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:

    8.9.2010 boogie on does get nice and features a footbell solo, but it comes at a heavy cost – the abortion of a promising tweezer.

  2. snowbank Says:

    @SW – I have a couple friends who are lawyers in Chicago that you might want to talk to if you are looking for a job in those parts. One defends the devil and the other works for the AG. Interested?

  3. bouncin fan Says:

    3 of my favorite reggae groups I got to catch live

    The Abyssinians at the Wild Hare in 97
    Big Youth at Exodus in 96
    Congos at Reggae on the River in 98

    I’m not a huge Steel Pulse fan but they also used to put on a ripping shot back in the day. Not sure about anymore.

    Agreed on Burning Spear being about as good as it gets these days. Toots is fun but gets old quick.

    Scratch was great but he’s kinda getting pretty toasty lately.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    8.9 tweeze catastrophe…ugh

  5. bouncin fan Says:

    As my spun ass looked over to Robear in horror he tried to talk me down during that Tweezer in Telly.

    Have such a vivid memory (which is rare for me at shows)

    Talk about a mood swing. From the opening notes of tweezer to the aborted jam. The highs and lows of life.

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    good day to all

    rough one for me so far

    Dog Puking Wake Up Call->
    Migraine (Dub Version)>
    Restless Sleeping>
    Doctor’s Orders->
    Car Trouble*->
    Migraine Reprise

    *with Money Pit Jam

    but it’s all relative. not too bad in the grand scheme, really. best wishes to your friend, robear. my worries pale in comparison.

  7. voopa Says:

    To me a Toots show is like Vegas Reggae.

    Burning Spear still brings it though, that’s for sure. Was fortunate to catch him 3 times at Reggae on the River over the years. Other notable sets: Congos, Sly & Robbie, Alpha Blondy, Ziggy.

  8. kayatosh Says:

    wow, bouncin. amazing to catch those 3 great reggae shows.

    Sanachie 4 disc compilation Revolutionary Sounds, the essential collection of roots reggae 1973-1981 was my first introduction to the abyssininas, the congos, and big youth. $$$.

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    off to deal with the car, but one of my favorite days of reggae was at Jazz Aspen about 7 years ago. Burning Spear ruled the day, with solid sets from Jimmy Cliff, Hugh Masakela, and others. I’d go see Burning Spear any chance I have. Dude is a legend. and fucking great live taboot taboot.

  10. kayatosh Says:

    Shanachie, not sanachie.

  11. verno329 Says:

    @kaya yeah I definitely still spin whole sets a majority of the time. Can’t break old habits completely. The laziness factor really comes from decision fatigue. For as long as I can remember I’ve had the largest music collection (both Phish and other “jamband” (ugh hate the term) wise) amongst my regular group of friends so whenever we wanted to throw on some tunes it was always “pick something out for us” and it gets real old real fast having to choose with so many great options. I’d be spend 30 minutes at home deciding what to play, before I’d break down and try to find something to listen to *while* I was looking for something to listen to. Ridiculous.

    I considered writing a paper on the weight of nearly unlimited choice during one of my free will/determinist classes in school but couldn’t decide what I wanted to listen to while I was writing it so I scrapped the whole idea 🙂

  12. verno329 Says:

    The return of T3’s daily setlists! Time to rejoice!!!


  13. Jtran Says:

    Spinning this whole summer 95 show.

    Thought about skipping Horse > Silent but didn’t.

  14. kayatosh Says:

    mountains in the mist kinda “horses” piper too. piper was $$ and gets all space-shippy before mnts in the mist awkwardly takes hold. it turns into a very beautiful version. i’m a mist fan, though. i know the tune does nothing for many of you.

  15. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @verno – I empathize with you. Since I shifted to an external hard drive for all of my music, the collection has really exploded. I am sitting on 35,000+ songs and deciding what to listen to can be a chore. However, there are always go-to eras for me, but sometimes I want to listen to something different. When folks come over, I have a couple of playlists setup, my funk mix, my dinner music mix, etc. A lot of the times it depends on the audience, if its a lady friend, they might get my funk mix, followed, sureptitiously, by my getting down mix (yes, I have one, but its not called that), one of my old dead head buddies, and its always safe to throw in anything summer ’74, older phish buddies, lately throw in any of the holiday shows, but particularly 12-31 2 and 1-1 2. Then you can always make a mix on the fly, add 7 or 8 songs and hit play and then keep adding stuff as the conversation turns.

  16. kenny powers Says:

    bouncin fan

    i caught the Congos in 97 or 98 at The Ocean Mist in R.I. it was awesome, this place is literally on the beach and has an outdoor rear bar. With live reggae and those surroundings, never has Rhode Island felt so Caribbean.

  17. kayatosh Says:

    verno: great post re. “decision fatigue” how about listening guilt e.g. you’cve got that choice dead that you only spun once but haven’t been able to get back to.

  18. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @kaya – my listening guilt is more like, you just downloaded 15 shows in the past day and haven’t listened to all of a single one of them because you can’t stop spinning 1-1-11 set 2.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    I’ve been listening in recent months to more full shows and full sets mainly due to either the iaudio9 (flac player) not having shuffle or my having yet to find it. the iaudio 7’s have shuffle, and it be very tempting to let the machine decide, but flow gets choppy.

  20. verno329 Says:

    @gp420 I hope Kind of Blue makes an appearance on your getting down mix as well as some Marvin Gaye. I also hope that I never hear your mix in person 😉

  21. Jtran Says:

    Getting back to full shows. Decided I’ve got 8 hours in my work day I can easily listen to an actual full show and then some jams etc.

  22. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @verno – lots of choice cuts, for miles, I went with It Never Entered My Mind off of Relaxin’, lots of old R&B, some jimmy smith, and of course, Lets Get It On and Fishman doing Sexual Healing with the vacuum cleaner and him saying “the sounds of love!”

  23. Jtran Says:

    That being said I plan on making a best of 2.0 playlist when I get home this afternoon.

  24. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @jtran 8 hour workday = big cypress midnight set, see that was easy.

  25. Selector J Says:

    “What are some good live reggae acts that I could see?”-sw

    Sorry so late in responding. Was driving from station to the office (made an empanada stop, too). Looks like lots of good recs from the BB already. I’ll say this: out of everyone for me, Spear is a must!
    Go see him before he retires. (He wants to stop touring soon.)

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