The Maine Event

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

One night after Phish rewrote the improvisational record book for this era, they played a show far more defined by its setlist than open-ended jamming. Greeting the intimate Sunday crowd in Maine with an array of bust-outs and precise playing, the band issued their strongest first set of tour, but then opened up their improv only one time during the second set in an odd turn of events. Albany’s other-worldly playing, almost inexplicably, didn’t provide the impetus to step onstage and go for it again. Instead, the band played a non-stop, two set show that brought a consistently high energy in a classic building of Phish lore.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

Greeting the renovated arena with their own new, ultra-polished rock show, Phish came out firing in the first half, opening with the promising combination of “Possum,” “Disease.” Staying within the confines of their anthem for the first time this fall, “Disease” sparked the night with a standout shredfest, but the most interesting segment of the set came in the second half. After the band played the first “Weigh” of this era and the first “Nellie Kane” since 2000, the band sat into their third smoking piece of improv of the set, this time of the dark variety, in “Stash.” Building a standout sinister peak, this song set the ominous tone for the rest of the frame, as the band dropped into their third 3.0 debut with “Meat.” Taking the simple funk groove and creating a mini-jam, the band did more with Gordon’s Ghost-era composition than ever before. The rhythmic-focused “Undermind” provided another first set highlight as Trey experimented with a twangier tone and an explosive solo over his bandmmates’ building shuffle-groove. Meanwhile, Gordon kept busy hurling bass grenades into the fray in what turned out to be a step forward for the song. But the peak of the nasty first half came in the the set ending “Mike’s Groove.” Without breaking form, Phish built a massive guitar-rock jaunt that saw Trey crush an intense excursion of evil licks and bombastic patterns. A dirty dance through a dark alley, Trey led the troops to the safety of “Hydrogen” through some excessively hairy territory. Capped by a full-speed run through “Weekapaug,” Phish’s stellar opening frame set the table for a second set that held the imaginations of all captive for the forty minute setbreak.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Kicking off the second half with “Moma Dance,” the band oozed into the frame with some thickness, and then dropping into to the virtually- guaranteed type-II vehicle “Rock and Roll.” Showing love for Velvet Underground’s Loaded for the third time in four shows, this time, instead of launching into an interesting Phish jam, the band remained anchored to the break-neck, guitar rock for all but the last minute or so of the piece. When they finally eased up the intensity, the music began to blossom, and, with some patience, could have made a stunning journey. But it wasn’t to be – just as the music was turning transcendent, the band segued rather quickly into “Light.”

Providing the improvisational centerpiece of the night, “Light” transformed from a cathartic guitar confessional into a group exploration in the spiritual plane, Trey sporadically dropped his geyser-like melodies for more abstract offerings and the band built outward with him. Remaining in high gear, Phish soared through the multi-faceted centerpiece of the show, briefly reaching an incredibly addictive groove that they abandoned all too quickly. Remaining creative throughout and building delicately to an beautiful conclusion, the band took “Light,” and went for it, resulting in the most engaging piece of the show. Sometimes all ya’ gotta do is try!

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

As only real exploratory section of the night came to an end, the band slithered into a murky hard rock or heavy metal cover, with full on snarling guitar licks and a crashing drum beat. But as the lyrics unfolded and the band sang the chorus, it became clear that Phish was unveiling a reworked version of the Dude of Life’s “Crimes of the Mind.” Appearing for only the seventh time in their history, and the first without The Dude, himself, on vocals, the updated version featured a menacing guitar hook and a seething solo that left everyone smiling at the reinvented pseudo-classic. Yet another addition to Phish’s ever-broadening catalog, this one seems like it could have some real improvisational potential if the band chooses to go that route.

The rest of the set, while well-played didn’t feature anything outside the box. Though precise “Pebbles and Marbles” seemed to break up the set’s continuity a bit, and its customary, one-dimensional rock jam didn’t add any intrigue to the song-based evening. Juxtaposing the upbeat textures with their patented space-funk, Phish kicked into a short but sweet, bass-led “2001” in a late set dance session that spun the mini-arena like a gyroscope . Phish emerged from the song’s peak with a run of potential set closers – “Golgi,” “Cavern,” and a classic “Antelope,” which the band drilled to punctuate the set. Enhancing the show’s kick-down value, the band featured a triple-encore of the rare a capella “Freebird” for the first time since 2000, “Carini,” and “Waste.”

Moving into the fall-tour’s peak run at Madison Square Garden, one can only assume Phish has a couple of monster sets in them to rival Albany’s masterpiece. Always bringing their A-game to the Big Apple, the next three shows could very well wind up being some of the most memorable of the year. It will be interesting to see what approach Phish takes in a building where they have traditionally jammed relentlessly. Only a of couple days to travel, recoop, and listen to Albany,  and we shall see!

