The Storage Jam

The Storage Jam (Brian Ferguson)

Phish’s late-night all-improv sets have become a hallmark of the festival experience. Dating back to the Clifford Ball’s Flat Bed jam and The Great Went’s “Disco” set these “surprise” affairs soon developed into much more significant musical ventures. Historically highlighted by Lemonwheel’s Ring of Fire “ambient” set and IT’s demonic Tower Jam, Phish and their fan base have basked in these middle-of-the-night affairs that cater to the psychonaut in all of us. But this year at Super Ball, the band outdid themselves with “The Storage Jam”— a focused hour-long excursion into cutting edge psychedelia. And what made it even cooler—and a hell of a lot Phishier—was the fact that the guys were rotating instruments throughout the jam. But the music that resulted was unlike anything we’d ever heard from the band.

The Storage Jam (G.Lucas)

Part and parcel of this progressive musical experiment was the sound setup in Ball Square. Instead of hearing this monumental mind-meld in regular stereo, the band arranged a surround sound system through which different sounds and instruments came from different speakers. This unconventional setup enhanced the disorienting and psychedelic effect of the already abstract music. Shrouded in mystery while playing behind opaque glass inside an art installation, the band was only visible as distorted silhouettes. The lack of visual cues as to what was actually going on made the experience that much more unknown and completely focused on the music. One was—literally—immersed in sound coming from every direction in, what has to be considered, the most technologically advanced and boundary-pushing performance ever put on by Phish.

Ball Square (G.Lucas)

From note one of this abstract escapade, the band was laser-locked on each others’ ideas, entering improvisational territory that the much of their fan base wouldn’t appreciate from the big stage. Despite some unmistakably Phishy moments, much of this sonic exploration of tones and textures would have been hard to peg as Phish at all. A large part of this unique sound was due to the fact that exploration was a Rotation Jam. Much, if not most, of the time, the guys were on alternate instruments, thus the bass patterns, drum beats, guitar licks and synth sounds didn’t carry the characteristics of their usual players. Instead, each band member was able to apply his ideas to a different instrument, thus pushing the others in completely new directions. Though the piece morphed in and out at times, like the waves of an ocean, the entire hour of exploration remained incredibly connected and cohesive with no lulls or lack of engaging interplay. The consistent rotations—whether known about at the time or not—maintained a sense of suspense and tension within the music where no one idea could take hold for very long. But as they moved instruments, the band picked up—most often—from the same point and then began to build away from it.

The use of electronic drums, heavy Theremin, and big, dirty effects on both the guitar and bass gave this piece a completely unique energy and flow. It wasn’t purely ambient, it wasn’t purely abstract, and it carried a hell of a lot more rhythmic quality than people gave it credit for at the time. In summation, Phish spun an unclassifiable tale of weird, dissonant, quasi-ambient, melodic, electro-dub stylings. Boasting avant-garde and focused improvisation throughout the jam, despite what instruments they were on, the band converged in the type of sonic sorcery that we rarely get to glimpse.

The Storage Jam (Graham Lucas)

The final segment of the jam featured both Trey and Fishman on e-drums, culminating the experiment with a foray into legitimately beat-backed textures. And as the band rotated instruments one more time, the beginnings of a demented “Sleeping Monkey” rung out of the surround sound system in Ball Square, bringing us all back to some semblance of reality. Concluding their plunge into the heart of the cosmos with this unequivocally Phishy maneuver, the band played a deranged version of their classic encore that was drenched in effects and then bled into an eerie three-minute final passage.

The Storage Jam (G.Lucas)

When the set ended, I found myself flabbergasted and standing alone in sheer disbelief of what had just gone down. Complete with lasers, smoke and Kuroda’s lighting, Phish had just thrown down one of the definitive psychedelic spectacles of their 20-plus year career. My mind drew comparisons to old-school Pink Floyd mixed with mid-‘70s Brian Eno mixed with late ’70 Miles Davis mixed with nouveau electronica, but that was just my brain trying to make sense of things. Upon listening back to the Storage Jam several times, this music has proven to be a completely unique monster all its own—incomparable to anything the band has ever done. We were privileged to have seen Phish improvisation in its purest form, without any songs to get in the way and with a bulls eye on the heart of psychedelic experimentation. And, lo and behold, despite all the great music that went down all day, the “secret” Storage Jam had stolen the show. It was a display of sheer artistry that will go down in the annals of Phish history, and like all nuanced masterpieces, it just keeps getting better with each listen.

In short—“Wow. That just happened.”

The Storage Jam (Brian Ferguson)

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Jam of the Day:

Reba > David Bowie” 7.3.11 I

This old-school combination, containing exquisite renditions of both songs, punctuated Sunday’s first set of Super Ball.

