Miner’s Picks: Super Ball

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on September 26th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

7.2.11 - Super Ball (Graham Lucas)

As fans populated Watkins Glen International in central New York for July 4th weekend, something significant was coming back together. Though Festival 8 on the West Coast was blissful in 2009, Super Ball—two years later—represented the true return of the Phish festival. With art installations of the like we hadn’t seen since IT in 2003, the look and feel of Super Ball brought us back to the carefree memories crafted so many years ago. Though smaller in scope, the Northeastern “home turf” feel was back and an intimate feel permeated the weekend. With a spectacular late-night set (a facet of the Phish festival absent at Indio) and concert grounds that were open virtually all day long, an event like this had been waiting in the wings since the band’s return.

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With the return of such a classic atmosphere, Phish played marathon sets all weekend long, cranking out all sorts of standout music. After the psychedelic high point of the festival in Saturday’s late-night “Storage Jam,” Phish concluded the weekend with one of its strongest two-set efforts of the entire summer on Sunday. All in all, Super Ball brought back a tradition that had been absent for eight years, and featured highlights galore. My favorite jams of the festival are below, most with audio accompaniment.

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“The Moma Dance” – 7.1 I

This standout version from Super Ball illustrates the renewed swagger that “The Moma Dance” discovered this summer.

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“Wolfman’s Brother” - 7.1 I

While many “Wolfman’s” veered off the funked-up course this summer, this version in Super Ball’s opening set got the dance floor hopping with ferocious set of gooey grooves.

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“Crosseyed -> Chalk Dust” - 7.1 II

With an ambient focus on both its intro and outro, “Crosseyed” offered far more than vicious textures in a first-night highlight.

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“Sand” - 7.1 II

There’s nothing like a festi-sized groove-fest with the summer’s hottest rhythmic juggernaut.

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7.2.11 - Super Ball (Graham Lucas)

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“Simple > Bug” - 7.1 II

“Simple” provided the most exploratory and impressive piece on the festival’s first night, and one of the more psychedelic passages of the entire weekend.

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“Monkey Man” - 7.2 I

This out-of-left-field Stones cover that capped a miserably hot and uneventful afternoon set is far more fun to listen to without the sweltering temperatures.

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“Stash” - 7.2 II

This hard-edged and rhythmically divergent rendition provided one of the few engaging pieces of its set.

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“Golden Age > Caspian -> Piper > Tweezer” - 7.2 III

Here is the stellar third-set sequence that pushed Super Ball to the next level for the duration. The most developed “Golden Age” jam to date gave way to an unconventional “Caspian,” creative “Piper,” and a crunchy, festival-sized “Tweezer”—quality Phish through and though.

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"The Storage Jam" (Graham Lucas)

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“The Storage Jam” – 7.2 IV

A transformational, all-improv extravaganza that stole the weekend at Super Ball; this is the stuff of which Phish dreams are made. This innovative experiment sparked a new style of abstract jamming on display throughout leg II. I wrote about the innovative jam session here.

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“Destiny Unbound” – 7.3 I

A super-charged version of “Destiny” in a first set that absolutely killed.

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“Wilson” - 7.3 I

You know Phish is feeling it when they get creative with “Wilson!” A scorching mini-jam featuring a Mind Left Body tease puts this version into the discussion of “best ever.”

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“A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” - 7.3 I

The long-awaited return of this post-hiatus vehicle provided a storage-infused, sunset standout on Super Ball’s final day.

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7.2.11 - Super Ball (Graham Lucas)

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“Reba -> David Bowie” - 7.3 I

This old-school combo—one of the most sparkling sequences of the weekend—has become a personal favorite. An absolutely glorious “Reba” bleeds into to an intricate, uptempo and underrated “David Bowie” through an ambient, post-song extension.

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“Down with Disease -> No Quarter” - 7.3 II

An inspiring “Disease” gradually works its way into Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” a version that trumped PNC’s debut.

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“Light” - 7.3 II

One of the most creative jams of the weekend that set up “Light” for a prime-time second half of summer.

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“Waves -> What’s the Use?” - 7.3 II

Phish tacked a jam onto “Waves” in three out of the song’s four appearances this summer, and each time the band moved in a very different direction. In Super Ball’s version, they guys drop into deep space before oozing into “What’s the Use?.”

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A Spectacular Set

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 25th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

On the last day of Super Ball, Phish not only threw down one of the most impressive second sets of the summer, they also played quite the first. With shrewd song selection, engaging interplay, and extra zest added to every piece, Phish unveiled—without question—the strongest opening set of the year, and many fan’s pick for their favorite set of the entire festival. Having already reviewed the wildly creative second set of July 3rd, let’s look back at this monster that kicked off Super Ball’s finale.

Of the six times Phish has played Bob Marley’s “Soul Shakedown Party,” three have been openers and a sure sign that a big-time night is ahead. Debuted as the first song at their legendary show on 2.17.97 at Amsterdam’s Paradiso, other opening versions came on 4.17.04 (sure—not exactly an instant classic) and 12.30.09. And when the opening notes of Marley’s original rang out over the concert field at Watkins Glen on the evening of July 3rd, we knew that were in for a treat.

