Spinning In Circles

12.3.09 (W.Rogell)

12.3.09 (W.Rogell)

Energy – the word is thrown around quite a bit in reference to Phish. Oft cited examples are: “That set had such high-energy!” “Time Turns Elastic sucked all the energy out of the room.” “The energy of the show suffered from all the drunk frat boys.” “You could feel the energy in The Garden last night!” Regardless of cultural identity or the number of shows one has seen, one of the defining qualities of the Phish experience how the abstract concept of energy comes to life. Energy depends on the band; energy depends of the fans; energy depends on the dynamic exchange between the band and their audience. As Phish stepped into the arenas of the east, and out of the amphitheatres of the summer circuit, the phrase that best describes the experience of fall shows is “intense collective energy.”

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

While fall tours have historically cranked the intensity level of the entire experience, Phish’s first fall tour since 2000 was destined to explode in white-hot fire. And if anything characterized the band’s performances throughout the tour, it was the tightly wound, explosive quality of their playing. With the ability to nail their songs precisely again, the band could let loose and allow their soul to flow into the music rather than think about what notes to play. What used to be a given about Phish in their prime, took almost a year to recapture – the subconscious flow of energy into their music. Thought processes seemed to fade away as the band embraced each moment of every song, measure and note. Phish imbued each phrase and beat with a renewed energy and enthusiasm that often resulted in raging, high-energy rock jams. Feeding off the band’s fervor, the audiences across the board responded ferociously, and the famed interplay between Phish and their live audience was reborn in a way it simply could not have been months earlier and in outdoor amphitheares.

12.4.09 (G.Lucas)

12.4.09 (G.Lucas)

Beginning in The Crown, as Cobo carried the feel of a dress rehearsal, every single night was underlined by a palpable energetic interplay between everyone in the building. The band had regained confidence in their playing, and could again pull off the blistering runs of notes and bizarre time signatures that characterized their earlier days, and they were proud to show everyone. Trey played with an abandon we hadn’t seen in ages, tearing apart solos while nailing fugues. Page’s confidence brimmed as strong as ever, as his piano leads often drove the band in certain directions. His bold, melodic theme gets all the credit for pushing Trey out of his comfort zone and kicking Albany’s “Seven Below” into orbit. Mike, as on top of his game as anyone, pushed his own playing to new territories within the context of the band, using more notes and heavier effects, while influencing the destiny of many whole-band excursions. Fishman, who many feel needs to step his game up, still provided more than enough fuel to frame the fire. The result? The incredibly fierce, yet not always exploratory, music that laced fall tour.

This same energy that defined the band’s spirited playing also went into their improv when they chose that route. Whether structured or open jamming, Phish almost always succeeded in shredding most every song they played. When they did take risks, they took them with the same energy that defined their tight compositions and six-minute songs, resulting in some incredibly sublime moments sprinkled throughout the tour. And the crowds fed like vultures off this energy. Peaking with a series of insane moments at Madison Square Garden, this fall will always be remembered for the magnified return of the Phish community’s unbridled energetic interplay.

12.5.09 (J.Thomas)

12.5.09 (J.Thomas)

Cincinatti’s “Split Open and Melt.” Syracuse’s “Piper > BBFCFM.” Philly’s “Bathtub Gin.” Albany’s “My Friend, My Friend,” and the awing “Seven Below > Ghost.” Maine’s “Undermind.” Charlottesville’s “Hood.” These are some of the most unadulterated energetic moments of tour. But there were two moments at MSG that stand up to any collective experiences I’ve witnessed at Phish. Something happened during 12.3’s “Fluffhead” peak, and 12.4’s “First Tube.” Anyone who was there will attest to it, though the actual moments are, literally, indescribable. A simultaneous, religious catharsis of 20,004 people blended together as one glowing ball of light, somehow contained by the bouncing floors and elastic walls of The Garden. Tidal waves of emotion, gushing like whitewater, flooded the mid-town arena in two perspective-altering episodes.

Regardless of the fanbase’s varying opinions on fall’s musical results, nobody can deny that Phish is, unquestionably, into it again. Clearly performing for the love of the game, Trey – specifically – looked like a kid in a candy store all tour long, living his refound dream. The band has refocused their energy on personal happiness and harnessing their emotion through their musical expression, and they are certainly accomplishing that goal. Seemingly carefree onstage again, the comfort and swagger of Phish has returned, and as we prepare to turn the calendar to 2010, that’s as good as an omen as any.


Jam of the Day:

Disease > Piper > Fluffhead” 12.3


The centerpiece of The Garden’s second show.



