Toyota Park 8.11.09 (D.Vann)

Chicago was an interesting night, and I feel some of my initial comments were taken out of context- so let’s revisit Phish’s stop in the Windy City.  Aside from the “Curtain With,” the first set was straight up uneventful- that much is hard to dispute, but the second set presented a whole different conundrum.  The concept of flow is so important to a successful set of music.  You don’t want to feel like you’ve just been thrown through the musical washing machine, catching chunks music randomly and out of context as they hit you.  But that’s kind of what Chicago’s second set felt like.

8.11 (C.Smith)

The intriguing factor of this second set, is that most all of the music is great!  What made the show unsuccessful overall was not the lack of virtuoso jamming, but the choppy presentation of the music that could have been artistically outdone by my middle school lunch ladies and their Sloppy Joes.  There were several standout jams in the set, but when one randomly ended to start the next, that elusive flow went right down the drain.  The “Number Line” was one of the two strongest of the summer; the “Hood” was more unique than most, and Chicago’s second set featured the only “2001” of the tour that didn’t involve a guest.  All the elements were there for a great show, but they just didn’t gel.

8.11 (D.Vann)

After the show, I noted this, and thought of a way the set could have been arranged more cohesively, and just for the fun of it, I recreated the set- as best as possible- in the order I think it was “meant” to be. (This exercise is much better accomplished with an iPod playlist.) And if it went down like this, I guarantee people would be talking about the Chicago show a whole lot more.  This is not to presume that I know how Phish sets should go more than the band does- but just this once, indulge me.  Sure, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but remember, this is all for fun.

Toyota Park (C.Smith)

As the “Number Line” got ambient- it seemed the “2001” that had loomed large over The Gorge all weekend was about to drop, merging the futuristic theme the a song that very much represented the band’s future course.  But despite all the times the band sidestepped artistic segues into “2001” over the previous shows, the space-funk be Heismaned again, only to stumble awkwardly out of “Wilson” later in the set.  Instead the band jarringly dropped into “Carini”- a move that squeaked by on shock value- and the fact that Phish cranked the intensity level way past eleven on on this one, so we’ll leave the initial segment alone. (But that “Number Line > 2001” was begging to come out!)

8.11 (C.Smith)

As the band began to build out of  “Carini’s” grungy residue, Trey started chomping away at “Jibboo,” successfully blowing the second segue in a row.  But this time, let’s reconsider.  Since the band missed their first chance to merge with “2001,” let’s use “Carini’s” outro as the intro to the dance epic- it works perfectly.   “Carini > 2001”- now that’s some gritty, urban Phish!  Carrying out the peak of “2001,” Trey would then drop the opening rhythm chords to “Jibboo” continuing the dance-floor portion of the show.  Finishing a full-throttle groove session in “2001 > Jibboo,” concluding a boisterous opening of the set, everyone would need to catch their breath.  Cue “Theme”- a perfect chill-out song after the improvisational fireworks, while still carrying momentum of its own.  As soon as the respite is over, Trey would eagerly hit the opening notes to a late-set “Wilson.” But as the band sustained the final note, instead of crashing into a random “Chalkdust,” they would drop into the drum roll of “Harry Hood,”  forming an old-school one-two punch.  And this “Hood” is no slouch.  With impressionistic painting by Trey and a diversion into minor chords before the peak of the jam, this version was among the best of leg two.  Just when you think the set is over, the ever-present “Coil” would still unfold to gracefully to close the set.

Call me crazy, but that would have flowed much more fluidly than the mix-tape the band dropped in Toyota Park.  And a rocking double encore to close things off- “Chalkdust,” “Loving Cup”- what a beautiful buzz!  Don’t take this too seriously, and if you thought Chicago was the best show of tour, more power to you.  But if you’d like to listen to Chicago’s second set the way it could have gone down, sit back, hit play and relax.


Winged music note

Jam of the Day:

Split Open and Melt” 8.10.97 I

This is one of the most unique and ethereal “Splits” ever played- and one that flies completely under the radar.  A true gem from the cornfields of Deer Creek in ’97!