"Mound" - 7.3.11 G.Lucas)

Busting into the old-school combination of “AC/DC Bag” and “The Curtain,” Phish set a retro tone for their opening stanza—a thread they would weave throughout the entire set. As the band wound down the final hits of their composition, everyone expected to hear “With,” but they threw us a left hook in the form of “Colonel Forbin’s!” For the first time since returning to the stage, the band used “The Curtain” as a composed “launch pad” into another song—a use popularized throughout their career. With the special vibe that defined Super Ball all weekend long, as Phish precisely played their Gamehendge classic, one could feel the oncoming narration. And just as they hit the crossroads, Trey let go of his guitar before “Mockingbird” for the first time since Vegas 2000, and he began to spin a yarn.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Trey told a tale from ancient band history; a self-avowed true occurrence when they inadvertently locked themselves in their storage shed. With a lack of anything else to do—and no immediate way out—the band proceeded to break out their instruments and jam. Twisting the story like only he can, Trey jokingly explained that the entire festival was a projected reality of the band’s consciousness from their storage shed back in the day. And when the festival ended—and the band got released from their captivity—no one would have any recollection of the weekend. A quintessential tale that blended fact, fiction, lore, and humor with our actual experiences of the weekend, Trey continued the old-school feel of the set without even playing a note. But when Phish got back to music, they were all business.

Tearing off uncharacteristically supercharged versions of “Destiny Unbound” (with a ferocious funk jam), “Wilson” (with a strong, whole-band “Mind-Left Body” tease), and “Mound” (with a spectacular final solo by Big Red), everything the band touched was turned to gold. Even throwing a “Big Black Furry Creatures” into the mix to enhance the retro vibe, Phish was playing this set to all everyone from jaded vets to drooling noobs. And as Trey punctuated “Mound” with a blistering showcase, he set the table for the final—and most impressive—sequence of the set: “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” “Time Loves a Hero,” Reba > Bowie.”

7.3.11 G.Lucas)

A day after resurrecting their post-hiatus opus “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” Phish threw down their other epic 2.0 jam—“A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.” Riding the song’s menacing wave, when the snarling section ended one of the more profound segments the set emerged. Nodding to the ambient harmonies and abstract playing that graced the Storage Jam (and much of June,) Phish oozed into a gorgeous piece of patient psychedelia as day started to transform into night. Following the far-out realms that they reached in this experiment, Phish got the audience back on the same page with a juxtaposition of styles in Little Feat’s groove-based “Time Loves a Hero.”

But the climax of this torrid set came in the unlikely and (once again) old-school one-two punch of “Reba” and “David Bowie.” Daytime “Rebas” have provided vivid festival memories since The Clifford Ball’s immaculate Sunday version. Followed three years later by Oswego’s dusk performance and in 2003, by IT’s phenomenal afternoon rendition, it had been a while since a daytime festival set and “Reba” collided. But when this happened at Super Ball, one of the defining versions of the modern era resulted.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Splashing into a laid-back groove, Mike and Trey took their time building their lines together, echoing and weaving melodies around each others’ ideas. The interplay of the two guitarists would be the defining facet of this version as they leaped into another dimension of sonic convergence. Finally exiting their one-minded symbiosis with a series of uncharacteristic rhythms licks, Trey moved into a final solo that floated atop the band’s majestic groove and Lead 35,000 people to the moutaintop. And as Fishman’s drum roll slammed the door on this dramatic excursion, the band broke out the song’s now-rare whistling ending. But as they entered the final verses, the band dropped the ball, butchering their attempt at the first complete rendition in ages. But playing off their own mistake and humorously embracing their flub, they guys never stopped playing when the lyrics ended, and—with stage antics—built an ambient bridge from the end of “Reba” into a set-closing “David Bowie.”

Super Ball Print (Masthay)

Tearing off an adrenalized and intricate version of yet another ancient opus, Phish underlined the vintage quality of this stanza. The outstanding communication and creativity that was on display throughout this frame flooded the final jam and the guys shredded a fierce take of their classic, moving from feel-good textures into far more harrowing territory before delivering the demonic tale to its final shrills. A thrilling exclamation point on a near-perfect set, “Bowie’s” airtight excursion dropped the hammer on a stunning first half of what would soon become one Phish’s best two-set shows since their return.

Soul Shakedown Party, AC/DC Bag, The Curtain > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Destiny Unbound, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Wilson, Mound, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Time Loves a Hero, Reba -> David Bowie

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The Festival Finale

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 13th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen Dave Lavery)

After all the tremendous music at Super Ball over the first two days, Phish saved their best (conventional) performance for last, closing the festival with their most impressive two sets of the weekend. With spectacular song selection, improvisation galore, and a sharp, four-minded communication, the band tore apart each of Sunday’s sets. Today, let’s discuss set two.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

The defining quality of the festival’s finale was the musical connection between the band members throughout. Despite what song or style they played, they were tapped in to each other’s ideas and created innovative music from each and every piece. The setlist may have looked a bit strange on paper, but Phish executed nailed their final frame of Super Ball superbly, and with a hearty dosage of risk-taking jamming.

