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”

  1. MiA Says:

    Trey’s fingers are liquid gold back then. Amazing.

    This Mango, is like … wow.

    Reminds me I could go to a show, and just watch Trey play “non-jam” tracks like Mango or Maze and just be floored.

  2. MiA Says:

    Down with Disease shorter than It’s Ice. I like it.

    You can totally tell where there head is at.

  3. MiA Says:

    their head. My head. Etc.

  4. MiA Says:

    Damn. This Disease is type 1 glorious stuff right here. Love these licks.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    and he loves weed.

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    That Disease is great, Mia.. 7 minutes of guitar fury.

  7. Multibeast Says:

    Listened to that Mango for the first time today. Sounds so slick.

    Speaking of Its Ice, I love the swanky breakdown in the middle of the UIC 94 version. I had not heard that style of play within Its Ice before.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    funny, that was the first version of It’s Ice I knew well and always wondered where that section was when they didn’t do it

  9. kayatosh Says:

    new show for the kids round here: chuggington. has the happiest little theme song. audio goes w/ beer swilling.

  10. Jtran Says:

    UIC94 and Boise 99 I think my 2 fav. type 1 Disease jams

  11. Jtran Says:

    whoever pamped 3/24/90 on archive earlier today, thx

    This show is great. Been going top to bottom and never felt the need to switch it up. Feel like I never do that.

  12. MiA Says:

    Yeah Multi, Just heard that ’95 Albany YEMish breakdown in It’s Ice and friggin’ loved it. Wow. Great great stuff.

    Band just showing off again.

  13. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Word Mr P

    I’m in a weird space ever since. It’s strange listening to more mundane things today while wanting to shake someone and lay heavy existential truths on them

    Pronoia abounds

  14. Dr Pronoia Says:

    And sorry for your loss if you guys were buddies

  15. bobby weird Says:

    this second set is pure magic. One of the real greats. Jerr just in the groove, esp post-space to end. wow. (There are other versions, but this one sounds pristine)

  16. voopa Says:

    You’re welcome Jtran…see you in 2 weeks!

  17. voopa Says:

    Oooh, 9-18-87…best Dew ever?

  18. bobby weird Says:

    could be. he knocks the vocals out of the park on that Dew. But I am even more floored by the Knocking on Heaven’s Door encore. Prepare for the possibility of becoming emotional.

  19. MiA Says:

    14 days. Giggity.

  20. kayatosh Says:


  21. snow Says:

    Born Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., Lion has always felt a special connection with Jamaica’s most celebrated music legend, according to “I have always said I was Bob Marley reincarnated,” Lion said. “I feel I have always been a Rastafari. I just didn’t have my third eye open, but it’s wide open right now.”

    Read more:

  22. highhighhand Says:

    best Dew of the 80’s

  23. Robear Says:

    Grateful for the Deads collection on Spotify today. Computer down, and this is easy access.

  24. tela'smuff Says:

    hadn’t heard this Jerry interview before. very good. love the stories he shares about Cowboy Neal.

  25. kayatosh Says:

    we were experimenting w/ psychedelics as much as we were playing music.

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