Some Good Points, Some Bad Points

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 5th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

This year’s New Year’s Run was up and down. Actually, it was up to down, peaking on the first night and then gradually declining in musical quality, but for a spike on for 15 minutes on the 30th. For today’s look back at the MSG run, lets look at some of the best, and no-so-great moments.

Good Points

1)  “Piper” 12/30 II

12.30.11 M.Stein)

From my perspective, this jam was head and shoulders above the rest of the Holiday Run. In a show in which Trey and the band struggled to stay on the same page, during “Piper,” something clicked. As the guys broke form, it was like they morphed into different musicians—ones that were suddenly on fire. For the duration of this journey, the band explored many modern textures, evoking the sounds and styles of 2011, while pushing forth into original territory. “Piper” likened a sparkling oasis of creativity amidst a desert of quality Phish jams from the 29th to the 31st, and it is the only piece of music from the run that can flirt with the upper echelon excursions of the year.

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2)  “Carini -> Tweezer” 12/28 II

12.28.11 (Michael Stein)

After reinventing the song during Fall of 2010, Phish stayed inside the box with “Carini” in all but one version this year (Essex, Vt). Thus when the band flipped the jam from the menacing to the melodic upon a dime, the audience was ready for action. In the only other truly transcendent jam of the run, the band came together into a gorgeous and cohesive collaboration. Soaring into the stratosphere, Phish had our hearts tied to the music, when, in the midst of things, and totally in rhythm, Trey hinted at “Tweezer!?” On the first night? Indeed! He continued to lay down the opening lick within the mellow groove of “Carini,” and the band formed a near seamless segue around him. “Tweezer,” itself, provided a swank, laid-back staccato funk fiesta that turned out to be the most significant groove-based piece of the run. A quality version with stellar four-part jamming, this smooth-turned-crunchy “Tweezer” completed a musical couplet that was the other keeper of MSG.

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3) “Cities” 12/28 I

12.31.11 (M.Stein)

Relistening to this jam in the car yesterday, I was struck by how long the band explored out the fourth song of the show. Amidst more abstract textures, Trey responded to Mike with a funk pattern, hooking the band and audience in the first “moment” of the run. Mike directed the beginning of this jam, while Trey got a chance to stretch out several styles in what turned out to be one of the more interesting jams of the run. Regardless of the fact that “Cities” ended rather abruptly, any time Phish throws down an 11 minute creative jam at the top of the show while passing through multiple feels, that’s pretty much a win.

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Bad Points

1)  “Ghost” 12/31 II

12.31.11 (G.Lucas)

After colossal versions of “Ghost” highlighted the second sets of New Year’s Eve in both ’09 and ’10, when the band oozed into the song during the central frame of this year’s holiday show, a distinct sense of anticipation gripped the room. A void of groove-based playing throughout the night was about to be filled by the third, consecutive New Year’s Eve “Ghost” throwdown— or was it? Instead of flexing their funked out or creative muscle, the band played a generic, guitar-based rocker that was completely underwhelming. With nary an original measure, Phish methodically moved through a straightforward and uneventful jam before moving into another improv-less, head-scratcher, “Sneakin’ Sally.”

2)  12/30 Set I

NYE 2011 Logo

A legitimate argument could be made for Set I of the the 30th as being the lightest and most uneventful set in New Year’s Run history. For real. Not only did the band not attempt anything creative, Trey botched almost every song to the point that it was obtrusive to the overall performance. And Phish, as a whole, didn’t play very well at all. Add a setlist that was hard to believe anyone, let alone, Trey would piece together, and you’ve got a genuine frame of “Phish Lite.” Even “Sand,” one of the focal points of the year, transformed into a flat, one dimensional, guitar-only piece. There have been some weak sets in the Holiday Run history, but none quite like this. This one was bunk.

3) “Axilla” 12/30 II

12.30.11 I (E. Battuello)

When Trey and company struggled with the entire opening section of this song, the “record-scratching” flub was indicative of the band’s lack of communication—largely with their guitarist—throughout much of the 30th.  A complete mess, this was one of those times you glanced at your friends with that pained look on your face in jest, because this one really hurt the ears. Ironically, moments later, the guys pulled it together to play the jam of the run in “Piper.”


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Limited Adventure

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 4th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

12.30.2011 (Joe Iudice)

After a strong performance on the 28th in which Phish took no less than three jams into uncharted territory—“Cities,” “Carini,” and “Rock and Roll”—it seemed as though they were setting the table for a daring and risk-strewn four nights. But in the following three shows combined, the band took exactly two jams outside the box in “Piper” and “Light,” while also sitting in a smooth funk groove for about two minutes in “Golden Age.” And that was it—an entire New Year’s Run worth of exploration. Dwarfed by each of the modern era Holiday Runs of ’09 and ‘10—both of which produced several timeless pieces of improvisation—this MSG stand was noticeably void of adventurous jamming, a staple the band’s 2011 playing. Sure, Phish put on some tight rock and roll shows in New York City, but this is Phish, they can do that in their sleep.

