Ballin’ From All Angles

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

As Phish slayed everything in their path during Super Ball weekend, one of the most encouraging qualities to their playing was the diversity of musical directions that their jams encompassed. Proving to be masters of many domains, the band annihilated a variety of musical textures with abandon, illustrating their teeming creativity of the moment. Regardless of what musical style Phish navigated, the common denominator was overwhelming success. The band never got lost amidst their jams and always carried a strong sense of cohesion and intent behind their interplay. Bursting with creativity and confidence like never before in this era, Phish took a huge step forward with their playing at Super Ball. Drenched in diverse jamming, Phish’s ninth festival showcased the band’s  full spectrum of improvisational territory over the course of three days.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

One of Phish’s styles highlighted at Super Ball (and touched on yesterday) was the abstract psych-scapes that began to appear during leg one. These explorations blurred the line between hearing and feeling music, as they often contained surreal harmonies and possessed a hypnotic effect on the listener. Magnified during the masterful, hour-long “Storage Jam,” this style was also featured with overwhelming success in “Crosseyed,” “Simple,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” and “Waves.” In each case, this direction added depth to the show and brought listeners further into the musical unknown while displaying the band’s most recent proclivity.

A second form of psychedelic interplay came in the band’s more intricate and exploratory jamming showcased in “Golden Age” and “Light” and “Disease.” While each of these jams featured variant textures, they shared the commonality of pushing musical boundaries. Coupled with the band’s ambient explorations, these diverse creations graced the festival with genuine unpredictability and adventure. “Golden Age,” perhaps the most innovative jam of the weekend, migrated from rhythm grooves to an alternate plane where Trey and Page collaborated up top in “plinko” fashion while Mike steered the jam from underneath using eclectic bass-lines with punctuated and purposeful notes—all held together by Fishman’s inhuman beats. Along the lines of some experiments from June (such as Merriweather’s “Rock and Roll”) this time, Phish completely nailed the complex puzzle with accuracy and precision bringing the piece to unfathomable depths of percussive interplay.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

A similar dynamic emerged in the later stages of “Down With Disease,” as Mike commanded the direction of the jam while Trey picked staccato notes and Page responded to him with short clav patterns. Fishman even followed Trey and Page in this jam, leaving Mike as the sole commander of the low end as he providing a dark and abstract feel to the music. “Light” provided another plunge into psychedelic waters with its most significant version of the summer. As Trey left his guitar solo behind, the band settled into a more collective plane in which musical ideas were passed around like hot potatoes. All band members tuned into each others’ offerings and echoed, comped, or responded to each other with delicate interplay. As the band settled even further, Trey and Mike began to work off each other in a patient exchange, slowly bringing Page and Fish into a picking pattern that soon took a turn for the groovy. Each time the band dove into the void over the weekend, they came out with spectacular jams—an exhilarating aspect of Super Ball.

A Phish festival wouldn’t be a Phish festival if it didn’t contain larger-than-life dance grooves, and this past weekend had rhythms aplenty. The massive, open-air versions of “Sand” and “Tweezer” highlighted this crack-like facet of Phish’s game. While “Sand” magnified the band’s laid-back and swanky interplay under the festival’s blaring speaker towers, “Tweezer” merged Trey’s uncompressed, post-hiatus growl with Phish’s ‘97’s stop/start funk style in a mechanical and tar-thick highlight of the weekend. And as these patterns slowed with the colossal festival sound system, space opened up within the music for precise rhythmic exchanges—most often centered around Mike’s thumping bass lines. In addition to these two danceadelic monstrosities, the band also fired off passionate festival-sized groove sessions in “Moma Dance,” “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Destiny Unbound,” “Reba,” “Ghost > Jibboo.”

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (G.Lucas)

How about structured jamming? When Phish wasn’t experimenting or throwing down ferocious rhythms, they were juicing their songs for all they were worth. Infusing extra improvisational zest into pieces like “Wilson,” “Antelope,” “David Bowie,” Bathtub Gin,” “Party Time,” “Stash,” “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” “McGrupp,” and “Harry Hood,” most anything the band touched turned to gold at Watkins Glen. With communication honed over a month of playing in June, the band hit the central New York racetrack as a well-oiled machine, willing to let it loose and allow their instincts take over.

7.2.11 (G.Lucas)

Even spicing up their festival setlists with rarities, Phish offered something for every fan. “Peaches,” “Torn and Frayed,” “Life on Mars?” and a shredding “Quinn the Eskimo” came out on day one, while Mike’s “Suskind Hotel” and The Rolling Stone’s “Monkey Man” debuted on day two, a show that also included “McGrupp” and the return of the original “Scents and Subtle Sounds.” The festival finale gave way to the first “Colonel Forbin’s” narration of the modern era (a story about how the entire weekend was a projected reality) into “Famous Mockingbird,” “Destiny Unbound,” “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars,” “Time Loves a Hero,” and the second-ever “No Quarter;” quite the weekend of song selection to say the least!

