A Showcase of Songs

12.30.09 - Miami (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

The diversity of Phish is one of their greatest assets, and a huge reason behind their overwhelming appeal to so many people. Beyond varying their setlists, Phish effortlessly swoops between musical genres, altering the focus of their shows, while composing vastly different orbits each and every night. And when the band plays as well as they did in Miami, any direction usually works just fine. A night after Phish played a show underlined by giant grooves and copious improv, the band returned on December 30th with a song-based show that still held the door open for some quintessential second set psychedelia. Focused on elusive pieces of their catalog for much of the night, the band tore through many seldom played selections with surprising proficiency, while still carving out one of 2009’s elite jams. Though the band’s musicianship stood at the top of their game, this show contained a choppy, yet fun, vibe, with no real flow to either set. Yet, when examining each piece individually, Phish absolutely nailed everything they touched on this night.

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

If bust-outs tickle one’s fancy, then they were laughing all the way through this first set in which eight of twelve songs appeared for the first time this year, including two debuts. The party got started with the first “Soul Shakedown” of this era, igniting the crowd and setting the tone of the evening right away. Following a short but sweet “Runaway Jim,” and woven around “Stealing Time,” the bust outs just kept rolling – “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” Hank William’s “Dixie Cannonball,” “Corrina,” “What’s the Use?,” Tela,” the debut of “Gone,” and “RockyTop.” In a veritable buffet of Phish rarities, one of the unquestionable highlights of the sequence was “Corrina.” Ten years to the day that they broke out the song in Big Cypress’ opening set, Phish played a highly emotive version evoking memories of the Everglades with graceful solos from both Page and Trey. “Tela” brought the most “significant” bust-out, with eleven years coming between its last performance in New Haven, CT on November 24, 1998. Practiced and polished, Phish gave the integral piece to the Gamehendge saga the full treatment, bringing the composition to a gentle peak. Throughout all of these songs, Phish sounded spot on, both musically and lyrically, making these appearances all the more special. Sure, squeezing “What’s The Use?” between “Corrina” and “Tela” does nothing for context or flow, but the band is clearly now comfortable with the widest array of their material since the mid -’90s. Finally digging deeper into Party Time, Phish debuted “Gone,” a reflective Trey piece with a strong melodic leads and potential for expansion come summertime. “Rocky Top” finished the eccentric part of the set, leaving way for Phish to loosen up their chops in the final segment.

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

After crushing “Chalkdust,” the musical energy in the room palpably increased, setting the table for the improvisational high point of the first half, “David Bowie.” Through many versions of “Bowie” this year, the band hadn’t often been able to channel the maniacal energy that defined the song’s history. Playing quasi-generic renditions more often than not, few “Bowies” stood out as unique. But Miami’s version jumped off the stage with a creative aggression unseen most of the year, all without moving far outside the box. Possessing that furious, yet precise, energy that characterized “Bowies” of legend, Phish applied their newly-found, effortless bravado the jam, and came out with one of its most successful, densely packed affairs of the year. Peaking with unique, full-band fury, “Bowie” ended the first half with a bang. Having picked up improvisational steam at the end of the set, and following the night before, who knew what to expect in act two?

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

Opening the second set, Phish continued the Big Cypress allusions by dusting off the second “Sand” of 2009, evoking memories of the forty-plus minute epic in the early hours of the decade. This version followed a more classic contour than Camden’s of early summer, focusing primarily on Trey’s guitar leads over a driving groove, and less on full-band interplay. Trey, however, brought enough fire to carry this version on his own. Starting with sparse phrasings, he soon built into flowing melodies that solely directed the course of the song. Supported by a tightly woven groove, Trey lines surfed atop the musical wave provided by his mates throughout this excursion. Dominating the second half with effect-driven, “retro-milennial” sound-sculpting, Big Red brought the piece to a gnarling peak only a stones throw away from the site of its seminal outing a decade ago.