Let’s summarize the highlights. “Piper” was certainly the crown jewel of the run, when, in a single moment, the band jumped onto the same page and crafted a layered and looped-out, psychedelic masterpiece that touched the divine. Synced like no other time during the four nights, Phish sculpted a jam that stands head and shoulders above the rest. “Carini” turned into a truly blissful and harmonic collaboration before smoothly landing in “Tweezer.” “Rock and Roll” certainly pushed the envelope with varying rhythmic cadences along the way, and when the band couldn’t really connect in “Light,” despite Page’s best efforts to start something, they brought the piece down for the run’s Theremin jam. This part of “Light” became increasingly engaging—the most interesting music of the evening—but Trey pulled the string way early for an absolute trainwreck into “Golden Age” as the rest of the band was deepening. Then, as “Golden Age” was just getting somewhere, the band stopped for “Theme.”

12.31.2011 (Michael Stein)

Throughout 2011, Phish’s focus returned to innovative improvisation; the true rebirth of psychedelic Phish music. No longer were jams formulaic, but original and forward-looking, as the band carved new musical pathways for themselves, specifically with the late-summer addition of “storage jamming” to their repertoire. Think about the jams at Bethel, Super Ball, The Gorge, and UIC or Denver. And then think about these past shows—there’s simply no comparison. My initial question is, “Why?”

An obvious theory is the 3 1/2 month layoff between performances. But when Phish was off for 6 months between 1/1/11 and Bethel, the time off certainly didn’t seem to effect them when they came out with two of the strongest shows of the year. Perhaps the band didn’t rehearse enough before this run, as Trey and Mike have been off pursuing other projects, and they wanted to play it safe. Perhaps, and most likely, the band just decided to treat the Big Apple to some high energy rock shows—a trend at MSG this era—and if one looked around during many of the straightforward shredders, most everyone was loving it. But something seemed off, the band’s spirited and airtight interplay was noticeably absent, even within their contained jamming .

12.30.2011 (J. Iudice)

Pronounced most on the 30th, in a first set in which he flubbed several parts of several tunes, Trey seemed to have his own issues and agenda for much of the weekend. More than a few times there were onstage struggles between Big Red and his band mates as he tried to pull them out of jams, and as usual, Trey always won. The music of the final three nights, less “Piper,” didn’t possess the daring spirit that has infused the band’s jamming from Bethel through Denver—it just wasn’t there. Happy to play recital-esque shows, even “Ghost” and “Sneakin’ Sally” didn’t get any whole-band improv during the second set of New Years’ Eve—arguably the marquee set of the year! Conservative to the core, it seemed like something was holding Phish back this weekend. Or maybe they just couldn’t hook up? As the final three shows of the year produced a total of one keeper, it certainly isn’t a far-fetched theory. But after a marathon summer of proficient jamming, less a show here and there, this run felt out way of place. With so much straightforward rock jamming and song-based sets, dare I say that the final three nights of 2011 felt a little like a far tighter version of June 2009? Hmmm…

Perhaps all of these conjectures are ridiculous and the band accomplished exactly what they wanted to—a high-energy celebration over the final days of the year. But for many of us going to see Phish for a bit more than fun and a good time, it certainly felt like something was lacking. After a year of improvisational triumph in which Phish recaptured their musical magic on a consistent basis, the band closed out the year with some extremely vanilla shows in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Has Madison Square Garden become a modern platform for energetic jamming rather than a mecca for Phish’s standout performances? This past week, it certainly was.

12.31.2011 (Graham Lucas)


Jam of the Day:

Piper” 12.30.11 II

The most impressive whole-band communication of the run; a gorgeous Phish jam.

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Your Soul Joins Mine

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 2nd, 2012 by Mr.Miner

12.31.2011 (Michael Stein)

Despite a lack of musical fire in the third set of New Year’s Eve, Phish, nonetheless, delivered a powerful and existential message with their annual midnight stunt. “Steam,” a song about the journey of the soul through the afterlife, is a spiritually-themed piece, and for entrance into 2012—the band created a powerful, and philosophically driven skit that delivered the poignant message that we are all eternal souls dancing together forever.

The Phish fan community recently suffered three tragic losses in the course of months. Three fixtures of Phish tour, Scottie Nowak, Dave Ryan, and Vic Harris, suddenly were no longer with us, and the band was aware of these tragedies. Leave it to Phish to have a pulse on their community, or more likely, it was another case of cosmic serendipity, but the meaning of the New Year’s skit struck a chord with many fans. As the narrative of “Steam” began, the smoke machines began to cloud the stage in mystery. And as the song’s refrain, “You’re soul joins mine in steam,” carried the band into the jam, a woman, rose above the stage, dancing to the dramatic music, representing the soul from the song’s lyrics. But then, things got far more symbolic.

