The Only Rule Is It Begins

Hartford (T.Salido)

The Gorge - 8.7.09 (A.Headington)

In a powerful final stanza of summer tour, Phish played a second set at SPAC that showcased some of their newest and oldest songs, weaving together their past and future in a musical tapestry.  Leaving us with one last summer memento, and reminding us that the current state of the Phish is one of pure joy, the band drew from the full spectrum of their bag of tricks.  From a masterful twenty-minute psychedelic exploration and a seamless segue, to a Summer ’09 anthem and an always-elusive bust-out, the band’s full repertoire was on display in summer tour’s closing show.

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

SPAC - 8.16.09 (D.Perrucci)

Following a musical dip in the road at Merriweather Post, Phish stepped up their game for the final night at SPAC, providing a triumphant conclusion to their tour.  Coming onstage shortly after a torrential thunder-shower drenched a good portion of the uncovered audience, the band opened with the roaring bust-out of “Llama,” instantly juicing the crowd before slowing things down with the laid- back “Moma Dance.”  A engaging combination, the two opening songs existed at opposite ends of Phish’s musical spectrum reached out to their diverse fan base right off the bat.  But after this bombastic opening, the set seemed to drag for a bit, featuring a string of songs that didn’t exactly pop.  The exception was a stirring rendition of Round Room’s “Anything But Me” in which the band showed ultimate control, painting a powerfully emotive picture with the introspective ballad.

Hartford (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

The extensive first set picked up the energy with a mid-set “David Bowie” that, while solid, didn’t compare to Darien’s blistering version of three days earlier.  Yet the first set highlight came in the late set menagerie of the “Poscelope!”  Merging three of their animal-named songs to close the set, Phish played a bumping “Possum” that finalized a portfolio’s worth of versions played this summer.  Ironically, my friends and I had been joking about the “Ocelope” combo since the song’s debut at Fenway, and on the last night of tour, our inside joke came to fruition on stage as the high point of the first set.

Stretching out “Ocelot” time it comes out to play, Phish sat into another jam session in the affable song.  And to the same musical degree that Ocelot is laid back, Antelope is not- providing a starkly-contrasting couplet that ended the set just as it began.  Both versions were legitimate, if not extended, versions that punctuated the set with a bang.  “Ocelot” followed its now-established bluesy path, turning into a well-phrased, guitar-led piece of improv.  A smooth “Antelope” closed the set with a relaxed and dancy vibe- more reminiscent of the west coast renditions than Darien’s scorching second-setter.

Merriweather (J.Arthur)

Merriweather (J.Arthur)

After the first half ended, there was definitely a sense that it was a tone-setter for something bigger to unfold in set two; and it most certainly did.  In a fitting decision, the band opened their last second set with “Backwards Down the Number Line”- the first new-school Phish song, which carries a thematic significance for this chapter of the band’s career.  Tom Marshall’s birthday poem to Trey about old friends reuniting has grown in stature from it’s Hampton debut to its emergence as an improvisational vehicle over the past couple weeks.  But last night’s version was a different monster all together- generating a supremely psychedelic excursion that provided not a standout summer highlight, but a preview of what is to come from Phish 3.0’s theme song.  Building the jam into some extra-terrestrial territory, Phish unfolded their final- and arguably their greatest- creative jam of of the summer.  A piece that continued deepening into the musical ether as it progressed, there were more than a few spine tingling segments throughout.  Completely fluid and one of the indelible memories from tour’s last weekend, this “Number Line” segued seductively from its concluding ambiance into “Twenty Years Later,” creating a set-opening suite of their newest material.  Breaking out their rarely-played new song, its placement was impeccable and the performance foreshadowed what could turn into a heavy jam come Fall.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

As Phish concluded their escapade through their- soon-to-be-released music, they delved into their earliest archives with a mid-set “Halley’s.”  Based on the infectious energy of the show, it seemed like Phish would finally settle-into a looser, funk-based version of their college classic, but when the musical fork in the road divided, Trey ripped into a brief guitar solo before quickly switching to “Rock and Roll.”  Used in the old-school vein as opposes to as a jam, “Halley’s” nonetheless upped the adrenaline of the entire audience before spilling into one of Summer ’09’s standout songs.  In tour-closing shows, Phish often showcases their successful pieces of that particular tour, and this summer, the Velvet Underground cover certainly fit the bill.  After sparking Bonnaroo’s second set with one of June’s more interesting jams, the song expanded into a second leg highlight with a dose of heftier improv at Red Rocks and one of the summer’s defining pieces at The Gorge.  A certain nod to the song’s significant place in their tour, Phish once again leapt into the fray- locked and loaded- with dense and fiery playing.  Trey undertook some inspired leads that pushed the song out of its comfort zone into more collective improv.  Rooted to the songs quicker tempo, however, Phish explored the given textures without creating wholly new ones.

