Metaphyshical Music

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

If “Backwards Down the Number Line” represented the joy and exaltation of Phish’s return this summer, “Light” has now become the band’s philosophical statement and their most significant new jam vehicle. Emerging as a central piece of Phish’s musical evolution this fall,”Light” not only pushed the limits of the band’s improv, but carries strong lyrical meaning as well. Rife in Buddhist allusion, Trey speaks of separating from one’s thoughts, the divine within us all, and embracing the shining possibilities of the moment.

I see the future is less and less there / and the past has vanished in the air. / I’m left in the now with a wondrous glow / I think I’m still me, but how would you know?

These lyrics, while describing Trey’s personal journey, could be read as a metaphor for Phish coming to grips with their new musical persona. Firmly planted in the moment, the band seems less concerned with the future than ever, and have consciously distanced themselves from a troubled past. But this process has led to a bit of a musical identity crisis; although they feel great playing, and that is certainly most important, just where they are headed remains undefined. But each time Phish takes the stage, their happiness and their inner light fuels the power of the moment. In a vocal round likening a group affirmation, the band sings:

And the light is burning brighter now (Obstacles are stepping stones) / And the light is burning brighter now (That guide us to our goal) / And the light is burning brighter now (fences are filters) / And the light is burning brighter now (That purify our souls)

12.3.09 (W.Rogell)

12.3.09 (W.Rogell)

As the versions of “Light” built throughout this fall, its musical platform began to infuse a new sound into the band’s improv. Beginning in Cincinnati, the band segued into “Light” from “Tweezer’s” gnarling fifteen-minute excursion in groove. Combining their classic vehicle with their newest launchpad (a segue the band has favored since its Fenway debut) Phish upped the ante with the first indoor version of “Light.” Cranking the intensity level to eleven, the band elevated the intensity and potential for the song during it’s first fall outing. With a small dose of cathartic exploration, the band began to hint at new direction – then promptly segued out of the song.

Skipping the next few shows, “Light” emerged in the bizarre position of first set-closer on Albany’s first night. The song’s first and only stand-alone version seemed oddly placed, but the version certainly built upon Cincy’s succinct outing. Morphing into a deep-space ambient excursion for nearly three minutes, Fishman began a drone beat that would have pushed the band into a truly engaging plane. But as soon as he kicked in with this rhythm, Trey called for setbreak. While not an incredibly compelling version, Albany’s jaunt illustrated Phish’s willingness to take the song to far out places, following their summer statements at Bonnaroo and The Gorge.

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

But the final three versions of tour, all played in relative proximity, unearthed some of the deepest jams of the fall. Broken out in the second set of Portland as the only exploratory piece in the frame, the band took a bold step outwards with this run-through. In the first far-reaching version of the tour, Phish got into some full, albeit brief, type-II playing that moved from the uplifting into hard groove, landing in a pool of amorphous jamming. This exploration seemed to re-awaken Phish to “Light’s'” interstellar abilities, and they obviously liked what they heard, featuring the song in two of their final four shows. These subsequent versions at MSG and Charlottesville would build upon Cumberland County’s centerpiece, leaving us with two of the most compelling musical segments of tour.

12.5.09 (J.Thomas)

12.5.09 (J.Thomas)

Phish showcased “Light” in their very next show as the unquestionable jam of the night, using the piece to kick off a three-day New York affair. Once again, crafting a magnificent highlight, this jam suggested a new improvisational direction. Combining ferocious playing with an experimental milieu, the entire band pushed each other into the most significant jam played over The Garden’s three nights. Transcending the song’s emotional build quickly, Phish turned to hard-nose textures, entering creative, type-II territory for the duration. Led by abstract bass offerings, Trey played quicker rhythm licks over a poly-rhythmic beat and Page’s piano leads, turning this into an original piece of art. Changing to more melodic offerings, Trey brought a spiritual element to a jam, which at this point, has gathered a momentum and life of its own; one of those living, breathing musical organisms. Entering into a driving, yet abstract, exploration, Phish organically immersed themselves in IT. Adding some snarling licks and themes to the mix, Trey led the band into a new-sounding piece of music that continued to grow. Fishman and Mike locked into a intricate rhythm that provided a complex backdrop, allowing Page and Trey to actively create an engaging, interwoven top half. The most successful and exploratory jam  of tour besides Albany’s “Seven Below > Ghost,” this version of “Light” arguably highlights the song’s young life.