The First "Soul"—12.31.11 (M.Stein)

As the snarling guitar-led jam progressed, fourteen other people—also cabled to the rafters—began to rise above the crowd, dancing with mini smoke machines releasing clouds of steam that surrounded each of them. Clearly representing souls, the people weren’t dressed as costumed dancers, but rather like Phish fans—your everyday concertgoers. It was visually awesome—clouds of smoke shrouding each apparition floating above the arena—and they were dancing to “Steam” like we were—together with us. There was an undeniable meaning to the performance. And as the “souls” writhed above the audience, the band’s instruments (that they weren’t playing) began to levitate as well.

Trey "Rising"—12.31 (M.Stein)

Following the dark hard-edged jam, the first woman who danced above the stage counted down to New Years. Then, after “Auld Lang Syne,” the symbolism continued. As the dancers performed a choreographed, mid-air routine to “Down With Disease,” small circles of the stage under Trey and Mike began to lift the guitar players high into the air. Trey and Mike were some ten feet in the air playing in line with the dancers, uniting the entire arena in the skit. The ideas of the impermanence of human life and the unity of all souls seeped through the stunt as a legitimate statement of belief. By Trey and Mike joining the elevated dancers, the message was clear, this community—and all of life on his planet—is eternal and we will always be a united whole, dancing through the universe together. This earth is merely one part of that journey. Even the “Disease” lyrics, “Waiting for the time when I can finally say, this has all been wonderful, but now I’m on my way” took on a far more powerful meaning in the face of these theatrics. An affirmation of the eternal nature of the soul and oneness of all consciousness, this stunt had a lot more below the surface than the spectacle floating performers with smoke packs attached to them.

Though the band went on to play an innocuous third set, their New Years’ stunt had delivered a powerful message that served as an interesting and thought-provoking jump into 2012.

"Steam" - 12.31.11 (Graham Lucas)

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An Anticlimactic Ending

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 1st, 2012 by Mr.Miner

12.31.2011 (Jesse Herzog)

Well, at least they at least saw one jam to fruition. In what has to be considered the least significant New Year’s Eve show in Phish’s hallowed career, the band chose straightforward and unadventurous playing for the duration of the most climactic night of the year, less a single highlight sequence in the second set —“Light > Golden Age.” To have ended such a triumphant year in the flat musical fashion that has defined the past couple nights was nothing short of a  travesty. With the band’s improvisational gusto far from the level it was when they graced the stages of the nation this summer, Phish only attempted to infuse two songs with any real of creativity throughout three sets of music. This wasn’t the Phish that tore Bethel apart. This wasn’t the Phish that crushed The Gorge. This wasn’t the Phish that set afire to a soccer stadium in Commerce City, Colorado for three straight days in September. This was a band that—for whatever reason—was clearly not up to the task this week, playing a show—and a run—with very little inspiration. And it’s a shame to conclude the year with such a lack of intent, because 2011 was nothing short of a revelation for the band and everyone in their community. Now, one of the band’s esteemed traditions of the Holiday Run has left a sour taste in the mouth of many fans.

NYC Official Poster (DKNG)

Usually, the improvisational highlights of a show outweigh the other less significant portions and comprise plenty to write about, but for the second consecutive night, that just wasn’t the case. The first set contained a couple solid funk sessions in “Wolfman’s” and, particularly, “Jibboo,” while the third set is hardly worth writing about at all. In summation, last night was, unquestionably, the most vanilla New Year’s show in Phish history, and for whatever reason, it just didn’t feel like the band really wanted to take many risks. With only two legitimate jams over the past two nights, I’ve never felt feelings like this after a Holiday Run in my life. Boy. Man. God. Shiiiit.

The second set, though declining in creativity throughout, started quite strong. After a “Party Time” opener—a subtle sign that things just were never gonna’ get that musically serious—the band dove into the only great jam of the night—“Light.” Seemingly the start of a huge set, the band attacked their new era launch pad. Moving from the composed, guitar-anchored section into an abstract soundscape and then into a brief Theremin-laced storage jam, Phish showed signs of life as they dug into the experimental side for a bit. But as the band was entrenched in the murk, Trey decided to change the vibe entirely, forcing the band into “Golden Age” in a choppy and awkward transition. And once they reached the juncture from which to jam on the modern cover, the guys did just that—for about two and a half smooth and spectacular minutes. It really felt like they were going somewhere with this piece, reaching a patient whole-band groove on which a big-time set seemed to be building. Trey slinked in and out of the swanky music with rhythm chords before the band abruptly ended the jam and started “Theme From the Bottom.” Back to the songs; and that’s the way it would remain for the entire night.

12.31.11 (J.Herzog)

This trend seemed that it might shift as the band dropped into “Ghost” late in the second set—a 3.0 New Year’s Eve annual rite. But this version hardly compared to either Miami ‘09 or last year’s MSG ’10. Remaining completely in the box for the duration, and featuring only linear, contained jamming, the jam just never popped off. In such a thin show, this piece has to be considered the other “highlight” of the night, featuring strong interplay between Mike and Trey within the context of an intense but plain rock jam. Never did the band look to approach the “Ghost” from a rhythmic angle—just like a steam engine moving straight ahead. And then before anyone knew it, Trey was wrapping up the jam that had yet to go anywhere. Pretty rough scene. And if a lack of a creative “Ghost” jam wasn’t enough, when the band dropped “Sneaking Sally,” they included no jam at all. Instead, Trey opted, against the grain, for a heaping dose of arena rock in “46 Days.” Very odd calls all around last night, and the second set—which started off promising—had fizzled considerably.

