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. gus Says:

    yes, the bathroom at portland were SO SMALL! I had to wait in line for so long. and there was someone at the exit yelling at people to move it along. sucked.

    and beer is no problem for me since I can’t drink. I thought portland was great. i mean, i’ve never really been to an inside show before, so i have not much to compare it to. all i know is that I had a good time.

  2. She Divides Says:

    @neemor..thanks 🙂

    @voopa & robear….we were at shoreline this summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. it was my first time at the venue though so I have no comparison.

  3. Selector J Says:

    neemor, i wouldn’t worry about aw holding a grudge. I don’t think he’s that kind of dude.

    @ n/she (get it… n divided by she …eh? She Divides! Glad I abbreviated that only to use 30 extra syllables explaining myself.)
    We’re glad to have you aboard. Comment section is tarting to resemble an actual show 2 chicks for every 50+ dudes. 😉

  4. stitchstash Says:

    Ha, Ha selector. 2 chicks for 50 dudes. At Cobo and Albany, I danced near more ladies than guys. Syracuse was 50/50.

  5. She Divides Says:

    selector…love the n/she abbreviation
    night all.

  6. Summer98 Says:

    heh. 2 chicks for 50 dudes. My wife digs the Phish but she’d never post on this board and laughs at me for doing it. Some fear of internet friends. Two thumbs up for stitch and she divides!

  7. neemor Says:

    Yeah, seems like a good time to hit the ol’ hay.
    I have no ‘words of wisdom’ to send off, so I’ll leave with this:

  8. voopa Says:

    Well there you go.

  9. stitchstash Says:

    The girl dance party at Cobo was funny though. My friend that I drove up with wanted to go up front, so I told her to lead the way. We came across a group of 7-8 girls. They openly invited us to stay. One of them really liked my friend, this was clear!

  10. Summer98 Says:

    nice owl stitch.

    And voopa, love the Bob Weaver!!

    This board is pretty amazing. When I first started checking it out, after Hampton was introduced I was all lurker, but I remember the post pages making it to around page 10 or maybe. Now it consistently hits 30. That is totally amazing. Love reading it. Some of the deep shit that is posted is the kind of stuff I’ve only been able to talk about with a few of closest friends and fellow phans. The discussions of IT and what it means and how it feels have been great and I’ve actually been turned on to some great reading here in that same vein. All in all, a great place.

    I wish I had more time to comment throughout the day but work is nuts. I’m still at it now (although I’ve obviously slowed down) after starting at 7AM (PST). Oh well, at least I can hold down the late night around here.

  11. stitchstash Says:

    We had some serious laughing fits recapping the night on the ride home. That was only a small portion of our adventure. I’d love to share more of it but I’m getting tired. It would be hard for me to vote Cobo the worst of the tour because it was so much fun for me. As soon as this semester is over I’d love to listen to the whole tour again and maybe have a better opinion. I started to relisten to Cobo last night but I’m way to distracted to listen with any sort of intent.
    good night owls.

  12. Summer98 Says:

    ^wow, I must be tired. There are some missing and misplaced words up there.

  13. BlackAmoebaVoidBoy Says:

    My wife laughs at me as well and says I’ll burn out some day and never listen to Phish again. I turn up Bathtub Gin and just smile.

  14. stitchstash Says:

    Thanks summer! What show is your picture from?

  15. stitchstash Says:

    Oops am I missing words? I’m tired too. good night again.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    @cal – of course the fact that I’m not down with “bitches” talk in rap is a contradiction, totally true

    i’m not down with homophobia either and rap is full of that

    I tend to shy away from the particular tracks that are heaviest with that kind of stuff, but it’s just something I have to deal with

    so a fair point


    Even if you don’t accept that he’s the greatest – and most of the hardcore hiphop heads I have known think he’s at least the most influential and groundbreaking MC in rap history, if not the “best” whatever that is exactly, then…um…well, he’s pretty much the Jimi Hendrix of rap, the guy who took his instrument beyond what anyone else imagined was possible at the time…

    …hm, honestly right now I just have no idea what to say. I’m more than a little boggled at the idea of being called on to defend the rap skills of The Notorious B.I.G…kind of a surreal experience and I’m not really sure how to approach it…

  17. Summer98 Says:

    My wife has been saying that forever. Hasn’t happened yet. She even upped her listening since their return. I guess I slowed a bit during the break. Was rediscovering some dead (1969-1974) and branching out into the jazz world. Now though, I must be on a 75% Phish diet. We’ll see if stay that high between tours. It is probably healthy to mix it up more.

  18. Summer98 Says:

    Biggie had flow. Amazing flow. Not a huge hiphop fan but biggie def. got it on.

  19. Summer98 Says:

    @ stitch,
    avatar is the Gorge from this year. Unreal.

  20. chefbradford Says:

    Shameless plug here, but I just finished one of the funniest, and in a way, truest, books, I’ve ever read: “I am a GENIUS of UNSPEAKABLE EVIL and I want to be your CLASS PRESIDENT”, by Josh Lieb, executive producer of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Summer FWIW I go through huge music phases all the time kind of like what you’re saying. at any one time I listen to one kind of music more or less exclusively, then suddenly I switch, and every time I come back to a certain thing I get into it a little deeper.

    During and immediately after tour this year it’s been Phish…then something totally different, not rock at all, African music or jazz or 70s funk and soul or whatever…then eventually it gets back into a Dead phase…usually centered around one year or small era…then, at least this year, Phish always comes back around…

    still in the post tour phish phase, re-listening now, phase will officially conclude with the burning of tour mix CDs.

    Not sure what’s on deck this time, probably just will depend on what random album or song grabs my interest

  22. BlackAmoebaVoidBoy Says:

    I did talk my wife in attending Coventry (through HD remote Access) and she was down, but with a new baby and Indio (I was gone for 5 days), I did push the envelope… oh, but what an envelope… Harry Hood and the “Burple”… (or whatever they called it…) who could ask for more.

  23. BlackAmoebaVoidBoy Says:

    Mr. Completely,

    I go through the same sore of phases as well… very deep and intense at times. Great explorative passages. My wife smiles. I smile. The car is filled with “Nobody and Mystic Chords of Memory”… or any number of bargain cd’s culled from hours of browsing the dollar bins.

  24. Summer98 Says:

    I think that is a good approach Mr C. It allows you to immerse yourself in something and really explore all of it in a deep way. I just have to remember to switch away from Phish 😉

    I’ll have to explore some African music sometime. I recall some posts of yours with some recommendations. I’ll go dig some out and give it a spin since I really have never given it a chance. As I said, prior to the return Ii was in a jazz mode and a “sweet spot” dead mode. Was also doing some singer song writer stuff (Van Morrison, old school Dylan, etc.).

  25. chefbradford Says:

    Every time I hear Dylan, I fall in love all over again

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