A Matter of Choice

12.6.09 (J.Thomas)

12.5.09 (J.Thomas)

With the holidays just around the corner, and four shows left in Miami, Phish is on the brink of completing their first year back on the road. And what a year it has been! With an action-packed fall tour that gained serious momentum in Albany, the band brought hints of deeper musical exploration. Taking the first half of tour to acclimate to indoor arenas once again, when the band hit Albany after Thanksgiving, they were ready to take off – and that they did. Throughout the second half of tour, Phish showed an increased willingness to take risks, something that will be integral in the long-term musical success of the band. Trampolining off fifty-minutes of a deeper magic from the dawn of time, Albany’s “Seven Below > Ghost” pushed the band deeper into the creative fabric of their music over tour’s final week. Creating some of fall’s most indelible explorations at Madison Square Garden, with “Light,” Disease > Piper,” and “Seven Below,” and at Charlottesville with “Tweezer > Light,” Phish began to incorporate more open jamming into their shows.

12.6.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

But aside from these aforementioned jams, and some excursions sprinkled throughout the first half of tour, Phish – and particularly Trey – seemed to make a conscious choice in favor of more songs and less extended improv. Several jams during fall, even some of the spectacular ones, got the kibosh a bit too soon, cutting off potential dreamscapes. At profound musical moments, when Phish would formerly launch into sacred improv, more often than not they launched into their next song. And after witnessing the ease in which the band went nuts in Albany, it’s certainly not a matter of ability or polished chops; it’s a matter of choice.

12.6.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

Many have wondered if taking musical excursions close to, and over, the edge, brings back unwelcome memories and feelings of Trey’s days of indulgence. For as long as anyone can remember, the improv, the exploration, the drugs, losing himself in the power of the music – it was all part and parcel of Trey’s grand experiment. But now sober, and seemingly happier than ever, one has to wonder how his state of mind translates to the direction of Phish’s music. The band has displayed a greater intentionality behind their playing throughout the fall, featuring many blistering and creative type-I playing. Examples of this standout style can be found in almost any version of “Hood,” “Stash,” “Antelope,” “Slave,” “YEM,” “Limb,” “Reba,” or “Mike’s.” Explosive, rather than exploratory, playing has defined these songs, while only recently has “Light,” joined “Down With Disease” as the only guaranteed, open-ended psychedelic jaunts, with “Piper” and “Rock and Roll” not far behind. These patterns create an interesting dynamic at shows, one where almost everyone knows when jams are coming based on song choice. Dare I say Phish, the band that made the the wacky and unknown famous, has become a bit predictable? With surprises more often coming in bust-outs rather than improvisation, the band, while spicing up their setlists, has toned down their amount of jamming.

12.6.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

This evolution is quite interesting, because when the band does choose to explore new ground, they almost always arrive in transcendent musical passages that elicit boisterous ovations from the entire crowd, all knowing they witnessed something significant. Detroit’s “46 Days,” and “Disease,” Cincinnati’s “Rock and Roll > Ghost,” Syracuse’s “Drowned,” Philly’s “Disease” are all earlier examples of this from fall. With first sets  reserved, almost exclusively, for songs, compositions, and type-I jamming, Phish has limited the time-frame of their experimentation to the second half of their shows. But with increased musical risks during the last week of tour, and their enhanced comfort in the arena setting, signs seem to be pointing in the right direction. On the flip side, a tour that I thought would bring us many openly-improvised sets like Albany, brought us only one. That is not to say Phish didn’t play some great shows, they absolutely did. Things clicked on the first nights of Cincy, Philly, and Albany, and at Charlottesville and MSG, forming some stellar evenings.

But the question that still begs asking after almost a year is “What will Phish 3.0 become, and where will their music evolve?” Though Fall didn’t represent a massive step in any one direction, the band now seems at home in all its settings – amphitheatres, arenas, and festivals – and have a solid foundation on which to build upon. With three tours of sober playing under their belts, Phish may be on the verge of something bigger. Hinted at throughout fall tour – specifically towards the end – Phish’s spirit of exploration is alive and well, but the question lies in how often they will choose to don their musical moon boots and trounce off into the cosmos.


Jam of the Day:

Seven Below > Ghost” 11.28 II


The most cohesive, brilliant, and thematic improv from Phish this year.



11.28.09 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany NY < Torrent

11.28.09 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany NY < Megaupload

11.28.09 Albany (S.Kelly)

11.28.09 Albany (S.Kelly)

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

Source: Sennheiser MD441U x2 set 1: 45deg./42cm set 2: 60deg./58cm, Nakamichi CM700/CP701: straight ahead, Sennheiser e602II: straight ahead > Edirol R4Pro ( Oade preamp mod ) @ 24/88.2

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653 Responses to “A Matter of Choice”

  1. Lycanthropist Says:

    10 being a ridiculous amount btw-

    that usually includes pick up gigs like parties, receptions, farmer’s markets, etc.

    the trio is small enough and adaptive enough to be able to play a lot of smaller gigs that Chance Fisher can’t do.

  2. Lycanthropist Says:

    sorry to hear that @silly

    all your studying will stick just like the snow outside though yah? 🙂

  3. gus Says:

    well, thank you, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly by ear, I mean, I slowed down the song, and went through it slowly. probably took me maybe 2 hours tops to learn it all, then some more time to get it up to speed. but yes, my piano teachers have always commented on my ear. hopefully with my music theory and songwriting classes, I’ll be well on my way. I also have a goal of learning bass, drums and guitar sometime in my life…i think it’s pretty realistic.