12.3.09 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY < Torrent

12.3.09 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY < Megaupload

headerI: Punch You In the Eye, Backwards Down the Number Line, Axilla, Taste, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stash, Lawn Boy, Time Turns Elastic, Back on the Train, Julius

II: Down with Disease > Piper > Fluffhead, Cities > Free, Halley’s Comet, Also Sprach Zarathustra > David Bowie

E: Character Zero

Source: Schoeps mk41> KC5> M222> NT222> Lunatec V3> SD 722 (@24bit/48kHz)

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529 Responses to “Spinning In Circles”

  1. Marshall Says:

    @ afroskully – here’s a youtube of it. OK, Mike’s not in a lazyboy for this song, but I KNOW that I remember him being in one at some point; maybe an earlier song from the set, perhaps.


  2. Marshall Says:

    OK – I am definitely NOT crazy. Mike was in the Lazyboy for “Seen and not Seen”


  3. Robear Says:

    @marshall, either or both.

    Had to check on my son.

  4. Marshall Says:

    @ Robear … and to check the board, of course 🙂 Hope Jacy is ok. You’re a great father to him.

  5. beepaphone Says:

    Caught up on yesterday and saw that the band’s media manager contacted Miner on account of all the emails from this site’s readers.

    Very, very cool. Hope it happens somewhere down the line.

  6. Lily Says:

    Heck yeah! Energy during 12/3 Fluff was unbelievable. Wish I had seen the 12/4 First Tube – I can imagine it though!

    Can’t wait for more in Miami!!

  7. jdub Says:

    Way to go pthers with the interview emails, it will happen and I hope miner keeps it a secret and drops the interview of a lifetime on us when we least expect it.

  8. Robear Says:


    jDub said:

    they are also experimenting with and perfecting their presentation of raw energy. It seemed at the garden (my three fall shows)
    they were able to peak out so many songs, some peaks were longer/better than others but the intent was to deliver multiple energetic orgasms each night.

    Maybe that’s more akin to what they are trying to accomplish each night. Extroverted displays of raw energy. Blasts and peaks that are accesible to 20,000 + people. Most of us love the exploratory, Albany 2 style jams. Those, however, seem almost ‘introverted’, especially as the jam explores different passages, in comparison.

    Things that make me go hmmmmm.?

  9. Marshall Says:

    Great point, Robear on the introverted vs. extroverted idea. Shows up with Kurod’s lights as well – the “known” possible peaks from the concise songs will be accompanied by insane displays of visual lightning that showers and sprays the entire arena. OTOH, if deep in an exploratory type II jam, the lights tend do get more focused on the stage, and the crowd disappears in the darkness.

  10. gratefulcub Says:

    With all the Type I, Type II and long jam conversations going on, and with all of the 2009 that I have been listening to, I decided to go back in time last night.

    1999.09.29 Memphis Jiboo>2001(22 min)

    I remember the 2001 being the greatest musical experience of my life. Upon relisten, it was great. But, it has long stretches of nothing but a groove. Trey plays with his keyboard a bit.

    My point, if I even have one, is that maybe I have underestimated the new style. The 7 minute 2001’s had as much action packed in as the 22 min 1999 version, without the groovy filler.

    Of course, the answer to this is obvious: Play 22 minutes of the 7 minute version.

  11. afroskully Says:

    @marshall… thanks. Sometimes i forget you can youtube things that happened prior to 2000.

    Everyone try to use the phrase “deadly icy calm” in a sentence today.

  12. llamalee Says:

    thinking about cinci, the energy there was really ridiculous considering the shows weren’t even sold out. thats what being indoors can do. great write up miner.

    Off topic, does anyone know anything about the release date of festival 8 documentary?

  13. Eric Says:

    @ Robear — cant agree with you more. As Miner notes there was a collective energy during Fluffhead and First Tube that brought both songs to ‘you had to be there’ status. The great thing about ‘energy’ within composed songs is that the entire arena feels ‘it’ at the same time. The shared smiles you have with a friend or stranger when the band reaches a peak somewhere in minute 24 of x jam is a different energy completely, and its fun to see the band hitting us with that communally shared moments by rocking songs like First Tube to their core.

    re: Fishman – during the Phish 2.0 years, I usually credited Fish with holding things together. I remember the Waves and 46 Days at IT….both long ambient/murky jams that I felt were in serious trouble if not for Fish’s ability to bring in a beat every now and then and pull the guys out of the murk. I think its harder for him to take a lead in the music when the band sticks to type I improv. I have not heard enough of this year to say his playing is sub par, I assume he, like the rest of the guys, is just on a learning curve….but deep down, I love Fish, have always thought he was underrated and hate to think of him as a weak link. Ever.

  14. Neemor Says:

    I think all of us who were in attendance during that First Tube and Fluffhead experienced something from the great beyond.
    I was surprised to hear that you, too, Miner, would stand these two moments up against any in your collective memory of the Phish energy cannon.

    Truly remarkable.

    I was just reflecting on what it must have felt like for the band to look out at and feel that happening.

    Probably altering for them as well.

