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. SillyWilly Says:


    thanks. i usually go with taylorc, but for some reason i thought id try someone else out. i wont make that mistake again.

  2. beepaphone Says:

    Gonna wait till the Thanksgiving car ride to Chicago to spin ‘Cuse. Double edged sword. I’ll be high as a kite come dinner time.

  3. stitchstash Says:

    @ Robear –I was able to make my donation for Detroit at the Waterwheel with the table coordinator last night. Thanks for the idea!

  4. SillyWilly Says:


    ill take on any stretch of highway with this past weekend.
    in fact, i just made the drive from cinci back to madison on friday and saturday night’s shows. best drive in a long time.

  5. yematt Says:

    @ silly – yeah for sure, I started it at set II just so I could compare the two versions to the best of my memory. its very clear and you can hear everyone – not too crowd heavy either.

  6. SillyWilly Says:


    nice, thanks! im dling it now. i was worried for a while that everyones would be too crowd heavy. i was at the show and oftentimes the crowd was close to being overpowering, so im pumped to hear talyorc’s version

  7. Robear Says:

    hilarious ‘BBFCFM’

    Yeah, silly, I like the taylorc pull, too. Night 1, haven’t heard Night 2, downloading now.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    robear, ill grab night 1 from taylorc then too. thanks for telling me.

  9. beepaphone Says:

    i heart funny Phish. My crew was in stitches during the YEM vocal jam.

  10. Robear Says:

    ^stich, thanks so much. It means so much to the groups. Wish I could have hit this whole tour. I love the WW.

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    listening to the melt from saturday i just realized i went to pee right before it started and missed the first half of it. bummer.

  12. whole tour! Says:

    robear…you hitting miami brah?

  13. whole tour! Says:

    when i first read your post…i thought you wanted to hit me…lol

  14. whole tour! Says:

    AA Arena = RAGE CAGE

  15. Robear Says:

    funny, I thought of you when I posted it, WT! Not hitting you though, just Whole Tour!

    29-31st re: Miami

  16. whole tour! Says:

    word…see you at the rage cage robear

  17. neemor Says:

    That Maze from Syracuse is perfect. What a peak. Not to be overlooked for Maze fans.
    And it had been mentioned before that no Fluffhead has been executed to perfection in ’09….Check out Deer Creek’s version.
    Damn near studio, whatever that means.
    Absolutely a textbook version without a poor note.
    Good stuff today, guys. A couple of first time posters keeping the crowd fresh…
    Have we decided on a meet up spot for Portland yet?

  18. neemor Says:

    Anyone still here?

  19. whole tour! Says:

    whoop whoop
    writting a paper…shit blows
    whoop whoop

  20. halcyon Says:

    halcyon here neemor…working the night away…about to play syracuse set 2

  21. neemor Says:

    My buddy and I were talking tonight about ticket availability being so….available.
    I think a lot of factors go into it, the economy was mentioned.
    But I think it has to do with two other distinct factors.
    1) The fact that we can download the last nights show so quickly the next day with such high quality makes getting to shows less of a dire need.
    2) The Phish fan base has been notoriously closed towards inviting newcomers. As much as I hear people from this board bringing new potential fans to shows, I’ve always felt that the majority of long time fans with their holier than thou attitude keep the fan base from regenerating by keeping the music to themselves.
    Basically the complete opposite of the welcoming arms of the Grateful Dead fans.
    We’ve talked before about how DeadHeads were willing and conscientious about showing new fans how to be kind and passing that torch the right way, whereas Phish fans (the 90% that aw has coined) have no interest in sharing the groove…
    I’m not sure how I feel about it.
    It’s nice to have ticket availability, for sure, but is that the key?

  22. SillyWilly Says:

    im in and out, neemor

    reading torts. fml.

    by the way, anyone know any phriendly lawyers. i need to get an internship this summer, and if i could work for someone who wouldn’t mind if i peaced a couple fridays to make some shows that would be perfect.

  23. neemor Says:

    When I first started listening, a jaded fan (even in ’93) used to loudly exclaim to anyone who would listen that Phish was really bad. He was seriously trying to keep new fans from coming on board. That always stuck with me.
    He was a big asshole.
    I guess I’m just glad that some good people are finding the band, I also think that it’s important to bring good people into the fold that are courteous to start with and to show them through actions how to be kind. How to look out for one another, share when possible or necessary and explain the reverence for the band that we feel-so that glowsticks stop bouncing off the band.

  24. neemor Says:

    Silly, where are you located?
    Hi Halcyon….

  25. SillyWilly Says:


    my thoughts on this topic is that phish fans have gotten a bad rap. it seems that the nation has forgotten the 60s and the good side of the counterculture.

    ive been thinking a lot lately about how to bring more people into the fold because i think new fans are a good thing. this naturally lead me to wonder why people don’t like phish. my answer is that people don’t know whether they like phish or not because theyre not willing to give them an honest listen.

    for example, how many times do we hear “i don’t listen to music that you have to be high to like?” or “oh i dont like phish—have you listened to them?—-no, i just don’t like them.”

    However, i am a newcomer to Phish. i discovered them during 2004, but I probably wouldn’t be as big a fan if it wasn’t for how nice the scene generally is. everyone smiles and says hi in the parking lot. people share their music, food, beer, pot, etc. when i was in cinci all the workers said thet loved working these shows because everyone was so nice. they said we were the best behaved bunch they had worked for.

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