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

12.5.09 (G.Lucas)

The final fall rendition of the song came in the tour’s final show, and the third-ever combination of “Tweezer > Light.” This time, Phish blended their swampy dance odyssey, rather abruptly, with their newest standout, as Trey’s eagerness to get into “Light” took over. But when they got there, another ethereal journey materialized, this time moving into some of the most psychedelic textures we have heard in this era. Without a morsel of hesitation, the band soared into one of the song’s most creative outings. Evolving into an eerie spacescape painted with groove and melody, they passed through a segment that strongly suggested “Dave’s Energy Guide.” Between New York’s excursion and Charlottesville’s abstract mind-fuck, the band left no doubt that about their current experimental focus lies in “Light.”

As Phish winds down their comeback year and will continue to forge a path into an unknown future, one can surmise that their music will evolve into places we haven’t yet imagined. Using 2009 to set a foundation for what lies ahead, the band has given us  recent glimpses into new improvisational realms through the lens of their newest jam vehicle. If the playing that has characterized “Light” throughout the fall is any indication of future endeavors, this song holds many a musical pilgrimage in store.


Jams of the Day:

Light > Slave” 12.2


Tweezer > Light” 12.5


Fall’s two peak versions of “Light” came in powerful improvisational combos.



12.5.09 John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA < Torrent

12.5.09 John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA < Megaupload

John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA

John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA

I: AC/DC Bag, Chalkdust Torture, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, The Divided Sky, Ya Mar, Sneaking Sally Through the Alley, Old Home Place, Cavern, Funky Bitch, David Bowie, The Wedge, Bold as Love

II: Tweezer > Light > Piper > Free, Sweet Virginia, Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus, Run Like An Antelope

E: Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise

Source: (FOB) Neumann ak43’s (nos) > lc3 > km100 > V3 > 722 > @24/48

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805 Responses to “Metaphyshical Music”

  1. Neemor Says:

    Well said, Matso.
    I would also suggest to you that in your ‘pitifully short lunch break’, you select a permanent avatar @ It signifies that you’ll stay….I (we) hope you’ll stay.

  2. Matso Says:

    @ Neemor –
    Thanks, I was wondering how to get one of those things. As for staying, I’ve been around these parts since week 2 or 3 of this board and haven’t missed a day! I’m not going anywhere (it’s just that work keeps interfering with my ability to post!)

  3. EL Duderino Says:

    Living in the moment has been the central theme to this from the beginning of the Haight-Ashbury scene. This is nothing new, it’s just new for Trey and his path to understanding whats really important in life.

  4. jdub Says:

    @AW, you nailed it on the head. That really is all there is to only have the moment so why not enjoy it

  5. albert walker Says:


    really trying to go through a few shows on a song by song selection
    trying to come up with points I really dig alongside some suggestions
    taking a little longer but I’m def getting through it

  6. msbjivein Says:

    Great post Tom & Matso!!

  7. msbjivein Says:

    Right on Dude.

  8. msbjivein Says:

    Great topic and write up Miner! Thanks for the DL of the Day!

  9. ohhphee Says:

    Speaking of avatars, would someone please confirm whether mine has been personalized yet. I hit Ctrl F5 to clear my cache. Just can’t see it yet. Thanks in advance.

  10. ohhphee Says:

    There it is.

  11. Neemor Says:

    Very sharp.

  12. ohhphee Says:

    Thanks, man.

  13. GhostPhunk Says:

    Mr. Miner, this post was the one I was wondering if you were ever going to publish here. Love it. I enjoy your reviews on tour immensely but I feel like between tours is where you can spread your wings and I’m thankful that you do.

    @El Duderino

    Just wondering what “this” is in your post? Depending on that, I could agree or disagree with you.


    I think the round section of Light that Miner chose to print here is extremely powerful and pertinent to the discussion. I’m not sure anything else can be said about this without delving into someone’s personal situation, which to the collective really doesn’t matter and can clutter the “objective”.

    I’m also of the thought that one can misuse the idea of being in the now. I think I’ve brought myself to a point I wasn’t going to go to but…

    For me this whole discussion boils down to love. I’ll leave it at that in fear of imposing ideas that may not be welcome.

  14. ohhphee Says:


    Past attempts had failed at Glad it finally worked

  15. halcyon Says:

    Great write up, thoughtful posts, and poignant lyrics relative to the past few days discussions. I do not have much time to add to the discussions due to work, they are thought provoking.

  16. gratefulcub Says:

    Listened to Charlottesville for the first time last night.

    Isn’t it sort of the perfect Phish show?

