Another Level

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

At set break last night, I had multiple conversations lamenting the relatively jam-less phenomenon Phish had become. The band’s musical re-evolution from the first to the second leg of summer had unexpectedly come to a screeching halt when the band stepped indoors. Fall had not progressed as imagined; the band simply wasn’t talking risks anymore. A tour that started with lofty expectations of improvisational escapades and musical growth had turned somewhat formulaic – a series of songs in the first and a couple ten-to-twelve minute jams sprinkled throughout the second. Hmm. Just what had our cosmic adventurers become? Where had their spirit of exploration gone? We heard glimpses of it at Red Rocks and The Gorge, and logically thought Fall would be the next step. With enhanced onstage comfort and a few tours under their belt, Phish was ready to take over the world again – or were they?

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

Through the first half of tour, no new musical direction had emerged. If the band decided to jam, they pulled out “Disease,” “Rock and Roll,” or “Drowned,” and launched into a high speed rock jaunt that inevitably broke down into percussive grooves before morphing into ambience and drifting off into the next song. Some outings were better than others, but the formula began to grow tedious. This wasn’t the Phish I toured with in during the mid to late ‘90s, and this wasn’t the Phish I toured with in ’03 and ‘04 – 2009 represented a new take on their music, and to say it wasn’t a bit watered down would be generous. Was it the lack of drugs? Was it a lack of intrinsic motivation? Nobody knew, but a consensus was beginning to form amongst kids who have seen the band for years on end that something needed to happen; and it needed to happen now; Phish had to start jamming again. The last thing I said before the lights came down was “This better be huge.” Darkness.

Somehow, someway, the band must have eavesdropped on our conversations in the 200 level, because when they emerged for their fourth and final set at The Knick something had changed. I don’t know what conversation the band had at setbreak, or how they plotted their plan of attack, but when they stepped onto stage, they let their any inhibitions fall away and went for the jugular. Fifty minutes of pure exploratory improvisation later, I gazed at the stage, drenched, refreshed, and so blissed out, words cannot begin to explain.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

“Seven Below > Ghost” defines why we see Phish; why we spend thousands of our dollars, weeks of our life, time away from our families, and all our vacation days chasing the sacred rite; searching for those moments – ever fleeting but ultimately inspiring- when the universe comes together in a vibrant confluence of ecstatic music, unconscious rhythm and soulful reverie. Fifty minutes of IT, guided by a spirit unseen in 2009, absolutely floored the entire Knick, leading to a deafening ovation in reverence of the magical mystery tour.

Organically building through multiple melodic themes with improvisation so fluid it made any other jam from the year seem contrived, Phish seemed to be playing to our greatest fears, showing us they most definitely still have what it takes to blow our minds apart. Cohesively connecting two 25-minute epics, Phish crafted far and away their most stunning music of the year. Nothing else even comes close. For whatever reason, everything truly came together for the first time in 2009 last night, and Phish presented us with a psychedelic excursion that stands up to their prestigious history.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Songs turned into mere vehicles as Phish allowed their instincts take over their consciousness in earnest, resulting in an epic voyage for the ages and hopefully a sign of things to come. But the question begging to be asked is, “Why now?” What were the precipitating causes of such a monumental – and obvious – shift in musical intent? Something of such magnitude doesn’t just happen out of the blue; the band clearly decided that last night would be different.  And boy was it ever. Completely redefining possibilities for the final week of tour, last night’s show at The Knick represented a massive step forwards to the hopeful return of the Phish of our dreams.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Rest of Set II Notes: Everything that happened after “Seven Below > Ghost” was simply frosting on the cake. If the PA had broken at that point, everyone would have picked up their belongings and headed for the exits with an ear-to-ear smile. But the did, in fact, continue with the quick bust-out of Velvet Underground’s “Cool It Down”- a song that seemed wholly appropriate following the initial segment of the other-worldly playing. Segueing into a celebratory groove session of “Jibboo” the band then took a breath with “Let Me Lie” before showering the audience with the liquid funk of “Wolfman’s Brother.” A full-on “Julius” wrapped up the set before the band came out and gave their own nod of recognition to the special evening their signature piece, “You Enjoy Myself.”

Set I Notes: The first half started with a bang with “Party Time” and “Stealing Time,” while also featured a solid “Foam,” and a botched “Split” that paled in comparison to Cincy’s version, as well as several others from this year. Notable bust-outs included “Sanity,” “Walk Away,” and the first 3.0 incarnations of “Uncle Pen,” and “Vultures.”

I: Party Time, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Uncle Pen, Sanity, Foam, Walk Away, NICU, Alaska, Split Open and Melt, Joy, Vultures, Backwards Down the Number Line

II: Seven Below > Ghost, Cool It Down > Gotta Jibboo, Let Me Lie, Wolfman’s Brother, Julius

E: You Enjoy Myself

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933 Responses to “Another Level”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Miner. My friends and I were having a similar talk at half-time, and The Band must have picked up on the Vibe somehow. I think Portland will be the best show of the tour, we will see at the cccc!

