Through Alternate Paths

9.1.12 (Graham Lucas)

Although “Chalk Dust Torture” had been a Phish staple from the early 90’s onward, never leaving regular rotation, it had rarely been used as vehicle for exploratory jamming. While a handful of versions popped off through the years—most notably Camden’s ’99 masterpiece—“Chalk Dust’s” remained a high-energy rock song throughout the band’s career. Over leg two, however, that pattern changed dramatically. Hosting three outstanding jams in its last three appearances of summer, “Chalk Dust’s” quickly became a Leg Two All-Star. Only once, however, did Phish extend “Chalk Dust” from its normal jam within the song, twice preferring to improvise out of its ending. But any way you cut it, “Chalk Dust” gave birth to a trio of stellar excursions during Leg Two that deserve inspection.

Following a standard shredder at Bill Graham and a particularly heavy-hitting, show-opener in Kansas City, when Phish tore into a late second set “Chalk Dust” in Atlanta—literally, the 400th of their career—it felt like they had hopped the train to Fizzletown. Not long into the jam, however, Trey elevated the chugging rhythms with cathartic melodies, coaxing simultaneously stunning piano leads from Page. Fish and Mike were right there without missing a beat, and Phish set the controls for the outer realms of the galaxy. Transforming the normally benign single into thrilling, multi-dimensional journey, the guys finally landed their musical spaceship on a far away planet, and as they climbed down to the surface to explore the new land, Trey hit the opening lick of “What’s the Use?” A totally under-appreciated nugget of gold, this “Chalk Dust” jam foreshadowed what was to come for the rest of tour.

9.2.12 (Michael Stein)

The next time Trey called for the Picture of Nectar classic was in the unassuming slot of second set opener in St. Louis. It seemed like things would stay in bounds this time, but as the band wrapped up the song, they awkwardly bounced off the final downbeat and into uncharted waters. The guys came together quickly in a section of high-speed groove before Fish steered the ship towards calmer currents. Within seconds of this change, Phish immersed the arena in an ethereal and emotional open jam. Like hitting a switch, the guys jumped into IT out of nowhere. Trey spoke the words of the universe through his guitar in this understated and underrated passage. After a short, but engaging, full-band jam, Trey seamlessly wove the opening of “Frankie Says” into the mix. The band would fuse three more songs onto this opening couplet before stopping for a breath, and the most memorable chunk of that entire stretch was “Chalk Dust.”

8.25.12 (Ryan MacNeill)

When Phish got to “C” in the “F.U.C.K. Y.O.U.R. F.A.C.E” show, they had just finished playing second set versions of “Farmhouse” and “Alaska.” With only “E” to go, and few possibilities therein, “C” had to go huge. Thus, when the band started “Chalk Dust,” it seemed like yet another surprise call, but when considering its Leg Two action, it immediately felt like the natural choice. Even before this jam ended, Dick’s “Chalk Dust” had broken all barriers, capturing the heart of everyone in the stadium and beyond, and contended with Camden for the all-time number one version. You can pick your favorite, but this one is mine. Blasting out of the end of the song, much like St. Louis (and with far more precision) the band took little time to switch from from down-your-throat rock and roll into a hard groove collaboration that brought echoes of Atlanta’s “Golden Age.” Trey sliced and diced the music with rhythm chops while Mike threw down commanding leads that directed the beginning of this unforgettable jam. In no time, the guys were fully locked and moving as a single unit through hyperspace. Riding this four-man momentum, Phish shot through any conventions and into totally original music on the back of Trey’s most impressive melodic themes of the summer. This was the stuff of instant legend; musical glory of the highest degree. And to finish things off, they moved into a looped out, intergalactic, bass-led denouement that settled into a quiet outro and a massive ovation.


