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. cal Says:

    Awww man, this is some funny South Park. I’m bummed I missed the first couple of episodes this season; what I’ve seen has been way better than the previous.

  2. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    i think people here would appreciate this…

    Dark Side of the Moon performed in 8-bit (for NES). hilarious. follow the

  3. Gratefulcub Says:

    97 listening today, because people were trashing the funk this a.m. Silly jokers, funks for kids.

    Anyway, I miss metronome style drumming from the little crabby guy.

  4. Gratefulcub Says:

    ^limb x limb is what I was referring to

  5. halcyon Says:

    Miner this site and many others like it have ads, and post videos etc.

    Maybe you can add a disclaimer like this: This was c&p from fuel friends blog.

    Note: she uses yahoo media player to stream her tracks, maybe you can do the same with jotd’s and dotd’s

    Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you’ll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. If you represent an artist or a label and would prefer that I remove a link to an mp3, please email me at

  6. AintNoTele Says:

    Purple: That shit is awesome. If you like beck check out his gameboy remixes, they are badass as all hell.

  7. halcyon Says:


    what’s happening everyone?!? 😎

    Crazy day on the Bboard…all over the place, much to ponder..

    Ok back to Nova

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    “always wondered what the fallout (from the philzone) was when GD took SBDs off LMA. ”

    it’s a really fucked up situation actually

    quite poisonous

    maybe a little less so over the last couple years

  9. AintNoTele Says:

    8 bit On the Run=epic

  10. leo weaver Says:

    @gcub…97 is good listening my friend

  11. BTB Says:

    South Park was pretty stellar.

  12. leo weaver Says:

    I haven’t watched south park in ages…how’s it holding up?

  13. ChefBradford Says:

    Anyone familiar with Christian McBride? Philly jazz bassist. I’ve never heard of him, was browsing a playlist on Lala, Phish, UM, MMW, Isley Bros, etc. The playlist kicks off with a massive, half hour jam by this cat. I know Charlie Hunter is sitting in, not sure who else. I know very little about jazz, but I know when I like something. I like this.

  14. Gratefulcub Says:

    I saw a documentary the other night, and it caused me to want to ask this.

    What’s everyone’s opinion of Nick Drake? Do you even have one?

    It’s one of those situations where knowing too much about him makes it hard to listen to his music joyously. Yet, I do. I don’t have adjectives to do him justice.

    Just curious.

  15. ChefBradford Says:

    I love what I’ve heard of Nick Drake. Pink Moon is a classic, must-hear album

  16. ChefBradford Says:

    Elliott Smith was almost a modern N Drake, and another terribly sad story

    “Needle In the Hay” was used to devastating effect in The Royal Tenenbaums

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    he’s one of the top jazz bassists of the current generation and my impression of his solo stuff is vague but positive, I couldn’t claim to know the catalog though

    he has a ton of credits, sometimes it seems like he’s on every decent non avant garde jazz release

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    What’s everyone’s opinion of Nick Drake? Do you even have one?

    sublime genius. adore practically the whole catalog. best chill tunes ever.

  19. ChefBradford Says:

    Thanks, Mr C, I was just curious. I skimmed a bio of him on Lala, and yeah, he’s worked with some of the modern giants

  20. Little Buddy Says:

    re: Christian McBride I like him. Relatively young in Jazz years, but he’s a pretty sick bassist. His early stuff is a bit more standardsy (I guess that’s not a word but you know what I mean maybe) than his more funky open-ended recent stuff, which I am actually less familiar with other than some pandora action.

    re: Mick Drake – Fucked up dude, died too young,AMAZING song writer IMO.

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

    Live At Tonic is sick(by Christian McBride Band)

  22. ChefBradford Says:

    I believe that’s what this jam was from. Yep, that’s it.

    See Jam, Hear Jam, Feel Jam

    or something like that

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    amazing guitarist too (nick drake)

    way ahead of his time with that intricate fingerpicked style

    i grew up on nick drake and john fahey records…out of all the stuff my mom liked when I was a kid, those stuck with me

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

    Yeah its a 3 disc set
    first set the show and then two second sets from different nights which were all improv w/ special guests, Scratch, Dj Logic, Charlie Hunter and others
    the drummer is a beast, some nu jazz soul kicks that are trully amazing…
    just check out the first song of the first disc…

  25. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    what’s a disc?

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