Finishing In Style

8.2.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Phish concluded their triumphant Red Rocks extravaganza with another eye-popping show that was anchored by a stellar second set of fluid improv.  With the help of Grateful Dead drummer, Billy Kreutzmann, Phish once again showcased their new-found desire to explore the musical unknown, concluding their stay in Colorado with one of the most impressive sets of the weekend.  Blending in with ease, Kreuztmann added complimentary rhythms and percussive nuances, while often playing overlapping beats with Fishman- giving us a taste of what Phish might have sounded like with a second drummer.  Having played with both Trey and Mike in their side-project, Serialpod, Billy K clearly felt comfortable onstage with Phish, and turned out to be a outstanding guest that certainly enhanced the music, and provided symbolic significance on the weekend of Jerry Garcia’s birthday.  In a venue the Dead also played in their heyday, Billy was the third member of the Grateful Dead to join Phish onstage, providing a special surprise ending to the band’s magnificent stay between the iconic rocks of Morrison.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Before Kreutzmann joined the band, however, Phish had a bit a business to take care of themselves.  Opening their third consecutive second-set with a cover, this time “Boogie On Reggae Woman” was the chosen vehicle to commence the psychedelic festivities.  Phish took the rarely-extended song on an odyssey that strayed miles from the song’s structure, and like the best jams this weekend, featured several unique segments of bold, cohesive improv that connected seamlessly and artistically.  Phish was tapped in again last night, going for it and succeeding with flying colors.  Taking the set opener far beyond the funk, the band got into some high-paced dance rhythms as Trey threw down continual nasty licks with Jedi-like confidence, while Mike held down the bottom end with uber-creative playing- a characteristic of his entire night.  Taking the jam beyond faster grooves into a darker milieu with dissonant guitar growls and sustained organ swells, Phish was again creating totally unique music on the spot without hesitation, tickling that part of us that has been waiting for this for so long.  Passing through a segment of rock grooves, the band eventually reached a more subtle and percussive canvas, and wound down the set opening excursion masterfully.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Following up the massive opening jam, and after a brief pause, the band dropped the big Red Rocks “YEM” that everyone was so eagerly anticipating.  Moving through the compositional opus sharply and cleanly, Phish was playing this one like they meant it.  Placing “YEM” early in a set rather than at the end always makes it more exciting and dramatic, two words that could definitely be used to describe last night’s version.  Tearing apart every aspect of the song, the band oozed energy and enthusiasm as their music pierced the night air with sublime interplay.  A version played with more passion and creativity than any we’ve heard in this era, the Rocks were certainly rocking as ten thousand deep got their groove on.  But just as Kuroda covered the stage in darkness and smoke for the vocal jam, a second drum set was set up on the down low.  And when the band concluded with a rhythmic vocal pattern, Fishman and Kreutzmann- un-introduced and in reflective goggles- began subtly drumming along.  Picking up the groove, the band segued perfectly into “Undermind.”

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Interestingly, when Kreutzmann joined the band, they unveiled many of their most rhythmically intricate pieces.  Between the chunky grooves of “Undermind,” the space-funk of “2001” and the odd time signature of “Seven Below” and “Waves,” Billy clearly wasn’t sitting in just for kicks.  Taking their collaboration seriously, Billy and Fish went to work creating dynamic percussive patterns throughout the rhythm-based “Undermind,” in the best version to date.  As the song wrapped up, Trey, Mike, and Page, turned to the drummers and stared motionlessly while Fish and Billy went into their own version of “Drums.”  Drum solos can sometimes become lackluster moments at shows, but with two of the greatest drummers on earth sitting next to each other, that just wasn’t going to happen.  Getting into some polyrhythmic patterns, the drummers showcased why they are the backbones of the two most legendary improvisational rock bands in history.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Without stopping, the band joined back for the beginning of “Seven Below,” centering the post-hiatus launchpad in meat of the show.  As they worked their way cohesively through the initial build of the jam, Gordon was littering the music with disgusting bass lines, and the two-drummer combo added a rhythmic density to the piece that would soon depart the song’s structure for the most psychedelic segment of the show.  As effects were layered into the mix, the drummer’s added an organized chaos, creating a primordial musical stew.  Trey began a repetitive lick in the midst of this madness that turned the jam up to 11.  These were some of the most unique moments of the weekend, as Phish threw down some heavy music that barely sounded like themselves, and soon, it was apparent that we we heading for the “2001” that everyone knew was coming Sunday night.

