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

Tags: ,

1,265 Responses to “The Fizzlers of 2009”

  1. pagesidehighschool Says:

    i like it when they cut down some of these songs to under ten minutes, if its not going anywhere just stop. searching for IT sometimes puts me to sleep. i’d rather hear them play more songs, which they seemed to do a lot last year. an older friend of mine used to see them in the early 90’s when he said “they would play 40 songs in a show” well maybe not 40 but that’s what im looking for.

  2. pagesidehighschool Says:

    ^1st set of portland had that vibe even with a standard mikes

  3. SillyWilly Says:

    Morning, all!

    Willowed, hope your son gets better. Our thoughts are with your family.

    I had the weirdest dream this morning that there was an Easter egg hunt at a Phish show.

    The eggs were somehow full of great jams. Like you open up the egg and a great jam engulfed your ears. really weird.

  4. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    ^ I bet Mike, Page, and Trey have been having those kinds of dreams for years.

  5. Mitch Says:

    I want a golden egg daddy! I want it now!!!

    You pull out this big freaking egg from beneath your seat like the golden ones on willy wonka. GROUND SCORE!

  6. Robear Says:

    Hang in there Willowed and Brendan! went through pneumonia with my daughter two years ago.

    in some native american cultures, dr’s only got paid AFTER people were healed or cured..

  7. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Hope your kid gets better willowed. There is no more helpless feeling that watching your children get ill. Good vibes going out.

  8. albertwalker Says:

    don’t get caught up in timings though

    although I personally think a 9 minute Mike’s should be illegal many nasty versions can clock in at around 15 minutes

    some of my favorite Jims are the 15-20 minute versions not the 30

    check out the Clifford Ball for a good type 1 rhythmically

  9. albertwalker Says:

    morning Robear

  10. albertwalker Says:

    mean to say type I rhytmically driven jam on that Jim sorry

    laterz ya’ll

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    For the last three weeks I’m averaging a Phish dream every two nights.

    One of my dreams was similar to the Sandlot Babe Ruth scene…In my dream this Native American wiseman came to me and handed me a 30 pound nug. He told me it was the best bane since the fall of Tenochtitlan and that I would have no trouble getting around tour if I just used bane from this nug to make phriends.

  12. Little Buddy Says:

    Good luck, Willowed!

    Nice write up, Miner. I too think that Tube needs to be added to the list. Mike’s is the big one though. Where is my nasty Mike’s?

  13. albertwalker Says:

    2009 was the Rock n Roll and Drowned cover song jam year

    and the DWD Tweezer year

    Tweezer is probably my favorite jam vehicle along with Mike’s (still hoping) and Gin so I was a happy kid

    Cinci, RR, and finally Miami gave me monster Tweezers
    happy kid

    wonder where the meat of the jams will lend in 2010
    IMO I think they will highlight some different songs

    we shall see

  14. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    well, if you did have some mythical bane ball of epic proportions I’d imagine it’d be pretty easy to make phriends!

  15. BTB Says:

    “Hey guys, remember how you used to game out Gumbo in 97? Like Star Lake, remember, can you do that again? Do you remember me? I was wearing the 97 Europe stamp shirt in the tenth row of that show”

    “Get that guy out of here” – Page

    :BTB hauled away by security:


  16. dyda Says:

    moma dance has been very disappointing as most versions only clock in at 7 min now

  17. Kenny Powers Says:

    Marshall – thanks for the Map! Very cool, especially when you’re a map dork like me.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


    we gonna have to start the wook trial proceedings again today? Everybody knows if you want to make requests to Page you better come with hot pockets in hand. Only a wook would forget that. 8)

  19. SillyWilly Says:


    you and your wife would be high on the list for some of the mystical bane because if I had that nug I’d need a few doctor’s notes from your wife.

  20. dyda Says:

    i was quite pleased by the star lake tube, but that one emerged organically, not as the result of constant yelling for it. by and large i see what people are saying though. i think the band is just fucking with the audience (see MPP and syracuse) because it gets annoying to always hear screams for it so they play the ‘original’ version to get it out of the way in under 4 min.

  21. gratefulcub Says:


    We were all wishing we could have a footbell in our real lives, and decided that while that was probably not feasible, we can definitely have one here *ting*

  22. willowed Says:

    Thanks for the well wishes guys. He has laryngeal pneumonia, I guess it’s not that bad. Pneumonia of the Larynx. Weird
    He really is going to be just fine!
    I thank you guys

    Bassier tone

  23. AbePhroman Says:

    Mike’s does suck now.

  24. Lycanthropist Says:

    good morning BB

    hope all is well with you guys!

  25. willowed Says:

    Marshall…Nice map. I wonder why the West Coast fans aren’t happy. I just don’t see it.
    Ohhhhhhh….I get it.
    That’s just not funny!

Leave a Reply