The Summer Debuts

6.18.09 Star Lake (M.Stein)

6.18.09 Star Lake (M.Stein)

As we turn the page on a new chapter of Phish history, one of the most exciting facets of this era is the plethora of new songs that were introduced in June.  As we begin our reflections on the past tour, I thought that their new songs would be a good place to start.  Showcasing diverse songwriting and various musical styles, the band has come out with a slew of new material- with more waiting in the wings.  Let’s take a look at each song one by one, in the order of their summer premieres.


“Ocelot” – debut: 5.31 Fenway Park I

Unveiled as the first new song of tour, many fans had heard the band’s rehearsal of this piece at The Centrum from the previous night, which somehow made it to the internet.  A playful song that evokes memories of the ’70s folk-rock tradition, “Ocelot” hopped into rotation from day one.  Trey’s lyrical melodies complement the the song’s loafing, casual grooves, creating a catchy piece that would stick in your head far after the show was over.  Growing in improvisation each time out, the band stretched the final Deer Creek version into a real jam.  Expect much more to from “Ocelot” in August- “Won’t you come out to play?”

“Light” – debut 5.31 Fenway II

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

Debuted as the landing point of Fenway’s colossal tour-opening “Tweezer,” “Light” was the one song that I really anticipated making the jump from TAB to Phish.  Sped up from its Trey Band incarnation, “Light’s” jam has adopted a feel of a new-school “Piper.”  With soaring guitar work and full-band improvisation, the Bonnaroo version, which emerged from “Rock and Roll’s” ambient jam, provided one of the weekend’s highlights.  An open-ended jam that even found its way into some funk grooves at Manchester, it seems that “Light” has limitless potential.  I have a feeling that this could develop into one of 3.0’s shining stars.

“Time Turns Elastic” – debut Fenway 5.31 II

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

This controversial opus was showcased on the first night of tour, and played several times throughout.  Certainly a great piece of music, its place in a live show is questionable, in my opinion.  As soon “Time Turns Elastic” started, we knew we were in for nearly twenty minutes of straight composition.  Appearing in the middle of three second sets, “Time Turns Elastic” played the role of vibe-crusher more than once.  But when placed as a first set closer at Alpine- coming out of “TMWSIY”- it worked much better.  If Phish is going to continue to play this song, which I’m sure they will, they need to be extra-selective about where they place it in a show.  A complex musical accomplishment, this one seems better suited for at-home couch listening than at an energetic, psychedelic Phish show.

“Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” – debut 6.2 Jones Beach I

“I got a blank space where my mind should be”- centered around this intriguing refrain, this heavier song became an instant favorite when they broke it in the second show of tour.  Featuring a slower pace and ominous feel, “Stealing Time” seems like an ideal launchpad for dissonant, psychedelic improv.  Throughout June, however, this song remained largely in the box, with it’s final version at Deer Creek extended with some blues-rock, guitar led improv.  This piece won’t remain shackled forever, and when the band finally steps to it, the results could be astonishing.

“Kill Devil Falls” – debut 6.2 Jones Beach II

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

Sounding distinctly like a TAB piece, “Kill Devil Falls” is essentially two songs in one.  First, we have the straight ahead rock and roll composition, that to be honest, leaves a bit to be desired.  Yet, when the verses end, the band enters a segmented jam that sounds almost identical to a “Birds of a Feather” jam.  (In fact we were sure they were soundchecking “Birds” at Fenway while they played this.) Once its improv section began, this song heated up considerably, with its most exploratory and enticing version coming during Bonnaroo’s late-night set.  Producing one of the standout “type-II” jams of tour, Trey clearly loves this song, and we have only begun to hear the places it will go.

“Twenty Years Later” – debut 6.5 Jones Beach II

With a chorus that approaches the sound of an “indie” Phish song, “Twenty Years Later” features engaging lyrics and layered vocals that almost sounds like a different band.  The song then progresses into a heavier section reminiscent of “I Saw It Again.” Clearly a reflection on Trey’s journey over the past two-decades, this song seems more autobiographical than any other.  Only played this one time, we have yet to see what really in store for this one.  But after only one version- I like it.

