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. lot rat Says:

    other pebbles was at the gorge, it was a little choppy in sections.

    In other news i just turned on this Rock and Roll hall of fame gig>cros tearing into almost cut my hair, always thought page would have crushed this tune if phish took a stab at it.

  2. Marshall Says:

    sorry … that video is about 15 mins behind live

  3. posternutbag Says:

    @chefbradford – second that emotion! how bout some Austin phish or another Dallas tweezerfest?

  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    also strongly second some southern phish love

  5. jdub Says:

    I hope they get hosed with the ambient space funk I crave so much

  6. BrandonKayda Says:

    I forgot about that show!

    I should’ve set it to record 🙁

  7. SillyWilly Says:

    i think some southern pan phried phish would be cool in march….head down south for some warm weather. id be way down for that.

  8. BrandonKayda Says:

    it wont happen tonight…seems to be relatively tame in jamming…longest was like 13min

  9. Kevin Says:

    Ambient segues don’t count. There has to be forward motion. Just like football.

  10. jdub Says:

    4 segues in a row, there’s gotta be at least one to write home about and answer the segue critics

  11. chefbradford Says:

    Thank you Poster! I know the pickings can be slim down south, but they’ve played a number of tiny (relatively) shows this year. Surely they can get the business down here?! I’m feeling kind of neglected. You’d think this (the Deep South) was Alaska or Hawaii.

  12. jdub Says:

    weird timing with those posts Kevin

  13. Mr.Palmer Says:

    only problem is this stream is still on Crimes of the Mind

  14. Gozer Says:

    love pebbles. i think the lyrics embody alot of the zen philosophy that ccomes through phish. the nothing mind space.

    the whole pebbles and marbles like things on my mind is a reference to the zen/buddhist way of looking at your thoughts as seperate from you. things that you can watch float through your head and choose to see the world through them or not. the fog that surrounds…and you can free yourself from them by not being attached to them… and ideally you begin to see the world as it is… infinite…

  15. halcyon Says:


  16. Lycanthropist Says:


    hmm weird set.. bet its smokin though

  17. Mr.Palmer Says:


  18. Lycanthropist Says:

    * The Moma Dance
    * Rock & Roll >
    * Light >
    * Crimes Of The Mind >
    * Pebbles And Marbles >
    * 2001 >
    * Golgi Apparatus

  19. Marshall Says:

    They’ve got a decent history with the south, esp Atlanta (Roxy 3 night, Fox 3 night, Halloween, Independence Day). Still not sure why no love this years.

  20. chefbradford Says:

    And Lycan, I think I asked you once, but where are you based? Somewhere in Mississippi? And evidently you have a band. Any way I could get a listen from afar? Just out of curiosity?

  21. Kevin Says:


    I have a weird prescient quality. I wish I was making it up, I’d feel less weird.

  22. ThePigSong Says:

    ah-haah..yes gavinsdad, schmoove to say the least!

  23. Lycanthropist Says:


    in hattiesburg, MS. you?

    check out my bands by clicking on my name to link you to our archive link.

    has my rock band (chance fisher) and my trio (this side up)

  24. jdub Says:

    Way to lay it down Gozer, I may be way over analytical and over indulgent but, they seem to be telling us something very heady (for lack of a better word) with the layout of these setlists

  25. Lycanthropist Says:

    cavern… hmm saving up for MSG maybe?

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