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:

    haha. hey fool!

  2. hossmaster Says:

    Have you guys heard about this “Dub like an antelope” release? Legends of reggae celebrate our friends, Phish. Check it out on youtube.

  3. hossmaster Says:

    or itunes

  4. She Divides Says:

    @Silly…thanks. I have ups and downs. But right now I’m feeling optimistic. I’m not exactly sure what I will love doing, but I pretty much need to get a new job in the next couple months so I don’t go crazy, and then take time in that job to figure out what I would really love doing.

  5. stitchstash Says:

    silly, interesting view. I try not to get into religious debates either, but a healthy discussion never hurts anybody. Funny, you and my dad are both ex-Catholics or ExCathoholics.

  6. She Divides Says:

    @ Stitch…thanks! I liked avatar too–visuals were amazing, although I had heard many bad things about the plot/story, so I wonder if my expectations were off, but we really enjoyed it.

    @ Silly….I was raised catholic and consider myself agnostic now but I really appreciate your idea that life has the meaning we give it, and religion is the some meaning people give it. no judgement, just somewhat different meaning.

  7. SillyWilly Says:

    @She Divides

    sounds like a good plan. my girlfriend is going through the same thing. shes been pretty down lately. some of it is the transition of finding a new job and the anxiety that comes with the unknown. shes found some peace in the idea that taking her time now is important to avoid not rushing in to anything.

  8. She Divides Says:

    Us ex-catholics are everywhere stitch! It’s interesting–I generally avoid the religion conversations but my husband is an outspoken atheist so the convos pop up around me 🙂

    Silly–you’re in Madison, right? I actually graduated from Marquette, and my little brother went to Madison, so I’ve been there a bit. Although I’ve heard Madison is more fun as an undergrad than a grad student?…

  9. chefbradford Says:

    Still catching up from the missed hour or two

    Stitch- My dad was an Episcopal priest for about 25 years, I grew up in that church (think of it as Diet Catholic). However, as I got older, got more curious, my parents, my dad especially, made it clear that my spiritual life was completely up to me, and that as long as what I chose made me happy, and hopefully a better person, then they were fine with it. They’re of the ‘many paths, one destination’ school of thought.

    For a long time now, I’ve been basically agnostic, at times edging into atheism. Pretty angry with organized religion, especially the big 3, so I’ve distanced myself from it.

    But I’ve also, like you, noticed the similarities between Buddhism and science

  10. SillyWilly Says:

    @stitch

    yeah. healthy discussions are good. i was a big believer in catholicism, too, so i know it pretty well. my opinion is that its a great teaching that is not always lived by those claiming catholicism.

    @ She DIvides

    no judgment. my basic rule is that fostering life in ourselves and others is most important. theres not many people who disagree with that (hitler, maybe) so i dont get in many arguments

  11. chefbradford Says:

    To be fair and honest though, my anger with organized religion has as much to do with my failure to derive anything from it as it has to do with the grief it’s caused the world since, well, forever

  12. BTB Says:

    Guys (and gal),

    Cruising along in my automobile spinning 12.30, little did I realize the BOtT was serious Type III madness.

    Pulled off the road into a church parking lot and closed my eyes and relistened to that jam. Wow, what a Gordon led piece of fury.

    To quote Dumb and Dumber, “I didn’t even see it coming…”

    Phish Thought On!

  13. She Divides Says:

    chef and stitch–It’s been great to read your comments about buddhism, I haven’t looked into it much, but from what you’ve said it sounds like something I’d be interested in.

    @ chef–agnostic jinx! I have similar feelings about organized religion, seems to cause more problems than it solves..

  14. SillyWilly Says:

    @She Divides

    Yes! in Madison. i go to law school. ive only been in Madison for five months but its a great city. so much to see and do. and a very heady crowd.

    do you live close?

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    @Chef

    thats great your parents were cool. my parents make me go to Mass when im home (well, technically i havent told them i stopped believing). i think it would crush them to know i dont believe. it would be a personal insult.

    it might be a few years before i can tell them

  16. stitchstash Says:

    @she divides, Meditation could take some people a life time to master, so don’t get discouraged. The best thing to do if you want to start this practice is to find a quite or peaceful place to sit and relax. Try to empty your mind of all thoughts (Not as easy as it sounds) and just breathe. When you are done try to think about what you love to do. Hopefully you will get your inspiration. If that doesn’t work this New Year’s run may help get some of your gears cranking towards some new thoughts or ideas. Have you had the chance to listen to any of it yet? If not, you are in for a treat!

  17. chefbradford Says:

    Just to be clear, my philosophy classes are far behind me, and I haven’t read up on anything Buddhism-related in several years. It’s just that I know there are things I relate to and approve of in what I remember of it.

  18. chefbradford Says:

    Silly- I have, for years now, gone to certain services (Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas) with my mother because it comforts her. The only reason I didn’t go to midnight mass this year is because I was feeling quite under the weather.

    I was definitely lucky to have understanding and open-minded parents

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    I guess I dont really have to say anything unless they ask me point blank if Im going to Mass which they never have. I might be saving their peace of mind.

    I wouldnt be lying, but it feels dishonest. This is always a dilemma for me.

  20. chefbradford Says:

    I can def see how that is a big problem, Silly. I wouldn’t know what to do other than lie, and that’s never a good option.

  21. SillyWilly Says:

    hey everyone im heading to bed…im driving back in to Madison tomorrow and I gotta get an early start.

    truly wonderful conversation. i hope everyone has a great night and a better morning.

  22. stitchstash Says:

    I’ve spent many years attending different churches with friends as I was growing up. Going to church never gave me a calling, but learning and talking about different religions sparks a curiosity in me. I have felt more spiritual at the two Grateful Dead shows and the many Phish shows that I have attended than any one of those churches though. Organized religion does suck, however, the root of most religions are beautiful.

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    thanks, Chef.

    the problem can wait for another day. it will always be there i guess, but it can always be solved, too, if i resolve to tell them.

  24. stitchstash Says:

    @ BTB- you pulled into a church? Interesting.

  25. She Divides Says:

    @silly and chef….I’m a firm believer in answering the question parents ask you, they *usually* don’t ask you the questions they don’t want the answers to. My parents both know that I don’t practice and am agnostic, but out of respect I usually go to mass with them if I am staying at their houses. Only reason we didn’t go to midnight mass was sleet and ice!

    @ silly–my extended family is in Wisconsin so I am there several times a year but I’m back near where I grew up in DC. Madison is an awesome town, only rival I’ve seen is Santa Cruz (although I know there are other great towns I haven’t had the op to visit!

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