Ending With Joy

SPAC 8.16.09 (D.Vann)

SPAC 8.16.09 (D.Vann)

As Phish stepped on stage for the last time this summer, it was their last performance before their album Joy would be released on September 8th.  Instead of relying on classic show-stoppers for their final set of summer, they artistically wove together Joy’s first and last song, creating a forward-looking musical highlight to cap the tour.  With the encore at SPAC including “I’ve Been Around,” the band completed their season-long preview of the forthcoming album (that was leaked all over the web just yesterday.)

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

Instead of dropping the expected and overdue “Mike’s Groove,” “Reba,” or “2001” as focal points of their final frame, Phish used two of their newest songs to craft the musical talking point of their last show, leaving us looking wide-eyed into the future.  After watching “Number Line” grow in improvisational scope throughout the second leg, when Phish dropped into its upbeat opening to open the second set, you had to figure it would be the meatiest version yet.  And when we walked away from SPAC that night, the conversations certainly centered around the sublime jam that stemmed from their newest launch pad.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

Phish broke the noodly mold of the song’s first-leg versions at Red Rocks, and then grew it further at The Gorge and Toyota Park, gradually becoming more and more creative with the jam- but this version would surpass anything that had come before.  In a twenty-minute journey, the band took their music to much darker places than previously visited by the song.  Beginning with Trey’s altered leads, Mike and Page hopped aboard, shifting the canvas from happy to eerie.  Fishman was the last to leave the song’s rhythms, and when he did, things became a whole-band experiment in psychedelic beauty.

Building into the ether, this jam was not only the culmination of all the versions that had come before it, but also a symbolic culmination of Phish 3.0 through Summer ’09.  Each version had grown in scope- just as the band had- into its current form; a metaphor for all we have to look forward to.  Delving deeper into Phish sorcery than any previous rendition, this “Number Line” developed into a full-on exploration of the dark side of the psyche.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

Landing in a lush, ambient forest, the band carefully took in the foreign landscape.  And out of this extended amorphous ball of sound came hints of something familiar.  Was it “Fast Enough?” “Man Who Stepped?”- thought my mind, racing through the past.  No- it was the first creative use of “Twenty Years Later,” and the band seamlessly slid into Joy’s retrospective closer.  This was the initial time we really got a feel for the song and its musical drama.  Put under the spotlight of the summer’s final set and crawling out of the murky musical fog, the slower composition flowed particularly well, hinting at its versatility.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

At a time when Phish could have easily ran through some of their popular classics to finish tour with a bang, they used the first half-hour of the set to explore their newest material, signifying what direction this whole thing is moving.  And after creating the most engaging passage of the night with Joy’s bookends, they took it back to the old-school with a “Halley’s,” “Harpua,” and a “YEM” included in the rest of the set.  But using their last stage as an illustration, Phish made no bones about previewing their promising future while still honoring their past.

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

Number Line > Twenty Years Later” 8.16 II

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/phish2009-08-16_mk41_1644_d2t04.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/phish2009-08-16_mk41_1644_d2t05.mp3]

The musical centerpiece of the final show of summer.

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.16.2009 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Torrent

8.16.2009 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Megaupload

3830241489_3fd2195c80I: 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

*first time played

Source: Schoeps MK41>KC5>CMC6>Sonosax SX-M2>Apogee Mini-me(aes out@24 bit/96khz)>COAX>Edirol R-44 SD-HC Card>USB>Soundforge 8 (tracking, resample/dither to 16bit/44.1khz)>FLAC (Taper – Andy Murray)

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335 Responses to “Ending With Joy”

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  1. ColonelJoy Says:

    Colonel is back in Germany with his clan…happy to be too busy to post with things good to be busy with….

  2. Baxter Says:

    I have pre-ordered Joy, and look forward to the release. It’s great to hear Phish making new music. I loved watching the songs evolve over the summer, and I know there are more great things to come.

