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. albert walker Says:

    not quite dirty

    maybe a little dust

  2. fatbastard Says:

    yeah i was flying. I didn’t have anything in the car so it was Jeff Gordon style thru indiana

  3. fatbastard Says:

    ha the dust made you miss the chalkdust

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    Anybody have a link of the show? Preferably AUDs/SBD, but I don’t mind


  5. whole tour! Says:

    phish is on fire folks….
    dear lord…they are on FI-YAH!!!!

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    Yeah, love torn and frayed…can’t wait till they extend it..true about some party time songs, but are ALL the really cool songs o wrote about from earlier? Not sure, but some sound pretty new…thought they were about to go into If I Told You lady night before they crashed into bbfcfm…can’t get enough of the cincy tweezer….15 minutes of full on groove…rock n roll > ghost is the hopefully a sign of more type 2/open jamming

  7. sumodie Says:

    Last night I saw something I’ve never seen at a phish show: the house lights were intentionally turned on at the beginning of set II. Very unprofessional, and yet the band played on….

    I believe this was due to the epic meltdown of one fan immediately following the excellent intensity of set I. Thankfully I missed the actual events save for the cops removing the guy. I think this episode either really spooked or pissed off some bigwig at the War Memorial. (I really hope the kid is ok too -heard he was only about 16).

    Anyway, set II starts off with a bang -sure, it’s Drowned again, but once more it was ragingly good. While the boys were giving it their all, the house lights slowly and fully came on. Everyone looked around in surprise, and you could tell the band was clueless.

    Ever professional and willing to adapt, the band seemed to buckle down and play even more wickedly. Thus, sadly, it seems one fan’s meltdown unwittingly caused the band’s mindnumbingly good “Big Twisty Drowned Piper From Mars” segment of the show (to quote skyballs once again).

    The whole arena peaked soooo HARD during BBFCFM. Unbelievable energy -easily one of my most unforgettable phish moments, be it 3.0 or earlier.

  8. albert walker Says:

    Gotta love how unique the hot tweezers have been
    RR, Indio, Cinci so different yet so amazing
    Cinci def had the open let’s flow this thing out see where it takes you groove
    Loved it.

  9. whole tour! Says:

    holy shit…that drowned jam is the fucking dirty- dirty…….

  10. whole tour! Says:

    seriously…the band has possibly never sounded this good to me before. They are peaking into the next level on a nightly basis now.

  11. sumodie Says:

    And as someone else said, set II is definitely divided by that BBFCFM. No big jams came after, but it still felt red hot. As Miner said, Trey’s playing has moved up several notches in intensity. Pure hose last night.

    And I say this as someone who is a HUGE fan of the funk and extended improv.

    If I had a shred of doubt left about the vitality of phish 3.0 after F8, I sure don’t have any now. The boys are red hot right now. The funk and extended jams are sure to hit us hard between now and NYE. Hold on!

    I keep saying it: I’m so grateful to be witnessing this band climb back up the mountain again -what a beautiful thing to behold indeed.

    Thank you phish, thank you phish thoughts.

  12. cal Says:

    cub: I was HOPING he’d play something else, but at the same time, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending…and I’m really not the biggest “Coil” fan.

    Listening back to night 2, it sounds even better than I remember it; “R&R”>”Ghost” is way cooler than I gave it credit for…not the segue itself, but both jams are pretty damn hot…but on the heels of “Tweezer”>etc. the night before, I guess my expectations were a tad stratospheric at the time…

    Has there even been a sub-par “Tweezer” this year besides MPP?

  13. beepaphone Says:

    the epic re-realization of Phish

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    philly show-goers: just confirming that Benny The Bums, the bar in the Holiday Inn is CLOSED. so you can do your thing in the rooms there but no bar. If you all need a bar hit McFaddens, which is in the Phillies Stadium…Citizen’s Bank Park. Without all the meathead Phils fans there it should be ok and it’s about a half step away from the Wachovia. if anyone from here is trying to gather steam around mcfaddens holler. i still have to get my $5 ticket for tomorrow nite and unload my handful of wednesdays (or miracle em i guess).

    MSG “lot”: many ppl here can tell you as i’m sure many of us have been there. there isn’t a lot per se. just alot of wandering right there between 34th st and 31st st on 7th Avenue in front of the main entrance. there are bars and small shitty restaurants surrounding the place on all sides but you’re not gonna really find a “lot”. back in the day day people used to wreak havoc in that parking garage on 31st bet 7th and 8th aves but i’m too old for that shit. i’ve been following Mitch’s lead and will be at the Blarney on Thurs nite from like 5-5:30 or so on until i have to round up all my friends…we have a big old crew for this one so that takes forever. enjoy. hope to meet some of you there.

    i obviously missed some nuggets at cincy and cuse. hope i get a few the next 2 nites. i’ll take whatever i get regardless but this is the TRZA’s pseudo home city…they’ll probably do it up big.

  15. beepaphone Says:

    this fall tour seems as significant as any

  16. whole tour! Says:

    groundbreaking…is how i’d describe this fall tour. Fall 97 -98 comes to mind. Everything is so exciting again.

  17. sumodie Says:

    I’ve been a passionate believer in Phish all year long. And while I’ve seen ‘better’ shows in 3.0, Syracuse stands uniquely alone. I’ll stop the pimping now -just felt really compelled to get that all out.

    Can’t wait to buckle in again for Portland -hope to meet more of you pt’ers there.

    Yup, really favor the AUD version of Syracuse over the SBD. Boomier, true, but that’s the War Memorial for you. A much richer sound all around. Not recommending a specific AUD yet, as I bet there’s better to come at etree.

  18. whole tour! Says:

    the soundboards they have been streaming on sound read-dicc!!! they have them tweaked fo sho.

  19. sumodie Says:

    Can’t wait to buckle in again for Portland -hope to meet more of you pt’ers there.

    Should have included Albany 2. And I’m looking forward to Mitch’s Thursday MSG meet up too.

  20. beepaphone Says:

    LOL @ Trza
    The Jibboo-tang Clan

    Masta McKillaConnell
    Ghostfish Killah

  21. Prince Nabby Says:

    I can’t say if this will be the best fall tour ever, but it is going to be a significant one, and it is already memorable. Back in March, I was thinking after each Hampton show: “They’ll never play as well as they used to, but I’m really just glad they’re back.” Similar thoughts occured to me through the summer. At 8, I thought: “My god, I really think they might pull this off.” And after the Cincy run, I thought: “They’re back! They found whatever that thing was they lost and spent the year looking for.” Far as I’m concerned, they might well end up playing the best shows of their career in the future, not in the past. For real.

  22. sumodie Says:

    @wholetour: sweet! I’m holding out hope for a good Syracuse matrix. I’ve gotta stop listening to Cuse and spin those Cincis!

  23. whole tour! Says:

    Big Redman
    Old dirty gordo


  24. whole tour! Says:

    this tour is like the arena rock of 95 mixed with the post hiatus big sound…with a hint of 2000 and a 97 chaser.

  25. sumodie Says:

    need…ipod…input…in…my…new (used)…car -argh!

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