Retro-Phishing: Sunday In Syracuse

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

As soon as one stepped foot into the War Memorial in Syracuse, NY, a palpable Phishy energy took over. Upstate New York, an intimate minor-league hockey arena, 8,000 fans, and an elderly security team that might as well have been ghosts, it certainly didn’t feel like 2009, more like 1994 – the last time the band played at the venue. This retro vibe laced the entire night, as the band responded with a super-charged, two set affair that carried a ferocious energy from the “Bowie” opener through the “Good Times, Bad Times” encore, including a handful of bust outs along the way.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Initiating the crowd with a rare “Bowie” opener, the band clearly meant business. Playing off the miniature-sized venue, the band brought out one of their oldest jams to the forefront right away. Opening with a piece of improv for the first time this tour, Phish set an ominous tone to the show with a dark, explosive opening. Moving through an delicate beginning in which Trey and Page’s cohesion shone, the band gradually built the jam into some nasty “Bowie” grooves. Since Detroit, everything has taken on a new life with Trey’s creative guitar playing; his licks and phrasing have been impeccable thus far, pumping a new energy into every improvisational dip.”Bowie” provided a perfect example of this, as Red’s precision and passion injected a noticeable intensity into the opener; an intensity which his band mates were more than ready to match.

A furious run through the first “Julius” of tour kept the musical intensity right on going with some full-on blues rock, whose musical feel spilled over into one of the first set highlights in “Kill Devil Falls.” Once the composed song ended and the jam got underway, the band took off into a collective build over a the straight-forward groove. Getting creative with a head full of steam, Phish cannonballed into a smoking version of the song. While not getting completely type-II, the band still built something more than the generic jam that permeated more than a few summer setlists. The next point of interest came with the second appearance of “Funky Bitch” since the band returned for this go-round –  and only the third since 2000. With active participation from all members, a mini-series of dance grooves emerged in the middle of the first set.

11.20.98 (M.Stein)

11.20.98 (M.Stein)

Though Phish played an engaging opening frame, they left the most exciting part for last. Closing the set with a sinister exploration of “Stash,” Phish blew the roof off the joint with a menacing bookend to compliment “Bowie.” Morphing into maniacal musicians, the band slowly molded the jam from its eerie opening, through a period mellower patterns before taking the it out into more abstract territory. Without ever losing their sense of urgency, the band came together in period of ordered chaos and simply crushed it. Seamlessly rejoining the the song’s ending build, Trey continued his personal assault on any eastern arena he sets foot in. Playing like a different guitarist than this summer, he is only one factor that points to the band getting their groove back in earnest this fall. An absurdly intense peak left the crowd aghast at the psychedelic jaunt as they gathered their personal belongings for setbreak.

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

As we sat thinking what might transpire in set two, the calls of “Crosseyed,” “Drowned,” and “Twist,” flew through the air, and before we knew it two of these three came to fruition. “Drowned,” Phish’s ubiquitous summer set opener, and “Twist,” their prodigal song, both came together in the meatiest portion of the show. Combining with “Piper” and the ultra-bust-out,”Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars” in a scintillating run of music, Phish didn’t allow anyone to catch their breath until well into the set. After slaughtering “Drowned’s” composed jam, the bombast gave way to sparser psychedelic grooves that saw Mike lead the way with a galloping bassline – though you’d never hear it on the official soundboards which are back to being all Trey and Page since the band moved indoors. Getting into a percussive groove similar to portions of Cincinnati’s “Rock and Roll.” Trey began to play a funked out lead over top of the music before switching to rhythmic chops and then outright soloing as the the band moved through the multidimensional jam. After breaking down their music even further into a chunkier portion, Phish faded into an ambient outro, and the opening licks of “Twist” emerged from the sonic murk.


11.20.09 (M.Stein)

A song that was long overdue, its return to rotation came as a short version that merged with “Piper” in a flowing segment of songs rather than as a huge jam vehicle. Navigating the song’s composed jam more than proficiently, the moment the “Twist” would finally break form hung before us with no end. And just as Trey wrapped up the the structured jam with a heavy guitar kick, he abruptly slid into “Piper” instead of elevating to the expected type-II reverie. Though similarly concise, “Piper” did get beyond its structure, moving into an up-tempo musical chase. Flowing cohesively at a break-neck pace, the band got back into a percussive rhythm, this time led by heavy organ work and shorter guitar licks. Resembling the middle part of the “Drowned” from earlier in the set, Phish definitely had their fast pace rock grooves going last night. As they built into a increasingly tense musical plane, Fishman crashed in with a heavier beat and the band sped up into the first appearance of “Big Fat Furry Creatures From Mars” of this era, and it fit in perfectly with the upstate, old-school vibe. A particularly maddening version, the mere appearance of the quirky metal classic stamped Sunday night’s set as indelibly special. Which is far more more than can be said for the token three minute “Tube” that the band decided to play in honor of Fishman’s lyrical acumen in his home town.

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

But after the non-stop musical mania of “Drowned > Twist > Piper > BBFCFM,” the rest of the evening petered off on the explorational tip – much like last the second night of Cincinnati. Highlighted by ripping versions of “Theme,” “Maze,” and “First Tube,” the rest of the set, while blistering, remained wholly within the box. A raucous “Good Times, Bad Times” put a strong ending on a relentless show. An energetic show to the core, Sunday’s excursion provided a throw back Phish experience for all, and another piece of confirmation that the band is loving life and only getting better.