  3. MOONSHAKE Says:

    Which songs will evolve into a massive jam vehicle in the shows/tours ahead? I like BDTNL and Stealing Time…

  4. cottle Says:

    ^agreed. Since Hampton, we’ve all been waiting to see how Backwards would develop. That SPAC rendition was a glimpse into what the future may hold for that tune. I really like it’s place so far as a 2nd set opener. It seems to be a good jumping off point for a second set, and with this newfound exploratory potential, it could be the new DWD.

    hmmm…new lot sticker idea: “BDTNL is the new DWD”

  5. Wax Banks Says:

    Gotta love that ending to the studio ‘Light’! Put me in mind of ‘Black Water’ by the Doobies. Best track on the album, though ‘Sugar Shack’ is indeed solid, sounding like a solo Mike track. His personality’s all over that song! Mike’s singing is better than it’s ever been, in contrast to Page’s unsteady pipes. I adore ‘Round Room’ but the studio track needs a little tightening.

    (Nothing to say about SPAC right now other than ‘”We want you to be happy” sounds dopey much of the time but worked on that day.’)

  6. Wax Banks Says:

    (I bring up ‘Round Room’ just to make the point that the studio ‘Sugar Shack’ is tight but still bouncy and fun, while the earlier track loses oomph because of its rickety quality.)

  7. nonoyolker Says:

    SPAC BDT#L got SPAC E Y… The feeling live was much like how i imagine walking in front of a microwave is to a person with a pacemaker (huh?, still early…)

    RE: Leaked Joy – (mostly @ Marshall from last night, but general comments overall) this is just one copy of the album. It seems we have a fairly respectful, ethical community here, most of which (including myself), shelled out the $75 for the pre-order Joy Box (still sounds like a sex toy…). I am *eager* to hear the new songs in the context of glossy production. Phish is getting there money from me and more from the pre-order. Do you think they care if I heard it one week early? They “want you to be happy”, no? After spending into the thousands on tickets for 6 shows (which new songs were played), LivePhish dowloads for all six shows (4 from the first leg, where the quality was questionable at best – which new songs were purchased), hotels, AND the cujunga deluxe Joy Box (which is the actual new album), i don’t feel too bad sampling it early.

    I don’t condone stealing music at all. To me, a leak is just a sample. Do what feels right though. Be a noble rabbit.

    All that being said… Intro to Light?? Awesome. Sugar Shack – definitely the tightness that was missing live. Awesome. Stealing Time – Viscious, face melting goodness. Good stuff!

  8. JerZ Says:

    I am really pumped about the new album and about hearing the new songs being added and expanded. I already get excited for some of the new songs when they are added into a set, expecially:
    20 Years
    Number Line
    Light

    I look forward to seeing what will be done with these, but that last Number Line at SPAC was the jam of the tour in my opinion, and I think that these songs are just going to get better.

  9. posternutbag Says:

    Thanks Miner, as usual great work. I am really stumped though as to how Phish fans can think that SPAC was a great show. I was there, and I have been to a few shows (thirty plus), first show Great Woods summer 94 (GH) – last show SPAC. I have listened to thousands of hours if not ten of thousands of hours of Phish and SPAC is/was one of the bottom shows that I have seen live. If people are excited about a Harpua, well then they are excited for Phish culture and not good jamming. The Harpua was great to see but I would have loved to see a set like 7-31-2009 RR, or the Gorge shows. Not that it wasn’t an entertaining show, especially for the newbies and the people who are into Phishiness, but as to the music, it was really a DUD. BDTNL was not that special, I have listened to it many times and I love that new song, but it never cam together. I think twenty years laters will be a monster jam some day and it was good at SPAC but still not even close to where the band can take things.

    Keep up the great work. mytwocents.

  10. Marshall Says:

    For the record, I pre-ordered Joy from DryGoods along with 3 shirts from tour. Looking forward to hearing it when it arrives.

  11. bhizzle Says:

    re: spac

    never should’ve sold me tix, but when you can’t go, you can’t go, eh?

    re: joy

    I will wait for my “box” to arrive or, actually, after I d/l the mp3’s.

    re: Sugar Shack

    I’m glad to hear that it’s tighter than the live versions. As stated previously, the only version I’ve heard was with Trey’s guitar doing more damage to the song than good.

  12. JerZ Says:

    How could a guy named posternutbag be dissing a bustout of Harpua and calling Phishiness something for newbs? THere must have been a reason that you chose that name.