12.30.11 (M.Stein)

The third set, while including nothing noteworthy in the music department, did feature an interesting New Year’s stunt as dancers hooked onto Peter-Pan-esque cables danced to “Steam” and “Down With Disease” while “floating” as souls above the crowd. But when the time came to jam “Disease,” the band’s one ever-reliable vehicle, they did so for a less than a minute, seemingly about to get into something serious. But, again, as soon as it started it was over. And after the New Year’s stunt, the rest of the set was composed of some of the more questionable calls in New Year’s Eve history. I’m not sure what was up with Phish last night, but for most of the evening it felt like they were playing to finish the show, not to create spontaneous magic. Sure, “Light” was engaging, but other than that, the creative juiced dried up like a desert riverbed.

If you had a great time last night, don’t let my opinion devalue your experience—that makes no logical sense. I’m, sincerely, glad you enjoyed it. But as someone who loves Phish as much as each and every one of you with every cell in my body, I have to be honest and call it like I see it, and this was the most uninspired version of the band we’ve seen this year. The 2011 New Year’s Run—as a whole—was a musical disappointment. Sure, we can make a CD of standout jams from the four night, but come on now, this was Phish on the holidays at MSG, and things simply didn’t come to fruition. I wish the year was ending on a more upbeat musical note, but things are what they are.

Happy 2012 to everyone, and here’s to whatever Phish throws our way in the new year!

I: AC/DC Bag > Wolfman’s Brother, Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Lawn Boy, Gotta Jibboo, Farmhouse, Pebbles and Marbles, Ocelot, Fluffhead

II: Party Time, Light > Golden Age, Theme From the Bottom, Heavy Things, Ghost, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > 46 Days, Suzy Greenberg

III: Cavern, Steam* > Auld Lang Syne > Down with Disease*, The Wedge, Alaska, Wading in the Velvet Sea, First Tube

E: Slave to the Traffic Light

*w/ floating dancers

12.31.2011 (Jesse Herzog)

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Not Much to Offer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 31st, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12.30.2011 (Graham Lucas)

When Phish opened the 30th with “Punch You in the Eye,” it seemed that the premonitions of so many fans that this night would be the night of the run were about to be realized. With a classic opener in a classic building—immediately referencing the historic New Year’s Eve show of ’95—the band seemed primed and ready to tear the roof of the The Garden. Armed with an artillery of potent jam vehicles waiting in the wings, it felt like the band was on the brink of a phenomenal show, especially after an underwhelming 29th. But as soon as “Punch” ended, the first set quickly disintegrated into Phish-Lite, as every song seemed more innocuous than the next—and more butchered. For the first time of the New Year’s Run, the band legitimately sounded off. Hacking their way through the entire first set, despite a pronounced “Divided Sky,” it felt as though Phish would come back after the break for some serious redemption. But aside from an otherworldly “Piper”—the most impressive jam of the past three days—the second set fell completely flat, almost as though the band was going through the motions. It was quite the bizarre evening with the Phish, and certainly not a show one would expect to hear on the brink of New Year’s Eve. After a promising first show, each performance has fallen off, leaving only a three-setter tomorrow night to salvage a New Year’s Run that once looked like it would blow up like none this era.

12.30.2011 (Michael Stein)

Coming out with “Wilson” and “Axilla” to open the second set, the one-two, hard rock punch set the stage for the centerpiece of the show and the most innovative jam we’ve heard this run—“Piper.” Building viciously within the jam’s structure, there came a singular moment when the guys collectively broke form and were locked and loaded for action. Tearing into a creative and multi-tiered excursion, the band pulled it all together for a fifteen-minute roller coaster ride through the cosmos. Starting in upbeat, choppy grooves that one might expect to hear from the song, Mike dominated the landscape with commanding bass leads. Soon, however, Page began to make his mark on this jam. Beginning to layer sounds and washes behind an increasingly intricate conversation, the keyboardist would play a prominent part throughout this trip. The band switched gears into a totally original pattern in which Trey and Mike began to wrap dark lead lines around each others’. Backed by a series of breakbeats, the band began to build the jam from an aggressive, snarling monster into a melodic, divine soundscape. Soon morphing into a looped-out piece of ultra-layered psychedelia, the band continued to flirt with universal vibrations as they were neck deep in an exploratory wonderland. Page continued offering significant contributions to this three part harmonic convergence, while Fish’s beats oozed into a liquid and delicate groove. Phish was feeling IT; flowing profoundly with the improvisational magic that defines our love of the live experience. But once “Piper” ended, we had seen, essentially, all the creativity we’d see from the quartet for the rest of the night.