“Let Me Lie” – debut Great Woods 6.6 I

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

6.18.09 (M.Stein)

Originating from Trey’s solo album Bar 17, Phish transformed “Let Me Lie” into their newest ballad- just as predicted.  A poignant memoir about recovery and resilience, this one also contains metaphorical imagery about Trey’s trials and tribulations.  A gorgeous composition, the rest of Phish really fills out this song in the way that TAB could never do.  Appearing a second time as an interlude amidst Deer Creek’s monster second set, this one will be a 3.0 staple before all is said and done.

“Sugar Shack” – debut Camden 6.7 II

One of the songs that I wish we had heard more often, Mike’s newest contribution to the Phish catalog made an impressive debut in Camden’s second set.  Combining quirky changes, segments of groove, and carnival-like guitar lines, “Sugar Shack” is one of the most unique songs of the new bunch.  Only appearing once during June, we can only hope that this gets pulled into rotation come the second leg of tour.

“Joy” – debut 6.7 Camden Encore

Played only twice this June, “Joy” is another new ballad, describing the emotional plight of a woman and her connection to the outside world.  The lyric, “We want you to be happy, because this is your song too” also carries figurative meaning for the entire audience, as we are all a part of this great Phishy experiment.  An outwardly emotional song, this one will probably gain mixed acceptance in the larger Phish community.  I think it’s great.

“Alaska” – debut 6.9 Asheville II


6.18.09 (M.Stein)

Another TAB > Phish transplant, this may be the least interesting of the June debuts.  A comical blues-rocker with a guitar-based “jam,” this one appeared twice in three shows, and then we never heard it again.  As any Phish song, its jam has potential, but the composition of “Alaska” falls a bit flat.

“The Connection” – debut 6.19 Deer Creek I

album-undermind-bonus-dvdIt was a complete surprise when the band broke out “The Connection” towards the end of Deer Creek’s first set.  Off of the band’s last album, Undermind, this song never made it into a live show in 2004.  The debut of “The Connection” came off quite well, with catchy hooks and Jerry-esque noodling.  More proof that any song is fair game this time around, “The Connection” is a welcome reminder of its wholly-underrated album whose 2004 release was squeezed in just before Phish called it quits.  It will be interesting to see how this song develops come August.

Eleven songs made their Phish debut in the band’s first tour back on the road, most which will find their way onto their upcoming album, Joy. Differing in musical quality, most all of these songs hold great potential for improvisation.  We have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what these songs will grow into, as Phish mostly played basic templates this tour.  As they embark on a new era of their career, Phish has ushered in their most impressive batch of new songs in over a decade, adding a distinctly fresh feel to their ’09 setlists; and I foresee even more debuts in August.  Stay tuned – to Red Rocks and beyond!

What do you think of the Phish’s new songs?  Respond in Comments!



Yesterday, a story on Rolling broke some new information about Phish’s forthcoming album, now officially titled Joy. Later in the day, issued a small news release about Joy, with an official track listing.  A clear theme about the passage of time and a reflection on life runs through the album, starting with “Twenty Years Later” and concluding with “Time Turns Elastic.”  The only song hasn’t been played live is “I’ve Been Around.”  Look for the album some time in August.

1. Twenty Years Later
2. Backwards Down the Number Line
3. Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
4. Light
5. Joy
6. Sugar Shack
7. Ocelot
8. Kill Devil Falls
9. I’ve Been Around
10. Time Turns Elastic



6.21 Alpine Pollock

6.21 Alpine Pollock

6.21.09 Alpine Valley, East Troy, WI < TORRENT LINK

Set II contains some of the tightest and most exploratory improv of the run.

I: Brother, Wolfman’s Brother, Funky Bitch, The Divided Sky, Joy, Back On The Train, Taste, Poor Heart, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Time Turns Elastic

II: Crosseyed and Painless  > Down With Disease > Bug > Piper > Wading In The Velvet Sea, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Slave To The Traffic Light

E: Grind, Frankenstein

Source: Schoeps CCM4V’S(din) > Lunatec V2 > Benchmark AD2K > Sound Devices 722 (24/48) – Recorded by Z-Man

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223 Responses to “The Summer Debuts”

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  1. Yome NetSan Says:

    My favorites are Ocelot, Kill Devil Falls and Stealing Times; I also love Time Turns Elastic but indeed its placement can kill it…
    What do you think of the album’s name ? I think “Joy” is lame…
    Any thoughts about Phish coming to Rock Band and Guitar Hero video games ? I can’t wait to play Wilson on Rockband but the Guitar Hero set is too expensive for me…

  2. Al Says:

    My favorite of the new songs are:
    1. KDF (cause it sounds like chalkdust + birds, with a suzy bridge)
    2. Stealing time
    3. Joy
    4. TTE

    My least favorite:

    By the way, TTE is a great song that works very well live, but only as an encore or setcloser. I don’t really buy the argument that it doesn’t work because its 15 min. of pure composition. What are classics like Guyute, Fluffhead or McGrupp then????

