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. MrCompletely Says:

    Um, that’s a discussion even older than me! They were part of the CGBG scene that birthed American punk and depending on your definitions early Heads can be called punk or art-punk. To me they are a classic genreless one of a kind band.

    Same for Spacemen 3 actually to my ear, they’re punk by attitude but were musically distinct

  2. dorn76 Says:

    But sounding almost not at all like the bands GDiddy was poppin’ ollies and whatever to.

  3. weekapaug Says:

    don’t miss this show if it comes to your town!


    ft. Anders Osborne, Marc Broussard, JJ Grey & Luther Dickinson

  4. little umbrellas Says:

    i think what Bingos said the other day was on point. next time a Char Zero drops look around the stadium, we are in the minority.

    Huge crowd music isnt usually exploratory. it was always so amazing that bands like Phish could exist and play 20 min jams to that size of a crowd.

    maybe it’s the collective ‘us’ thats changing.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    Um, I absolutely distinguish categorically between in room experience and playback listening. It’s not like I get to go to that many shows anyway, I’m not about to stop going when I can.

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    Well but I can get off on those zeros in the room too, I just don’t spin them on playback unless they’re unique somehow.

  7. ToddV Says:

    I am a lurker who doesn’t post much but thought I would add my recommendations on the “punk” subject. Mine really focus on post punk and emerging music scene in Manchester UK 1978-1990 or so.

    Joy Division – Punk band becomes the first great post punk band. The greatest in my opinion. Start as crude punk and evolved to their own sound with a sort of “lead bass” and “circling drums” – efficient and effective guitar attack or early synth/electronic flourishes. Lead Singer wrote great (but depressing) lyrics and performed as if possessed in concert. Unique and influenced everything from punk to british pop, to electronica. A very dark feel in most songs – so not very phishy but nice to get into a different space. 1978-1981. Highly recommend the film documentary : Joy Division.

    New Order – Successor band to Joy Division(after tragic death of lead singer). Took the path to increasing electronica. Sometimes too 1980″s pop for me but some of the stuff is great.

    Happy Mondays – Guitar/Electronic/Dance/Rave. Late 1980’s Psychedelic (sort of) rave at the Hacienda club. Wonderful fact: Official “freaky dancer” band member named “Bez” joined band as a fan who just got up on stage and began dancing. He never left. Bez is the ultimate metaphor for phish fans. Useless tidbit: I wear my Happy Mondays shirt to Phish shows.

    Stone Roses – Terrific guitar based band with hooks and great songs. Pop sensibility but some songs on albums go +10 minutes.

    The Durutti Column- Now for something completely different. This “band” is really just one guy – Vini Reilly. And whoever he can collaborate with. Although he recorded on Factory Records (same label as Joy Division and the Mondays) , sounds more like ethereal mood music made with guitar primarily – extremely beautiful. Can’t really describe it. Get the self-titled album : The Durutti Column.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    And didn’t you see my theory? We just need everyone to follow the mandated dosage and visualization regimen.

  9. little umbrellas Says:

    @C on the punk and the art-punk movement CGBG convo. exactly!
    the New Wave..
    but don’t we need some way to draw a line between Television and Black Flag?

    in my mind the Heads, Devo, Sonic Youth, The Pixies… even the Cure, Morrisey.. aren’t Punk. but hey, trying to acknowledge the roots, and the spectrum inbetween.

  10. little umbrellas Says:

    ‘mandated dosage and visualization regimen.’

    ^make it so Captain!

    @Todd.. so no need for a difference between something like Joy Division and the Dead Kennedy’s?

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    wait… now im not sure why im egging this conversation on.. I hate genre labels!

  12. BingosBrother Says:

    I don’t get off on 0 or other tunes I dislike, but I do get off on other people getting off to them. Always try to focus on the 1 person going crazy about some tune I don’t like and seeing them happy makes me happy. I’ve been there. I’ve danced my ass off to Sparkle and am glad to see you dig it.

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    Yeah i was hanging back from your genre trolling

    What is jazz? Ha!

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    + 5 to Todd V for delurking but especially for the Durutti Column mention. Such a great individual fringey “band”. I found out about them mining that factory records vein.

    For all the faster punk I could spend time thinking about it or could just say look at the tempo of the Ramones. It’s right there.

    DKs were one of my first 3 punk albums (in god we trust was a tape actually) along w black flag and fear but never my cup. If I was older at the time I certainly woulda loved all the politico/anarcho trappings of their raison d’être

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    Just so bingos, and for me that one person acts as a link to the overall energy that pops off

  16. dorn76 Says:


  17. ToddV Says:

    LU – I got more into UK for some reason, just don’t know the US as well. For US, I am familiar with Bad Brains ; Television (my favorite – wish Phish would cover). Patti Smith; NY Dolls a little bit.

    I am older than most I assume on BB and was freshman in college when Sex Pistols hit the US. I was totally converted (which gave me a musical “block” against GD for many years !!…until I got converted by a deadhead at work later). Also liked the Clash and the others you can guess. Dug the early version of The Cult…but also liked their AC/DC “phase”.

  18. gavinsdad Says:

    It’s endless and endlessly good: stuff little fingers, pere Ubu, wire, subhumans, sham 69, buzzcocks, gang of four, the jam. so much great shit swirling and genre blurring in the latest 70s/early 80s that may or may not be labeled punk.

  19. ToddV Says:

    Thanks Gavinsdad. Also agree that “so much great shit swirling and genre blurring in the latest 70s/early 80s that may or may not be labeled punk.” My feelings exactly.

    Jonathan Richman anyone?


  20. little umbrellas Says:

    yeah, there’s a lot of music in that field that i’ve enjoyed tremendously; Joy Divison, Heads, Televison, etc… that i never thought of as Punk.

    To me Punk always implied screaming, distorted power chords on the downbeat, etc..

    First spin of the Endless River over here.. here we go…

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah try to find a genre label for Pere Ubu

    the guy I did the back half of fall ’89 with, his two other favorite bands were Pere Ubu and NRBQ. Ha

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    you could translate this whole convo to be about jazz 1:1 and only change the band names and maybe two or three adjectives

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    sounds like Floyd recorded on protools.

  24. gavinsdad Says:

    Criminal that I forgot the Descendents in the above. I mean Koff Koff green day where would they be w/o any of this shit.

    And I remember the day I brought home the extremely hyped (for the time in our little scene) “mommys little monster” by Social Distortion and just not grokking the fact that it was a rock record. We were listening to agnostic front at the time…much more hardcore stuff. Social D just did such a backflip on the whole NYHC scene out in Cali.

    Ill stop soon. I feel like I need to go get all this stuff now. Arrrgg

  25. gavinsdad Says:

    “Punk is an attitude” blah blah. Need safety pins in noses to replace flat brims and pendants/lot bling.

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