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

Tags: ,

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

  1. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Everybody knows that Type III jamming is where it’s at 😉

  2. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    As I was typing this, I was thinking about some of the other blogs I read that have a “definitions” or “inside baseball” kind of link. In other words, a quick place for “a noob” to check out some of the jargon (say LLFA, type 1, etc.) that is bandied about regularly to help bring them up to speed. Maybe something that Miner can think about, since he must have lots of time on his hands what with the archive being done and all 😉

  3. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @Bob – I personally didn’t find much to care for in 2.0, however there are plenty on here that really liked that era. Personally, if the music does it for you, more power to you. There is a lot of music out there and I suggest you check as much of it out as you can.

  4. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    Man, those east coast tapers must really sleep in. 9:30 and only 1 source up on etree! What is the world coming to? 🙂

  5. Neemor Says:

    Unfortunately, this beast had some of my favorite songs, as per usual, can’t take nights off when Phish is touring.
    (Wish it was 2000 again in that respect)
    Funky Bitch,
    Tube (although obligatory-and I probably saw the best of ’09 at Burgettstown)
    (The entire second set for me was a dreamer. BBFCFM is not my favorite, but it adds that old-school vibe like the Hartford Icculus that puts a huge grin on my face at the show)
    This is shaping up to be a tour unlike any other, ’09 has it’s own feel to it…I try to compare it to other tours and things and I really can’t.
    These smaller venue sizes and multiple two night (and three night) stands make this a one of a kind tour.
    Almost like a scaled down summer tour indoors!?
    I’m loving the selections and the boys ability to pull out classics….
    Lots of fun.

  6. fat bastard Says:

    i agree w your breakdown of the cincy SOAM. such an organic jam! so much energy! you could feel the arena moving with gordon’s bombs and ck is an absolute master of his craft.

    hofbrahous after party fri night was the shiitt too. thanks to all of you who get the ball rolling. it truly is a blessing.

  7. gratefulcub Says:

    I wanted to get a little distance to make sure what I am about to say is actually true, instead of that post show excitement.

    The Cincy shows may have been the best shows of my life. Memphis 99, Lexington 96, and Nashville 2000 are the only competitors. And, they may be better on the ipod in my car, but that’s not really what it’s about is it?

    The feeling I got in the arena, for me, was spot on perfect. For me it is the sobriety, plain and simple. The guitar sounds at peace, it sounds happy. It doesn’t feel like 2003, when even when the music was good, it was different. Sorrow, guilt, and depression can make great music too. I prefer what I heard this weekend.

    I feel honored to have been there for the first Torn and Frayed without a costume to stand behind. Listen to the song, and realize that is a man laying himself out to you completely stripped down and bare. It was my first goose bump moment in a very long time. From start to finish, it was my best phish moment ever. It wasn’t drug induced, it had nothing to do with lights or shiny objects, it was a realization that someone that I do care about had saved his life, his family, and our band. It was moving, and I don’t believe I was the only one in the room that felt it.

  8. CJ Says:

    “Trey continued his personal assault on any eastern arena he sets foot in.”

    Right on! I haven’t listened to last night yet, but the shows before that Trey is ON!!

  9. Neemor Says:

    Nice, cub…
    that’s how you know Phish is back.
    The next show is the best show.
    I remember saying that in ’97-’98, every time I saw them, they got better….
    Can Not Wait.
    Nice job holding it down, phans!
    We’ll carry that torch East….

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    very energetic first set, just starting the big stash now! cub – love yer comments

  11. Neemor Says:

    I like it, personally.
    New for ’09.

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    late into the halloween set, sitting wasted on the couch with the sirius stream my buddy turns to me and says “isn’t it nice to be proud of phish again” ..

    said volumes to me- cuz there was a period there where I still loved them but it was like a guilty pleasure. Now I can blare the new stuff from the rooftops loud and clear and they’re actually hitting the changes 😉

  13. Neemor Says:

    And fuck the green bored….
    Miner can call it whatever he wants, long as we get the gist….

  14. Neemor Says:

    Nice, cOw…well said.

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    this stash peak is unique – Trey’s building the dissonance in a completely different way than I’ve heard in the past.. right around the 10 minute mark, just before they kick back into the stash chords. There have been more exploratory Stashes this year, in the depths (asheville comes to mind), but this one is well executed and the peak may be unmatched.. just before the last big peak they completely go nutso almost in a 94ish shred the noise kind of way. Nice nice nice! maybe so I’d say

  16. jay Says:

    it was a realization that someone that I do care about had saved his life, his family, and our band. It was moving, and I don’t believe I was the only one in the room that felt it.

    Yea cub, exactly. Well said.

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    on the soundboard, before drowned you can hear a large group singing meatstick – I can imagine they were doing the dance too. Sounds like a rowdy, but in the know, crowd..

  18. Neemor Says:

    Meatstick bustout 11/24.

  19. marcoesq Says:

    wow, killer weekend. I step away for 2 days and this is what happens…
    I am so, so glad that they’re finally getting back to their dark roots O’ fall and basically getting back to where it began. Tweezer is finally starting to gain some notoriety in it’s jams (and the new Light segue), a good number of standout first-set jams (SOAM, 46 Days, Stash, Bowie), and that Rock&Roll>Ghost?? Sick!! Although I wish I could have been in Cinci, I’m more excited for the fact that I’ll be in philly in 36 hours!!

    I don’t know if you’re around msb but great game yesterday! Although we lost, (which we all knew was coming) at least it was a great game(and close) Stover got to kick the game-winning field goal in baltimore against us, he got his day. Great atmosphere down at M&T Bank, I made sure to pay extra respect to Colt’s fans 🙂

    Can’t wait to walk into Wachovia tomorrow night….could we get another Hood opener like in ’99???

  20. marcoesq Says:


    I’ve been hoping/calling for a Meatstick in Philly either night…here’s to seeing it happen! We should pass out some fliers in the lot a la RR ’96

  21. Neemor Says:

    HoodStream is streaming last night’s show- Funky Bitch now (as if you didn’t know).

  22. Neemor Says:

    I just anticipate it, not sure if I’d get behind the phlyer deal!
    I’d rather see ‘Meat’ if they have to play one “meat-related song”.
    I still want my ‘Demand’, and I think that may require a poster down front for a couple of nights…

  23. Neemor Says:

    Ernest is ripping the shit out of this Bitch.

  24. fat bastard Says:

    grateful well said. dead on.

  25. gratefulcub Says:

    “may require a poster down front ”

    I love me some Trey talk, and I don’t know if it gets any better than:

    “This one is called…… (in a whisper) AXILLA”

    I never really enjoyed Axilla in a set. Nowhere does a set flow into or out of an AXILLA. But, it might have just found a happy home as an encore. I expect to see it pop up in that spot again.

Leave a Reply