The Top 10 of ’09

12.29.09 (W.Rogell)

It’s tough to continue to thinking of topics as this point in the year, so I figured I’d have some fun today. I’ve been re-listening to a lot of the best of last year, and I thought I’d put together my own, personal, top ten list of 2009. These are just my picks, so if you think they are crazy, don’t fret; they are just one man’s opinion. I generally don’t compile lists like this, but as I said, this is a pretty quiet time of year, and I’m sure it will spark plenty of discussion. Anyhow, enough with the disclaimers, here’s Miner’s Favorite Ten Jams of ’09.


10. “Wolfman’s > Piper > Joy” – 10.30 IIIndio

With all the focus duly placed on the Exile set, this segment of music doesn’t get talked about too much – but it should. Each half of the combination features completely unique and masterful improvisation. “Wolfman’s” moves from swanky, liquid grooves into minutes of eerie Halloween ambient space. Using “Wolfman’s” to dive into the occult, Phish briefly magnified the dark side on an overall cheery Halloween weekend. Emerging from the menacing soundscape came “Piper,” evoking memories of the monstrous combination in Vegas ’98. This time, however, “Piper” brought three distinct sections of improv, the last morphing into a “Just Wanna See His Face” jam; a secret preview of the Halloween set. Phish added layers of vocal harmony over the gorgeous music, giving the piece their stamp of approval as unique and special ground. The landing point of “Joy” worked perfectly.

9. “Ghost” 12.31 IIMiami

This standout jam from New Year’s Eve illustrated how far the band had come in one year. Playing off each other with fluidity, Mike and Trey alternately led this piece, punctuating the most engaging set of the three. The band wasted no time, bombarding the crowd with their dense musical style of late-’09. The resolution into an “Auld Lang Syne” tease clinches this “Ghost’s” status as an all-time New Year’s Eve highlight.

8. “Light” 12.2 II – MSG

MSG - 12.2.09 (W. Rogell)

Out of the many explorations of “Light” during fall tour, none approached the version Phish played at their return to Madison Square Garden. Coming at a time where the band played the song nearly every other show, this version fully realized the experimental potential of the song for the first time. Taking this incarnation into upbeat and genuinely new territory, MSG’s “Light” gave everyone a glimpse of the depth of jams that will surely continue stem from the song this summer. From the moment it ended, this version stood out from the rest.

7. “Get Back on the Train” 12.30 II Miami

This ethereal exploration came as the centerpiece of December 30th’s second set. Passing through multiple sections of unique improv, this jam, literally, blossomed out of nowhere. Immediately vaulting to into the “best ever” position for the generally jam-less song, “Get Back On the Train” provided one of the most unlikely virtuoso highlights of the entire Miami run.

6. “Tweezer” 7.31 II Red Rocks

"Tweezer" 7.31 (G.Lucas)

The Red Rocks “Tweezer” brought the house down with its combination of gooey textures and jazzy grooves. The first brilliant “Tweezer” of the year, its placement in one of the 2009’s strongest sets made its unveiling all the more dramatic. Perhaps the first true Phish-crack of 3.0, this “Tweezer” created an unforgettable experience.

5. “Sneakin’ Sally” 8.7 I The Gorge

As the sun set at Phish’s first night back at The Gorge, the band took the opportunity to dive into the musical abyss. Taking the classic cover through a set of chunky grooves en route to a mid-song vocal jam and out into the heavens above, the powers of Phish and The Gorge converged for the first time in this era. While many favor the second set “Bathtub Gin,” this jam brings more original playing to the table.

4. “46 Days” 8.15 II Merriweather

Merriweather '09

This jam flies way under the due to its placement amidst one of Phish’s least exciting shows of the year. However, this version of “46 Days” sits atop the top shelf of 2009 offerings. Spending only four minutes attached to the song, Phish exited quickly into thick, murky grooves. Gaining textured momentum, this piece moved through an ambient transition into one of the most gorgeous sections of music played during 2009. Hitting a stride seldom seen last year, Phish reached a triumphant plane that gained a life all its own. Re-listen – this one is a down-low masterpiece.

