The Transformation of “Sand”

12.31.2010 (George Estreich)

Traditionally a platform for extended guitar sorcery, “Sand” made the jump from TAB to Phish at The Gorge in the Fall of 1999. Adopting a similar structure as it had in Trey’s solo band, Phish’s “Sand” showcased a deep, linear groove over which the band largely improvised by adding and peeling away sonic layers and effects. Rarely veering from this structure, the song became a relic of 1999 and 2000—the millennial era—a time when Phish focused on psychedelic soundscapes and dark, rhythmic jamming. Appearing only once in the post-hiatus era as a part of 2003’s New Year’s Run in Miami, Phish doubled that output in 2009 with versions in Camden and Miami. Camden’s version added a surprise element of melody to the groove-based palette, but the song remained a rarity through Summer 2010.

8.9.10 - Telluride (W.Rogell)

A turning point for the song came in Telluride, when Mike broke form and began improvising bass leads while Trey tore into ferocious washes of sound and sustained, uncompressed phrases. Page stepped up and began playing along with Mike’s uncompromising lines before Trey drifted back into a more standard lead role. While Mike, Page and Trey engaged in a distinctly different conversation, Fishman still maintained a driving beat that kept the creativity framed in familiar style. Coming together in a crushing full-band peak, Phish capped the jam without returning to its final musical verse. This version carried something far more dynamic than previous incarnations; interplay that foreshadowed a forthcoming change.

Over the course of Fall and New Year’s, Phish dropped four “Sands”—as many versions as they had played in almost two years since their return. Over these four outings, Phish continued the shift that had begun in Telluride, from a one-dimensional piece into a jam in which all four members play an equal part. Coming off the shelf in the first set of Charleston’s finale, it was this version of “Sand” that kicked the show into overdrive; a show that would set Phish afire for the rest of the fall. Building off Telluride’s version, the entire band—including Fishman—treated the song more equitably than ever before. Trey left space for other ideas in the mix, and before we knew it, Phish was crafting a legitimate four-piece conversation amidst “Sand.” Applying their ego-less jamming that has steadily matured since their return to “Sand,” the band transformed the one-time Trey highlight reel into a dynamic show-stopper.

10.29.10 - Boardwalk Hall (J. Weber)

Phish liked what they played in Charleston so much that “Sand” was moved into the second set only two shows later in Utica, New York. Coupled with Atlantic City’s fall finale on 10.29, these two versions explored the band’s newly-discovered four-piece rhythmic gamesmanship. And both resulted in fall tour highlights that reached places previously untouched by “Sand.” Utica’s knee-buckling version featured more powerful exchanges than Charleston’s and broke into a second segment that provided a groovy bridge to “Theme From the Bottom,” while giving us a preview of the open jamming we’d hear from the song in Atlantic City. “Sand’s” curtain call of the season came in a scintillating centerpiece on the first night of Atlantic City. Following another mind-numbing and equitable excursion, Phish skirted the song’s typical ending and landed in a slowed down, melodic piece of music with a shuffle beat that, had nothing to do with the song’s structure at all. “Sand,” the ultimate contained jam, had finally broken down its doors into open, uncharted territory. Eventually leading into “Carini,” this version illustrated how far the song had come over fall tour. But we had no idea what was waiting for us on New Year’s Eve.

12.31.10 ( AJ Masthay)

As the opening of “Sand” emanated from the stage at Madison Square Garden, it felt like the theme music to a prize-fighter’s entrance. Shit was about to go down, and everybody in the building knew it. Bursting out of the gate with his signature staccato licks featured prominently over the New Year’s Run, Trey began the jam as he would any other in history. But with 2010’s improvisational transformation, the rest of the band reacted completely differently than in years past. Instead of providing a canvas for Trey’s crack rhythm licks, the band joined right in! Echoing and improvising off of Trey’s infectious lines, the band members engaged in a selfless symphony like none heard in the song’s history. Page, Mike, and Fish were all playing some form of Trey’s stacatto licks, transforming the jam into one of the danciest and most impressive jaunts of the song’s career. The band members all left space for each other to continue and finish each others’ musical ideas, and the jam quickly turned into one of the most intense high “Sand” had ever provided. And as Trey released from his syncopated patterns with a jazzy lick, the band followed right along, sailing fluidly through the second half of the song with communication just as jaw-dropping as the first. And then without wasting a moment, Phish seamlessly returned to the final chords of the song in a flawless rendition.

