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. dorn76 Says:

    Calibrate and Elevate my brothers!

    If discerning proper pitch makes you a clueless troll and wetting your pants is cool, then I’m Stephen Hawking and my daughter is Miles Davis.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    I think first sets of the shows I saw of Fall tour were pretty sweet for first sets. SB had good first sets and so did BG 2. So did Halloween.

  3. little umbrellas Says:

    ^@Dorn. Betty Davis.

  4. little umbrellas Says:

    Me thinks the post Randall’s ‘drop off’ is about Trey’s mind set:
    -Trying to leave space for the band (and leaving way to much space).
    -Paying way too much attention to the audience. (Projections.)
    -Trying to not say what he’s said before. (Step it back Troy, you’ve already said almost everything one can say on guitar, so you can play licks you already know, just do it)
    -Confidence. (Not sure what’s he’s thinking, you can do it man!)

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    Halloween 1st set song selection was superb.

  6. tela's_muff Says:

    100% agree with that point Lil Umb.

  7. sumodie Says:

    I still want to skim thru recent phish vids to determine when trey’s ring went missing

    Surely that’s the key!

  8. MiA Says:

    I suck at FF.

  9. Mr.Miner Says:

    I’m leaning towards Herzog’s take. Injury/inability

  10. MiA Says:

    Having a fresh squeezed from Deschutes. Quite good.

  11. sumodie Says:

    The Phish Song Chart (covering the band’s entire history)


    Good resource for looking up the total song count per year, avg # song debuts per show, total show count, and more

    Interestingly, for 3.0, 2012 had the most song debuts per show: 5.95 (and the fewest total # of shows: 37)

    And so far 2014 has the fewest song debuts per show for 3.0: 4.85

    Between 1988-2000, Phish played at least 52 shows a year

    The only 3.0 year to hit 50 total shows is 2009

  12. sumodie Says:

    “I’m leaning towards Herzog’s take. Injury/inability”

    I blame the $75 million we gave him


  13. GWKush Says:

    Fans for a 50+ gig 2015!

    RLM needs to make up for botched fall ’14 planning

    Imagine the possibility of musical depth with 12-20 more shows a year. Not tough to do. No break bt leg2 and dicks/fest X, and one more week tacked onto fall. Bonus would be a spring run or mini pre-NYE run ala 1999.

    A fan can dream right?

  14. phishm Says:

    I think this much is as clear as day. I’m a noob. Always have been and always will be. Noob rhymes with boob and I’m all about boobs. I see signs in everything. And I’m not even growing.

  15. little umbrellas Says:


    i can give you a 95% assurance this is not the case.

    inability maybe.. but not cause of Physicality

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    Los Olvidados
    Archie Shepp

    jezus in the 3rd minute the drummer is hitting a ridiculously fast paced swing. smokin!

  17. MiA Says:

    Watching Trey play Reba seems like he can still do it. But I’ve been watching his fingers for 23 years. His hands don’t move like they used to. Whether it’s injury or not I doubt it but 96% assurance he doesn’t play with the fluidity that he used to have. I think it makes him think simpler runs and less complex scales.

    If he can still do it but just choses not to practice the Theme bridge is another issue. Neither reflect well.

  18. gavinsdad Says:

    That was pretty rough of me @bingos. You’re right. Thanks for pointing that out in a witty post. Oof. Admire > leer?

    LU – great mid 80s skate punk band from San Jose named Los Olvidados (later they became the drunk injuns)

  19. little umbrellas Says:

    there’s DEF a difference in the level of his chops, technique. but that’s different than injury.

    One of the biggest differences in his technique compared to 1.0 is his picking style. Much less hard edge’d. Aside from general dexterity and speed (all of this is outside of musical ideas) this makes a big difference in the tone and feeling.

    He used to cross pick all those crazy lines like in a Maze solo or say during the Rift lick he plays while singing. Now he uses an economy of motion technique.
    its more fluid and legato, and has way less attack.

    Takes crazy chops of Trey yesteryears to pull off those lines while crosspicking. gave it that bite.

  20. little umbrellas Says:

    im sure we all agree that Trey doesn’t have the chops he used to. figured that was a given.

    nice @gdad, im really unfamiliar with most punk history.

  21. little umbrellas Says:

    I guess i just accept Trey’s change in the mastery of his chops with love and understanding. Pretty sure none of us expect him or the rest of the boys to pull off any Fall95 level of shred’ery. And has been the case for most of 3.0 if not even further back.

    30 years later and he’s still playing. Still so happy and continually grateful for a sober and happy Phish. the most important thing.

    i guess this seems like an old part of the convo, but wanted to restate that in general im so happy about the state of Phish these days and stoked on what the boys do….. Sure i’d like some more Jamz, and to let the Jamz that do happen a chance to breath! but hey, take what you can. Spin the history and highlights at home, enjoy what shows you can catch.

    I think the development of the way the band listens to each other is still a evolving and changing dynamic, and i don’t think we’ve seen the end of Phish playing unique and engaging improvisation.

  22. little umbrellas Says:

    11/11/94 Comet

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    ^98!! merg..

    we got cluster posts alas.

  24. GWKush Says:

    ^here here

  25. gavinsdad Says:

    Can’t hardly watch this game. Oy.

    LU – in the end, and I’m willing to debate and this is totally my opinion, there are very few punk/hardcore bands with true staying power. Punk/hardcore/straight edge fanatics are just that, fanatics. So they would disagree with me when I say that Minor Threat and Bad Brains are the only bands who really made music that lasts. On the fringes of punk its definitely the Minutemen and the Misfits who made something truly special. Misfits is jazzy proggy proto punk with an activist heart and Misfits are just the best cause early stuff was like punkabilly shot thru a gory movie filter. They ended up a lot harder in the end but early misfits…it’s like you can smell the greasers pomade on their music. Spend some time with the latter two one day. I highly rec.

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