Moments In a Box: The First Sets of Fall

The first sets of fall didn’t carry much improvisational weight, so when Phish unveiled a jam in the opening frame, it always drew enhanced attention. Providing musical respites from the composition and song-driven stanzas, these pieces often came as the first opportunity to really immerse oneself in all-out Phishiness. Most often sticking to contained exploration, the band rarely took chances during the first half of shows, reserving almost all musical risk for the second. Here, however, are four first-set pieces that did take off into creative wonderlands.


“46 Days” 11.18 I

"46 Days" (M.Christie)

"46 Days" (M.Christie)

Towards the end of a relatively generic tour-opening set, Phish sat into one of the thickest jams of tour. A song that varies between a vehicle for improvisation and a blues-rocker, the placement of this version had “blues rocker” written all over. But as the bombast came to a head, the band slipped into a very slow funk groove. Leaving the song’s structure in a wake of heavy organ swells, deep bass bombs, and a percussive rhythms, the band formed a gooey canvas that Trey painted with a retro funk line, circa 1997. Phish locked into a methodical and transportative groove that likened a mind-controlling soundtrack for an alien chain gang marching hopelessly to their death. With sonic effects gradually layered into the piece, the throwback groove morphed into a futuristic, ambient sound sculpture. Phish had jumped into the abyss out of nowhere, crafting one of fall tour’s enduring pieces in its opening frame. With a completely original lighting display by Kuroda, an indelible moment crystallized right away at Cobo Arena.



“Split Open and Melt” 11.21 I

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

Late in Cincinnati’s third set of the weekend, the opening beat to “Split” shot from stage like a sonic cannonball. While always an adventure, the band had already played some extremely psychedelic renditions during the summer, making the first indoor “Split” all the more intriguing. As the band embarked into the nether, they wandered through a sublime melodic plane on their way to an abstract mind-fuck. Harnessing the very essence of the song, Phish upped the levels of this version with a gradual climb into the darkest realms of sonic sorcery. Completely overtaking The Crown with their psychedelic textures, all members of the band equally contributed to the symphonic cacophony. Growing into a “jaw-on-the-floor” moment, one could hardly believe the coherency in which Phish plowed through such precise, demonic music. Moving far out into an amorphous ball of sound and fury, a mind-popping moment occurred as the band slammed back “Split’s” natural groove without missing a beat. A high point of Cincinnati’s two nights, no first set pieces approached the levels of awe and terror induced by this piece.



“Undermind” 11.29 I

Official Portland Poster (N.Duval)

Official Portland Poster (N.Duval)

In perhaps the most engaging first set of fall, Phish took “Undermind” off the shelf for the only time during fall tour. The song that lyrically fits the band’s current place in time so well always seems to provide a tasty nugget of rhythmic exploration. Dusted off in fine style, in the band’s highly-anticipated return to Cumberland County Civic Center, Phish took “Undermind” to new heights. Playing with increasingly effected tones throughout the piece, Mike and Trey engaged in a dynamic two-step, wrapping their melodies around each other like supple snakes. Page hopped on the clav, adding another layer of crunch to the jam, as Fishman held things together from down below. As their momentum built, Trey and Mike showcased their symbiotic chops in what quickly became a clear highlight to the night. Getting downright dirty, Mike, Trey, and Page formed a creative three-person aural brew that bubbled with all sorts of spicy, filtered effects. As the band climaxed the jam, splashing back into the chorus, the crowd responded with appreciative fervor at the virtuoso mini-experiment.



“Reba” 12.04 I

12.4.09 (W.Rogell)

12.4.09 (W.Rogell)

One of the band’s most complex pieces, “Reba” often features small mistakes by one band member or another. Whether a smudge in the song’s fugue or a massive flub a la Indio, more often than not, the compositional section hits a speed bump or two along the way. Because of its degree of difficulty, “Reba” always represents a signpost for the band’s precision playing. Consistently launching into one of Phish’s most blissful improvisational segments, a tightly wound beginning enhances the overall experience; and this first setter in Madison Square Garden’s final show had it all. Exploding through the composition with speed, confidence and a sense of musical drama, the band nailed the opening half with little trouble, carrying a gigantic head of steam into the jam. Taking off with a greater sense of musical determination than usual, the section of improv commenced immediately with a quicker tempo and zero time to settle. More akin to an older version, Trey came directly out of the gates flowing subconsciously, phrasing his melodies masterfully and pouring his heart into each measure. The band chugged right along with their leader, hitting a series of creative stops and changes along the upward path. A song that flourishes exponentially when the band is fully locked in, this Madison Square Garden outing levitated the mid-town arena with densely packed cascade of groove. One of the strongest versions of the year, sometimes the band can express more in less time with ultra-focused playing, and that is what this “Reba” is all about.



Jam of the Day:

Down With Disease > Twenty Years Later” 11.24 II


A psychedelic excursion that highlighted the second set in Philadelphia.



11.24.09 Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA < Megaupload

11.24.09 (B.Ferguson)

11.24.09 (B.Ferguson)

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Cities > Camel Walk, The Curtain With, The Wedge, The Moma Dance, Reba, Golgi Apparatus, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Possum, Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later, Harry Hood, The Mango Song, Mike’s Song > Simple > Slave to the Traffic Light, Weekapaug Groove*

E: A Day in the Life

*1/2 time version

Source: Sennheiser MD441U > Edirol R4Pro @ 24/88.2

Tags: , ,

445 Responses to “Moments In a Box: The First Sets of Fall”

  1. voidboy Says:

    The “Minorities”? wouldn’t translate.

