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.

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“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

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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!

***

PHISH’S NEW ALBUM: JOY

Yesterday, a story on Rolling Stone.com broke some new information about Phish’s forthcoming album, now officially titled Joy. Later in the day, Phish.com 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

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

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. Wax Banks Says:

    @Frondoot –

    Someone said this – “Miles: Live Evil with John McGlaughlin DARRRRRK” – and I agree, but the McLaughlin tracks on that are taken from shows at the Cellar Door, recently released in a box set that will have you tearing your heart out to feed it to your girlfriend for Valentine’s Day. Holy god fuck damn jesus american shit. Miles’s band at that time was insaaaaaaaaaaaaaaane and McLaughlin was just a guest player one night out of an extraordinary week. Good as the Live/Evil set is, the full material grounds you in Miles a little better.

    On the Corner is demonic but a little limited in reach; the Sessions box for that album is just overflowing with amazing, widely varied improvisations, including a lot of mellow/spacey stuff that leaves Phish’s ambient shit in the shade. The Jack Johnson sessions are less easy to listen to – more repetitive – but the Silent Way sessions are very listenable (and all these boxes include the released albums, which are heavily edited).

    As for Trane: depends what you like. The ideal litmus-test albums are Newport ’63, Live at Birdland, and A Love Supreme – if you prefer Love than start working forward through his discography toward the almost unbearably intense later stuff. If you prefer a tight band staying within something resembling conventional tonality, stick to his classic quartet material (i.e. everything before Meditations) and tread especially lightly around the colossal live albums from late in his career.

    A good hybrid album: Someday My Prince Will Come. The two Coltrane tracks are gems, the rest is merely very very good stuff with Miles in a transitional band.

    If you want some acoustic Miles and like the super-intense stuff rather than the more stately Miles/Trane material, consider the crazy Plugged Nickel shows (you can buy the sampler disc for a dollar on half.com). Miles’s rhythm section in those days was, to borrow a phrase, a pack of wild dogs, and Wayne Shorter is a tenor god. Miles wasn’t always a top-flight technical player (he’s on fire on Jack Johnson, mind you); but he had four masters in his Plugged Nickel quintet.

    Bonus: try out Herbie Hancock’s Flood. I know we call Phish’s funk ‘funk,’ but Phish are bush league compared to the nastiness on that live album. It’s the Headhunters group cutting loose and getting sexy.

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    In a Silent Way is a must-own, I think. One of few albums you could put on repeat basically forever. The perfect come-down music for the end of a trip. Also important historically, Miles basically invented sampling/sequencing in the creation of this album….

  3. Wax Banks Says:

    Obviously Bitches Brew is a classic Miles album as well, though I prefer the other electric stuff of that period. Then to blow your mind, track down Miles’s cover of the Cyndi Lauper song ‘Time After Time.’

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    Great post Wax. Flood is amazing. The Miles box sets are all astounding.

    I always pimp the Trane Village Vanguard disks cause they hit that in-between spot – they’re *just weird enough* but not too weird for most ppl (at least most ppl who listen to phish)

  5. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @wax “Phish are” – phish is singular, it should be phish IS not are

  6. old dude Says:

    phish Halloween = Thriller at Neverland

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    Time After Time is fantastic. Minus the horrible 80’s instrument sounds and production, I mean. Tutu’s another great song ruined by the 80’s.

    Overall I agree that most of the other electric stuff holds interest longer than Bitches Brew, seminal as it is – but Spanish Key is as brilliant a piece of music as I’ve ever heard.

    My interest in later Miles electric stuff, 73 and after, the very extreme stuff, was recently re-invigorated by watching a couple DVDs from the era. Getting to actually *see* the interplay is a whole different thing….and you get to see Pete Cosey play. OMG. Pete. Cosey. WOW. What a freak.

  8. Wax Banks Says:

    Trane-related sidebar: I think his more purely transporting album might be Interstellar Space, which is just a tenor/percussion duet album. I listen to it once every year or two, when something important is going on, always alone, always in the dark, eyes closed, when I can find quiet. It’s holy. It’s also such a strong acquired taste that I hesitate to recommend it.

    His late-career music is generally marred by his bands, if you ask me. Alice was a sensitive pianist but I can’t listen to fucking Pharaoh Sanders on Trane’s albums (Sanders’s own stuff is much better), and Rashied Ali is just in another universe from Elvin Jones and everyone else. Not my taste. The 1966-67 material is pretty far out and makes a lot more sense in the context of Trane’s early/mid-60’s stuff – his playing grows consistently. Not surprisingly, albums like Transition and First Meditations mark a real turning point, right at the limits of the classic quartet’s cohesion and coherence. They split between the two versions of Meditations, which are instructive to compare.

    The Major Works, which includes ‘Ascension’ and ‘Om,’ is Trane’s big Free statement, and though the album contains one gorgeous, coherent track, the rest is such an intense visceral experience – there’s no comfort there – that, again, I’m skeptical of recommending it. Trane was an unimpeachable player, his prolixity notwithstanding, but other than his great quartet he wasn’t consistently surrounded with ideal collaborators.