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

A fiery beginning to the second half gave way to a cerebral segment of “Curtain (With)” > “Lifeboy.” In complete contrast to the linear dance patterns that opened the frame, Phish entered one of their exquisite compositions with notable precision and energy, and when “With” dropped, the band’s soul took over. Completely at home with the piece that once symbolized the debacle of Coventry, Phish culminated the many versions of the year with one of their best. Played with meticulous passion, “With” felt like a emotional cleansing on the brink of a new decade, while simultaneously, a celebration of 2009 – the year that everything came back together. With undeniable majesty, the band engaged in one of the most alluring passages of the run, featuring interplay both subtle and supreme.

Dripping from the stirring rendition of “With” into the first “Lifeboy” of the year, Phish crafted an elegant combination of introspective hymns. Performed immaculately, the song’s dreamy soundscapes backed its wistful lyrics in the type of delicate display absent from the 2.0 era. But this time around, every note matters, hence the band’s patient and steady progress throughout the year, and “Lifeboy” vividly illustrates this renewed philosophy.

When Phish continued with “Back On the Train” as a centerpiece of the second set, it really seemed as though the 30th would go down as light on musical exploration, but little did anyone know that one of the year’s top jams was about to unfold. Stemming from the back-country funk of “Back On the Train,” Phish would grow one of their most exciting excursions from the least likely of places. Gradually stretching out the song’s form, Mike, once again, led the way out the door, as he was the first to bring unique ideas to the table. As Mike coaxed Trey into some rhythm playing, the band took off on a musical tangent, everyone picking up new on each others’ ideas, and almost instantaneously, transforming the piece into an ambient blanket of shimmering sound.

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

From there, the band took a multi-dimensional musical expedition, beginning in a quieter, bass-led brew. Latching onto Mike’s patterns, Trey, and Page joined in, forming a sublime, sonic waterfall. Phish had traveled way out there quite quickly – a musical hit of DMT – and soon, the delicate canvas became increasingly dark as the band built the force behind their wall of sound. A kick drum joined Fish’s shimmering cymbal textures, as Trey’s began to scream out over Page’s drone effects and piano patterns. And out of an ambient escapade, Phish built a fierce, all-out high speed musical getaway. A distinct moment transpired where the whole band hit full stride in a galaxy far, far away, and, collectively, took off out of sight. Even Kuroda got in on the act, masterfully speckling the arena with dots of white light to match the musical intensity. In order to return to earth, the band slowed into a polyrhythmic segment, resembling the cadence of a “Limb” jam, as Trey and Page gushed emotion through the final rolling peak. A true journey into the unknown, most didn’t know what had hit them as the band drifted softly into “Velvet Sea.” But we had just witnessed one of the year’s most successful jams; the yin to “Tweezer’s” yang; the other best side of Phish.

"Fish and Rich" (W.Rogell)

“Velvet Sea” provided a lush cushion for the band’s interstellar exploits, a perfect place to descend upon from such gargantuan heights. But once this surreal segment came to a close, Fishman came front and center for his late-second set exploits that are often hard to believe still take place in 2009. This act took a turn for the comical, however, as the band chose “Rich” from the crowd to come up and guest on vacuum since Trey had promised this that Fish’s “I Didn’t Know” solo on the 28th would be his last of the decade. At the time this all seemed innocent enough, but in reality, the band was laying groundwork for their New Year’s prank. (More on that tomorrow.) But “Rich” held his own, and got the arena rocking far more than Fishman could have, in comedic episode that pumped up the audience for the set’s final section.

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

Following another generic “Free,” a song the band should expand or shelve at this point, they kicked into a late-set “Boogie On,” taking the song-based theme through the very end of the show. But after a short funk groove, Trey slowly integrated the beginning of “Antelope,” blending one song into the other. Throughout the intro – in which the full band joined in, within the full-on jam, and in the outro, Trey precisely and playfully teased the main melody from “Boogie On.” Each time firing up the audience a bit more, by the end of the song, Trey had the arena eating from the palm of his hand as he brought the vicious jam to a close with an combination “Boogie On” / “Antelope” lick. This smoking, high-energy conclusion will forever be remembered as “Boogie Like an Antelope.”

