A Spirit Family

Chase Center 10/17/21 (Scott Jones)

The ethos of Phish music has always been connected to the divine. Trey has spoken at length throughout his career about attaining a musical proficiency in which the band can get out of the way and become invisible, allowing the music to pass through them and speak for itself. In a 1994 interview with Steve Silberman, he explained this point of view:

The way I look at it is like being a filter. The music exists in the universe, and if you’re lucky enough, or strong enough, to get your ego out of the way, the music comes through you. The audience that we have is open to that. They understand that conversational transfer of energy. Their being open to it makes it easier for the energy to pass through.

This dynamic has provided Phish and their fans countless spiritual experiences over the past 38 years. It is this very magic that motivates us to go to so many shows—the feeling of transcending ourselves and tapping into mysteries far bigger that any one of us. These experiences provide the goosebumps when thinking back on those powerful moments that have colored our lives so vibrantly for so many years.

I could create an endless laundry list of these special instances, but Sunday night took things to an entirely different level. Though ritual is part and parcel of the Phish experience, the solemn rite they invoked in Sunday’s second set cut to the core of life and eternal existence. What took place was profound beyond words, but language is our medium of communication, so I will attempt to use words to point to the truth that unfolded.

As everyone knows by now, towards the end of Sunday’s first set a man jumped from the upper deck at Chase Center and fell over a 100 feet to his death. Some saw it happen, some found out at setbreak, and others not until after the show. I found out at setbreak—about ten minutes before the show was set to resume. Naturally, it shook me up. First I was startled, then I was scared, and then I was sad. I wasn’t sure what to make of such a tragedy amidst a place of pure joy. But Phish was about to step on the stage. What was even going to happen? What was supposed to happen? I had no idea. I felt confused. But I decided that my only choice was to embrace the reality of what transpired, let go, and give myself over completely to the experience of what was to come.

As the lights dropped, the band opened with “Evolve,” Trey’s pandemic-scribed composition that details the beginning of time and the creation of the universe. Told from the perspective of the divine creator, the lyrical couplet that concludes the song details the entrance of human beings into the cosmos and their struggle with earthly entanglements that are ultimately insignificant in the face of the eternal truth—

Then came the people with problems and hope
That don’t mean a thing, if they just knew the scope.

Interesting.

Upon the conclusion of the song, Trey started up “Set Your Soul Free,” a song about the spiritual unity of all beings and the liberation of the soul from the body. As this jam progressed, it moved from an upbeat space to a dark, heavy and abstract sonic realm. In my silent and thoughtless meditative state, an understanding emerged from within—this music represented the transitional, intermediary state that souls navigate between this dimension of life and the next dimension of existence after death. All faiths describe this liminal stage in different ways—Buddhists speak of the Bardo, Islam calls it Barzakh, Christianity espouses Purgatory. This complex and amorphous musical path narrated the transmigration of Sunday’s departed soul as it passed through the realm between worlds moving towards the hereafter.

The band came out of this incredibly deep musical passage into “Wingsuit,” a metaphor for the soul’s elevation out of the Bardo and into eternity.

Nothing lasts, nothing stays…
What’s old is gone…

And gliding away, you fly where you choose
There’s nothing to say and nothing to lose.

These words describe the ephemeral nature of life on earth and the truth of the beyond. There is nothing to lose—we are infinite beings whose consciousness exits in human form for only a brief blip of time and upon transitioning, re-merges with the One energy from which we all came. This staggeringly powerful rendition of “Wingsuit” musically ushered the departed soul from this realm into the next. Encompassed in awe at the sacrament at hand, I was brought to the brink of tears by the moment’s undeniable consecration as Phish transformed tragedy into ceremony.

Upon the soul’s elevation into eternity, the band broke into “Chalk Dust Torture,” a song in which the lyrical refrain of “Can’t I live while I’m young?” celebrates the very essence of life itself. And where the band took this jam provided the final step on the soul’s transitional arc. The music built into an extended, celebratory and uplifting excursion that depicted the arrival of the departed soul into the never-ending bliss of infinite existence—or in western terms—heaven. The heaviness of this set-long metaphysical journey arrived in deliverance—a liberation into the dimension of purity and truth, our eternal home steeped in serenity and wonder.

The mystic communion that transpired during Sunday night’s set was on an entirely different level than anything that has ever happened at a Phish show. This was so much more than music. This was about divine light that lives within us all. This light is what the essence of Phish has always been about, but never had it come so face to face with an actual event in which a soul moved through the stages of existence in the presence of, and to the knowledge of, the band and so many in attendance. With their performance, Phish musically communed with the departed soul present in the room, shepherding it on its inter-dimensional journey into infinity.

Death is a sad occurrence on the earthly plane because no longer can people enjoy that particular soul in human form. But death is also the most beautiful part of life—a soul’s transition into everlasting bliss. Phish’s willingness to embrace a tragedy and take part in this transcendental process was the most awe-inspiring event I have witnessed, and it brought my esteem for the band and their role as conduits between us and the divine into a whole new domain of reverence.

21 Responses to “A Spirit Family”

  1. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Thank you for these words.

