The Fizzlers of 2009

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

In this young era of Phish 3.0, new songs have already developed into legitimate jam vehicles. Most specifically, “Backwards Down the Number Line” and “Light” began to find their improvisational potential over the summer and fall, respectively. “Kill Devil Falls” boasted a couple standout outings, and towards the end of the year, “Ocelot” began to evolve as well. But while these Joy-era songs have stepped into the rotation, some classic vehicles have downshifted into predictable territory, weighed down by curtailed jams lacking any excitement. Below are four songs that have fallen prey to this pattern, not living up to their famed reputation in 2009.


“Runaway Jim”

One of Phish’s classic songs, “Runaway Jim” grew from a once-contained show-opener into a legitimate launchpad, producing excursions of all types through the years. A song with too many special versions to begin listing, “Runaway Jim” never moved beyond its basic structure in 2009. A song that Phish magnified between 1995 and 2000 with multi-themed jams, “Jim” lost some steam in the post-hiatus era, and has returned to its roots this time around. It seems unlikely that Phish will leave the fan-favorite adventure-less forever, but so far that is exactly what it has been.


“Mike’s Song”

The Gorge '09 (G.Lucas)

At one point last year, I wrote an entire piece on the disintegration of “Mike’s Song.” What used to be a seminal piece of demonic improv, has been reduced to a formulaic build with occasional guitar variations. “Mike’s Songs” of 2009 remained completely linear, with a notable absence of any rhythmic offerings from Trey. Energetic? Sure. Engaging? Not so much. Once upon a time, “Mike’s” sat on my top shelf of Phish adventures. Featuring a menacing opening jam, and an exploratory second half, few pieces reached the ominous levels of Gordon’s original contribution. But sometime along the way, the band castrated “Mike’s,” lopping off its second half, and eventually the funk and bombast of its first jam fizzled into the innocuous version that lives today. Not since 1991 has “Mike’s” been so generic, and even then, the band played it with more purpose. But here’s to “Mike’s” regaining its mojo in 2010. One can only hope.



12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

When “Free” debuted in 1995, some ridiculously psychedelic versions sprouted up in its youth – (see 6.26.95 and 11.22.95, among others.) The song soon developed into piano-led improv as Trey moved to his mini-drum kit for the jam come Fall ’95. “Free” went through a short identity crisis in ’96, as Trey added his more prominent guitar parts recorded on Billy Breathes, but the piece soon became a beneficiary of Phish’s 1997 “cowfunk” revolution. Beginning in Europe that summer, Phish slowed down and stretched out “Frees,” forming a new path for song with Mike’s section of bass bombs leading into a collective section of groove. “Free” evolved with the band through the late-’90s, molding to the contours of their textured jamming. Phish’s explorations of “Free” peaked in ’99 with many standout incarnations, but come ’09, the song fell completely flat. Moving directly from the bass-led section into the composed, guitar-led peak, any “jam” has been all but eliminated. At this point, “Free” has become a landing point for improvisation, rather than a vehicle itself.



6.18 Star Lake (M.Stein)

Not quite parallel to the previous examples, “Gumbo” only developed a jam with the band’s ’97 funk transformation. Always a composed first set song with a ragtime ending, “Gumbo” became a springboard for extensive liquid grooves. Beginning in earnest at Desert Sky ’97 and continuing at Star Lake later that summer, “Gumbo’s” jams began to move with Phish all the way through ’03. An always-anticipated song throughout this era, Phish brought “Gumbo” back to its original form last year. Whenever the song dropped in ’09, it always felt like a huge tease, knowing what used to go down. Winding to an end with Page’s piano instead of oozing into the ether, “Gumbos” have become another casualty of 3.0.


They say the only permanent thing is change, and Phish has always proved this maxim true. In a state of constant musical flux, the band has changed their stylistic focus many times throughout their career. Along with these shifts, certain songs have emerged while others faded, as a necessary side-effect of the evolutionary process. Though, surprisingly, these long-time staples that traditionally transcended eras mellowed considerably last year. One might imagine that these changes are, again, side-effects of an overall progression, but the question that will be answered in 2010 is where that progress will take us.


Jam of the Day:

Runaway Jim” 7.31.97 II

A monster version from Shoreline ’97. This one goes out to AW, who simply can’t find the “Jim” he’s looking for.




7.26.97 South Park Meadows, Austin, TX < Torrent

7.26.97 South Park Meadows, Austin, TX < Megaupload

Summer '97

Summer '97

A straight-up smoker from Summer ’97, with more than a few stellar jams.

I: Limb By Limb, Dogs Stole Things,  Poor Heart, Stash, Billy Breathes, Cars Trucks Buses, Dirt, You Enjoy Myself > Izabella

II: Timber Ho! > David Bowie, Harry Hood > Blister in the Sun Jam > Harry Hood** > Free, Waste, Johnny B. Goode

E: Bouncing Around the Room, Cavern

*Bob Gullotti on a second drum set

Source: (FOB/DFC) Neumann KM140’s > MV100 > DAP1

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1,265 Responses to “The Fizzlers of 2009”

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  1. ChefBradford Says:

    Well, here’s to hoping AW finds that Jim this year! Hell, here’s to hoping we all find the big jams/songs we are all looking for this year!

  2. ChefBradford Says:



  3. neemor Says:

    Morning, all!

    Interesting stuff, Miner.
    I was just re-listening to the classic 12.31.95 show yesterday and while that Jim isn’t a raging monster, it is an extended classic that visits multiple arenas of thought and goes places…
    Of course, the Mike’s from that show included the Time Factory madness>Weekapaug and that serves as a classic example as well.