"I Kissed A Girl" (D.Perrucci)

"I Kissed A Girl" (D.Perrucci)

Sustaining the jam’s sonic residue, the band took a minute before stunning the New York audience with a last-set-of-tour appearance of “Harpua.”  Only days after playing “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” and “Icculus” in Hartford, Phish reached back into their early-history, un-shelving the ultimate bust-out and the “ever-evolving” saga of Jimmy.  Recounting a low point in Jimmy’s live, Trey told the story of how Jimmy discovered his Fishman-eqsue “spirit guide,” who floated in through his window to give him life guidance, delivering the “great truth of all time.”  At this point, Fishman came front and center for a cow-like rendition of Katy Perry’s global top-40 smash-hit, “I Kissed a Girl.”  The bizarre Fishman interlude seemed less than congruent within the flow of the set, but in the zany context of “Harpua,” anything is fair game.  As they entered the final segments of the song, the band was both physically and musically animated as they performed Jimmy’s fateful conversation with his dad and moved into the song’s ragtime ending.  It was warming to see Phish bask in their old-school wackiness again, something that was so noticeably absent from the post-hiatus years.

Official SPAC Poster

And to cap the tour, one last run through “You Enjoy Myself” after Hartford’s comedic, but musically-minimalist show closer.  The moment seemed right for a tour-ending “Mike’s Groove,” but nobody can scoff at a celebratory blowout of the band’s seminal piece.  Fitting in every sense of the word, Phish finished their summer comeback where it all began- with the song that Trey offered up a gonad to play five times a day for the rest of his life while coming to his post-rehab realization that Phish is IT.  The feel-good dance-session hit the spot, putting an exclamation point on a summer of dreams.

Who knew that on the thirteen-year anniversary of The Clifford Ball, Phish would be we at this point of re-evolution?  Over the course of one tour, broken into two legs, Phish has redefined themselves and the possibilities for their future- and to be honest, things have never looked brighter.  Engaging in their best playing in so many years, the universe now holds no barriers for how our musical super-heroes; and so many lives, souls, and imaginations have been revitalized in a summer where inspiration and mystery seemed to lurk around every musical corner.  Though it took a little while, things are finally back on course for the Phish from Vermont, and we are all blessed to be along for the ride.

I: Llama, The Moma Dance, Guyute, Anything But Me, Cars Trucks Buses, Chalk Dust Torture, Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie, Cavern, Possum, Ocelot, Run Like An Antelope

II: Backwards Down the Number Line > Twenty Years Later, Halley’s Comet > Rock & Roll, Harpua > I Kissed A Girl* > Hold Your Head Up > Harpua, You Enjoy Myself

E: Grind, I Been Around**, Highway to Hell

*debut, (Katy Perry cover) **debut (original; final track of Joy to be played live)

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388 Responses to “The Only Rule Is It Begins”

  1. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah i have a hard time getting into Light myself. It seems like it could be good but its incomplete sounding to me. It sounds like there should be something more there to define it.

  2. Lycanthropist Says:

    really really enjoying this # Line BTW definite top ten jam

  3. BC Says:

    Will it get me to one with ind. tracks?

  4. albert walker Says:

    I’m not too hip to the lyrics or the song either
    but a hot jam is a hot jam
    have not heard it yet
    only the sloppy version at Fenway, which was kind of bad

  5. Jay Says:

    no individual tracks BC. Sorry.

  6. GuitarPicker420! Says:

    OT – Just another call out to anyone wanting to join a Phish Phans fantasy football league. Its free. email guitarpicker420 at yahoo dot com

  7. Lycanthropist Says:

    wow great jam good space not rushed, patient segue.

    very nice.

  8. voopa Says:


    Thanks for the reminder; I’ll join tonight.

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    BC, check out

    it sometimes goes down, but the AUDs on there are generally good quality. and they are tracked out.

    There’s also the mediafire options:

    or you can go illegal and go for the SBDs:

    (I’m not posting the link, but you can find the soundboard download page through PhantasyTour)

    but that’s not really kosher, now is it? 😉

  10. Pence Says:

    No way Dude, I respectfully disagree, Even though it may have not gone full lift off for most people, it will someday, and anyone pissing will regret it.

  11. Lycanthropist Says:

    Mr. C –

    kinda hear the Beatles influence as well on 20 yrs.. hmm thinking its a mix between WMGGW and I Want You (She’s So Heavy)?

