The Re-Birth of “The Groove”

8.10.10 - Telluride, CO (Graham Lucas)

When Phish returned to the stage in 2009, they reeled in “Mike’s Groove” from its days as an improvisational centerpiece to its old-school format of “Mike’s > H2 > Weekapaug.” Barely extending each piece beyond eight minutes run-thrus, the routine of the modern era “Mike’s Groove” grew quickly tiresome. The opening riff of “Mike’s Song” – once a jolt of adrenaline to the heart – now signified 20 stagnant minutes of music while Phish churned out generic version after generic version of each bookend. Rarely adding meat to the simplistic sandwich, for over a year “Mike’s Grooves” provided little investigation into the unknown. But throughout this summer, Phish bolstered their musical suite in unexpected ways. Though “Mike’s Song” remained a structured descent into darkness, the feats that the band accomplished after the song’s closing power chords brought the adventure back into the “Groove.”

8.10.10 (G.Lucas)

Beginning in Canandaigua, New York at the end of June, Phish began to switch things up. Segueing into “Simple” and then into “I Am the Walrus” before bursting into “Weekapaug,” this entire “Mike’s Groove” had gained liftoff, forming a half-set escapade that departed from its played-out pattern. Fast forwarding to July 4th’s tour closer in Atlanta, the band lit the fuse of a late-set “Groove,” and the spark led to an array of Phishy fireworks. In a slot where the band had placed so many cliched versions, this holiday “Mike’s Groove” turned out to be anything but usual. Segueing surprisingly into “Tela,” and then eve more dramatically into “Harpua,” Phish packed significant bust-out action into this patriotic tale. But when Trey’s story led to the cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In the Name,” this tour-ending “Mike’s Sandwich” resembled a monstrosity from from New York’s Carnegie Deli.

When the second leg rolled around, Phish molded larger musical suites, using “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug” to bookend adventurous pieces of improvisation. During The Greek’s second night, Trey abruptly bust into “Ghost’s” jam with the opening of August’s first “Mike’s Groove.” Any memories of the ugly transition dissipated in the vapor trail of Trey and Mike’s fury, and when the band stepped into “Simple,” nobody expected a tour-defining jam to emerge. But to the surprise of most, that is exactly what happened as Phish transformed the anthem into an abstract and melodic experiment. Popping with sonic originality, “Simple” grew into the first breakthrough jam of tour; a jam that blossomed in between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug.” Phish also squeezed in succinct versions of “Number Line” and “Seven Below” into this super-sized “Groove.”

8.10.10 (G.Lucas)

In Telluride, Phish beefed up an early-set “Mike’s Groove” by inserting the run’s only “Crosseyed and Painless” before merging with their traditional path of “Hydrogen > Weekapaug.” After ripping the universe wide open with “Disease > What’s the Use?” on Alpine’s first night, Phish laid back into a swanky “Dirty Sally Groove.” Using”Dirt” as an introspective comedown from a particularly sharp “Mike’s Song,” the band wasn’t done with this second-half “Groove” just yet. Feeling the flow, the band dropped into the slithering funk rhythms of “Sneakin’ Sally” and absolutely annihilated the cover. Guided by Mike’s laser bass lines, Trey bounced a lively solo over an ocean of liquid grooves. Bringing this late-set treat to a head and through a vocal jam, Phish set up a blistering “Weekapaug” to punctuate this dynamic musical paragraph.

Only two shows later in Jones Beach, however, the band pieced together the most eventful “Mike’s Groove of the season. Providing the meat and potatoes of the second set, Phish combined a standout “Simple” and a defining “Number Line” with a creatively placed “Rock and Roll” to form the most flowing and vituosic “Mike’s Groove” of summer. Finishing this suite with a spunky “Weekapaug,” the band cranked up the feel-good anthem as they did all summer long. While “Mike’s” certainly took on added life in August, “Weekapaug” saw far more attention as several versions turned into high-flying highlights. Blasting off into lands of melodic percussion, the band magnified the suite-closer with creative jaunts that infused shows with ending momentum rather than methodical motion.

8.9.10 Telluride (G. Lucas)

In a season of revitalization, “Mike’s Groove” fell in line with the larger trend of summer. Finding original pathways to creativity, the band breathed new energy into a stagnant part of their catalog. Not long after many fans called for its shelving, “Mike’s Groove” bounced back resiliently, providing highlights to every Leg Two show in which it appeared. Snowballing with Phish’s over-arching head of steam in 2010, the band’s classic musical combo came into focus during a significant second leg of summer. While the spotlight shifted away from “Mike’s” and onto the rest of the “Groove,” craftsmanship and improvisation came back to Phish’s hallowed sequence during a summer that held nothing but future promise.


Jam of the Day:

Reba” 8.7.10 II

One of three stellar “Rebas” along the trail of August; this one  from The Greek.




10.27.96 N.Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, SC < Torrent

10.27.96 N.Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, SC < Megaupload

This is Phish’s second, and last, visit to North Charleston Coliseum, another venue that will host a two-night stand next month.

