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. chefbradford Says:

    Sick first set 11/17. Reba, Tweezer, Train Song, massive Ghost, Fire

  2. halcyon Says:

    @ Flarr…Spent time on Kodiak Island, Bristol Bay, and Seward. Definitely envious of you right now. Travel Safe and have a blast. Hopefully you will find some thunderf*** up there.

  3. neemor Says:

    Have a nice trip, flarr.
    Tweezer was my first song live 11.26.97.
    Good year for Tweezers.
    And everything else.

  4. beepaphone Says:

    Thunderfk is Alaskan? I keed I keed
    I’ve heard a lot of peeps present the argument that 11/17/97 is the best show ever. I myself don’t consider myself as being in a position to pass such judgement concerning ultimates.

  5. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I have a bet with a co-worker that I can eat more ghost chilis than her. Which could ultimately mean fractional quantities. I have asked my various Indian agents here for a local source to no avail.

    I could very well be launched into legend preceded by the following words,

    “That’s nothing, let me show death foreshadowed upon the crest of enternity.” Insert humorus potty humor or crazy insane story of the ensuing details.

    Currently Enjoying RR1 video.

    Happy Friday Eve Everbody!

  6. chefbradford Says:

    I envy you, Neemor. My first show was 6/22/2000, Antioch, TN. That one wasn’t bad. Decent first set, killer 2nd set.

  7. sumodie Says:

    I don’t believe in a ‘best show ever’ – depends on many things, starting with whether one attended the show or listened to recordings, then on to a host of other variables, such as one’s favorite eras, playing styles, songs, etc.

    But I always love a well presented argument for show X…

  8. beepaphone Says:


  9. flarrdogg Says:

    Neemor- Hartford ’97 is a scorcher of a show and doesn’t get enough credit- kinda overshadowed being fall of ’97 and all. What a great first show! Your head must have exploded. Mine was Cleveland Nautica ’94. NO2 debut- and opener. Weird show- definitely no fall 97 fury.

    I’m really out now.

  10. halcyon Says:

    @ Phamily….at work we have a photo of a woman in India who set the record of eating the Ghost Chiles. She rubbed them into her eyes first before eating them. No Joke! She puts Homer’s guatemalan chile pepper odyseey to shame after that.

  11. sumodie Says:

    Good night, all. Packing for Alaska- flying tomorrow. And yes- I did load up on bug spray and found my daddy’s tent. I’m in high gear…

    I’m assuming flarrdog is going to be in Alaska until spring/summer, right? Not sure I’d need a tent and bug spray right about now…

  12. beepaphone Says:

    I dont knooooooow, I’ll ask ‘er! (him)

  13. flarrdogg Says:

    Good point. Tent is hangin’ back- Juneau doesn’t really count as Alaska anyways…

  14. sumodie Says:

    llfa @ beep

  15. halcyon Says:

    What are you doing in Juneau?

  16. sumodie Says:

    Sounds awesome no matter what, flarrdog. Alaska is a very beautiful with its astounding spaces.

  17. halcyon Says:

    I always wanted to go to Juneau. I was lucky to spend some time in some remote towns in the southeast passage as well. Such beautiful terrrain there. It was great being in a small fishing boat and accessing bays, and inlets very few people would ever get to see.

  18. chefbradford Says:

    So, I’m just a few pages into a book, and I’d already like to throw it out there for people to possibly read. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but this book intrigued me, and someone very familiar with my reading habits (my local bookseller) said he was initially skeptical, but loved it. “I Wouldn’t Start From Here”, by one Andrew Mueller. Mueller is a fairly well-known rock critic who also, oddly enough, has traveled to dozens of the most dangerous places on earth, and has spent time with hundreds of the most dangerous people on earth. Sarajevo, Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Kabul, Belfast, Gaza, New York. I’m a few pages in, and I’m already laughing out loud (despite my lackluster pimping, it possesses its own brand of humor). So if you have the time and the dime, check this book out

  19. beepaphone Says:

    Will do, Chef. That fits among my favorite brands of humor, oddly. Thanks.

    Sounds like a discrepancy going into Sneakin Sally…like the band doesn’t know of they’re going into Bag or Sally…Funny…then they proceed to cook.

  20. beepaphone Says:

    sorry 12/11/99

  21. chefbradford Says:

    What little of fall ’99 I’ve heard has been spectacular (I’m thinking here of, I believe, Albany, with a ridiculously gorgeous Tweezer). Anyway, I normally wouldn’t throw a book out like that, but it seems that so many here read so hungrily (I, sadly, don’t know many who read for pleasure) that I had to put this tasty morsel in the dish. And for all of those who have a sense of humor and are children-at-heart, read “I Am A Genius Of Unspeakable Evil And I Want To Be Your Class President”, by Josh Lieb. Lieb is an executive producer of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. To learn more about that book, check out http://www.SheldrakeIndustries.com

  22. chefbradford Says:

    And please, forgive my unusual pimping of lit

  23. chefbradford Says:

    December 99 was on fire leading up to BC

  24. beepaphone Says:

    Pimp away, my kind, culinary compadre.

  25. chefbradford Says:

    Sorry, thinking of Raleigh NC, 12/16/99

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