    I’ve been to a couple hundred shows and I still get extremely excited about bustouts and Phishy moments. I get excited for new songs and old songs- there is very little that does not excite me at a phish show, which is why I keep comin back

  13. Marshall Says:

    @ JerZ – I have to say that I’m still in awe every time I hear that someone has been to hundredS of shows. Regardless how long you’ve been a fan, that is still a pretty amazing feat. What and when was your longest stretch of un-missed shows?

  14. JerZ Says:

    Marshall, I went to several shows before starting a streak, but I dropped out of life from 97-2000 and devoted my life to phish, missing only Japan.

    I’m not usually a guy who throws around the, “I’ve been to a million shows” card. I only bring it up to make the point that Phishy moments are not only enticing to newbs- there are people who have been to a lot of shows that still get very excited for Phishy moments and bustouts. I just love phish- every aspect of them, and enjoy every show

  15. Wax Banks Says:

    @posternutbag –

    I have listened to thousands of hours if not ten of thousands of hours of Phish and SPAC is/was one of the bottom shows that I have seen live. If people are excited about a Harpua, well then they are excited for Phish culture and not good jamming. The Harpua was great to see but I would have loved to see a set like 7-31-2009 RR, or the Gorge shows. Not that it wasn’t an entertaining show, especially for the newbies and the people who are into Phishiness, but as to the music, it was really a DUD. BDTNL was not that special, I have listened to it many times and I love that new song, but it never cam together. I think twenty years laters will be a monster jam some day and it was good at SPAC but still not even close to where the band can take things.

    The SPAC show doesn’t hold up particularly well on tape. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve had at a concert though. We walked out soaking wet, exhausted, dreading the ride back to NYC, talking about how Hartford was a much stronger show…and yet we were absolutely overjoyed to have seen the show. What a proud, generous valediction! Sure, the BDt#L isn’t quite on par with the Hartford Disease, the Darien Drowned, or even the Chicago BDt#L (as I recall) in terms of complexity or distance-out, but they just stuck with it for twenty minutes, turning themes over, thickening the texture, letting the ambient space emerge organically from the rock vibe – and how many 2009 segues were as evocative and organic as the SPAC Number Line > 20 Years? Seriously now, that combination alone was worth the trip.

    And look, not many people harbor simultaneous Phish-love and Phish-culture-disdain the way I do; I’m a bottomless font of rage and all that. But ‘Harpua’ is more than ‘Phish culture and not good jamming’ – it’s a moment of fellowship, direct verbal communication, unfettered silliness and joy; it ends with Phish’s most comic-grandiose wailing climax; it lets the band and the (old) fans let their hair down; it offers several minutes of full-band improvised backing music(!); it’s a fun song. It’s theater. That’s part of Phish – not just the ‘culture’ (i.e. the fans and hangers-on and ‘scene’ etc.) but the band themselves! They’ve always been a bit of a theater group.

    And it’s not like Trey didn’t write the fucking thing and play it with his rock band. If it weren’t for tracks like ‘Harpua’ the transcendent jams might not have enough activation energy to get started, but ‘Harpua’ is something wonderful on its own.

    In theory, I’d be perfectly happy at a show that consisted of two 90-minute Phishy free improvisations. But that’ll never happen. ‘Harpua’ is part of the musical apparatus of the show, as are ‘Type I’ jams, Fishman songs, ‘Sparkle,’ ‘The Curtain (With),’ lame-ass guest appearances, Talking Heads covers, and a comic rock opera called ‘Gamehendge.’ You can’t be precious about this stuff, man; the mundane/boring/silly moments are part of the continuum along with the agonizing/ecstatic climaxes and leaps of faith. The whole thing is a leap of faith.

    So doesn’t matter whether SPAC was the BEST SHOW EVAR LOL D00D. It was weak by the standards you (and I, much of the time) apply. But it was utterly transporting and beautiful when seen another way. You have the opportunity to choose beauty in this case; you can also listen to another show if you want. God knows I am.

  16. Marshall Says:

    I know that when I’ve hit just three or four shows in a row, that returning to normal life is a bit of a shock, just due to the inherent differences. Can’t imagine what it would be like when doing it for that long. Being truly addicted to a drug is about the only comparison I can think of that seems applicable.

    I bet it was a lot of fun and for those years, fun-ky.

