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. albert walker Says:

    I have not spun a hip-hop record besides an occasional EPMD spin in probably 7-8 years

    mostly soul, and jazz

    occasional 2009 Phish show

  2. stitchstash Says:

    @ AW- Nice topic of conversation! You have given me a ton of ideas for my sisters Christmas gift this year. My sister lived in Chicago for a while and was big on the hip-hop scene. She moved away about 4 yrs ago and it will be great to suprise her with some new music. I’m pretty sure she already knows about Psychdrama and Crucial but any more suggestions on some other newer acts from Chi-town would be greatly appreciated. Never would have thought of this without this conversation!

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    my top hiphop picks are
    Mos Def – Black on Both Sides
    Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet and/or It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    The Coup – Steal This Album
    MF Doom and Madlib – Madvillainy
    Dead Prez – Revolutionary But Gangsta (or any of the mixtape releases)

    that’s the shit that has stayed in my top rotation

  4. stitchstash Says:

    Sorry posted that before I saw that you haven’t been listening to hip-hop much.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    Black on Both Sides being #1 overall for me

    best album of the 90s IMO (any genre)

  6. albert walker Says:

    I would go All Natural

    Dj MC duo always playing shows around the city
    real hip-hop shit

    not main stream, not gangster
    deep hip-hop scene respected cats

    I have not heard there newer shit, but I doubt you can go wrong

  7. stitchstash Says:

    I don’t remember many hip-hop names but I do remember liking Gangstar or something to that effect.

  8. gus Says:

    Mr C – no tribe called quest?

  9. stitchstash Says:

    Awesome AW Thanks! She would never expect me to pick out music for her. This will be great!

  10. albert walker Says:

    I would agree with the Coup
    but for me Dr Octagon just can’t be beat
    and I like the Kweli Def combo in Blackstar
    never thought they matched that shit on there own

  11. Selector J Says:

    Listen to AW! all good rec’s.

    For a good compilation from that era, check the Lyricist Lounge Vol.1 to that group. that double disc introduced me to all kinds of people that would later blow up. Mos Def, Kweli (his ‘Manifesto’ from that is crazy-good), and J5 to name a few. There’s also a nice little track with KRS and Zach De La Rocha. And the freestyle tracks are just unbelievable.

    Heiro was huge in South Carolina when I lived there, for some reason. Deservedly, so. Just kinda unexpected. At one of their shows I saw A+ at the bar during the opening act. Struck up a conversation and he started showing me pictures of his brand new baby boy. Then Opio came over and the conversation quickly turned to “where the hell can we buy some weed??” He seemed pretty panicked.

  12. stitchstash Says:

    Guess it’s Gang starr.

  13. albert walker Says:

    for me hip-hop is kind of like reggae or early soul

    a lot of great tracks
    a few albums of great sides
    even fewer complete records

    not too many I really dig in their entirety

    all C’s picks are golden though

  14. Selector J Says:

    Acey’s ‘Book Of Human Language’ was one of my favorites back in the day. Sucks I lost mine. I think it’s out of print now.

  15. voopa Says:


    Dan the Automator produced Galactic’s Ruckus in ’05…a very underrated album, probably because it has that awful version of “Tenderness”.

  16. BrandonKayda Says:

    Immortal Technique is the only rap I’ve really listened to.

    That dude is pretty cool.

    Well, that was my attempt at joining this conversation; carry on.

  17. albert walker Says:

    Automator and Prince Paul did some amazing comps in the late 90’s

    one was named Handsome Boy Modeling School

    the whole albums was held together by an episode of that show Get a Life
    titled Handsome Boy Modeling School

    very hip, out there shit

    I will check out that Galactic
    did not know that

  18. BTB Says:

    Gift of Gab
    Del the Funky Homosapien.

    Other than that – I’m broke.

  19. cal Says:

    Handsome Boy Modeling–fantastic stuff. Most things Automator stuck his thumb in are worth checking out.

    Tribe–yes. LOW END THEORY is my favorite rap LP ever.

    But even that doesn’t top CREEPIN ON AH COME UP.

    Best stuff Snoop and Dre did after DOGGYSTYLE was on THE WASH soundtrack. Great disc overall (with just a couple clunkers).

  20. voopa Says:

    lol @ Get a Life…love Chris Elliot! I’m one of the 8 people that liked his movie Cabin Boy.

  21. Robear Says:

    Listening back to some Red Rocks jams.

    ‘Stash’ and ‘Ghost’ from night 1.

    I’m gonna cruise through some of the Leg II, Indio and Fall highlights.

    These first two sound like stepping stones and breakthroughs of a sort.

    Great rec’s on the hip/hop stuff, gents. don’t forget Immortal Technique for the politically correct.

  22. stitchstash Says:

    @ AW do you live in the city or just close by? My sister and I will both be in the Chicago area on the 18th and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on shows I could take my hip-hop sista to. She just had twins that turned 1 in October so she doesn’t get out much. I can easily make Grandpa do some baby-sitting to give her a night out on the town. I could look all of this up on-line I’m sure, but I would have no idea if it would be any good or not. I figured if you lived in the city you might see some flyers hangin around.

  23. albert walker Says:

    it’s hit or miss I can check

    best thing is to just check the Chicago Reader online
    comes out on Thursday’s I think

  24. Selector J Says:

    played the instrumental Moosebumps at my wedding (wifey’s idea)
    Echo the Tribe, praise. Ali Shaheed Muhammed is a beat genuis.

  25. stitchstash Says:

    Thanks I will check. I could just run the names by her and see if she seems interested. I probably wouldn’t be able to surprise her with it anyway. I’m sure she’d be curious as to why I’m gathering all of her friends numbers regardless.

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