When looking at a New Years Run, one must consider the four-night whole rather than each show on its own. Designed to be a four-night experience, interpreting a New Year’s Run in any other way would be missing the point. This show complemented the 29th’s groove-centric exploration, while the 31st created the feel-good party of the year. People will favor one of these shows over another because of their personal preferences, not because Phish played any better or worse on these three nights. After the 28th’s uncharacteristic warm-up, the band blasted into their best playing of the year, with each show designed for a different purpose. This night provided a showcase of rare songs, and we still managed to get in a jam of the year. Not bad, I’d say. Not bad at all.

I: Soul Shakedown Party, Runaway Jim, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Dixie Cannonball*, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Corrina, What’s the Use?, Tela, Gone*, Rocky Top, Chalkdust Torture, David Bowie

II: Sand, The Curtain With > Lifeboy, Back On The Train > Wading in the Velvet Sea, HYHU > Love You > HYHU, Free, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Run Like An Antelope

E: Frankenstein

12.30.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

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Jam of the Day:

Back on the Train > Velvet Sea” 12.30 II

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/ph2009-12-30t16.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/ph2009-12-30t17.mp3]

Who would have thunk it?

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

12.30.09 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL < Torrent

12.30.09 American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL < Megaupload

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

I: Soul Shakedown Party, Runaway Jim, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Dixie Cannonball*, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Corrina, What’s the Use?, Tela, Gone*, Rocky Top, Chalkdust Torture, David Bowie

II: Sand, The Curtain With > Lifeboy, Back On The Train > Wading in the Velvet Sea, HYHU > Love You > HYHU, Free, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Run Like An Antelope

E: Frankenstein

*debut

Source: Sennheiser MD441U > Edirol R4Pro (Oade preamp mod) @ 24/88.2 (Taper – padelimike)

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1,066 Responses to “A Showcase of Songs”

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  1. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    first comment?
    continued to be blown away minute after minute of this show…

  2. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    the bott was obviously some of the bset phish of the year but man i was loving that antelope. i had just been thinking earlier about how they hardly ever do teases anymore… but trey integrated it so nicely into the context of the antelope. like it was written for it.

  3. Al Says:

    This Dec. 30th. Bowie, the Detroit Bowie and the one at Red Rocks are the best three Bowies this year.

    I still have to listen more closely to this Miami Run to evaluate it. From what I have heard so far it still doesn’t surpass the MSG run for me. Surely more bust outs. The MSG Desease and Light are epic.

  4. erock Says:

    I prefer Run Like a Reggae Woman

  5. McG Says:

    I took a listen to Dub Like an Antelope…. by far the best tune on it is Free. I would be a very happy camper if Phish decided to mix it up and try doing a reggae style version of Free like on “Dub” a few times this summer.

    Jah!

    12/30 – the JJLC is sooo sweet!

  6. Matso Says:

    This show has some of the strongest playing of the year, even if it doesn’t hang together quite as well as 12/29.

    The Jesus Left Chicago is ridiculous – a miniature masterpiece of bluesy, gooey goodness. Just listen to the growling emotion in Page’s voice – if there’s a silver lining from those dark years, it’s the profound depth which Page can bring to these lyrics now. He has a superb solo and then Trey’s… Dear God.

    Tela is still the jewel of Phish’s bust-out domain. The way they drop into the final chorus. The guitar pyromaniac solo topping it all off. Amen.

    Bowie is probably the go-to version of the year, even if the Knox Bowie has a more intense peak (just as the Albany Wolfmans will, in time, be the go-to 09 Wolfmans).

    Sand is awesome. It’s like all of the best stuff from the 99 versions condensed into a 13 minute ripper, plus even better interplay with Page and an even tighter rhythm section. Love it.

    The Curtain With, where it rightly belongs, in the second set.

    Lifeboy, so gentle, so humble.

    BOTT…

    Boogielope!! This is like something from 94 and pure Phish (humour/risk/challenge/emotion).

  7. Willowed Says:

    Boogie on Like an Antelope….Love it!!

