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.

[audio:] Tags: , , ,

600 Responses to “Super Ball—An Instant Classic”

  1. SillyWilly Says:

    I love how you can press play from anywhere within the Ball and you’re sure to find something interesting within 10 minutes

    I haven’t felt urge to skip around yet.

  2. Guyute711 Says:

    I was listening to mound from cincy and I swear I heard some usa storage type jamming in it. They had to hit me over the head last weekend so id know they found their new sound.

  3. Chuck sweD Says:

    now that there is a tangible trail of motive… if something does go down, i suspect that the right man will be brought to justice

  4. phoammhead Says:

    wow, that was my first playback of the jam>crosseyed = the shIT!

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Silly- I started from the beginning the other day. I’m almost done with set I , saturday. Probably the weakest 9 i use that term lightly) of all the sets. Suskind Hotel is a good song for Phish though. Monkey Man is a nice little payoff at the end.

    After that set, the Ball is non stop psych fire!

  6. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Saturday I is the only set that resembles what until recently was known as a “typical 3.0 first set.”

  7. Guyute711 Says:

    I am currently more tan than I have been since I was a kid. Its a side effect of cleaning a festi site.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    Totally, Mr P

    I thought they played the new songs tastefully. Mixed them in here and there instead of trying to dominate sets with them

    Was hoping Steam would get played but I’m sure we’ve only seen the beginning of Steam

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Being an alumni of the Clifford Ball i’m finding myself feeling guilty for referring to Superball as ” the Ball”. I’m not going to do that anymore out of respect for the original…… carry on.

  10. Guyute711 Says:

    Steam is going on the new album im sure. Maybe they aren’t done dialing it in.

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    Phish was so hot last weekend they burned guyute. Crazy.

  12. Guyute711 Says:

    Clifford ball was great. Super ball was super!!!

  13. phoammhead Says:

    shortly after saturday set 1 i was sayin’, that’s the throw away set . . . forgettable really. well okay, not really. but, it was tame. then, i also had the thought that it’ll wear out the peeps who will crash out before the late nite set . . . whole weekend would not have been the same without that set. fact was, a guy camping next to us like that set the best of that day! yes, i was scratching my head. i haven’t listened back to that set, yet.

  14. Mdawg Says:

    Steam is sure to blow up in August.

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    ill refer to it as ball 9 from now on

    Apologies to its Santcity

  16. tela'smuff Says:

    wow. easily the best version of Mound ever played right? crazy!!!!

    from Destiny on they have been so free!

  17. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Inside of a hot sweating UIC pavilion. Steam will blow up.

  18. mitch Says:

    Snowbank, debating selling my pretty gorge tix cause I’m not sure how spun I’ll be able to get with the arms come gorge. Email me cause I might just go in with WW.

  19. albert walker Says:

    it’s the custy ball

    cause according to all the brahs out there anyone that actually digs 3.0 phish must be a super custy

  20. ThePigSong Says:

    No kidding Silly! I’ve been just jumping arid and letting it roll.

    My best bud who’s seen a handful of shows and has used them pretty much to just get fucked up, had his socks blown the fuck off by Sunday’s set I.

    We’ve hundreds of hours listening together. He has since gone all hipster on me, I can only hope I brought him back from the dark side.

  21. DukeOfLizards Says:

    @phoamm: Exactly.

    aside: Scents and Subtle Sounds is just a straight-up wonderful song.

  22. phoammhead Says:

    just finished that end of crosseyed jam . . . so awesome and the seque into CDT!

  23. lastwaltzer Says:

    “Walked into his office the other day and he’s playing with a fuckin gun. I got stories you wouldn’t believe.”palmer

    And I can’t wait to hear them 🙂

  24. albert walker Says:

    I want a gun

    thinking about getting a little .38

  25. Guyute711 Says:

    Call me a fucking custy. When is the next show, I want in!!!

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