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:

    As far as UIC housing…I’ll probably stay at my girl’s, but I can help in the housing hunt.

  2. DukeOfLizards Says:


    Just got that e-mail, but I’m actually out of the country right now.

    Haven’t been over there in a while. Thinking I might do Los Lobos this Sunday.

  3. kayatosh Says:

    aw: NEXT TRADE

    let it go. use herbs.

    got steamrolled last week on a short trade. had the good sense to pitch it on thurs. had i held it until today, loss would have been 3.5 times as big.

    i understand the frustration. $ being made left and right, but not by me.

    at least there’s phish and headies.

  4. mitch Says:

    4 nights sept 6-9

    sept 9 is my 5 year anniversary in the city now that i think of it. almost a full fledged new yorker.

  5. mitch Says:

    out of the country? do tell. you up in america’s hat?

  6. kayatosh Says:

    detoured through europe 97. ready to return to the supball tomorrow.

    palmer raises a good pt. re. “the Ball” nomenclature. never forget the cliff ball.

  7. snowbank Says:

    “I’m not gonna get spun and feel no pain an break em again.”

    I think I’ve heard that before:

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    7th is my anniversay, 8th is the wife’s b-day. Maybe the 9th.

    Funky Meters are playing the next week. Might have to get to that one.

  9. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Fuck no. Greece (it ain’t THAT bad) for family reasons. The jet lag is still going strong, thank God I pulled the whole SBIX before I left.

    I will almost certainly hit at least one of those UM shows as well.

  10. lastwaltzer Says:

    I may also have some crash space, I’ll keep ya posted

  11. mitch Says:

    family is from greece? i had you pegged as a Spaniard.

  12. DukeOfLizards Says:


    Caught the Funky Meters at the Bowl a few months ago. Great show. Perfect venue for an act that size.

  13. mitch Says:

    *prefers crash space to hotels*

  14. lastwaltzer Says:


    nobody said it wouldn’t cost anything 🙂

  15. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Hahahaha. Dad’s side is (and most of em still live here).

    Good eye on the dashing Mediterranean charm, though.

  16. mitch Says:

    *prefers to pitch in for nugs than hotels*

    waiting on the day i get to cash in on the humboldt and canada phish shows. kept my apartment an extra month to host robear and frankie.

    “dashing Mediterranean charm”


  17. albert walker Says:

    I’m a herb working wook in sheeps clothing though Kaya

    No work history either. Never paid taxes..I could never get another job in this industry

    If I hit a few 5 to 1 payout trades maybe these ivy league cats will give me a bigger shot

    Love markets and working with driven competitive,intelligent cats everyday

    Hard for a kid like me to suceed in their world

    The money ain’t it. I just want to win on their level

    Besides phish my total obsession

  18. phoammhead Says:

    and on day 2 bek liked set ii best. so, with me likin’ set 3 best we had the whole day covered up to the storage wars set . . . .

  19. kayatosh Says:

    aw: i can relate. hard game. can’t want it too much.
    “Hard for a kid like me to suceed in their world” — don’t believe it.

    duke: greece. wow! I’m a quarter greek. mom’s mom is 100%.

  20. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    *prefers crash space to hotels*

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    by the next canada shows i’ll have a big enough house to host all of you

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    i miss ja herb. 30 days today. Gave my neighbor a huge preroll today just for the hell of it. total bummer. Someone might as well enjoy it. Damn!

  23. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    also enjoy sleeping on floors

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    “by the next canada shows i’ll have a big enough house to host all of you”

    ^ that’ll be your retirement home?

  25. phoammhead Says:

    ^or never . . . just sayin’ . . . no harm intended.

Leave a Reply