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. halcyon Says:

    Morning All…..As this is thanksgiving week, may I extend my thanks to this site Miner built, and the community that everyone has helped to develop. There has been many entertaining moments here that has helped my work days, and lazy days flow. Also thankful to be able to use this forum to vicariously live through those attending these shows.

    Can’t wait to give the War Memorial show from last night a spin.

  2. st8 of mind Says:

    Just got back from Detroit>Cincy>Cincy. All I can say is wow! I’ve seen 11 Phish 3.0 shows and these are my favorite. I loved the flow, song choices, and preciseness of Detroit. Cincy was just downright ridiculous, especially second night. I am just so happy to see the boys back in form. Watch out for the rest of the tour. Wish I could be there. I love Phish!

  3. Neemor Says:

    This Boogie On must have been a dance party.
    Curious how Mike sounds in the venue mix…
    …hope he’s in it!

  4. gratefulcub Says:

    Maybe I love the Cincy shows so much because my wishlist going in was:

    Torn and Frayed
    a Play it Leo/Haley’s duo (just because I have my dogs Leo and Haley at home)

    If you leave a weekend saying, I didn’t get my Haley’s and Sally, it was a good weekend.

  5. BOB Says:

    who else is craving a dirty dirty SAND?

  6. randomreader Says:

    @ cub – agreed except that i’ve seen it as a killer opener, MSG ’98. i’d almost say it was written to be a show opener – the lights drop, everyone freaks out, the song just ERUPTS – you’re already melting and you’re only 10 seconds into the show

  7. gratefulcub Says:

    I’ve given up on Sand. That way there is no disappointment and if they ever do play it, I will just be grateful.

    Songs I want to hear with all my soul, but never expect to again:
    Sand, Scents, Walls of the Cave

    Sans Sand from the list above, that era is getting very little play, and it isn’t an accident. Either they are working through the songbook chronologically, or they don’t respect the round room era much musically. (I know SSS wasn’t RR)

  8. gratefulcub Says:

    rr, excellent point. Axilla can open any show I see

  9. Neemor Says:

    I’m guessing that wasn’t the face-melting Sparkle we anticipated….?
    This show, looking at the setlists is such a weird pairing show, or maybe a perfect pairing show…
    There’s the Bowie-Stash bookends.
    The two bad ‘bitches’. Bitch/Reggae Woman.
    I’ve always considered Piper and Twist brothers.
    The two Tubes.
    Sample and Character Zero belong together like drinking buddies.
    And don’t overlook the ‘British-ness’ of the show….Bowie, Drowned (The Who) and Zeppelin’s GTBT…
    Maybe that’s why it feels so balanced.
    I might consider ‘Cuse the perfect setlist.

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    I’d love to hear walls of the cave – the only one I got was sitting in my car at the gates of coventry. Would like to actually hear the song live! Scents is another that would be nice to have back.. Pebbles and Marbles I’d also like to see return to rotation..

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    axilla is a good headbanger for mid first set imo.. While a good flowing first set is nice (11/22/97), I don’t mind a sample pack first set just full of good songs..

  12. randomreader Says:

    the way they consistently tear rock & roll and drowned to shreds, you’d think pebbles would be a no-brainer

  13. Wilson8or Says:

    I have a feeling Trey doesn’t want to touch certain Round Room/Undermind songs with a 10 foot pole. We have to remember that he was in the throes of addiction during the play of many of those songs, especially during the creation of them. I’d imagine some of those bring back bad memories and or triggers. Plus, Trey is having too much fun with the new tunes, and if history tells us anything, its that the current album gets the most attention as far as tour rotation goes.

  14. randomreader Says:

    scents on the other hand, i was saying last night, imo the built-in jam at the end is too similar to hood or slave to serve much of a purpose in a setlist, since when are they going to play scents in lieu of either of those tunes?

  15. gratefulcub Says:

    Always loved Pebbles. But, I have always loved it like you love a WR with 4.2 speed that has ‘the potential to be the next Jerry Rice’. For me, the best pebbles is the one from the studio. I was always waiting for it to explode into one of the all time great phish songs, and it just never did.

