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. SillyWilly Says:

    i still think its pretty wild the way they are opening up the bag as far as setlists. its like they are flexing their muscles after being cramped up for the last 5 years. its like when you sit in a car for 12 hrs. straight. you get out and you just run all over the place.

  2. Kevin Says:

    Wow, listening to last night. Just now realizing that Fishman is probably the cause of a lot of these short jams. He totally fires up the 2001 drum beat in 7 below. Mike latches on. Page says ‘fuck you’, Trey agrees with Page. Great to hear the the conversation, but really, Fish, loosen up the beat some.

  3. Marshall Says:

    MSG will get filled with bustouts and probably a really really big one, in the realm of Letter to Jimmy Page or Dear Mrs. Reagan. Certainly My Soul, Scents and Subtle Sounds, etc.

  4. chefbradford Says:

    Lycanthropist, I will do that right now. I’m in Natchitoches (say it Nakatush), LA. Maybe we can luck out on a Spring tour; here’s hoping!

  5. Lycanthropist Says:

    @chef brad

    how far is that from NO? im only an hour and half east of NOLA

  6. Marshall Says:

    Cavern Friday; Cavern Sunday

  7. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Light was on friday as well.

  8. Marshall Says:

    same with Light, but both it and cavern moved from Set I to Set II.

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Gozer, of course your analysis of the Pebbles lyrics is spot on, what’s interesting is that Light is basically about the same exact thing. The difference is that I think the pebbles metaphor is strained while the Light lyrics are more natural, and Pebbles is also more clumsily constructed musically IMO…don’t hate it or anything tho, and again, nice to see such variation in the setlist.

    Again, just because the big night last night was 2 20+ minute jams, not only should we not expect that, but remember that short jams truly can be great. What’s important is that we’re not just getting one type of show stamped from a template. These shows are varied, each one is unique.

    Absolutely no telling from a setlist like this what the quality of the playing is like.

  10. gavinsdad Says:

    my first official hatorade post in over a year of being on this board:

    cavern is my personal char 0 or caspian in the late 2nd or 2nd set close position. i’ll take it any other day as set 1 closer.

    just sayin.

  11. jdub Says:

    So far, this setlist (I am only saying this because I am over indulgent/analytical) is an ideal segue into MSG. Enough to send everyone home pretty happy and save the final load for closing run. A poster earlier today noted the shows/sets can be viewed as songs with the run a show and it’s kinda looking like that right now. I would assume the playing is tight as it has been for a while now, so I can only imagine it’s a solid show. My apologies for the digression

  12. Mr.Palmer Says:


  13. Lycanthropist Says:


    i recommend 6-13-09 8-08-09 and 10-24-09 for Chance Fisher
    and the mockingbird show for This Side Up

  14. chefbradford Says:

    @Lycan=-I’m actually about 3-4 hrs North of NOLA. It’s been awhile since I’ve been that way, but I’m thinking it’s a couple of hours west of Vicksburg, maybe more or less

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    He totally fires up the 2001 drum beat in 7 below. Mike latches on. Page says ‘fuck you’, Trey agrees with Page. Great to hear the the conversation, but really, Fish, loosen up the beat some.

    great fucking call Kevin. Forgot to mention that earlier. I heard the exact same thing.

    It’s good to have someone on patrol, cutting off noodling or meandering jams, as long as they’re willing to lay off (as he did) when others disagree. Kreutzmann played that role in the peak jamming years of ’72-74 for the Dead…a worthy role to play…

    but sometimes you have to let it breathe

  16. Absher Says:

    OK, Look for a Friday Encore

  17. Birddog Says:

    I agree Jdub – perfect segue into 3 nights of bliss – I’ll see you there!

  18. Marshall Says:

    I bet Theme and First Tube finish set II.

  19. jdub Says:

    Gavinsdad, It’s always good to get it out in the open and confront your demons

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    @Mr. C and Kevin

    thanks for pointing that out. Last night i called 2001 like 4 times in the middle of 7 below. i thought i was going batty, but it seems like it really was there.

    you preserve my sanity.

  21. fishman's frock Says:

    i’m calling a contact encore and a fuck your face at msg

  22. BrandonKayda Says:

    Zero after lope?

  23. beepaphone Says:

    barring a cataclysmic Antelope, 1st set might be the keeper…
    I guess jury’s out till Miner and Co. get back to us.

  24. Absher Says:

    La Grange Encore

  25. BrandonKayda Says:

    Apparently the entire set was a segue-fest?

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