Super Ball—An Instant Classic

Super Ball IX (G.Lucas)

A few days removed from Superballin’ and I’m still reeling from the quantity of amazing Phish that went down over the weekend. For 13 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds over three days, Phish threw down a musical showcase at Watkins Glen International, while recapturing their festival magic of lore. Though Festival 8 provided a blissful return to the festival setting in Southern California, it didn’t feel the same as Phish’s historic Northeastern fiestas. Super Ball most definitely did. As a full-powered band collided with the fantasy-like festival grounds, a musical spark was lit early in the opening show and a fire of blazing Phish burned all weekend long. Coming off a stellar opening leg of Summer Tour, when the guys hit the stage at Super Ball IX, things seemed to loosen up in just the right ways as they crafted a weekend of dreams. Phish—the improvisational juggernauts we fell in love with—are back on the scene with new improvisational tricks up their sleeves and an enthusiasm to match.

7.1.11 - Watkins Glen (G.Lucas)

Over the course of three shows, the band played so many profound jams that its been impossible to listen to, wrap my head around, and digest them all in such a short amount of time. With more standout music at Super Ball than at any other three (or four)-night run in the modern era, Phish exploded with innovative playing throughout the weekend. Capping the festival with four unforgettable sets, including, perhaps, their most psychedelic performance to date in their late-night “Storage Jam,” Phish left their fan base in a state of bliss and disbelief after a weekend that surpassed most everyone’s expectations. It was that good.

The band’s masterful improvisation shined throughout the festival, whether playing within song structures or exploring new territory—something they did quite often over the three days. The reaction time between band members was negligible as they patiently crafted one standout piece after another. The tempo of their playing adopted to the booming sound and open-air surroundings, slowing down just a bit and allowing Mike to dominate the stage, directing jams with dark and eclectic bass lines throughout the weekend. But Phish’s virtuosic whole-band interplay, showcased all weekend long (and especially during their late-night set) wrote the story of the festival, leaving fans new and old in a state of utter joy. For those of us who saw them in their heyday, the band’s creativity has fully returned. And for those experiencing a full-powered Phish for the first time, well, get ready for the ride of your life!

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

Within all the musical theatrics of the weekend, Phish introduced us, in earnest, to a new musical style—extremely abstract, and often beatless, psychedelic sound sculptures. An improvisational direction hinted at throughout June (in jams such as Bethel’s “Waves” and “Disease,” Alpharetta’s “Disease” and Raleigh’s “Split”) was displayed on night one in the mini-jam before “Crosseyed” and during “Simple,” and then fully expounded upon during their late-night dip into the abyss in 5.1 surround-sound amidst the interactive art installations of Ball Square. After focusing on eerie, abstract and ambient exploration throughout this hour-long performance, Phish infused similar sounds into their festival finale, particularly in “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” and “Waves.”

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Historically, Phish has honed in on jamming styles at their festivals which they continued to explore during subsequent tours. Melodic ambient interplay at Lemonwheel (highlighted by the fourth set’s “Ambient Jam”) and IT’s growling psychedelic textures of 2003 (underlined by the unforgettable Tower Jam) provide the best examples. During the band’s final slate of shows in August, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this type of abstract experimentation they continue to push forward.

Most of all, Phish’s creativity—in all directions—was on display at Super Ball. From the groove-based turned exploratory “Golden Age” to the Tyrannosaurus-sized “Tweezer,” and from the scorching-turned-funky “Disease” to the intricate interplay of “Light,” Phish jams were sprouting from every angle at Watkins Glen. There is so much to discuss and so much to process from the weekend (and leg one), that it is hard to know where to begin. But with a month off we have plenty of time breakdown the exploits of the festival and beyond. Look for more detailed analysis and discussion of Super Ball IX this week as we bask in the glory of Phish 2011.


Jam of the Day:

Golden Age” 7.2.11 III

One of Super Ball’s upper-echelon excursions.

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600 Responses to “Super Ball—An Instant Classic”

  1. phoammhead Says:

    judge rejects willie nelson plea deal

    leave willie nelson alone!

    oh, and leave me alone, too! 😉

  2. msbjivein Says:

    Cant make it out Friday got plans early sat. Would love to meet up again sometime though. I’m playing at Locals Only blues jam tonight w/ J Scott and The Assosiates other than That I wont be out That way this weekend. Last time I was at the trap was Melvin Seals after UM a couple weeks ago. Good times.

