The Fizzle Factor

Atlantic City 2012 (Shelly Siegal)

The only any real criticism that bubbled from the fan base over Leg One was how second sets sometimes fizzled out. Sometimes front-loading sets with the heaviest improv of the night, only to coast to the finish line with a series of out-of-place singles, Trey fell prey to this phenomenon a handful of times this summer. This is quite an odd occurrence for a bandleader who would, self-admittedly, pore over setlists for much of his career, ensuring Phish shows flowed quite well. These days, that is not necessarily guaranteed. But, let’s not overstate things. Only five shows out of 20 second sets of tour fizzled out significantly. That means that 15 finished strong, or at least with a sense of completeness. All in all, I think this issue will right itself naturally, especially looking at the percentages, but it is something worth inspecting.

6.20.12 (M. Stein)

The sets I am referencing in this discussion are AC3 (6/17), nTelos1 (6/19), Deer Creek2 (6/29), Alpine2 (7/1), Jones Beach2 (7/4), and SPAC2 (7/7). In each case except nTelos—a set that never got going—Phish played a legitimate improvisational passage to start the second half. Interestingly, however, only one of those sequences—Alpine’s “Light > Ghost”—sits among tour highlights. Does the fizzle factor come into play when the band isn’t feeling musically hooked up? The general pattern of sets that fizzled might suggest this. Let’s look a little closer.

The third night of Atlantic City kicked off with “Drowned > 2001 > Reba,” a high quality, but mostly contained, run of jams. The first night of Portsmouth was a song-based second set, with only a “Split” jam to speak of, thus its hard to say this set fizzled as there was no place to fizzle from. Phish front-loaded Deer Creek’s second night with an extensive, though unspectacular chunk of jamming in “Disease > Sand.” While this sequence wasn’t bad by any means, it didn’t pop with anything original—fun while there, but without much playback value. After “Sand,” the band quickly moved from song to song but for a brief, though interesting, “Bathtub Gin.” Alpine’s all-star set, fizzled to near-boredom with a run of “46 Days,” “Heavy Things,” “Joy,” “Julius” over the final thirty minutes. The band’s July 4th performance started with a promising sequence of “Boogie,” “Tweezer > Twist,” only to transform Singlestown USA, less “Harry Hood” for nearly an hour. SPAC’s second show started promisingly with a strong “Disease -> Blister in the Sun -> Disease,” but morphed into a novelty show of “Blister” teases in a run of standard songs.

7.8.12 (R.MacNeil)

Interestingly, sets that fizzled—as a whole—produced few pieces of timeless music. Out of the five sets above, we are left with “Light > Ghost” in the upper echelon, Jones Beach’s “Tweezer > Twist” on the second tier, “Disease > Sand” on the third tier, and contained highlights of “2001 > Reba” and “Harry Hood.” In five second sets of 2012 Phish music, that’s not that much. Perhaps this is a coincidence, or perhaps Trey has a propensity to call for singles when jamming isn’t necessarily clicking as usual? In the end, we’ll never know, but—at times—it seems a tad of forethought might go a long way in closing a show with authority.

It often feels that Phish has gone away from show-stopping set closers. Aside from the over-used “Antelope” and the occasional “David Bowie” or “Slave,” sets were prone to end with “Zero,” “Julius” or another innocuous single. Though not a huge deal in the scheme of a summer filled with riches, second set closers are the final taste of real Phish for the night, often determining the immediate post-show vibe. Encores, though occasionally significant, are as much for reorientation as anything else. The biggest change in this department has resulted from the band moving away “You Enjoy Myself” to close sets without a new replacement emerging. Though dubious, perhaps one will rise in the coming weeks, or perhaps the band will just keep playing “Antelope.” But if this is the only flaw to write about—effecting one in four shows—we’re doing pretty damn well!


Jam of the Day: 

Carini > Sand” 7.6 II, SPAC

The heavy-hitting pairing came at the front of the second set on SPAC’s first night.

[audio:,] Tags: , ,

253 Responses to “The Fizzle Factor”

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  1. tela'smuff Says:

    benefit of working late is that i get to be the first to say, good points, and, i still completely disagree about the Disease>Sand. Maybe the Disease isn’t the bees knees (although it was the 2nd or 3rd longest non-composed jam of leg 1, so that counts for something in my book), but what’s wrong with that Sand exactly? I mean, it’s just a kick as Sand like every other version was Leg 1. Anyway, starting a second set off with 30mins of fiery, and danceable jamming cannot be third or fourth tier. i think this is the only leg 1 point i disagree with you on.

  2. tela'smuff Says:

    ^kick ass

    and you made me break my Phish which has now been almost two weeks just so i can make sure, for the 5th time, i’m not missing something on this Disease>Sand.

    at 9:40 in this Disease Trey starts playing with the EXACT same idea he would later use in the SPAC Ghost. at 10:20 he finally hits it. pretty much exact same theme that people love about the SPAC Ghost. this is a groove rock jam that was a fun to get lost to, and it still holds up well. you need to listen to this a bit closer. if the SPAC Ghost gets love, then this Disease does as well.

