First Set Jamming

7.4.10 (W.Rogell)

The first sets of Phish shows have developed a retro-shape during this era, consisting mostly of compositions and one or two structured jams. A renewed focus on the artistry of each individual song has brought a sense of care to these opening frames, maintaining energy if sometimes lacking adventure. The most exciting parts of these first halves inevitably came with old-school jam vehicles and the band’s revitalized structured (‘type I‘) jamming. Injecting doses of creativity into their sets, pieces that that remained anchored to song structure burst with life for the first time in years. A facet of the band’s playing that had grown stale in the waning years of 1.0 and post-hiatus, has come back in force during 2010, illustrating the renewed focus and intent of Phish.

“Bathtub Gin” is, perhaps, the best example of this progression of summer, as each version provided a first set standout. Beginning with nTelos’ version that broke into a unique groove before Trey annihilated the peak, the song brought blasts of fresh jamming to the four first sets in which it appeared. While all four versions remained tied to the song’s theme, they each stood alone as unique highlights of Virginia, SPAC, Merriweather, and Atlanta.

6.25.10(G. Lucas)

Similar patterns followed for other  first set rotation songs, “Reba,” “Wolfman’s,” and “David Bowie.” Between differing guitar and bass tones, varying rhythms, and depending who led each jam, versions became distinct within structure. Because each version presented a distinct course to the same ending, the vehicles in rotation remained fresh and differentiating versions more often became a matter of musical taste rather than quality. Now, the same songs provided similar, but variant adventures. If one compares the Chicago and Charlotte “Wolfman’s ,” the SPAC and Atlanta’s ” Gins,” or the Hartford and Canandaigua “Reba,” and they will find different playing styles amidst similar themes, another aspect that spiced up this past tour.

6.25.10 (G.Lucas)

Aside from songs  in rotation, Phish also used the first set to drop a couple one-time jams, including one of the tour’s most compelling  first set moment in Camden’s “Timber Ho!” Musical density at its finest, these seven-minutes of psychedelia featured more intricate interplay that many jams twice its length. In another first-half offering, Phish stretched out Atlanta’s “Destiny Unbound” into a smooth, welcome-to-the-weekend dance session. The band dropped only two “Splits,” each coming in the first set, providing divergent dips into dissonance at Hershey and Camden.

While first sets have been largely reserved for songs and longer compositions, when Phish decided to jam they did so with re found focus, exchanging ideas and thematic variants efficiency. Whether attacking “Ocelot” or “Antelope,” they did so in the moment, churning out fresh music like a meat grinder. In an evolution that can only point to greener pastures, Phish can once again spurn excitement with ten-minute jams that don’t veer from their roots. A minor frustration developed among some fans this summer when this type of playing seeped too much into second sets, leaving some shows with little exploration. All of a sudden, for those not on tour, catching a significant open jam seemed like landing a prize winning fish. But hopefully Phish’s structured proficiency will serve as a foundation for more frequent risk-taking as we head into the next phase of tour.

Ten Must-Hear First Set Jams of Summer (in no particular order)

“Timber Ho” – 6.25 Camden

“Bathtub Gin” – 6.15 Portsmouth

“Reba” –  6.18 Hartford

“Wolfman’s” – 6.11 Chicago

“Mikes’s > H2 > Weekapaug” – 6.12 Blossom

“Slave” – 6.15 Portsmouth

“Split Open and Melt” – 6.25 Camden

“Stash” – 6.17 Hartford

“Jibboo” – 7.4 Atlanta

“Antelope” – 7.4 Atlanta


Jam of the Day:

Number Line > 20 Years Later” 6.12.II

This “Numberline” makes a complete transformation from noodly happiness into a menacing encounter with the dark side. Nominated for jam of he tour, this is one of those segments that is so coherent it sounds composed. Top-notch Phish, through and through.




7.2.2010 Verizon Wireless Amp., Charlotte, NC < Torrent

7.2.2010 Verizon Wireless Amp., Charlotte, NC < Megaupload

Official Charlotte Poster

A two-set effort that sparked the holiday weekend. The second set came in acts, with “Drowned > 46 Days > 20 Years Later” forming the first; “Lizards” as an intermission, and “Carini > Fuck Your Face > 2001 > YEM” as the thrilling Act II.

I: Buried Alive > AC/DC Bag, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother, Back on the Train, The Wedge, Mexican Cousin, Stash, Sparkle, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Drowned > 46 Days > Twenty Years Later, The Lizards, Carini > Fuck Your Face > Also Sprach Zarathustra > You Enjoy Myself*

E: A Day in the Life

* w/ “Proud Mary” and “Get Back” vocal jam

Source: (FOB) Schoeps mk4v> KCY> Schoeps VMS02IB> SD 744t

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843 Responses to “First Set Jamming”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    sign me up for a Guelah, absolutely, as long as they practice it a lot


    no comparison between the two Stars, not saying quality, they’re just so different

    Greensboro is just a great latter day dark star, one of my favorites, a little more intense than usual….perhaps my favorite Bruce era version I think

    Miami is just a brutal skullfucking

    not saying it’s better, in many objective ways it’s worse

    but it stands alone as the only really deep drop into the void of the MIDI era

    “So Mr C, you’re saying if I’m planning my soundtrack for my L training run before Greek, leave the Miami Star off the list? ”

    depends on your intention. how do you feel about disintegrations? I’m in favor of them, which now that I think about it is a preference that might be traceable to that night.

