2009: The Year That Was

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

Phish blazed quite the comeback trail in 2009. Beginning in early March and finishing on New Year’s Eve, the band played 50 shows as they marched their way back to prominence. As the months passed, Phish grew more and more comfortable with each other, enhancing their precision and improvisational chops along the way. Despite a few setbacks, 2009 represented a steep upwards curve for Phish 3.0, and will provide a solid musical foundation as they step into the future of Summer 2010. But before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look back at the Phish’s comeback of 2009.


Hampton: 3.6-3.8

3.8.09 - Hampton (Unknown)

The Reunion  – one of the most dreamlike Phish experiences anyone there has ever had. Out of five years of silence, the band stepped onstage with the magical notes of “Fluffhead.” Sending a message of musical dedication right away, the band started this era with the complex composition that eluded their post-hiatus years. In a marathon weekend of music, The Mothership overflowed with energy for over three hours every night. These shows carried the feel of a recital; a welcome back to the world of Phish as they ran through 84 songs in six sets. Culminating the three-nights with their first earnest jam of the new era, Hampton’s “Down With Disease” still holds up on tape when listening back to this magical weekend.

Shows: 3

Can’t Miss Jams: “Down With Disease”


Summer Tour –  Leg I: 5.31 – 6.21

Jones Beach (W.Rogell)

Spanning 15 shows over three weeks, Phish hit the road for the first time in over five years. Moving from the northeast, through the mid-south, and up the Midwest, the band stayed out for three full weeks . Kicking off their touring season with Fenway Park’s stadium spectacle, things began to slide into full swing again. After some spotty performances at Jones Beach and Great Woods, the band finally clicked in Camden on June 7, for their first great show of the modern era, and, perhaps, the most outstanding night of tour. Taking this momentum on the road south, the band played solid stops in Asheville and Knoxville before stepping onto the biggest stage of the year at Bonnaroo. Over the course of two shows, Phish introduced the mainstream masses to their style, and with one of the strongest shows of the summer on June 14, Phish left no doubt who ruled the weekend in Manchester, TN.

After a much-hyped, but underwhelming show at St. Louis’ Fox Theatre, Phish finished up their first leg of summer by visiting their old haunts of Star Lake, Deer Creek, and Alpine Valley. The gem of these nights became the start-to finish, lightening-interrupted escapade in the cornfields of Indiana. Juxtaposed to the the all-too-common, linear rock jamming that characterized this tour, Deer Creek felt like a revelation with far more musical adventure. The final set at Alpine also provided a glimpse of some enhanced improvisation.

Shows: 15

Standouts: 6.7 Camden, 6.14 Bonnaroo, 6.19 Deer Creek, 6.21 Alpine Valley

Can’t Miss Jams: 6.2 “Hood,” 6.4 “Ghost,” 6.7 “Fee,” “Sand,” Tweezer,” 6.9 “Ghost,” 6.12 “Kill Devil Falls,” 6.14 “Rock and Roll > Light,” 6.19 “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Drowned > Twist,” “Tweezer > 2001,” 6.21 “Crosseyed > Disease,” “Piper”


Summer Tour –  Leg II: 7.30 – 8.16

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Phish showed up at Red Rocks as a completely different band than we left in Alpine Valley. Perhaps due to their surroundings, or perhaps due to a transformative five weeks off, Phish played far more confidently and relaxed, quickly trumping anything from June with their June 31 performance. Over these four nights, Phish reinvented themselves from early-summer, taking musical risks and daring excursions all over the place. As fun as any four nights in memory, Red Rocks ’09 will live on forever; if for nothing else but its immortal “Tweezer.”

Stopping for one show at Shoreline, Phish headed up to the Gorge for their most impressive two shows of the summer. Inspired by the vast natural landscape, Phish engaged in frequent and successful open jamming over these nights, crafting some of the year’s most indelible moments. Taking things eastward, the band’s  improvisation seemed tone down and tail off. Usually kicking down one or two jams per show, this east coast shows didn’t hold the same wide-open feel as those out west, and people could tell. The high point of this east coast swing became the Phishy night at Hartford, strewn with bust-outs, whole-band improv, and an homage to “Icculus.” The spirit lived on!

