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:

    i agree 2nd set was 1st night was the no slow down fun ass groove fest

    YEM was my highlight.

    1st set was just one of those that sets that I never really get
    loved the Jibboo but Fluff was rough hate TTE
    you know the deal

    also agree kind of turns into the straight rock fest late 2nd night
    they are just TIGHT and ON! wish they would have gotten deeper late how they were killing it.

  2. BrandonKayda Says:

    Respectfully disagree Miner.

    I think that Syracuse II and Cincy 11/21 II top the first night; not that the big Tweezer fest wasn’t fun, but those 2 sets are a step beyond IMO. It is a thing of taste really, I prefer the open, funky grooves more, whiich Syracuse certainly has iin spades. Syracuse also has a huge Stash, Bowie/Julius opener, and a BBFCFM, and that isn’t even half the show!

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    the Light > Train and Train > Possum transitions from Friday both come from high level full band communication leading to very fluid, nimble responses from everyone involved…nice to hear multiple tight segues even though of course I paradoxically want them to stretch more songs out…. 😮

  4. albert walker Says:

    I tend to judge shows by the run
    and Friday opener to Saturday encore loved song selection and playing throughout

    can’t wait for MSG and Miami

    Miner will have to fill me in on the rest first thing 6:00AM at work

  5. Robear Says:

    I could walk in on the jam section of the RR, F8 or Cincy ‘Tweezer’, and if I hadn’t heard the intro, be like, ‘Beautiful jam, WTF song is this?’

    That’s saying something. Three incredible pieces of improv from good ‘ole ‘Tweezer’ in one short span.

  6. albert walker Says:


    I spoke with Col at Cinci
    seemed to be loving it

    I’m sure we will be hearing reviews very soon
    he was seeing a few more shows. he was at Cuse last night

  7. BrandonKayda Says:

    I can’t wait for the PA shows tomorrow and Wednesday; should be the heat

    For the record, I’m calling a Crosseyed second set opener first night.

    My gut hasn’t failed me yet 🙂

  8. beepaphone Says:

    wasn’t at Syracuse, but 11/20 set II was the best set for sure out of the first 3 shows. That arena blew up…golden jams throughout and seamless transitions. 11/21 set II started like it was going to compete with the night before, but it didn’t hold the sustained level of intensity. Agree though on the overall better show.

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    I forgot the colonel has been at these shows

    that makes the win even more epic, after he had to miss 8 – I love a happy ending

  10. albert walker Says:

    great dude Mr C
    very nice wife also

    glad I got to meet him

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Me too, Mr. C. In more ways than one.

  12. BingosBrother Says:

    Hope the Colonel catches a Forbin. Would be epic for him.

  13. beepaphone Says:

    Glad they got dark last night though…LOVE dark Phish. Chicago Carini is still my favorite of 2009. Funny how the show itself didn’t stack up near anything else I’ve seen, but that song was worth the 3 hour drive alone.

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah even though the versions are stellar an unjammed number line/prince fuckerpants/suzy/coil/monkey/axilla set is never going to hold up for me like the train > possum, slave, YEM set (the 2nd set opening jams are hard to argue about, both just great.

    If I was going to list 3 Phish songs to never hear live pretty good chance they’d be caspian, suzy, monkey, so…

    my $0.02

  15. beepaphone Says:

    Suzy should be a first setter

  16. BrandonKayda Says:

    I really do enjoy the new emphasis on jamming they are putting in this Fall tour – 2 big jams a night it seems on average

    ex. (Syracuse Stash, Drowned->Twist->Piper->BBFCFM)

  17. beepaphone Says:

    ::sips haterade::

    To be totally honest I’m not crazy about Coil.

  18. BrandonKayda Says:

    Also, th Cincy Tweezer/YEM
    Cincy Split/RnR/Ghost

    just to name a few. Really happy with how this tour iis opening up. Even in Cobo there was a whole different vibe

  19. albert walker Says:

    I would agree with you on Suzy Mr C

    but I think the Indio version has given it new blood
    very tight, hard jazz funk

    I hate 1st songs in the 2nd set also. Possum is the same though on 1st night. Slave kind of went backwards. Very rough version.

    Love Tweezer, Light, and YEM is my new fav of 2009.
    Also Joy encore is kind of lame

    still I agree for what i look at in a set 1st night had the jamming I started seeing this band for

    I am just like you Mr C. A open jam guy.
    I think you though are a little more forgiving of a little slop to get there.
    I guess I’m a whole package guy and I think both these shows generally delivered.

  20. halcyon Says:

    @ Robear … A good Aud source (for my ears at least) were from taylor c on I think it is the same source that Miner posted for No Spoilers. I would post the link, but it is firewalled at work. Check, and look for 11/21 by taylorc. It sounds good to my ears.

    Very excited for the Col. Glad he is back safe, and is catching shows. Epic Win as Mr. C. and AW said.

  21. Prince Nabby Says:

    So much discussion of song choice and placement. Truth is, I was secretly hoping that they would open first night of Hampton by playing The Curtain (With), then Slave, and play that whole catastrophic final set from Coventry in reverse. I’m glad in retrospect that they didn’t. Phish makes sense best when they looking forward rather than over their shoulders, while never forgetting for a moment what they’ve done or where they have come from.

  22. beepaphone Says:

    I think Mike’s bass went out during the opening Slave transition. Thats why they went back it seemed

  23. albert walker Says:

    I’m not here to hate
    but listen to the Slave
    there are tons of mistakes it is all over the place
    mostly Trey

    but yes 2nd set 1st night is really the jamming layout you want.
    no ballads, good segues, great energy

    it is funny how detached 1st sets can be from 2nd sets

  24. sumodie Says:

    Respectfully disagree Miner.

    @Brandon: You’re so brazen!

    …it’s all good…. 8)

    Maybe I need to try harder, but I can’t seem to debate/discuss shows I don’t see. Meanwhile I sure enjoy listening to others who can.

    Listening to Cinci 2 -Set I right now….almost time for Torn&Frayed.

  25. joe Says:

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

    Just listened to the first two songs (well,still at the end of Julius. my #1 choice for a rocker). sounds great. Can’t wait till Portland/MSG. really testing my patience not being able to go to Albany too because of a stupid wedding of two people I barely know.

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