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”

  1. CJ Says:

    Can’t wait to hear this. But I’d be careful about getting a kind of cathartic image of this show. Chances are shows like this, with the big jam, will not be the norm for the rest of the year. I would be very surprised if jams like these started dropping with any consistency.

  2. neemor Says:

    Alright guys, leaving from CT to head to Portland!
    Last night was fun, you knew it halfway through Seven Below….the peaks that jam eventually hit….remarkable.
    I hope that energy flows through tonight….who am I kidding? It will…..

  3. Robear Says:

    Neemor, you’ve got mail. I’m on location, holding it down for the PThoughts crew!

  4. Joe Says:

    Mr. Monday Morning Quarterback. If you wrote this before last night you might have some cred but saying this post show is lame. No mention until now of what the true heads had been saying. Im glad you covered your ass by saying this is exactly what you were both waiting for and talking about just moments before they started the second set.

  5. andrewrose Says:

    I really should have stayed in Albany for Saturday.

  6. Pencilneck Says:

    Pencilneck is miffed he missed last nite. Looks like complete rager. Wow. I can just imagine the state of the rug after those sets. Cut to shreds.

  7. Kaveh Says:

    I must say that I like the way Phish is playing right now. I love straight-forward rock and roll, playing tight and rocking. And i love the thick soup that can come from deep jamming. And I nod to all the songs that are starting to reappear. I mean would you rather them jam the living be-jesus out only a few songs, or take the time to practice and re-introduce all the great songs that are in their catalog? Like said above: Sanity, Walk Away, Vultures…killer tunes. (I think Icculus is coming out tonight). They are great musicians and you have spent a lot of effort getting yourself there; so try going into the show with no expectations and see what happens; you all might enjoy the living shit out of yourselves. Just remember to bring a change of shorts….

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    “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.”

    ^^^ these words just convinced me that no matter what Ill be on the road this summer. Great write-up, Miner, and what a great time to be a Phish fan.

  9. Noah Says:

    Hi everyone, and a big thank you to Minor for the update. In retrospect I should have made the drive up from the city. MSG will have to do.

    Just a reminder, especially if the band is reading, free and legal auds (which usually sound better than the boards anyway) are up at bt.etree.org, stop posting or asking for sbds stolen from Phish!

  10. Kaveh Says:

    @Noah. As per yesterday’s post…padelimike has great sounding aud. from Philly. Truly killer. So I say, keep an eye out for his recordings.

  11. Birddog Says:

    Got kicked down a couple very cheap tickets and decided to take my two kids (ages 8 and 9) to the show at the last minute (oh ya it was my Bday as well). Made the 3 hour drive from Fayston VT and was really blown away at how kind everyone was to them.

    First set they we’re into it and dancing and all, and we all had a good time. As Miner said I was kinda thinking that this was the new Phish and took it as it came. We did get a charge out of the BDTNL which references “you were 8 and I was 9,” and is also a b-day song. At setbreak my son looks over at me and says – that was great but second set will be better. My buddies and I were sorta dismissive – like kid how many show you been to?

    I wont say anything about that 7 below > Ghost other than like most people there, I could have gone home right then and been totally fine with the night. Best quote of the night was my daughter looking over at me after the Ghost and asking “what just happened dad?”

    At any rate, one of my best shows ever for sentimental reasons as well, incredible music, was totally sober. Thank you Phish for an incredible b-day gift, and thanks to all the family that made my kids feel welcome and loved. On to MSG – solo!

  12. albert walker Says:

    miner

    congrats my friend.
    That one is for you.

    You are on the front lines my friend.
    I’ve been holding your thoughts exactly about the jamming direction but tried to keep discussions to a minimal to keep the negativity at bay. just hoping we’d get a glimpse of our band in its former glory

    not missing a show. taking the positives and negatives you were more aware than anybody that things just were not clicking yet.

    this is phish motherfuckers. this is not a nostaligia act. they are hear to flip heads and melt faces.
    Trey takes this shit very seriously.

    we may not get this shit as much anymore or every night but just knowing they still got the power to drop something like this makes me feel great.

    I got 7 more shows this year and woke up with a new found excitement for what is in store.

    great write up. thank you mr. miner.
    now I can comfortably say.
    the boys are back, for real this time.

