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”

  1. neemor Says:

    “@Lycan, backpackman is Ticket Hunter”
    You guys are hysterical.

    I love this place.
    I would love to handle the ‘got neemsbane?’ shirts, or maybe TIII’s bro would like a shot at ’em (spread the business)
    Let me know about that.
    That’s an easy one!

    Mr. C, the link you put to that orange tribal-looking backwash is dope.
    I literally said, “Ooooooooh!” when I opened it…

    Good stuff guys.

  2. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Darth Bane

  3. Mitch Says:

    so we’re talking neemsbane. shirts now?

    i want a plain one like we talked about a couple weeks ago.

    neemor, think the plain “college” shirt that belushi wears but saying neemsbane.

  4. Mitch Says:

    i may have sold my camden lawns. pressure is relieving slowly…

    i went from having 8 extra tix to diff shows down to possibly none. shew!

  5. neemor Says:

    fwiw, I got back to reading that sucker punch and second Mr. C’s comment, “way to elevate” and also wholeheartedly disagree with the shitty review you got.
    Consider the source and especially the timing.

    I’d go see your band any day of the week (twice on Fridays) and I’d have a good fucking time.
    People who don’t know how to enjoy the music miss that sort of stuff.

    Love you, man and thanks for sharing.

    There is always room for music on here, never for petty arguments from people who can’t move beyond old, old shit.
    None of us should’ve been subjected to that argument this morning, especially you.
    You bring us alternate music on the way up that’s fun to listen to and good for the ears…keep it coming.

  6. BingosBrother Says:

    Bane you to have any bane, man?

  7. neemor Says:

    Mitch, I can do whatever.

    I found out today that I can do photo-real processing so these series two shirts should be bad ass!
    I’ll see a sample of the quality in the next week to see if it’ll work…

  8. neemor Says:

    The day Trey inserts ‘bane’ into Antelope is the day I die a happy man!

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    Lycan = great role model
    Classy dude.

  10. Little Buddy Says:


    I just tried to read back to understand all that went on today. I bolted after the battle this morning.

    Anyway, I echo the sentiment that it’s way cool that Mr. Miner has actually posed the dilemma to all of us for input. Proof that this is a true community. I think lot’s of BBers have given some great advice (Marshall, Mr. C, etc.). I don’t really have anything to add that I can think of, but I’d like to throw out there that this discussion board has become a huge part of my Phish life, and Phish is a huge part of my life, so I just hope that whatever Miner chooses I support it. Thank you, Mr. Miner.

  11. leo weaver Says:

    @neemor…how’d you like that 9.28.99 show?

    @mitch…after your neemsbane. shirt mention, I thought about the ‘got milk?’ ad…just ‘got neemsbane.?’ in same type/font

  12. Little Buddy Says:

    “The day Trey inserts ‘bane’ into Antelope is the day I die a happy man!”

    How about Makisupa?

  13. neemor Says:

    I’m going to eat some friggin dinner.
    bachelor for the week…going to find a unique place to eat that I’ve never tried before.
    This is what life is all about, boys and girls!

    Enjoy this beautiful weather!

  14. Luther Justice Says:

    Way to bring back the rainbows and butterflies to the BB!

  15. Stupendous a.k.a The Beasel Says:

    Whoa just listened to the new MGMT album, its meh ok, but the last song seems to have a very similar bassline as Friend of the Devil not eh same progression but the first riff phil lays…hmmmm

  16. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Don’t forget the unicorns!

    They get all pissy not being included.

  17. BingosBrother Says:

    Go eat some p***y Neemor.

  18. neemor Says:

    I’ve been missing for 9 hours, what does that say about how enjoyed that show?
    Great stuff.
    I picked it randomly and just pressed ‘play’.
    I loved ’99 to the fullest…great year.
    In that long string where every time I saw them, they got better…

  19. Luther Justice Says:

    My apologies to the unicorns. I love those guys!

  20. leo weaver Says:

    Trey: “woke up this morning…BANED…”

  21. neemor Says:

    lol Bingo!
    I just might, my friend…wish me luck!

  22. BingosBrother Says:

    Woke up this mornin, Neems
    Woke up in the afternoon, bane

  23. neemor Says:

    Leo: that would produce an all fall down signal from a handful of guys and girls on the lawn!

    I tend to be a bright individual, life’s to short for nonsense!

    Enjoy the night all!
    See you bright and early…

  24. BingosBrother Says:

    I’m stealin Bob Weaver’s lines.

  25. jdub Says:

    how’s it going Neemor? I’m in for a neemsbane shirt if it happens.

    The escapades today were a bit jarring. No room for that stuff here. We all get sucked into negativity at times but that got out of hand and I am glad to see BB people stand up to it.

    Does anyone use the Phish Companion as bathroom reading? It’s fantastic for opening to a page and getting lost for a few moments in reviews, setlist history, or interviews. Just got excited again about the ’97 Hampton shows.

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