In a weekend that oozed positivity on all fronts, some of the specific musical passages were lost in the sheer spectacle of the event. The three shows carried a very old-school vibe, from song choice to playing style. Most of the jams were shorter, directed, and concise, following the path of their earlier days. But, as usual, it’s quality, not quantity that is sought in Phish jams, and multiple segments from this weekend possessed an amazing dynamic. Over the next while, we’ll take a look back at some of the moments that helped define Hampton ’09, and today we’ll start with Saturday night’s “Rock And Roll > Limb By Limb.”
Coming out for their fourth set of the run, Phish had engaged in minimal open-ended improv over the previous three. Most jams were structured and tight, but lacked much exploration. This would change with the onset of this set. The playing throughout this entire segment flowed organically, with nothing sounding forced or contrived. The opening chords of the Velvet Underground cover riled up everyone immediately, bringing memories of the band’s late ’90s era of glory. As Page started to sing, everything felt in place once again.
The lyrics leading into the improv were particularly poignant, speaking of the power of music to lift us out of hard times- “Her life was saved by rock n roll…Despite all the complications…It was alright.” A perfect ode to Phish’s present state of affairs, the crowd latched onto the meaning, cheering the powerful words. As the band sailed into the jam, Trey sat into an emotive solo, while Mike and Page created some interlocking offerings that, when combined with Fish’s work, formed a tightly cohesive and thematic jam.
Trey initiated the more exploratory section of improv with some guitar riffs that slowly guided the band out of the song’s structure. Hopping onto his ideas, the band switched gears into a slowed down and murkier texture. In a quick moment, they were amidst a separate jam that had nothing to do with the song; flowing fluidly. Page and Trey complemented each other beautifully here, as Trey began to send guitar cries upwards towards the heavens. The band congealed around these more spiritual licks, and allowed Trey to lead the improv, which continued down an emotional path until Page’s piano roll wound the jam down to a point where Trey picked it up and segued seamlessly into “Limb By Limb.”
As “Rock And Roll” went unfinished, the “Limb” was the natural continuation and peak to this introductory portion of the set. Attacking the song with a delicate ferociousness, the band slayed it. As the jam soared, the band was glued together and absolutely crushing it. Trey took one of most gorgeous solos of the weekend, and the spirit emanating from the stage was infectious. Moving as one entity as they approached the apex, any separation between the band members was obliterated in their collective peak. Reflective and celebratory at the same time, this jam served as a destination for the set’s initial climb.
As the set and the weekend rolled along, Phish would dig deeper into improvisational ground, but this piece of music would remain the first time Phish 3.0 took an open-ended musical risk and succeeded. “Rock And Roll > Limb,” though not the longest piece in history, was played perfectly, fit right in with the vibe of the weekend, and will always be remembered as the first unstructured improvisational leap of the new era.
HAMPTON AUDS UPDATE
I should have tracked copies of the AUDs up by this weekend at latest. They will be from one of the No Spoilers tapers, Jesse Hurlburt, whose rig sounded great. I know a lot of people prefer the AUDs, which is why I am posting them. But if you have downloaded the SBDs and are into them- I think they are the best yet- save me a buck or two and hold off. As always, please use torrents when possible. In related news, I am going to set up a donate button soon for the cost of site / download maintenance with any profit going to charity, so stay tuned!