3. “Rock and Roll” 8.8 II The Gorge

While most of the attention falls on the first night of The Gorge, the most spectacular jam came on the second. Utilizing their go-to 2009 vehicle, Phish crafted one of the most cohesive and exploratory jams of the year. A multi-themed epic, this extended piece ebbed and flowed with organic improv, featuring some of Trey’s best work of the year. During this piece, the band clicked as a whole in a way they did few times throughout their comeback year. This will stand up to anything.

2. “Seven Below > Ghost” 11.28 IIAlbany

11.28.09 Albany (Peek)

I’ve never hidden my love for this spectacular fifty minutes of music. Coming at a time when Phish desperately needed to break form into something greater, during this sequence they accomplished all that and more. Transforming “Seven Below” into a cathartic dance party, the band fused groove and melody into a phenomenal segment of improv. And once Phish hit their stride in the set-opener, when they hit “Ghost,” they sat deeply in the pocket without missing a beat, creating totally original music. Turing this version into a multi-planed adventure, the band locked in from moment one of the most tightly woven tales of the year. This sequence represented a significant breakthrough during fall tour, and a reminder that Phish was, in fact, still Phish.

1. “Tweezer” 12.29 IIMiami

12.29.09 (W.Rogell)

I’m a sucker for huge “Tweezers,” and none came bigger than this in 2009. Dropping on the magical date of December 29, the band let loose on this version, crafting my most indelible moment of the year. Beginning with massive, bass-led dance grooves they threw down the most ferocious section of dance grooves of ’09. So juiced on the musical goings-on, Trey, then Phish, added a layer of vocal improv, complementing the jam’s infectious rhythms. Mike led the band through this section with filthy and dynamic rhythms. Bringing the band into the second stage of the jam, Mike soloed with his envelope filter as the band blended into more exploratory music. Trey played staccato melodies through this space-groove, toying with some signature licks. Phish morphed from this section into the most beautiful moments in all of ’09. Entering sublime, soul-searching psychedelia, the band fully tapped into the source, channeling the mysteries of the universe. A blessing to be a part of, words can only go so far in expressing these sacred moments. While the rest of this list can be discussed all day, in my opinion, the only definite comes in the top spot with “The Miami Tweezer.”


Jam of the Day:

Tweezer” 10.27.94 II

A compact, action-packed version from Charlottesville, Virginia.




7.18.99 Oswego Co. Airport, Volney, NY < Megaupload

7.18.99 Oswego Co. Airport, Volney, NY < Torrent

Unofficial Osewgo Poster (Distante)This underrated three-set beast offered treats in ever shape and size. The outrageous “Piper” in the third set, and the second set “Jim > Free” are can’t miss highlights. And there’s plenty in between.

I: Punch You In the Eye, Farmhouse, Water in the Sky, Bathtub Gin, Back on the Train*, If You Need a Fool*, I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome*,Beauty of My Dreams*, The Moma Dance, Reba, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Runaway Jim > Free, Meatstick, Guyute, Axilla, Llama

III: My Soul, Piper > Prince Caspian, Wilson > Catapult > Smoke on the Water Jam > Icculus, Quinn the Eskimo, Fluffhead

E: Harry Hood

* w/ Del McCoury Band

Source: (FOB) Neumann U89i (Omni, Split 6′) > Apogee AD1000

679 Responses to “The Top 10 of ’09”

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  1. fee4zy Says:

    Can’t sleep, so here I am. Woke up to the wind that blew open a window downstairs. Closed it and now I’m awake.

  2. Exree Hipp Says:

    Miner – your love for the Jones Beach Hood fallen off a bit?

    I was as entranced as you at the show, but the lackluster composed segment, along with the underwhelming peak makes it a difficult one to relisten to.

  3. Exree Hipp Says:

    I’ll be the first to throw the Cinci Split Open and Melt and the 8/7 Light> Taste (as well as the Gin) on to this list. Those are all keepers to me. 8/7 is the show of the year imo.

    My list of jams of the year would look just about the same with a different order, and would swap out the 8/7 Sally for the 8/7 Light, and probably the Wolfman’s for the Indio YEM. Best YEM since IT, imo.

  4. Exree Hipp Says:

    …And the Camden Sand. Yes, I’m just here posting by myself. Good times.

  5. Willowed Says:

    Why am I yelling!!