  3. ThePigSong Says:

    fuck, that drop into Crosseyed is tight. the offical ignition to my spaceship.

    “Gentlemen(pigsong), start YOUR ENGINE!”

  4. ThePigSong Says:

    day 3 Set I & II – day 1 set II – storage jam

    All currently tied for first.

  5. dude of life Says:

    i was pretty sober at that show and 100% heard spanish moon by mike.. i called it on the spot.. 😀

  6. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @msb – coolio, don’t have my daughter this weekend, so this is good for me. I’ve got her every other weekend until August 5.

  7. Chuck sweD Says:

    theres a petition to get legal recreational pot use on the ballot in colorado. i’m doubtful that it’ll get final voter approval, but it will likely end up on the ballot at least. it goes a little further than past attempts in prohibiting driving while high, no use in public, and limiting possession to one ounce for 21+, if i recall correctly. i think it also has something like a 15% tax that will go straight to state education, on top of typical sales taxes. and based on the plummeting prices i’ve seen in the last year or so in breck dispensaries, i’d fully support a 15% tax if it went to schools. i think its real promising seeing the public discussion open up about how, rather than if.

    some pro legalize people have mixed feelling about it because they’d rather see statutes similar to alcohol. they’d prefer a “responsible use” guideline, rather than a strict quantity guideline. there is no limit on how much booze you can posses, only in how much you can “use” and what you can do while “using”

    swed :mrgreen:

  8. msbjivein Says:

    If any of you like UM and havent seen them in a while. Their light show is freaking top notch now! I know they switched light guys a yr ago or so but this new rig is ridiculous. Stand in front of the FOH and melt away. Seriously.

  9. tela'smuff Says:

    hey o!

    still not through night 1. goddamn work is killin me.

    Did hear the Simple jam and that is tied so far with the DTE Disease, for me at least. loved it. i want lots of that type of jamming at the Gorge.

    also thought that Bug was a top version for my ears, and the Horse>Silent might have been the best placement of that combo in 3.0.

    just a great flowing show so far.

  10. voopa Says:

    msb- Jeff Waful is the lighting guy for UM. He founded, then did lights for moe. vefore UM. He’s fantastic.

  11. msbjivein Says:

    I would LOVE to go to Steely Dan next week at Murat but its at least $230 just to get in………

  12. RamblinMind Says:

    That version of Bug is tight. I could do without the Horse>Silent, but you’re right, that placement was pretty good and unobtrusive.

    I thought Jam>Crosseyed was good but not mindblowing or anything. The jam doesn’t do anything for me, although as @pigsong said, the drop into Crosseyed is nice. Beyond that I didn’t hear anything on the first spin that made it stand out from other versions. Same with Sand – great stuff, but not that atypical or better than Portsmouth.

    Mike’s>Simple>Bug is my easy highlight of the set and think it kind of dwarfs the jam>crosseyed>chalkdust segment

  13. mitch Says:

    read back some from earlier.

    Robear, the gorge is the shit, hands down. its my single fav venue, however, i’ve never been when its a dust bowl.

  14. mitch Says:

    what i’m saying is, i’d pick gorge over anything.

    tahoe is a fucking parking lot. telluride in and out, too much too fast is right. and also shin splints for the rest of tour from dancing on asphalt.

  15. msbjivein Says:

    Right on Voopa,
    I seriously thought I was going to have a seizure and had to turn away. I was on some good L though. Dude is LEGIT

  16. mitch Says:

    gp420, pretty sure i’m still on for tomorrow but not 100%.

    need this disability pay to kick in weeks ago.

  17. Admiral Ackbar Says:

    I’m trying to get Mitch out of Franklin for the night, a meetup at the Trap would seem a possibility.


  18. DavenTheRaven Says:


  19. ThePigSong Says:

    I almost exclusively work out to NPR podcasts (I know, damn commie), not this week though!

  20. mitch Says:

    robear, jeff and i have a car for gorge pretty sure. and hotels out the ass apparently.

  21. guitarpicker420! Says:

    rt on mitch – like I said, $3 cover and I know they sell PBR there for $2 or less!

  22. Dr. Pronoia Says:,1779/

  23. Mike in Austin Says:

    What I’m here for

  24. Phamily Berzerker Says:

  25. negev79 Says:

    @Mitch – if you run into trouble getting your disability, I may be able to help out. I used to represent people on disability or trying to get claims going. If it’s something beyond my ability, I almost certainly know someone in your area who could answer some questions for you. If you need to, email me at my user name in the google mail.

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