    1) Great stretch of music: Tweezer>Light>Piper>Free

    But most phish shows have a great stretch of music

    2) Bustouts galore, and not just the check off your list type, but the good ones like: Sally, Funky Bitch, Sweet Virginia (a nod to VA), and Old Home Place.

    AND, the piece of the puzzle that can set a show apart,
    3) intangibles:
    a) Naked Guy. He was a Naked Pa. “Give it up for the Naked Guy, that took a lot of balls.” Run like a Naked Guy, out of control!!
    b) Mike loses his bass, Trey tells him to sing the bass line, and he does. Even after his bass returns, he sings it.
    c) you hear the boys laughing several times durnig the show

    I’m not saying it was great show, or one of the greatest, just that it was a perfect phish show. Whenever you get a big dose of #3, it’s a perfect evening.

    And, #4: It ended with Tweeprise. Every great RnR show should end with Tweeprise. It should be taught in high school band. It should be the first song every child learns, right after ‘the wheels on the bus go round’. ALL EVENINGS SHOULD END WITH TWEEPRISE.

  17. marcoesq Says:


    Glad to see/hear your thoughts of the C’ville show.

    I was a little concerned driving down saturday through the snow that for many reasons, (bad weather, long drive from nyc, they just blew out msg 3 nights in a row) the show would be lackluster and that they would be there more to meet contractual agreements than to really rip

    I was wrong. I think the snow added to all the craziness. I haven’t seen them laugh so much in many shows and it was very welcome

    There was a solid vibe inside and everyone seemed to be tapped in to the fun they were having

    It was a great show

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Let’s add yet another layer onto this. Since Trey seems to be refocused on crafting thought out setlists, look at the placement of Light in the nine times it has been played by Phish:

    Follows RnR: 2 times. works since RnR is a song about finding personal freedom through music
    Follows Tweezer: 3 times. good musical pairing if not one that elicits philosophical musings
    Precedes Slave: 2 times. going from a song about living in the moment to one about finding release
    Follows Moma Dance: “When the moment ends…” This one also segues into Taste “I can see through the lines…”
    Follows Cavern: “Whatever you do, take care of your shoes…”
    Follows Golgi: The Show is the epitome of the Phish sense of being in the moment.
    Precedes BOTT: “I’m gone and I’ll never look back at all…

    I think you get the point. Am I reading too much into this? Probably.

  19. Mitch Says:

    Nice job today Miner. I feel like todays work is a pair with yesterdays. Its a great follow up and a nice 1-2 punch. 1. Where are we headed? 2. This is where we are headed. You’re starting to craft thematic posts like Phish’s thematic sets. Cheers. Hey all.

  20. HarryHood Says:

    I just caught up on a few posts here from yesterday. I’m really diggin the idea of a band interview by Miner. Someone here said that they contacted Red Light managment a while back and were told that they don’t do fan interviews. I can see why I guess, but I don’t totally understand the logic. Early on, this was a band that was built around their fans, without any real help from the media. When they took the stage at the Clifford Ball in front of 60,000 fans, which was the largest concert in the entire continent of North America that year by the way, the media had to rush to the scene because no one knew what was happening. Now, they ONLY do MEDIA interviews by people who for the most part don’t have a f’ing clue about the band. I don’t see how granting a fan interview or a media interview would be any different. There is still a selection process and a credential check. Whether it is Miner or Tricia Takinawa from XYZ News, I’m sure that management has to approve the interviewer and the questions. I enjoy the media interviews simply because I like to see how stupid the questions are from someone who clearly knows nothing about the band. What I really would like to read though is an interview by someone with real grasp on the band AND the music.

    That’s it. I’m writing a letter.

  21. GhostPhunk Says:

    Also in the case of true music, todays post title is redundant. 😉

  22. gratefulcub Says:


    I felt a the time that the Light following Golgi was simply because they wanted to open the set with Light, but that’s not really feasible. Light as no real beginning or end, so they created a nice Golgi>Light segue to get where they wanted to go as quickly as possible.

  23. HarryHood Says:

    @ Grateful

    Word. Shows that wouldn’t ordinarily be called out as epic can still have “epic” moments. Not that I agree with running on the stage naked. In fact, I think it’s an incredibly stupid thing to do. However, the Naked Antelope is certainly original and will always be remembered.

  24. HarryHood Says:

    I loved this write up by the way. Miner has been waiting a long time for this one. He told us after Fenway that this song was going to be HUGE and many of us argued the point passionately. So glad that those of us who did were proven wrong!

  25. Brimley Says:

    I agree that you have to be firmly planted in the now, but with a discerning eye looking toward the future, using your past experiences to help along the way…

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