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

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

  1. Robear Says:

    AW, you’re killing me. Where can I find these rec’s living way out in the sticks?

    your suggestions have been $$$$

  2. ChefBradford Says:

    Checking in from the restaurant. More Jesus talk today. I figured it was more of a robe than a dress, but I wasn’t there. Were due another golden age or roses in Miami. I hope

  3. albert walker Says:

    hey man

    if I had the right equipment I’d love to put all my vinyl onto digital and share
    I’d love to have digital copies myself for driving and shit

    I think that can be done these days

  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    that would be so sweet AW

  5. Mitch Says:

    just jumping in here but there are usb adapters for turntables nowadays

  6. sumodie Says:

    @mitch: grab a poster?

    Those of here around 2 all failed miserably….

  7. Robear Says:

    dub, r those recs avail. on cd as re-issues or anything? is it worth searching amazon or another used music site? I don’t have a record player.

  8. albert walker Says:


    you ever check out that Big Star

  9. Robear Says:

    mitch is right, re: USB adapters. i saw them in the little ‘sky mall’ magazine on the plane. there are probably good ones out there.

  10. Lycanthropist Says:

    yes i did.. i liked it very very much..

    i made a comment a long time back about my initial thoughts..

    can’t remember which day.

    After I finish with some of this CF tracking, ill listen again

  11. albert walker Says:

    both those records have been reissued on CD
    they are pretty well known in record snob circles

    don’t know if they’ve hit i-tunes though
    if any of them have it is Baby Huey

    it was produced by Curtis Mayfield
    I think it was even reissued on Rhino

  12. albert walker Says:

    find any heady Ahmad Jamal

  13. Robear Says:

    Red Rocks ‘7 Below’, the forgotten jam.

  14. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah.. i got real into that.
    played that for about two hours straight when you first suggested it

  15. albert walker Says:

    that cat is nasty

    one of the earlier pioneers of modal jazz

    one of my fav solo piano cats

  16. VoidBoy Says:

    Saw the “Vinyl to CD” players at Target, FWIW.

  17. Mitch Says:

    their site died for me as well. its only gonna get worse as the word spreads and we all go for the golden ticket hampton pollock.

    it was worse than live nation on sale days. i was posting while it was happening and saw you had 8 in your basket at one point. my buttons all wouldnt click. i was on at 2pm and the posters werent up til like 2:10. so i spent my lunch hour refreshing and getting nowhere. i’d like to get a poster cause then i get free shipping with the 7.77 cds. however, i’ll be too scared to wait for my login to take and i’ll just end up paying shipping anyway.

  18. Leo Weaver Says:

    Speaking of Ahmad Jamal, do yourselves an 8.5-minute favor and follow the link…

  19. sumodie Says:

    @mitch: I won’t be trying for the hampton this friday as I wasn’t at those shows -good luck!

  20. halcyon Says:

    @ AW…I was over a friends house the other day, and we were listening to various tunes. He pulls out some vinyl and puts on Big Star. Turns out he is a big vinyl collector as well.

  21. sumodie Says:

    Stop with the music recs! Santa says he can’t carry any more in the sleigh…

  22. albert walker Says:

    very rare in good condition
    I’ve seen them get up to a c-note

    ardent a division of stax records
    very limited pressing

    but yeah a lot of us record geeks dig the same shit

  23. sumodie Says:

    Miami ptbm’s came today. If you lay the 4 tix side by side it makes a complete image of the Miami NYE graphic at

  24. Mitch Says:

    hey sumodie,
    if you arent doing anything this week and want a challenge, you could try and get a hampton pollock. 😉 I can paypal if you get one. we could work out a meetup in nyc to hang one night. (memory serves, you live nearby)

  25. Mitch Says:

    can you take a pic and email me so i can see the tix? gorgemango at facemelt dot net if you dont have my personal one.

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