  3. Bapslap Says:

    I think TTE is a great song (composition) and can work well live, but the performance has to be tight. The album version is crisp and calculated, and the song live needs to have that solidness to it, otherwise the crowd loses interest and intensity. I do agree that it is much better as a SET I closer than a mid-SET II tune.

  4. Al Says:

    Insane “Antelope” solo from Alpine 2009. Close up. Man, Trey is on fire!

  5. Tweeprise Says:

    I was hoping to hear Greyhound Rising and Valentine this tour, really liked those songs from Trey’s Northern Exposure tour.

    I would also like to hear Phish rip apart Spin.

    Stealing time is definitely my favorite of the new tunes.

  6. Matso Says:

    The new tunes are a bit of a mixed bag, imo.

    In order to end of a positive note, I’ll deal with the negative first:

    1)I agree with Miner about the compositional merit of KDF and Alaska, both of which I find uninspiring.

    2) I’m also not a huge fan of most of the new lyrics. Again, KDF and Alaska feel superficial and lack the power of suggestion that other quasi-narrative Phish lyrics (eg. Runaway Jim). In fact, I could probably do without KDF altogether – give me BOAF straight-up or with a twist any day.

    For lyrics, TTE and Light are both border-line. Don’t get me wrong – I really like both of these songs, but some of the metaphors are bland to the point of being practically meaningless (What is the ‘light’ of which Trey speaks so often? Why does everything always ‘spin’? At least there seems to be no additional references to ‘floating’…).

    3) Finally, a minor gripe about the full band arrangement of BDTNL. Even with the reworked intro, this still doesn’t have the emotional kick that the original Rothbury performance had. I think Fishman’s ride rushes the whole thing too much and flattens out the melody. I would love to hear this taken at a more ‘Water in the Sky’ (original and current arrangement) to allow some of the melody to be accentuated more.

    And now on the positive!

    4) Ocelot and Stealing Time are both excellent. Ocelot is a great song with fun lyrics and imagery which isn’t tired, and loads of potential for all sorts of jams. Now that we have Stealing Time, I think they should retire Character Zero. For a blues-rock Phish experience, this one does it best. Great riff at the outset, allows Fishman to play all over the place, and good lyrics (even if the refrain is perhaps repeated too often). I love the “Gonna give you one last chance to see, gonna shrug demands off of me” line.

    5) TTE, despite its awkward placement on occasion this past tour (it worked at both Fenway and Alpine though, so 2 out of 4 (?) ain’t actually that bad), is a welcome return to some full-bred composition. It’s probably the prog-iest thing Trey has ever written, which I don’t really mind. The studio version is recorded beautifully – I hope the rest of the album has a similar mix and feel.

    6) Light and Sugar Shack are welcome additions to the canon and I wouldn’t be upset to hear either on any given night (despite my minor reservations about the Light lyrics, the song is damn catchy and could work in so many different ways).

    As a final observation, I’m not sure this is as strong a batch of songs as say, on Farmhouse or Round Room, but I suspect the album will be a greater achievement than the sum of its parts if Lillywhite has done a good job. It’s just a shame about the title, which despite its clear personal significance for the band, is too sentimental and on the nose and makes me cringe just a little.

  7. Chalkdustin Says:

    The initial shock of hearing new songs wore off for me once I heard them at Deer Creek and Alpine. And I mean ‘shock’ in a good way. With time, I think people will grow to really enjoy these songs, but I was very surprised (and rather disappointed) in the amount of uninterest I saw when Phish would bust out one of these new tunes. At all three shows this past weekend, I witnessed lots of people heading to the restrooms or to grab another beer. It seemed to me like folks weren’t giving the new songs a chance. If Phish busted out something totally fresh that I had never heard before, I’d pay close attention! Even the dudes I was with were getting restless with the new material. IMHO, I think we’re in for a great album this summer and I’m really looking forward to seeing where these new cuts find their home in Phish’s shows.

