A Set of Sorcery

10/31/14 II. Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

10/31/14 II, Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

Well, they did IT again. Using Halloween as a platform for one of their most profound on stage achievements yet, Phish reinvented their own holiday tradition while playing a set of music pulled from our wildest dreams. Choosing to “cover” a Walt Disney album comprised only of sound effects and narration, the band wrote ten instrumental jams to accompany the record’s eerie vignettes in a complete blowout of the imagination. Morphing fantasy and psychedelia on a night scripted for such a mash-up, Phish played an absolutely masterful Halloween set, while pleasing every fan in attendance for—quite possibly—the first time in their 31-year career.

PBcoverNobody knew what to expect when handed a Phishbill that read “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.” A quick Wiki search informed that the album was a collection of sound effects from the vaults of Walt Disney. It had narration on one side but it contained no music?! It quickly became apparent that Phish would follow their own lead of 2013, and use Old Hallow’s Eve to debut a set of original music! But what form this music would take was anyone’s guess. And few could have imagined what would soon transpire.

As the lights came after the Halloween set, the most common thought heard muttered was, “What just happened?” Phish had dropped ten top-notch instrumental jams on the that were used to musically describe scenes set up by the Disney narration, and everyone was desperately trying to wrap their head around the pinnacle Phish experience that just went down. Via live sampling, Page incorporated the album’s sound effects and much of its narration into the set’s increasingly dancy jams, creating a hour-long mindfuck for the audience. Though most fans were mesmerized in a state that fused disorientation and disbelief, there was one thing that everyone knew in real time—“This was most definitely the shit!” The dark instrumentals grew funkier throughout the set, concluding in the non-stop dance party of “Chinese Water Torture,” “The Birds” and “Martian Monster.” Complete with dancing zombies for the first and last track and set in a faux graveyard, this was the band’s quintessential Halloween performance. Though their cover albums showcased a different kind of mastery, this year, Phish distilled the mystic and macabre nature of Halloween into a set of music like never before.

10/31/II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

And it didn’t take long after the show was over to realize what was possible with these composed jams. These “songs” were the polar opposite of Fuego’s largely jamless material—they were already jams—composed themes for the band to expound on in the live setting! Now, if the guys wanted to keep the music moving with no stops, instead of necessarily jamming towards another song they could now simply jam into another jam—and keep jamming! Phish proved on be on board with such thinking, for the next night they seamlessly moved from “Light” into “Dogs” from the Halloween set, and then improvised upon its theme for a stretch before dripping into “Lengthwise.” As illustrated by this immediate example, these Halloween jams represent motifs that the band can weave into their improvisational storytelling. They may have just changed the game—once again—right in front of our eyes.

Phish in Las Vegas has always brought something memorable, but “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” was on a whole ‘nother level. Combining their career-long penchant for spectacle with their unparalleled musicianship and sense of the moment, Phish executed one of their finest sets of music in a career loaded with staggering performances. Furthermore, this set typified the artistic ethos of the entire Phish project over the course of 31 years.  Never content with their laurels of yesteryear, the band has continuously infused innovative styles of music and performance into their live show throughout their career, leaving a legendary wake in the history of rock and roll.

10/31/14II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)


10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)


10/31/14 II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

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2,187 Responses to “A Set of Sorcery”

  1. garretcorncob Says:

    I’m in late 1970 or so if A Long Strange Trip, so this is all fairly relevant for me. Great great read, love the detail.

    And how fucking fantastic is it that Joseph Cambell was down with the Dead? I think that’s brilliant and appropriate, although I never would have guessed it.

    And wait. They dropped balloons with Orange Sunshine vials attached at a New Years show at Winterland? Truly the glory days are behind us.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    from the read he def seemed to have more respect for Mickey. he felt like Mickey added drive and he seemed to have respect for his coming from a ‘counting’ drumming background.

    for some reason Mickey’s always creeped me out. could be an ungrounded sentiment. saw him do Iko Iko with ‘The Dead’ at Shoreline and i thought it was really weird.

  3. bearito Says:

    Thanks for the fresh post Miner. Keep doing what makes you happy, and if that involves hanging back, then by all means do it. Judging from the 803 pages of comments, this forum can sustain itself on it’s readers alone. I won’t hold my breath for the next post, but I’ll surely look forward to it.

