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,ย  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”

  1. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    This is along the lines of “talk to the organization about it,” but not exactly…

    Phish benefits from the coverage, the promotion, and the discussions. Maybe they should start a “grant” program that supports things like Phishthoughts.

    Sort an award for being a super dope fan and building up the community.

    A way of saying “thanks” for playing by the rules while furthering the quest for IT.

    @ Posterkid – you listening?

  2. Luther Justice Says:

    I’d love to see some Sham Wow action on some spilled bong water.

    Most of our “old timers” are probably in their 40s, so I hope no one needs erectile help yet. The cure right now is to look at Mr. C’s magical chest hair. That’s right. It’s magic. Actually, I’d like to see what absorbs more, C’s chest hair or Sham Wow.

  3. flarrdogg Says:

    Not Tom- Well said. This site has done nothing besides build a solid community of stand up fans- trying to do it legally and the right way. Some may recall us all collectively putting a stop to illegal soundboard links posted during summer tour. Playing by the rules. Seems like the band would appreciate and encourage the unquestionable positive promotion that exists here.

    LJ- Mr. C’s chest hair would smoke even a ‘vince operated’ sham wow any day.

  4. Luther Justice Says:

    I would think the band would be very supportive of this site. I’ve never seen any fan site that beats this one. Next to the green board, we have to look pretty good to the band me thinks.

  5. voidboy Says:


    I like it. Perks would be cool too.

  6. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Can we take this en masse to Red Light. Bombard them with the idea that they should help fund, via grants, worthy ventures like

    How do you contact Red Light anyway?

  7. SplitOpenAndSparkle Says:

    Things I learned From Sham-Wow Vince:

    1. The Sham-Wow is the Shiz-Nitt
    2. With the Slap Chop you’re gonna be in a great mood all day, cuz yer gonna be slappin your troubles away!
    3. You never, never, never…..never kiss a hooker.
    (but really, i already kinda knew that one…..i mean, duh.)

  8. Robear Says:

    the internet helped spawn Phish’s early success.

    this site is a natural, positive extension of that.

    llfa @ LJ.

  9. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    The model, of course, is They’ve been at it since the beginning and eventually became officially aligned with the band, via Mockingbird Foundation.

    While perusing that site, I noticed that Adam Scheinberg has his own personal site and there’s an intersting article on it.

  10. KWL Says:

    ^@marshall, i wouldn’t do anything like that without miner’s permission first…

    i think the band would agree in theory, but in (legal) practice, sanctioning one site opens up the possibility of other sites not operating in good faith

  11. KWL Says:

    good point there marshall, but the difference is that is not providing direct access to the band’s music

    nor do they have ads or generate revenue

  12. Luther Justice Says:

    Happy 420 west coast time Robear!

  13. KWL Says:

    and, what a crazy lost episode!

    later y’all

    *bing* ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

  14. flarrdogg Says:

    SOAS- If that is all you’ve learned from Vince, you’re not digging deep enough. That man is both a saint and an enigma. His many spiritual lessons continue to reveal themselves to me more-so with each passing day.

    Robear- Sorry about State.


  15. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ KWL – you are right; that’s why why I described it as the “model.”

  16. Robear Says:

    ahh, a little late, but catching back up, LJ!

    flarr, that one stung. Butler beat us at our own game!

  17. SplitOpenAndSparkle Says:

    flarr……many spiritual lessons eh?>

    i could always sense there was something i was missing about ole hooker kissin vince….

    it was his spirituality!!!

  18. Mr.Miner Says:

    wow, thanks for all your input guys. I have absolutely no idea what to do ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel almost equal on both sides. I just dont want to water down the site…..i dont know. But thanks!

  19. SplitOpenAndSparkle Says:

    btw….just got on here a few min ago…..

    it makes me sad when people fight…
    esp like name calling lil kids…
    angry lil kids that need naps….
    & maybe a juice box….

    its just easier to be nice…isnt it…?

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    Howdy, all

    Mr. Miner: I’ve been trying to read back. I don’t really know what advice to give you, but thanks for asking with us and taking time to ponder the right thing to do.

    Thank you very much to the work you’ve put into this and thanks for creating this wonderful space to share our thoughts.

    Somehow we all know this: The BB is more than just a blog site.

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ cheers Willy.

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    what if everyone donated $1.04 (for paypal fee) every other day ๐Ÿ™‚ not really serious….

  23. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Miner – are you going to keep your avatar the same after the final episode?

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    ^that wouldnt be that bad. i’d pay 52cents a day for this.

  25. neemor Says:

    “just saw this on Phishโ€™s site:

    Therefore newsletters, web sites or any other communication forum facilitating audio trading cannot accept advertising, offer links for compensation, exploit databases compiled from their traffic, or otherwise derive any commercial proceeds in any form.

    ^ this is THEIR policy though, NOT law, right?

    Miner, your ‘Donate’ button might actually infringe here?
    Late to the game, sorry if this has been discussed.

    posterkid is Mike, so if they were going to shut ‘er down, they would’ve..

    It looks like shirt ideas have been hammered out? Swell…good job boys and girls.

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