With their communication skills shining after a creative opening leg and over ten hours of playing at the festival, Phish combined several launch pads into a set that never relented. The result was some of the most cohesive jamming of the weekend and a twisting musical adventure that ended with a fireworks display to match the musical theatrics. Some of the band’s most exploratory jaunts of the festival came in “Disease,” “Light,” and “Waves,” while the set was not short on grooves, featuring an explosive “Party Time” and the slick combination of “Ghost” and “Jibboo.” Within this stanza, Phish showcased their revitalized jamming for their audience with every piece they touched.

“Disease,” “Light” and “Waves” all explored variant styles of music while providing the central jams of the set. Breaking down the high-speed rock of “Disease” with groovier textures, Trey began chopping rhythm licks and the band responded with short offerings that created a percussive whole. Mike—much like the dynamic in “Golden Age”—began to throw down bass lines underneath the music that strongly influenced the direction of the jam as Trey, Page and Fish interacted up top. Then, slowing into a murky texture with Mike still at the helm, the band patiently—and seamlessly—bled into “No Quarter.” The set’s opening excursion had found gold.

7.3.11 D.Lavery)

The contour of Super Ball’s “Light” more closely resembled the multi-tiered versions of 2010 than the shortened outings we’ve seen this summer. Settling out of Trey’s guitar solo, the whole band band opened up the song’s jam for the first time, in earnest, since last fall and came up with an instant classic. Page initiated a melody that Trey latched onto immediately and sculpted into a delicate picking pattern that set the tone for the intricate experiment. All band members locked together in a forward-looking groove which, before too long, moved into calmer waters. Mike and Trey stepped forth to lead the band in through a totally original jam that moved—naturally—through a dreamy psychedelia and into a final section of new-age funk.

Pausing to exhale as they concluded “Light,” the band stepped right into “Waves.” A cathartic, festival-sized guitar solo graced the first half of the jam, while after the lyrical reprise, Phish dropped into the void. In a jam that featured soul-touching soundscapes, and harmonies you could feel as well as you could hear, the band showcased yet another brilliant improvisational style. At times evoking sounds of the Storage Jam from the previous night, Phish had the audience floating amidst a blissful, cosmic space, gradually increasing the intensity of the music and moving towards a perfectly-placed version of “What’s the Use?.”

7.3.11 (Dave Lavery)

In between these early and late set combos, the band dropped a blistering “Party Time” and combined unique renditions of both “Ghost” and “Jibboo.” As the guys reached a smooth yet driving canvas in “Ghost,” Trey and Mike’s interplay stood out again as each tore off infectious licks. Bringing the music into the uplifting realm, the band got into intricate interplay that didn’t focus on massive bass lines, but moved outwards quickly into abstract territory. And once the band reached an ambient plane, Trey came in with “Jibboo.” After using “Ghost” more unconventionally, in “Jibboo” the band came together in a monstrous, whole-band groove session that served as a mid-set peak.

Closing the frame with an anti-climactic choice of “Stealing Time” (“YEM” would have sealed the deal), the band had thrown down plenty of musical meat to satiate even the most jaded fan. And as the fireworks display started amidst the “First Tube” encore, continued through the post-show selection of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” and into the post-show silence, we watched colors explode in mid-air —a physical manifestation of the musical pyrotechnics we had witnessed all weekend long. And with amidst this poignant silence, we had the chance to reflect on all that Super Ball was and forever will be—a historical weekend in Phish history.

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Jam of the Day:

Light” 7.3.11 II

A top-notch rendition featuring a wide-open jam.

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BOOK CONTEST #3: Don’t forget to get your second leg picks in to win a signed copy of “Mr.Miner’s Phish Thoughts: An Anthology By a Fan for the Fans.” Enter by clicking here! In book news, we are in the final layout and proofreading process and things look to be on schedule for a holiday season release! If you haven’t checked out the book site recently, you can now read about the anthology’s unique system of navigation through which you can read the book based on your own interests. (Think of the old-school “Choose Your Own Adventure” books we all read as kids.) Click over and check it out and reserve your copy today!

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The Storage Jam

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on July 13th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

The Storage Jam (Brian Ferguson)

Phish’s late-night all-improv sets have become a hallmark of the festival experience. Dating back to the Clifford Ball’s Flat Bed jam and The Great Went’s “Disco” set these “surprise” affairs soon developed into much more significant musical ventures. Historically highlighted by Lemonwheel’s Ring of Fire “ambient” set and IT’s demonic Tower Jam, Phish and their fan base have basked in these middle-of-the-night affairs that cater to the psychonaut in all of us. But this year at Super Ball, the band outdid themselves with “The Storage Jam”— a focused hour-long excursion into cutting edge psychedelia. And what made it even cooler—and a hell of a lot Phishier—was the fact that the guys were rotating instruments throughout the jam. But the music that resulted was unlike anything we’d ever heard from the band.

