Seldom is global human drama reflected within the construct of a Phish show, but on October 12 in Broomfield, Colorado, this synchronicity was undeniable. While Phish performed their Rocky Mountain finale, one of the greatest human triumphs in recent memory unfolded in Copiapo, Chile. 33 miners who had been trapped 2300 feet under the earth for an unthinkable 69 days – stuck in a collapsed mine with little to eat or drink – were on the verge of rescue. Believed to be dead for over two weeks, the mind-boggling story of these Chilean miners captured the world’s attention while spreading awe and inspiration throughout the globe. Phish took notice and did some interpretive work throughout the course of a special evening.
Many fans were totally unaware of the events transpiring as Phish played their third show in Colorado, treating it as any other night on tour. I was one of those fans. But when learning what had occurred after the show and looking back at the setlist, I had to do a double take as the two events strangely overlapped. I first discovered the Chilean miracle while checking Phish.net’s setlist for the night. For some reason, they had notated when the first and second miners were rescued; I had no idea why. But when looking a little closer, Phish had thematically woven this unthinkable accomplishment directly into their show.
Whether the band was informed of the miracle taking place in Chile or watching footage backstage, they must have consciously infused this story into their performance. A coincidence seems way too far-fetched in this instance. Closing the first set with a blowout, feel-good version of “46 Days” – a song explicitly referencing coal – the first clue was in place by setbreak. Though nobody had any idea. If you want to stretch this a little further, two of the three previous songs were “On Your Way Down” and “Heavy Things,” both titles that could easily be applied to the Chilean events. But after setbtreak, things became far more congruent.
During the break – to Phish’s knowledge or not – the first miner emerged from over two-months in the humid dungeon of the collapsed mine. And when the band opened the second set with a terrorizing “Carini > Bowie,” this musical passage, very conceivably, represented the miners’ extended flirtation with death. For over two weeks, the men didn’t knowing whether any officials knew of their fate or if anyone would attempt to rescue them. Faced with this ultimate unknown, each of the 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground lived on two spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk, a bite of crackers and a morsel of peaches. Every other day. When the outside world finally discovered them 17 days into their nightmare, the group still had some of their two-day emergency ration left, not knowing what would transpire.
Emerging from the set’s ominous opening combination, Phish immediately splashed into “Light,” their third consecutive jam vehicle. And when looking at the setlist in retrospect, this is where the congruency to the Chilean events moved beyond chance or coincidence. Symbolically, “Light” represented the hope of life and rescue for the miners as they made contact with the outside world 17 days into their ordeal. On this day, rescuers found the men miraculously alive with a drill hole the width of a grapefruit. This hole served as a lifeline to pass hydration gels, water and food, as well as bibles, letters from their families, and soccer videos to keep their spirits up.
Meanwhile, Phish took “Light” into new dimensions. Dropping the lyrical refrain from the initial jam, thus creating a completely open-ended piece of improvisation, the band redefined possibilities for the song. And Phish took aim for the stars. Building out of a delicate and cathartic opening, the band seamlessly migrated into an intergalactic groove experiment. This dense rhythmic excursion set the tone for autumn “Lights;” a completely new direction from the summer’s abstract excursions.
Without ever bringing the lyrics back, Phish segued into “Theme From the Bottom,” a song whose connection to the Chilean miners destiny needs little explanation. With a focus on friendship down below, Phish was building a thematic set in front of our eyes that few, if any, caught at the time. Upon “Theme’s” denouement, Trey didn’t let the song end, transitioning into “Free” and following it up with a breath of air – “Joy.” When I looked back on this setlist later that night, knowing full well what had happened in Chile, the soundtrack to the global drama was hard to believe – “Light > Theme > Free, Joy” And if the intentional construction of the setlist wasn’t enough, the second miner actually was rescued during the three-song sequence “Theme > Free, Joy.”
Concluding the virtually non-stop opening portion of the second set, the Chilean-inspired theme came to a conclusion with this sequence. Sometimes Phish and life seem to coincide with mysterious harmony, but this time there seemed to be an obvious intentionality behind the overlap. Walking out this night, I felt Phish had dropped their best show of a very young tour. But little did I know the evening contained the soundtrack for a miracle a continent away.
Jam of the Day:
One of the most impressive improvisational sequences of Fall Tour from The Dunk in Providence, Rhode Island.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.12.10 1st Bank Center, Broomfield, Colorado
Here is the Chilean miner-inspired finale in Broomfield. The set-opening trio of “Carini > Bowie, Light” provided an early peak of tour, while foreshadowing three of Fall’s most significant jams. After a mellow interlude of “Bug” and “Summer of ’89,” a blissful “Split” punctuated a dark set of music in style.
I: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Time Turns Elastic, Meat, The Divided Sky, Timber (Jerry), On Your Way Down, Heavy Things, Sugar Shack, 46 Days
II: Carini > David Bowie, Light > Theme From the Bottom > Free, Joy, Halfway to the Moon > Bug, Summer of ’89, Split Open and Melt
Source: FOB/DFC > Neumann ak40′s(NOS) > lc3 > km100 > Aerco mp2 @ 20db > Sd 702 @ 24/48 (Taper – gotfob)Tags: 2010, Culture, Fall '10