The Path of Joy

Indio (G.Lucas)

As summer tour slowly approaches, it is natural to speculate what lies ahead for Phish. With new Anastasio / Marshall material expected, as well as other new Trey songs (e.g “Show of Life, “Liquid Time”), one wonders how their last batch of songs will pan out. While Joy gave us “Light” and “Backwards Down the Number Line,” it remains to be seen if any other songs from the band’s 2009 comeback album will have a lasting impact on shows.

After Joy’s two jam vehicles, no other song from the album provided serious repercussions in 2009, unless you compile all the minutes of show time that “Time Turns Elastic” ate up. While often incorporated into first sets, “Ocelot” still has yet to transform into something greater. Phish has stretched the song out within its playful structure more than a few times, but never used it to explore new territory. Miami’s version provided the first glimpse of something slightly more creative, hinting that “Ocelot” may yet come out to play. But without a second set version to date, the intention to push the piece outwards just doesn’t seem to be there.

Trey and Tom (Relix)

“Kill Devil Falls” speckled ’09 setlists with healthy doses of innocuous, straight-forward rock and roll. Although Phish twice took the song into original terrain, and Bonnaroo’s version provided one of June ’09’s highlights, the jams hardly had to do with the actual song. The composition essentially ends before the band revs up a rock groove, rebuilding the piece into a quasi-“Birds of a Feather” jam. While some may enjoy the blues-rock textures, the song adds little to the overall contour of a Phish show. When the desire strikes Trey to play “Kill Devil Falls,” “Birds” would be the more engaging choice to reach a similar musical plane.

The statute of limitations has almost expired on “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan.” When the band debuted this song at Jones Beach last summer, it seemed they were unveiling the next dirty jam vehicle into the mix. And each time Phish played the song throughout the year, everyone kept expecting the next version to be the one that took a jump into the dark side. But Phish never as much as hinted at jamming this “Stealing Time.” Every single rendition likened the album version, and at this point, the song slides in below “Character Zero” in intrigue and improv. Trey seems content keeping this one as a boisterous first setter, but I’ll be the first to celebrate an extended jaunt through the blank space were my mind should be.

Jones Beach '09 (W.Rogell)

Aside from Joy’s title track, a poignant ballad which works quite well as the landing point for jams, “Time Turns Elastic,” is the album’s only other piece that Phish infused into 2009 setlists with any regularity. Unfortunately, Trey’s meticulous orchestral composition bombed horribly as a rock song, chewing up valuable set time with anti-climactic, over-indulgent prog-rock. The composition works beautifully in the symphonic setting, but by the end of the year, whether smoking a spliff or taking a piss, many fan adopted accompanying activities to enhance the near-twenty minute lull the song represented during a show.

“Sugar Shack” and “Twenty Years Later” appeared five and four times, respectively, but neither song did much when they showed up. “Twenty Years Later” provided a surreal landing point for SPAC’s “Number Line” Philly’s “Disease,” but the song itself remained a straight composition. This piece, however, illustrates the fact that a well-placed song doesn’t have to be a jam vehicle to enhance a show. Perhaps the band will play place a greater focus on “Twenty Years Later” in 2010, but it doesn’t seem like the most likely scenario. While a clever and catchy song, “Sugar Shack” never found its niche in 2009, unable to jive with its surroundings songs. Probably best used in the first set, Phish placed it in Camden’s second set and Indio’s third set, doing nothing for either frame’s continuity.

12.29.09 (W.Rogell)

“Light” provides the glaring exception to this jam-less trend, emerging as one of the year’s most diverse and dynamic vehicles for improvisation. Providing both a philosophical and musical ethos for Phish’s modern era, the band merely scratched the surface of this song’s potential during fall tour; more intergalactic journeys coming soon. Interestingly, “Light” didn’t really fit into the Americana, blues-rock vibe of Joy, and it transformed into the most psychedelic piece off the album by far. “Number Line” took two notable jaunts last summer, but its significance completely disappeared once fall rolled around. The de facto theme song of 2009, “Number Line’s” 2010 destiny is unbound.

While Joy excited the community as Phish’s first album back from retirement, most of the songs provided little improvisational influence on 2009 Phish. Some of these event-less singles may prove to be more in 2010, but when the dust settled last year, Joy’s songs didn’t contain very sharp teeth. While providing solid musicianship and quality songwriting, the pieces often left improvisational gaps in Phish’s live show with similar, vanilla incarnations. Although we have yet to see the best these Joy’s songs have to offer, more rhythmically-angular and musically-open songs would be a welcome addition come summer tour.

It was Joy to reunite in 2009, but something tells me that the mystery of 2010, looming only a month away, will be far more riveting.


Jam of the Day:

Free” 6.30.99 II

From the opening night of Summer ’99, a “Free” the way they oughta’ be.




5.17.94 The Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA < Megaupload

5.17.94 The Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA < Torrent

The Arlington Theate

An under-circulated show from Spring ’94.