The Storage Jam (G.Lucas)

Part and parcel of this progressive musical experiment was the sound setup in Ball Square. Instead of hearing this monumental mind-meld in regular stereo, the band arranged a surround sound system through which different sounds and instruments came from different speakers. This unconventional setup enhanced the disorienting and psychedelic effect of the already abstract music. Shrouded in mystery while playing behind opaque glass inside an art installation, the band was only visible as distorted silhouettes. The lack of visual cues as to what was actually going on made the experience that much more unknown and completely focused on the music. One was—literally—immersed in sound coming from every direction in, what has to be considered, the most technologically advanced and boundary-pushing performance ever put on by Phish.

Ball Square (G.Lucas)

From note one of this abstract escapade, the band was laser-locked on each others’ ideas, entering improvisational territory that the much of their fan base wouldn’t appreciate from the big stage. Despite some unmistakably Phishy moments, much of this sonic exploration of tones and textures would have been hard to peg as Phish at all. A large part of this unique sound was due to the fact that exploration was a Rotation Jam. Much, if not most, of the time, the guys were on alternate instruments, thus the bass patterns, drum beats, guitar licks and synth sounds didn’t carry the characteristics of their usual players. Instead, each band member was able to apply his ideas to a different instrument, thus pushing the others in completely new directions. Though the piece morphed in and out at times, like the waves of an ocean, the entire hour of exploration remained incredibly connected and cohesive with no lulls or lack of engaging interplay. The consistent rotations—whether known about at the time or not—maintained a sense of suspense and tension within the music where no one idea could take hold for very long. But as they moved instruments, the band picked up—most often—from the same point and then began to build away from it.

The use of electronic drums, heavy Theremin, and big, dirty effects on both the guitar and bass gave this piece a completely unique energy and flow. It wasn’t purely ambient, it wasn’t purely abstract, and it carried a hell of a lot more rhythmic quality than people gave it credit for at the time. In summation, Phish spun an unclassifiable tale of weird, dissonant, quasi-ambient, melodic, electro-dub stylings. Boasting avant-garde and focused improvisation throughout the jam, despite what instruments they were on, the band converged in the type of sonic sorcery that we rarely get to glimpse.

The Storage Jam (Graham Lucas)

The final segment of the jam featured both Trey and Fishman on e-drums, culminating the experiment with a foray into legitimately beat-backed textures. And as the band rotated instruments one more time, the beginnings of a demented “Sleeping Monkey” rung out of the surround sound system in Ball Square, bringing us all back to some semblance of reality. Concluding their plunge into the heart of the cosmos with this unequivocally Phishy maneuver, the band played a deranged version of their classic encore that was drenched in effects and then bled into an eerie three-minute final passage.

The Storage Jam (G.Lucas)

When the set ended, I found myself flabbergasted and standing alone in sheer disbelief of what had just gone down. Complete with lasers, smoke and Kuroda’s lighting, Phish had just thrown down one of the definitive psychedelic spectacles of their 20-plus year career. My mind drew comparisons to old-school Pink Floyd mixed with mid-‘70s Brian Eno mixed with late ’70 Miles Davis mixed with nouveau electronica, but that was just my brain trying to make sense of things. Upon listening back to the Storage Jam several times, this music has proven to be a completely unique monster all its own—incomparable to anything the band has ever done. We were privileged to have seen Phish improvisation in its purest form, without any songs to get in the way and with a bulls eye on the heart of psychedelic experimentation. And, lo and behold, despite all the great music that went down all day, the “secret” Storage Jam had stolen the show. It was a display of sheer artistry that will go down in the annals of Phish history, and like all nuanced masterpieces, it just keeps getting better with each listen.

In short—“Wow. That just happened.”

The Storage Jam (Brian Ferguson)

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Jam of the Day:

Reba > David Bowie” 7.3.11 I

This old-school combination, containing exquisite renditions of both songs, punctuated Sunday’s first set of Super Ball.

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Mike - The Storage Jam (Graham Lucas)

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Parts of the Whole

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on July 12th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Watkins Glen (Brian Ferguson)

There were so many mind-bending highlights throughout the three nights of Super Ball that many standout jams can easily fall through the cracks. The following four pieces didn’t take center stage over the weekend, but certainly deserve their due credit. While these selections are hardly diamonds in the rough, they are some of the more structured highlights from an amazing weekend of music that people are still glowing from today. Read about, listen to, and download each piece below.

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Wilson” 7.3 I

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

“Wilson” isn’t a jam vehicle—that is unless you are at Super Ball. When the band dropped into this first set version on the final day of the festival, no one suspected what was to come. As the guys entered the “heavy metal” section of the song, they did so with far more passion and intent than usual, and before long they had veered off course into a seething tangent. Dicing into the heavy textures, Trey tore off an original solo in which he infused a prominent Mind Left Body tease that the entire band hopped onto in a shining improvisational moment. Phish passed through this section into original hard rock before re-merging with “Wilson’s” lyrics. A prime example of how anything the band touched turned to gold on the festival’s final day, this first set surprise fit right in with spiced up jamming on display throughout.

