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. Mitch Says:

    whats up all. had a weird shift today. miss anything cool?

  2. SillyWilly Says:


    madison, wi

  3. SillyWilly Says:

    but i really don’t mind travelling to work

  4. Robear Says:

    si’, neemor. we’re the straglers on a monday.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    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.

    It has at least as much to do with perception as preference. I simply don’t hear the technical flaws as easily as you do. I can pick a missing sixty-fourth note out of the jam in sevens at the end of a ’73 Eyes on the fly, but I just don’t have the reps on most Phish tunes yet. So I can coast past the errors if crowd or band energy cover them up.

    @Neemor, Darien Fluff seems pretty darn tight to me, but see above – what do I know?

    I think some of the Phish fan attitude has to do with the extreme level of Phish hate in a lot of music circles…especially back 10 years ago…so that kind of insular “fuck you” attitude took hold. Hard not to feel superior when a bunch of tools are condescending towards the best band in the world at the time, and you’re “in the know” – being part of a secret subcultural incrowd has a powerful allure….

    Since it’s true that time does pass, people do get older, seasons fade and roses die and all of that, it’s pretty fucking important we get some younger fans up in this bizzatch STAT or the whole things is just going to get a little too safe for my taste. So it’s nice to see that happening a little. Another year or so of shows at this level and the influx will be fully underway – mark it down – I guarantee you that will happen

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    Mr. C that is what i was trying to say.

    law school, it seems, is draining my ability to think in simple and concise language.

    also, to you older fans, i love listening to what you have to say and thank you for sharing your ideas openly. i am always a little self conscious being young, but its cool that people like mr. C welcome us.

  7. neemor Says:

    You’re probably right, Mr. C.
    Silly, I only know lawyers in CT and NY, sorry.
    That’s a bit of a commute.
    Darien Fluff was decent, but the DC Fluff was literally played to perfection, it was remarkable on second and third (and fourth) listen.
    I give them huge props for that, tough song even after all these years.
    They really are playing remarkably well right now, the mention before of how ’09 is a mix of all of Phish’s past eras is well said and spot on.
    I’ve almost run out of adjectives.
    Mitch, Type III’s setlist would come in handy, huh?
    Did we decide on a Portland meetup? Anyone?

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    neemor, i can relocate for the summer! i want to do public interest stuff. labor rights. consumer protection. the like…

    haha im just afraid im gonna get stuck in the office while the summer grooves on without me. kinda like the fall will from here on out.

  9. neemor Says:

    It’s been said a couple of times and it is completely genuine, Silly.
    We (if I can consider myself an older fan-’93,’94) love the injection of youth into the scene. Don’t underestimate.
    It’s one of the great joys from all the research and gathering and following the band for all of these years, the ability to talk to someone about it who will listen!
    I can’t tell you how many people I work with who know a shitload more about the band than they should simply because I need to talk about how good they are.
    One of the major reasons this board is so exciting and important for me, the ability to share and break down the music on a daily basis is a necessity for me.
    If Phantasy was the only board, with all of the shenanigans and childish behavior, I wouldn’t be able to do it…it’s so hard to discuss this band with the respect and interest it deserves when everything is taken with such obnoxious and condescending retaliations….
    Thank you Mr. Miner….

  10. Mr.Palmer Says:

    8 sets of Phish so far this tour. 11/20 Set II is the best by a lot IMO. From top to bottom its tough to beat it. For selfish reasons i hope they top it friday in Albany. Not to slight the others at all. but they all had their peaks and momentary valleys. Cincy 2 set II has no valley, all peak.

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Robear, since you are here, something I thought to mention re: Trane

    Outside of the classics that have been mentioned, a lot of his studio albums have just one or two really great tunes and then a bunch of…well, it’s not filler, but relatively speaking….you know what I mean?

    For instance the album Impressions has the gnarly, intricate mazework of the title track, and the sublime strangeness that is “India” – and then it has a couple nice little songs to round out the LP sides….

    I guess my point is that like many artists his best stuff is scattered across many albums…less so than for instance Miles who tended to have albums that were either all awesome or all…less awesome, I guess

  12. Mr.Palmer Says:

    ^^ well said Neemor! I concur.