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

As the drummer’s made the initial hits and settled into a groove, their beats became infectious.  With slower, more accented backing, the band was able to get more creative with their funk cover.  Following the first theme, Fish and Kreutzmann got into some distinctly divergent beats, creating much jazzier feel to the song and inviting Mike to add some simply redonkulous bass lines, continuing his masterful night.  In all the Phish-Dead fusion, no band has ever thrown down a “2001” and this one grew into the closest thing to “type II” material we’ve ever heard from the song.  In another set of non-stop highlights, “Seven Below > 2001 > Waves” stands out as one of the brightest passages.  When the band took “2001” to the top, they didn’t sit there, but instead moved into some outro funk that quickly transformed into “Waves”- a song that Trey, Mike, and Billy played together in Serialpod.  The rhythmic familiarity that Billy brought to the song facilitated a soaring rendition that saw some all-star guitar work by Trey leading the charge.  This inspired improv capped an incredible non-stop segment of music that had started with “You Enjoy Myself” before a dirty “Charcter Zero” closed the set and concluded Kreutzmann’s stellar sit-in.

Pollock Red Rocks Print

Pollock Red Rocks Print

When Phish came out for their last encore of the weekend, there was a feeling of joyous appreciation for everything that had happened since Thursday- and taboot, everyone knew that “Slave” would be the musical confirmation of that emotion.  But before Phish finished one of the greatest four night stands of their career with their majestic show stopper, Trey honored his daughter’s persistent request of “Bittersweet Motel” whose simple, heartfelt melodies fit the ending of such a special weekend.  And when “Bouncing” started, a triple-encore was imminent.

The past four nights were nothing short of the most magical Phish in memory.  Challenging themselves and us, like the band we know and love, things could not be more encouraging as we start a new week of our lives.  Any expectations anyone could have possibly had for these shows were so far surpassed that it’s silly- and this was only the beginning of tour.  Whatever happened over the past five weeks has transformed Phish into a whole new monster who will be visiting the Bay Area on Wednesday.  I’ll see you there.


Set One Notes: A marathon first set was one of those “list of song” sets, but had many pieces that stood out.  Opening with “Roses Are Free” got the party started right, though the band didn’t take it anywhere.  “Prince Caspian” was the first piece to really stand out in the night, as the oddly-placed first setter got the full treatment, and a stirring “Reba” brought us from light to dark in an ideal sunset soundtrack.  The set also featured the second-ever versions of Page’s “Beauty of a Broken Heart” that was debuted in Hampton and Mike’s “Sugar Shack” that was debuted in Camden- both welcome additions to Phish’s catalog.  The band closed with “Kill Devil Falls” that got into a jam the vain of Bonnaroo’s version, but not quite as extensive, illustrating the band’s desire to explore their new pieces.  This was one of those well played, but fairly tame sets that set up something much bigger after the break -and it did its job quite well.

I: Roses Are Free, Wilson, NICU, Prince Caspian, Get Back on the Train, Reba, Grind, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Sample in a Jar, Sugar Shack, Waste, Kill Devil Falls
II: Boogie on Reggae Woman, You Enjoy Myself > Undermind* > Drums* > Seven Below* > 2001* > Waves*, Character Zero*
E: Bittersweet Motel, Bouncing Around The Room, Slave to the Traffic Light
* with Billy Kreutzmann


8.2.09 (Photo: Graham Lucas)

445 Responses to “Finishing In Style”

  1. halcyon Says:

    I remember reading As I Lay Dying and Steppenwolf by Hesse back to back and couldn’t find my way back to wherever I was at the time!

    Voopa….I am listening to that show right now…such a good show esp Drowned –>Crosseyed

  2. Andrew Says:

    Evening ponder while kicking back – I feel the band will throw curves and tease the Halloween album during tour in some fashion or another. Maybe the second kit last night (albeit for Kreutzmann to come and have some fun) could very well have another meaning.

    One I would love: Santana – Caravanserai. Knowing they can play just about everything, something about this album really fits their expanding style right now – and would be surreal in the desert. If you haven’t listened to this from beginning to end in a while, now’s the perfect time…kick back and imagine what they could do with this one.

  3. voopa Says:

    Caravanserai is one of my favorites…obtained a vinyl copy about 25 years ago, when I was 16. Always loved it, but it’s probably a bit obscure for a cover album.

  4. stash Says:

    hey y’all. dinner was quite nice. nothing like home make food. as for holloween, i keep leaning to a traffic album. but i think that would be too obvious. no MJ, no dead, no p funk, van morrison? CSNY?

  5. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    Gotta concur on As I Lay Dying, that is, nearly 20 years after first encountering it, one of my favorite books. Also gotta agree with stash re:Kerouac, On the Road always leads to some crazy experience, gotta be careful when I read it. As far as right now, I am just getting my teeth into Independent People by Haldor Laxness (sp? Icelandic). It is remarkably good, and I, in general, don’t read much fiction any more. The last one I read was A Mercy by Toni Morrison, and man, that book was depressing. Basically, the best thing that happened to anybody was getting sold to a less cruel master, really a bummer.