It is a fruitless attempt to compare “Sands” from 1999 to “Sands” of 2010, as the band’s intent for the song has now completely changed. That being said, each spin of the New Year’s version continues to floor me with its precision and perfection. Along with Big Cypress’ middle of the night romp on the other end of the spectrum, I believe these to be the song’s crowning achievements. The former version is 40 minutes and the latter is 10—timings that are signposts of vastly different eras. Cypress’ odyssey represents the peak of the original “Sands,” while MSG’s represents the peak of a whole new style. But when all is said and done, with Phish’s new focus on equitable “Sand” structures, the song’s brightest days may yet lie ahead.


Jam of the Day:

Sand” 12.31.10 II




4.27.1991 The Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, New York SBD

FLAC Torrent (via etree), Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

4.27.91 Poster

I played roulette with for today’s download. I chose a year, closed my eyes, and clicked the mouse. So here we have it—The Capitol Theatre, a very Phishy stop in 1991. This was the band’s third of seven shows at the venue between 1990 and 1992. Enjoy the Thursday SBD treat. (Note: The FLAC torrent is an AUD new to circulation.)

I: Sweet Adeline, The Asse Festival, Runaway Jim, Cavern, The Landlady, My Sweet One, Reba, Llama, The Lizards, Suzy Greenberg, Stash, Golgi Apparatus

II: The Curtain > Possum, TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Mike’s Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Fluffhead, Tweezer, The Squirming Coil > Wipe Out > Tweezer Reprise

E: Bouncin’ Around the Room, Good Times Bad Times

*Aquarium Rescue Unit opened

Source: DSBD / FLAC: akg 451eb’s

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547 Responses to “The Transformation of “Sand””

  1. kayatosh Says:

    funny you should mention it, SOAM, timber just hit here after a tasty yamar – 8.10.2010 (see, I’m stuck in telluride after that $$$ sand).

  2. SOAM Says:

    The egyptians are pissed-someone just showed them toliet paper and played Manchester for them..They had no idea!!

  3. kenny powers Says:

    Lol @ Verno. I guess they say hobbies keep you sane. Either that or slowly drive you insane, I don’t know.

    @ gp420 – mos def, and thanks for the work! My main issue is for older shows that have a few sources. It’s hard enough seeing any one of them surface, and can be eternity before you see the others. I like to assume that if only one source keeps popping up in “project 1994” or whatever its because its hands down the best. Otherwise I have to load a gazillion torrents into my utorrent and hope a seeder jumps on someday…

  4. Selector J Says:

    llfa @SOAM.

    en fuego.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    that egyptian scene is a bubbliong cauldron of mystery. as robear notes, we only see what’s being shown. reporting here gravitates towards the sensational and dudes on camels riding into an angry mob in Tahrir? square cracking whips makes good TV.

  6. fat bastard Says:

    the egyptians are pissed because gordo’s tour denied them again.

  7. SOAM Says:

    When you talking TAB-You gotta mention “c’mon baby let’s go downtown” my fave trey opener ever-love the lyrics-lalso love getting high and drinking-love dancing-love pootie tang-love….

  8. kenny powers Says:

    Jtran – exactly, and since probably 90% of Phish’s 1.0 show catalog is only available as AUDs, I feel its important to build an ear for AUDs. I def grew up on 4th and 5th generation AUDs so these losses masters are gravy to me. Then again, a bad pull is still going to sound bad in master quality.

    I need to learn how to make a matrix. Best of both worlds.

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Great call Soam. Love that one as well

    Remember that Brent freak out. Sad. 1982 I think. I think you need C or el dude for an exact date.

  10. kayatosh Says:

    I think i finally understand the stock mrkt. here’s the only headline you need to know to know that shorting is precarious and short lived at best.

    “Stimulus [bernake style] Unlikely to End in June”

    re. egypt: How clever is Mubarak (you don’t stay in power for 30 yrs. in Arabia without being incredibly sly). He fights fire with fire. “OK, you got an angry mob. Here’s the angry mob that supports me, and they have guns.”

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    shit. well, I was going to buy myself a new mac-compatible HD for all of the new hot DLs I’ve been getting lately, but after car repairs that might not be happening this month. unreal how much simple stuff can cost.