    That’s ok though, it’s nice that sometimes the song just speaks for itself and doesn’t need Type II (word of the day) jamming, 5 years of exploration, and the energy of 20K fans to reach it’s true potential.

  16. BTB Says:

    @Fat Bastard – I must have missed you at the Hoafbaruaufhushaushsus. That was a funny place wasn’t it? Lots of big boobs and makeup! Funny stuff. I was on the left side of the front bar.

    @ Grateful Cub – I 100% agree with your earlier post. Having scene Cobo and Friday Cinci pretty sober and in a very positive mood, this time is going to be different! I’m loving it. Torn and Frayed was very special, “as long as the guitar plays” Yes!!

    All around, those Cinci shows might have been the best I’ve seen out of my 27. Had a great time and shared it with some great people. Really happy how everything turned out.

    I’ll post some pics on the FB page later today. I took a picture of Kuroda dropping the lights on Saturday Cinci from about 15 feet away. He got the phone call, lit up a smoke and then dropped the lights. That was pretty cool!

  17. SOAM Says:

    I will say that they have definately responded to my post about variety-the setlists seem to really include some unique tunes lately-unique in respect to 3.0

    way to go Phish-keep up the increasing selection rotation-keeps things exciting..

    what has been the best night yet?

  18. gratefulcub Says:


    Yeah, that’s why I will never complain about not hearing some songs that I love. Keep the demons out of the room, I don’t want them any more than he needs them around.

  19. cal Says:

    gratefulcub, I’m with you–I have Dane County ’95 and Alpine ’00 in the back of my mind, but I can’t honestly say any Phish show I’ve ever been at TOPS this past weekend in Cinci…I loved summer tour, but (to borrow a term from Mr. Completely) I did feel like we were still grading on a curve until Friday night. I feel like they’ve finally obliterated (for ME) the concept that they can’t play at mid-90s levels, or even surpass those levels.

  20. Neemor Says:

    Good call, Wilson. Triggers, indeed.
    I, too, have no good use for 2.0.
    ASIHTOS, Waves, WOTC, SASS, Pebbles, I can take them or have their slot filled with Hood, Slave, Piper, Melt, Stealing Time, etc….

  21. BTB Says:

    Also, who the hell holds up an AXILLA song request sign?! I got a kick out of that. FWIW, the other sign Trey was talking about was this girl who was on the floor at Cobo and Cinci holding a CAMEL WALK sign. Hey skipped the Camel to play Axilla, oh well. Got a laugh out of that, but seriously, who requests Axilla??? It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but of all the songs, I doubt I would bother jumping up and down with the ole’ Axilla sign. Just my opinion, but whatever.

  22. gratefulcub Says:

    “what has been the best night yet?”

    One vote for Cincy night 1.

    Random note that might interest only me: my favorite small moment from that night was the start of the Jiboo jam. DELAY LOOPS shot across the room for about 30 seconds. It was perfect. It was a “hey guys, remember these?!?!?”, but didn’t turn into a 25 minute delay loop jam in which everyone else left the stage without trey noticing as he played with his toys.

  23. Wilson8or Says:

    @Cub and Neemor: Glad I’m not the only one! The Fridays, the 2 Versions of Crap, the Thunderheads, all took up too much space in setlists. Plus, SSSS and P&M jams tended to be replicas of Hood and Rock and Roll jams respectively

  24. gratefulcub Says:

    cal, Mr. C,

    Grading on a curve. That is the phrase I have been looking for since setbreak night one. I have been raving about how great they were playing ever since hampton, but to be honest with myself, it was always a feeling of believing in how good they were going to be. Cincy was the first time I was believing in potential, I was just living in a sweet sweet moment.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    Just as an aside, Moonlight Mile is an amazing song. Just been listening to Sticky Fingers a lot lately. Sister Morphine and Moonlight Mile don’t get nearly enough respect.

    What he said is the truth.

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