    I’ve decided I don’t mesh with others on a daily basis so I’ll probably be keeping my postings to a minimal now but could not help but give you a heads up on the great write up and congrats on crossing the country back and forth in search of a sound they maybe have found again.

    great shit
    buying and spinning boards as we speak
    love it

  13. Panda Says:

    89 was different than 99 right
    sO 2009 well, maybe kids dont need to see very show and Phish will again do it for them.
    Why does every aspect of Phish need to be so over analyzed?
    Yeah ive seen 105 since 1995, and have the LOVE but would not want to see non stop Phish right now.
    Bands become predictable, name one who has not.
    Why do we hold Phish to such high standards, is that fair?
    Can we still have any have fun, not woth these expectations.

  14. kbarnoski Says:

    @CJ

    i agree, this was a fleeting moment. we will be lucky to hear this type of exploration again this year, if EVER. for all of us that were in albany last night, we are truly blessed. that 50 minutes was a gift. while i will enjoy all shows i can get to going forward, i doubt i will hear the doors opened again. if not for a botched Split it could be argued this is one of the top 10 shows ever IMO.

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    @aw thanks for your thoughts. i love hearing them. i also wanted to second kaveh…padelimike has some great auds.

    @birddog, thats a really cool story. those kids will grow up strong and healthy with a balanced diet of phish.

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    finishing up albany 1 this morning – listening to tomorrow’s song and knowing what they did the next day takes on a new light. Sometimes I wonder if these guys could possibly plan all this out or if they just happen upon these things..

    Miner glad you finally Got It in the way you need.. Certainly a new day in phish 3.0 today.

  17. albert walker Says:

    @cowfunk

    my apologizes for the other day.
    way out of line.
    we are both musicians, love jazz, and headies
    probably more similarities and differences.

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    appreciate that bro ..

    I want to say that I did not mean to diminish your world and the things you are interested in. So I am sorry too. I generally really enjoy reading what you have to say, we’d certainly lose something if you dropped off for good.

    Honestly I’d love to engage you in some political talk.. but somewhere else 🙂

  19. BK Says:

    @ Noah – sorry if my asking for megauploads implies stolen soundboards. I didn’t realize that it did. I buy plenty of the shows from livephish, but I can’t swing them all.

    I’d love to find an easy, non-torrent way to download AUDs. If anyone could direct me in that direction, I’d be very appreciative, if for no other reason than to not risk stealing anything from this amazing band.

  20. punkmug Says:

    Wow. Just got done streaming that ONE TWO punch of a set 2 opener. Holy Lord Jebus! That was some special 3.0 there.

    On a side note. Miner, I agree. I see your point, but I do think if last night would not have happened. I think the band so far this tour has been way more consistent. It seems like we are getting shows the caliber of the Gorge on a more consistent basis which I was thinking was a huge move in the right direction. If last night was a tease of some of the stuff that’s about to shoot us down, then lets bring it on. I truly hope you are right that last night was the pivot point for further exploration in the future.

    I was telling a friend that whenever I find myself getting critical of the band. I stop, count to ten and remind myself that they were away from Phish for 5 years, came back and have the song catalog of old and are for the most part playing it at an extremely high level. It’s only fair to give them time to relearn the songs. How long that (and I hate to say it) “grace period” should last, I have no idea. Either way, last night and this fall tour have been good barometers that they’re heading in the right direction. Maybe, not as fast as I’d like…but they are getting to that place called IT on what seems to be a more consistent of a basis.

  21. Skyballs Saxscraper Says:

    Can you imagine that there was a time when, were you to ask your average head what the chances were of a 20+ minute jam at a show, you would have gotten laughter as a response, or possibly a “bless your heart”?

  22. nonoyolker Says:

    Miner, you nailed the write-up. This was my 11th show of the tour and i have taken my girl’s brother to his first 7 shows, all this year. Last night I could finally turn to him and say “this is what they have the potential to do.” -7 and the Ghost mark the full return of the boys. Just ridiculous improv. Can’t wait to listen back. Safe travels to all those headed up to Portland! I, sadly, have to rejoin the “real” world.

  23. Kevin Says:

    I’m all for 20 minute jams, so long as it doesn’t end up that Phish is just jamming for the sake of jamming. I know a lot of people liked Summer 2000, but most of the jams just bored me to tears. I’d rather hear inspired ‘singles’ than obligated jamming. Basically, whatever the band is feeling they should do, and I’ll have a good time that way.

  24. Snigglebeach Says:

    any links on the E-Tree yet?? need to download it before i leave for maine.

  25. Kevin Says:

    @sniggle

    Yup!

    http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=530349

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