Bringing the Past Into the Future

“If you don’t know your past, you don’t know your future.”

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

When Phish steps into the next stage of their career in a little more than a month, they are bound to discover new styles of musical expression. With a foundation year behind them, one would imagine that Phish will start down the path of reinvention this summer, forging a new sound for 2010. As the band evolves, and their music takes new forms, they will incorporate elements of their past endeavors, a trend throughout their history. Building upon the previous year’s stylistic successes from their onset through Summer 1996, Phish hit the reset button in Fall ’96, beginning a completely new evolutionary arc for the late ’90s.

When re-listening to 2009, one quickly notices that Phish’s musical high points were truly sublime, with several jams that can hold their own among highlights from any era. And when listening more closely to the band’s playing through the year, one can identify elements from each of the band’s evolutionary periods throughout their career. Incorporating all the styles of their career into the building blocks for the future, 2010 will be a year that not only springboards off 2009, but every phase of the band’s career.

12.30.09 (W.Rogell)

Starting off last year with a focus on straight-forward jamming, Phish came out of the gates conservatively, making sure they had their footing before trying to run. However, one element of their playing stood out right from the beginning of Hampton – their precise execution of composed sections, as well as their full compositions. Turning their glaring weakness of 2.0 into an immediate strength of 2009, Phish opened the era with two of their most complex pieces in “Fluffhead” and “Divided Sky.” Evoking memories of the early-’90’s, when Phish ran through fugues like wind-sprints, their precision and prowess on their multi-part compositions stood out all year long. The complex sections of their larger pieces also became revitalized as the year wore on, and tackling the openings of pieces like “Reba,” “YEM,” and “Bowie” became second nature. Sure, there were speed bumps along the way, but Phish’s precision and accuracy became a strong suit in 2009.

Bonnaroo - (G.Burwell)

By the end of fall tour and in Miami, Phish began playing compact, full-on jams that more resembled the fury of the mid-90’s, an approach I labeled “musical density.” The band started to improvise in a more concentrated manner, offering many original ideas over a shorter amount of time. Jams that illustrate this retro-style include Miami’s “Piper,” “Ghost,” and “Back On The Train, “Charlottesville’s “Light,” and MSG’s “Disease > Piper.” With a take-no-prisoners approach, Phish annihilated these pieces with fast, thematic communication, leaving no time for loops, vamping, or repetitive funk chords. This emerging sound that featured shorter, too-the-point, jams evoked memories of the band’s most adventurous improvisational era from ’93 to ’95, albeit not quite as insane. Nonetheless, the band integrated similarly tight, no-nonsense communication that characterized a point in their history into their modern soundscapes.

Through this compact style, and by trimming the fat off their musical excursions, 2009 Phish piqued the interest of more than a few old-schoolers who had lost touch with the band during the the late-90’s era of groove, or during the post-hiatus era of abstract exploration. Phish sounded like the band these fans had loved through the mid-’90’s, pushing the boundaries of experimental rock while retaining a focused intensity to their playing. They could once again tear though “Foam,” had no problem shredding “It’s Ice,” and Phish music shifted back towards the form that made them famous to begin with. But not without brushstrokes of their latter years.

Miami '09

While Phish certainly didn’t focus on funk grooves last year, they did use certain vehicles to reach those swanky places. Though reined in quite a bit, their danceadelic style shined through many times throughout the year, and perhaps none more brightly than Red Rock’s “Tweezer.” After a relatively groove-less June, when Phish dropped this version (still illegal in some states), they let the floodgates of groove crash open in an all-out rhythmic explosion. All year long, but from August on specifically, versions of “Ghost,” “Wolfman’s,” and “Tweezer” routinely explored gooier territory, incorporating ideas of ’97 and ’98, but never delving nearly as deep into the musical molasses that defined those years. (Perhaps the most direct reference to this era came in the methodical funk turned ambient “46 Days” from Detroit last fall.)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

The percussive jams that dotted so many setlists last year, growing out of “Rock and Roll,” “Piper” and “Drowned,” also represented carry-over from the late ’90s. Once Phish learned the polyrhythms of Remain In Light in 1996, this type of jam immediately jumped into their repertoire the next show with 11.2.96’s “Crosseyed > Antelope,” and remained in their bag of tricks all the way through, refined throughout the years. These sparser and faster grooves of ’09 brought back the feel of ’99 and ’00, as well as some post-hiatus adventures. Additionally, the many ambient interludes and amorphous jams that popped up throughout the year can be directly traced to the aural experiments that blossomed in Fall ’98, and fully developed in 1999. Using ambient textures and “amoeba-jamming,” Phish brought a new sound to the table that fall; a sound they resurrected more than a few times last year to varying degrees of success. Some standout examples include Deer Creek’s “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” The Gorge’s “Sneakin’ Sally,” SPAC’s “Number Line, and the latter half of Miami’s “Tweezer.”

Thus, as Phish forges a path into the future, their past is undeniably coming with them. But just as these musical elements from different years were incorporated into 2009, a new direction awaits in 2010. Just what that will be remains the mystery of the summer. Answers await only 36 days away.