  2. neemor Says:

    Black Boarders.

    I’m wondering if this doesn’t breed more of the holier-than-thou minset…
    I also wonder if the nickname, as in life, is something that is better off earned from others…

    With those thoughts in mind, I’m off to sleep.

    As usual, can’t wait for tomorrow morning and the new post that accompanies it.

    Nighty, night, fans!

  3. voidboy Says:


  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    @robear –

    if you still there 12.11 is the fuck the audience show

  5. Corey Says:

    @albert walker
    @leo weaver

    Ahmad Jamal…wonderful…still doing it all over the place. Seems to be on tour all the time. I have enjoyed many nights seeing him along with Idris Muhammed on the drums. My dad used to run off from Penn State to see him over in Pittsburgh back in the 60s. Always a fond connection of mine, as I’ve done the same trek in and around UK, back in my own college days.

    Love the stop-time-ish stuff in the video clip. Ahh youtube, yet another great feather in your rather full cap.


    Trey and Mike skydiving from a burble. Bungy jumping, perhaps? I could only look at it for so long. It made me queasy like those damn carrots in Indio.


    Wow, people ARE good.
    I always knew it to be true.
    Thanks for the positive spin on this board, those in the community and hoping, no, believing that people can be nice to each other…thoughtful, even. I second your bent regarding the folks that hang ’round these parts. Good folks are indeed out there; you should count yourself as one.


    huh huh. G-Funk. yeah. huh. huh.
    Party Time indeed, nearly every weekend.
    Glad I was able to entertain. The only gig I’d ever wear a costume for.
    Perhaps our paths have crossed. Did you go to UK at the time as well?
    Haven’t “lived” in Lexington since 2003. Was there through 2000 and then hit the road with the GMO for about 2.5 years…returned, then headed for Boston by way of Houston. Been up here in NE for 5 years, back closer to my NY roots.

    Someone mentioned the worst band names list earlier and Sexual Disaster Quartet was on the board. They’re from Lexington. I played with them the previous time I was in Lex, around the Knox and DC shows this summer. Some great musicians, and greater friends are SDQ. Ever catch ’em down there? Despite the “barely call it a city” town that is Lex., music is everywhere, at least from my memories. It’s not up there with basketball or horse racing, but it’s on the list. Ever been to Natasha’s, on Main St? Great regular line-up of music there, from straight ahead jazz to the Punch Brothers and Chris Thile – local and national acts alike.

  6. Corey Says:


    Re: Mike and Trey in the sky
    …forgot to mention that it was also hilarious.

  7. Corey Says:

    Mr. Miner, “Ooh, that smell. That smell that Melts around you.”

    Man, that Split Open and Melt was amazing inside the Crown. They went out there, and just as you said, they all contributed to the cacaphony. It was beautiful noise, wasn’t it? This summer’s Deer Creek adventure was one for the original books as well. I just love the chances they so often take inside this tune. We used to take the improv section along with the three note constant and run with it in one of my old bands, the Riverside Project. I remember just loving the feeling of that extra beat. What a fun musical excursion.

  8. chefbradford Says:

    Damn. I wish I’d gotten back just a little earlier, just so I could tell Neemor how much I enjoyed, appreciate, understand, and relate to his post (the one about filling his gas, helping the older lady, etc…)

    I’m thinking Minerites, Blackboard (Blackboarders), work, though I kind of want to keep it here, make it, as someone said, an earned thing.

    Coming here every day, whether once, twice, or a few dozen times 🙂 is always a high point of my day, and it could never be that were it not for the amazing people, none of whom I’ve ever met, all of whom I hope to. I made this point to Mr Miner himself a couple of days ago, and he was most gracious, and thankful, and for that, I thank him again.

    You guys (and gals) rock!

  9. Lycanthropist Says:

    to sum it up:

    Thurs – This Side Up w/Horns:
    Great time! The horns were a big hit for me personally, and I was pushed into a jazzier element than I have been before.

    Fri – Chance Fisher:
    Terrible audience. We were getting completely stonewalled. The second set was an exercise to play some of the craziest shit we could to at least get a disgusted reaction from the crowd, and to no avail. As a result we have some pretty psychedelic jams to show for it.

    Sat – Chance Fisher:
    Reverse effect here. We had a great audience, and we got a little too intoxicated in relation to our overall exhaustion. Pretty loose show, but with some high improv points.

  10. Lycanthropist Says:

    ^ a repost with all the links working..

  11. Lycanthropist Says:

    @bearito; @chef, anyone?

    you still out there

  12. chefbradford Says:

    I’m here. Hell, I’m pretty much always lurking in some way

  13. chefbradford Says:

    So Bearito is in H-burg as well, right? Or certainly somewhere near, he mentioned it earlier today or yesterday

  14. Lycanthropist Says:

    hes in New Orleans

  15. Lycanthropist Says:

    you guys should plan to come to the same show..

  16. chefbradford Says:

    That’s an excellent idea. I thought he’d said something at least about being in Mississippi, but I don’t remember. Close enough, though. You got anything lined up for January/early February yet?

  17. chefbradford Says:

    I will sheepishly admit that once I finish dinner, I’m going to play a video game. I will proudly and happily admit that I’m going to play either CF or TSU as my background music

  18. Lycanthropist Says:

    Jan 21 Chance Fisher Hattiesburg

    Feb 19 This Side Up Hattiesburg

  19. chefbradford Says:

    Jan 21, I can maybe do. What day of the week is Feb 19?

  20. chefbradford Says:

    If anybody’s still around, the good Mr Miner has posted his next write-up

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