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. neemor Says:

    Made direct eye contact with Mike and time stood still.
    One of the great moments of my life, my only front row show. Except for Cypress at points.
    That’s one of the reasons it’s a whole different show, it changes everything.
    You start to realize that it’s like going to see any local bar band with ten other people, in a lot of respects…
    It’s instruments, and wires, and amplifiers and smiles and interaction…
    Front row, like herb, should be experienced by everyone at some point or another in the course of life.

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    some old school fans (of anything) like feeling superior so bagging on newbies is an easy way to puff yourself up

    if you ever run into that kind of shit just let it roll off your back. the problem is not with you, it’s with them.

    Older fans who aren’t dicks like that sometimes still have reservations about new fans at first. You will probably see this at some point. It’s because a higher proportion of young fans end up getting too much too fast – whether its drugs per se or just the overwhelmingness of it in general – and ending up really spun. So in any kind of interaction whether it’s just on Shakedown or sharing space in the venue, there is always that initial “ok who is this freak and are they going to be cool or all up in my shit all show?”

    Most folks just want to know that you have your basic show going shit together. Don’t talk during the music. When you chat between sets or whatever don’t act like you’re a vet if you’re not. Don’t spill beers on people. Don’t flail and crash while dancing – or, not repeatedly and obliviously. Share the kind with your neighbors if you have it to spare, and when someone shares with you, no bogarting: puff, puff, pass. If your buddy is really spun, watch out for him, even if it means you can’t focus on the music all the time. Just that kind of thing. Show going 101 stuff.

    To be honest, when we end up next to younger fans, I am a little more reserved at first. It’s nothing personal. If you are friendly and kind but not too in my face, soon we will be friends.

    Had a great time with some 19/20 year old dudes as neighbors 2nd night at the Gorge for example. They had it goin’ on. At first I thought they’d be talkers, but not at all. Straight up ragers. A pleasure.

  3. Henry Says:

    I, like gus and BK, am also a young buck. My uncle was a phish fan back in the 90’s (he saw about 60 shows from ’93-’00) and sadly he died in a car accident in Dec. ’00 but his older brother (my dad) inherited his massive amount of cd’s.

    A few summers ago I was looking through and saw massive amounts of Phish bootlegs, and was intrigued. He even had one concert that was 15 disc! Wow! I found out later this was the magical Big Cypress. Since the fateful moment when I first was turned on through his CD’s I became obsessed. It was sad however, as I soon realized they were no longer in existence, but I did my best to collect as many tapes as I could. My uncle had a scrapbook of all his stubs (Phish and nonPhish) and so my original goal in collecting was to have recordings of all the shows he attended, which included all NYE from 93-99 and all 4 halloweens among some other biggies.

    When hampton was announced I desperately tried to attend but sadly failed. Then, this summer, my dad and I made the 600 mile trek to Bonnaroo. He wasn’t a fan, but was interested to see what drove his brother to all corners of the country to see these guys, even though he himself was a casual dead fan in the 80s. Needless to say, the live experience made it all clear, to both of us really, as no tape can capture being there. Anyways, thats just my personal phishtory.

    Can’t wait for my third show in C’ville!

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    long story short, if you are treuly there for the music and understand IT, you’re good to go.

    yeah, what he said ^^^^

    it’s real real easy to tell, while the show is happening, who is there for what reason. takes no special skill or wisdom, it’s dead obvious

    a thin line beyond which you really can’t fake

  5. AintNoTele Says:

    I’m glad I got all my “new to the scene mistakes” out of the way early with all the shows up till phish. I went to 30+ panic shows in the minor league and graduated to bigs with phish. I drank one beer and a water night 2, I didnt want to taint that night in any way.

  6. halcyon Says:

    Great Story Henry.

  7. neemor Says:

    Good stuff, Mr. C.
    That 101 stuff should be in a handbook of sorts.
    I remember early on trying to assimilate to what I saw around me but I began to understand that the point of this band is that it takes all kinds.
    When I began to look at the scene that way, it was easier for me to find comfort in my surroundings knowing that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at any given time.
    Being open to chatting with anyone at a Phish show, knowing that everyone in that venue has a different perspective to offer, is a really cool way to look at things. More than once, I’ve found myself walking away from someone else’s campsite after puffing and chatting about the show feeling as if my views were instantly broadened…
    And when you are able to broaden someone else’s views in a passive, kind way…it all starts to come together…

  8. AintNoTele Says:

    awesome story henry

  9. neemor Says:

    Henry, that was beautiful.
    Sorry to hear about your uncle, but glad you carry that torch.
    You will never forget your first!

  10. Henry Says:

    Thanks guys, that first show on friday night really was a powerful experience. It sounds cheesy in a way, but my dad and I both independently imagined him watching us get down at a phish show and smiling.

  11. neemor Says:

    That thin line can’t be faked, Mr. C.
    I feel like I just came on to the board tonight and sat in a living room with the coolest bunch of cats that I could’ve picked.
    Good stuff, guys…
    Til tomorrow.
    Laundry to do.

  12. neemor Says:

    He was, Henry…he was.
    The music never fades, the notes play infinitely.

  13. BeantownBoy Says:

    Mr. C, yet again you speak words of truth.