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Wolfman’s Brother” 7.1 I

Watkins Glen (B.Ferguson)

Late in the opening frame of the festival, Phish crafted the centerpiece of the set in “Wolfman’s Brother.” Though “Wolfman’s” is always reliable for a foray into Phish grooves these days, this enthusiastic version took the 3.0 template to a supercharged level. Coming in the midst of a stellar run of songs that included “Bathtub Gin,” “Life On Mars?,” and “My Friend, My Friend,” “Wolfman’s” provided one of the first throwdowns of the weekend. As Page hopped up to his clav and the band dripped into the jam, the concert grounds immediately popped off. Trey tickled the grooves with a repetitive staccato lick as Gordon and Fishman held down a slick pocket. Trey got far more creative with his phrasing than usual, urging the band to follow his creative path—and that they did. Transforming into certifiable Phish crack, this dance session had the festival in full gear if everyone hadn’t gotten there already. Complete with Gordon’s footbell approval, the band sunk their teeth into this version like they hadn’t in quite a while with “Wolfman’s,” engaging in all sorts of rhythmic exchanges and extending past the length of most recent outings. The creative guitar licks never stopped throughout the entire jam as Trey led the troops to a blistering whole-band peak in this early-weekend gem.

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Stash” 7.2 II

7.1.11 (G.Lucas)

Saturday’s second set contained a bit of a lull in the middle, but that didn’t happen until the band had slaughtered a standout, fourth-song  “Stash.” As Phish got into the jam, they readily reached a series of collective hits that created an alternate rhythmic template for the entire piece. Mike and Trey worked their ideas together, spiraling guitar lines around the dynamic beat while Page added piano comps to the increasingly intricate and dramatic excursion. Bringing the piece into more abstract territory, the three guys delved into darker waters as Trey and Mike’s lines adopted an ominous tone. Migrating back towards “Stash’s” natural build, the band’s lock-step communication never faltered as their ideas were coherently tied upon entering a retro, face-melting peak. A second-set highlight that got overshadowed by stellar final frame, this “Stash” is fully on the level.

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Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.2 II

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

In 2004, Phish deconstructed what many believe to be their greatest post-hiatus composition—“Scents and Subtle Sounds.” Lopping off the mystical introduction that gets right to the metaphysical meaning of the song, the band started the multi-part epic midway through—out of context—with Trey’s heavy guitar chords. Taking much of the majesty away from the piece, this is how Phish decided to leave it, and when they played a short rendition at MSG ’09, this chopped up format remained. Thus, when the band crept out of the post-“Rift” silence with the opening notes of “Scents’’” intro, many of us were flabbergasted and blissfully surprised. Whether or not the song will remain in semi-rotation, at least it’s back together again. And when they dropped from the song into the void, everything felt in right in the world. Sculpting a gorgeous sunset rendition of the emotive piece, the band’s precise interplay and Trey’s lyrical phrasing took this sequence to the mountaintop. Steeped in soulful textures the music seemed to climb towards the heavens as Phish’s modern precision was applied to the post-hiatus standout. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that “Scents” and “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing were reintroductions for the second leg rather bustouts for Super Ball. A kid can dream, right?

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Jam of the Day:

Destiny Unbound” 7.3.11 I

Another song that moved beyond its usual boundaries during Sunday’s first set at Super Ball.

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Third-Set Thunder

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 11th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

7.1.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

Of all the stellar musical sequences that took place over Super Ball weekend, the opening segment of Saturday night’s third set—”Golden Age” > “Caspian” > “Piper” > “Tweezer”—represents one of the improvisational best. Combining four flowing and creative pieces, the band kicked off the nighttime festivities with a run of music that showcased a broad spectrum of their styles while blowing just about everyone out of the water.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

It’s no coincidence that “Golden Age” has emerged as one of this era’s defining covers. Lyrically poignant for Phish’s modern renaissance, this song has grown in each outing since its Albany ’09 debut (11.27), and this summer “Golden Age” has broken out of its shell. In Darien, not only did the band take the jam further than it had ever gone, the song became the theme of the set, reemerging prominently in “Weekapaug” and “2001.” But when the guys dropped into the dance anthem at Super Ball, the piece took on a whole new life. Transcending the rhythm grooves that dotted Darien’s excursion, Phish explored demented and percussive planes while launching into genre-defying improv at Watkins Glen. All of a sudden, the fun cover became a trampoline into the void as its jam became more abstract and psychedelic by the minute. Mike completely owned the latter portions of this piece, acting as the musical rudder while Trey and Page bubbled at the water’s surface. Fishman’s quickened and precise break-beats bordered on inhuman as the band delved into a tightly-laced musical jigsaw puzzle. And each piece was exactly in the right place.