    The beauty of phish lyricism but even more so the music is exactly what you detail. The open-ended potential for deeper connection shows itself every single night. We are not always prepared to accept what message we are being given but when we are open to it? Hold on, because it can straight knock you off your feet This is IT. The why behind our obsession.

  2. theBaker Says:

  3. Robert Jones Says:

    Beautiful thoughts, I felt there was reason in the selections of songs and you brought me understanding and light. I am grateful as I was there and while not witnessing it down in 110, my neighbor did and I couldn’t believe him at the time. I appreciate the assistance in processing this event.

  4. wsppan Says:

    That beautiful Mr Miner

  5. Kevin Says:

    What an absolutely beautiful and well written article. As one who was there, I find these words to be the best embrace to my feelings I could of ever hoped for. Thank you!

  6. Eric Wood Says:

    Dave-
    I’ve missed your musings and this is why.
    You can translate into words what i and many people think but have a hard time communicating.
    Well said

  7. Shin Says:

    Sounds like a spiritual experience. Really enjoyed this read.

  8. Kevin Says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I was there and I’m still having trouble processing the events of that evening. Reading this was incredibly healing for me. Much love.

  9. butter Says:

    Miner – this piece is so heartfelt, poignant and brilliant. The realest most lifey review of them all in my humble opinion. i sort of found out at set break as one of my nest friends said “butter something just happened that i’ll wait until after the show to tell you about” about 15 seconds after he said that, i examined the expression on his face and by that point assumed somebody had passed away in the show. when i kept looking at my great friend (who is a big brother to me, who helped me move out to CA in 1997, who was looking out for my best interest) by trying to give me shelter from the tragic news, him and couple other of my best friends where staring at section 116 where this took place.

    the lights dropped and i witnessed one of the greatest most spiritual sets of Phish (or any live music for that matter) i had zero clue they had tapped into the energy of what transpired and played a ceremonial event for him and all of us.

    when i awoke the next morning and walked for some groceries and provisions, i was shook after i realized the “themed” the fellow fans passing. my immediate reaction was what a dark prankster thing to do.

    This article has helped me mourn and heal, and evolve, much like Miner has helped me do in the lifeyest way possible since we became friends in 2009.

  10. butter Says:

    also i heard a full blown “I know you rider” passage in Chalkdust which further goes with theme of missing a loved one after they are gone.

    i thought you would get a chuckle out of that Miner as your like “butter is always hearing made up GD jams when he’s spun at Phish”

  11. Bwana Says:

    Thanks for sharing these words, Dave, I share a very similar perspective from my experience that unfolded at the show. I shifted my entire focus at the show when I looked over from behind the stage at an odd empty section during the end of Destiny Unbound … and then saw cpr being performed in one row. Shortly after I saw a stretcher carrying someone out. I didn’t know they jumped but knew someone had potentially died. Honoring the moment and the soul(s) in transition was my focus from Beauty of a Broken Heart on… An incredibly reverent experience, indeed.

  12. MiA Says:

    very well written Dave.

  13. theBaker Says:

    https://phish.com/news/fall-tour-webcasts-at-livephish-com-2/

  14. BoogerSpangler Says:

    #getBaHk0ntheTrain

  15. kayatosh Says:

    Great wisdom. Thank you, mr. miner.

    Been digging deep into summer 2021 and scratching the surface on fall 2021. Hearing some great jams – e.g., alph tweez, Dick’s carini. Audience tapes courtesy of ryan stearns. (akg ck63)

    can i live while i’m young? I’ve been singing this along with Phish since ’92. almost 30 years. i’m no longer young by most measures but still feel very connected to the young dude who sang that refrain with pure euphoria. threads. connections. nature’s change.

    (Phish and) herb is the healing of the nation (and more importantly, the individual)

  16. Lanser Says:

    Great read! couldn’t have said it better myself.
    Seriously couldn’t do it.

  17. Sanchothehutt Says:

    So yeah……these Vegas shows

  18. theBaker Says:

    #cAstyourPHinalv0te

  19. ColonelJoy Says:

    Seems like: Pet Sounds

  20. Colin Leech Says:

    Interesting perspective on the events that transpired that night, and I think you nailed the spiritual aspect of what goes on in & around the environment you were in, taking in the good, and the tragedy, all at once I’m sure that was difficult to write about, but I think that guy’s friends & family would appreciate it if they happened to read your write up from the show. I might not be conveying how that made me feel as eloquently as your writing is, but I appreciate it, and wanted to say thanks.

  21. Michael Says:

    Beautiful, Mr. Miner. Thank you for the thoughts and for sharing them so eloquently, as you have done for so many years.

    Interestingly, the band was NOT told about the death before the second set, at least by tour management or security. Perhaps they saw it when it happened, or in the immediate aftermath, though on stage lights are blinding. Perhaps friends or family texted at setbreak. But, tour management/security did not tell them until after the second set. (And FWIW, at setbreak they only knew that there were significant injuries and he was being transported to the hospital, not that he had died.)

    To my mind that raises a whole separate and related set of questions about how then that second set came about. Mystical indeed.

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