    I’ve been seeing the band since ’94, stopped counting when I hit 50 shows, and yet I don’t consider myself a “vet” but just a very lucky individual.

    In fact, one of my more fun moments at a Phish show came during my first show post-hiatus at Fenway when my girl and I sat next to three, 18 year-old-guys, all Freshmen, in college and exactly ten years younger than me. It was their first show and before the show they were literally teeming with excitement as they exclaimed how they started listening in high school, but never thought that they would be able to see a show live.

    Needless to say, it was a fun experience welcoming them to the groove. Plus, they had just harvested so they treated my girl and I right the whole night.

    Share the groove and ye shall be rewarded.

  14. Lycanthropist Says:

    @all the youngins –

    you wont get a more clear cut way to handle yourself at shows than Mr. C’s post.

    That kind of handbook doesnt come often, so take for what its worth kids!


    FWIW –

    Definitely an old fan and long time listener, but by no means a touring vet. Cincy was my 8 and 9.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Henry, you have mentioned parts of that story before, but to read it like that is amazing and very moving.

    I said before that I think the collective is real. I also suspect that it has a memory. Everyone who was ever really part of it, truly part of it in a deep way, makes a mark – leaves an impression of their soul, an echo, whatever original part they once contributed to the whole…I would never say they are still alive because of that, this is not religion or superstition, but sometimes I think I can feel them, those facets of the gem…

    I’ve lost a few people over the years, you know. Not a huge number, but too many, and much too soon. So I think of these things sometimes, and given the way you came into the music, maybe you do as well, or will…

  16. beepaphone Says:

    good stuff tonight

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    That 101 stuff should be in a handbook of sorts.

    How about in shirt form?

    Tremendous posting tonight as so often by @Neemor – that one about seeing new perspectives was just perfect, so right, the way it all fits together…

  18. Lycanthropist Says:


    really beautiful story.

    I always enjoying hearing stories of peoples emergence into Phish. Although there is sadness attached to yours Henry, where you are coming from is true and that can make all the difference when it comes to Phish.

  19. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah @Neemor has really stepped up in the last few weeks with some incredibly insightful posts. The realness of who he is is seeping through his posts and it has been a pleasure to read.

  20. AintNoTele Says:

    This is shaping up to be a good setlist

  21. AintNoTele Says:

    hope it looks good on paper

  22. Lycanthropist Says:

    Re: young fans/age of crowd –

    it was really nice to see fans of all ages at the show.

    interesting anecdote that is relevant:

    for Cincy 2 my crew had to split up and two of my buddies got some floors (with much thanks to ferd from phishthoughts). After the show we of course discussed our relative experiences. My buddy and I were in 100 levels and situated around quite a handful of younger fans. Nothing but polite, informed and humble.

    However, one of my crew from the floor said as he was walking around he was accosted by an older guy who was spun out or something and got up in his face and started cussin him out, resulting in my friend having to leave the show round Suzy Greenberg. All without any kind of instigation from my friend.

    Now I’m not trying to draw and conclusive arguments or anything. Just thought that it was interesting that the younger fans showed much more selft control and kindness than the older fan. Just goes to show you that so called “noobs” can just as easily and maybe are more likely to come from a good place than from an overly jaded fan.

  23. Squirming_nancy Says:

    Mr. C. nailed it. We hesitate to be near younger folks too, although we met some really cool 20 yr olds at Indio. The only thing I would add is holding up cell phones in front of my face to take videos and pictures. I don’t mind if you do it once but don’t stand there and record a whole song. Try to be in the moment and enjoy the music live. There is NO NEED to stand there with your phone in the air! It also annoys me when people (not just younger phans) are constantly texting while the music is playing. Why are you at the show if you can’t just groove? I just don’t understand the need to text every 5 minutes.

    @neemor – the front row is an amazing experience and I agree that everyone should do it a couple times. I saw a lot of shows in small venues and colleges in the early 90s, which is MUCH different than the places they are playing now. I had a neat front row experience during a Bug encore at the 2004 Coney Island shows where Trey and I were locking eyes and intensely feeling each other (not sexual). It is actually on the Live in Brooklyn video so I will always remember it. It was really cool to see so many girls in the front row at Indio–rare for 2.0.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    leave you tonight with something I found on an old HD recently, thought I’d lost it. a silly but wise poem by an old friend.

    The One is like a multi-faceted jewel.
    Each of us represents a single reflective surface.
    One must look at the entire gem
    To fully appreciate its dazzling brilliance!

    The Game works like this:
    You start out being everything.
    But that gets boring after awhile,
    So you forget that you are everything,
    And become something.
    Sooner or later, however,
    You remember that you are everything.
    When that happens, you have to forget all over again,
    And become something else.
    After you have been every kind of something you can think of,
    You forget that you are everything
    And become nothing.
    Nothing lasts forever!
    Isn’t that something?

    Hail Eris!

    – Count Cagliostro

  25. beepaphone Says:

    Humble is right…I was 17 at DC 2000. You look around at that age and realize the fan base is older and more mature than you. It’s easy to want to keep you mouth shut and take in the experience. Rocked out next to some teenagers at Cobo. Great bunch.

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