m forgetting something but..

    that said, great list of shows!

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    I find the most out there stuff less interesting, true. Note that right at the end of his life, in 67, he pulled back from the edge just a little and put out a couple albums that to me represent the limit for how far music can go and still be music – Live in Japan and Live in Seattle. I really like both of those though I don’t listen to them often.

    Live at the Village Vanguard ’61 is the best Trane for me. Or second best, after Love Supreme, which is my all time favorite album. The Antibes live version of Love Supreme is cool too.

  5. c0wfunk Says:

    “they talk about his drug use and why he could never kick it, they all seem to think that he carried some kind of deep wound from his youth inside”

    While there may have been something from younger as well, my impression, from interviews and books I’ve read, is that Jerry never really got over the fact that the Utopian SF vision failed. To many of those people, this vision was very real for about what, 2 years, maybe 2 months, maybe 2 days, but Real at some point. And many of them took it hard when the world swerved away from that vision so violently. Which would explain why the materialism of the 80s would sink him deeper into the more mind numbing types of substances. Maybe I’m off base but that’s what I’ve come up with..

    David Crosby is another that comes to mind with a similar path, though he was lucky to escape with his life. Honestly sometimes I think it’s a blessing we never had to see what the 80s would do to souls like Jimi or Janis…

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    FWIW I won’t engage in any kind of argument defending Trane as the best ever. His music takes me the furthest the fastest. Totally subjective. Love Supreme just rockets me out of body more or less instantly. So do tracks like Crescent, Spiritual and especially India.

    I think there is an objective argument to make as well, concerning his combination of technical virtuosity (unmatched) with lyricism (underrated), and his contributions to the theory and practice of small group improv.

    But – Trane just works for me. Totally a YMMV thing. Would never argue with anyone who has another preference.

  7. burblelover415 Says:

    Mitch – friends and I have spent countless hours cruising around P-town looking for the Rhombus. Probably never found it b/c we would puff, then head right to Hoagie Haven.

    Cowfunk – right there with you on the Vegas 96 Weekapaug…I consider the Mike’s>Simple>Hood>Weekapaug one of the best “hours” of Phish I have ever seen. Would put that on every Friday after class. The Fluffhead>Antelope>Golgi>Slave from night 2, set 2 of Plattsburg is another killer “hour”

  8. beepaphone Says:

    Just got back from Cobo.

    From that Foam on…crimey…
    The show was perhaps a bit to anthem-heavy, but so well played, and to have been there, I thought the set-list flow was different, but worked. Each set tapered off a bit towards the middle, but in the end I felt overcompensated.

    Huge 46 Days with excellent backdrop work by CK5, really playing to Cobo’s unique feature. Out of this world synth work by Page too. Awesome, well played Bowie when everyone thought the set was over.

    Second set DWD>Free was just an insane funkfest. Trey, as Robear put it, brought the business tone. Waste was a good slow-down follow up, Taste was well played and is always appreciated. Now on to Bug. I didn’t really dig on this song before last night, but it was just a great version with a brilliantly peaked crescendo (during which Trey valiantly played through catching a glowstick in the face. Tough crowd at times). Could have gone without Wading, but Mikes Groove more than made up for it. Mikes was serious. Really serious. The place was poppin’. When they played Cavern after the Weekapaug we thought would close the set, my buddy and I just looked at each other….”totally unnecessary”.

    It was my favorite of the shows I’ve been to this year. I thought there was plenty of exploration. Minus a few placements, I dug the setlist.

    Random Thoughs:
    Great looking arena…Phishy as all hell.
    Packed in the People Mover with Red-Wings fans blew pretty bad.
    Detroit People don’t like it when you call their People Mover the “L”.
    Citizen of Detroit: “man, it’s not the L it’s the People Mover.”
    My buddy: “yeah…I know, but tonight it’s the L train.”
    Where do these wooks come from? Plenty of stage 5 T-shirt material for Mr. C.

    @BTB, ocelot, aqua, etc. others who were there…sorry I didn’t meet up. While great, my whole experience was rather hectic and whimsical. I refrained from stealing the soap dispenser.