Shows: 12

Standouts: 7.31 Red Rocks, 8.1 Red Rocks, 8.7 Gorge, 8.8 Gorge, 8.14 Hartford

Can’t Miss Jams: Red Rocks: “Ghost > Wolfmans,” 7.31 “Split Open and Melt” and all of Set II, 8.1 “Rock and Roll > Disease,” 8.5 “Disease,” 8.7 “Sneakin Sally,” “Light,” “Bathtub Gin > Hood,” 8.8 “Rock and Roll,” 8.11 “Number Line > Carini > Jibboo,” 8.13 “Drowned,” 8.14 “Disease > Wilson > Slave,” “Ghost > Psycho Killer,” 8.15 “46 Days,” 8.16 “Number Line”


Festival 8, Indio, CA 10.30 – 11.1

Festival 8 Pollock

Combining two of their most hallowed traditions, Phish threw a laid-back, hassle free, three-day Halloween festival. The diametric opposite of those magical cluster-fucks of lore, everyone had easy access to the Polo Grounds and the lavish resorts of Palm Springs. The stunning “Exile” set highlighted three blissful days of the sunshine, while Phish’s noontime acoustic set met with rave reviews. Indio brought so much joy to all, that rumors are already circulating about the band’s return to the west coast site this fall

Shows: 3

Can’t Miss Jams: 10.30 “Wolfman’s > Piper,” 10.31 The Exile Set, “Ghost,” “YEM,” “Suzie,”11.1 The Acoustic Set, “Tweezer > Maze,” “Mike’s > 2001 > Light > Slave”


Fall Tour: 11.18 – 12.5

MSG (G.Lucas)

Stepping inside for their first fall tour since 2000, and their first all-indoor arena tour since February 2003, the band took a little while to get things going. Playing incredibly high-energy shows that featured only one or two legitimate pieces of improv per night, some began to wonder if Phish was satisfied putting on well-polished arena rock shows. Then Albany happened. On November 28, the band’s rediscovered their exploratory spirit, dropping 50 minutes of straight improv, riding their magic carpet far above any any previous heights of 2009 with “Seven Below > Ghost.”

Taking this momentum through the end of the tour, more risk-taking continued in spurts through Maine, MSG and Charlottesville, highlighted by three interstellar quests stemming from “Light,” two of which are no-brainer tour highlights. “Piper” finished off a standout regular season with particularly strong outings in New York and Virginia. Over the second half of fall, Phish had gained a musical head of steam, and Miami looked to be a blowout.

Shows: 13

Standouts: 11.20 Cincinnati, 11.24 Philadelphia, 11.28 Albany, 12.3 MSG, 12.5 Charlottesville

Can’t Miss Jams: 11.18 “46 Days, “Disease > Free,” 11.20 “Tweezer > Light,” “YEM,” 11.21 “Split,” “Rock and Roll > Ghost,” 11.22 “Drowned,”11.24 “Disease,” 11.25 “Birds,” 11.27 “Piper > Tomorrow’s Song,” “11.28 “Seven Below > Ghost,” 11.29 “Undermind,” 12.2 “Light > Slave,” 12.3 “Disease > Piper,” 12.4 “Seven Below,” “YEM,” 12.5 “Tweezer > Light > Piper”


New Year’s Run, Miami, FL: 12-28 – 12.31

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

What more can be said? Phish capped their comeback with their most impressive and spirited shows of the year. For detailed accounts, check out last week’s posts!

Shows: 4

Can’t Miss Jams: 12.28 “Stash,” “Hood,” 12.29 all of Set II, 12.30 “Get Back On the Train,” 12.31 “Rock and Roll > Piper,” “Ghost > NO2”


2009 Regular Season Awards

Type II Jam Vehicles – First Team: “Down With Disease,” “Piper,” “Rock and Roll,” “Tweezer,” “Ghost”

Type II Sixth Man of the Year: “Drowned”

Type I Jam Vehicles – First Team: “Wolfman’s,” “Harry Hood,” “Jibboo,” “Stash,” “Slave”

Type I Sixth Man of the Year: “Bathtub Gin”

All-Rookie Team: “Light,” “Number Line,” “Ocelot,” Stealing Time,” “Joy”

Rookie of the Year: “Light”

Comeback Player of the Year: “Fluffhead”

Most Improved Player of the Year: “Harry Hood”

Bust Out of the Year : “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” 5.31 (8.2.93 – 625 shows) (discounting “Mustang Sally” and “How High the Moon”)


Jam of the Day:

Tweezer > Fluffhead” 8.1.98 II

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One of the greatest “Tweezers” of the late ’90s.