I: Runaway Jim, Punch You In the Eye, AC/DC Bag, Fee, Scent of a Mule > Catapult* > Scent of a Mule, Split Open and Melt, Talk, Taste, Suzy Greenberg

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Rift, Prince Caspian, Ya Mar, Tweezer, Fluffhead, Life on Mars?, Tweezer Reprise

E: Possum, Carolina

*performed twice during the Mule Duel; first by Mike, and then by Page solo on the theremin

Source: Sennheiser ME-67’s

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738 Responses to “The Re-Birth of “The Groove””

  1. Mitch Says:

    (Mr C sets up mr fee4zy for a shitty week)

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    Mitch, bustout rumors were a huge part of Dead tour in my era, especially after Fall ’89 and Spring 90 which were filled with huge bustouts…bustouts were always preceded by practice sessions and soundchecks so all you had to do was say you heard it from a roadie who heard them practicing it…

    St. Stephen was #1 fan pick for the last several years so selling that they’d play it at the Garden was kind of a low degree of difficulty play, yes, certainly

    convincing a bunch of noobs they might bust out The Eleven at some random midwestern tour stop was more sporting, really

  3. fee4zy Says:

    Shitty week already going. He’s stressed and pissy. Now he’s got me pissy. Good luck on getting laid mr. fee4zy!

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    or Unbroken Chain

    always with the Unbroken

    joke was on us, I heard a rumor they were working it up for spring ’95 and laughed it off as amateur work


  5. Mitch Says:

    Still n00bish re: when songs were shelved. I’ve seen st Stephen a few times so didn’t recognize the importance.

    At bonnaroo 04 I felt like the only one in 80,000 not singing along. Made a mental note to go home and learn it immediately.

  6. Mitch Says:

    And were back to the female withholding debate. Remember last time we had that one. This needs to develop. Just a tease for now.

  7. bwana Says:

    not sure if this was already posted. but trey/tab have rebroadcast streaming right now:

  8. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Trey St.Louis show rebroadcast. On Now!

  9. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Nice Bwana!!!!

  10. Mitch Says:

    It’s a real tease cause it felt like we were all headed there and then went somewhere else. Am I right or am I right?

  11. plord Says:

    @fee agree with C that’s 100% bullshit and I just deleted a bunch of uncharitable comments about your clearly work-addled husband.

    My job has more stress, but my stay at home wife works WAY harder than me, every day.

    Here’s my advice, based on a thing I do: book yourself a vacation, like a 4 day women’s-only bike tour or a spa holiday or something, and ask him to take 4 days of leave and do your job.

    That’ll shut him up.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    Stephen was an old school one

    very hard to play

    peaked in ’71 imo and then dropped out of rotation til ’76 by which time it had hallowed status

    some nice versions in ’77, the last great one was prob. 12-30-77.

    A few sloppy ones in ’78 and they shelved it. Busted it out in the early 80s for a few heartbreakingly bad performances and it never came back.

    so yeah a really central song to deadhead mythology

    after Dark Star came back we had hope for a year or so…

    the thing is, besides being hard to play there’s not much room in it for variation, so Jerry found it boring, I guess

  13. vegas wolfmans Says:

    you guys are funny.

  14. plord Says:

    By “I do”, I mean, I take leave from work and send my wife places.

    Works out well for both of us.

  15. Mitch Says:

    So nothing after the early 80s? That’s worse than fluffhead.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    wow that’s a badass move there @plord


    I generally think female withholding is very unwise when done as a calculated strategy but right now I think there’s no question @fee is in the right in that regard as well as all others – under no circumstances would I expect her to be gettin’ down until this is resolved – she can just say she’s feeling too damn lazy for it right now.

    good luck Mr. Fee

    you’re gonna need it

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah, if the last good version of Fluffhead was 18 years before the band’s last show and the few versions after that were absymally bad.

    so it goes. life of a deadhead.

  18. Mitch Says:

    Mrs fee: I’m feeling too lazy
    Mr fee: oh baby is this about what I said last week? Psssh yup know I didn’t mean that!
    Ms fee: I’m doing a fall run and you’re staying at home with the kids
    Mr fee: d’oh!!!

    BB states away: did you just hear a “d’oh”?

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    I wouldn’t call not wanting to f an a-hole withholding. That sentence is asking for it but I’m gonna leave it.

    Mr. Fee will not be mwning 2nite.

  20. vegas wolfmans Says:

    That Trey rebroadcast is pretty tasty. Thanks for the head’s up…

    Tony Markellis cracks me up.

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    “I wouldn’t call not wanting to f an a-hole withholding. That sentence is asking for it but I’m gonna leave it.”

    Out of respect for the sentiment I’ll let that soft pitch over the middle of the plate just float on by.

    Exactly, I agree. That’s not withholding. That’s just reality.

  22. fee4zy Says:

    I agree the withholding is lame. But I am pissed and it’s that simple. I did that self vacation at Indio last Halloween. Had a blast. Hubs still not any wiser. Then sent him on a vaca by seeing my family with my girls for 2 weeks. Hell, I would sell my kids for two weeks, by myself, in Hawaii right now.

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    we made enough stupid sex jokes to last the board a week earlier, I’m fine with being done with that part

  24. Mitch Says:

    So it goes. Poteeweet.

    Dog wants a walk. Be back post ripping on mr fee. Rooting for you both @fee4zy

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    You have the married guy seal approval on that @fee, doesn’t even count as withholding.

    I don’t take that business lightly but you’re cleared.

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