Upon conclusion of “Golden Age’s” adventure, Phish dropped into “Prince Caspian” but, applying their teeming creativity to the song, played an alternate take of the usually straightforward ballad. Trey started his solo with less notes, carrying each out for longer and creating an incredibly emotional feel over the band’s slowed, festival-sized canvas. But instead of bringing the song to a peak, Trey backed off and the band moved with him into a more delicate conversation. As the band brought the piece down an intricate path, Trey briefly hinted at the heavy chords that typically end the song, before they slid right into “Piper” without stopping.

Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

Phish barreled forth with enormous energy built from the set’s opening combo, and “Piper” took little time to reach soaring planes. As soon as the lyrics ended, this version burst wide-open with instinctual jamming—the kind where the music commands the band and all becomes one energetic blur. Chugging as a single-minded monster, the guys poured laced this high-paced jaunt with passionate interplay. Mike continued his mastery with accelerated bass lines that bled musical darkness. Trey fed off Gordon’s energy, soon sprouting melodic cries while Fishman annihilated his set like there was no tomorrow. Page filled in on piano and the band was off and sprinting through fields of psychedelic debauchery. As Trey inserted rhythmic chops to ease the mania, the band leaped on his idea, creating sparse and connected percussive textures. But before long, Phish collectively constructed another wall of sound—a wall that Trey tore down with the opening lick of “Tweezer.”

Super Ball (B.Ferguson)

From the get-go, this “Tweezer” had IT. Infused with creative fills, hits and stops during the composed section, when the jam dropped everyone knew things were gonna’ get buck wild. Dripping with over-sized grooves and an aggressive growl from Big Red, the band applied their retro-stop/start jamming to this festival sized monster, creating even more gooey, rhythmic tension. This was one of those versions that one lived rather than listened to—the shit was just raw. And as the colossal textures threatened to envelop the concert field, Trey initiated a pattern of seething guitar cries—which he echoed himself—before chopping the jam with his seismic, orbit-altering effect and oozing into jam’s next segment. Mike twisted teases of “Scents and Subtle Sounds” into this mellower groove as the band methodically moved towards a guitar-led build. The piece seemed to be winding to natural conclusion, but Trey jumped the gun a bit, rushing into the beginning of “Julius.” But after a such a stellar four-song run, everything else felt like gravy.

Though Sunday’s show would prove to be a more complete effort through and through, this segment from Saturday’s night’s third set provided one of the unquestionable high points of Super Ball’s unforgettable weekend.

The age of miracles.
The age of sound.
Well there’s a Golden Age
Comin’ round, comin’ round, comin’ round!

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Jam of the Day:

Piper > Tweezer” 7.2.11 III

The latter half of this next-level run of music.

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Weekend Nuggets: Ball Videos

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 9th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

OFFICIAL SUPER BALL VIDEOS:

” A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” – 7.3.11

*****
“Tube” – 7.2.11

*****
“Simple > Bug” – 7.1.11

*****

Jam of the Weekend:

Sand” 7.1.11 II

Phish’s outstanding, jazz-rooted interplay in “Sand”—on display all summer—was inflated into this festival-sized excursion on the first night of Super Ball.

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Ballin’ From All Angles

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 7th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

As Phish slayed everything in their path during Super Ball weekend, one of the most encouraging qualities to their playing was the diversity of musical directions that their jams encompassed. Proving to be masters of many domains, the band annihilated a variety of musical textures with abandon, illustrating their teeming creativity of the moment. Regardless of what musical style Phish navigated, the common denominator was overwhelming success. The band never got lost amidst their jams and always carried a strong sense of cohesion and intent behind their interplay. Bursting with creativity and confidence like never before in this era, Phish took a huge step forward with their playing at Super Ball. Drenched in diverse jamming, Phish’s ninth festival showcased the band’s  full spectrum of improvisational territory over the course of three days.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

One of Phish’s styles highlighted at Super Ball (and touched on yesterday) was the abstract psych-scapes that began to appear during leg one. These explorations blurred the line between hearing and feeling music, as they often contained surreal harmonies and possessed a hypnotic effect on the listener. Magnified during the masterful, hour-long “Storage Jam,” this style was also featured with overwhelming success in “Crosseyed,” “Simple,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” and “Waves.” In each case, this direction added depth to the show and brought listeners further into the musical unknown while displaying the band’s most recent proclivity.

A second form of psychedelic interplay came in the band’s more intricate and exploratory jamming showcased in “Golden Age” and “Light” and “Disease.” While each of these jams featured variant textures, they shared the commonality of pushing musical boundaries. Coupled with the band’s ambient explorations, these diverse creations graced the festival with genuine unpredictability and adventure. “Golden Age,” perhaps the most innovative jam of the weekend, migrated from rhythm grooves to an alternate plane where Trey and Page collaborated up top in “plinko” fashion while Mike steered the jam from underneath using eclectic bass-lines with punctuated and purposeful notes—all held together by Fishman’s inhuman beats. Along the lines of some experiments from June (such as Merriweather’s “Rock and Roll”) this time, Phish completely nailed the complex puzzle with accuracy and precision bringing the piece to unfathomable depths of percussive interplay.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