    There’s no telling about these songs return to form, if it’ll ever happen, but if you fell into PH in the era that I did in the mid-to-late nineties, you can’t help but love the extended jams, the true raging epics…

    I think it’s remarkable that while the band has shelved or castrated some of the classic vehicles, some have emerged as shiny new examples so that it’s hard for me to mourn the loss of a huge Bag or Gumbo when I know that mid second set a Scents or Song I Heard The Ocean Sing can drop the same meandering thickness that those songs did in the past…

    Just as these songs listed above have changed to become big jams, other songs have continued to emerge in the band’s catalog.
    I’m not sure if there’s much sense to pining for the day’s of yore with these particular songs if it means keeping the music fresh and changing and evolving, I’m all for the launchpad tag being affixed to GBOTT, Walls of the Cave or Light.

    Well done, though…

  4. okpblog Says:

    I posted a video of the hour long Jim from 97 on my blog yesterday.

  5. RobAins Says:

    i love your posts, but you really seem to be only interseted in the psychedelic stuff. while certainly a part of their music, I could care less if a song isn’t as out there as it was when they were getting strung out on the scene and evertyhing else. I guess i’m still in happy to have them back mode! to each his own! keep up the good work! been reading your blog first thing in the morning for a solid year and a half now!

  6. drewphish Says:

    Great post. The opening notes to Mike’s Song are still cherished but there is no question that there has not been a single stellar version in 3.0. I will take an average Mike’s over just about any other tune (Tweezer aside) but I have a feeling this song will find it’s greatness again this summer.

    Here’s to hoping!

  7. Willowed Says:

    Good morning boys!!
    Looking forward to another fine day on the board.
    bassier tone

  8. neemor Says:

    Don’t get it twisted, I’m here for the jams…
    As long as the mantle is passed onto a new generation of jam vehicles.
    I’m here for the improv, too…

  9. neemor Says:

    willowed: not sure what your schedule looks like but if you (or any other CT people) want to go to BAR in New Haven tonight – down the street from Stella Blues where we met for the Mike show – let me know.
    Tim Palmieri playing his solo acoustic…if you want to see seamless playing and segues that are played by request, it’s really quite remarkable, we can do that tonight.
    Crown St, New Haven. Tonight.
    Let me know
    tydyvision at sbcglobal dot net

  10. Willowed Says:

    Thanks Neemor but my son Brendan has pneumonia. I was at the Dr’s all night last night then the radiologist. It was not a fun night. He’s been sick for a week; the Dr’s office kept telling us it was allergies due to the change in season.
    We finally said “bull shit” and brought him down. Come to find out, we were right.
    Sorry for the long story but there is no way I can go. Need to help the wife watch the other little ones while she’s with my son!

  11. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Doctors “practice” medicine. But who else you gonna turn to?

    Morning all!

  12. JerZ Says:

    I know that Bathtub Gin had a decent showing toward the end of the year, but for a guy who absolutely loves Gin, I would put this on the list too. None of the Gins took me to the place that Gin can take me

    I’m also hoping for some standout AC/DC Bags again- hello Idaho 99

  13. Luther Justice Says:

    Please come back Mike’s. Please come back.

  14. c0wfunk Says:

    listened to gorge 1 last night – the bathtub is stunning .. miami as well.

  15. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    UIC ’98 Bag. One of the best jams I’ve ever experienced personally.

  16. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Put Tube on the list as well. Stretch it out or dump it.

  17. JerZ Says:

    yeah, I listened to those Bathtubs too. I am going to have to respectfully disagree on that one. I would say that they were good- definitely the best sample of the Bathtubs of 09, but I am hungry for more

  18. albertwalker Says:

    Hopefully the rager Jim kick down today leeds to one this summer.

    Free, Jim, mike’s – all these songs need fishman to step it up. These jams would often be pushed by fish’s inventive driving rhythms.

    I feel now that joy has been toured on and the play every song for the new school is over we will be pleasantly surprised at the path the jamming takes in 2010.

    Have a good one ya’ll

    Anyone that hasn’t should spin the uic 98
    Bag – ghost from the archive today

    Quite beatiful

  19. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    “quite beautiful”

    ^ perfectly captures it

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    mornin’ all

    you could probably add Bowie to this list too. Regarding Jims, that song followed me around for a long time in the early 90s. I think I’ve seen something like 20 Runaway Jim openers. In a weird way, hearing it contained again reminds me of those older versions. But I still would love to hear it busted open and taken out for a long ride.

  21. JerZ Says:

    As long as we are throwing stuff on the wish list- a jammed out Haley’s would be nice

  22. dogmatagram Says:

    morning everyone
    Nice post miner. to be honest though i disagree a little. with the recent talk of the island run I have been relistening to those shows over the last few days. The beginning of the second set of 4/4 blew me away (birds through brother). the thing about it is that that whole section feels like one big jam. when they get into something like that it really doesn’t matter what song the jam came out of. it reminded me of one of my all time favorites – the 11/14/95 stash/manteca/dog faced boy. I guess what i’m saying is – when they’re really on the jams flow from unusual places. this being said – BRING BACK THE HUGE MIKE’S!
    Hope Brendan gets better soon @willowed

  23. Mitch Says:

    sorry about your son. Glad it’s now been properly diagnosed. Hope he gets better soon.

    Now can someone please explain the point of the footbells?
    *thud. Mine thuds til I know the point.

  24. Mitch Says:

    I’ll take a jammed out stealing time while were at it.

  25. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Phish summer tour 2010 map I made on Google Maps. I think it’s public. Tried to catch everything.

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