    What a great run to close Fall. Hope I can make it down to FL for a couple of the NYE shows. Just need a pass from da wife and it’s on!

  4. butter Says:

    Thx Palms

    C, I could tell you were taking in Sea for what it was worth when u came back to the box spinning in circles during Meatstick… I think I will always dance a little harder to Meatstick thinking of that moment

    Will have to spin Portsmouth Meatstick today

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    what a looong strange trip its beee (slap!)


  6. MrCompletely Says:

    garret, unfortunately that book does a less compelling job covering the 70s and after, it turns into kind of a skim over the top of what was happening, and it reveals the fact that McNally doesn’t really know how to discuss music at all

    but the 60s parts of that book are very well done

    yeah, Campbell got the whole ritual aspect of it for sure. He was super down.

  7. garretcorncob Says:

    That’s right, Um, as long as you meant Bbm in the last line of the verse

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    ha, butter, I forgot about that

    I just decided Hey, when was the last time I had this much room to actually spin on a level surface at a Phish show? Carpeted even!

  9. dorn76 Says:


  10. MrCompletely Says:

    that’s the main reason I want to make it to Dicks, really

    Gorge is a sucky place for spinning. the only places open & level enough for it are out of the good sound usually

    I did get spun up on the sloped lawn there one time, but it’s really tricky and turned into a fairly bizarre experience

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    trey+page+abb 2009

    hadn’t spun this in a coon’s age but saw it on a harddrive I was putting stuff onto from my work computer (getting a new work computer and need to purge all of the stuff from the old one…)

    interesting to see where trey is now versus then

  12. vapebraham Says:

    C: been digging into the amrin cunty fair bluegrass today. So good. Thank you. Really getting turned into the Doc and Merle tracks, which prompted me to check out ore of their stuff on the sheet. awesome slide work.

  13. vapebraham Says:

    ^^^ woops. “amrin cunty” should be Marin County (1974). really should be less quick to hit submit. yikes.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    you all may recall the Salmon Cannon which I shared with you before it hit the big time…well…now you can say you knew it when https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9qA8c-E_oA

  15. Trailz Says:

    Speaking of GD villains…(Scully, etc)…I’ve always wondered if John Kahn was one or not. Dug that he was Jerry’s partner in crime, musically for so long, but it sounds from some of the books, like people thought he was bad influence on Jer.

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    Ah Garret!! Good eye. Yes exactly, Bb, Bb minor. (Aint no halftstep move up to B!)

    Kinda hard to properly notate in this medium.

  17. little umbrellas Says:

    I’ve also heard that about Kahn.

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Random unearthed Trey/Tom tune from dirty days of ’06.


  19. lumpyhead Says:

    a new post!

  20. vapebraham Says:

    Like C said. jerry did jerry. as much as we want to blame so and so for his demise, we’re all responsible for our own actions, including jer. The rest is just foolish rationalization.

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    Many of the same people who hate Scully hate Kahn (“a drug dealer who owned a bass”) for the same reason Trailz. There’s no doubt those two were his primary enablers, and it was often the case that Garcia would come back from JGB tour with Kahn way more faded than he went into it.

    I personally feel like a lot of that anger is people who are unwilling to be angry at Jerry for his own choices and actions. My personal experiences around hard drug addicts have led me to believe that every person is in control of their own destiny in that regard, if anyone is in control of it, and blaming the enablers is an emotional dodge that misses the point.

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    No one likes being mad at ol’ Papa Bear though

  23. dorn76 Says:

    amrin cunty mofo

  24. Trailz Says:

    I can believe that Mr. C,…much easier to blame the perceived enabler.

    “drug dealer with a bass” description cracked me up. Hadn’t heard that phrase before.

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    Doc Watson was an amazing man @vape, and that warmth comes through in his performances, along with the subtle genius of his guitar technique. Merle’s technical genius was less subtle of course!

    I’ll never forget the early MerleFest days when the other bluegrass greats would come to pay tribute to Doc. During the allstar sets he would lead, all these great powerhouse players (from Grisman to Bela to Tony etc) would gather around him like he was a campfire or the rising sun…despite his great loss his heart was always open and he led with it in all things.

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