Coming to life in the final week of the season, “Chalk Dust” added a colossal surprise to summer tour’s long list of riches. The use of their anthem about youth angst as a exclamation point on their best tour in ages, held a certain irony for the guys as they cranked out some of the best music of their career while pushing fifty. On top of their game and as enthusiastic as ever, if one thing can be said about the guys in Phish, they are—most definitely—living while they’re young.


Jams of the Day:

Chalk Dust > What’s the Use?” 8.25 II, Atlanta


Chalk Dust -> Frankie Sez” 8.28 II, St. Louis


Chalk Dust Torture” 9.1 II, Denver



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381 Responses to “Through Alternate Paths”

  1. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    this is my fucking birthday.
    louis ck announces surprise show for tonight – friend gets me tix
    phish announces release of new archival show in 6 days – its the show i thought i was going to wait 20 years for. this is, i believe, my favorite show. i dont know what dto do with myself.

    the rest of this workday is pointless.

  2. kayatosh Says:

    ^^^ woah. BB magic

    the autumn bell brigs good tidings. the moment ends though i feel winds.

  3. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    to clarify, it is NOT my real birthday. my real birthday will be Phish’s actual 30th anniversary, dec 2.

  4. jdub Says:

    And to have the synchronicity over such a revered show/jam just takes it to a whole other level. Impressive stuff.

  5. MmmHmm Says:

    so ive been a long time reader and infrequent poster and I feel quite sheepish even asking this question, but how do I add an avatar or pic to my posts like all you cool kids?

  6. BingosBrother Says:

    I love it when a jam comes together.*

    This shit is ready for a t-shirt w/ each member of phish representing each member of the A Team. Not sure who is who yet though.

  7. BingosBrother Says:

  8. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    MmmHmm – we’ve all had to ask at some point hah, no worries. go to youregister an email, and then when you use that email in the Mail section of the comment thing, it’ll show up.

  9. angryjoggerz Says:

    I’ve never heard this show ::ducks::

  10. angryjoggerz Says:

    Does this mean Minneapolis 99 will come out next, oh pretty please?

  11. Multibeast Says:

    Nutter is def a fav as well.

  12. BingosBrother Says:

    What is the show that the band used to listen to on the tour bus all the time?

  13. Phlorida Phan Says:

    Fishman is B.A. for sure, or murdock

  14. joe Says:

    BA – Mike
    Trey – hannibal
    Page (by default) – Face

  15. jdub Says:

    Well aren’t you lucky @AJ. You never have to be frustrated by listening to a suspect AUD of such an amazing Tweezer. Show ain’t so shabby either.

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    I think Tweezabella is on youtube aj. Might wanna wait though. Your in for a treat.

  17. Multibeast Says:

    Hey AJ
    I would loooove a release of the 99 Minneapolis show. That was quite the all day show experience for me. The travel, pre show and post show were just all full of phishy type fun. The sort of shit you get away with your senior year of college on the road seeing some fall phish.

  18. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    AJ – it is a MUST although at this point wait for the sbds.

    the tweezer is this amorphous flowing groove that i can’t even pin down. they flow through time signatures and tones/effects in a way that gives me chills every time. there is a youtube video and watching it actually really puts you in the moment even more.

    however like i said, wait for the sbds, its only 6 days away. i personally will be syncing the SBD to the video as soon as i can on tuesday, so i will upload to a private youtube playlist for the BB.

  19. jdub Says:

    Nailed it @joe.

  20. BingosBrother Says:

    mikes hair is blacker, but Fish would be more willing to go blackface.

  21. Frankie Says:

    YES! What a great day! Grateful to be a fan living in the Now…

    What a treat!

  22. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    between this, surprise louis ck show tonight, and a douchey kid from my high school being on dr phil today because he was arrested for faking his dfather’s death… this has actually been the best day i have had in many months.

  23. angryjoggerz Says:

    Awesome, can’t wait to hear it!

  24. dorn76 Says:

    Can’t wait for Miner to drop the 2013 tour dates.

  25. BingosBrother Says:

    You can’t yadayadayada the fake death story bro. Deetz?

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