  6. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    Oh, and to get back to Phish, just listened to Boogie On from last night and it is pretty right on. The MK-22 source on etree sounds fantastic, lots of Gordon, love it when the sub kicks hard!

  7. halcyon Says:

    Guitar Picker…..have you read anything else by Laxness…I have heard good things about him, he is one of Icelands most celebrated writers

  8. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    @halcyon: this is the first one. I heard it on “You Must Read This” on NPR one afternoon and my interest was piqued enough to go for it. Like I said, I read probably 25 or so non-fiction a year and only 1 or 2 fiction so I might not be the best judge of fiction. That being said, there is a lyrical quality about his writing and a realness to the characters that is striking.

  9. T.S. Eliot Says:


  10. halcyon Says:

    @ GP420….right on…I have been reading mainly non fiction as well, but have heard good things about Laxness so I will have to check him out…
    I just started Touching My Fathers Soul : A Sherpa’s Journey To The Top of Everst by Jamling Tenzing Norgay. His Father along with Sir Edmund Hillary were the first to summit Norgay. Most often these accounts are from the climbers who get the fame and glory. This is from a sherpas perspective. It should be good.

  11. Lifeboy Says:

    Just checked out the weather for Quincy and it says low 80s both days with clouds and a chance of thunderstorms! I hope for once the weather channel is right and it doesn’t turn out to be 110. Being able to drink some cold ones in the afternoon without having a heat stroke will be great!

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’m usually reading one fiction and one nonfic. For the nonfic, I’m trying to read a bunch of the old school primary source stuff that people mostly talk about without reading: The Prince, Clausewitz’ On War, real cheery stuff like that. Clausewitz is amazing though.

    Also just read the first book of the Dark Tower series, which my wife loves. I don’t read horror so I hadn’t really read any King – I liked that first book pretty well, actually. It ain’t literature, but it ain’t stupid, either.

  13. Robear Says:

    Still trying to digest. Okay, for all you phans that missed RR; try to relax and prepare for what will certainly go down as one of the best tours in this bands history. We’re hearing poignant, tantalizing, refreshing, breath-taking music from these guys, and you’ll hear it night after night. I recommend you don’t worry about “how the tweezer compared to Red Rocks, or how the Ghost compares to Asheville, or how long blah, blah, blah, was”. That’s not where it’s at. Just listen to the locked-in sound, realize that most everything is fresh, and a crazy improv masterpiece can be crafted from any song, at any time, like “Boogie On” from night four. Be ready to embrace songs that maybe weren’t favorites, but have been re-worked. For me, it was ‘Jiboo’. I’ve never disliked the song, but was not a huge fan of the songs repetitive nature. That’s changed, it’s been re-worked, and I can’t wait for the next incarnation. Give thanks, and I’m going to try to save my criticism for our politicians and corporations. In the meantime, I’m going to soak in as much of this band as I can. Peace ya’ll. Boarding the plane for the left coast.

  14. Robear Says:

    RE: the Billy sit-in. I could have sworn I heard a Not Fade Away rhythm coming from the drummers, maybe during the solo, or later. IDK, I might have been hearing things, no one else picked up on the “moby dick” tease during DWD that I swore I heard, either. I knew Billy was coming and yet, did not expect a Dead tune. The NFA would have been an awesome experience, especially for youngsters that never got into one of those chants at a GD show. No disappointment though, not after four nights of bliss.

  15. Mugician Says:

    Testing testing testing:

    …and I’m pretty sure they can sing too

  16. Mugician Says:

    Jesus. What the fuck.

    I’ve been trying to put this link in a comment on Facebook (I’m in the middle of a fierce battle defending Phish’s musical abilities), and it WON’T work. I’ve tried it a bunch of different places too, and I guess this is the only place this kind of link works…

  17. Mugician Says:

    How about:

    …and I’m pretty sure they can sing too

  18. Mugician Says:

    Can anyone help me out? I have all of IT, but my computer crashed and it’s only on my ipod. I’m trying to get the soundcheck on my computer but have no idea how I got IT in the first place. Can anyone shoot me a link to a torrent or something? I’m looking for the SBD.

  19. Mugician Says:


  20. bread Says:

    I was able to see DC, both Alpines and Saturday RR. DC was great because of the weather (energy), but RR was unreal.

    When they started “Alaska” I thought it was “TN Jed”

    On the way home my friends from Denver were all rocking out to STS9. I have only seen them once (opened for Trey at RR, Plasma Tour?) They sounded great!!!

    As far as favorite writers-Brett Easton Ellis and Hunter S. Thompson

    See you at Indio!!!

Leave a Reply