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. kenny powers Says:

    @ gp420

    i totally feel you. for the past almost 2 years my ongoing goal is to grab every single Phish show that pops up on etree. when i reach the point where i have multiple sources for one show, i do comparisons and if there is a clear winner, keep only that one. if it’s close, i’ll just delete any crappy sounding ones.

    i keep a spreadsheet of which ones i’ve eliminated so that in case the same source pops up on etree in the future, i won’t re-download the same source again. then as i run out of HD space, i back the FLACs/SHNs up onto data DVDs and delete the files. i keep a separate spreadsheet that keeps track of which archive discs each show is on.

    so basically, now every time a show pops up on etree, i have to check three different places before i can know whether to download – both those 2 spreadsheets and my hard drive. it’s getting pretty overwhelming and takes way too much time….but i keep telling myself that the payoff is that i’m building a fucking sick collection of lossless Phish. it’s a great feeling when you pretty much know you have the best-sounding source of a show that circulates in several different sources, and the most popularly circulated sources aren’t always the best to my ears.

    i have issues.

  2. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @kp – luckily, going forward you can just check the phishlisteningroom and all of those problems are solved! 🙂

  3. verno329 Says:

    shuffle is my enemy because of the disruption of flow like you mentioned. if it’s gonna be a mix it’s either a mix that i make or a pre-made one from someone else. the only thing i’ve ever used shuffle on is my ’97 jams mix of only the jams.

    listening guilt is very strong for me too. i’d be willing to bet you i have stuff that i downloaded over 5+ years ago that i’ve never listened to yet. crazy. a good example is that moe. show w/ robert randolph show that voopa went to. i haven’t spun any moe. in ages and was pumped to d/l it, now i have it and can’t get myself to convert it and put it on one of my eleven or so mp3 players. that’s my problem right there

  4. Jtran Says:


    NIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. The biggest issue is that I get interrupted by the phone a decent amount. Hate having to pause when I’m in the middle of a jam. Stupid customers…

  5. Chuck sweD Says:

    i been turning to the itunes dj more and more… otherwise i always gravitate towards the same shit. i add more music than i can ever listen to… so its a good way to dig deeper. then if something tasty comes on that fits the mood, i’ll transition to a specific album/show…

  6. guitarpicker420! Says:

    But I know what you mean about the most popular source not necessarily being the best sounding source. For instance, the taylorc mk41 source has been the most popular all fall and holiday tour (where available) but was only the best sounding (to my ears) a couple of times, and not once on holiday tour.

  7. Jtran Says:

    And I’m also really feeling AUD pulls recently.

    Love the SBD sound, but the culture of audience recording, the history, etc, is what makes it really cool for me. You guys were listening to these tapes 20 years ago. I can listen to the exact same thing now (just without the hiss 😉 )

  8. verno329 Says:

    @kp you just described me to a tee. its kinda scary when you’re looking at a show and trying to decide if you should grab it and you go “first Sparkle huh? well i’ve got to have that, right?”

    you’re not the only one with issues. or you can follow my mantra. i’m normal, it’s the rest of the world that’s weird

  9. Selector J Says:

    YES!! My day is officially made. Just checked my favorite reggae distributor and saw that Earl Sixteen’s “Reggae Sound” produced by Mikey Dread just got the reissue treatment by the DATC label.
    I absolutely love the tracks on this album but have never been able to find an affordable copy. They rarely come up on eBay and the ones that do are invariably from the UK and the winning bids are always $50+ USD plus s/h (another $10, at least).

    Reissue = $14 ftmfw!

    I’ve been searching eBay once per week for going on 3 years for this damn record. Seriously. I have. I tell everyone I know that this should be reissued and thought it would just never happen especially after Mikey Dread passed away. I’ve even sent Earl 16 multiple myspace messages about it. Maybe it worked?

    Either way, dreams do come true, kids.

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”
    –Albert Einstein

  11. kayatosh Says:

    anyone else find the happenings in egypt fascinating? Mubarak – 82 yr. old autocratic ruler for 30 yr. (some of you cats aren’t even that old), ally to US, keeper of lasting peace w/ Israel. Egypt – economically marginal to the global picture but strategically important to the region + suez canal control. plus 85 mil. egyptians is a large population for the region..

    massive swell of angry egyptians suddenly take to the street in numbers so great the police can’t handle it and disband. the army is dispatched but does little to establish control. anarchy takes hold. the usual looting, arson ensue. The one unifying thing about the mob is their desire for Mubarak to leave immediately. The US urges him to step down ASAP. However, there are counter groups (most likely paid by mubarak in some way) who want him to stay. The opposition speaks with no unified voice or agenda, other than the ouster of the current regime.