Thinking back to 2009, when Phish’s jamming stagnated with a formula of high-powered rock and roll that morphed into percussive grooves, only to end with an ambient fade outs, it’s amazing how far the band has come in two years. In 2011—as proven with Super Ball’s musical smorgasbord—the real Phish is back and blazing a new path into the future. With creativity paramount again, the guys showed us why they are still the greatest band to roam the earth.

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Jam of the Day:

A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” 7.3.11 I

One of Super Ball’s most impressive excursions came in the welcome return of this elusive and menacing post-hiatus piece.

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425 Responses to “Ballin’ From All Angles”

  1. voopa Says:

    c0w- They’re doing the MGB arrangement of Mound…I like it.

  2. RamblinMind Says:

    I don’t think Trey messes up in that Mango Song. I think he says “fuck it” and goes backstage to take a leak in the middle of the song. He just disappears.

  3. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Mango Song needs to go on ‘hiatus’ for a bit.

  4. RamblinMind Says:

    The RnR>Mango from Mansfield was the easy highlight for me from that night, which is the only show I made it to this summer. I haven’t scrutinized it too much on playback (the Mango part at least) but I thought it worked then. Page killed it then and at the Superball. Maybe Trey needed to clear his head for a minute after It’s Ice

  5. jonacho Says:

    FlyFm –
    Camping at Dicks = camping on grass soccer fields in the eastern plains of Denver – no shade, no trees, lots of fun with the phamily.
    I imagine the Phish team will make it very friendly, but make sure to be prepared for scorching sun to drenching afternoon thunderstorms – you know, typical summer fare.

  6. FlyFM Says:

    Thanks jonacho. Still not sure whether to do the camping or not, but I’m definitely coming out there for the tour closer shows. Superball was amazing. Time to get back on the train…

  7. jonacho Says:

    Fly –
    Camping = full immersion.
    Hotels = traveling around a lot.
    Dicks is not in a very interesting part of Denver.

  8. FlyFM Says:

    jonacho –
    After full immersion at Superball, the post show hotel doesn’t sound that great. But getting sun baked out of the tent at 7 am doesn’t either. Tough call for me. Gonna check out the hotel scene. Whats your call?

  9. Esteban Says:

    @Fly 2 miles? Cab and a shower in the AM…

  10. litteringandd Says:

    forgot how good this light was, jeez

  11. voopa Says:

    Just saw/heard Bob Costas and Al Michaels* call 2 innings of the Giants/Mets…very cool! They’ve never called a game together before, and neither have done a baseball game in years, but they were top notch, with A++ production. Guess there is something good from this Comcast/NBC merger after all.

    *Hate his politics and general attitude, but he was spot on tonight.

  12. JP Says:

    does anyone know what file type the From The Archives files from 7.1 and 7.3 are? can’t seem to get anything to open them – thanks for any help

  13. Skyballs Saxscraper Says:

    You are now in Page’s House.

    You suddenly come aflame! Page’s house is on fire, because Page is on fire. All the time.

  14. Mr.Miner Says:

    by the end of summer, i’m staying in a hotel near the venue

  15. butter Says:

    Headed back to san fran on the red eye from maui

    Lookin forward to yuckin it up with y’all, and getting pumped for leg 2 :)

  16. BrandonKayda Says:

    Anyone up?

    Started One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey today.

  17. voopa Says:

    Excellent read BK! I got to play Randall (naturally) in a summarized version that was made for HS acting in one period. Don’t remember the pub, but it was fun nonetheless.

  18. BrandonKayda Says:

    That’s awesome @voopa

    I’m going to go read another chapter now.

    I wish I hadn’t seen the movie before I read it though..

  19. voopa Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BppOWoK2Fc

  20. B-Rad Says:

    So sad they didn’t bust out TTE and Dogs Stole Things. What ever happened to Jennifer Dances?

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    great writeup Miner. +1 for apt use of ‘swanky’

    flying back to civilization tomorrow. thank you Jeebus!

  22. Crosseyed Says:

    Thank mr miner. Agree 100%. Haven’t been this excited about phish and where they’re headed since big cypress! Looking forward to Dick’s!

  23. "Big Uun" U Know Says:

    Super Ball Completely blew mind!!!!! I cannot wait till Dick’s!!!! Also conflicted about wether to camp or do Hotey tour.

  24. bigflopmoptop Says:

    Just to note — In my years of listening to these guys, I believe that the last 2 minutes of Mound (guitar solo sorta?) may have been the best music I’ve ever heard them play. Just awesome.

  25. Kane Says:

    The laughing on 8:43 of ASIHTOS is pretty creepy – has a Pink Floyd vibe to it.

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