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. Weekapaug Says:

    hey Lycan, which show do you recomend for first download?

  2. BrandonKayda Says:

    3565 words so far….still working

  3. BrandonKayda Says:

    4426 words now….still going

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    5014 words…

  5. jdub Says:

    Bk, you must be more exhausted than robear

  6. BrandonKayda Says:

    I haven’t slept all night actually…5108 words now…..about 6/8 through the thing.

    Coffee is better than sleep

  7. DLA Says:

    Hey guys, quick question…

    I’ve been downloading the shows from the Mega Uploads. Is there a better source from which to get these shows in better sound quality ie how do the bit torrents or live phish versions compare?

    On another note I’ve seen 4 shows since the comeback and listened to a lot of the summer stuff and some fall now and the Camden Sand (particularly the last 4 minutes of the jam) is right up there with my all time favorite segments of phish. Does anyone else agree with me here? The peak is insane.

  8. BrandonKayda Says:

    I haven’t heard that Camden Sand in awhile…I need to get that show

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    funny thing is that when i was at camden dancing to the Sand i didn’t know how nasty it was…those moments are always fleeting, even if i am in them. upon playback i realize the magnitude of that jam. gnarly.

    hope you got that paper monkey off your back BK.

  10. BrandonKayda Says:

    Just about…I have one more big segment to do then I am DONE

  11. DLA Says:

    For me it (Camden Sand) is THE obvious highlight of all the phish I’ve heard since the comeback. It isnt even so much the actual jam but more so the last 4 minutes of it. Phish is at their best when they’re able to develop unique themes (either on the fly or previously rehearsed) like the one they hammered to death at the end of that sand. In terms of a segment of music finding a “peak” this is up there with the very best of them and prob my new favorite for that particular aspect. The Mike’s song peak from 11-22-97 is similar in that regard.

  12. BrandonKayda Says:

    Have you heard the 11.28 Seven Below? I hear that has got a huge peak…I have a lot of catching up to do when I get home today. Haven’t heard any shows since Syracuse

  13. Lycanthropist Says:

    congrats BK on finishing your paper

    @Weekapaug –

    CF: 6-13-09, 8-08-09, 10-24-09

    TSU: 9-24-09

  14. BrandonKayda Says:

    5594 words…..7 more vocab words to go….lets do this

  15. DLA Says:

    yea i just downloaded that set and listened to the seven below>ghost bc of all the chatter about it. It’s nice but I need to listen again I think. It’s different than the sand. When I first listened to the sand I was at work distracted and the climax was so insanely huge I had immediately noticed it despite being distracted and rewound/replayed hundreds of times. I remember thinking WOW, this is HUGE. Didnt get that reaction from any part of the 7 below>ghost that sounded more to me like 40 minutes or really solid noodling around. I’m about t listen again bc of all the hype.

  16. DLA Says:

    I think you can find at least a couple segments in every show that are really cool. That’s really what its all about for me. More often than anything else I find myself listening to shows for certain little blips of the music that really clicked or sounded really good. Most shows have some really good stuff. Maybe its only for 30 seconds or maybe it lasts for 5 minutes but even 30 seconds of something that sounds really good is worth listening to over and over.

    I also thought the Tweezer from Camden was really good, as well as the ghost at Alpine and the Gotta Jibboo from Indio.

  17. Gus Says:

    oh man going to school today is going to be tough. I got very low sleep last night.

  18. Lycanthropist Says:

    Indio Jibboo was fire

  19. Little Buddy Says:

    “Didnt get that reaction from any part of the 7 below>ghost that sounded more to me like 40 minutes or really solid noodling around.”

    I haven’t listened back yet, but it didn’t seem like noodling when I was at the show. There were several distinct themes that developed over this 50 minutes. Again, I haven’t listened back to the show yet, but of the 11 shows I’ve seen this year this segment of improv was by far the best. 2nd night of Albany was the first time this year that I have walked out of a show completely blown away.

  20. BrandonKayda Says:

    Gus…I’ve been up all night finishing up this report, I feel your pain

  21. Jb Says:

    Mr miner,

    you sound like a jaded fan with really specific and narrow minded specifications for what a show should be like for it to live up to your
    memories. How about living in the now, 7 below>ghost was a highlite of an unbelievable tour so far, but when you talk all the time about Phish being baaaack and Phish being masters of the universe but then saying that nothing even came close to that one 30 min jam it makes it just seem like you’re going through intense mood swings or depression. There has not been one night where I didn’t walk out bing wowed by so
    something in the show like that 7 below ghost

  22. gavinsdad Says:

    indio jibboo was fun as shit.

  23. sssup Says:

    Couldnt agree more….

    The band was down by about 30 in the first half…and put together the greatest comeback in rock and roll history…..powering through a monster second half and blowing it wide open, winning by 44

    one for the ages….ala fall 97 detroit…..

  24. David Bowie Says:

    Did anyone else hear what sounded like a “Real Me” tease/jam in “Seven Below” around the 12:10 mark?

  25. Gozer Says:

    just had a cool thought. who has the shirts? Robear? what if we’allcould get the phish thoughts shirts with our screen names on the back. be fun to bmp into people at shows randomly and kinda know who they are. i’d pay up.

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