12.30.2011 (Graham Lucas)

Pairing “Piper’s” transcendent journey with its common setlist partner, “Twist,” the band felt like they might be on the brink of a serious set of music. But “Twist” remained wholly grounded, and then the set lost all sense of direction with a run of “Julius,” “Golgi,” “2001 > Horse > Silent In the Morning.” The first half of “2001” had some cranked up full-band action, but when they dropped into “Horse” out of the song’s second peak, the set had turned into some sort of farce. We were in MSG on the 30th of the year, not Great Woods on a Wednesday night in June—what was going on? Despite being off for the entire first set, they band had pulled it together only to smash what they had going with a string of poor song selections. Standard renditions of “David Bowie” and “Squirming Coil” hardly did much to salvage the set’s overall excitement. It definitely felt weird.

12.30.11 (M.Stein)

Encoring with an energetic twin bill of covers in “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and “Good Times, Bad Times,” the band got some cheers from the crowd, but any sense of serious musicianship had begun and ended with “Piper.” Now, on the brink of New Year’s Eve, what are we to think? Did the band not practice enough before the run? Are we seeing the results of no fall tour this year? Because the band we are watching this week is a far cry from the creative juggernauts we left in Denver on Labor Day weekend. These days, the band seems to crush opening nights on the regular, and when Wednesday’s show blew up like it did, one could only imagine what the rest of the week had in store. Now with only three sets left, one has to wonder, what has happened? Will New Year’s Eve follow the steady decline of the week, or will Phish come to the rescue with a show that will give zest to the bland taste left in the mouths of many fans over the past two nights? Lord, let’s hope so.

I: Punch You In the Eye, Prince Caspian > Backwards Down the Number Line, Nellie Kane, Divided Sky, Sand, Vultures, Rift, Joy, Quinn the Eskimo

II: Wilson, Axilla > Piper > Twist, Julius, Golgi Apparatus, Also Sprach Zarathustra > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, David Bowie, The Squirming Coil

E: Boogie On Reggae Woman, Good Times Bad Times

12.30.2011 (Jesse Herzog)

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The House of Energy

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 30th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12.29.11 (Graham Lucas)

One facet of Phish’s storied legacy is their profound exchanges of energy between themselves and their audiences, often reaching levels not experienced in any other place on the planet. Madison Square Garden has long been a venue where such interactions reach massive peaks, that energy—almost—becomes a tangible entity. Thursday night at the Garden was defined by this metaphysical interplay as tidal waves of shared energy rippled through the midtown Mecca from start to finish. Throughout two sets, and specifically the first, Phish drenched the arena in high-powered rock and roll. But when the show ended and the only risk the band had taken was a sublime and out-of-left-field transition between “Chalk Dust” and “Hydrogen,” and the only two true jams that could be named were “YEM” and “Weekapaug,” many wondered what had happened to the daring spirit on display throughout the first night of the run.

The show got an adrenaline shot directly to the heart in the form of a “Sloth” opener followed by a marathon dance session in “You Enjoy Myself.” And in 2011, with only four versions in the books before last night, this early-show shocker came as even more of a surprise. In the fifth version of the year, Phish showed love for their old-school opus, engaging in a fully entrenched dosage of “YEM”-funk to jumpstart the show laced with staccato guitar phrasing  and creative bass lines holding down the bottom end of a jam that has—literally—become synonymous with The Garden in the moniker of “YEMSG.”

12.29.11 (G.Lucas)

Then, in each subsequent song performed throughout the first set, the energy in the building continued to build, coming to mid-set swells in a rousing “Funky Bitch,” “Maze,” and “Roses are Free”—a version in which the energy, alone, in the room had to carry into something musically significant. But it wasn’t to be. And the same phenomenon befell the following selection, “Halley’s Comet.” Phish even carried the composed jam a bit longer than usual only to come to a routine ending that moved into a crushing, set-closing “Antelope” in the same exact slot on the same exact date as 1997, when the jam virtually crumbled MSG all by itself. All in all, a ferocious, old-school-themed and in-your-face frame of music set the table for what had to be a monstrous second half. But that massive set that would surely build upon the 28th never materialized.

Though the band certainly played quite well through each and every selection in the second set, their jamming had somehow left the building. If you had told me beforehand that the first two song’s of the second set would be “Crosseyed and Painless” and “Simple,” and the band would haven’t engaged in a bit of exploration throughout the entire two-song sequence, I would have scoffed at the notion. But, in fact, that is exactly what happened. “Crosseyed”—like much of the second set—was lead by high-powered, though straightforward guitar work, and when the band bled into an ambient ending, it sounded as they might go into “No Quarter.” But instead, they crashed into “Simple” in a somewhat of a head-scratching maneuver. And even when a second set, standalone “Simple” screamed for further caressing, the band turned a cold shoulder in favor of the one of the most welcomed treats of the night—“Lifeboy.” The mid-second set rarity hypnotized The Garden with its lucid reality, seemingly setting the stage for what had to be a huge jam vehicle. But when the band dropped into “Guyute” next, I was left wondering what date of the year it was.