    Oh, but: his stuff with Eric Dolphy is good. The Vanguard box. Try the highlights disc first to figure out whether you actually need the full set – it’s a little repetitious, frankly, which is a danger with Trane’s intense live stuff.

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    mr c and wax that’s friggin awesome I did a copy / paste for future downloading reference..

  10. Wax Banks Says:

    @MrCompletely is right – get the Electric Miles (Another Kind of Blue!!) movie, which has his whole Isle of Wight set, Carlos Santana being an elliptical awesome guru, and a whole slew of incredible musicians playing elegies for Miles on their chosen instruments. What an incredible gift that DVD is.

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i saw pharoah sanders in oakland in december, he was awesome

  12. Wax Banks Says:

    @MrCompletely –

    I always pimp the Trane Village Vanguard disks cause they hit that in-between spot – they’re *just weird enough* but not too weird for most ppl (at least most ppl who listen to phish)

    Heh, I had a hard time at first with conventional jazz, which Coltrane kind of was at that point, because I expected to hear the entire band shifting every aspect of the music at all points – I didn’t know how to listen to a solo as such. I wanted ‘jams’ in the Phish sense. The Vanguard box tested me in that regard. That’s why I wanna start people with the Newport ’63 disc – more fluid full-band improvisation than the early stuff. I think the Vanguard box is more ‘amazing’ than ‘enjoyable’ many days. But you’re right, those shows really do attain just the right level of oddity as a transition out of ‘jam band’ music…

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Wax – basically “me too” on most recent post. I like your distinction between “things I like to listen to sometimes when the moment is right” and “things I actually recommend.”

    Strongly agree on Pharaoh. Nice to hear that opinion outside my own head, actually. I don’t really listen to the free stuff anymore at all. I absorbed it and kind of moved on….and I’m always wishing I was hearing McCoy and the rest of the classic band. I know why he moved on, he was a real capital-A Artist, but I really prefer the prior lineup, like you.

    As for the Vanguard, maybe the highlights is the way to go…not sure which versions those are…if you do like the highlights, I really think the various versions are different enough to be worth owning.

    Interstellar Space is quite an incredible piece. I still use Love Supreme as my chosen vehicle for out of body expeditions, but that’s a sublime choice.

    Respect.

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    probably most people would agree with you on the Vanguard stuff, maybe. I dunno. It hits my sweet spot exactly.

    That “Different Kind of Blue” DVD is ludicrously cheap on Amazon. Buy it. There are clips on YT, but just buy it. It’s ridiculously awesome.

    Just think that same festival was where the Hendrix DVD was recorded! (and the Who too, but that’s not my thing) OMFG what a show!

  15. voopa Says:

    Miles @ Fillmore East 3/7/70 was released in 2001 and is a great document of the Wayne Shorter era, in fact, that was Shorter’s last regular gig as part of Miles’ band.

    Miles’ Gil Evans collaborations are a nice way to impress the ladies. I love Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess.

    And don’t overlook the pre Kind of Blue stuff with Cannonball and Coltrane on Prestige.

    Cannonball and Coltrane put out an album together around that time (self titled) that gets overlooked, but is worth tracking down. Opens with the shreddingest version of Limehouse Blues you’ll ever hear.

  16. voopa Says:

    Oh, and I got to see Pharoah Sanders open for the Dead at Cal Expo (Rex grant recipient). Nice opener.

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    Coltrane’s “Ballads” fits right in with voopa’s “ladies night” suggestions. It’s like the awesomest dinner music ever.

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    woah michael jackson died. RIP mr. thriller sorry it got so strange..

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/26/2609021.htm?section=entertainment

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    last jazz bit for today – if you live in any of the cities on this webpage you are very lucky:

    http://www.sonnyrollins.com/itinerary.php

    Sonny Rollins is IMO the last of the true giants still living. He is like 250 years old or something and still sounds amazing. He gained recognition as sideman on some famous Monk dates but his solo work is equally amazing. He is my 2nd favorite sax player of all time after Trane. His tone is absolutely perfected and he improvises in a unique, lyrical style that’s accessible to pretty much anyone, even if you know nothing at all about jazz.

    You never know how long he’ll be able to tour. If you have any interest in jazz at all, and he comes to or near your town, I really recommend that you go.

  20. El Duderino Says:

    MJ OD

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    cue flood of tasteless MJ jokes.

    ::mrcompletely fires up “I Want You Back”

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    I was headed straight to “i want you back” too mr c ..

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    easily the best song of his career. perfect pop arrangement and performance. you and I are on the same wavelength a lot.

  24. El Duderino Says:

    The dude turned into a freak show. It was sad then it became creepy.

  25. voopa Says:

    I second seeing Sonny Rollins. Still puts on an amazing show. Wayne Shorter too. Saw them both at a relatively new concert hall at UC Davis.

    …damn, I’ve seen a lot of heavyweights there…Branford, Metheny, Josh Redman…damn!

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