  13. AintNoTele Says:

    On the jaded fan note: I expected to be hit with that really hard. But its been the exact opposite. When people see how excited you are to see the band and that you are there for the music and nothing more, they open their arms. I met a guy from cali front row night 2 of cinci that had been to 170ish shows, i told him my story, started listening the week after coventry as I graduated highschool, got hooked, gobbled up every recording through college i could get my hands on and fell in love with a band I knew I would never get to see . Now they’re back and I feel as if I’m on borrowed time. this guy gives me a huge grin and says “you have a blast”. nothing but smiles and happiness that we both were standing where we were. another guy up there hears this story, the lights go down for set 2, hugs go all around, I see them keep looking as I’m watching the band interactions smiling my face off and keep getting the “pound it” (I play guitar and bass so watching the two throw down that close is a dream come true)…we all had an amazing night. long story short, if you are treuly there for the music and understand IT, you’re good to go. I just couldnt believe how nice everyone was. I mean, I got front row tix for face in the lot cuz the guy saw how psyched we were. I’ll never forget this weekend, not a sour note, it’s like a dream. I think all the vets need to realize that there are people out there who thought they would never get to see that band and have only got to “listen” to the shows that they have been to. I think it may mean just as much if not more to me to get the chance to see this band cuz I’ve never had the chance. its funny to me when I talk to people and they say I’ve been to X amount of shows, then I say “ohhh shit, you were at whatever show when they dropped that sick whatever…” they always get a huge smile on their face and I end up making a new friend. I believe that is sharing in the groove of life.

    PS: if ya’ll havent noticed, I’m the happiest son of a bitch ever!

  14. Mitch Says:

    haha, i never used to use the type 3 setlists since im a phish thoughts dork and read all day.

    the dc fluffhead was freakin money. loved that one. people all say the one from great woods was the shiznat. i havent listened closely enough to compare. i’m in the category like mr. c in that i dont care about a flub here and there. i used to care but i realized its not worth it. am i having fun? yes. is the crowd amped? yes. did trey laugh at it? yes. great. i do hear them but as long as were not talking every song… it happens. id like to see any of us do better. those songs are freaking hard and the band is giving their heart to it this go round so to see them trying is all that matters. the fact that they are having a blast and we are too is what matters.

    i just hope they stay around for another million years like some of the dead members. speaking of, i wonder how many musicians have arthritis and have to stop. that’ll really screw up a fluffhead.

  15. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    re: territorial phans

    anytime someone even mentions that they like or have any interest in hearing a phish song i burn them 5 cds and tell them when the next local show is. i feel like one of those roaming street preachers in NYC, but its true. any chance i get i try and spread the word about the good lord i mean trey. whoops freudian slip.

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    @ Neemor
    Well, thanks again. I remember a few months ago maybe mid September and Mr. Miner wrote about the shows before hiatus in 2000. His writing and the comments were filled with such sadness. Though I didn’t know I liked Phish then I became sad reading it all. It was such a weird feeling combined with the pure enthusiasm i was feeling after the great summer and F8 coming up and then the fall. I told myself that besides the early 90s perhaps this is the best time to inherit the band because they are surrounded with a new energy. this might be too sentimental, but this past year following phish has been the best year of my life.

    as far as younger fan go…I stayed on campus at the University of Dayton for the cinci run. At the bars every night there were 30 or 40 kids coming back from the show. it was really cool. everyone was just buzzing about the setlist from friday night. i thought maybe that was what vermont was like in 87 or 88.

  17. Mitch Says:

    awesome story aintnotele! IM REALLY EXCITED TO SEE PHISH EVERYONE!!!

    now whos got my front row for face 🙂

  18. SillyWilly Says:


    are we brothers?
    because your story is the exact same as mine

  19. neemor Says:

    Front row for face is grand!
    Good work and well-deserved.
    It’s a completely different experience in the front row!
    I’m so amped for Portland and MSG.
    The most exciting thing for me is that like 97-2000, every show gets better and better.
    They really are a joy to behold, and it’s indeed a “good time to inherit the band”.
    Well said.

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    oh and im sorry if the brothers comment came off taking anything away your story aintnotele…i meant it in the best way possible.

    some of the younger fans are coming out tonight.

  21. halcyon Says:

    Whats happening Neemor….3 more hours and my shift is done….One of the major reasons this board is so exciting and important for me, the ability to share and break down the music on a daily basis is a necessity for me.

    Same here Neemor, plus all the other discussions that propogate on a daily basis!

  22. AintNoTele Says:

    Silly: its and uprising

    Mitch: I got that ticket and just stood there. Being part of a jam is unreal, they whole band eyes you down. I’d be staring at treys hands and hear gordo revving up, I look at him and he’s looking right back at me grinning as he drops a bomb on me. It’s so sick when they recognize that you know what is going on and when they drop the goods. I always thought mike was looking down, but he’s looking right at people.

    After meeting all these great people with all of our varying histories, when they dropped into number line, I got all watery eyed. trey was looking right at me with a huge smile during that, pretty powerful moment…

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    i gotta peace for a little guys. gotta get my work out in.

    thanks for chatting

  24. AintNoTele Says:

    adios brethren

  25. Leo Weaver Says:

    ” its funny to me when I talk to people and they say I’ve been to X amount of shows, then I say “ohhh shit, you were at whatever show when they dropped that sick whatever…” they always get a huge smile on their face and I end up making a new friend. I believe that is sharing in the groove of life.”

    🙂 good stuff tele

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