3.1.97 SBD Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < Torrent

3.1.97 SBD Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < Megaupload

Slip, Stitch, and Pass

A pre-FM SBD source of the now-classic show immortalized on Slip, Stitch, and Pass.

I: Cities, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Down With Disease, Weigh, Beauty Of My Dreams, Wolfman’s Brother > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Reba, Hello My Baby, Possum

II: Carini, Dinner and a Movie, Mike’s Song > Lawn Boy > Weekapaug Groove, The Mango Song, Billy Breathes, Theme From The Bottom

E: Taste, Sweet Adeline

Chicago was an interesting night, and I feel some of my initial comments were taken out of context- so let’s revisit Phish’s stop in the Windy City.  Aside from the “Curtain With,” the first set was straight up uneventful- that much is hard to dispute, but the second set presented a whole different conundrum.  The …

Reconstructing Chicago Read More »

Trey and Tom

It all started with a poem.  In their tradition of writing each other poems for their birthdays, Tom Marshall sent Trey the lyrics to what would quickly become “Backwards Down the Number Line.”  Tom explained the near-instant transformation in an interview with Relix last January:

A poem I emailed to Trey on his birthday last year passed rather quickly into its second life… that is, it became a song. The transformation from a poem on paper to a song is an extremely dramatic event…In the case of “Backwards Down the Number Line,” Trey called me within hours of my hitting the “enter” key to send it to him. He played me a complete song; he had recorded drums, bass, guitar, keyboards and multiple layers of vocals… and it was fantastic. And I finally realized what we had done. We had written the first new Phish song in four years.

Red Rocks (J.Kravitz)

And so it began.  Inspired by the words of his old friend, a revitalized Trey whipped up Phish’s 3.0 anthem in a matter of hours- all by himself.  It sounds like a story from the late ‘eighties- Trey furiously writing and creating- but it was 2008.  And that is what was so cool.  The story, the song, the music- they all value friendship, loyalty, and fun.  And once again, it seems that is exactly what Phish is all about.  Having fun  is at a premium these days- by fans and band alike- but this era all started with the first Phish song of the new-school, “Backwards Down the Number Line.”  Let’s take a trip…

Trey at Rothbury (M.Simpson)

The song became public when Trey made his first appearance, emerging from his legal entanglements, at Rothbury in the summer of 2008.  As part of his acoustic set, Trey wove an early version of “Backwards Down the Number Line,” and it was quite obvious where this one was headed.  While still in the “rumor” stage of Phish’s return, decisions had already been made- and most of us knew.  The acoustic version placed an emphasis on the lyrics, a clear ode to friendship through good times and bad.  But the beauty of it all was that the song, itself, was a sign of good times ahead.  With Fishman watching and Mike joining Trey onstage to play the song, the ball was already in motion.

Brooklyn – 8.7.08 (R.Barkan)

The next time “Backwards Down the Number Line” showed up was later that summer in Trey’s highly-anticipated electric return at the intimate Music Hall of Williamsburg.  Debuted on August 7th in Brooklyn, along with six other songs, “Backwards Down the Number Line” was certainly catchy, and you just got the feel that it would wind up opening many future second-sets for the Phish.  With thin vocal harmonies and a lack of improvisational chops in the Classic TAB setup, the song would be greatly enhanced by his other band.  The lyrics were clearly a reference to the past and the oncoming future, and with a batch of new songs- some yet to surface- the future seemed limitless that night in Brooklyn.

When Trey went on his Classic TAB run in October of  ’08, “Backwards Down the Number Line” became a staple of his sets during the second half of the tour.  Breaking it out first at Lupo’s in Providence, RI, the band played a standard, guitar-solo version for the short stint of shows.  The song carried a shuffle-type beat, a borderline county vibe, and a soaring platform for guitar solos,  but understandably, every version sounded just about the same.  The transformation was near. (Listen to Richmond’s finale below.)

Hampton (J.Volckhausen)

When the band got together to rehearse for the Hampton reunion, “Backwards Down the Number Line” was the only new tune thrown into the eighty-plus song mix for the weekend.  Somewhat surprisingly, the band opened their first second set at Hampton with the song- and most people weren’t aware of what it was.  Played symbolically to usher the new age of Phish, the band followed up the song’s template with a boisterous “Tweezer” that brought the house down.  But not before “Number Line” started things off.  Dismissed by some as less-than-worthy Trey pop, these people wouldn’t be able to escape it come Summer Tour.

