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. Mr. Completely Says:

    don’t sleep on @lycan’s trio stuff

    improv heavy, very funky, great music

  2. ThePigSong Says:

    so whos got two extra friday MSGs? C’ville?

  3. ThePigSong Says:

    maybe I’m pushing it, and a ride from NYC to VA

  4. Gus Says:

    mmm. that show exceeded my expectations. but I did go into the show without really any expectations. but it was amazing. I was hoping they would play nellie cane, and they did! ooh that was good. and treys sounded so good the whole time. mm.

  5. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    so much for my msg “Weigh” sign.

  6. Lycanthropist Says:

    thanks mr. C –

    should have some new trio stuff soon..

    dont guess you dove any deeper into the CF catalog eh? 😉

  7. Lycanthropist Says:

    actually Mr. C there might be some new trio stuff up there since you last checked…

  8. halcyon Says:

    Glad to hear Gus….did you get yourself a poster?

  9. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    im in a funk rock/jam band trio as well. my names a link… we don’t play too many shows anymore but we have an album on itunes and amazon etc.

    not sure what to think about this show…. tonof amazing bustouts will make i a memorable one but definitely a lack of jamming, despite numerous opportunities to (mikes, 2001, dwd, pebbles, light) i’ll hafta re listen to SBDs tomorrow

  10. Quigley Says:

    Just did a quick calculation about the number of songs played in 2009:
    Before fall tour, they were at 208 distinct songs, or 32 behind the 2998 record of 240. They’ve busted out 16 more songs since then (including 13 in the past 3 shows alone), closing half of the gap. 16 more, or just 2 in each of the remaining 8 shows, would close the gap with 1998.

  11. sumodie Says:

    ayuh, luv me some mainah phishin’!

    boys put on a helluva show this eve. perhaps the smoothest show ive seen all year, really nice flow. nothing topped last nite’s 7 below>ghost, but this was an all around better show. my folks had a blast too -so cool to be able to share this with them.

    2nd set was stellar all the way,even w\ golgi & cavern at the end. my fav moma & 2001 of the year, rnroll, a common cover, still freakin kills everytime. crimes of the mind out of nowhere -wow! awesome triple encore. phish = JOY. and the maine crowd was super chill.

    thanks to the phish community for a grand night!

  12. Gus Says:

    well, I did get a poster, but not the official show one. I think 50 bucks is pretty expensive, and i found a really cool one in the lot for 10. I did get a show shirt though. Very cool. and I stopped by the waterwheel table during setbreak, not that many people though so I wasn’t sure if the phishthoughts meetup was happening or not

  13. Robear Says:

    exhausted, cramps, dehydrated. it was that redonkulus. must get sleep. thought of all ya’ll many times!

  14. Robear Says:

    oh, and Neemor got his Antelope, jersey and all! chill cat. see you at MSG.

  15. sumodie Says:

    robear, saw you dancin up a storm to start the show! redonkulus indeed 8)

  16. Robear Says:

    bk, the encore was ‘Freebird, Carini, Waste’ What do you want from these guys? 🙂

    sumodie, i’m glad there are two days off, or i’d be toast.

  17. sumodie Says:

    redomkulus show that is. i raged pretty hard myself next to my mom&dad

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    good for you guys, sounds like you had the right spirit to enjoy another unique show. great creative effort being shown by the band here I think.

  19. BrandonKayda Says:

    Did I really complain about a Freebird/Carini/Waste encore? Wow…must be the sleep deprivation 🙂 🙂

    Back to work

  20. sumodie Says:

    yeah, encore was all around pretty freakin sweet. certainly one of the most original this year -latter part of waste w/ ck5 lights was superbly done. carini after acapella freebird -get outta here!

    band was sharing so much love tonight, and we gave it right back. MSG will be huge 🙂

  21. joe Says:

    super fun time. danced like a madman. side stage fishman side
    no complaints.

  22. sumodie Says:

    after syracuse i said i had no more secret lingering doubts about this band. well, albany#2 & portland are further proof, imho (missed albany#1), in case any more was needed. what a glorious buzz indeed.

  23. Vomax Says:

    I know peeps are talking about tonight’s show already on this thread, but I just wanted to add my .02 from albany. At various points during 7>Ghost, I was dumbstruck, and at others near tears. It was that good, at least if you were there. Also, for a “standard” version, Julius rocked the house so hard, it was almost like a celebration of what had happened in the set. When Kuroda’s white floods came on, there wasn’t a single person standing still! Easily, EASILY, the best Jam since the Nassau Tweezer, in my book. Easily.

  24. sumodie Says:

    agreed, vomax. 7 below>ghost was insanely good. i could barely move the whole time as i was completely absorbed in watching the unreal creativity unfolding on stage. sublime and intense. rest of set was money too, including trey showing us whose the boss by dropping a sweet let me lie. excellent rager of a julius fo sure.

  25. BrandonKayda Says:

    Sumodie – How was Set II tonight? It looked strange, set-wise. Any nice jams? I’m sure the Pebbles was nice

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