  6. Gavinsdad Says:

    This’ll be a good topic I can already tell. Personally guilty of not having listened to cinci. Will grab that today.

    Thx Miner.

  7. Kurt Says:

    cinci’s melt was awesome, i really liked the jibboo too. But im surprised nothing came up from deer creek set 2, just yesterday i pulled up that review, “Finally”, to read over again. Oh well im stokeD cause yesterday they finally added a 3D venue to Indy! now i dont have to drive to cinci. Woot!

  8. jdub Says:

    It’s hard to argue that list Miner. My order would be switched around a bit but I can’t think of anything I would add. You could make a case for the cinci split and gorge gin. Maybe replace the Wolfman’s>piper>joy from Indio. But I like having a three song run on the list. Maybe slip in 12/30 Boogielope instead of the Wolfman’s trifecta, I’m going to have to relisten to a few of these.

    Curious to see what everyone else has to say.

    My top 5 would have the miami GBOTT, Ghost, and Tweezer, MSG Light, and either the Gorges Sneakin or Rock n roll.

  9. Matso Says:

    That’s a pretty solid list. I might swap the 10/30 Wolfman’s->Piper for something else (SPAC BDTNL maybe or Gorge Gin), and maybe change the order a bit (jam of the year, imho, for its novelty and virtuosity, was the 12.2 Light), but otherwise, I agree. These are clearly the best jams of the year. In some other years, the top 10 might be more contentious, but for 2009, these are more or less the right ones to pick out.

    That said, if this is the A List, then the B List is where this is apt to be more debate. This is where the JB Hood will go head to head with the Gorge Hood, the Darien Drowned takes on the DC Drowned, the Charlotte Tweezer (which I love btw) battles the Camden Tweezer, and Wolfmen and Slaves from all parts descend from to go at it. They, of course, all face stiff competition from other athletic Type I competitors – the F8 Gin and Theme, for example, or the Miami Jiboo and Heavy Things – as well as some more mortal Type II warriors – the Asheville Ghost or Hartford Piper or Hampton DWD, for example.

    Anyway, if the A List was always going to be short and concise, this little exercise has shown that 2009 still had plenty of fantastic playing and on a per show basis, it fares pretty well with a lot of other years.

  10. mike Says:

    8/7->gin->hood; 6/7->sand; 6/12->kill devil falls; 10/31->suzy greenberg
    second set & encore of 12/4.

  11. Mr.Palmer Says:

    I’m just happy that ’09 had enough good music that this topic is up for debate.

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    what palmer said

  13. neemor Says:

    Maybe I’m just drinking the Miner-Aid, but I pretty much agree that these picks make many top tens…
    I forgot completely about the Wolfman’s>Piper>joy from Indio, we were freaking out when that was streaming that night, remember, gents??
    I do now….
    Need to re-listen to that one for sure.
    Tweezer #1?


  14. neemor Says:

    Reading back now to your guys’ comments about the Indio Wolfman’s>Piper…

    Do yourself a favor and re-listen to that one…brilliance.
    Deep and dark.

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    same palmer….i’ve mentioned it countless times, i’m hardly the completist and don’t know phish’s recorded output nearly as well as 75% of the people on this board…the fact that i was able to “study” ’09 as much as i did, both by being there for a handful, and by quick access to the shows, is amazing to me. love it.

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    and mornin’ all

    I went to see the Infamous Stringdusters at a tiny place in Cambridge, MA last night. If you have any appreciation for great, fast-picking, improvisational bluegrass I highly recommend checking them out. Room was so small they didn’t even have monitors so every time one of the six players would solo the rest would crowd in close together. it created this ameoba-like movement to the band where they would switch positions and move around each other as they caught the jam.

    there were several moments of complete locked-in group jamming where it seemed like all six people were soloing at the same time but totally in sync with each other, culminating in these layered peaks of acoustic joy. in such a small room (we were less than 10 ft from the band) there was also more than one moment when they had the entire room in the palm of their hand, drawing us all into the jam along with them. I looked around more than once and saw this happening all around me. sound familiar? 😉

    check ’em out if they are in your neck of the woods!

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    Morning all!

    I’ll second exree hip on the Cinci Split.

    of course, I was there, but it was a good one.

    Hope everyone is doing well!

  18. ColonelJoy Says:

    This is a worthy post, Miner.