Jones Beach (W.Rogell)

Dusted off out of “Piper” during Jones Beach’s final and most explosive set, the song now came out with a new bridge with lyrics atop, giving the repetitive verse / chorus format some variation.  Played four times throughout June, highlighted by Asheville’s set opener, any improv remained firmly anchored to the song’s structure.  Essentially playing the “album version” the band spent June warming their audience familiar to their new anthem.

7.31 (G.Lucas)

But when leg two of summer kicked off, things were about to change.  Coming out of the now-legendary Red Rocks “Tweezer,” the band took “Number Line” outside of its noodly structure, creating an original segment of improv for the first time.  After a relatively tame second-set opener at Shoreline, when the song dropped late in The Gorge’s final set, Phish created its most significant jam to date.  Breaking into soaring rock textures, the band gelled the music to the upbeat vibe of the show, while getting dirtier than ever.  The band must have liked what they played, because they broke it out the very next show in Chicago, kicking off set two.  Emboldening the jam even further, the band stretched it into a spacier ambiance and suggested more spiritual realms before getting chopped by “Carini.”  But it was far and away the most exploratory version yet- until SPAC.

SPAC (D.Vann)

Just as Phish opened this whole 3.0 party, so would they close it- albeit for the summer- opening their final frame with “Backwards Down the Number Line.”  As soon as it started, everyone knew it would go deep, and twenty minutes (or twenty years) later, that was confirmed. In its most far-reaching, psychedelic journey, this “Number Line” not only stood out at the show, but quickly vaulted itself into the category of whole-summer highlights.  Representative of how far the band had come since its four-minute debut in Hampton, the dark and exploratory risk-taking at SPAC was like soul-candy.  Taking the show on a menacing-turned-abstract excursion, Phish artistically segued the monstrous jam into Joy’s final track, “Twenty Years Later.”

Phish’s evolution from Hampton through SPAC can be virtually traced via the evolution of this song.  Initially tame and straight forward, “Backwards Down the Number Line” has slowly transformed into one of the band’s most diverse vehicles.  With a poignant lyrical theme created just for this go-round, there is no doubt that this song will continue to grow and take different musical shapes.  With a jam that can now go anywhere, each future appearance will be shrouded in musical mystery- and is what this is all about.


 Late Summer '09

Surrender To the Flow‘s Fan Survey:

Get your voice heard in the only lot magazine written for ‘Phish kidz by Phish kidz!’  My friends over at the fan-based publication, Surrender to the Flow, are in the process of putting together their Halloween edition for Indio.  Please help out by weighing in with your take on Phish’s summer tour, Festival 8, Joy, and a whole lot more!  CLICK HERE FOR SURVEY!


Winged music note

Jam of the Day:

“Timber Ho! > David Bowie” 7.26.97 II

An extended passage of darkness to open the second set at Austin’s South Park Meadows in the summer of ’97.



10.5.1995 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR< Torrent

10.5.1995 Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR < Megaupload

Memorial Coliseum – Portland, OR

With all the PDX folks on this site I’d figure I’d drop in a treat from the northwest circa ’95.  The seventh show of a massive fall tour, Phish was just getting revved up, but there are more than a few treats in a show that took place far away from Phish’s core fan base.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Ha Ha Ha, Fog That Surrounds, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Cars Trucks Buses, Strange Design, The Divided Sky, Acoustic Army, Julius, Suzy Greenberg

II: 2001 > Runaway Jim, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, Scent of a Mule, Cavern, David Bowie, Lifeboy, Amazing Grace

E: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Source: Neumann KA100

It all started with a poem.  In their tradition of writing each other poems for their birthdays, Tom Marshall sent Trey the lyrics to what would quickly become “Backwards Down the Number Line.”  Tom explained the near-instant transformation in an interview with Relix last January: A poem I emailed to Trey on his birthday last …

Phish’s New Theme Song Read More »

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