  8. albert walker Says:

    I’m like Miner look at this as a whole run

    the 1st set was played pefectly
    compared to earlier bust outs that were just botched they obviously ran through all of these during their time off

    can’t beat Jesus left for us Chicago kids
    Tela was damn near perfect

    Bowie of the year by far IMO and a rippin little Runaway book ended some great type I playing throughout

    have not heard Lifeboy in ages and Trey killed it

    like Miner hinted at

    12/29-12/31 ran together is about as enjoyable a Phish experience as one could ever expect

    different vibes different night but played with great professionalism and intensity

  9. nonoyolker Says:

    Yet another incredible write-up from Miner. It seems that as the boys have been growing throughout the year, so has our gracious host. Thanks again for all you do. A true pillar of the community.

    I realized last night that I haven’t posted on here since before Indio. Work and traveling just got all over me and I didn’t have time to keep up. Time just gets away. My New Year’s resolution is to not let work get in the way of cyber dawdling… I still make time every morning to read Miner thoughts and graze over the comments. It’s definitely good to see so many names that are still making consistently insightful posts. This community went from TAB fall tour reviews (when I started posting) to passionate debates over which incredible phish jam was better than another incredible phish jam from the same run. That speaks volumes to what a phenomenal year ’09 was. Just a complete transformation. It was like watching someone learn to walk again. Beautiful stuff.

    On to the music… What more needs to be said, the Miami run was the business. Incredibly fluid, cohesive playing and most importantly – *interesting* music. That is the one thing that really worried me during the early stages of ’09. Were they ever going to get to that place where their jams were not only cohesive, but interesting and new? There were flashes of greatness throughout the year, but Miami seems like a culmination of hard work from the band and the unrelenting belief of the fans. I was not in attendance for these shows, but the recordings ooze with energy. The Ghost (arguably jam of the run), Piper (most chaw per 9 min space), BOTT (most exciting jam, in that they are showing willingness to jam on any song/may also be jam of the run, maybe year??), Jibboo>Wilson>Jibboo (most underrated), Boogie-lope (most likely to bust a hip grooving on), Reba/Curtain With (most dripping with bliss), Bathtub (most slept on – shit, THIS is the business…), Swept Away (best bust out/remix), Lifeboy (nothing needs to be said…). Bust outs like Corrine, Tela, Jesus Left, What’s the Use? New jams like Dixie C-Ball and Gone. Start to finish, this run was incredibly captivating. Tweezer was donned the “jam of the year”, which I find debatable, but there is no denying its spellbinding nature. Easily top ten for me. The SBDs are also night and day compared to the rest of the year. HUGE improvement.

    That being said, I think it is truly foolish to dismiss the remainder of the year as simply “developmental”. I caught 12 shows this year, 4 of which were in the first leg of the summer tour and had a fucking blast at every single one. Some are quick to cast off the rest of ’09, but remember when Hampton Tweezer was the shit? When the DWD from the 3rd night “pushed the envelop”? I still want them to play “She Thinks I Still Care Again”. All part of the growth process.

    Some of these moments DO still hold up on tape… Camden Tweezer, Asheville Ghost, RR X-eyed, Gorge Light and Gin, Hartford Set 2 (undoubtedly the Phishiest moment of the year – shit, that was FUN), and Merriweather 46 Days are still bomb. I still think that the RR Tweezer is the most indicative jam of Phish’s “new” style. The stop/start jamming, ascension/deconstruction, for my money is for the most precise jam of the year. That and the Gorge Light are just really interesting music.

    I was at Indio and had a ton of fun. Solid playing throughout, but as time passes, I find myself only revisiting the Stones set (which was incredible – Shine a Light?? Built to be phish song…), some of the acoustic jawns when lamping, and parts of set 3 night 3.

