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”

  1. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    sometime in august? i thought it was july 28th?

    i think most of the new tunes are great. joy and let me lie are kind of poppy i think, and im surprised you dont like alaska. its a comedy litle blues song for sure, but i think its phishier than some of the other stuff from this year. it sounds like something they wouldve written in the 80’s, like an alumni blues sort of thing. i think its fun. not on the album though…

    sugar shack is the most anticipated studio song for me, i think, becuase that 9/4 circus section sounds really col but they were kind of hesitant and reserved whenn they played it live.

  2. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    when i say joy and let me lie are kind of poppy i don’t mean in a good way. ocelot and stealing time are my fav’s i think

  3. Mdawg Says:

    After going to the last 5 shows of tour I noticed that the new songs appeared to be flubbless. They always seem on point when performing the new tunes at shows. They are focused and concetrated when getting into this new territory.

  4. Weyoun42 Says:

    I’m usually not someone who pays attention to lyrics a whole lot, but besides the absolute catchyness of it, the lyrics really hooked me on Ocelot. I always liked “Brian & Robert” because, frankly, that one was for me. The song is describing me almost to a T. Ocelot is along the same lines; the way I hear it, it’s about the loner who won’t come out during the day and prefers to just sneak around by himself. But, the song also implores him to come out and get lost in the herd and float with the flock. Hearing that line while attending my first Phish show really brought it home for me, personally, because that’s exactly what I was doing for the first time.

  5. Frankie Says:

    Hooray for the Camden Wolfman’s !!! Fantastic version! Straight to the point! BAM!

  6. arbitropia Says:

    Twenty Years Later has “a chorus that approaches the sound of an ‘indie’ Phish song?” Would love to hear some elaboration on that point, as I’m not sure what “indie” means in this context (or any context, really). Sounds like classic Billy Breathes-era Phish to me, and is easily my favorite of the new tunes. I can see it working perfectly as an album-opener.

  7. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Weyoun42, that is a really cool connection man. Glad you came out and floated with the flock.

    @purplehump, i agree on Alaska. The track is fuggin’ goofy as hell but there is usually a nice little jam to follow the composed section. The jam out of the version from Asheville was pretty kick ass.

  8. Pence Says:

    Just FYI everybody, I was the one that took the “Funky Bitch” sign from the pavillion to the Lawn at Alpine, so all of you that were in the lawn, you can thank me.

  9. Frankie Says:

    So, is that you in the Jambase picture with the sign?–Leg-I-Photos

  10. shpongleyez Says:

    More Tom Marshall lyrics!

    That is all

  11. SpecialistForbin Says:

    I was at Alpine, and TTE and Joy were complete momentum killers 2nd night 1st set. Especially TTE after TMWSIY. I enjoy the last 5 minutes of TTE, which have potential, but the composed section is all over the map. And not in a Reba or Fluffhead way. I don’t think anyone was even MOVING during those songs, and I don’t think it was because they are new.
    As for the rest of the album, I wish every once and a while Phish would NOT play their new songs before the album is released. As far as I can tell, we’ve heard them all except one. It just adds a special quality to the album when all the songs are truly never before heard. I know they want to get them out to the masses, but it’s just a pipedream for me!

  12. SpecialistForbin Says:

    PS: @Pence: I’m glad they played Funky Bitch, but the last thing I want is 5,000 knuckleheads making giant signs blocking everyone’s view! And if you’re going to make a sign, why not ask for something a little more rare?

  13. arbitropia Says:

    For the record, I love the song part of KDF. I find it refreshing and unique in their catalog, with the clear early-R&R influence. The lyrics are allegorical in a fun way.

    In fact, I’m very excited about all the new tunes besides “Let Me Lie,” which clearly is meaningful to Trey but not so much to me. Yet. (you never know). While “Joy” is a beautiful and heartfelt addition to Phish’s fine selection of world-class gourmet cheeses (Waste, FEFY, If I Could, Brian & Robert, etc.), “Let Me Lie” feels like an old can of Cheez Whiz.

  14. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Wasn’t there a new cover debuted?
    I get the detailed coverage of the originals, but to me, this band has always been the world’s greatest cover band with even more originals taboot.

    this blog has some serious contributors who are demonstrate piety, wisdom, kindness and passion in thier posts which is refreshing given the quality of other like-focused, open community boards.

    The only shows I’ll catch this tour season are Red Rocks. Colorado and Phish in Colorado are very connected to me. Being married with kids in AZ makes it tough. I was at Hampton and enjoyed the re-ignition point, but I felt the fire hadn’t caught. Well now it seems that the blaze is catching. Whatever it takes tocreate a complete inferno, I’ll sign up to that plan and execute flawlessly with extreme prejudice said plan.

