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:

    wanna hear something fucked up? yes? okay.

    New Zealand called my parents house last night looking for me. Yep. They want their $80 for a speeding ticket I got there in 2004. Probably the third time they’ve called over the last few years, for 80 kiwi bucks!

    I’d tell keep telling ’em to shove it but I think I’m going back over the holidays, so…

  2. phoammhead Says:

    ^lol, pig! ante up!

  3. Hoedown Says:

    SAND is way better now because Mike fucking destroys and leads the Jams. You could see he was bored with its repetitive nature back in 99-00.

  4. Lew Zealand Says:

    Time to pay the piper pig. On top of that you owe us for the long distance calls.

  5. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    @ramblin, long time no see. Hard for me to argue against ’99 Sands but I haven’t heard all the ’10’s yet. Was talking with bk, need a free jazz night soon. Maybe after the Watkins afterglow.

  6. William H. Bonney Says:

    @Snow email me, we can work out the details…. williambonney81 @ yahoo
    Tickets should be coming in week or so I guess.

  7. phoammhead Says:

    show to end day 1 was too awesome for words to describe

  8. albert walker Says:

    As a musician I find what page and Trey are doing in the ball sand to be some of the hottest playing of 3 0

    But Portsmouth is more creative and paychedelic

    Page crushes the Rhodes and grand at the ball
    Sick jazz licks from Trey
    Some of my fav page of the run
    Structure similar to other summer versions with smoking ass playing

  9. RamblinMind Says:

    Hey @Tzara’s, definitely. Everyone’s still digesting what happened in Watkins but it’s always good to mix it up. There will be a looong break once Leg 2 finishes up and the next show is NYE

    And yeah, I guess I agree with @Hoedown – I don’t know about Mike’s personal feelings, but it feels more alive to me and less like a TAB song than those 99 versions, even though they stretched them out more

  10. albert walker Says:


  11. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    @PigSong, too bad the US $ is sucking now, probably would have been cheaper to pay it in ’04. I keep wondering if I’m going to get one from France one of these days. Saw a camera flash a couple times last month.. They’re hella expensive there too.

  12. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Hey Pig,

    Were you speeding?

    It is like $67US

    best to have a clean slate when travelling abroad. I know people who were picked up at immigrations and escorted to the nearest greybar hotel unitl some long pending matters were settled.

    My dos pesos

  13. ThePigSong Says:

    “@ Pigsong, Red can leave the country. I have a awesome note from him from my winter vacation, which was outside the US of A.”

    oh. They do grant special waivers, I guess rock starts fall under this category.

  14. mitch Says:

    red can pay his way thru customs i think is how those “special waivers” work.

    can we play canada and still come back in the black? lets do it.

    cept you guys live 50 miles between each other so its hard to play a show up there.

  15. vegas wolfmans Says:

    AW and others- I added the Clutchy Hopkins I’ve got to my mediafire. Still looking for ‘Music Is My Medicine’ and will throw it on there when I find it in my jumbled cd cases. Fascinating Fingers and Clutch Of The Tiger are the two albums with Shawn Lee and are more abstract/ avant garde. Think my favorite is still the first ‘The Life OF Clutchy Hopkins’- infectious as a mothefucker. Enjoy!

  16. phoammhead Says:

    i liked suskind hotel . . . . that was dope.

  17. ThePigSong Says:

    haha, Lew Zealand FTW!

    I should have just paid up then, but I was too cheap and just figured I’d either pay it when I returned or they’d forget about it.

    Hell yes I was speeding, but don’t ask my how many clicks or kilos I was doing. It was in the middle of the night through the Southern Alps.

  18. Ryan Says:

    Okay, so here it is, I want to find another or the newer or something different than good ole Phish. The large part of me is one that wants to move on in life to the next adventure.

    But then I find myself running around barefoot in circles again because I found them and they somehow knocked my socks and shoes off.

    Well that is how I feel about this weekend musically………and I was there for it all.


  19. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Diving into my second respin of the Storage Jam. See you kids on the other side.

  20. halcyon Says:

    yo BB

    been playing around with Google+ today, so some of you who I have your email addresses may receive email notifications regarding being added to a circle. Sorry about that. If there are any concerns or questions, hit me up offline. If anyone is interested in an invite, let me know.

  21. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    So at least you got a cool story.

    Not like it was 5 over in a residetntial neighborhood.

    Southern Alps are bad ass .

    I landed a plane on the Tasman Glacier.

  22. ThePigSong Says:

    ^sick! skiing?

  23. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    no it was summer and we were just passing through scouting Mt Cook.

    I love the south island

  24. kayatosh Says:

    ramblin: i’m partial to 12.16 and 12.18.99 sand. can’t remember off hand which of those is the better of the two extendo 99 sands. the one where page is referred to by trey as bob mayonaise. it’s 12.18, i believe.

  25. ThePigSong Says:

    I hiked about six hours of the Franz Josef – wish I would have spent more time in the area.

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