  2. AintNoTele Says:

    I couldnt wait on the Miami show, just started Prophet. I can almost see Bobby’s spit drenching the front row goers

  3. Mr. Completely Says:

    aggressive Estimated which is a weird set-opener we took to mean Jerry was too high to sing

    nearly a violent Blow Away, if you like that tune it’s a good one, full of rage and venom

  4. KWL Says:

    sign me up for all things reconsidered

    peace bb

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    ’89 was a little after the time the rail rats were bringing little umbrellas in to shows to bust out during Estimated….very funny

    they were squirting him with bottles too, but that was during the squirtbottle dosing years, so they cracked down on that quickly

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    a couple of those rail rats had these frilly little-girl pink parasols I saw a couple times

    truly a great gag

  7. jdub Says:

    Great description of the group dynamics during that Dark Star @C. I haven heard it yet but can understand to some extent the darkness of the whole thing. A vortex type moment so it seems.

  8. BrandonKayda Says:

    You’re going in tonight @Ain’tNoTele? You are in for one hell of a ride, to say the VERY least. Disintegration is a good word choice.

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    I really thought I knew what they could do.

    that was the thing.

  10. AintNoTele Says:

    Ha, I didn’t realize people messed with Bobby like that. They actually balsted him back?! Pretty funny stuff

    Equally as funny is how people are tossing the inflatable whales around shows this tour

  11. BrandonKayda Says:


    Yeah I saw people throwing a whale around night 2 MPP. Made me smile for sure.

  12. jdub Says:

    An older friend of mine told a story of celebrating his 21st birthday at the Greek with Dead in the late ’80s, I’m not sure what year or date. At any rate, he did a heavy dose of high grade to celebrate with friends and ended up getting squirted. Ultimately spent much of the second set in the fetal position. That still bugs him that ge got he missed that show.

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    yes, the whale thing is a great comparison, that’s very funny

    people loved to fuck with Bobby

    we thought he was funny a lot and annoying sometimes but very charming and meant well, and how can you not mess with a guy like that? and, all the dudes were jealous of the path he cut through the young ladies on tour, like Sherman’s March to the Sea, minus the arson and death. I guess not really like that.

    but squirting him with squirtbottles at a time people were being dosed left and right without their knowledge or permission via said bottles was a no-go

    the stage crew was always very hip to what what going on in the crowd, they knew about the bottles and put an end to it

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    squirtbottle dosing was straight bullshit

    even at my stupidest I knew that was a crap move

  15. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    Went for Winterland ’73 Dark Star instead. Fits with the 09 Gorge vibe more than the Miami maelstrom.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    I got bottled a few times but never beyond my capacity, just luck, if I had already been puddled at those times who knows

  17. BrandonKayda Says:

    The umbrellas when Bobby sang sounds funny. I guess people didn’t want to get soaked in saliva lol

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    good call @tzaras

    very beautiful choice

    top tier DS imo

    not exactly a controversial opinion, but…

    heard 12/6/73?

    kind of the same idea, but even more so.

  19. BrandonKayda Says:

    I’ve been trying to find a jazzier Dark Star lately – Live/Dead fits the bill well from what I remember. I might try that album on after this Cincy Gin finishes

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    a big rail-riding wook holding a little pink parasol up during the “NAAA NAA” spit-storm part of Estimated is not a visual you soon forget

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    12/6/73 is the jazziest Star, period

    very ethereal, gently slipping from one improvised theme to another for 20 minutes before the first verse

    constanly flipflopping with 2/24/74 as my #1 fave

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    ’69 is great stuff but more naive improv, lacking the grounding in jazz improv theory they had in 72-74

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    plus Phil drops the Brown Note somewhere in that 12/6

    doesn’t come through without hte Wall of Sound but it’s there

    sicko Tiger too, of course

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    Thanks @Mr C. I’ll have to listen to one of the two after this Gin. Much appreciated.

    Before Greensboro 4/1 Dark Star, I had thought all Dark Star’s were generally jazzy/beautiful/”peaceful”, if I may. (not hearing too many at the time)

    So that was especially intense. I remember sitting on the bus thinking to myself “what the fuck is going on?!”. Got a lot of strange glares that morning. I bet you it was probably the lazer beams shooting out of my headphones ;). Always going to remember that one.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    most 72-74 Dark Stars have an open Space segment that builds to a Tiger jam, which is always pretty aggro

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