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”

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  1. MisterChristian Says:


    killer write up, cant wait to listen

  2. Marshall Says:

    People have been discussing what to call this era of Phish … how ’bout “dark shirt Phish?” At least Fishman still wears the frock.

  3. MisterChristian Says:

    How about.. “Dapper Dan Dark Shirt with the throwback fish frock” era

  4. Wilson8or Says:

    Completely devastated that they busted out BBFCFM before MSG 🙁 But happy, I suppose, that it is still in their minds? Perhaps I’ll get Tela. There’s still hope!

  5. randomreader Says:

    who was there last night? pt is all achatter about some crazy stuff that went down during setbreak. and then apparently the lights came on during drowned/twist? all of that plus the setlist sounds like quite the strange night of phish.

  6. Ziggymon Says:

    Thank you Mr. Miner. Great recap as always. In no way am I trying to be negative in any way, but here’s hoping for a little bit more of that gooey molasses funk drizzled into this ridiculous shredding. Can’t wait for this weekend.

  7. tela'smuff Says:

    miner – whay are you saying “Big Fat Furry..”?

    anyway, i’m intrigued by the second set for sure. how was the Maze? they’ve been killing that this year.

  8. jdub Says:

    Very detailed write up this morning, miner.
    Can’t wait to hear drowned, the choppy stream from last night was difficult to handle cause you knew they were throwing down.

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    starting the bowie now, just into the jam it’s already taking some left turns. Nice composed section too! Nice write up, amazingly thorough.

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    In no way am I trying to be negative in any way, but here’s hoping for a little bit more of that gooey molasses funk drizzled into this ridiculous shredding

    ^^ I feel you 10000%

    @Tela – typo

  11. pabalive Says:

    Thank’s Miner. I am completely stoked for upcoming 6 show run from Albany through MSG. I thought hard about going to ‘Cuse, but, life, family etc, kept me away. Instead, I opted to place my money on the final 6 out of 7 shows at the end of tour. Thus far, this tour is building as I had hoped. A couple good nights in Philly, eat some Turkey and then let it fly in Albany – Portland and the GARDEN!

  12. tela'smuff Says:

    gotcha. – thought maybe they were being extra goofy and playing with the lyrics.

    i thought Cincy contained some decent funk segments. i was satisfied in that area, among many others this weekend. Cincy!

  13. HarryHood Says:

    Miner’s write up on this show was spot on as usual. Very high energy from start to finish. Not sure about the setbreak antics. I heard a bunch of people cheering at one point and watched the Syracuse PD drag some guy out of the arena who didn’t look like he wanted to go. I was a little disappointed to see people cheering at that, but I don’t know what he had done, so who knows, maybe it was worth cheering. I am actually surprised that there was no mention of the arena lights coming on during Drowned. Certaintly one of the strangest things that I’ve seen happen at a show. The lights all came on about 5 minutes into the song and they kept getting brighter and brighter. They would shut a few of them off and then others would come back on. It went on for a good ten minutes before they got them all turned off completetly.

  14. Stir it with a Ladle Says:

    I am in desperate search of an Extra lower for 12/30, 12/31, PLEASE help me, will make it worth you while…

  15. m00nshake Says:

    fantastic write up, Miner. I am so excited about how they are building up steam, I can hardly contain myself. For the first time since 1997… Madison Square Garden… here I come!

  16. Panda Says:

    Wow looks like a ripper last night!

    Julius and Funky Bitch, real nice! BBFCFM!

    Have fun in Philly Kids, these will be the first Phillthy shows I have missed sine 1995. Rage for me!

    Do the SBD’s really have no Mike? Boo

  17. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    Wow, looks like an amazing show. Just as an aside, Moonlight Mile is an amazing song. Just been listening to Sticky Fingers a lot lately. Sister Morphine and Moonlight Mile don’t get nearly enough respect.

  18. BTB Says:

    These shows have been rockin’, classic indoor phish. I am so happy and blessed to witness this. Huge smiles all around. They sound different than summer, and yes, building steam is a great way to sum it up. Glad they’ve starting throwing down a bit more in SET I’s.

    My new girl is loving the tour! LOL at Ghost>If I could. Gotta listen to that BBFCFM. Thanks for the write up.

    My other car is a flying hot dog…

  19. BOB Says:

    can someone give me an noob overview of “type I” vs. “type II” …I think I kinda understand but would love a little explanation. Also, if this is 3.0 Phishdom, the beginnning ’90s would be 1.0, so at what point did 2.0 come in? Sorry for the boring questions. Just would like to catch up on some slang

  20. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    Phish 1.0 = beginning through 1st hiatus 10/7/00
    Phish 2.0 – 2003/2004
    Phish 3.0 – Hampton 2009 – present

  21. GuitarPicker420! Says: FAQ is a great place to go for basic questions:

  22. posternutbag Says:

    @BOB – Type I refers to jamming that is still within the broader framework of the show, whereas Type II jamming goes beyond the framework and becomes something all its own.

    1.0 is pre-hiatus, 2.0 is post hiatus but before the “break up”, and 3.0 started at Hampton.

  23. fat bastard Says:

    cincy was the bomb!

  24. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    In general, think of Type 1 jams as jams that stay within the confines of the song, think of say the raging peak that developed soon after the lyrics ended to Tweezer on Friday night.

    A type 2 jam leaves the basic form (chord structure, rhythm, etc.) of a song completely behind. There are numerous examples of this. I would suggest that the jam that developed out of the tweezer after the big rock jam delved into type 2 territory.

    Other types have been suggested. Type 3 is often considered the “funk jam”, though I find that this is largely within the realm of type 1, it is just more sparse, which is typical of funk playing in general. A 4th type, is the “ambient” jam which seems to be the go-to jam when they can’t think of anything else to do. Sometimes it is quite rewarding, at other times these jams can meander for far too long. (A major problem with Phish 2.0 as far as I’m concerned).

    Hope that helps. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and welcome to the community.

  25. BOB Says:

    ah, gotcha… i always forget that there was a mini hiatus there in the 00-03 timeframe. Thanks GuitarPicker420. Hate to be a bore. I don’t remember a whole lot of fireworks during 2.0. Am I wrong?

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