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:

    “Leo, you trying to schedule a meetup in our room? Well, ok, but if some wook stinks up one of the beds, it’s yours!!”

    the wook or the bed?

    ^ lmmfao
    That shit was funny.

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    those things you throw in that game that’s like golf

  3. voopa Says:

    Heh…I have that McBride/Logic show on an aud…haven’t heard it in years…

    Allergies SUCK!

  4. halcyon Says:

    Love Nick Drake…..another tragic fate of a beautiful talent

    Excellent program on Siddartha and the Buddha tonite on Nova.

    Good night all.

  5. halcyon Says:


    If you like Nick Drake, check out John Martyn. I think you might dig him too. Solid Air is a good one to start with.

  6. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I was joking of course, but it strikes me funny every time I hear someone refer to a disc (usually when mentioning a multiple disc set), then I realize that I’ve been 95% hard drive (at home) and iPod (in car) for a couple of years now. To reduce clutter a couple of years ago, I ripped every CD I owned onto my harddrive (twice actually after I realized I didn’t want to use AAC as my format of choice) and then filed them all into CD folders (I recycled all the CD jewel cases – not an easy task as you can’t just throw them in with your cardboard and newspapers). Since then, I rarely spin an actual disc. They are just there as backup if ever needed I guess.

    Now that I’ve been doing it this way for so long, the idea of switching a disc to finish a set just seems archaic.

  7. neemor Says:

    Summer Tour is going to be the goods.
    BTB Fest.
    Hershey? Who knows?
    Hartford meetup? Yes, I think so. Pick up Leo and cub from the airport.
    Bring them here and there.
    Meet all sorts of fine people.
    Send them on their way and travel up to SPAC in a caravan with butter and bigjig in the Honda.
    Enjoy those shows? I believe I shall!
    Head on over to Greatwoods? Alright!
    Meet up there…sumo? TIII? Anyone else? I’m sure…
    Onwards to Camden? Don’t mind if I do…
    Hang out with Thunter and shake his wonderful wife’s hand. I should.
    Meet the kids? If you think it’s appropriate…
    Two nights here? Good thinking, Phish!
    Alas…time to go home now.
    See you in a few weeks for Jones Beach?
    I’ll be there, too!

    If I make it through this ^ alive , I can do anything…

  8. Mitch Says:

    I’m watching war games from ’87 and the dude calls loring air force base. Back when it was still a base. Pretty cool.

  9. neemor Says:

    jdub, when are you getting in the Honda?

  10. neemor Says:


  11. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    A colleague of mine was stationed there back in 83-88.

    She is all secretive n stuff bout it yo.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    “the idea of switching a disc to finish a set just seems archaic.”

    it seems archaic to me and I’m still doing it! I don’t have the full server setup though I run the stereo off the laptops or the ipod pretty often. I’m biding my time til the project works its way up the budget priority list a little. I need about $500 worth of hard drives so I can rip it all to WAV and stay lossless…I don’t want to half-ass it.

  13. leo weaver Says:

    That’s a nice summer@ neemor. I’d type mine but I’m a little buzzed and lazy. But it includes Hartford with you guys, MPP with an good old friend, the NC shows w tixhunter, robear, maybe PBS, and all my other se phishies…then deer creek with beep, Marshall, gcub, and many others…good summer indeed!

  14. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I just learned that the Mason-Dixon line is the southern border of Philadelphia and the western border of Delaware. Thanks History channel.

  15. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ Mr. C – yeah, I didn’t go lossless. Will redo it one day to get it up to resolution. I went 256 vbr. My compromise for space.

  16. neemor Says:

    The Mason Dixon line goes through Arizona.

  17. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    hmmmm. that’s not what the show i”m watching on History says (“How the States Got Their Shapes”).

    Source, Neemor?

  18. neemor Says:

    Encyclopedia Neemserica.
    Volume 420.

  19. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    one hundred and eleventy-first.

  20. neemor Says:

    I really hope Lycan didn’t take that shit to heart earlier…that was some straight up bullshit.

  21. neemor Says:

    Sixty-nine four seventihst

  22. neemor Says:

    I wonder if I’ll keep my job after this summer’s romp around the East Coast.
    Time will tell.

    Look, you knew this was how I was when you hired me…

  23. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Lycan blew it off and AW apologized to him for it a couple of pages later.

  24. ChefBradford Says:

    What happened with Lycan/AW? I caught some of the AW/El Dude stuff, work intervened with the rest of it, I guess

  25. Mitch Says:

    Hershey…. I was thinking 20 dollar lot tix.

    see ya at deer creek buddy

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