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    the rapid proliferation of networking technology -> massive social unrest/uprisings.

    so do you mean to say that social media technology leads to social unrest? I think this is a pretty major leap of logic. I think it is more accurate to say that it facilitates in the communication process (especially in outsiders hearing of it) but I think it is a contributor (perhaps a “symptom” of sorts?) and not the cause of social unrest. just to put it into the Sand context… 😉

  13. kayatosh Says:

    SOAM: come on baby let’s go downtown is a $$$ tune both by neil and trey. also performed twice by phish in 2000. nice call.

  14. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @kaya – the problem for Mubarak is losing his legitimacy in the eyes of America (who has been bankrolling him to the tune of billions annually). If he is seen as cracking down on innocent bystanders, it will become problematic for anybody in Europe or the Americas to associate with him. Remember, even with as an important a global player as China, we didn’t have any high-level contact with them for 8 years following 1989’s crackdown. Without American support, its possible that the peace treaty with Israel ends up in tatters and then its batten down the hatches.

  15. fat bastard Says:

    i dont think its a stretch t3…i believe the logic.

  16. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @type 3 – I think that social media contributes to a sorting into factions, by facilitating finding like minded folks (think the BB for instance). Then, however, these groups get reinforced by constantly hearing from folks who think the same way they do, or have basically the same opinion as them. For instance, there isn’t anybody on this board who thinks that Phish sucks. This has led to increased polarization here in America, and I think it is doing the same thing overseas.

  17. kayatosh Says:

    TIII: I meant -> in the facilitates, makes possible sense. the cause is clearly being suppressed and oppressed for decades.

  18. bouncin fan Says:

    Creates the ability to organize. Before if you handed out flyers on a protest on a college campus you got thrown in jail by the secret police.

    Organizing through twitter and facebook diminished the government’s ability to control people with similar grievances from gathering together in protest.

    Doubt Zuckerberg knew besides making billions he’d be one of the hands responsible for helping the masses find new ways to organize. Very cool.

  19. Lycanthropist Says:

    Love me some sand 🙂

  20. voopa Says:


    04-21-86 Berkeley Community Theatre, Berkeley, Ca. (Mon)
    1: Half Step> El Paso, Row Jimmy, Esau, Cumberland, Desolation Row, Ramble On, Let It Grow
    2: Touch> Estimated> Eyes*> Drumz*> Maybe You Know**> GDTRFB> Morning Dew> Around> NFA E: NFA> Don’t Ease*
    *with Jose Lorenzo **without Bobby, Jerry & Phil Brent played throughout the drum solo – Rex Foundation benefit – final/last “Maybe You Know”: 04-26-83 [205]

  21. kayatosh Says:

    nice pts. GP420. so maybe social networking technology is a partial cause of this recent upswing in uprisings. fascinating.

    re. mubarak “it will become problematic for anybody in Europe or the Americas to associate with him. ” that die has already been cast.

    The americans and europeans (leaders and people, alike) have seen the teeming masses with “Mubarak – Out!” banners on TV. It’s over for the old boy.

  22. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    gotcha kaya. I agree it is a tool and a facilitator but the unrest needs to exist first. as bouncin’ said, it helps the masses organize. just wanted to clarify since the “->” terminology can be interpreted a couple of ways.

    just because we can now flashmob our favorite christmas tunes in a random mall food court doesn’t mean we are all going to start burnin’ and lootin’… or does it?!?

  23. kayatosh Says:

    that’s the crux, bouncin. the police could clamp down on a few upstarts, putting out fires before they got started. but this was an instant, uncontrollable inferno. done on the sly via the internets.

  24. bouncin fan Says:

    When you are a Middle Eastern Dictator and you’re only supporters left on the world stage are Israel safe to say your days are numbered

  25. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @kaya – make no mistake, the uprising in Tunisia was definitely a major catalyst in Egypt. And, getting back to social media and the interwebs, there is a major case to be made that the Wikileaks release of American diplomatic correspondence had a lot to do with it. The argument goes that the American correspondence indicated that the US Ambassador believed that corruption was rampant in the nation. Basically, every Tunisian believed this already, but the thinking goes, gee it must be REALLY bad if even America thinks our leadership is corrupt. Talk about a tangled web.

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