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. poop goblin Says:

    I don’t know KP

    on my speakers they def sound cleaner. remind me more of the sound of the live phish releases

    my ass isn’t even going to try to explain in words what i’m hearing

    just slightly fuller and cleaner.

    def not night and day but like you said starting with a pretty clean mix to begin with there shouldn’t be that much a difference

  2. bigjig Says:

    miner Petaluma is only slightly better than Indiana in regards to law enforcement.

  3. guitarpicker420! Says:

    The trick with Indiana is that in Hamilton County you can get busted for driving a beater, and forget about having long hair. However, if you have short hair, and drive a relatively new car, there really aren’t any hassles. Also, Hamilton County (where Deer Creek is) announced this week that because of budget cuts, they are only taking folks to jail for violent crimes and DUI’s. Everything is just getting a summons.

  4. poop goblin Says:

    trick about Indiana is driving around it

  5. Kevin Says:

    Great post, Miner.
    In 1999 and 2000, I hated Sand. I liked the song itself, but was always bored with its ‘solo on top of the groove’ structure. The same was true of Jiboo at the time, which made for a long summer of 2000 for yours truly.

    These days, I love Sand. Pack it in a neat 10 minute package, and I’m all over it.

  6. angryjoggerz Says:

    Listening to Kevorkian redo of Greek Cities. Shit is $fire$

  7. bigjig Says:

    And in Marion County you shouldn’t drive. Or a DRUNK Cop will run you over and kill you. Fact. Then his cop buddies will find a loophole in the system so that he manages to escape prosecution. Fact. I don’t know why I keep saying fact. Fact.

  8. butterflyeffect Says:


  9. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Hey folks. Enjoying sampling 3.0 sands today. Great outro on Utica. Goodness, Utica is great on several levels. I have only spun it thrice now. Pacing that one.

  10. Kevin Says:

    Just listened back to Ames, Iowa 99. Shit loads of great moments there, but I’d forgotten how good the 1st set Gin is — in my mind it got overshadowed by the Julius->Fluff->Slave 2nd set closer combo. My god. This is heaven.

  11. sneven Says:

    hello gentle BBers! finally got the child to bed, haven’t even had the time to lurk today. Hope all is well with everyone 🙂

    Was debating awesome early 80’s fantasy/sci-fi movies with the wife today, who is really too young to know much more than Star Wars/Trek, Labyrinth, and The Never Ending Story. Dropped The Last Starfighter on her with a POW!

    Also, if I ever go completely bald on top, I plan to comb my remaining side-hairs into my sideburns, resulting in one of those hair helmets. Sweetness.

  12. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Utica SOAM–>Mercy $$$ A rare treat for Sapz.

  13. poop goblin Says:

    that’s funny Kevin. I was at that show and found the CD under my seat the other day and spun it. didn’t have set I

    loved the pretty experimental antelope and a cool psyche rock jam out of Gumbo. not the typical funk style.

  14. Spasm Waiter Says:


  15. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Sony bookshelf speakers ss-b1000
    $53 incl. shpg from B&H
    Arrived today.
    Sound amazing.
    Money well spent.

  16. Robear Says:

    poo g, holding it down late night. checkin’ out some cuban funk.

  17. BrandonKayda Says:

    Hey BB

  18. BrandonKayda Says:

    Cuban funk you say? That sounds promising. Any recs in particular you want to share?

  19. Robear Says:

    B-KAEzzle, ck yer mail in about 5….4….3….2….1

  20. kenny powers Says:

    brand new source for Lemonwheel day 1 (including ambient set) just popped up

    crazy explosion of new sources lately.

  21. BrandonKayda Says:

    Thanks @Robear! You are the man.

    Listening to the Pure Jerry Vol. 6 show you sent me…gorgeous stuff.

  22. Kevin Says:

    It’s funny you should say that. I was backstage that night before the show for the first time. I ran into Trey, and I was pretty nervous, but I sort of cornered him in my attempt not to bother him (as funny as that sounds). He said something to effect of ‘I bet you’re going to request a song.’ And I said Antelope — it was my favorite ‘dance my ass off’ song at the time.

    Not only did they play it, but they fucking creamed it.

    Highlight of my Phish career by far.

  23. joe Says:

    Is it ok to get super stoned for jury duty tomorrow morning? I already went last week and got picked. Actual trial starts tomorrow (on my day off for the week too.)

  24. joe Says:

    And after sitting through the selection process a few times last week, I’m seriously reconsidering my thoughts on the American Legal System if these really are my peers who get to decide my fate

  25. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Dayton ’97 Slave. Gets me every god damn time.

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