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. SillyWilly Says:

    If Im saving for the summer, I might only be able to make the Milwaukee show, Robear.

    are you making the trek east for the Atlanta show?

  2. Robear Says:

    @ Silly. No. I just know that Trey has been anxious to hit Atlanta.

    I meant the kids in a reasonable radius. 5 hours? 7?

  3. gavinsdad Says:

    heavy things today/tonite. always impressed with the blkbrd.

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    im about 13, but maybe if i find a flight early enough…ive got some good friends in atlanta…that might be my late winter vacation.

    and yes gavinsdad. its been good night

  5. ChefBradford Says:

    Agree with the ‘triumphant Scents’

    ATL is, I think, about a 12 hour drive from here, but I’m considering it

    Date?

  6. Summer98 Says:

    Loved the discussion here tonight (although it is still early evening here on the left coast). I’m an engineer and a pretty analytical person but music, whether live in person or just zoning at home, is able to take me outside myself, shut the brain down and allow me to just be. Similar activities that bring me there are hiking and to some extent biking. I’ve never tried meditation or yoga but have wanted to for some time.

    My wife is pretty type A and I know she gets the same thing from tunes but is resistive to the whole zen thing. I’ve been working on it for a while because I think we would benefit greatly by being together but outside ourselves. Hopefully she’ll come around sometime.

  7. Summer98 Says:

    Oh and AW:
    12/31 Set II is indeed smokin.

  8. Summer98 Says:

    My “meditation”:
    Tunes through my zune (yeah one of those) and walking my dog in the chilly Seattle mist.

  9. ChefBradford Says:

    sounds good to me, Summer

  10. Kenny Powers Says:

    @ oldskool and others,

    Miner has that whole 3.1.97 show up in pre-FM SBD in his archive, which is sweet since the Slip/Stitch release is only half the show, more or less. The highlights for sure, but it’s cool to check it out in the context of the whole show.

    Thank you Mr. Miner!

  11. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    Damn, I check in really quick and find one of those deep, evening philosophy/psychology conversations.

    @ Silly and others: As a shrink who works in a college counseling center, I use meditation and acceptance-based therapies all the time. There are some great books out there on these, but I agree with Mr C, you gotta just start sitting. In Madison there are several great zendos and mindfulness meditation centers. Used to do research on the topic there at UW with Richie Davidson…I ended up moving more from Buddhist philosophy to the Taoist; I like the playfulness, the non-intellectual spontaneity (here you go, attracted to your opposite?), and the nature focus. In fact, I’m not sure if he still teaches the course, but you’ll do your soul some good to drop by one of Prof. Tsai-fa Cheng’s classes on the I-Ching at UW. An old, wise Taiwanese guy, I learned more from his bearing and perspective than the topic per se, I still think about him all the time.

    @ Chef: I’m reading Let the Great World Spin right now, I’m really into it. Glad to hear others are too. As for the diagnosis/recovery topic that was touched on by a few of you, I’d be so happy with go deeper on that any time. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the topic…

  12. ChefBradford Says:

    Dr P- the bookseller recommended that book to me, But I haven’t started it yet. As I said earlier, he never sells (or in this case, gives) me anything I won’t like.

    And I will probably take you up on that offer at some point, but not just yet

    🙂

  13. ChefBradford Says:

    No onto Gin>Real Me>Gin, and if time permits, also Stash, Fluff, and McGrupp from that same show

  14. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    Off board of course!

    So often, listening to people talk about their struggles at work, I think about how big a role Phish has played in my own and others’ lives, giving a place of positivity and experiential joy to so many who maybe can’t find it so easily in our culture, which seems hell-bent on making it hard to live a life resonant with peace, compassion, and following your intuition/soul/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

    Maybe Neemor’s tragedy he posted about earlier has made me think about this a lot today…

  15. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    Oh, and Silly, I just googled old Prof Cheng, and apparently he’s now emeritus and no longer teaching that course. Maybe he still holds office hours or something tho.

    When we inevitably (I hope!) get together for brats and beers in Madison, I’ll do some impressions that may convey the essence of his approach!

    In the meantime, I think all Phish fans should check out the Chuang Tzu, the most joyous, weird, fantastical, and deep book I’ve read in philosophy, psych, etc. It’s so applicable to the phishy way of life…the tao of IT

  16. ChefBradford Says:

    I must’ve missed Neemor’s story. Off and on all day, and it’s been a busy day on the board.

    I’m on the comp at work right now, but if you’re around in a couple of hours when I get home, I may try to catch you, swap e-mail addy’s. I’ve never really had a chance to discuss those things with a professional who wasn’t getting paid, sort of thing.

    Phish has certainly played a big role in my inner life. Music always has, but especially Phish, along with a select few (Dylan and Wilco spring to mind)

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    hey, Dr. Pro!

    long time, no chat.

    yeah i would love to talk to you about some meditation centers I should go to in Madison.

    and have you thought anymore about visiting Madison in the next few months?

    i think you were going through a move around thanksgiving time. i hope that all went well.

  18. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    Anytime Chef. I don’t post often but I lurk everyday, especially during work hours – tho only between the :45 and :00 of each hour of course! I probably won’t be on in a few hours, but post your email now and I’ll email you mine, and we can start a back-and-forth.

    Unfortunately, I work at a school where I’ve never seen a phish shirt, sticker, signs of headiness, etc, which boggles my mind since plenty of herb is being smoked… So I only wish i could introduce some folks to the healing properties of IT

  19. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    @ Silly: I just negotiated/begged a deal with the landlord today, which gave me a stay of execution on the move for at least a year. So f-ing relieved…

    Will probably try to get to Madison by springtime. My family freaked with the blizzard over Christmas in the Rockford area, Madison too, and my wife and I ended up just staying here and cooking and relaxing…

  20. joe Says:

    Dr. P could be on the cutting edge of a new Phish gives you IT thearpy. All well documented and backed up by sound research from members of the phishthoughts community.

  21. ChefBradford Says:

    bradfordthedeep@yahoo.com

    Drop me a line anytime, thanks!

    Closing the restaurant up, so I have to take off, but I’m sure I’ll be lurking later on

    It’s been a pleasure, as always

  22. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    I’d apply to be a concierge shrink to the band, a la Metallica, but I’m sure I’d have some major competition…lots of psychologists are heads at heart!

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    @joe

    Dr.P could use the Dr. Pepper approach. Trust him, hes a doctor.

    @Dr. P, word, man.

    thats good news that shes letting you stay and the blizzard was HUGE.
    we were supposed to have our first final on December 8, but from 8pm dec. 7 to 6 am dec. 8 it snowed 14 inches. the busses shut down and so did campus.

    did you see the huge snowball fight on Bascom Hill that made national news. 3000 badgers slingin snowballs, drawing blood.

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    Have a great night, Chef! thanks for chatting and sharing some deep insights.

  25. Dr. Pronoia (ie, BK) Says:

    Silly, I saw that on youtube, I still laugh thinking about it!

    I’ve heard good things about the Madison Zen Center, the Isthmus Zen Center, and believe it or not, UW Health has good intro courses to mindfulness meditation. One of my big regrets is that I didn’t take practice seriously enough as an undergrad there, I was too into the philosophy and reading/writing about it…

    I’m gonna need to sign off too here soon – the wife is wondering what I’m typing away at.

    BTW, sorry to so hijack the board, which is, after all, a forum for PHISH. I mean, it’s not like a historic run just finished or anything!

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