Moments In a Box: The First Sets of Fall

The first sets of fall didn’t carry much improvisational weight, so when Phish unveiled a jam in the opening frame, it always drew enhanced attention. Providing musical respites from the composition and song-driven stanzas, these pieces often came as the first opportunity to really immerse oneself in all-out Phishiness. Most often sticking to contained exploration, the band rarely took chances during the first half of shows, reserving almost all musical risk for the second. Here, however, are four first-set pieces that did take off into creative wonderlands.


“46 Days” 11.18 I

"46 Days" (M.Christie)

"46 Days" (M.Christie)

Towards the end of a relatively generic tour-opening set, Phish sat into one of the thickest jams of tour. A song that varies between a vehicle for improvisation and a blues-rocker, the placement of this version had “blues rocker” written all over. But as the bombast came to a head, the band slipped into a very slow funk groove. Leaving the song’s structure in a wake of heavy organ swells, deep bass bombs, and a percussive rhythms, the band formed a gooey canvas that Trey painted with a retro funk line, circa 1997. Phish locked into a methodical and transportative groove that likened a mind-controlling soundtrack for an alien chain gang marching hopelessly to their death. With sonic effects gradually layered into the piece, the throwback groove morphed into a futuristic, ambient sound sculpture. Phish had jumped into the abyss out of nowhere, crafting one of fall tour’s enduring pieces in its opening frame. With a completely original lighting display by Kuroda, an indelible moment crystallized right away at Cobo Arena.



“Split Open and Melt” 11.21 I

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

Late in Cincinnati’s third set of the weekend, the opening beat to “Split” shot from stage like a sonic cannonball. While always an adventure, the band had already played some extremely psychedelic renditions during the summer, making the first indoor “Split” all the more intriguing. As the band embarked into the nether, they wandered through a sublime melodic plane on their way to an abstract mind-fuck. Harnessing the very essence of the song, Phish upped the levels of this version with a gradual climb into the darkest realms of sonic sorcery. Completely overtaking The Crown with their psychedelic textures, all members of the band equally contributed to the symphonic cacophony. Growing into a “jaw-on-the-floor” moment, one could hardly believe the coherency in which Phish plowed through such precise, demonic music. Moving far out into an amorphous ball of sound and fury, a mind-popping moment occurred as the band slammed back “Split’s” natural groove without missing a beat. A high point of Cincinnati’s two nights, no first set pieces approached the levels of awe and terror induced by this piece.



“Undermind” 11.29 I

Official Portland Poster (N.Duval)

Official Portland Poster (N.Duval)

In perhaps the most engaging first set of fall, Phish took “Undermind” off the shelf for the only time during fall tour. The song that lyrically fits the band’s current place in time so well always seems to provide a tasty nugget of rhythmic exploration. Dusted off in fine style, in the band’s highly-anticipated return to Cumberland County Civic Center, Phish took “Undermind” to new heights. Playing with increasingly effected tones throughout the piece, Mike and Trey engaged in a dynamic two-step, wrapping their melodies around each other like supple snakes. Page hopped on the clav, adding another layer of crunch to the jam, as Fishman held things together from down below. As their momentum built, Trey and Mike showcased their symbiotic chops in what quickly became a clear highlight to the night. Getting downright dirty, Mike, Trey, and Page formed a creative three-person aural brew that bubbled with all sorts of spicy, filtered effects. As the band climaxed the jam, splashing back into the chorus, the crowd responded with appreciative fervor at the virtuoso mini-experiment.



“Reba” 12.04 I

12.4.09 (W.Rogell)

12.4.09 (W.Rogell)

One of the band’s most complex pieces, “Reba” often features small mistakes by one band member or another. Whether a smudge in the song’s fugue or a massive flub a la Indio, more often than not, the compositional section hits a speed bump or two along the way. Because of its degree of difficulty, “Reba” always represents a signpost for the band’s precision playing. Consistently launching into one of Phish’s most blissful improvisational segments, a tightly wound beginning enhances the overall experience; and this first setter in Madison Square Garden’s final show had it all. Exploding through the composition with speed, confidence and a sense of musical drama, the band nailed the opening half with little trouble, carrying a gigantic head of steam into the jam. Taking off with a greater sense of musical determination than usual, the section of improv commenced immediately with a quicker tempo and zero time to settle. More akin to an older version, Trey came directly out of the gates flowing subconsciously, phrasing his melodies masterfully and pouring his heart into each measure. The band chugged right along with their leader, hitting a series of creative stops and changes along the upward path. A song that flourishes exponentially when the band is fully locked in, this Madison Square Garden outing levitated the mid-town arena with densely packed cascade of groove. One of the strongest versions of the year, sometimes the band can express more in less time with ultra-focused playing, and that is what this “Reba” is all about.



Jam of the Day:

Down With Disease > Twenty Years Later” 11.24 II


A psychedelic excursion that highlighted the second set in Philadelphia.