  2. m00nshake Says:

    This is simply a fantastic write-up for a fantastic show. Hopefully the boys will continue this momentum continuing on to Portland and MSG, I’m so excited!

  3. gills Says:

    Gad to see shit finally hitting the fan, making it all worth for u miner. Cant wait to soak up a listen.
    Thanks to all for the no spoilers.

  4. rprice23 Says:

    You nailed this one, Miner. We all agreed that something changed last night during Seven Below>Ghost. This was a pivotal moment in their rebirth – and since it was my birthday I was STOKED. I cannot wait to re-listen to this today. The hose was spraying all over the place last night. We were soaked. I don’t know if they can re-open this door again but Portland, ME is definitely a place IT could happen. Wish I was going there instead of back to work! Enjoy the return to Cumberland County. I recommend 12/30/93 for everyone’s road tunes. And 11/28/09.

  5. Matso Says:

    Amen brother! Great write-up for those of who weren’t there. Long live the Phish!

  6. jon bailey Says:

    You are right on. that seven below > ghost was the craziest thing I’ve seen in many years.

    My face hurt from smiling so much

  7. Mitch Says:

    I had told my friends that if phish had come out and played just 7 below > ghost and then left we’d still walk out pumped thanking phish and high fiving.

  8. Marshall Says:

    stream just re-started … party time … http://jamtopia.com/phishtwit/

  9. Al Says:

    That’s it Miner! Exactly.
    I think the band reads this bloq. Hey, guys. Thanks for taking risks again!

    I would love to tape record the setbreak concersations. I believe Mike said something like that they should take risks again because he’s getting bored.

  10. Gunnin4you Says:

    psychedelic jams are great and so are 3-7 minute songs. first set, second set, best of both worlds. the thing about entheogenic jams is that they are more for the well versed phish fan, while the focus on 3-7 minute songs in 3.0 is showing the world that Phish actually DOES write amazing songs and aren’t just another jam band.

    I love Phish and everything about them. So stoked to hear last night’s -7 and Ghost.

    And, as always, THANK YOU MR.MINER!!! Your dedication and exciting writing does not go unrecognized. Writing like you do, with such excitement and experimentation, in a lot of ways, is like listening to a Phish jam. thank you mr miner!

  11. BK Says:

    Ok, so who’s gonna point me toward the megupload download for this show and make my Sunday?

  12. karl Says:

    I have a theory….

    They are building crescendos much like they would in a bowie jam – with each set being a respective note. First night philly was the exalting peak. Second night philly was the jam crashing down. Now they are building again for another peak before MSG. Then I fully expect sick building of the jam from MSG to Charlottesville.

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    get yours miner.

  14. Robear Says:

    yO!

    You know you are in the north east when your hotel room has ‘Hood’ half and half on hand.

    Robear is on location in Portland, Me. Beautiful day for a Phish show. Sunny, 39 degrees, clear horizon.

    Meet-up at the Waterwheel Booth, inside the venue, before, during and after the show! Miner, see you there?!

    Send me an email, anyone that wants to meet-up before hand for a brew.

    humboldt rob at g mail dot com

    I’ve managed to avoid reading anything about Albany. That’s not easy, so no spoilers!

  15. m00nshake Says:

    stmusic.org has an AUD of this show, listening to 7 below right now, but I don’t seem to have any invites left. Grrr…

  16. BTB Says:

    During the seven below>Ghost they were definitely taking risks. They did kind of mess up the Melt jam at the end, made it kind of a rough ending.

    Overall, I think last night was a pumping show. Good times. The Ghost had several IT moments, but overall the 40+ minutes of SET II seemed like one big exploration.

    Got a Vultures and Sanity, hey now!!

  17. m00nshake Says:

    BTB: Was that a Hank Kinsley reference?

  18. m00nshake Says:

    Hank Kingsley, srry

  19. BTB Says:

    ^I don’t know who that is…But maybe I’m channeling his spirit or something, ha.

  20. BTB Says:

    The improv at the beginning of SET II had multiple 2001 teases by Trey and Fishman. They just never played it, but they were loosely jamming the structure.

  21. Al Says:

    I just listened to the end of Set 1.

    “Backwards down the numberline” is so painfully botched that it is no wonder they popped up with a second set like that. Trey must have banged his head against the backstage walls. Wrong chords all the way through that song. ufff.

    That second set was needed badly.

  22. Mr.Palmer Says:

    @BTB- Did you get a head-nod or any acknowledgement for the FMS sign?

  23. jdub Says:

    Robears in for treat, he’s gonna have great start to the day. We could all feel the energy coming through computers at home. As if we we had a peep hole to another dimension

  24. jdub Says:

    What are we going to complain about today. I guess we could ask for a songless set, all jam and no bread.

  25. jdub Says:

    @Karl, they are definitely taking is set by set, I like your theory and think it holds water, I have been saying that they have been pacing themselves and it seems like the patience from the band payed off, hoping the lid stays off

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