A similar dynamic emerged in the later stages of “Down With Disease,” as Mike commanded the direction of the jam while Trey picked staccato notes and Page responded to him with short clav patterns. Fishman even followed Trey and Page in this jam, leaving Mike as the sole commander of the low end as he providing a dark and abstract feel to the music. “Light” provided another plunge into psychedelic waters with its most significant version of the summer. As Trey left his guitar solo behind, the band settled into a more collective plane in which musical ideas were passed around like hot potatoes. All band members tuned into each others’ offerings and echoed, comped, or responded to each other with delicate interplay. As the band settled even further, Trey and Mike began to work off each other in a patient exchange, slowly bringing Page and Fish into a picking pattern that soon took a turn for the groovy. Each time the band dove into the void over the weekend, they came out with spectacular jams—an exhilarating aspect of Super Ball.

A Phish festival wouldn’t be a Phish festival if it didn’t contain larger-than-life dance grooves, and this past weekend had rhythms aplenty. The massive, open-air versions of “Sand” and “Tweezer” highlighted this crack-like facet of Phish’s game. While “Sand” magnified the band’s laid-back and swanky interplay under the festival’s blaring speaker towers, “Tweezer” merged Trey’s uncompressed, post-hiatus growl with Phish’s ‘97’s stop/start funk style in a mechanical and tar-thick highlight of the weekend. And as these patterns slowed with the colossal festival sound system, space opened up within the music for precise rhythmic exchanges—most often centered around Mike’s thumping bass lines. In addition to these two danceadelic monstrosities, the band also fired off passionate festival-sized groove sessions in “Moma Dance,” “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Destiny Unbound,” “Reba,” “Ghost > Jibboo.”

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (G.Lucas)

How about structured jamming? When Phish wasn’t experimenting or throwing down ferocious rhythms, they were juicing their songs for all they were worth. Infusing extra improvisational zest into pieces like “Wilson,” “Antelope,” “David Bowie,” Bathtub Gin,” “Party Time,” “Stash,” “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” “McGrupp,” and “Harry Hood,” most anything the band touched turned to gold at Watkins Glen. With communication honed over a month of playing in June, the band hit the central New York racetrack as a well-oiled machine, willing to let it loose and allow their instincts take over.

7.2.11 (G.Lucas)

Even spicing up their festival setlists with rarities, Phish offered something for every fan. “Peaches,” “Torn and Frayed,” “Life on Mars?” and a shredding “Quinn the Eskimo” came out on day one, while Mike’s “Suskind Hotel” and The Rolling Stone’s “Monkey Man” debuted on day two, a show that also included “McGrupp” and the return of the original “Scents and Subtle Sounds.” The festival finale gave way to the first “Colonel Forbin’s” narration of the modern era (a story about how the entire weekend was a projected reality) into “Famous Mockingbird,” “Destiny Unbound,” “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars,” “Time Loves a Hero,” and the second-ever “No Quarter;” quite the weekend of song selection to say the least!

Thinking back to 2009, when Phish’s jamming stagnated with a formula of high-powered rock and roll that morphed into percussive grooves, only to end with an ambient fade outs, it’s amazing how far the band has come in two years. In 2011—as proven with Super Ball’s musical smorgasbord—the real Phish is back and blazing a new path into the future. With creativity paramount again, the guys showed us why they are still the greatest band to roam the earth.

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Jam of the Day:

A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” 7.3.11 I

One of Super Ball’s most impressive excursions came in the welcome return of this elusive and menacing post-hiatus piece.

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Super Ball—An Instant Classic

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on July 6th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Super Ball IX (G.Lucas)

A few days removed from Superballin’ and I’m still reeling from the quantity of amazing Phish that went down over the weekend. For 13 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds over three days, Phish threw down a musical showcase at Watkins Glen International, while recapturing their festival magic of lore. Though Festival 8 provided a blissful return to the festival setting in Southern California, it didn’t feel the same as Phish’s historic Northeastern fiestas. Super Ball most definitely did. As a full-powered band collided with the fantasy-like festival grounds, a musical spark was lit early in the opening show and a fire of blazing Phish burned all weekend long. Coming off a stellar opening leg of Summer Tour, when the guys hit the stage at Super Ball IX, things seemed to loosen up in just the right ways as they crafted a weekend of dreams. Phish—the improvisational juggernauts we fell in love with—are back on the scene with new improvisational tricks up their sleeves and an enthusiasm to match.

7.1.11 - Watkins Glen (G.Lucas)

Over the course of three shows, the band played so many profound jams that its been impossible to listen to, wrap my head around, and digest them all in such a short amount of time. With more standout music at Super Ball than at any other three (or four)-night run in the modern era, Phish exploded with innovative playing throughout the weekend. Capping the festival with four unforgettable sets, including, perhaps, their most psychedelic performance to date in their late-night “Storage Jam,” Phish left their fan base in a state of bliss and disbelief after a weekend that surpassed most everyone’s expectations. It was that good.