  8. Mitch Says:

    Stealing Time is my fav. From the first time it was played I really dug it.
    Ocelot is really fun and gets stuck in my head.
    Backwards and TTE are both good to hear but TTE cannot be played mid 2nd set anymore.

    I liked Joy when I heard it but havent listened much of it since.
    Twenty Years Later was really good when I heard it at Jones but same thing, haven’t listened much since. I hope this one gets more play.
    Sugar Shack was fun and its a Mike song so its goofy.
    Light is growing on me.

    I dont really like KDF. The jam is good but I just dont dig the lyric portion.
    Alaska gets skipped when I listen to shows.

    So far as album title, I prefer “Best Fucking Phish Album” like Mike said on his hotline. ^Yome, I read, I think on Rolling Stone that Joy was written for Trey’s sister and that’s prob why it got the album title.

    Weren’t there like 20 new songs on the track listing from the studio? I can’t wait to see what else they have and for them to bring back Scents and Walls.

  9. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Yome NetSan, i agree. “Joy”?? We went from “Party Time” (hillarious), which was billed as “the best fucking phish album ever” to “joy”. Kinda lame. That being said, I am really looking forward to the release. I actually like hearing a nice polished studio effort to show contrast to the live performance.
    Favorite new song: SUGAR SHACK – so catchy, so much potential, so much Gordeux. Love it. Stealing time is a close second. Track has some chaw, kinda badass appeal.
    One thing to note, no page efforts? He had a great batch of songs for his olo effort during the break up. He hasn’t written anything since or did he get shut off the album?

  10. Chalkdustin Says:

    Lyrically, I think a lot of these songs are really strong and touch high emotional levels, at least with me. When they played Joy at Alpine, the song tugged hard at some deep feelings. The line “We want you to be happy, because this is your song too” hit me hard for some reason and I found my eyes welling up. Maybe it’s because I’m a big pansy. 🙂 As much as I like the nonsensical lyrics and storytelling of Phish’s songs, I don’t have any problem accepting more emotive ballads.

  11. Sara Says:

    I have to say after hearing Backwards down the number line at Alpine, I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. It was my favorite of the new songs. Thanks for your thoughts!

  12. Danny B Says:

    I agree with a lot of what has been said, but also have reservations about a lot of these songs. I ACTUALLY LOVE KDF!!!! The lyrics are not the best, but it is up tempo, and has energy, and you can dance to it. Many of the new songs lack the danceable energy of previous Phish songs, and while KDF sounds like BOAF and little bit like Chalkdust, I could care less.

    TTE- is growing on me, but I have yet to hear it at a show. I will suspend judgement until that happens.

    I like Ocelot, Sugar Shack, Light, and Stealing Time. But in the end, I think these songs are very weak when compared to previous albums. Round Room and Undermind contained some duds, but they also contained some fantastic compositions that work extremely well live.

    In the end I think Phish is rushing things. I wish they would take their time, and explore the new material live, and explore more Gordon and Page songs. Gordon and Page have been becoming better songwriters over the last five years, and as painful as it is to say, I feel like Trey’s songwriting has been going downhill a bit ( I still really like a lot of his new stuff). No one is rushing them to put out an album, and I wish they would think about things more. Every Phish album has been met with backlash when it has been released, so I don’t expect this time around it will be any different. PLEASE PHISH, MAKE ME EAT MY WORDS. I want to love it, and I want it to be “the best fucking Phish album ever”

    On a final note, Let me lie is the only song I actually have trouble listening to, I know some people love it, and I might come around, but as of right now it just doesn’t do it for me. This is my honest opinion, and I don’t say these things to piss people off, or say Phish sucks. I love Phish and will stick with them through whatever happens. All that being said I hope the album fucking rocks.

  13. hooks Says:

    given the symbolic nature of the new album, they seem very eager to get it out there and start anew, kind of thing… perhaps it won’t be much time before another album is put in the works (compared to time between previous albums). and not to detract from the anticipation for the new disc… just based on them having their own independent label and whatnot…

  14. YouCanCallMeAl Says:

    Off topic question – Hi all quick question, were can you usually get the Pollock Posters? Do you have to find him in the lot? I was at alpine and didn’t see them at the merch counter? Now they are like 150$ on Ebay. How much are they at the shows? Is there anywhere you can order some? Thanks for your help!