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    haha yeah, Lycan,

    i think mother nature is trying to ice me like football coaches ice kickers.

  5. voopa Says:


    Thanks for the Furthur stream link…very cool! Reuben and Cherise!

  6. Shafty Says:

    I really enjoyed your piano redition of Fluffhead. Way to go young man.

  7. voopa Says:

    @BB, not ABB that is…damn vodka

  8. gus Says:

    thanks shafty, I have a bad quality YEM up on youtube now, but when I get the chance I’ll upload it again, with better quality playing, since that video was taken shortly after I learned it.

  9. halcyon Says:

    Further is sounding good….I am going to grab some tickets for their stop in CO in march.

  10. Mitch Says:

    If I stand and applaud the JOTD at work, I know I’m getting fired….

    hahahahahaha, mental pic of that is awesome. really being a dork right now and laughing by myself. knowing you fools personally adds a whole dynamic to this site of phish freaks we all are.

    also back to miners interview since im still behind. maybe we can get miner in for a friendly sit down. off the record maybe just to warm trey to the thoughts. just say, heres miner and he wanted to have a sit down, we can stay in the confines of the allowed questions on the record and then off the record he can talk more about what he wants to ask. i’d love to hear a real trey interview and not the b.s. they were coming out with this year about trey listening to his daughters cds. just wondering what it takes to get their media reps on our side. you think they are really only interested in fluff interviews? those have got to be boring and old.

  11. jdub Says:

    @Mitch, I am planning on writing an email to red light. I am as eloquently and rationally as I can express to them why Miner should interview them and what that would mean to the fandom. My approach will be to pull on the heart strings and try and love them into it. If enough of us send these flowing emails combined with intense group visioning of the outcome we desire, that should garauntee mIner an interview. Power of the positive thinking and manifestation at work here.

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    Thats a good point, Mitch.

    I would love to hear what the band is thinking right now? Maybe they could affirm some of our suspicions like the inference that they are all about rock and roll right now.

    it would be cool to hear if theyre having as much fun as us right now.

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    jdub, if there was some way we could channel the good feelings on this board into those emails. i mean phishthoughts is different. not only do the people who are on here travel extensively supporting the band, but we’re very careful not to be too negative. we’ve gotta communicate this is in our emails somehow.

  14. voopa Says:

    Argh, this Furthur stream is just playing Reuben & Cherise over and over…am I doing it wrong?

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    if we could show them that we’re not looking for any insights into anyone’s personal life, but just a different set of questions and answers from people who understand the scene more than most.

  16. jdub Says:

    Also Mitch, an idea on the board set list we have missed lately. Get a rotation of posters to take a few days at a time to do the deed. This way no one is completely burdened with the task and we can get a recap in case we missed the good stuff and don;t have time to go back through it all. Daily ptboard has really become like a phish show, always a predictable first page of contemplating miner’s thoughts of the day. The rest of the morning’s content is usually determined by the energy/content of the first few pages. Mid day usually gets a rush of spontaneous cyber conversation, some days are better than others, but with the whole country well into the day we get full participation. Today’s was a stellar set 2 opener with Mr.C leading the charge with excellent contributions by many. A few bustouts this morning were welcome surprises. The end of the day brings a fresh dose of intensity as the night crawlers make their way on board. I would have fun doing the setlist a few days but could not commit to anything long term, I bet a lot of people would be willing to do the same

  17. Mitch Says:

    “Surely if anything that your opinion was required on came up, we’d get in touch with you….know that.”

    much appreciated, i prob cant hold a candle to half the cats on here tho, so I guess i’ll see ya around, *sigh* haha

    screw this, i’m joining the people on page 24 with actual new things to say. gonna live in the NOW

  18. Leo Weaver Says:

    sent my email today…

    @mitch…I llfa/lol when I read that today…great image!

  19. jdub Says:

    @Silly, the number one most important thing to do is not come across obsessive or irrational or prying. Keep it from the heart. Have people not into phish edit the email, they will be real with how it is coming across.

  20. Mitch Says:

    when you read me bitching about my co-worker trying to take me down with him? what a douche.

    jdub, whats this site of yours people are talking about? wanna do some low end web development for my site to help me out??

  21. jdub Says:

    Reading back posts is like listening to jams of the past. They can give you a taste of what it was, but there ain’t nothing like being apart of the live experience

  22. jdub Says:

    I’m woodworker and my handle linked to my website. Here it is for you. i took it down because I started to feel like I was fishing for compliments

  23. Mitch Says:

    can anyone point me to those aud copies of fall tour everyone was going nuts over? i have sbds and wanna get auds and i remember their being a few that were way above the rest.

  24. Shafty Says:

    I think the further show could be pretty cool. I am rather excited to see our new “greatest mid size venue in the country.” Plus it is only a couple of miles from my house. Mabye phish will play a two night stand there in the spring. Wishfull thinking. “Maybe so, maybe not”

  25. SillyWilly Says:

    that is a great idea, about someone who doesn’t like phish looking at the email.

    and its now one of my goals to be a highlight in one of setlists for the day.

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