    The best show is the next show!

    Back to lurking

  15. Little Buddy Says:

    Let me Lie doesn’t ever get any love, but I’ve liked it ever since Bar 17 came out. I do like cheez whiz too though, so that might explain it…

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    Hm wasn’t that the first funky bitch? Pretty rare I’d say. But yeah signs are best if at all on balconies…

    Listening to alpine 1 today.The alpine ghost – lizards illustrates perfectly what I love about phish 3.. The ghost is thick, potent, funky, rockin- trey tears it up.. There’s a peak, then a lull, and trey slides smoothly into lizards which he Nails. The outro (if I were a dog?) Is amazing, totally gelled, brought me a little tear. So majestic. Trey flows some lovely vibrato in at the peak. Seriously gorgeous. And if that’s not as good as what they may or may have not found in another 10 minutes of ghost I don’t know. But if you get into lizard and think ho-hun I know how this goes, you miss the above moment of rapture. The rest of this set smokes as well – the yem has that big alpine energy vibe and funks nicely into nicu .. Only unfinished yem of tour no? Lovin this show – can’t wait to hear the big jams of night 2. Move over rover and let johnny b take over!

  17. Chalkdustin Says:

    IMO, I think these new songs are very theraputic for Trey. He has a lot to express and his taste for “Cheez” is so strong because of what he’s been through the past few years. All these fresh tunes are like a diary, and he’s speaking to us through his music, telling us he struggled through a lot, but that he’s ok now and he’s finding his way.

  18. Pence Says:

    No, it wasnt my sign, I just made the transfer from the pavillion to the lawn. It made it down from the stage to me, directly adjacent left to the lights/video mixing bunker thinga-ma-jig, and I took it across the walk way to the lawn. Idk i thought it was quite hilarious how all the people at the bottom of the lawn were going nuts for me to bring it to them. I WISH they had a picture of it.

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Yome – I have Wilson for RB2, I have to say it is about #122 on the list of Phish Songs I’d Like To Play On Rock Band. My 5 year old actually asked my wife at one point, “why do you just have to play those same two notes over and over?” I mean, it’s OK, and it’s fun to play a Trey or Mike part, but we bought it at part of this batch of songs:

    China Cat Sunflower
    Sugar Magnolia
    Franklin’s Tower
    Texas Flood (SRV)
    Run For The Hills (Maiden)
    Hallowed Be Thy Name (Maiden)

    …along with Hendrix’s Freedom and Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne for GH. As far as how fun they are to play, Wilson is by far the least interesting one out of that group. Sugar Mag is the sleeper hit, and both China Cat and Franklin’ contain extended outros that are longer than any officially released album versions! A real treat, esp. the China Cat jam, which is sick and quite hard!

    Basically I hope ppl buy Wilson so it will be successful and they’ll release more. Bring on YEM, Divided Sky, Reba – or Waves, Song I Heard The Ocean Sing, Moma Dance – or any of a couple dozen other obvious home runs.


    New tunes: basically all good, or at least OK, with some great ones. Even the ones I wasn’t into at first (Joy, Let Me Lie) have grown on me in subsequent listens. They’re not energy killers for me. TTE, not sure what to say or think. Inevitable we get on at the Gorge I think and honestly not really looking forward to it, trying to psych myself up.

    KDF lyrics are actually quite interesting I think. The arrangement’s not great, but we shouldn’t be surprised it grew a jam – if 46 Days can turn into a jam vehicle, anything can.


    Listening to some matrixes today. We’ll see. Listened to an 03 LivePhish for reference, it makes the recent ones sound like a joke. Not just Mike, Page too.

  20. Phish...Yup Says:

    I’m surprised at the lack of love that BDTNL is getting. Such a feel good jam and I’ve been happy everytime it popped up in a setlist. Definitely my favorite new song of the tour with Stealing Time and Ocelot a close 2nd and 3rd.

  21. Pence Says:

    @SpecialistForbin I agree with you. I dont condone signage at the shows. Or really tall people in the pav.

  22. Pence Says:

    @Mr. Completley green grass and high tides blows all of those out of the water. no offense to your list but I love playing it

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    Oh and since “Joy” was written for/about Trey’s sister who passed away, we shouldn’t be surprised it’s the title track, or that it expresses some heartfelt emotion. Cringing at earnest sentiment is understandable but a sign of impending jadedness :o)

  24. Los Says:

    Anybody got the lyrics to sugar shack?

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Pence – that’s just the list of recent purchases. I haven’t seen the Outlaws tune on the list, is it available for RB wii? That tune sure does have some jammed out parts, I bet it’s really fun.

    The SRV is ridiculous. Gotta get the rest of that album.

    The batch before that was all Jane’s Addiction which was pure killer.

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