I: David Bowie, Julius, Sparkle, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Heavy Things, Funky Bitch, Sample in a Jar, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Let Me Lie, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Stash

II: Drowned > Twist > Piper > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Tube, Theme From the Bottom, Maze, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Character Zero, First Tube

E: Good Times Bad Times

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618 Responses to “Retro-Phishing: Sunday In Syracuse”

  1. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah i was 18 in nashville and lakewood in 2000

    humble is the ticket for sure

  2. Robear Says:

    Thanks for sharing Henry.

  3. AintNoTele Says:

    I’m pretty lucky, 22 about to graduate>year off doing research and catching shows>grad school. I actually have the time to make it to shows while they are around. Hell, scored 108 NYE run tix as a graduation present to myself

  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    shit– guess i was actually 19

    dammit stupid memory 😉

  5. voopa Says:

    Awesome reading tonight! What’s tomorrow’s opener? Gin? Sand? Riker’s Mailbox?

  6. beepaphone Says:

    Duh. Riker’s is a lock.

  7. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    yea. I’m 19 (turning 20 at msg 12/2) but i never had a problem fitting right in at shows (went to 4 this summer). but thats because for the past 3 or 4 years ive listened to almost strictly phish, and seen/read everything about the fans and scene. and i helps that just in general im not an idiot.

    it sucks that the drunk college kids, who are going there for the party but don’t know what YEM stands for, give some young people a bad rep but its cool that most of the older crowd have a very level head about it all. It sucks when you get the dirty looks from some older ppl at shows but for the most part ive had some very cool times jamming and hanging out with the older people ive met at basically every show i saw.

  8. Henry Says:


    yeah, i’m a junior in high school (17) and where I live LOTS of kids think liking the dead and phish is the “cool” thing to do, yet know absolutely nothing about the bands. I’ve turned some of my closer friends onto the music through making them cd’s and showing them this site and such, but the people who truly get IT are few and far between. They are the ones who appreciate the music and the history and the people, not the ones who drunkenly like to sing along to Sample and a Jar at every party. (not that there is anything wrong with sample in a jar) I try not to let it get to me though, and instead just smile inside as if I know a secret that they don’t.

  9. sumodie Says:

    Any aversion I might have to fans has never been ageist. It has to do with what we all bitch about, lack of respect: too much alcohol (luv the puking!), talking, texting, etc. -you get the picture.

    I’ve tolerated a lot to enjoy this band over the years, which has also taught me a a thing or two along the way.

    I too want new fans to enter our community. But I found through the years that it gets harder and harder to find the right people to bring to shows. Especially as people get settled and establish families. But who knows, I’ve invited an old college buddy and his wife to MSG3 -we’ll see how that goes.

    @Henry: Powerful story -thanks for sharing.

  10. SillyWilly Says:

    wow…i missed some really really beautiful stuff.

    mr. c and neemor and lycan and henry

    that was special. im sorry i couldnt have been a live contributor.

    i love phishthoughts. i hope everyone has a great night. ill be on tomorrow bright and early.

  11. beepaphone Says:

    Both Hiatuses kind of served as a chance to “catch up” on Phishtory for myself and many others who were too young or just hadn’t discovered it yet. It’s easy to find people who have been to less than 5 or 10 shows but really know what they are talking about, and it’s easy to forget that the same group could have been to 50 or more shows by now if not for the breaks.

  12. beepaphone Says:

    @ Sumodie
    We had to move seats Friday night on account of a puker right behind us. We were all spun but still aware enough to ask her boyfriend if she was ok (sitting still whole time with head in hands). He was saying “oh she’s fine”. Sure enough, setbreak lights come on and bombs away. Take care of your own, people.

  13. Robear Says:

    @Henry, I was thinking that, by seeing Phish live, you’ve gone from ‘thinking and understanding’ to ‘feeling and knowing’. That’s amazing.

  14. brother Says:

    just relistened to night 1 cincy…..i don’t give a shit how rough those segues were between tweez>light>train>possum…… was such a party in that joint, i loved every note, and on relisten it gave me such a smile…..and it really wasn’t that rough at all, in context it holds up well actually. and then the YEM to top that set off! Wow! so good!

  15. brother Says:

    One of the better Possums i’ve ever heard in that set, and i’ve heard a few!

  16. famousmockingbird tim Says:

    i heard that the house lights went on during the second set.

    where’s the deets?

  17. brother Says:

    jesus….i completely forgot about the slave!!!!! one of the better slaves for sure!! sorry, i’m listening back to this set without list in front of me. Wow. this is kind of how i felt at the show. thought this would end it……YEM

  18. ferd Says:


    we were wondering what happened to your buddy. he left about four songs in. your other buddy said he was trying to get close to the stage. he ended up getting kicked out because of the crazy guy? that’s awful.

    it was my friend’s first show and it was my second. just read the past two pages or so…i’ll admit to texting a bit during the show (mostly to my friend who turned me on to the band who wasn’t there…he was either streaming from home or looking up the setlist on yemblog hah).

    btw…my brother had three for wed night in philly, but he’s bailing. looks like i have three tickets, section 211 on the aisle. i’m taking my girlfriend (her first show) and got hooked up with tickets from a friend of a friend, so i can’t use my brother’s. anyone want them? let me know…

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