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. EL Duderino Says:

    sounds like a beautiful place then

  2. oneshowatatime Says:

    so far the greek remasters are sounding nice. super-crisp, well balanced and much better leveling (i know nothing about recording, i’m probably botching this), lacks the energy from the audience that sneaks through on the sound boards (see Greek ‘Cities’), but overall these sound great. I’ve only listened through my Sony cans at work via Rhapsody so far, but I plan on ordering the CDs today and cranking these up in the car and home stereo ASAP!

  3. oneshowatatime Says:


    Wow, 3 parts funk, 2 parts Trey riding the whale like a crazed bull rider!

  4. butter Says:

    that being said if anyone goes to Mystic theatre in Petaluma, drive sober out of there and don’t be riding dirty

    Petaluma cops suck balls, they’ve popped many a friend, for various reasons. but the point is when a concert gets out, they know they can smell weed or alcohol on any car they pull over. its a small farm town and the cops have fun with the hippys, strictest area in our county by far

    so be careful getting out of there

  5. oneshowatatime Says:

    …and if Trey had payed this Ghost it’s due diligence, the boys may have struck gold there too. But maybe that Simple would never have come into it’s own if Ghost went for a ride, who knows.

  6. neemor Says:

    Listening to Pittsburgh net radio, just caught an ad with Montel Williams pimping his being a Med. Marijuana patient.

  7. butter Says:

    if your medical marijuana’s legit, dont stress herb, but you still cant be stoned and drive or puffing in the car…….which friends of ours are known to do

  8. willowed Says:

    This Cities is nice and thick Robear.
    Just what the Doctor ordered. Love the dirty tone Trza is ripping.
    Nice and slow and patient too!
    and of course Gordo just dropping the thick thunder followed by Pages musical blanky of sound or woobi.

  9. willowed Says:

    if you’ve seen mr. mom then you know what a woobi is 😉

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    awesome. glad to hear it!

    well, you have to admit, your legs were in the way… 🙄

    there’s something wrong with the fact that I just spent an hour on my roof with a freaking ice climbing tool in hand bashing away at the huge ice dam creating a 6 in. deep pool of water on my roof. not even the flat part either. woo hoo! more snow coming Saturday! and Tuesday too!

    I heard the “global warming is bullshit” thing more than once today too. silly new englanders.

  11. butter Says:

    willowed are you interested in hitting up some local venues, regardless of who’s playing there?

  12. willowed Says:

    Not really Butter. I want to enjoy the music. Don’t get me wrong, I love checking out different venues but I want to jam a little too.

    I think I read Crasby and Nash are playing. Or Corsby Stills, or Stills Nash (some sort of 2 some)

    is it worth it? anyone seen them? legendary venue – I forget which one.

  13. willowed Says:

    I meant Crosby

  14. butter Says:

    @ willowed – venues to look up on jambase or whatever:

    Great American Music Hall
    The Independent
    Warfield, (fake closed)
    boom boom room
    Elbo room

  15. willowed Says:

    I just found this Butter:

    Crosby and Nash Mar 28, 2011, 8:00 PM at the Warfield. Just looked it up. Worth it???

  16. willowed Says:

    Thanks for the recs by the way!

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I know you want to check out some good music, but even for just a drink you should pop in to the Fillmore. really cool venue with a fantastic collection of show posters on the walls throughout the venue. for a long time the picture I had as the one that came up when my wife called my cell phone was of her standing on the stairway landing with the huge image of Jerry in the background. love that picture. fun night too. we were there for railroad earth. it was a hot hot show.

  18. butter Says:

    one word for you willowed


    king of the funky drums, i’ll check to see if he’s playing while your here

    he used to rock it everyweekend like 10 years ago but he’s getting older and doesn’t play as much, but when he does he still brings it

  19. butter Says:

    yea willowed, i may hit that

    epic musicians at an epic venue

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Oswego Piper…

  21. willowed Says:

    Perfect. I will take a stroll over there and poke my head in TIII.

    I will keep Zigaboo on the radar Butter. I love local flavor when I head into towns and cities i’m not familiar with.

  22. butter Says:

    gotta duck out, more later willowed

  23. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    where are you staying again @willlowed?

  24. willowed Says:

    Just finished the cities Robear

    I concur – that shit was dope

    8/10/97 Cities – Check it boys! 20 minutes of fun!!!

  25. neemor Says:

    How is Railroad Earth?
    I was told that I should check them out, someone I know thought I’d like them…

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