  3. Tweezer Says:

    Great article Mr. Miner. I will disagree with you about 6/17. While the set was front-loaded with better jamming, I wouldn’t exactly say it fizzled. The Disease was nice, not top shelf, but nice, had energy, and they took a risk we haven’t seen since maybe 1.0 or 2.0, ending a set with Disease.

    I would also point to 12/29,30,31 of last year’s NYE run as second set fizzlers. Whenever Trey goes to Julius or Golgi mid second set, it’s usually a sign that the set will fall apart.

    I love this band to death. I’ve seen 186 shows, but the only purpose I see in a Loving Cup encore, is getting a jump on getting out of the parking lot before everyone else. It’s time to retire Loving Cup and replace it with something else.

  4. Luther T. Justice Says:

    I’ve played the DC Disease>Sand for some Phish haters & they love it. Also, gave a ride to a meth tweeker last night (don’t ask) & the Cincy Twist was the only thing that shut him up. That’s saying something.

  5. MiA Says:

    Cincy Twist is the meth Tweeker pacifier.

    I read that about Disease, and instantly thought of Tela’s.

    I’ll respin on the way to work. I really like the Cincy Disease too though.

    Give ’em the Pepsi Challenge.

  6. PigSong Says:

    Realized last night I haven’t seen the band since SBIX, incredibly excited for Lakewood. I think the length of my hiatus is good for expectations, mine are pretty low in the improv sector and high in have a great fucking time sector. I’m just totally stoked to see my favorite band play some great music.

  7. ballzdeep Says:

    Anyone else catch the tweeprise during the Mike Phelps video montage last night?

  8. DryIceFactory Says:

    happy 14th birthday Alpine Tweezer, whose got the stream link?

  9. DryIceFactory Says:


    Yup, people at NBC like Phish. First Tube during 2010 Winter Games.

  10. PigSong Says:

    Rooster, this beer has been getting love lately – not sure where you are in relation to Osaka though.

  11. Kaveh Says:

    Morning BBers! (Back from Vermont)

    Happy 70th Birthday Jerry!

  12. PigSong Says:

    I can’t believe I watched the Olympics all night but missed Tweezer.

  13. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Happy Jerry week!

  14. Phlorida Phan Says:

    the phelps montage video is up on, but with different backing music. Must have to pay more for that. Was super excited to find and equally disappointed to not here tweeprise

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    tweeprise video:

  16. kayatosh Says:

    kush sacrament for jerry week

  17. sumodie Says:

    We saw Wilco at MassMOCA in North Adams, MA last night

    a special benefit show for 1000 fans with 100% of the tix revenue going to the museum

    The band remains a tight rock & roll outfit that continually keeps it fresh on stage. Tweedy is damned lucky to have a guitarist like Nels Cline, who unleashes some raucous guitar work to offset Tweedy’s melodic songwriting

    Terrific two hour show, with a respectfully quiet crowd (that doesn’t move much)

    I’ve been waiting 3 years to see Wilco at MassMOCA, so glad I waited to see them play there outside of Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival, which will return in 2013

    And MassMOCA is always a treat on its own – a modern art museum housed in a gigantic historic factory complex. Ogling the building architecture is as much fun as checking out the frequently weird & wacky art, most of which is temporary loan. Thus there’s always something new to see every 6-8 months or so. Highly recommended place to visit when in the Berkshires:

  18. Guyute711 Says:

    I like the article about how no one cares about Canada.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    good morning, kids

    would be cool if they lost track of time jamming at the end of a set

    a sort of “oh shit! we’ve gone too long” thing would be perfect I think

    hope everyone is having a great week

  20. sumodie Says:

    Switching gears and seeing Amadou & Mariam at the Paradise in Boston tonight. They’re a blind married couple from Mali who first blew me away at the Roo’09.

    A&M’s latest album, Folila, is more rootsy compared to their electronica-infused previous albums but still great. Was played in its entirety at Bader Field, pre show I think

  21. Luther T. Justice Says:

    Canada did bring us the Degrassi series.

  22. sumodie Says:

    Guyute, that new Canadian art exhibit was great fun, a good variety of trippy, funny, bizarre, and yes, crap art. A fair amount of video installation art too, which I’m not usually a fan of

    MassMOCA is def a museum for those who like rainbows coming out of their head

  23. Bwana Says:

    another Phelps link:

  24. Guyute711 Says:

    I think the only art museum I have ever been in was Warhol’s in Pittsburgh. I have never seen so much urine on canvas in my life.

  25. Leo Weaver Says:

    Morning guys. And Happy Birthday Jerry!

    Thanks for the thoughts on Pretty Lights. Spun some yesterday afternoon. Like several of you mentioned, it sounds like something better for background music than a show I want to go to. But interesting for sure.

    Phish thought for the day? I think it’s in SPAC Sally…red hits the WCU Boogie On lick just after the vox jam as they get into the bizness. And the DC Waves has some lines pulled right outta Gorge RnR. These thoughts have probably been noted already, but I’m behind in everything right now.

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