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. Selector J Says:

    Dancehall it is.

  2. EL Duderino Says:

    Best dancehall Reggae show I ever saw was Ziggy Marley @ the Drink in Chicago. I think it was ’93

  3. Aquaman Says:


    Bug positive thought being sent your way.

    The good news, if there is any, is that most Phyllodes tumors turn out to be benign. Caner yes, but rarely malignant. She’ll know much more after the biopsy and we are pulling.


  4. EL Duderino Says:

    I think Anthony Bourdaine did a dumpling show in China…

    Crazy restaurants there. like 900 tables at some of them

  5. Selector J Says:

    Just saw your post @Sloth. I’ll drop it back down into roots for ya in a minute.

  6. Robear Says:

    sel J, of course, any of the older ‘Izzy Vibes’ would be great. but not sure if that fits in the current playlist. so far, so good.

  7. Aquaman Says:

    @Me Irie Ones,

    I have dancehall dance party with the sprat around the Aquacave with Ziggy Marley’s “Family Time” album.

    Every parent should own and play this album for their kids, often.

    -Aqua “Dad”-

  8. Aquaman Says:

    Sweet!! Selecta Show!!

  9. Robear Says:

    aqua, already had some removed. malignant it is. she’s off to mexico for alternate treatment not avail. in US.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I saw that episode @ El dude. Wild. They have some interesting cuisine.

    got some fresh ’69 Dead to spin. grabbed that Fillmore West comp last night. 🙂

  11. Selector J Says:

    Gotcha covered, @Robear.

  12. Jtran Says:


    Waves > Simple, Jibboo $$$

    Tweezer $$+

    Pimping it again today

  13. angryjoggerz Says:

    Yeah, those dumpling spots can get wild. There was a place I used to go in Xi’an that was like a crazy maze – all different floors, totally multiple buildings annexed ghetto style, crazy food. I would take guests there when I used to bring tour groups to China and it would blow their minds. Not a clean place, but the food is tops. Cheap too. Could easily feed 10 people there for under $20. Miss it.

    Hunger increases.

  14. EL Duderino Says:

    They taught you how to eat the dumpling without burning the fuck out of your mouth. Dumplings in a chicken broth sounds yummy to me.

    @ Palmer You get that ’69 Fillmore West Box-Set? Pure Fire

  15. Robear Says:

    ::two thumbs up::

  16. EL Duderino Says:

    @ AJ

    You like the big ones or the smaller ones?

  17. angryjoggerz Says:

    Killing it, Jay.

  18. EL Duderino Says:

    There’s the ’73 Winterland one as well Palmer

  19. Aquaman Says:

    Wow Robear,

    I am so sorry. It’s as if statistically she was struck by lightning twice.

    Positive vibration commence.

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    that’s the one @ Dude.

  21. Mr. Palmer Says:

    have Winterland ’73 already. love it.

  22. angryjoggerz Says:

    I like the ones that are steamed more, and mostly only eat the Muslim ones because they know how to do a veggie one without a big chunk of ooops pork inside.

    I also like the ones that have a bit of curry to them, very NW China kinda thing, influenced by the Uzbek and Tajik foods. Yum.

  23. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Palmer

    You better strap yourself in tight before you hit play!

  24. EL Duderino Says:

    I’m not even sure it’s “Chinese” but give me a Vegi or Shrimp fried rice everyday for the rest of my life and I would be happy

  25. Selector J Says:

    Love the Sand analysis today, Miner. (Finally had a minute to read it.)
    I love that I used to love ’99 Sands (even if I thought they were a bit heavy in the rotation at the time) but the 2010 Sands are way better. Waaaaaay better.

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