Today, to end the week, we look at some final moments from fall tour that left a mark on our collective memories. Two are jams and two are songs, but all four are illustrations of those times at shows when time stands still and we swim in the shrine of the Phish.
“Disease > Free” 11.18 II
Phish usually drops one of their anthems to initiate and conclude their tours; creating thematic welcomes and farewells for all involved. This fall’s welcome-to-tour jam came as part of Detroit’s second set in the form of “Down With Disease.” Turning the upbeat rock and roll into a sharper piece of improv, Trey brought the band into darker thoughts using a dissonant tone. Shedding his strong guitar leads for a more collaborative affair, Trey offered fluttering melodies that accompanied Page and Mike’s offerings. An amoeba-like jam, the band pushed, pulled and stretched as one unit, without anyone dominating the mixture. Descending from the peak, the band sat in the musical denouement for a bit before Trey introduced the chords of “Free.” Allowing “Disease’s” jam to come to an organic conclusion, something the band hasn’t always been able to do this year, they moved quite naturally into the next song. Though “Free” hasn’t exactly been a vehicle for the band since their return, Trey added some gnarling guitar work, stretching Detroit’s version into the most significant of the fall. A bombastic landing pad for some other-worldy music, Cobo bounced in super-slow-motion with the over-sized bass grooves en route to the second-set’s standout sequence.
“Torn and Frayed” 11.21 I
When Phish broke out this fan favorite from their “Exile” set, many people’s hopes were answered – Phish would continue to play “Torn and Frayed” as part of their catalog. Given the most interpretative treatment out of all the “Exile” songs in Indio, the song emerged as the leading contender to remain in the band’s catalog. And coincidentally, “Torn and Frayed” became the first song played off the double-album this fall. In line with the band’s current sound, were it not for the song’s significant legacy, it sounds like a piece that could have been cut in the studio while recording “Joy.” A narrative of the rock and roll lifestyle, “Torn and Frayed” is lyrically appropriate for Phish as well, referencing the path once traveled. Though I expected the song to pop up later in tour as a jam vehicle, the band kept it under wraps while bringing out three other songs from their cover set. Perhaps in Miami?
“Camel Walk” 11.24 I
“Camel Walk” represented the moment everyone knew the first night of Philly would be something special. Significant not for its musical blowout, but for its mere inclusion as the fourth song of the show, “Camel Walk” foreshadowed the incredibly entertaining night that would unfold. Following a smoking triumvirate of “Chalk Dust” “Bathtub Gin,” “Cities,” many expected a dip in the first set excitement. Instead, the band continued the non-stop opening frame with 2009 bust-out of their funked out, old-school piece. Phish locked the switch in the “on” position from the first note of this show, and never took the pedal off the metal. With a set of musical bellows, Phish stoked a setlist fire, and “Camel Walk” added a necessary spark to the early stages of an already burning blaze.
“Piper > BBFCFM” 11.22 II
In a building that bled with an old-school energy, Phish played right along with the feel of the miniature arena. Transforming this second set “Piper” into a manic musical passage, Phish upped the intensity of their break-neck journey with a high-speed percussive chase. Tearing into a set of power chords, Trey lent a harder edge to the music, while Page initiated an effect-laden synth pattern that quickly grew into the focus of the jam. Sprouting a unique musical root, Phish cranked up their tongue-in-cheek homage to death metal, “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars.” With an aggressive transition likening a gasoline on a fire, Phish unleashed a mid-set inferno. Complete with nonsensical on-stage antics, the band launched a ludicrous escapade into the occult. Eventually emerging from the bizarre in a comedic ending, Trey tipped his cap to Fishman and his family in their home town of Syracuse. A throwback moment of the highest degree, it was refreshing to see that Phish still carried their spirit of absurdity into this era.
Jam of the Day:
Cumberland County’s improvisational meat of the second set.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.22.09 Onondaga War Memorial, Syracuse, NY < Megaupload
I: David Bowie, Julius, Sparkle, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Heavy Things, Funky Bitch, Sample in a Jar, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Let Me Lie, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Stash
II: Drowned > Twist > Piper > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Tube, Theme From the Bottom, Maze, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Character Zero, First Tube
E: Good Times Bad Times
Source: DPA 4021 > Sound Devices 722 (24/96)