11.23.96 Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, BC < Torrent

11.23.96 Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, BC < Megaupload

Pacific Coliseum - Vancouver

Pacific Coliseum - Vancouver

Let’s start rolling out the readers’ requests! This one hails from the Pacific Northwest on the home stretch of an all-important fall tour.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, Cars Trucks Buses, The Divided Sky, Punch You In the Eye, Midnight on the Highway*, Split Open and Melt, Rift, Funky Bitch

II.  The Curtain > Mike’s Song  > Simple > Makisupa Policeman** > Axilla > Weekapaug Groove > Catapult, Waste, Amazing Grace, Harry Hood

E: Good Times Bad Times

*debut, cover
**“Woke up this morning, border guard in my bunk, turned the fucking dog on the bus, and found my dank.”

Notes: This show included the first Phish performance of “Midnight on the Highway,” which was learned while the band was stopped at the American/Canadian border.

Source: Unknown

Tags: ,

844 Responses to “2009: The Year That Was”

  1. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    so true, selector. I used to learn about new bands/artists to check out by reading the “thanks” in the liner notes when I got a new album or cd. I figured if they were thanking them, they worthwhile for me to check out. glad I did in many cases.

  2. Chuck D Says:

    “Yeah I guess my concept of herbs curing all ailments may not be accurate.”

    Oh, its accurate…

  3. albert walker Says:

    thanks Chuck D

    my whole existence is based on that fact so I was getting a little worried

  4. albert walker Says:

    Joy rocked in its full analog glory sounds great

    love my Phish LP’s

    like every cool hipster animal collective should be played accordingly

    vinyl only kids

  5. Aquaman Says:

    Everyone should be checking out the New Deal for the best cross between jam and dance.

    They will be here in the Chi soon enough.


    Check it.

    Other band worthy of mention – Vampire Weekend, Spoon and The Delta Spirit.


  6. Mitch Says:

    omg i gotta see that danny devito in skinny jeans show. i passed him on the street last year and my friend told me that hes as tall as he is as wide as he is tall and i lost it. he really is!

    my buddy at work was reading over my shoulder and said that episode is one of the funniest things hes seen in a long time. cant wait!

  7. SillyWilly Says:

    Im just catching up and was skimming over some of the thoughts about the state of rock and roll right now especially with regards to indie rock.

    I do not mean this as a rant, I mean it as an intelligent inquiry into how it got as big as it got:

    Indie rock has exploded in the last 10 years or so, right? Because of that I feel like its my mini-generation’s (those born in the mid 80s) fault.

    I’ve come to respect certain movements as being reflective of what I’ll call the spirit of the times. (the zeitgeist in more intellectually snobbish circles) That being said I think the popularity of Indie Rock is symptomatic of the big problem that faces my mini-generation.

    We had the 60’s where many young people said, “Hey, we have some big problems here and I want to change them.” Of course there was a dark side.

    We had the 80’s which were the conservative backlash. Youth were introduced to a more dangerous form of groupthink than ever before. One that seemed like they offered influences of the 60s but in reality were more controlled by Reagan and the Culture Industry than ever before. (sorry if youre a Reagan fan)

    In the 2000s young people are confronted with two extremes: the 60s on the far left and the 80s on the far right. These two time periods are scary to kids, so instead of making decisions using the good parts of the 60s and the 80s kids plop down on the ground and say “We’re too scared to make a decision so here’s Indie Rock.”

    and i cant listen to it.

  8. Chuck D Says:

    the chron + the water = the health

  9. chefbradford Says:

    that New Deal link is not working for me at all

  10. Lycanthropist Says:

    excellent commentary Silly.

    Really. nice job

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    well Silly I can’t argue with any of that, I kinda felt some similar things, being in HS in the 80s and hating that music

    and I don’t think there’s much in the way of modern rock that’s really essential at all

    but it sounds like you’re maybe overthinking it a little

    there’s really no such thing as the zeitgeist, you know…or, it’s an emergent thing, an abstraction…

    individual musicians are just making the music that sounds right to them, except the really cynical ones

    artists of a given generation do share certain influences and ideas that are current at the time of course…that’s not their fault per se…of course we like it when people rise above their times, but that’s rare

    I’m just saying, asking any musician or artist to carry the weight of that much theory just seems like a lot to ask

    Does it move you, or not?

    try to relate directly to each thing as itself rather than a member of some category, is all I’m saying

  12. Sven Says:


  13. SillyWilly Says:

    thanks, Lycan.

    my best friends older sister (i lived with her for 12 weeks in Atlanta, weird story, too long, very horrible) was a huge indie rock fan and she was always telling me to turn off phish and so i always had to defend my position

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    my point is that there might be some band that even fits right into your categories but still manages to say something worth hearing but if you’re not open to it you’ll miss it

    I’m guilty of the same thing of course, I often tune things out before really listening to them

    can’t stand the famous 808 drum machine or any 80s synth tones, or early drum pads – so I just tune all that stuff right out, sure I’m missing something good…

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    oh indie rock snobs are insufferable.

    not saying you should take their crap.