I: Suzy Greenberg, Maze, Mound, If I Could, Scent of a Mule, Ginseng Sullivan*, Dog Faced Boy*, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

II: Runaway Jim, Glide, Tweezer** > Lifeboy, Uncle Pen, Big Ball Jam > Sample in a Jar, Hold Your Head Up > Love You > Hold Your Head Up, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Highway to Hell

*Acoustic and without microphones

** w/ Earache My Eye jam (Cheech & Chong)

Source: AKG 461

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606 Responses to “The Path of Joy”

  1. BingosBrother Says:

    “isn’t there a dance you people do?”

    The beast with two backs.

  2. (looks too much like)Dave Says:

    Magic are really good, Jameer makes them the team to beat this year, IMO. If he hadn’t been injured last year that finals would have been a lot more interesting, that guy is a killer and can hit from anywhere. Mike Brown is not a real coach, his offensive gameplan every night seems to be “give LeBron the ball and clear the fuck out” and if that isn’t working, they are fucked. So sad my Spurs got swept out 2nd round (god damn you, Dragic!), but I am a big Steve Nash fan, so good for him (/shoots self in face).

  3. sumodie Says:

    Random hijack:

    Fascinating article in latest Atlantic Monthly mag about the brilliantly conceived Conficker computer worm:

    When does tour start? tick…tock…tick…grrrrr

  4. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    ^nice screenname btw

    YOu must understand how cathartic ihas been to have los suns take out your spurs. Historically it wouldn’t twaist around that way

  5. Wharblgarbl Says:

    Anyway…about TTE….

    Give it another chance

  6. kayatosh Says:

    That said, 97 is more my taste than 95 — looser; more pocket, less rocket.

    had to switch off 95 in favor of 7-2-97 mike’s ahhhhhhhh.

  7. angryjoggerz Says:

    So, sports. Go home team!

  8. kayatosh Says:

    7-2-97 — marijuana inspired genius. liquid goo.

  9. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Arguments can be made for either era Kaya. I go back and forth all the time between 97-98 and 94-95. Whatever fits your mood at the time. I also find myself really digging some of the late 1.0 dera shows, 99-00. Something for everyone. Its what makes this band so special. Can’t wait for this next era to evolve. Best era is the next era?

  10. Selector J Says:

    “11-21 set I (emotional rescue jam is the highlight. good versions of punch, chalkdust, and caspian too) and ghost>ac/dc bag (top shelf. bag is epic; many themes)”

    First night of this run gets overlooked all too often. Love this show! Ghost>Bag is bonkers.

    Thanks to whoever mentioned the Fall 97 torrent on etree the other day. Nice to have the whole set now. (I love the future.)

  11. kayatosh Says:

    Right on, plams.

    exactly, selector

    we got a band

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    standing on the edge of a cliff
    I start to slip
    don’t mind if I slide off

  13. kayatosh Says:

    97 also features the further developed mike tone. 97 slower, thicker, deep. makes me wanna do the slow motion wing flap dance.

  14. Mr.Palmer Says:

    That TTE video ( i actually watched it) seems professionally done. Is that from the Joy Box dvd by chance? I didn’t get one, but i know it came with a DVD as well.

  15. kayatosh Says:

    or maybe just a soft knee, feet never move, funk bounce

  16. gratefulcub Says:

    11-21 was the tape that got me hooked. I would drive around and listen, rewind, listen again to the transition from Ghost to Bag.

    I don’t really dig 95 phish. Too dark? Not even sure if that makes sense, but something about it just doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies like the rest (excluding 04 or course, nothing warm or fuzzy about that white hot mess)

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    just watch you don’t break your ankles there, kaya. shit is serious. you gotta be prepared for that.

  18. gratefulcub Says:

    I love that dance Kaya, I OWN IT.

    My wife: “Bouncing on one leg and moving your arms isn’t dancing.”

    Me: “Pfft. Watch me change feet!!”

  19. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Alright, i’m out. My 3 year old and 5 year old’s dance recital. Giddy-up. Check you all later. Interesting convo today. Dare i say, type 2 convo?

  20. Wharblgarbl Says:

    @ Mr. Palmer
    Yes, it’s from the Joy Box DVD. It’s floating around in the torrents somewhere if you still want it.
    @ T3PO
    Great Sugar Shack too.

    It might start off a little rusty, but that last 5 minutes…wow

  21. Chuck D Says:

    concrete feet

  22. kayatosh Says:

    dang. gonna have to say that 7-2-97 eclipses other phish i’ve been listening to lately. this simple, for instance. so smooth and spacey

  23. Guyute711 Says:

    Just in case you want a dance tutorial before your next show.

  24. kayatosh Says:

    gotta roll. time to read to the 4 yr. old. peace.

    and eys 95 is dark.

  25. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    For any and all Blackboard recommendations …

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