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Mike - The Storage Jam (Graham Lucas)

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641 Responses to “The Storage Jam”

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  1. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    what a night it was

  2. Brent Says:

    I left after the show, then saw their buses leave a little while later. Did anyone see them emerge from the shed? Seems like it was still pretty crowded over their when they pulled out. Perhaps they played from back of the main stage or over on the grand stands (saw a bunch of gear by the stands earlier in the day). Perhaps it was actors in the shed. Doesn’t seem like a Phish thing to use actors, but Storage Jam didn’t sount like a Phish thing most of the time.

    In any event, it was an awesome time.

  3. ThePigSong Says:

    Now I’m anxious for another spin!

  4. ThePigSong Says:

    Do you get the same type of effect with a home system? 5.1?

  5. willowed Says:

    Shake and bake!

  6. Eriic Says:

    This needs to be released in 5.1

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    Another stinger. Would have been nice to have caught that in context. If that last sentence is a “state And main” quote…props.

  8. albert walker Says:

    Favorite piece of phish I’ve ever caught

    The unique energy created by this set in the live setting is one of the most psychedelic experiences of my life

    The roaming crowds with moving sounds from the surround system and silhouetted band cannot be put into words. Pure original live performance

    All the phishies bitch for type 2 and phish through out a big be careful what you wish for

    What a night. Never miss festival phish. Fact.

  9. jdub Says:

    Nice breakdown Miner!

    Phish got way outside the box while playing in the box.

    I was surprised with how cohesive it was after a couple respins. In the moment it sounded quite a bit more abstract and meandering. Also, it seemed like the storage jam crept its way into day 3, most noticeably in ASIHTOS. Could get real weird on the west coast.

  10. jdub Says:

    That whole scene in ball square (before, during, and after set 4) felt like what an acid test must have been like. And I was very thankful to be lucky enough to experience it. We all know how rare those moments are. But, like AW said, never miss a Phish festival.

  11. Ziggymon Says:

    WOW! Great job Miner putting words to something that is almost indescribable. Can’t wait to experience this in 5.1 when the DVD comes out

  12. Dogmattagram Says:

    I saw somewhere that they had a sound engineer working each speaker. So, was the sound being manipulated from speaker to speaker as it was going on? If so, I’m not sure if that carry over the recording (aside from someone actually reproducing those manipulations on the recording itself). Anyone that was there that could give us more of a description of how the surround was used at the show? I listened to it on my surround sound (Loud!) yesterday and, although it sounded great, it did not seem to have any special mix to it.

  13. btb Says:

    Great write up Miner

    Curious as to where the ‘rotation jam’ info came from? From my position about 40 feet from this thing I saw Page, Trey, Mike, Jon from left to right the entire time.

    Maybe I missed something. Great stuff. Everyone was motionless.

  14. Dogmattagram Says:

    Speaking of DVD, did they have a film crew on it?

  15. Mike in Austin Says:

    Great to hear people having emotional connections to this. Mine’rs write-up is a compelling reason to listen to this again.

  16. btb Says:

    Dogmatt – I was standing next to one of the video guys the entire time. They definitely recorded it 🙂

  17. albert walker Says:

    they were def rotating btb

    I could see the shadows changing during the set

    you can hear it too. trey def gets on the drum kit. trey and fish are both on electronic drums at time. almost positive someone is on guitar I assume is maybe Mike

    they def stay at home and you hear phishy moments you can tell is them on their OG instruments but def a bunch of rotating.

    I agree there is a live mix going on that cant be replicated in 5.1 or any other surround system. the constant panning and psychedelic mix I imagine will only ever be known by the people that heard it live

    one of the reasons it is so amazing. a truly live experience in a world of FLACs and streams

  18. btb Says:

    cool, guess they were! Fooled me.

  19. InAMinute Says:

    Supposedly the top was open and folks/friends/family were standing at the top of the grandstands looking down in. If true would love together that video and see what the wizard was really doing behind the curtain. Miles Davis live evil came to mind a bunch. Really original event all around.

  20. plord Says:

    So from a “you had to be there for the full experience” perspective, I guess this is the Phish version of the Miami Dark Star, then.

    Spun it a dozen times so far, starting it up again now 🙂

  21. lastwaltzer Says:

    @plord

    Miami dark star?

  22. lastwaltzer Says:

    oh and it’d be bad ass if they were filming inside the box.

  23. btb Says:

    There were definitely other people inside the Storage building – a few heads popped out on a few occasions.

    Most noticeably, about 10-15 minutes into the Jam on the front side of the building. Some lady did a major peek-a-boo and was checking out the crowd for about 20 seconds in full sight.

  24. MisterChristian Says:

    Anyone know who the guy was on top of the storage unit? can’t remember exactly but he had funky glasses or a hat on. He kept popping up from the roof and egging the crowd on, then he’d disappear. Pretty sure he was real.

  25. MisterChristian Says:

    Oh, was it a lady? It may have been demonkind.

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