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. llamalee Says:

    danny b, i’ll take em., my friends all got tickets and i’m only one w/o

  2. c0wfunk Says:

    well I’m not on hoodstream but sounds like we’re about synched .. the type III continues with page getting all synthy, and then a little dying whale -> type IV wind up movement.. so nice to have fresh new phish every day, eh?

  3. c0wfunk Says:

    this drowned jam is a nice example of a type I -> II -> III -> IV -> new song progression as twist bubbles up here out of the ether of page’s alien communications

  4. fat bastard Says:

    i heard a total”vultures” jam saturday night during what song? anyone hear it?

  5. c0wfunk Says:

    wow the little off kilter digiloop during the last “wouldn’t twist around” round is skin crawly musta been crazy in there last night

  6. KWL Says:

    I must say I am still a little overwhelmed. Last night was a special night.

  7. Neemor Says:

    That was a rather abrupt ending to Twist.
    Not ugly, but abrupt.

  8. tela'smuff Says:

    just remebered. anybody here a little Cities tease in the Antelope intro from Cincy?

    @SOAM – Cincy night 1 (although night 2 ist set was better than night 1)

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    abrupt indeed

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    has anyone noticed that page has really bumped the enthusiasm in his singing this tour? He seems to be just belting it out with such a verve almost to the edge of maniacal, lovin it..

  11. Neemor Says:

    I heard an Antelope tease in the Water In The Sky Intro from Hartford 8.14.
    Does that count?

  12. Neemor Says:

    Vocally, they all sound great, someone had mentioned vocal lessons or coaching not too long ago?
    This Piper is getting effin crazy! What a build!

  13. Neemor Says:

    That BBFCFM drop is siiiicccckkkk!

  14. Brimley Says:

    I listen to Trey very closely and am hoping someone can add to Miner stating that “old Red’s” soloing/playing/tone far exceed the Summer…? That would be a welcome..

  15. Neemor Says:

    One of those, “I wonder what the people that work here are thinking right now” moments.

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    @gratefulcub : that speech on page 1 gave me the bumps dude. Beautiful. So happy to see everything back on the table.

  17. Danny B Says:

    llamalee- shoot me an e-mail man, dan(dot)bennis(at)

    I live in NYC so if you are coming to any of the MSG shows, I could bring them with me.

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    and uhhhh WOW piper->bbfcfm that is insane. mike is all worked up! NIce 8)

  19. ThePigSong Says:

    Pages solo in the Cinci coil is absolutely beautiful. That being said it sounds like people were giving it the ‘uni-clap’ for a bit towards the end. I can deal with song alongs and crowd participation-no biggie whatsoever – but the combined aignle clap might be my least favorite antic. anywhere. anytime.

    /end rant

  20. Neemor Says:

    He’s running from you!

  21. Locust the Lurker Says:

    Back in the day BBFCFM used to elicit a crazy (but respectful) slam-dance response up front. Did this happen last night?

  22. ThePigSong Says:


    but dang I’m so happy Axilla is back!

  23. Neemor Says:

    Let’s hear it for Jon Fishman’s dad’s patients!

  24. BOB Says:

    One quick thought — going back to what someone said a couple of days ago — as I listen to ‘Cuse’s LivePhish SBD…

    I know a lot of people are audiophiles, afficianados, etc. on here, but if you think back to listening to cassette tapes which we had to MAIL back and forth back in the nineties, trading this for that, etc, etc. The ability to wake up, log on, and download a rich, quality SBD anywhere from totally FREE to a whopping $9.99. Dude. Give me a break. Even if the lows are a little quiet, even if this or that is true, you have to love the boost in quality over what was going on a few years back. Live Phish is a great great thing that the band is doing in my opinion. I’m grateful, personally

  25. llamalee Says:

    i’m kind of in shock of how the band has come out swinging to start fall of ’09. philadelphia and msg are going to be ridiculous

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