    I guess I’ll have to give the Merriweather 46D a listen, as well as the Miami Tweezer….hard time believing it tops Albany Below>Ghost, but we’ll see….the fun is in the listen…

    Yes, the Cincy Split was actually like a split…

  19. Dbone Says:

    agreed that it seems we can all agree that miner’s list is pretty solid. of course you could swap a bunch of this’s for that’s which is why it should be such an intriguing discussion today.

    without going into my this’s for that’s I will say that it seems like in addition to the must haves on this list Miner also took into consideration the relative recognition that some jams got or didn’t and also their greater significance beyond the music. Thus, while lots of people can convincingly argue that the 10/30 wolfman’s>piper>joy could be replace by something else I’m glad to see it on the list.

    This segment is bigger than just the music because of the wolfman’s hints of the hallowed Halloween ’98 jam, the piper/just wanna see his face jam that foreshadowed the costume without really giving it away, and Joy with all the stuff that is tied up into that song (personal things with Trey’s sister, band things regarding the family vibe, phans’ things as in the phamily vibe, etc.).

    Thoughts are getting muddled here (though I’ve already had 4 cups of coffee today) but the point is that for that segment not only does the music stand up on its own, but there is so much more built into it. or maybe I’m just overthinking about it.

    now, where’s that fifth cup of coffee?

  20. McGGGGG Says:

    Drowned > Crosseyed> Joy from RR 7/31!
    Boogie on Reggae Woman>YEM>Undermind RR 08/02

    YEM from MSG

    The First Tube from MSG!

  21. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Mr. Palmer
    4/15/99 – Phil & Friends
    Warfield Theatre
    San Francisco, CA

    Recording Info:
    SBD (24 Track Recording Mix) -> Master Dat (44.1k)

    Transfer Info:
    Dat (Sony D8) -> RME Hammerfall Digiface -> Sony Vaio C1VP ->
    Samplitude v7.02 Professional -> SHN (4 Discs Audio / 2 Discs SHN)

    Transfered and Edited By Charlie Miller

    — All disc changes are seamless

    Before Set 1:
    d1t01 – Hello Old Friends*

    Set 1:
    d1t02 – Viola Lee Blues
    d1t03 – Big Railroad Blues
    d1t04 – Jack-A-Roe
    d1t05 – Cosmic Charlie
    d2t01 – Wolfmans Brother ->
    d2t02 – Uncle John’s Band

    Set 2:
    d3t01 – Alabama Getaway
    d3t02 – Sugaree
    d3t03 – Like A Rolling Stone ->
    d3t04 – I Know You Rider
    d3t05 – Row Jimmy
    d4t01 – Shakedown Street ->
    d4t02 – The Wheel ->
    d4t03 – Not Fade Away

    d4t04 – Donor Rap
    d4t05 – Band Intros
    d4t06 – Mr. Tambourine Man

  22. BTB Says:

    RE: Cinci Split

    The Cinci SOAM proves there is life on other planets.

  23. verno329 Says:

    Good call Matso. Nice to see you back around

  24. jdub Says:

    Just did the sneaking Sally jam and rock and roll from the gorge. My personal taste puts sneaking ahead. I love it when phish breaks down a rocking theme into quiet focused exploration of that theme and then builds it up with increased focus and strength.

    @Gdad, I too feel blessed that I had the opportunity last year to follow the band so closely. To see a top ten list of the year and know all the jams well enough to actually discuss makes me so happy to have them back again.

    A random thought related to the ease of 09 consumption. In the past I would grow attached to the few shows I had, most of them Live Phish releases with a bunch of random internet downloads. At times I felt overwhelmed with the amount of shows to filter through this year, both old and new. Causing me to skim over a lot of music rather than sink my teeth into a show for multiple, careful listens. Also, having an iPod makes jumping around even easier. So the ease of consumption these days is a blessing and a curse for me. Most listened to 09 shows turned out to be the Hampton run, Hartford, both Gorges, MSG run, and Miami 2,3, and 4. I would say all very worthy of constant rotation.

  25. verno329 Says:

    Saw that discussion of the Phil April ’99 run yesterday. Definitely grab this one the Dude just linked to Mr P. That Viola is such a monster. Did you move onto any of the other shows yet?

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