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

Tags: , ,

805 Responses to “Metaphyshical Music”

  1. stitchstash Says:

    Stitch n’ Mitch has a better ring don’t ya think?

  2. Weekapaug Says:

    Thanks for the link on that Furthur stream, Mitch. Just made my night!

  3. stitchstash Says:

    Okay Mitch n’ Stitch is a better shitty band name. I could learn to play the triangle. What do you say Mitch, want to start a shitty band? We could practice during set breaks at the Phish shows we’re both at.

  4. voopa Says:

    lol @ triangle…my wife teaches HS band, and she had a Christmas Concert at a local festival on Sunday…they closed with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” which is in 3, but the triangle player was hitting it every 4 beats! Sort of like that Gorge ’97 Split, where Trey jams in 4, while the rest of the band holds the Split rhythm, but unintentional. Stupid kids – good thing she’s in school, I guess.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    Red Light contacted me after all the emails you guys sent yesterday. Phish’s media manager to be exact. He told me that he thought it would be a thought-provoking and compelling conversation, but that the band was doing little to no media right now. Hey. they groundwork has been laid multiple times. Thanks for the support guys!

  6. neemor Says:

    HHood wrote:
    “Idea in mind: All of us gathered around holding up N/A beers with Neemor in a headlock in the middle of the pic.”

    I’m kind of okay with that.

  7. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    Away for a while. Love Handsome Boy and Del, who’s an amazing MC. Deltron 3030 was on repeat for years when I was in college.

    Also, check out MC Poop-thumb for true, hood roots hip hop

    @ Mr. C., Considering what I had been talking about with the eviction, and knowing my favorite author had a new story out, the synchronicity of you and DFW both talking about Pronoia on the same evening is mind blowing to me. Especially since I’m a shrink who does positive psychology, and I should know about shit like that…

  8. HarryHood Says:

    Miner, good news man! It’s a start!

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    right on, Miner!

  10. HarryHood Says:


    By that I mean a friendly headlock. Like maybe by MSB’s wife or something. I saw her put a guy in a headlock at Great Woods this summer and it looked like it wasn’t the first time she’d done it. I think you’d be OK. llfa

  11. stitchstash Says:

    Awesome Miner! They made contact! Baby steps. This is a good sign. Thanks for the info. Way to go community.

  12. HarryHood Says:

    Mmmm. Ice cold Long Trail, a fresh packed bowl, and the smell of a Xmas tree in my living room. Life is good.

  13. Selector J Says:

    we need to get some pleading messages on the Mike Hot Line.
    Straight to the source.

  14. cal Says:

    Miner: Nice. Let ’em chill out until after the holidays…then we’ll hit ’em with round two! If only politicians responded so directly to public demand…

  15. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    dang. I missed the hip hop show. I had a friend who introduced me to a lot of great stuff. Solesides, aceyalone, some djs, and whatnot. I dove into the djs with cut chemist, dj food, dj cam, daddy g, mark farina, etc. that and a lot of varied electronica filled my time apart from Phish. I’m glad to be back.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    re: hip hop, those were just the ones that have stayed in my frequent listening rotation after time has passed

    there’s a ton more I listen to occasionally, or just a track or two in the mix playlists…I could name 30 easily…there is no rap track I listen to more often than Biggie’s “10 Crack Commandments”

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

    I think this is true about all genres in all eras

    so few albums that are really perfect from start to end

  17. neemor Says:

    “Do you guys realize that we are only 5 years away from “the future” in Back to the Future?”

    Holy shit.
    HHood, possible poster of the day status, 12.9.09

  18. SillyWilly Says:

    where’s my hoverboard!

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    Cool, Miner. Hope that ends up working out for you. They should go for it.

    Pronoia is the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy.

  20. stitchstash Says:

    Did anyone on this board see JZ with Phish? I didn’t make that show and only heard about it through word of mouth. We didn’t own a computer then and I never thought to look it up until today. Before I do, does anyone have any first hand accounts of this show? Some friends loved it, some thought it was terrible. How do the hip hop/ Phish phans feel about it?

  21. gus Says:

    hahaa, I saw the youtube video of it, soo funny. the band seems to be loving it, i dont know about the crowd.

  22. HarryHood Says:

    Hood is spinning around yelling WOOOOOO! with finger in the air

  23. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    I really enjoyed Jay-Z coming out…especially being in Brooklyn. There was some confusion and dissatisfaction around me, but mostly the crowd seemed really into it.

    Otherwise I don’t listen to the show too much…

  24. halcyon Says:

    Right On Miner…..Great to hear.

  25. stitchstash Says:

    I’ll trade my Hoverboard for a Delorean.

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