On the coattails of yesterday’s top ten jams of 2009, today I’ve compiled a different type of list. Not all highlights at Phish shows come from cosmic jams, and sometimes, the most poignant moments emerge from places one least expects. As Phish returned to the stage for the first time in five years, particular songs took on enhanced meaning, delivering a message all themselves. Below are six Phishy moments that dotted ’09 with significance.
6. “Corrina, Corrina” 12.30 I, Miami
This dark-horse selection came within the crazed setlist of December 30th’s opening frame, and when the band dropped into the old-school cover, a blissful calm washed over the arena. Back in Florida, Phish broke out this song ten years to the day they revived it at Big Cypress. In a weekend filled with musical nods to Phish’s millennial festival, the band’s calm cohesion provided a heart-tugging reminder of The Everglades, while soothing the crowd with a gorgeous rendition.
5. “Shine A Light” 10.31. II, Indio
The gospel-infused peak of Exile On Main Street provided one of the most cathartic moments of ’09. Coming at the end of their masterful interpretation of The Rolling Stones’ classic, this Halloween rendition with backing singers and horns, brought a musical church to the polo fields of Indio. Putting an emotional cap on the soul-drenched double-album, “Shine A Light” provided a memory nobody will soon forget. In a wise move, Phish adopted this cover into their catalog, a perfect anthem for this golden era of their career.
4. “First Tube” – 12.4 I, MSG
Energy; the word is thrown around loosely in the Phish scene. But at Madison Square Garden, one moment embodied the relentless, unbridled spirit of the entire Phish community – “First Tube.” The crowd fed of Trey’s obvious energy, making him only more excited. Collectively exploding in roars of enthusiasm, the crowd fed symbiotically of off Trey’s overflowing aura, creating a legitimate human event. Every last person in that round room swam amidst an electric sea of energy of the likes I’ve never seen before. Collective consciousness had never felt so real as The Garden sat on the brink of implosion. Listening back, this might not sound particularly special, but if you were there, the mere memory brings goosebumps. If talking sheer power, this moment takes the cake.
3. “Icculus” 8.14 II, Hartford
Following a shredding combo of “Ghost > Psycho Killer,” Phish drifted into a hefty dose of onstage antics as they segued into “Catapult.” Trey’s goofy nature emerged within a classic narration, and subtly, the band began vamping over the changes of “Icculus.” Continuing with his most amusing on-stage monologue of 2009, Trey plastered Gamehendge-laced smiles on the faces of everyone in the amphitheatre. Proving that the spirit that once drove the band in their early years lived again this time around, this sequence deep in Hartford’s second set became the most significant non-musical passage of the year.
2. “The Curtain (With)” 8.1 I, Red Rocks
When Phish ended their 2.0 career with a horribly botched “Curtain (With)” encore at Coventry, the hallowed composition came to represent all that was wrong with the band’s finale. Crashing and burning rather than going out gracefully, Phish couldn’t even pull off the song, having to start from the top again. Many thought “Curtain” would open their comeback show in a five-year “do-over,” but whenever it emerged, the moment was going to be special. Coming as a shock, in the daytime set of Red Rock’s third show, the band tore into the beginning of the song. Drawing a huge crowd reaction, we were suddenly thrust into an incredibly emotional and Phishy context. As the compositional half merged with “(With),” Trey poured his heart into one of his most pristine solos of the year. On a perfect summer afternoon at Red Rocks, Phish hit the reset button for this era, and it felt perfect.
1. “Fluffhead” – 3.6. I, Hampton
Unmatchable and untouchable, Hampton’s “Fluffhead” opener will live eternally in the Hall of Fame of Phish History. Evoking the very magic that had been absent from 2.0 with the seminal (and difficult) composition they had avoided like the plague the last time around, “Fluffhead” sent a powerful message from moment one of this era. Somewhere between awake and dreaming, we found ourselves at home again. Nobody will ever forget the feeling they had when Phish walked back into our lives with, perhaps, the most iconic chord progression in their repertoire. Pure magic of the most spiritual nature, the universe shifted back into alignment, and once again, life was just a bundle of joy.
Jam of the Day:
“Reba” 12.8.94 II
In the best-ever year for the song, this creative second-set version wrapped up “Reba” for fall tour.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.17.95 State Palace Theatre, New Orleans, LA < Megaupload
This is one of the shows that Phish co-billed with Medeski, Martin, and Wood along their southern run in Fall ’95. MMW came out in each and jammed with the band. This one goes out to Lycan – finally!
I: Sample in a Jar, Stash, Uncle Pen, AC/DC Bag, Maze, Glide, Sparkle, Free, Strange Design, Amazing Grace*
II: Mound, Prince Caspian, The Fog That Surrounds, Suzy Greenberg > Keyboard Army > Jam**
E: My Long Journey Home^, I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome^
* Sung first by the band, and then by audience member “Nathan,” a gospel singer
** w/ MMW, ^acoustic