The band’s masterful improvisation shined throughout the festival, whether playing within song structures or exploring new territory—something they did quite often over the three days. The reaction time between band members was negligible as they patiently crafted one standout piece after another. The tempo of their playing adopted to the booming sound and open-air surroundings, slowing down just a bit and allowing Mike to dominate the stage, directing jams with dark and eclectic bass lines throughout the weekend. But Phish’s virtuosic whole-band interplay, showcased all weekend long (and especially during their late-night set) wrote the story of the festival, leaving fans new and old in a state of utter joy. For those of us who saw them in their heyday, the band’s creativity has fully returned. And for those experiencing a full-powered Phish for the first time, well, get ready for the ride of your life!

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

Within all the musical theatrics of the weekend, Phish introduced us, in earnest, to a new musical style—extremely abstract, and often beatless, psychedelic sound sculptures. An improvisational direction hinted at throughout June (in jams such as Bethel’s “Waves” and “Disease,” Alpharetta’s “Disease” and Raleigh’s “Split”) was displayed on night one in the mini-jam before “Crosseyed” and during “Simple,” and then fully expounded upon during their late-night dip into the abyss in 5.1 surround-sound amidst the interactive art installations of Ball Square. After focusing on eerie, abstract and ambient exploration throughout this hour-long performance, Phish infused similar sounds into their festival finale, particularly in “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” and “Waves.”

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Historically, Phish has honed in on jamming styles at their festivals which they continued to explore during subsequent tours. Melodic ambient interplay at Lemonwheel (highlighted by the fourth set’s “Ambient Jam”) and IT’s growling psychedelic textures of 2003 (underlined by the unforgettable Tower Jam) provide the best examples. During the band’s final slate of shows in August, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this type of abstract experimentation they continue to push forward.

Most of all, Phish’s creativity—in all directions—was on display at Super Ball. From the groove-based turned exploratory “Golden Age” to the Tyrannosaurus-sized “Tweezer,” and from the scorching-turned-funky “Disease” to the intricate interplay of “Light,” Phish jams were sprouting from every angle at Watkins Glen. There is so much to discuss and so much to process from the weekend (and leg one), that it is hard to know where to begin. But with a month off we have plenty of time breakdown the exploits of the festival and beyond. Look for more detailed analysis and discussion of Super Ball IX this week as we bask in the glory of Phish 2011.

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Jam of the Day:

Golden Age” 7.2.11 III

One of Super Ball’s upper-echelon excursions.

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A Small Ball?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on June 26th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

"Thunder Road" - Unofficial Print (J.Lamb)

Over the weekend, some surprising information leaked about the ticket sales for this weekend’s Super Ball IX—there haven’t been many! The rumored number of pre-sold tickets has hovered around 25,000, a number that even with 10,000 walk-ups, will be far cry from the band’s northeast extravaganzas of lore. The Clifford Ball hosted 70,000, while the The Great Went brought 75,000 fans to Limestone, Maine. 60,000 trekked north for Lemonwheel and 65,000 attended Camp Oswego. Big Cypress drew 85,000 to the Everglades, while IT and Coventry each came in around 60,000. Sure this isn’t the late-‘90s and Phish’s fan base is older, but, shit, even Indio—on the west coast—drew 40,000! So with the smallest Phish festival in history likely about to go down at Watkins Glen International, what the heck went wrong?

6.12.11 (G.Lucas)

Business-wise, Super Ball seems like a clear case of over-saturation. Putting the festival so close—both in time and physical space—to Bethel and Darien’s leg one shows (not to mention 15 other east coast affairs) the driving need for people to be at Super Ball doesn’t seem to be there. With plenty of more Phish on the horizon this summer, especially for west coasters, there is little incentive for many fans to travel far away for a holiday festival when Phish will soon come to them. After just feeding their core fan base a month of stellar shows and about to visit the west in August, it seems like only the most passionate and local Phish fans (who had budgeted this weekend into their summer) will be attending Super Ball—a factor that could contribute to a dreamlike vibe. Tack on a late announcement for an event on July 4th weekend—a summer holiday that often entails family commitments—and you’ve got the recipe for the most intimate Phish fest to date.

Super Ball IX

For fans, this number will likely mean reduced traffic, reduced stress, and a generally easier time navigating the festival grounds. The multi-mile walks from campgrounds to the concert field will shrink with no need to push people so far from the central part of town. But what will be the band’s reaction? Will they be disgruntled by a less-than-full concert field? Phish has always been pretty good at going with the flow, and if I had to make a guess, any sort of attendance count won’t change their musical output. In fact, many fans have sited “The Dark Side Axiom,” theorizing that Phish will throw down harder with fewer people there. But with many thousand more set to tune in via Sirius radio (to be announced soon) a la Festival 8, who knows the real answer?

I suspect the weekend will be phenomenal—unaffected by any shortage of the masses—and blossom into an intimate and memorable party for 35,000 people. The numbers are meaningless to us, if not a bit fascinating, because when the first notes bellow out of those speaker towers, the last thought on any of our mind’s will be the number of people in attendance. Once you and Phish and endless dance space converge, little else tends to matter.

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