I: Possum, Down with Disease, Nellie Kane, Weigh, When the Circus Comes, Kill Devil Falls, Water in the Sky, Stash, Meat, Undermind, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove

II: The Moma Dance, Rock and Roll > Light > Crimes of the Mind, Pebbles and Marbles, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Golgi Apparatus, Cavern, Run Like an Antelope

E: Free Bird, Carini, Waste

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1,562 Responses to “The Maine Event”

  1. c0wfunk Says:

    yeah .. I should know better, and should be used to it by now 🙂

    fwiw I love the seven below > ghost and think it’s very inspired jamming. I happen to believe these guys can tap that whenever they want and are choosing to find the same feelings in the song structures. I feel like the timing of albany 2 was essentially a kickdown so they could clear the air and get back to where they really want to be… Who knows really…

    ..moved to where they’d hoped I’d be..

  2. bl68300 Says:

    all things reconsidered bustout @ MSG, oh it shall happen!

  3. BTB Says:

    I’ve been off the board for a while – finally back from Albany. Can’t wait to relisten to what went down. What a great time. The boys are on fire heading into MSG. You guys are going to have a blast…

    FYFMS!! Laughed my ass off at that. The pics are up if you click on my BTB name. Funny stuff.

    @MR PALMER – The only band member who saw the sign to my knowledge was Page. I only flashed the sign a couple times when I thought there was an opportunity for the band to see it. I didn’t hoist that thing more than a couple times. Most of which was to goof on it to HHOOD and KWL who were about 75 feet away.

    Inside joke, but FWIW, HHOOD and KWL are not Wooks. Confirmed.

    Billy Joel rocks!!

  4. oldskool Says:

    I wonder if TV on the Radio is at home in NYC right now? I have been thinking that maybe Albany’s Golden Age was a warmup and that they may make an appreance at MSG??

  5. Birddog Says:

    I’m not sure if they can just “go there anythime they want”

    It seems that it takes alot of patience, confidence and coheseiveness to pull off those interstellar jams like we got on Saturday. It seems like they have been doing alot of this “get it going – start going in that space – cut it off and start a new song.” I think thats the result of not feeling it or not having the confidence in the jam to continue it. As they play more and get tighter and get better at feeling where the rest of the band is going I expect that we’ll see more outer space trips.

  6. Robear Says:

    Miner, missed you at the WW booth.

    On another note, I have to just say this. Reading this review, it seems you are, how do I say without being offensive,

    Too hung up on whether the band is throwing down ‘improv’ or not. If ‘Stash, Meat, and Undermind’ don’t count as on the fly creativity, I must be missing something. I’ve seen 3 ‘Mike’s Grooves’ and a ‘Mike’s’ w/o Groove this year, all have been unique. If that’s not jamming, what is it when you play the musical segment of a song differently? If they’re not playing studio verbatim, they are jamming, IMO. The whole second set, up to ‘Golgi’ was a jam.

    ‘Undermind’ felt like being with Lucy, which I wasn’t. That’s the power of their playing right now.

  7. chefbradford Says:

    Phish + TV On the Radio = ??? It would be interesting, for sure. Off to work

  8. BrandonKayda Says:

    I’m officially finished!!!!!!!!

    Started working at midnight…..5694 words and 9 1/2 hours later…done

    Now I can go back to Phish 🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. Robear Says:

    AND, they soundchecked ‘Golgi’ last night. Does that song have improv, not sure whether I should be excited? 😉

  10. chefbradford Says:

    Brandon, get some sleep man

  11. halcyon Says:

    LOL @ BTB.

  12. GhostPhunk Says:

    “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great set. But that Seven Below really doesn’t do much of anything–as soon as they move away for a few minutes they seem to get right back to where they started, so it feels more like a 20 minute jam that doesn’t really go anywhere than a real jam of various sections and exploration. Maybe it’s just me though.”

    Apparently I was at a different show than you, but luckily I was at the one where MULTIPLE segments of universal love happened. Score for me.

  13. BrandonKayda Says:

    Good idea Chef

    I’ll be back tomorrow

  14. cal Says:

    Robear–it’s a type I vs. type II thing, mainly (I think). The jams you mention all feature improv framed within the confines of the song’s specific themes, whereas “Seven”>”Ghost” was mostly spontaneous creation of NEW themes of music, nothing much to do with the songs they sprouted from.

  15. kbarnoski Says:

    albany 7>ghost will stand the test of time. glad i was there because we aren’t going to hear anything like this for a long time in 3.0. they are focused on playing their songs again and the tide may not turn again. it’s still phish and ill take what i can get, but cherish 7>ghost as if it could be your last if you were there.