    Great show. So worth the drive and the hassle. Worthy tour opener and now I can’t wait for CINCY!!!

  9. beepaphone Says:

    ha i fucked up my italics

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    @c0wfunk excellent observation/perception/speculation – certainly makes sense

  11. snowbank Says:

    Mr C – thanks for saying that. I hope that my comments do not come off as being specific to any one person’s use. But the personal examples do provide examples for certain aspects. Such as the example you provided of Jerry’s use and John Coltrane’s.

    I guess I don’t understand the emphasis in the last paragraph. I guess this conversation has its roots in what is happening with Phish, but I thought it had moved on to the more general discussion. perhaps that is the point you are making: you will entertain the general discussion, but want to make the disclaimer that this is not veiled discussion of trey?

  12. snigglebeach Says:

    Turkey and Phish got me jonesing for next weekend. Hope Cincy has better reception for Hoodstream, last night was such a tease, 5 mins.

  13. butter Says:

    glad you had a rockn’ time beep!!!

  14. beepaphone Says:

    Thanks man…can’t wait to give it a spin. Then I guess I know how it truly stacked up. Anyone have a good source?

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    beep great runthrough thanks! There was an etree source posted a few pages back…

  16. BrandonKayda Says:



  17. RamblinOnMyMind Says:

    @Type III – I’m just catching up with today’s board discussion but I saw that you’re from Westboro. Did you go to school there or move there afterwards? I grew up there and my parents just sold the house last year. I stlill find myself around it occasionally.

  18. burblelover415 Says:

    To the Lost fans on the board…final season officially starts on Feb 2 🙂

  19. BrandonKayda Says:

    This Disease at 12min is blowing my mind – incredible iinterplay

  20. snowbank Says:

    MR C – back to your pg 19 response. –
    Let it be said from the mountain tops : hard drugs kill great musicians, they don’t make them. RIP Jerry. If only we could have helped you!

    I think with someone like Jerry, there must have been a deep pain, but that is all I can say about it. We all live with some pain, I think. Somehow that pain translate into an ego that holds us back from being our best selves. So while drug use can affect the ego, it also affects our ability to be in tune with the situation. So there is a give and take. You are able to get past the hurdles created by fear, but you also lose discretion.

    The trouble I having is with the statement:
    “Blow makes you feel powerful, it magnifies the ego, lets you plow ahead without worries”.
    I am not sure it magnifies the ego. Everything else is consistent with my notions of the drug. I think that I have a screwed up definition of Ego from reading too much Taosim and not enough Freud/Jung. To me the ego is different from being egotistical.

    FWIW- I find the conversation fascinating and am just trying to explore a bit more cause I have confused myself. Hopefully you all won’t think I am an idiot, cause then I am going to need to start on harder drugs. 🙂

  21. Mitch Says:

    So those of you hating on mist really must have seen it a lot. I just listened to it from last night and loved it. Nice sweet jamming there.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    perhaps that is the point you are making: you will entertain the general discussion, but want to make the disclaimer that this is not veiled discussion of trey?

    Yes. Exactly. I didn’t think you said anything out of line, for instance. I could just kind of feel that the discussion might go there and wanted to head it off at the pass.

    I don’t know anything about Trey as a person. His struggles are none of my business. I wish him nothing but success, health and happiness, the end.

    Not implying anyone else posting on the subject feels otherwise or crossed a line.

  23. albert walker Says:

    Trane is the best ever
    one of the few truths in this world

    My Original pressing of Giant Steps, I want to be burried with it
    there are no adjectives to describe that recording

    Live at the Village Vanguard. nodded in and out of sleep to that shit too many times to count. Other wordly my friend.

    Trane had the technical chops, and a sense of harmony and melody that has never been matched. His compositions were amazing also.

    Parker was just a little too early and ahead of his time but Trane came around when the music was starting to really evolve and just blew it up

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    love mist – great song, love the metaphor that flows through it. Every slow phish song has haters, doesn’t it?

  25. albert walker Says:

    I’ve done 2 “28” day stints and one 4 month rehabs back in the day

    all us addicts are broken, fucked up individuals
    I’ve met thousands

    the story has different pieces but it is always the same

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