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    Light, not a huge fan of the song

    but that jam is fucking beautiful

    real nice work between Trey and Fish at the start of this SPAC RnR jam – it stays in the pocket, no open improv, but ripping, esp out of the gates

    @Nissl, I am going to have to think about it more

    not sure I want to keep it to an arbitrary # – often I like doing that as it forces discipline

    but this tour seems to have had pretty clear distinction – open jams that go somewhere, or not.

  13. Mitch Says:

    Sorry if you guys have heard this before. I’m telling gavinsdad the channeling of the mango.

    I’ve been posting on this site for a while that my friends and i call ourselves team mango and make special shirts for the shows. Well a week before red rocks I hooked up trey with one of the team mango shirts from hampton that we made. I gave him a quick background of our “team” and said we’ll see you at the gorge. That was when I started posting on the board look out for a mango at the gorge.

    Fast forward to the gorge, we go to the grocery store by the hotel and find 88 cent mangos!! An omen to say the least, mango on 8/8. So on 8.8 we took a mango to the show and carried it around all day “channeling the mango” as you said. As the band walked out we passed around the mango and kissed it. I called mango song as my opener and BOOM! We held up the mango and were cheering and taking pics and people around us started taking pics too.

    After the show we were going to chuck the mango into the gorge as a sacrifice but it was too dark to see so we put it under the bus tire as we left. We felt the mango needed to stay at the gorge. Definitely a highlight of my show-going experiences.

    I’m gonna post a pic in a few mins of the mango being held up by Frankie.

  14. butter Says:

    hide your beagle Vicks an Eagle

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    @ mitch:

    classic. part of the lore, part of the mythos. saw your hampton Ts and i have to say, they were pretty high quality design wise. you guys go the xtra mile.

  16. BC Says:

    Thanks, Type III. I’ll weigh my options. Just listening to Darien Bowie right now. SICK.

  17. Jay Says:

    Great story Mitch!! Love shit like that!

  18. BC Says:

    I mean BG

  19. Skyballs Saxscraper Says:

    Hot DAMN what a show!

    We were standing in line to get into the venue, couldn’t move or anything, when the sky just opens up and we get completely drenched, the kind of drenched where you expect to find fish in your shoes when you take them off. I finally get to the ticket dude, and I reach in to my pocket, and wonder of wonders, my ticket is dry as a bone. For some reason this excited me, and I exclaimed, “I got a dry ticket!” Ticket guy goes, “First I’ve seen so far.” I exit, beaming with pride.

    Unfortunately it didn’t stay dry much longer, nothing did.

    Also, looking back, when Trey said “Look – the storm’s gone!” He was pointing exactly to the spot where the nasty lightning was coming from early on before the show. And, indeed, it was not there any longer.

    Straight out facemelting first set, some great jamming second set and of course the rare Harpua… One lone observation, they really could stand to speed up the tempo on the Antelopes, and maybe the Bowies also… now that Trey’s got his sea legs back, so to speak, it’s time to ramp up the tempo on the faster tunes and really just RAGE THE FUCK out of them. I’d love to hear them utterly destroy the tunes like that again.

  20. Pence Says:

    Mitch can you tell us how you were able to hook up trey with the shirt after Red Rocks? sounds like a interesting story!

  21. BC Says:

    they’re both sweet

  22. stash Says:

    hey y’all,

    Went to SPAC and got beat down by the rain. Ended up in the med tent with a splitting headache during chalkdust. I was totally sober for this show and was not able to get warm at all. Couldn’t even dance. Felt like crap.

    Now that I am home – I can’t wait to go again.

    One thing about last night of tour. They are usually fairly tame. Unless it’s at a festival or something. SPAC was a very good show and upon a second listen. I like it even more.

    Good jams: 20 years, R n R, Bowie. Loved it all. Fishman – what a goof.

    Looking forward to the fall? We shall see. Enjoy.

    Mr. Minor: thanks for everything.

  23. Mitch Says:

    Those links are not what I was going for… any way you can remove those from the site?

  24. Mitch Says:

    I’ve been bumping into Trey at my job since we both live in NYC. Super friendly and awesome to see him. He helped me get Hampton tix so that was my way of saying thanks for him being so cool. I saw him before red rocks and asked if I could get it to him and so I mailed it.
    My buddy was wearing the shirt at the show and we were hoping Trey would bust it out but I wasn’t expecting him to. The mango song was plenty. Everyone kept going up to him during the show talking about mangos and he was spun and it was getting to him. Funny seeing him after the show after all that went down… He had vanished after the 2nd set then we saw him on the bus and he told us about it.

    Did anyone see the pic? I was trying to embed a link where it would load. Can someone host it on a pic sharing site or something?

  25. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Mitch I sent you an e-mail. did you get it?

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