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:

    Yeah, when asked where I think people should travel I always say the South Island of NZ is my favorite place on earth.

    There’s more exotic, more relaxing and more cultural; but nothing more fulfilling.

  2. mitch Says:

    Floyd DVD FTW

    Mom says “finally something you two agree on” re: me and dad

    Gp, this DVD is money. Thx again

  3. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Providence 12/13/99 is also a ferocious Sand in that ’99 style. Personally, I dug the song back then and don’t recall ever felling ‘bored’ in a 20+ minute Sand jam- which was/is a pretty common complaint.

  4. mitch Says:

    Damn. Hate when I put the wrong email and have to retype it.

    Floyd DVD FTW.

    Mom says “finally something you two agree on” re: me and my dad

    Thanks again gp. Great DVD. Drummer has lightup drum sticks and drums all around him.

  5. halcyon Says:

    Pig Song

    Few friends of mine who are from NZ and live in the US and Canada say the same thing. They have recommended some spots in the North Island, but always come back in coversation telling me to go to the South Island.

    Rumor has it, that the Milford Trek might be disrupted due to a road or tunnels being cut through it. One of the worlds great trek’s will be forever altered if it happens.

  6. joe Says:

    I love their Primeminister, Brian.

  7. Hoedown Says:

    I have liked Sand from the start. Always been into groovier based jams. Its just amazing to see how much it has evolved and how quickly it can now change forms.

  8. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Although we (myself included) tend to disregard early summer 2009, the Sand from Camden 6/7 is a legit type II barnburner. But y’all already knew that.

  9. ThePigSong Says:

    ^that’s a bummer if true.

    I’m hoping to return next December-January for a few weeks. I know my folks will be there and probably my sister. Wife is on board but it’s getting harder and harder to pull away for an extended period of times. I only spent six days there the first time (hence the speeding?), so I can’t wait to explore much deeper.

    I’m out, later kiddos

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Started Custy Ball night II, set II. Things get swinging with this Birds.

  11. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Me too, H-down. Pretty much a different song now than it was in ’99. Loved it then and love it now. The debut from the Gorge 9/11/99 is a bonafide smoker also. Very slow pace and methodical build with a HUGE peak. Good times.

  12. guitarpicker420! Says:

    Glad to have helped mitch. If you really want to blow his (and your mind) I’ve got a sweet Van Morrison DVD from ’73 or ’74. Calledonia Soul Orchestra. Its tight as a drum.

  13. verno329 Says:

    @halcy i’ve been looking for an invite chris dot vernarsky at gmail if you don’t mind

  14. Esteban Says:

    From Funny or Die, here’s some good ole humor: 7 Unintentional Weather Boners

  15. halcyon Says:


    invite sent

  16. halcyon Says:


    forgot to mention that they are throttling the amount of invites, so you might need to try a few times before access is granted.

  17. Hoedown Says:

    I so wanted the AC Sand to be HUGE. It just seemed and sounded right. Although not tops of 3.0 it was pretty great in the moment. Wish we had another B’walk Hall run to look forward to this fall.

  18. verno329 Says:

    Thx halcy! Much appreciated

  19. sumodie Says:

    SBIX Sand is tight n focused, some excellent interplay within a short span. Srsly loved it live -felt like I was inside Mike’s and Trey’s guitars

    Portsmouth is possibly better but also takes longer to reach IT. I’ll take ’em both, along with several other versions from 3.0

  20. angryjoggerz Says:

    nice @ paychecdelic

  21. Snigglebeach Says:

    that funny our die stuff is classic.

    not sure what is stranger, that so many weather men could do the same thing,
    or that so many weather systems are shaped like a penis…

  22. voopa Says:

    halcy- hit me up, if you don’t mind re: google+

    vooopa at gmail

  23. themanatee Says:

    superball sand is sultry

  24. Esteban Says:

    @Snigglebeach One of the craziest post-show evenings I recall in recent years was after a TAB show in Charlotte last spring (’10)… We walked from the Fillmore back downtown, hitting up local bars and then finally settling in at the hotel… Ordered a few pies, took a few Jagerbombs and flipped on the tube, only to find HBO’s Funny or Die. Man, it was strange and out of control.


  25. voopa Says:

    vw- stop searching! New to my mediafire:
    Clutchy Hopkins Meets Lord Kenjamin – Music Is My Medicine (v0)

    Just click-a my name-a.

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