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. Selector J Says:

    For all the reggae fans, WRA! is on.
    Listen here:

  2. Beantownboy Says:

    Morning BB,

    I love how Golden Age is getting all the love.

    It just seems right on so many levels from the sick jamming in that song to the fact that we’re experiencing the Golden Age of Phish right now. Maturity and sobriety are a powerful combination.

    According to Webster’s:

    gold·en ageNoun
    1. An idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness.
    2. The period when a specified art, skill, or activity is at its peak.

    So true!

  3. Beantownboy Says:

    And to state the obvious, thanks Miner for another stellar write up.

  4. jdub Says:

    I love the enthusiasm from Miner! Why I got hooked on his blog to begin with. Everything about WG was just about perfect. Still blown away by the sound system and music that came out of it. Never miss a Phish festival, no one does it better as the band and its’ crew proved once again.

    Also, has Phish ever played this much music over 3 days? 13.25 hrs is a ridiculous amount music when you think about it. Cypress obviously holds the 2 day record. And there were a bunch of tunes at the top of my list to see that got played. A dream like weekend.

  5. albert walker Says:

    just saw a local band called afrozep is opening for tinariwen tonight in chicago

    AfroZep is a collective of Chicago musicians that assemble a few times a year to tour- performing a set of all Led Zeppelin tunes but re-done in the style of Afrobeat and Afropop.

    funny shit

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    Good morning, everyone

    Hope you all are having a great week

    I’ve been having a blast listening through the ball

    Can’t wait for August to get here so we can do it all again. What a great time for Phish

  7. Dorn76 Says:

    Breaking down The Ball is one of those projects that just seems so big and so complicated youre not sure where the Hell to begin!

    This feels like the beginning of s new era for the boys. I guess we won’t know for sure until leg 2, but it seems impossible that this new sound won’t carry over. It was just too big, too central to their playing over the weekend to be anything but a “musical evolution”.

    Looking forward to taking some bites of the Ball with Miner.

  8. Mike in Austin Says:

    Sel J – It seems I’m only getting KVRX out of one channel. Hmmm….

  9. InAMinute Says:

    @littering. When mike started that tease During camel walk I was sure they were bringing the feat. Heard that for sure. I loved that set, plus the stash on Saturday was outstandingly fluid.

  10. SillyWilly Says:

    What do you mean, AW?

    You don’t think Led Zep is roots african music!? especially played by white suburban kids from chicago

    Haha. I bet Tinariwen didn’t get to pick their opener

    Have fun at that show, AW, at least you know you can show up late

    I love Tinariwen.

  11. Dr. Pronoia Says:

    If Miner is right, and the boys debuted a new minimalist, amorphously abstract jamming style for 3.0 this past weekend, my immediate reaction is that that is going to get some getting used to for me. That’s not normally the type of music I viscerally respond to, and thus like.

    BUT – then I think that as a counterpoint to the multi-layered, super tight and dense, plinko style of syncopated dance groove jams, the two make for a one-two punch of immense power.

    that contrast, between the plinko and the abstract, if it ends up being the jam style of the 2nd leg, makes me very excited indeed for everyone hitting shows the rest of this summer

  12. Selector J Says:

    @MiA Still doing it? If not, might have been the record player. It’s been known to happen before.

  13. Selector J Says:

    ^ thanks for the head’s up, @MiA.

  14. Mike in Austin Says:

    Sel J – yes it is.

  15. punkmug Says:

    Another great write up Miner. Thanks.

    This Golden Age has been getting a lot of spins here in punkmug land. It’s really nice to hear Trey get better at the vocal delivery. This seems to be the most confidently it has been done since they started playing GA. It still amazes me that they took this song on but damn if it’s not really shaping up nice. Love this stuff.

  16. Mike in Austin Says:

    If you’ve never heard Dread Zeppelin, they are a funny show. Their Nobody’s Fault but Mine is quite great. As is their Song Remains the Same.

  17. alf Says:

    shit, selector, what was that last track? missed it

  18. Mike in Austin Says:

    Zeppelin played to a pseudo reggae beat, with an Elvis impersonator as the lead singer.

  19. Mdawg Says:

    Check out my Superballix Slideshow! enJOY…


  20. Selector J Says:


    @alf, I think you meant this one,

    wailing souls – jah jah give us life to live (don’t feel know way)

    on two different reissues:
    Wailing Souls: Greensleeves Most Wanted
    Wailing Souls At Channel One: 7s, 12s, and versions (Pressure Sounds)

  21. albert walker Says:

    I’m not a big zep guy at all but I’ve actually heard this afrozep band is pretty hot

    My bro was saying they played a Fela Kuti Zombie – No Quarter mash up that was sick and they are mostly instrumental

    Maybe show up for the tail end of the set

  22. albert walker Says:

    def seen dread zep back in the day MIA. funny shit.

  23. alf Says:

    thanks 😮

  24. albert walker Says:

    but I agree SW

    sounds pretty sketchy to me

  25. jdub Says:

    The psyche scapes are truly moments to behold. At times abstract and perfectly choatic and other times reaching meditative states. Simple and ASIHTOS both reached a mesmerizing plane that obliterated the lines between hearing and feeling music. As if they were striving to open and calm the audience with an amplified Om.

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