    Mubarak says “No. No ASAP, angry mob. Instead, I’m gonna leave in September as planned. I’m not leaving egyptian soil either. This is where I’ll be buried.”

    regime change, OK, but change to what and how. seems mighty unstable, but then again that’s the middle east. something’s always going down. US mrkts. seemingly don’t give a hoot.

  12. SOAM Says:

    you cant heal the symptons…..

    I’d like to hear a brent freakout today…anyone know the date of the show where brent mydland goes bananas and starts swearing and crying-classsic!!!!!!!!!!!

    Filmore 1970

  13. kayatosh Says:

    and by arab dictator standards, mubarak is a dove.

  14. SOAM Says:

    The egyptians have finally rioted after 33 years of waiting for the dead to release -From Egypt with Love ’78 CD AND DVD SET..

  15. Selector J Says:

    Sorry to go off on the reggae thing, BB. I figure with that endorsement you may at least want to check some samples so you have some idea of why I’m so stoked. It’s now available as an mp3 album, too. Here’s the link to the Amazon samples.

  16. kayatosh Says:

    SOAM: interestingly that “from egypt with love” show was performed not in egypt, but at winterland. I think that’s what pushed them over the edge. nice point.

  17. Chonz Says:


    Looking for 2 tickets to Trey in Chicago if anyone has any extras, let me know at chonzbot at gmail dot com. Thanks!

  18. bouncin fan Says:

    What’s so interesting to me Kaya is that technology like social networking and the proliferation of cell phones along with globalization (people feeling they are part of a bigger world wide society and not prisoners within their own boarders) is leading to a massive uprising throughout the entire region.

    Countries like Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and even people discussing reform in places like Saudi Arabia is mind boggling.
    Everything moves so quickly these days. Crazy.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    sitting here in limbo
    with my car up on a lift…

    interesting piece today, miner. Sand was never a song I sought, probably due to the singular nature of the jams back in the early life of the song. Seemed better fit to the three piece TAB lineup of ’99 than the big show. but now it has taken on a new life, far broader in scope than I think anyone ever thought it could go. and it is a great example of where these guys are as mature musicians. I know we look at song length and the new hotness of musically dense jams that don’t take 10-15 minutes to get anywhere interesting. this makes for “smarter” music in my estimation, though I will admit that sometimes the exploration is part of the reason certain versions of songs jump off the page for me. While I think overall I prefer the concise, focused versions of the now, I do too miss the fully bare, open excursions of the past.

    coincidentally, I was listening to TAB 5.11.99 last night and that second set cooks big time. The Sand is about 20 minutes long and has a seriously scorching Trey lead on top of Mr. Metronome’s powerful beats. I recommned checking it out. and don’t sleep on the Ooh Child that precedes it. I was NOT expecting the blissful jam that came out of that.

  20. SOAM Says:

    make no mistake-they and I want the real “from egypt with Love”-not the USA version….of all the shows the dead played and I missed….Fuckin egypt and everything else-I want to see arecording and hear..

    now whos got my “brent loses his mind show”?

  21. kayatosh Says:

    $$$ point, bouncin. and part of why this is all fascinating.

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

  22. SOAM Says:

    I did sand but I’ll take a timber ho over it any day….TIMBER HO SHAKES FOUNDATIONS-WHY DO THE SKIMP ON THAT SONG AND SHOVE DWDS UP MY ASS?

  23. Robear Says:

    kaya, def. fascinated, yet woefully under-informed re: egypt. i like what you said. re: rioting and looting- who knows who is behind that stuff. i can’t see any situation where a political vacuum is a good thing for that region. but like i said, woefully under-informed. if we’re believing what we hear on cnn or other mainstream news, then shame on us.

    ftr, i think trey inadvertently got the ball rolling during ’46 Days’ @ the Greek.

  24. SOAM Says:

    When they go into Timber…i begin my ascent

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    T3 – those ’99 Ooh Child jams are quite beautiful. Hope that returns this winter. Along with Circles and I can see clearly now.

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