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. Mr. Palmer Says:

    mitch- you got an invite on your fbook

  2. Mdawg Says:

    bb turntable!!! as if i needed more new music to listen to!

  3. joe Says:

  4. joe Says:

    I still think the 36-42 minute part sounds DJ Shadow’sh

  5. William H. Bonney Says:

    Any hotel rec’s for the UIC shows?

  6. Skyballs Saxscraper Says:

    Excuse the rambling jumble of thoughts from this demi-lurker…

    For me, at least, it took until the next day after both the bane and exhaustion wore off to really figure out what I witnessed in Ball Square. All the while, during the jam me and my bro were right smack dab in the middle, almost perfectly triangulated between the shed, the giant ball, and the speakers. All I could do was just take it all in. Making sure my eyes and ears were getting all this, because this shit just got unreal.

    By the time Sleeping Monkey rolled around, it only felt like a half hour had passed. Once they “explained” the jam the following day, in retrospect, it felt like we were in the shed with them. The four different threads of sound were bouncing off the corners of the shed, multiplying in magnitude each time.

    Not all of it really “worked” for me, but it was clear this was a journey deep into uncharted territory right from the start, and the ideas that did work for me sent my brain into orbit. Overall, for a band that has covered so much ground musically over the past couple decades, the fact they could pull off something like this shouldn’t surprise me, but it did anyway. I felt blindsided, and it felt great. Sunday, I felt anything was possible. The moon could crack open and spill out tootsie rolls, and I would have just shrugged and smiled.

    On our way out, I heard someone mutter something about how they only played one song.

    Songs? Where we’re going, we don’t need songs…

  7. willowed Says:

    songs…ha ha

    The storage jam was the Phish reaching into space and transforming IT into sound.

  8. willowed Says:

    If I fell into a black hole, the storage jam is the sound that I would hear

    all the different levles I would pass thru (while falling theu the hole) would reflect moments of sound during the storage jam

  9. joe Says:

    I just can’t imagine walking out of there wishing that they played ( insert your favorite song that you hadn’t heard the previous 2 days yet here).

    I can understand missing it altogether because you were spent from a days worth of phish and not having the mental energy to handle an hour of weirdness/audio assault.

  10. gavinsdad Says:

    everyone at this point should understand the multi faceted diamond that is phish. gotta hit shows cause you simply never know.

  11. gavinsdad Says:

    shit man that was the whole draw in the first place and i knew that as a 19 year old. you gotta chase the goods.

  12. ThePigSong Says:

    I gotta say, I tried out a bunch of spots during the storage jam; everywhere I went folks were totally digging it. Can’t remember hearing a single gripe the whole set.

    Having to fight the crowd leaving the venue while we were running into the already started music though? Unforgivable.

  13. sumodie Says:

    I think it workerd so well at the Ball because Phish dropped mad jams during the day and night while making you move your ass for 4+hours and the heads needed a mind fuck to cool down

    exactly! secret set was challenging, disorienting & astounding all at the same time. initially i tried to figure out the sound setup, who was playing what, how were they making those sounds

    but finally i gave up & just flowed with the whole experience -peak phish thru n thru

    after letting the boys recharge my psychedelic spirit, i then discovered a sweet lil party & danced till 4:30am

    still think the tower jam was more brilliant though (& i was sober at IT)

    both sbix & it secret sets offer different facets of genius phish -im ready for more!

  14. ThePigSong Says:

    Ball square was as close to the twilight zone I will ever experience. A few thousand zoned out kids, all experiencing the set in their own unique way.

  15. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Sumo- what do have on tap for Leg 2. Or better yet, what isn’t on tap. 🙂

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Had to step away from the turntable room. I feel like i’m neglecting you guys…..

    Gdad- you should check it. You have tons of weird shit you listen to, Give us an education over there.

  17. Mike in Austin Says:

    Now I have an audio track to my BB reading.

    I love the future.

  18. gavinsdad Says:

    been lurkin.

  19. PBS Says:

    Those who haven’t yet purchased Gorge tix, I have two extras that I’d like to get face for…buddy bailed on me. If interested, email me at pauls at safetec dot net. Thanks!

  20. PBS Says:

    ^ err, one extra for each day, that is.

  21. poop goblin Says:

    10.5 grams sour diesel
    2 grams blonde Moroccan

    1/2 recipe of chocolate cookies. these things are tasty.

  22. poop goblin Says:

    Scratch produced Junior Murvin – Rasta Get Ready

    love that shit. such a killer curtis jam

  23. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    sounds like you’re gonna be loving james blake friday night

  24. SillyWilly Says:


    trying to start a fake facebook account for this turntable thing and it’s wayyyyy harder than 6 years ago when I originally joined up

  25. sumodie Says:

    palmer, im gonna phreak graham out at the gorge, where we’ll hang w/ my old phish crew ( the 3 hot mamas!, one being my ex-) & my 2 buds from telluride, dave & jim

    then colorado w/ just my telly buds (unless g has a religious phish melt at the gorge -maybe he’ll finally discover his freak flag…)

    finally bought seattle air tix, but not CO just yet

    y’all can have uic, bitches 😉

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