11.24.09 Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA < Megaupload

11.24.09 (B.Ferguson)

11.24.09 (B.Ferguson)

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Cities > Camel Walk, The Curtain With, The Wedge, The Moma Dance, Reba, Golgi Apparatus, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Possum, Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later, Harry Hood, The Mango Song, Mike’s Song > Simple > Slave to the Traffic Light, Weekapaug Groove*

E: A Day in the Life

*1/2 time version

Source: Sennheiser MD441U > Edirol R4Pro @ 24/88.2

Tags: , ,

445 Responses to “Moments In a Box: The First Sets of Fall”

  1. jay Says:


  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ there we go. sorry. the server was apparently down for a while

  3. jay Says:

    was that a database crash?

  4. jay Says:

    almost went for the shwag on the green board to get my fix. ::shudders::

  5. Robear Says:

    ^miner, I see the question, and I see the post above about the party time review.

    only 2 on this page

  6. voopa Says:

    Wow, I had to do actual work for a while there…

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    yeah, the media temple grid server that hosts this site crashed for a bit due to an “incident”. Totally out of my hands, should be all good now.


  8. Robear Says:

    What’s the ‘green board’? Different than Phantasy Tour?

  9. jay Says:

    green board is phantasy Tour

  10. butter Says:

    “Except for the drum solo, I thought the RR4 set with BillyK was excellent, especially 2001>Waves.”

    yea i pretty much agree. i thought “Character Zero” was not the best 2 drummer choice, but other than that, great song choices for dual drummers.

    drum solo: does Fishman have a drum solo allergy?

    when Trey introduces him as “princess”, during “Meat” from Maine and he tries to “give the drummer some” Fish almost quit playing. Its like his scared to be cheezy or something and won’t do any drum rolls or fills. Then he goes bonkers the next song during Undermind.
    Maybe that particular instance he didn’t like being introduced by Trey as “princess”.

  11. jay Says:

    I liked the dual drummers at RR for the novelty. I could not see the stage too clearly that night but I was still able to peg the second drummer by site. I can tell kreutzman’s drumming style from a mile away 🙂

  12. KWL Says:

    guess I picked the right 2 & a half hours to be gone. Didn’t miss a thing!

  13. Robear Says:

    nevermind, I looked it up.

  14. Robear Says:

    Butter, I got the impression that Fishman was not impressed with the ‘princess’ comment. We got the non-drum solo as a response!

  15. albert walker Says:

    BK is the man

    no practicing and geeked out of his mind
    it was still Billy K

    hearing his signature sound with Fishman was def one of my summer higlights

    and yes there are some really amazing moments in several of the jams

  16. sumodie Says:

    @butter: I had about the same thought regarding Fishman (drum solo allergy) in Portland.

    Yeah, that sounds right, Fishman is afraid to be cheesy for a drum solo, but he’s NOT afraid to be ‘cheesy’ doing anything else [fill in Fishman antic here]. Must be a rule in the Helping Phriendly Book about that -too bad I don’t read books!

  17. albert walker Says:

    I heard that last night in Meat also

    I was starting to think that little drum solo fiasco at RR was more just as much Fishman’s fault

    Trey calls him out for the drum solo
    and then nothing

  18. butter Says:

    Trey seems to be a little hard on him at times. How about the whole “when your spirit guide is a middle aged man in a dress” from spac during the Harpua narration.

  19. sumodie Says:

    Re: spell checking

    I use Firefox and have the add-on “U.S English Dictionary 4.0.0” installed. As I type here possible misspellings are red lined and I can also right click a word for options. Though your on youre own with…(sic).

  20. Robear Says:

    Ball busting, on stage no less.

    AW, I thought the jams with Billy were real nice.

    I kept waiting for Billy to lead them into ‘NFA’

  21. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    so there were technical difficulties, Ah ha!

    Well, at least I got my highest score on Donkey Kong EVAR!

    I liked BK at RR it added a dimension without taking too much away.

  22. albert walker Says:

    cool album been spinning

    Jesse Winchester
    self titled

    produced by Robbie Robertson
    engineered by Todd Rundgren

    Levon and Robbie play on several tracks

    if you dig rootsy folk, country like Dylan or the Band check it out

    Jerry Garcia must have been a fan
    That’s A Touch I Like is his tune

    pretty hip stuff

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    Once there was an explorer, lost in the deepest darkest depths of the jungle…

    Late at night, as he camped around the fire with his trusty native guides, the rippling polyrhythmic sound of drums came rolling through the trees.

    The guides froze in abject terror and leapt to their feet, clearly about to flee into the depths of the forest at the first hint of the sound. The explorer was confused; he jumped up and grabbed the chief guide by the arm, and asked, “what’s wrong?”

    Eyes wide and frozen in horror, the man cried:

    “Next come bass solo!”

  24. butter Says:

    when i got to talk with Gordo on the flight to the Gorge this summer he said “Waves” was his favorite with Billy K. I told him the “Undermind” was mine.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    thank you, ladies and germ, be sure to tip your waitress on your way out

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