12.29.11 (J.Herzog)

Surprisingly, the highlight of the show came from the unlikeliest of places—within the middle of a “Mike’s Groove.” Following an aggressive odyssey through “Mike’s Song” that saw Big Red earn his nickname with slashing guitar leads throughout, the band oddly entered “Chalk Dust Torture,” a song that didn’t really fit its placement, but certainly felt congruent to the vibe of the entire night. And just when you least expected it, the band tossed a curveball. Taking the piece into intense realms, Trey moved from the dark side into a melody that sounded oh-so-familiar. Within a moment’s notice, it became apparent that Trey was blending “Chalk Dust” into “Hydrogen” as the rest of the band chugged away beneath! In the unquestionable moment of the show, Phish brought the house down with an absolutely stunning transition that nobody in the entire city saw coming.

The dramatic musical move clearly juiced the band as their creativity spilled directly into a full-throttle “Weekapaug” jam that was fully on the level. One had to wonder where any of this late-set spirit had been when huge jams hung in the air for much of the second half. Finishing the night with an exhale in “Show of Life” and final bursts of spirited rock playing in “Character Zero” and “Loving Cup,” the end of the night maintained the same the vibe of the entire evening—smoking rock, but hardly anything that could be described as adventurous. Juxtaposing a night of jams on the 28th with a night an energy show, through and through, on the 29th, one has to believe the 30th will feature a bit more for the psyche. And in just a few more hours, we’ll find out.

12.29.2011 (Graham Lucas)

I: The Sloth, You Enjoy Myself, Back on the Train, The Moma Dance, Funky Bitch, Maze, Roses Are Free, Halley’s Comet > Run Like an Antelope

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Simple > Lifeboy, Guyute, Mike’s Song > Chalk Dust Torture-> I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Show of Life, Character Zero

E: Loving Cup


THANK YOU!—Thanks to everyone who came out to both the book signing and afterparty at The Irish Times! Both events had great turnouts and were incredibly enjoyable, and it was great to meet so many new people and hang with a bunch of old friends all at the same time! A great time was had by all.

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Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 29th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12.28.98 - MSG (Graham Lucas)

Stepping to the plate in their first night at The Garden 2011, Phish dropped a smoking show that could have easily been plucked from the middle of any recent tour, while offering but a glimpse of what is to come in this what feels like a New York holiday extravaganza in the making.

Showing no signs of rust, the band came out with a far stronger opening set that many might have imagined, kicking off the run with the first show-opening version of “Free” in history, following it up with a well-played “Glide” —a couplet that started the run with a different sort of flavor than you’re usual “Possum, “Moma.” But that “Possum” wasn’t far behind, batting right behind the table setters! The show, however, got going into earnest with a “Cities” jam in which Mike pushed the guys towards more creative planes. Growing into the first jam of the holidays, Phish dipped into some early exploration in “Cities” before oddly ending the jam in premature fashion as things were getting serious. Though some “Cities” jams can float off into the distance, this one—after reaching some engaging early realms—vanished in midair. But when the band came out of that silence with “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” many fans left those aborted thoughts in favor of new ones, as the set’s best pieces were yet to come in an intense, classically-contoured “Stash” and an anthemic “Welcome Back” in the form of a set-closing “Bathtub Gin.”

12.28.11 (G.Lucas)

Despite the several peaks of the opening set, however, the band came out after setbreak and obliterated it with a non-stop performance strewn with creativity throughout. Firing out of the gates with a fierce “Birds of a Feather,” the ominous tone of the set was set for the more marquee set-two highlight, “Carini -> Tweezer.” As soon as the opening chords of  “Carini” crashed into play in MSG on December 28th, a tidal wave of memories  of 12.28.98’s seminal version washed ashore, upping the ante for what was about to go down, at least in my mind. As Trey unleashed a comically huge guitar solo over “Carini’s” menacing textures, the band seemed primed to take this version to a place of significance. And once Big Red settled his seething solo, the true beauty of the jam set in. Migrating from evil to blissful in the matter of measures, Phish transformed their darkening jam into a gorgeous one-minded excursion that got to the heart of things through patient interplay and divine harmonies. And as the exploration settled into a mellower groove, Trey laid down the “Tweezer” lick right in rhythm with the rest of the band?! In a segue that seemed primed for Trey to get jumpy, this time no nerves took hold and Phish passed seamlessly into “Tweezer” on the first night of the run!

12.28.11 (G.Lucas)

And this “Tweezer” turned MSG inside out with a collaborative groove bug-out that felt like a continuous highlight reel from beginning to end. Trey laid way back on any guitar leads as the band entered a four-part funk symphony. In a golden trail of rhythmic acrobatics, the band laid down a smooth centerpiece of  elementary sophistication—all compromised of certifiable, grade -“A” Phish crack! And when the guys did finally emerge from their collaborative syncopation, Trey took a snarling final bite at the piece before winding down into “My Friend, My Friend.” At this juncture, the set read “Birds,” “Carini -> Tweezer”—I had a shit-eating grin on my face—and instead of concluding with the chilling laughter of “Myfe,” Trey came right in with one of the year’s indelible jams, “Rock and Roll.” Phish had thrown caution to the wind, dove right into this New Year’s Run and just dropped a mid-second set “Rock and Roll?!” What night was this again?