  15. Chalkdustin Says:

    @YouCanCall, they were $50 at the shows. Try I actually traded an extra Sat. Alpine for a Sunday. People will trade or accept cash.

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    Love stealing time, kill devil, and ocelot – all 3 are apt to be stuck in my head all day if I’m not careful. I’d love to see a live tte. I think its a magical, heartfelt epic. I’m still trying to figure out why there is such a need to hear a type 2 jam in a song we just started hearing. Right now, it’s new and magical.. Stretching out songs is best left for once they’re already known, loved, entrenched, and maybe even stuck – as a way to freshen. When they’re fresh, well that’s enough for me.. Watching them develop over time is half the fun.

    Let me lie is lovely but apt to take quite a beating in this fanbase. I always think of the lyrics as a story about treys daughter .. With the metaphorical implications you mentioned but also the idea as the band as the bike – and trey will ride it as he likes – we get to ride backseat of course!

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    Surprised a little by the kdf lyrics bashing! I think its a great little story and I was singing it all day yesterday.

  18. Diron Baker Says:

    You kids crack me up! I remember sitting in Arco Arena in Sacramento in 1996 saying… “this (2nd) set is amazing and then they had to go and throw one of these new songs in to the mix. Man this ruins the whole set, and the song isn’t even that good!” Well, it turns out the song was Taste. By Walnut Creek the next year (Hurricane Danny- buy the DVD) that song at that show was a top 5 all time Phish experience for me.
    Let the new songs develop. Phish knows the good from the bad, and they’ll continue to work on the good ones. The bad ones come and go. Enjoy that they’re back together, be thankful that Trey is clean, and give them a little time to grow back together as a band while having fun doing it!

  19. Chalkdustin Says:

    Right on, cOwfunk. My head was spinning with KDF and Ocelot yesterday.

    So can we look forward to the debut of the songs from the photo of the track list that Miner posted a while back?

  20. Weyoun42 Says:

    The only thing I’m disappointed with is that the new album looks to be just one disc. I was hoping that with the fact that they had 20 demos going into the studio and that they’ve been off for five years that we’d get a double-disc release, Junta-style. Still, maybe we’ll just get a quick turnaround on the *next* album. If this tour was any indication, the more new songs, the better. I’m all about Ocelot.

  21. MakisupaSecurity Says:

    I’m not in love with any of the new songs. I like TTE but agree a bad placement can ruin a show. I think it worked very well at Fenway, but skipped it listening to other shows. I say Set 1 closer or pre closer, or Set II second song with plenty of room for surprises.

    I listen to a lot of new Phish songs as if I’m hearing the band for the fist time, and I dont think any of these songs will win over any new fans. I guess thats a good thing, tickets are hard enough to get.

    I heard Mikes message too, “Best Fucking Phish Album” would be an awsome title, but the contrast between the two titles makes me wonder if Mike changed his mind after listening to it a bit more and they decided on Joy instead of “Eh, We’re Happy With It”

    Overall I think this tour was a great warmup for whats to come. They are looking for a new sound within the new “family” vibe, they’ve touched on it a bit while diving back to comfortable territory, but I think something new and great is still looming in the shadows. With some brushing up during the summer break I think we’ll see a more focused effort from the boys.

  22. BrandonKayda Says:

    I would like to see an Ocelot>Sneaking Sally. It’s a long shot but not too hard of a transition. They kind of sound the same.

  23. GunningforYou Says:

    I just want to say that TTE in the 2nd set at Jones Beach worked perfect for me. Kuroda’s lights were mindblowing, something you won’t get at a first set outdoor venue…

    tte>waste>yem works for me, but I understand how it just isn’t a danceable tune, but I needed a break at jb2 anyway

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    Not danceable? Sheeeeit I can dance to jerry space! Tte is disco in comparison!

  25. Holger Dansk Says:

    I definitely echo the positive reviews above for KDF, Stealin, and TTE, but my favorite so far is Ocelot. It has the potential to be the “radio hit” off the new album, given it’s admittedly pop and easy-to-dance-to nature, and that may be a negative, but I love it. It reminds me of Tennessee Jed. I completely agree with Dave’s view that TTE is a fine set closer, and misplaced elsewhere, and I also thought it took them until the final version on this tour to really nail it. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Let Me Lie very often in future sets, IMO.

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