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. ohhphee Says:


    There was a bit of a misunderstanding, but that part of it was well handled by both parties.

  2. SplitOpenAndSparkle Says:

    the Mendoza line is at .200 ba avg.

    Go TWINS.

  3. neemor Says:

    Marshall, even with an “apology” (which it wasn’t), that shit can be pretty hurtful.
    I’m pretty upset about it.
    And it didn’t even happen to me.

  4. neemor Says:

    Night boarders.

    Be good to one another.

  5. gavinsdad Says:

    long nite. phils win. BB is an interesting place. lots of personalities. sorry to even hold this drumstick but as i’ve stated, i’m amazed the BB has made it as far as it has. some storylines are longer than others. there are feelings to consider at all times. madson closes.

    summertime = fun. will be nice to meet some of ya or see you once again. my need to see the phish in new places will take me to NC in early July. i love these little trips…flitting about like a mosquito…into raleigh, over to charlotte, out of raleigh. some wont have the chance. i wanna make the most of all my shows.

    was just in this bar that i’ve been talking about in philly for post show antics…just across the bridge from camden. the nicest little hideaway…you can indulge in *tings*, good beer, tonite that projected the phils game in the out back area on the side of this building. very chill spot. rita’s water ice mixed with vodkas were going around (so weird…i stuck with beer). but keep this in mind camden goers….it’s called The Druids Keep.

    nite time. i drank the banerade too. so bed for real.

  6. gavinsdad Says:

    @mitch – hit hershey. you need a warm up show. $20 tix no doubt in my mind. think a nice lil handful of people from here are gonna end up there.

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    What is best in life?

    Hint: if their women aren’t lamenting, you’re doing it wrong.

    I could keep this up all night.

  8. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ G-diddy = I’ll see you in Raleigh.

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    word marshall that’s good to hear. was looking forward to meeting some of you SE boys

  10. Leo Weaver Says:

    @mitch…it’s on! I’ll be at Closeby…cookin’ up some pork with beep.

    @[NT]Marshall…Charlotte too.

    Looking forward to it @gdad…and Druid’s Keep is on the radar for my (first and) next trip to Philly!

  11. Leo Weaver Says:

    @C…that’s a brilliant website, thanks for all the links today, they’ve got a new customer.

  12. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    @ leo – have we made camping reservations at Closeby? Back in the day, when I would camp at Glo-wood, reservations got you better spots (under the shade) and a discount I think. But that was 14 years ago.

  13. Leo Weaver Says:

    @marshall…Closeby reservation taken care of


  14. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:


  15. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    things I learned off the green board … the foot bell is actually a fight bell that mike rings with his foot.

  16. Leo Weaver Says:

    well, OK…I guess a bong would work just fine too.

    G’night fellas…see y’all in the a.m.

  17. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    no – it wouldn’t – I wasn’t sure what the foot bell was. Now I know.


  18. Prince Nabby Says:

    Hey Y’all! Sounds like I missed an interesting evening on the BB. I’m not even going to go back and read what went down.

    My question is about Closeby. What’s the scoop there? Is it THE place to camp for DC? Any drawbacks? Any alternatives? Folks who have been, I’d really appreciate the scoop!

  19. ChefBradford Says:

    Weird. I opened a new tab, clicked my bookmark for, and it opened directly onto a comment page from sometime during fall tour. Reloaded, and it went to today’s home page

  20. Lycanthropist Says:

    what up late night crew!

  21. ChefBradford Says:

    My man, what’s up Lycan?

  22. Lycanthropist Says:

    just got done with rehearsal for a super jam this weekend

  23. ChefBradford Says:

    Sounds nice. I think I remember you saying something this afternoon about working on your Nirvana licks, yeah?

  24. ChefBradford Says:

    Does MiracleGrow work on bald(ing) spots?


    Damn. Foiled again…

  25. Lycanthropist Says:

    ha yeah that was in reference to an outburst from AW earlier today

    in his anger he said we sounded like a bad Nirvana cover band who has no jamming abliities at all

    but he was mad at El Dude and I stuck my nose in the middle of it, so i kind of asked for it.

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