12.28.11 G.Lucas)

The subsequent jam sequence of “Rock and Roll -> NICU” provided the second exploratory engagement of the set. Following a high-octane, guitar-powered peak, the band got down to business with an avant-garde joyride through varying time changes and textures. Playing off each other’s subtleties, the band built, perhaps, the most unique jam of the entire show, featuring multiple tempo-shifts and forward-looking jamming. And the creativity continued to flow. Building slowly into “NICU,” Trey made sure this jam found its landing point, but this time, not as gracefully.

Concluding the set with “Harry Hood” on the one year anniversary of its monumental version from Worcester, this was the only real place where I thought the band slipped a bit. After battling through the compositional section, the band seemed a bit aimless through the beginning of this version. And while they certainly righted the ship into a solid set-closing combo with “Bug,” this final stamp on a special night left a little to be desired.

Finishing on the most bizarre of tones—“Tube,” “Rocky Top,” and “Reprise”—the opening night was in the books. And just like that, the band dropped a two-setter of significance on opening night of the Holiday Run something that hadn’t happened since 2003, and before that, 1998. But before we start talking about any place in New Year’s Run history for last night’s show, let’s see how this four-nighter turns out—because something tells me that we’ve only scratched the tip of this iceberg.

I: Free, Glide, Possum, Cities, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Stash, Contact, Sample In a Jar, Kill Devil Falls, Bathtub Gin

II: Birds of a Feather, Carini -> Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend > Rock and Roll -> NICU, Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood > Bug

E: Tube, Rocky Top, Tweezer Reprise



Book Signing and Afterparty—TODAY @ The Irish Times!

Cover (Masthay)

I’ll see you in the matter of hours at The Irish Times for Phish Thoughts Book Release Party! I’ll be down there between 4-6 pm signing and selling books on the upstairs level of the bar. We have to wrap up at 6 sharp, but you can leave your purchased books (to be locked away during the show) for your retrieval at the Afterparty at the same upstairs location as the signing. Though the afterparty will commence as soon as the show ends, please allow me 30 minutes from the show’s end to get back to the books. Thanks! Details are below.

The Irish Times

254 W 31st St. (b/w 7th and 8th Ave)

Less than 1 block from MSG!

The Book Signing: 4 pm – 6 pm


The Afterparty: Post-show – 3 am – $5 cover

After the show’s final notes, don’t worry about grabbing a cab, come back across the street to The Irish Times for a post-show party! Without skipping a beat, Coltrane and Friends (funk, nu-disco, re-edit) will keep the grooves going for hours—and everyone is invited free of charge! With two floors, booths to sit and plenty of room in the bar, there will be ample to space to dance or chill, whichever your post-show selves prefer. Come and celebrate all that we, as a community, have to rejoice over at the end of an amazing year! Books will also be for sale throughout the after-party.

Check out some of  Coltrane’s mixes here!

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After the Layoff…

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 27th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Bethel Woods (G. Estreich)

When we meet up with our favorite band tomorrow at The Garden, they will be coming off the most significant offseason since they emerged after a five-month break to start the year, in Bethel, New York. Though the band has likely been practicing for its year-end bash, one has to wonder if the 28th will be a “warm up show” or if they will bring the fire from night one. The extended break certainly didn’t slow the band’s output at Bethel, as they cranked out two of the defining nights of early-summer to open the tour. The Gorge’s opening night—after only a month off—proved to be one of the best shows of the year. And as we sit on the precipice of the first Phish show if quite a while, the question begs—what will it hold?

12.4.09 (W.Rogell)

If I had to make a wager, I’d bet the band will open with a relatively straightforward set with a ‘Gin” or a “Stash” as the opening jam of the run, and then they come out on fire after the break. But how great would it be if they came out—a la 2003—and threw down a huge opening set to kick start the run? 2011 has been quite the year for the band, and—for some reason—I don’t think they are gonna’ drop the ball now. But one has to wonder if things will click when they step on stage together for the first time in months. Might it be one of those shows that has its “highlights,” or will the show or second set, itself, be the highlight? Looking back at 28ths past, these shows have more often leaned towards the former than the latter, but what the past has little to do with now. Either way, tomorrow, we are going to the Phish show.

The Garden

Meeting at the renovated Garden, tomorrow will also serve as a scouting mission for the rest of the run. Where are the new spots going to be, as many of the old ones have vanished into seats and sky boxes. This opening show will be a return to home, but a home that will be just a little bit different—and less roomy—than before. I hear its great for sports, and many show-goers have given mixed reviews, but how will the new Garden (only in the early stages of an overhaul) hold the Phish? The experience though familiar, will be surreal, and the iconic retro vibe of the venue may be distinctly gone. But when the lights drop and Trey hits that first note, something tells me that things will fall into place. With four nights to end a year that has seen the return of the psychedelic juggernauts of lore, Phish steps to the Big Apple for their first four-night stand since the same nights in 1998. And what will happen is history waiting to be written…


Jam of the Day:

2001” 12.29.98 II

Get ready for takeoff…

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Holiday Jams

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 20th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

"The Ball" (!?)

