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. ThePigSong Says:

    Ballix ballicks bollocks


  2. mitch Says:

    “By the way things were going for you Palmer, I’m surprised you don’t own the company by now.”


    Dag, coulda made 500k but instead lost 100k. Talk about the complete opposite direction. Hope that was your companies money and not yours. I wanna try this butter and 3 kings when I come.

  3. albert walker Says:

    once the debt ceiling is blown through and the US defaults on it’s debt I’m gonna need something besides the pit bull to guard my hash stash

  4. albert walker Says:

    OPM SW as we say in the bizness

    other peoples money

    unfortunately I probably would have gotten 50K of it which to my broke ass is still real money

    fuckin sucks

  5. lastwaltzer Says:

    lol your bonus is more than i made last year

    :kicks can:

  6. mitch Says:

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

    ^this! Now go spin camden 03

  7. lastwaltzer Says:

    i think I’m gonna need a new gig if i wanna see more sets.

    I think I need to find something like Palmer’s got, fail a test, get promoted. I dig that and think I can learn how to roll in that kind of position 😉

  8. tela'smuff Says:

    last 4 mins of ASIHTOS are bliss.

    add that jam to the Simple jam mixed with the Disease Supreme and it gives me goosebumps to think about what’s coming to the Gorge in 29 days.

  9. SillyWilly Says:

    I borrow about 50K a year from the federal government

    And then give it to Phish

    Your tax dollars at work.

  10. phoammhead Says:

    where i was on those concert/festival grounds during every minute of every song is permanently ingrained into my skull – most of it was IT and a few here’s and there’s were less than amazing and only so so but not bad unless you count a few talkers during day 1 set 1 and set 2 . . . after that bek and i found a really cool zone behind the soundboard

    yeah duke, scents was so psychedelic

  11. lastwaltzer Says:


    well, at least I know someone is seeing phish with my tax dollars……..

  12. mitch Says:

    Considers livin on AWs couch with those bonuses. Will contribute by packing bowls and rolling j’s. Miles and Jackson will get along great.

  13. SillyWilly Says:


    Thanks for your sacrifices.

    I pay taxes. Then they refund those taxes to me. And I turn around and give those to Phish, too.

  14. albert walker Says:

    gonna go spin some ball and pout about the money I didn’t make today

    I’m a capitalist pig asshole and I wanna be rich. life sucks.

    laterz comrades.

  15. phoammhead Says:

    the important part about scents being played is that they played it and pretty well slayed it

  16. mitch Says:

    Plus having me around is kinda like protection anyway.

    I’m from Brooklyn, WHATchuThinkThisIs. Step off!

  17. ThePigSong Says:

    WTF would I be doing if Phish never came back?

  18. albert walker Says:

    i haven’t hit any trades this year and we are barely up as the fund

    so bonus is looking like shit kids


  19. mitch Says:

    Phoam, agreed. During the stream it sounded rusty but it’s cause Phish is reworking his parts. Sounded great on relisten.

  20. mitch Says:

    Fish is reworking his parts

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    yo who wants to stay in a hotel or house or whatever with me for uic

  22. ThePigSong Says:

    other than being richer.

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    Sorry, AW

    Losing money no matter how much you have sucks.

    I meant to make fun of myself. My bad.

  24. phoammhead Says:

    i like it that phish reworks, rethinks it, tries new shIT! 🙂

  25. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    there’s one fucking hilarious part in that asihtos video of me near the end

Leave a Reply