  16. Corey Lareau Says:

    What else was in the soundcheck, anyone?
    @Robear, sorry, as I missed you too at the WW. Tight quarters getting around inside that place. Oh, and I’m with you regarding their “jamming.”

    Trading in Meat and Undermind, very nice.
    Fishman and Mike have had consistently great playing this year.
    Fish’s ability to play with time has been mesmerizing.
    Loved that he went back to the Seven Below part after Ghost. As far as I’m concerned, that makes it a 7>Ghost>7 sandwich.

    Now time to think how many Zeppelin tunes make it into Charlottesville, with Dave Matthews Band and possibly the orchestra that may show up in MSG, along with TV on the Radio. Now that’s some phishiness for ya.
    Zeppelin I in it’s entirity, anyone?

  17. KWL Says:

    thanks for the confirmation BTB. I can’t believe they ignored the FMS sign. I mean, how could they not fill such a brilliant request?

    Good to see you had a great time Robear. Looking forward to high fiving in NY. Especially after they nail that jammed-out Golgi 😉

  18. CJ Says:

    “I think for Miner, “going for it” means extended jams, period.”

    That’s exactly what I mean, though. He is (we all are!) happy to see the boys venture out and try some new things, try some extended jams, and take some musical risks. There hasn’t been much of that in 2009, and because of that Albany2 stands out. It’s a great show, and long jams with Phish are going to be satisfying. My point, though, is that this version of Seven Below isn’t exactly a groundbreaking tour de force of Phish type-II jamming. It’s “solid” at best, and the main reason it is getting so much love is because there are only a small handful of type-II songs to compare it to this year. More than anything, it is a foundation for them to build off of, something to keep in mind the next time they want to jam out. A stepping stone towards future type-II transcendence. (And that Ghost would be the arrival of that future.)

    I have to get to class now, but I’ll give it another couple of listens and check back in later to be a little more specific about why it just doesn’t do much for me.

  19. jay Says:

    I am pretty easy. I absolutely love the 7below->ghost jamfest and equally love the other high energy though contained jams this tour. It all comes down to the energy in the room. Which is why I absolutely love both Cinci shows, Albany day 1, and Portland. As well as Knoxville and especially Hampton. I like the idea that the full on jamfest will be a welcome treat and not an every day occurrence. Also, what I have loved about these recent shows is the feeling of not knowing what to expect. They could play anything at any time. Love that!

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the biggest aspect of last night (imo) which was that this was very clearly Mike’s show from the start. Every song up until When the Circus Comes features him heavily and once they got through that sinister jam in Stash he took over again. I really hope the recordings of the show pick up just how big he was playing all night long.

    Crimes of the Mind was a total throwdown. I picked up on it right away but this isn’t the same song they did with the Dude of Life way back when. Playing this and Antelope made for a nice little Dude Duo in the 2nd set.

    and Freebird will always be my favorite a capella tune. trey was having a hard time not laughing during the lyrical section at the beginning. fun stuff.

  21. GhostPhunk Says:

    Apparently the verdict is still out on my w00k status. BTB, hurry that up would you, my street cred totally depends on you.

  22. Corey Says:

    “and the main reason it is getting so much love is because there are only a small handful of type-II songs to compare it to this year. More than anything”


    Uhh, no. Actually, as Page mentions in the IT dvd, sometimes you have to play for a while until you get to a wonderful place, musically speaking. If you never pursued that place, and stopped the improv, then you never get to that wonderful, blissful place. Every few minutes in S’ven B’low, musical beauty is discovered.

    … And I’m glad they pursued…

    Clearly, they are into creating new composition in the moment, not just jamming on a theme, but actually creating a new piece from practically any launching pad they want to use. And that’s just great. Let’s just get the improvisation language to the level of skilled jazzfolk, and I’ll be really happy (i know, i know, this is a rock and roll band.)

    They’ve managed to leave beautiful music dancing in our ears at every stop this year… we have NOTHING to complain about.

    So when is PHiSH gonna get their multi million dollar casino gig in Vegas?

  23. BTB Says:

    @GPhunk- Inside joke about something we were goofing on in the parking lot at Albany that we got a kick out of. I didn’t mean to come off as an a-hole or anything about judging people or something. Just a joke.

  24. Gus Says:

    hey robear – were you at the waterwheel table during setbreak? I stopped by like 15 minutes before the start of set two
    and there was like no one there so I wasn’t sure if the meetup was
    happening. I did talk to someone at the table though and they told me about it. It was cool.

  25. HarryHood Says:

    BTB & GhostPhunk are also not Wooks. Confirmed.

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