  17. Piper>GuyForget Says:

    The BDT#L at Toyota Park was much more focused than this SPAC version. Let’s not compare shows, because you’ve pointed to your dislike of the “disjointed” 2nd set of Toyota Park, “frat boys”, etc. but I believe that was the best version of this particular song to date. It had a great launchpad segue at the point where the song took on a dirtier, grittier feel, perhaps to please the “dirty surfers” in attendance.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    speak it, Brother Wax, speak it!! Testify!

    Great comments on Harpua and that annoying term “phishiness”. I concur whole heartedly.

    There are aspects of the jamming we all love that require the “lull” of a ballad to provide context and the differentiation and hilarity of the story songs to provide space. If it was all jamming we and the boys would all die of heart fauilure and the band would NOT be nearly as interesting and captivating as they are.

  19. BoiseBag Says:

    Miner, I appreciate your hard work and constant reviews… even if sometimes I think you may be a tad hyperbolic and overly jacked about average performances. But I can think of worse flaws – I respect the clear enthusiasm you have for Phish at their finest.

    However, how in the world can anyone who has seen Phish over the years think that SPAC was anything other than a DUD musically? I have followed this band closely since the early early years and I think it is incredibly exciting that the band is having fun again and turning in some great efforts (see Red Rocks and Gorge). But I had great seats at SPAC
    and this show was among the worst – musically – that I have seen. And I’ve seen many.

    Sure, I can appreciate a fun Harpua, a Forbins, etc. – but what get me stiff is type II, hosey, transcendant jamming. I’ll admit it. Sorry. I go to shows for peak performances… and when Phish plants some fun moments, some Harpua type moments – great. I loved the Harpua at 12/31/97 – what a show – but what made that show was the monster AC/DC Bag they played and the overall playing of the band on that evening.

    Bottom line, if you listen to the music, SPAC was utterly disappointing and probably the worst show of the 2nd summer leg – the guys are entitled to a clunker ever now and then – but Phish is back and I couldn’t be happier.

  20. MOONSHAKE Says:

    RE: Can’t imagine what it would be like when doing it for that long.

    I started this scene during the last few years of the Grateful Dead. I did the ‘Hell on Wheels’ tour, the final tour, summer ’95. It’s the only complete tour I’ve ever done.

    I had a chance to meet a lot of interesting people on that tour.

    I remember meeting one guy, he was 17 or 18, and he had massive dreadlocks down past his waist.

    This kid had been RAISED on Grateful Dead tour since he was a small child. Touring was all he knew… it was his life.

    Although it’s just a guess… I’d say by 18, that kid had seen hundreds of Dead shows, at hundreds of venues, in hundreds of towns and cities…

  21. BoiseBag Says:

    btw, I meant 12/30/97 for the monster Bag…oops.

  22. Marshall Says:

    @ Moonshake – do you think that kid will ever be able to survive outside the wild?

  23. posternutbag Says:

    I am glad I started some discussion.

    I am not against phishiness, but my point was that some people will look at the show and think it was a great show because they busted out a Harpua and they would be wrong.

    It was great to hear Trey speak, no question, but I would rather hear a set of intense energetic music any day of the week. And yes, it was utterly transporting in some ways but having seen Hampton, Jones Beach, Great Woods, and Fenway, I was already back in the groove with the band, had so many emotional moments, already re-connected with the band, and after the West Coast Tour, I wanted a Gorge/RedRocks type of set. PHISH was back! That is the music I live for.

    The Gorge Rock N Roll was the best piece of music they did this tour – hands down.

  24. posternutbag Says:

    One more thing. I understand the importance to a show of not jamming sometimes. Harpua from Sugarbush is one of my favorties. I love the train song in the middle of the Denver First set bombs from 97. I could could go on and on. I WANTED MORE JAMMING. THERE was zero jamming besides the BDTNL>TYL, and those were sub-par.

    I love all things Phish, but on this night at SPAC the culture and the scene was bigger than the music, and Harpua was great to see but I personally would rather see better tunes within the Story.

  25. Wax Banks Says:

    I am not against phishiness, but my point was that some people will look at the show and think it was a great show because they busted out a Harpua and they would be wrong.

    This seems like a very, very small disappointment to suffer, no? 🙂

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