  15. marcoesq Says:


    I’m sure not anytime soon…the editing on these things takes forever and we still have to get the cypress doc first 🙂

  16. Robear Says:

    Of course, the answer to this is obvious: Play 22 minutes of the 7 minute version.

    freakin’ hilarious.

    Great points in your above post.

    ’99, the year of “Would like Meatballs with your noodles”?

    Some delicious meatballs, lots of noodles.

  17. marcoesq Says:


    That fall tour of ’99 had some truly epic exploration in their shows. With the introduction of:

    -1st tube
    -mozambique (where’d that tune go??)

    They were able to branch out into the darkside. Not sure if we’ll ever have anything like that again but it sure was fun to be around for that. (Thank goodness for tapes!)

  18. Jon Bailey Says:

    @ afroskiully,

    I love doing that at work. I will pick a phrase (or word) that at some point I have to incorporate into a conversation at work.

    Yesterday was “snoodleing”.

    This is a word me and my boys made up after the Mansfield show this year. I am not quite sure where it came from but I can tell you we were all inn rough shape after that show. We focused a conversation centered around this word for like 3 hours.

    I had to slide that in durring a conversaion without anyone noticing. My personal way of getting thru the day.

    I was successful. I caought a few weird looks but I made it happen.
    I will try the deadly icy calm today

  19. gratefulcub Says:


    I love the idea. We went to the Garden last night to see UK and UConn. I have already told my co-workers, “UK would have been in trouble last night if not for Blue Jesus’ (John Wall’s) deadly icy calm.”

    I got strange looks. But, what do you expect to get after “Blue Jesus’ deadly icy calm”

  20. Mitch Says:

    Getting caught up from yesterday…

    so awesome about the answer from red light. Start it off with an easy one: Does Trey ever wear the mango shirt? 😉 really hope it works for you.

    we could be mitch’s stitches. A percussion band and I’ll play cowbell

    the jay z in bk seemed to be a hit from what I remember. The fans all sang along so much that between songs and jay always saying UH Ha UH UH he says “you guys been holding out on me” talking about the fan base.

    The eminence front sign wasn’t the green board. They are friends of mine that wanted a new cover and that’s what they came up with. Wasn’t likely but they were planting seeds.

    sorry about the poop thumb and coffee spittage. Remember to be careful, liquid damage isn’t covered by manufacturers warranties.

    Have a great one y’all. Be back when I can.

  21. cal Says:

    I love just thinking back on those peak moments, letting the echo of that climactic feeling bounce off me again. I wasn’t at MSG, so I can’t speak for those moments, but if I had to put my finger on the biggest surge of collective holy-shit I felt this fall, I think it was the “Tweeprise” in Cinci. It even looks a little quaint when I type it, but it’s true. Prior to 2009, that song just really never did much for me; like others have said, it just kind of meant, rats, the show is over. But in Cinci, it was not only a succinct reminder of “oh yeah, THAT just happened”; it was also just this gigantic wave of visceral joy just slamming us in the face. I can only attribute this to the fact that it means something to THEM again, that it’s not just a coda that they have to play because they played “Tweezer”. It’s like a summation of the collective mythology combined with a blast of this raw rock power that they’ve latched onto. I get chills every time I think about it.

  22. gratefulcub Says:


    Just to be clear, I LOVED 1999/2000. great time. It’s just that I probably need to unromaticize it. It wasn’t all great. Or, as Robear says, “It wasn’t all meatballs.”

    But, the meatballs were delicious, and the noodles had an al dente dark funky dance groove that I couldn’t get enough of.

  23. verno329 Says:

    @gratefulcub oh how I hated Trey’s keyboard. For me 2001 peaked in ’97. Its still great but ’97 was the first year they really took it beyond the standard version they had played since ’93. Crazy to think that when they first started playing it it was around 2-3 in length and they played it to open EVERY single second set for a while in ’93 and then it became a potential 20 min jam that was a pure funkfest. And I’m gonna give that Pyramid show a listen today too

  24. She Divides Says:

    @ afroskully and marshall…the overload video from halloween 96 is crazy!! I would have certainly been freaked out if I was there…I’m a bit freaked out just sitting at my desk watching it!
    Will definitley try for deadly icy calm today.

    great post on energy today–I watched the msg first tube video yesterday and it was pretty awesome but I’m sure doesn’t capture the actual feeling in the room. For me the divided at Philly2 had an out of this world energy exchange between the band and audience as well…loved it!

  25. GhostPhunk Says:

    off tour miner write up ftw!

    Love these entries since tours end. Quick funny energy story for you. Albany 2, I turn to KWL and HH at end of 1st set and say “Just drop the YEM now and mark it.” That nights energy was through the roof. They ended up stamping the night with the YEM encore. As the build up to “the note” was happening I actually caught myself thinking “Here it comes! My 1st NOTE!!!” It was my first YEM and when the note came it was indeed glorious.

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