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. Mitch Says:

    speaking of posters and the fact that you guys are all lost dorks, if you havent seen the 16 posters about lost, check this out: dan mccarthy and tyler stout are two of my fav poster makers and both of theirs are awesome. the stout just got announced today and looks mooooneeeeey.

    stout on the main site
    all 16 on expressobeans

    these things are going for a shit ton of money. people really do like lost. speaking of, i’m about to start an episode. been watching them all on netflix to get caught up. ending season 3 tonight.

  2. Lycanthropist Says:


    your through the first half… what do you think about LOST?

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    When does Lost start up again? I really need a re-cap. my memory sucks. they usually do a couple hour recap before the new season begins i think.

  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeah i think it starts first week of Feb

  5. sumodie Says:

    image of miami ptbm’s here:

  6. Mitch Says:

    well I started watching cause Frankie and Miner and other people on here kept raving about it and I needed something to stream on netflix. gotta say, the first season, I was bored. Since then its gotten good and keeps me interested. My girl said the 4th season is a bit over the top and seemed like the writers were just throwing out over the top ideas and running with them. I’ll find out soon enough. that stout poster is awesome tho. id want it just to go with my other stout posters.

  7. Mitch Says:

    awesome sumodie. way jealous

  8. sumodie Says:

    @mitch: Another reason I’m not trying for a Friday poster is b/c I’ll only have my phone. I’ll see what happens though….

    Thanks for the info on the lost posters.

  9. Mitch Says:

    right on dude. nobody knows if it will be friday for sure tho. i’ll be on here tomorrow. same bat time, same bat channel.

  10. voidboy Says:


    Hey, the barcodes on those tickets… I’ve seen those numbers before…4… 8… 15… yeah, um, wait. Hold on. 16… 23…. & 42. Hey, hold on, what the name of that arena… Oh shit! Don’t get on that arena… you better sell those tickets (to me) fast… I’ll radio you if everything turns out ok…

  11. beepaphone Says:

    Earlier, and I don’t know if it was just me or if Miner’s site was actually down for a while, but this picture was the fruit of my aimless wandering at that time. This one goes out to type III.

  12. sumodie Says:

    Lol -I’m not worried, voidboy, those aren’t my tix – grabbed the image from the green board.

  13. Mitch Says:

    haha good one void

  14. Mitch Says:


  15. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Watching Isles/Rangers on MSG- they are cranking Tweezer reprise during a break in the action thru the PA. Pretty sweet!

  16. Lycanthropist Says:


  17. Mitch Says:

    no joke. whats your take on lost lycan?

  18. Lycanthropist Says:

    I absolutely love it.

    am a die hard for sure.

    But I recognize that it can push the line of over the topness.. but to me they do such a good job of keeping it all together. And its all really about character development.

  19. sumodie Says:

    mitch: at phish dry goods you can already be logged in, with other stuff in your cart (like those CDs you mentioned), and then wait for posters to go on sale. I’m not sure but you may be able to save a CC# too, in order to save time if & when you get a poster.

    Can’t believe you weren’t taken with season 1 of Lost…guess you’re sucked in now. Love the ‘innocent’ year on the island 🙂

  20. sumodie Says:

    Jeez, I totally spaced that season 5 of lost came out on dvd last week. Hey Santa!

  21. Lycanthropist Says:

    me too Lost Season 1 sold me by the 4th episode…

    season 2 almost lost me in its beginning episodes.. but it got better

    Season 3 was flat out amazing

  22. Mitch Says:

    way ahead of you on the auto login, but people were having so many problems ordering today and emptying carts, etc to get it to work and it was failing so hard.

  23. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Thanks for Sharing Beep!

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    LOST is the Phish of Television. I could write a lot about LOST…

  25. halcyon Says:

    We started a few weeks ago the goal of completing all seasons of LOST before the final season. Do not think that will happen, but absolutely love the show. Actually we are going to watch one in a minute. Don’t know if people remember but a few weeks ago I posted something regarding the radio show Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. The show is on public radio and discusses religion, spirituality, ideas, etc. This one episode was called TV and Parables of our time. The show discussed LOST, and its parable, that those on the island were more LOST spiritually, mentally than physically. Can’t wait to watch more of that show.

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