A couple of classic holiday run jams to ease back into the musical spirit. Christmas is less than a week away which means Phish is just around the corner! Excitement is in the air… get ready…set…


Harry Hood” 12.31.93 III

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Bathtub Gin -> The Real Me -> Bathtub” 12.29.95 II

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Stash” 12.31.03 II

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Tweezer -> Caspian” 12.29.09 II

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Seven Below -> What’s the Use? ” 12.27.10 II

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Hidden Track

As I’ve been busy shipping book and not updating the site, a couple different interviews I did have posted to the web. First, I took part in Hidden Track’s Writer’s Workshop— a broad and in depth interview with Ryan Dembinsky about my blog, writing philosophy, my book and Phish.

Additionally, I did a Q & A with Charlie Dirksen of that was specifically focused on Phish Thoughts—The Book. (With a brief aside about Trey’s “Taste” tease in 7.17.’98’s “Weekapaug” jam.) Check ’em out!


BOOK SHIPPING UPDATE: All domestic orders have processed and will be shipped as of today! I am going to begin figuring out the international ones—hang tight! You can be sure now, if you order a book now, that it will ship the same day or the following day at the latest. Thanks for your support and I, sincerely, hope everyone who ordered a book enjoys it during the holiday season and beyond!


The Book

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TTFF: 11/18 History & Afterparty Update

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , , on November 18th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

12/29 Irish Times Update: $5 Cover Added to Afterparty

Book Cover (Masthay)

I did all I could to throw a free afterparty in New York City, but after negotiations with the owner of the bar, there will need to be a $5 cover charge in order to staff the event—specifically to have someone to run the “book check” so that anyone who purchases a book at the signing can enjoy the show without worrying about its safety. I can assure you that I am not making cent with the afterparty and this is a simple issue of the owner changing his mind after the fact. Nonetheless, $5 in New York City will hardly buy you a dog and a soda on the corner, so come across the street after the 29th show and celebrate a fantastic year of Phish with friends. Music all night long will be provided by provided by Coltrane and friends. The details are below for the sake of repetition:

12/29/2011 @ The Irish Times

254 W 31st St. (b/w 7th and 8th Ave)

Less than 1 block from MSG!

The Book Signing: 4 pm – 6 pm

The Afterparty: Post-show – 3 am – $5 cover charge

Come one, come all!


(Around) Ten Tunes for Friday: 11/18 in Phish History

11.16 / 11.18.94 Michigan Poster

November 18th has been a prolific date in Phish history, as the band performed on this day in the powerhouse years of ’94, ’95, ’96, and ’98. In addition, Phish also kicked of their first fall tour of the modern era in 2009 on this date, but though the “46 Days” and “Disease” were noteworthy, this playlist will consist of the other four shows. In 1994, Phish sat smack dab in the middle of one of the peak months of the mid ’90s, and on the 18th, they took their blistering chops up to Michigan State University in East Lansing for a smoking affair. The following year, Phish was on the second half of a marathon Fall tour when the passed through North Charleston Coliseum for a solid Fall ’95 show with some unreal peaks in. In 1996, November 18th brought the band to Memphis, Tennessee, where they played a phenomenal second set on their at the tail end the end of their Midwestern leg of the tour. And in 1998, the band played one of the first-ever shows at Greenville, South Carolina’s Bi-Lo center, a dark horse mid-week affair that is barely talked about though contains several great jams. When plucking the highlights from this quartet of shows, we are left with quite the Friday playlist! Let’s get right to it.


Split Open and Melt” 11.18.94 I

This jam vividly illustrates the band’s ferocious jamming of November ’94. Communicating as well as ever, they ridiculously shred this version to pieces.

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2001 > Simple” 11.18..96 II

One of the first jammed out “2001s” leads into a sublime “Simple” led by Trey’s cathartic lead playing.

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Reba” 11.18.95 I

This soaring rendition flies way under the radar in terms of ’95 “Rebas,” but can hold its own against the best of them.

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Tweezer > Contact” 11.18.94 II

A quintessential Fall ’94 “Tweezer” starts with some snarling textures before the band hits a hard-edged “Wedge” tease, then settles into a groove and moves far beyond it into totally original places.

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Wolfman’s > Lizards” 11.18.98 II

The band moves from the funk into an extended and groovy take on their ’98 melodic ambient style before merging with “Lizards.”

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David Bowie” 11.18.98 I

This extended first set closer lit a fire under the band for the second half.

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You Enjoy Myself” 11.18.95 II

This experimental 30-minute beast is best known for its “Brick House” jam, but offers a whole lot more.

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Slave to the Traffic Light” 11.18.98 II

One of my personal favorites, much of this jam’s beauty lies in its initial section of delicate interaction. Flowing from start to finish, Trey shines throughout, bringing the jam to a massive peak.

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