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”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    @chef, what kinds of music do you like? what can’t you stand? what are you vaguely interested in but don’t know much about?

    If you don’t have Miles’ Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way, buy those first. That’s my suggestion.

  2. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    also i’d say the acoustic wave was really more led by bob dylan and the band… and don’t forget jerry played some pedal steal for CSNY so really they were all influencing each other as you said

  3. albert walker Says:

    Trey studied composition under Ernie Stires and was a heavy influence on his old school pieces

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    right albert – the key being all kinds of american roots music

    blues, bluegrass, rock and jazz, spiced with Phil’s avant garde leanings

    plus beat poets and the Pranksters

    add Owsley barrels and you’re good

  5. SillyWilly Says:

    im gonna throw this out there….whether american music acts are aware of it or not jazz and improv go with european existentialism like strawberries and cream.

    some say the beat movement was nothing more than a typically late american response to andre breton and surrealism. i disagree the 60s were america’s subscription to existentialism. some of it misguided, but the dead are an existential band and creation is the way to salvation.

  6. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “could you list for me what you believe are the GD’s and Phish’s major influences?

    im interested in going to their influences before summer tour resumes.”

    looks like kb will be reading lots of kerouac and dropping lots of acid before summer lol

  7. albert walker Says:

    you ever rock out to the Fugs C

    coca-cola douche

    halucination horrors

    I think they were all beat guys
    I know Ginsberg was involved

  8. chefbradford Says:

    I do need a new copy of Bitches, actually. BB it is

  9. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    dada – surrealism – beats – hippies

  10. albert walker Says:

    fool

    Mississippi John Hurt
    Lightning Hopkins
    Freddie King
    bill Monroe

    I’d start with the real rootsy stuff that Jer dug

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    word, dancing fool.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    the history of the acoustic americana backlash in rock is complex

    Dylan of course had originally pushed the other way and when the acoustic wave got big it was when the Band wasn’t playing with him anymore

    I think it really started with the Byrds, all that stuff was like 65-67

    Music from Big Pink was ’68, CSN formed in late 68 I think, their first album was in ’69, but Jerry and the others didn’t hook up with them til late that year

    So I guess it’s really the Byrds, then the Band, then CSN, then the Dead and many more

    not really a historian of that era though, that’s just my recollection, could be wrong about any or all of those dates

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    good lord, the Fugs

    that is some fucked up shit

  14. albert walker Says:

    you are correct C

    when it comes to OG American electric psyche rock
    it kind of starts and stops with the Byrds

    then you had the Airplane and GD

  15. Kenny Powers Says:

    @ Mr C you mentioned Koyaanisqatsi the last page – it was ’99 or ’00 or maybe ’01, at the Wang Theater in Boston, they showed the film on the HUGE screen and Phillip Glass and his synthesizer orchestra set up in the pit and played the entire score note for note in unison with the film. Couldn’t even talk afterward.

  16. albert walker Says:

    i have original copies of their first 3 records

    worth a lot of cash

    my girl’s uncle up in Humboldt had original copies from his OG hippie days

    imagine putting that shit on for some trippin cats back in 1964

  17. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    @ Mr. C….

    I’m finding two sets for Bitches Brew, one is four discs and the other is two…obviously the more the merrier, but do you know the difference off hand?

  18. albert walker Says:

    The Fugs- The Fugs

    first underground album of all time
    very, very cool

    coca-cola douche is highly recommended
    great track

    also CIA man

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah nice sequence there f0ol, dead on

    go all the way with it

    dada > surrealism > beats > hippies > deadheads > phish fans

    that’s the unbroken chain 8)

  20. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    lol phish fans, hells yes

    if it started with the byrds then it really started with bob dylan.

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    4 disk set is the complete sessions box

    well worth hearing but not essential

    I’d recommend getting the 2 disk version plus In a Silent Way if you don’t have that

    but the box set version is cool!

    Spanish Key is my favorite freaky jam of all time. If Phish let me pick one new cover tune for them to jam on, it’d be that.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    and if you have Silent Way, then get Filles de Kilimanjaro

    incredibly cool and underrated album

    the start of the Silent Way weirdness, still mostly acoustic jazz instruments just with a little electronic stuff mixed in

    absolutely amazing album, highest recommendation if you have any interest in jazz at all

  23. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    I’ve been listening to lots of !!! lately….not sure if anyone hear has already heard or talked about them, but it’s really great for work

  24. Uncle Ebeneezer Says:

    thanks for the reccommendations

  25. SillyWilly Says:

    id like to support the idea that deadheads and phans are greater than the surrealists.

    Surrealists= Nothing has any meaning

    Deadheads and phans = True, nothing has any meaning UNLESS we give it meaning.

    sorry if im going all philosophy nerd on everyone

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