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)


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.



Mike - The Storage Jam (Graham Lucas)

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641 Responses to “The Storage Jam”

  1. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I would like to suggest that on behalf ogf the other folks who did not make it to Super Ball, a moratorium on speaking of the goings-on there.

    Por favor.

    For the love of pete and his friend re-pete.


    No it’s cool i like the in country intel you cat provide, just a wicked bit jealous, stupid foot surgery.

  2. alf Says:

    great timing for this writeup miner as i just spun it for the first time last night

    definitely not the same without the constant panning and bouncing sound; as one example, treys vocals in sleeping monkey are more even and balanced on the sbd than they were from where i was standing (where he was a lot quieter but also fluctuating in volume up & down)

    but what a piece of music. damn.

    def a case of be careful what you wish for kidz, because you might not be able to handle what these old dudes kick down

  3. SillyWilly Says:

    Question for our BB Sages:

    Would I be better off listening to AUDs in an attempt to re-create the surround sound of Ball Square?

    Any one got a favorite source??

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    “Could get real weird on the west coast.”

    can’t. freakin. wait.

  5. ThePigSong Says:

    Rotation jamming explains a lot of questions I had at the time.

    Think I even wondered out loud a few times who was playing what. Most notable for me was the lack of Trey licks/tone.

  6. ThePigSong Says:

    MisterChristian Says:
    July 13th, 2011 at 6:03 am
    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.

    lol – I dunno man, I didn’t see anybody up there.

  7. alf Says:

    wondering the same thing silly

    i believe gp420 is planning on reviewing storage set auds on his blog, so i’m waiting for him

    someone posted an mp3 aud yesterday that included a half hour before the set started

  8. plord Says:

    @lw the Miami ’89 Dark Star is quite famous for having insane surround FX. Bralove on the midi and Healy in the booth were adding a serious layer of mindfuckery to the experience. On tape it’s a sick dissonant jam but apparently we’re only getting a tiny glimpse of the weirdness that hit that crowd.

    C can say more, he was there 🙂

  9. SillyWilly Says:

    I thought over time I’d feel like less of a sucker for missing SBIX…


  10. Cable Hogue Says:

    @lw- Miami Dark Star = 10/26/89. An appropriate analogy. Definitely some of the weirdest, most abstract latter-day GD. MIDI madness. Dick Latvala claimed it to be his favorite DS ever, maybe he was just being provocative though. It is extreme. Must hear.

  11. SillyWilly Says:

    word, alf

    i’m not really in a position to get too picky right now as I won’t be able to listen on a good system til I’m back in Madison next month

    so I should be patient.

  12. Nagarjuna Says:

    Love the storage set and great write up miner. I just wish phish played with such an experimental approach more than 1% of the time. Not complaining, just dreaming.

  13. Cable Hogue Says:

    89-90 a lot of crazy panning and whirlwind effects popped up in all kinds of places at GD shows.

    Actually one of the most psychedelic things I ever heard at a Dead show was Victim or the Crime(!) at Copps Coliseum 1990. Like being thrown into a washing machine of sound for about 30 seconds…doesn’t hold up on tape at all.

  14. nagarjuna Says:

    Cable – was at the copps 90 run too. warped victim indeed. that tune actually contained a lot of the most interestingly twisted playing of that era. but i don’t even try to try to revisit recordings – doubt it holds up as you say.

  15. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Manhattanhenge, bitches!

  16. Mdawg Says:

    The storage jam is making me feel the feeling I (almost) forgot.

  17. BingosBrother Says:

    OL single day tix on sale this am.

    Storage Jam AUD w/ 27 minutes leading up to it.

  18. lastwaltzer Says:

    Well I guess I know what I’m downloading when I get home!

    Was listening to the hartford 83 dicks picks last night, great Drumz>Space>St. Stephen

    One of the best “drums” i’ve heard.

  19. kenny powers Says:

    yeah, i’d wait for gp420’s recommendations, but i would say the only way to truly recreate it would be if the tapers were positions exactly in the middle of the circle of speakers. i wasn’t there and have no idea. but if they were positioned close to one set of speakers and far from others, there could be some instruments and effects that are quite loud and others very quiet.

    still making my way through chronologically, still on set II of day 2. wish i had more listening time and wasn’t so distracted at home! i’m a TV/movie junkie.

  20. Mdawg Says:

    I remember watching the boys leave the storage building on a golf cart while there was still sound coming out of the speakers. They let the Sleeping Monkey sound carry as they dipped! Classic secret set!

  21. bhizzle Says:

    the only other person i saw around the storage shed was the uncle sam(?) on stilts messing with the escalator.

  22. SillyWilly Says:


    thanks for the insights.

    I don’t have any furniture in my bedroom for the summer except for my airmattress, so when I get situated and start listening to music I usually fall asleep before I get very far.

  23. Kaveh Says:

    Manhattanhenge = cool. If I was in NYC, I would check this out.

  24. DukeOfLizards Says:

    IIRC most of the tapers were gathered on one side of the building or the other, when true “center” was probably at the corner.

    Here’s a thought: would it be possible to mix multiple AUD sources taken from multiple locations into a surround sound format?

  25. SillyWilly Says:

    i feel like if anyone can construct an almost-authentic-storage-jam-AUD it would be our very own…

    Kenneth BIG SOUNDZ Powers.

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