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. Selector J Says:

    Lulz @ slap bracelets. I think that’s what I’m gonna get all my friends for X-mas!

  2. voopa Says:


    I’m at 56…got my Fiahman pin at Vegas ’04 I guess…

  3. voopa Says:

    “Fishman pin” that is, of course…

  4. She Divides Says:

    @neemor…thanks for posting that link earlier today….although I’ll still work on earning that invite!
    Over the last couple months of really reading the comments section (what I refer to as “the board” and which my husband gets tired of hearing about!) I’ve really learned quite a bit, and my appreciation of phish and you all continues to deepen. So anyway….thanks!!

  5. BlackAmoebaVoidBoy Says:

    @BTB Iill check it out.

  6. BTB Says:

    Your west coast Jedi strength is strong. I’ve always wanted to catch a show at Shoreline. If they do Indio in 2010, I will definitely fly out for that.

    Is the 75 show, the anniversary where they play the 75 piper you’ve seen live?

  7. gus Says:

    @voopa – I am incredibly jealous of anyone who got to see phish in the early 90s. I always think to myself ‘gosh i wish I were in college in the early 90s and seeing phish in small venues’, but then I realize I’m lucky to have even been able to see them at all. if I was told 2 years ago that I would have seen 4 shows by now, I wouldn’t have believed them/

  8. Robear Says:

    Ahhh, Indio 2010. That has a nice ring to it, BTB.
    Shoreline’s a mixed bag for me. Great shows, some awesome WW groups. Strange venue (surrounded by offices, and now Google headquarters) and intensely varied vibe at times.

  9. BlackAmoebaVoidBoy Says:

    how do you place an image up in the icon?

  10. Andrew Says:

    When I first starting listening to tapes, they were mostly ’90-93 shows. My favorite thought was the guy/gal dragged out by their buddies to see some band they had heard about down at the bar, stoned out of their mind and walking into a show of epic proportions. Just what was going through their mind? That vibe really stands out a lot in early aud tapes, and it really speaks volumes of the ability of music to retain energy and still carry profound meaning even after all those years.

  11. voopa Says:

    Heh, my first show was 2 years after college…lucky late bloomer, I guess.

    The Shoreline shows always rock. 09 was good too, despite being sandwiched between RR and The Gorge. I don’t remember most of the ’03 run, but I was higher than Trey during that run. The SASS stands out though.

  12. BTB Says: and you can use it for all the bullshit you post on-line!

  13. stitchstash Says:

    That was really awesome of you neemor! The way I see it, there is no page hogging. Speak your mind.

    Just for the record: As much as I love Phish taking a chance and playing with other musicians, I never want to hear Phish and Garth Brooks play together. I hope none of you ever have to hear that either. Thanks for the props selector j.

  14. BlackAmoebaVoidBoy Says:

    I get that same feeling sometimes when listening to headphones (at night) of a show. Magical.

  15. BlackAmoebaVoidBoy Says:

    @BTB… Thanks.

  16. Summer98 Says:

    Indio 2010!!

    Evening everyone. Just catching up now (my life is waaaay too crazy). Love the Light post by miner and the earlier discussions. Without a doubt my favorite new song. The lyrics are amazing (did I just say that about Phish?) and the textures are fantastic. It’s like piper but some of the fire has been traded for an other worldly flotation. Love the hip hop picks too, some good stuff in there.

    We have to get Miner that interview!! I’d love to hear the answers to the questions I know he’ll ask….

  17. neemor Says:

    She Divides, I thought it went without saying that we love having you here…
    Alas, I generally find myself oblivious to that sort of thing.
    You have often made my day with your posts. Did I mention I love the new look?
    Black, after your post on P.1 yesterday, you certainly deserve it.
    Check out top of pg.2 today (my post) for instructions on changing your icon image.

  18. Andrew Says:

    Sort of the idea of memory is held in the place, not the other way around. When you revisit certain areas, you remember things about that time and place, but did you remember or were you reminded? I forget the exact author, but there was a similar writing in a Derrick Jensen work titled Listening to the Land where the person was talking about running a stick along a fence in their childhood neighborhood, and the flood of memories that was evoked from the sound generated.

  19. BTB Says:

    The think Cobo will go down as the shittiest venue in a while. They place was definitely weird, but charming in a way as well.

    Not sure if there is a consensus yet, but I’ll nominate Cobo as the worst show of Fall Tour. The 46 days and Mike’s Groove were solid, but COMPARED, I’d just have to say it was the low on the totem poll.

    Sample>Bouncin (woah, did that just happen?)

  20. neemor Says:

    Searching for owls?
    The old man asked.

  21. BTB Says:

    ^Apparently I can’t spell

  22. neemor Says:

    I know some on this board (SOAM?) hated Portland, but I found that the charm of that quaint little New England town made up for it somewhat.

    The issue raised there was the difficulty of getting beer and small bathroom size…two things that don’t affect me at all at a show.
    I ‘do my business beforehand and don’t drink (much)….

    I loved the venue, but I posted up on the rail Mike side and received the Antelope that had eluded my in the new era….so I’m somewhat biased.

  23. BTB Says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time at Cobo, but if someone who’s listened to the entire tour has a better nomination I’m all ears. Too many highlights from Cinci and Albany may be clouding my head.

    I’ve saved all the MSG shows to burn and listen in my car. All I know is everyone said it was intense.

  24. neemor Says:

    I hope the ‘un-response’ from aw is that he isn’t around….
    Nothing I hate worse than the feeling of situations unresolved and someone disliking me as a result….

  25. neemor Says:

    I think it’s probably understandable, it being their first show ‘back’…but to my ears, yeah, that show won’t get much play.
    Although, consensus seems to be that the 46 days will make it onto any Fall ’09 compilation.

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