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)


Jam of the Day:

Back on the Train > Velvet Sea” 12.30 II


Who would have thunk it?



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


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. oldskool Says:

    I decided the throw on Slip, Stitch & Pass on the big rig tonight since it had been awhile since I listened to it. Do yourself a favor and re-visit this! The Wolfman’s > Jesus Left Chicago is brilliant. A great example of patient and built funk.
    The Mike’s is what really struck me though. There is some incredible improv here. It is just so slowly built and straddles both ambient and deep groove at the same time. I truly love this band but after spinning Miami constantly the few days it was quite interesting to listen to this. As great at this band still is, I am not sure they will ever be at this level again. Just my $.02

  2. pagesidehighschool Says:

    Artist that phish(live) remind me of, Kilmpt, Kandinsky, Pollack, Rothko, Mattise. Individualality, color, and wild exploration

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Silly, I dunno

    I think you need to have someone teach you in person just at the very start

    It’s so hard to put into words

    Shambhala Press is the place to go for books on meditation and yoga, always, as well as Eastern philosophy and religion in general

    those “beyond thinking” and “finding the still point” books look good

    but my experience was that I didn’t get it until someone just sat with me like once or twice

    then I got it

    like trying to explain Phish shows to someone through a CD, you know? you gotta just do it

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    it wouldnt be that big of a jump for me to start zen, Mr C.
    a therapist once told me to envision my bad feeling as a color and my good feelings as a color and then to focus on turning the bad color into the good. i try and do this ever night before i go to bed. close to the same thing, right?

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    Slip Stich rules

    no doubt

    holds up 100%

    …and the Taste!

  6. ChefBradford Says:

    oldskool- SS&P usually gets a spin at work every couple of weeks. Deep as the improv is, most of the tracks aren’t very long, so I don’t get many complaints from my coworkers 🙂

    Love the Doors/Floyd jam in that Mike’s

    Ah, birth of the funk, to paraphrase M Davis

  7. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks for the link, Mr. C and yeah ill find someone to help me out, show me the way a little.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    Silly that’s a meditation technique for sure

    Zen is all about turning the rational mind off though, by turning it on itself, to witness its own action

    at some point it just kind of goes poof and there you are, your real self, what was there before your mind took over

    liberating is the only word for it

  9. ChefBradford Says:

    Silly- the only therapist I’ve ever had who was any good was BIG on meditation. He hypnotised me (not in the movie kind of way), and it was basically an exercise in directed meditation. He even made me an audio tape of him doing the exercise, so I could do it at home any time. Haven’t done it in ages, I need to dig it up

    I had a wonderful place envisioned that i could go to for peace

    Perfect. 5 years later I can still visuallize it perfectly

  10. SillyWilly Says:

    wow…yeah, that would be liberating.

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    as a byproduct you might learn to be very aware of the workings of your own consciousness, and in some ways at least better able to control them, since you no longer think of your thoughts and feelings as “you”

    that’s not the point, but it’s a side effect a lot of people end up with

    “you” are not mad or sad

    one part of you is feeling those things, but you are not that

    you are that which witnesses those things, not the things themselves

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    peace everyone…out, maybe back real late, but got stuffs goin on tonight

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    damn. well yeah im all about trying this out, then.

  14. ChefBradford Says:

    Later Mr C

    the BlackBoard went deep tonight

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    best of luck my friend!

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    later, Mr C thanks for all the convo tonight. im definitely down to get going on learning how to meditate.

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    Chef, have you decided which book youre going to start reading tonight?

  18. ChefBradford Says:

    I’m actually reading the introduction to Kerouac’s “Wake Up”, but I’m probably going to dip back into a Terry Pratchett collection I’m re-reading, then drop in on “Spirit House”, work on a crossword, and hit up “Let the Great World Spin”.

    Slightly ADD


  19. SillyWilly Says:

    right on! ADD reading is the best way to be

  20. Robear Says:

    Happiness is spinning the paddelmike aud. of 12/30/09 on the home stereo with friends and neighbors.

    ‘Light’ from MSG isn’t too shabby either.

  21. ChefBradford Says:

    I am, for the first time, giving the SPAC 95 DWD>Free a close listen as I read. Disease is just getting interesting and chunky

  22. Robear Says:

    chef, that whole Shoreline show cooks, eh? Mr. C was at that one, too.

    That shed gets some dandy shows.

    Who’s got the change jar started for summer tour? My friend said throw the $5’s in too.

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    started a bank account, robear, put 500 bucks in it and im going to forget about it until summer tour is announced

  24. ChefBradford Says:

    Hell yes it cooks. I’ve heard a smattering of other shows at that venue, the only one sticking out being 10/7/00. As for it being a smoking 2.0 set, I still don’t see why a lot of folks basically ignore that era. Once the band got their groove back in Febuary of 03, they lit up almost every show through IT

    I’m hoping I don’t have to dig into my change jar anymore for awhile. X-Mas bonus didn’t go as far as I’d hoped this year

  25. Robear Says:

    Robear says:

    Don’t miss the Trey show in Atlanta, if at all possible and you’re in the area.

    Chef, check out the September ’99 shows, esp. the one with the Phil Lesh sit-in.

    The ‘Scent’s feels triumphant from the ’03 show. Like galloping over rolling green hills

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