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    I can dig that, Mr. C.

    I guess when it gets down to it, the zeitgeist idea is just an easy way for critics to talk about big groups of artists when they really shouldn’t draw the comparison.

  17. Lycanthropist Says:

    @Mr. C
    Silly’s post read to me as more an idea of what the mindset of the general listener was/is right now.

    For whatever the reason Indie Rock has become a part of the general collective conscious.

    I just agree that the ethos behind the Indie movement is detached and complacent. The way most of those indie band’s music sounds is derivitive of that. How many laughable Indie bands can you rattle off due to their whiney dragging nature of their songs.

    Now dont get me wrong, this doesn’t make the music bad. There are plenty of bands that have come from this age that I do think have stayin power (the Flaming Lips being one of them since I didn’t drop in on that earlier).

    This is just the current pulse of the majority of our “rock and roll” youth.

  18. SillyWilly Says:

    and youre definitely right again, Mr. C.

    i could shut my mind off to something worth listening to. thanks for pointing that out

  19. Selector J Says:

    compression is getting better and more affordable, tho.

    Soon enough everything will be available in 24/44.1 which sounds fantastic to my ears. Definitely recommend getting 24 bit, over 16 bit, when it’s available.

    I hate that a lot of high end digital releases are 24/96. Eats up hard drive space in a hurry for that extra 52 kHz of sampling (compared to 44.1) which doesn’t even add anything to the audible spectrum. Yet at the same time, the 24 bit is very worth it.

    vinyl only kids
    when it’s practical, agreed.

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    sure I don’t disagree with the analysis per se

    I am cautioning against summary artistic judgment in that context, knowing that I am guilty of it

    it’s the can’t listen to any of it part

    what if the next great band comes out of that mess?

    no one can control the generation they’re born into. if one person is making genuine art, but is buried in an avalanche of vapid nonsense that is similar on the surface, it’s a shame if they don’t get noticed

    really I’m just being contrary I guess

  21. Chuck D Says:

    Along with the whole indie movement is the “independent” nature that it derives from. Anyone and their grandma has a laptop (you’ve seen that commercial with the cartoon dude saying “I’ve got a laptop, baby, and I make music with my friends”) and with a little talent, a little perseverance, and a vision you can make some music. Some turn out a lot better than others (see: MGMT) and it makes the whole scene a little diluted. However, it’s “that anyone can do it” mentality that allows people to listen to The Strokes one week and start a band the next.

  22. SillyWilly Says:

    Does anyone remember the Apple commercial for Ipods where the girlfriend is pissed at her boyfriend for all the vinyl he had laying around?

    She leaves for the weekend and he converts all his vinyl and when the girl comes back the room is spotless with an Ipod sitting on the table?

    I was like DONT DO IT, BRO!!!!

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    sure Selector

    for me it largely depends on the source pre-compression

    audience recordings and albums mastered in the old-school analog style, or with a layer or tape hiss or other analog artifacts, are much more vulnerable to compression artifacts than modern music is for the most part

    also anything with a deep, round bottom end tends to suffer more from compression cutoff

    but it’s not as big a deal as it was a few years ago for sure

  24. Lycanthropist Says:

    no i hear that completely
    it is not wise to dismiss large groups of artistry simply based on its method.

    i do however really like the assessment of the situation that created this type of movement, for better or worse.

    it goes back to what i was saying earlier by fighting with being dismissed simply because some one may call us a jamband.

    i certainly do my best, although mostly coming up short, on trying to not be a hypocrit 🙂

  25. SillyWilly Says:

    @Mr. C

    I think your points are all right on concerning not making too many summary judgments about art.

    Its a good way to prevent becoming too close-minded just like you said.

    Thanks for saving me.


    You were right. I was trying to capture the essence of the general mindset.

    I do, however, need to be careful that I don’t shut my mind off to a world that might have something to offer me. It might not, but i will never know if I write the whole thing off.

    Anyway this has all been a good example of the blackboard making me smarter.

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