    Fall tour grew in leaps and bounds as well. Much tighter and more consistent playing. Cinci 2, Philly 1, Albany 1 (Timber from this is HUGELY over looked – the most jamming I’ve heard packed into a 7 min space. Feels like a 10+ min jam), Portland (most underrated show of the year – last 2 min of Meat = bliss. Crimes of the Mind destroyed, or at least sounded like it. I was there), and MSG 2 (VA show was also highly underrated). The real balls of this tour: 7 below > Ghost from Albany 2. In my mind, still the jam of the year. This may have been the subjective experience of being there, but this is just an undeniable segment of music. A complete flurry of creativity. At this moment, all was right again in the phish universe.

    Which inevitably brings us back to the Miami run. No more to say. These will be in rotation for a long while. My tally at the end of the year: 12 tickets, thousands in travel expenses, my favorite band for the better part of my life is happy, healthy, and playing like fire again night in and night out, reconnection and time spent with my best friends in the world, and memories I wouldn’t trade for anything. A lot to be thankful for this year. This has been a long, continuous upward swing and the possibilities are endless. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    (Sorry for the UNBELIEVABLY long post, must have been going through withdrawal… Best to all of you in the New Year!)

  10. Larry Sellers Says:

    The flow on the 29th was supreme but what made the 30th so great was not just the song selection but the fact that every song is a spetacular version. I’ve seen bust out shows where they just run through the songs. Not on this night. They nailed everything! Miner, I thought the Free was great and well placed. I was in charlottesville and thought that one was good also. Yes, they could expand on it but both versions were really tight. Solid communication, just too short. I think the song is progressing like most as they’re getting more comfortable up there. Also, I can’t stop listening to Gone. Think that songs got some serious potential.

  11. Marshall Says:

    12/20 is where IT is AT [sic].

  12. Marshall Says:

    12/30 is where IT is AT [sic].

  13. marcoesq Says:

    Fantastic piece, Miner. This was an unbelievable show with a graphic writeup to help us get a first person view into the Miami AAA

    While the 1st set was priceless for bustouts and playing, the 2nd set will be one of the most diverse, throwback sets they have put on since the first hiatus.

    They finally brought the Sand, but only to follow w/ a Curtain With>Lifeboy jammed out GBOTT taboot!

  14. marcoesq Says:

    oh, and unbelievable pics Wendy!

  15. Robear Says:

    boom, boom, cha-cha-cha

    I thought the show flowed beautifully.

  16. jonathan Says:

    Shelve “Free” if it doesn’t get expanded? That’s a bit much, don’t you think?

  17. Litteringand Says:

    Just listen to the Ghost>NO2-amazing. Have to say that People for a louder Mike Gordon have to be pleased with this run.

  18. albert walker Says:

    I am not a bust out guy and I love this 1st set

    played so well

    for me tight Phish is good Phish and they slayed this 1st set

  19. ma Says:

    free was some thick funk….i can’t believe the 28th gets no love…

  20. Comrade Says:

    Miner, you sir are a scholar and a gentleman!

    Great write up!

  21. BTB Says:

    I’ll take a bust-out first set. It beats the Chalkdust>Div Sky>poort heart>Ocelot>Stash….predictability. Bring on the bust-outs!! Give me new music boys…

    Just burned this CD last night. Going to be cruising around spinning these tracks for a little bit.

  22. marcoesq Says:

    “I’m droppin’ bombs over Baghdad like I’m freakin’ Mike Gordon”

  23. Larry Sellers Says:

    agree with you, ma. Free was sick. And the place went bonkers (as it always does) when trey hits those opening licks! bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump baaaaaaaaaaaa!

  24. Robear Says:

    ma, I really liked the 28th.

    Kickdown despite troubles with the sound

    ‘Makisupa’ reached all-time fun level. Tons of ‘Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike’ throughout the show. I don’t remember the swanky funk jam out of ‘Contact’.

    Clearly a warm-up show on some levels, Great on my scale nonetheless.

    My scale for ’09 has been-Good, Great, Spectacular

  25. Robear Says:

    BTB, got to see your ‘avatar’ in person in Miami. Some cats outside the Hyatt had the Cactus and the Henrietta bobble heads.

    Someone up close in Miami, at least the last two nights, maybe even last three had a blow up plastic Cactus. Me thinks Mikey Liked IT.

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