Jam of the Day:

Piper > What’s the Use?” 9.11.00 II

A stellar nugget of Phish2k.




12.30.98 MSG, NYC, NY < Megaupload

12.30.98 MSG, NYC, NY < Torrent

Here’s the completion of the stellar New Year’s 1998 run. Somehow, this one has skirted the archive. The most mellow of the four evenings still carried some legit highlights, specifically, “Disease > Piper.” The first set brought the bombastic beginning of “Chalk Dust,” “BBFCFM,” “Wilson,” and peaked with the surprise, set-ending “Reba.”

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Wilson, Roggae, Sparkle, The Moma Dance, The Old Home Place, Sample in a Jar, Frankie Says, Maze, Loving Cup, Reba

II: Down with Disease > Piper, Prince Caspian, The Squirming Coil > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Grind*, Possum

*debut, w/ Tom Marshall

Source: Schoeps CMC641 > Lunatec V2 > Apogee AD1000 > DAT


509 Responses to “Bringing the Past Into the Future”

  1. Gavinsdad Says:

    GarrettC and voidboy: I’m gonna be in LA for work may 19-23. I’m staying at the standard on sunset. If either of you are serious about burgers, let me know if you wanna meet me at The Apple Pan on Pico. I threw down 2 burgers and a slice of apple pie last time I was there.

  2. Selector J Says:

    Mr. P:

    You got me all riled up about that iTunes thing so I did some sleuthing on the interwebs. Found this one guy’s blog saying I should check out my ‘Album Artist’ field.

    I was like, “Pft. I think I would have noticed something like that… next.”

    Lo and behold, I go check it out and that was my problem. (Ain’t that a “beeotch! as Mitch might say in a senior thesis paper.) The two tracks that were out of order had that field filled in on their ‘Get Info’ while the rest didn’t.

    Glad to have it fixed. (Mad it took me years to figure out.)

  3. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Cool Selector- I guess if you go to that field and number the tracks ( track 1 of 20) and so on, That would do the trick also…maybe. i think someone suggested that earlier…snowbank maybe. I’ll play with it later when the kiddies are put down……….to sleep

  4. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Palmer

    When you add music to i-tunes…

    It automatically places the tunes in alphabetical order unless it’s from a disc. Hope that helps

  5. Mr.Palmer Says:

    @el dude- best method to correct issue?

  6. lastwaltzer Says:

    anybody have the link for the new joly joker blog?

  7. Selector J Says:

    As long as they have track numbers and are on the same album you should be able to get them to sort by clicking on the part of the bar that says album.

    Other than that I think the main trick is to compare the ‘Get Info’ of the oddball track to that of a normal one. If one has something the other doesn’t, that’s what screws up the sorting.

  8. Mr.Palmer Says:

    el dude- another question re: torrents. I accidentally started downloading the wrong Nautica stage ’94 show the other day. I realized i had the wrong one and paused it . When i have Transmission up it just sit there paused. How do i get rid of it?

  9. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Selector- I compared the “get info” info from the problem shows with shows that are in perfect order. the difference seems to be track numbers and, or, disc numbers applied. i think this will solve my problems. Well, at least my Itunes problems.

  10. garretc Says:

    @Mr. P

    I’m pretty sure you just drag the torrent out of the Transmission window to the Trash

  11. garretc Says:


    Delicious burgers a short, cheap bus ride away? I’m there!

  12. Mr.Palmer Says:

    no dice garretc. i tried that. i don’t think it matters. Just my ADHD and neurosis kicking in.

  13. garretc Says:

    Perhaps control click and select “remove from list” or “remove data file”?

  14. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Palmer

    regarding torrents:

    Is there a remove button. I use utorrent and it has a remove button.



    Your’s have that? Never had Transmission

  15. Stupendous a.k.a The Beasel Says:

    Yo Yo BB
    whats up?!

    I tunes trouble, Selecta is on the right track you have to add Album Artist
    to the cat. bar if you want all ur albums grouped by artist and tracks in order

  16. Selector J Says:

    Word of advice:

    Don’t order records from Best Buy online. I had a gift card and was browsing their online store when I notice they’ve got records (Score!). I buy 3 represses that they’ve got priced pretty well and checkout.
    Upon checking out, I notice the estimated arrival day says between 15 and 21 days. Wow that sucks but whatevs. They’re basically free and I’m patient. That was March 10.

    In early April, I placed three phone calls to see what the hell was up and ended up talking to (in order):
    – one nice and very helpful person
    – one very unhelpful, borderline antagonistic, person
    – and a “i’ll see what I can do but I’m not really gonna try that hard in doing so” person

    These discussions revealed there was no sign of the records I ordered and no indication of when they’d be shipped/found. However, I was offered free shipping by the helpful person. The unhelpful lady told me just to wait 45 business days! And said I couldn’t get free shipping until she read in my file that I was approved for free shipping.

    April 16 they send me a plain text email from “David” (no last name) saying the records are not available and they are waiting on a “sister alliance” to locate them. April 25th I get a very official email saying they are “out of stock.” At this point, that email was just chuckles.

    I was given the option to cancel this order at any time and get a refund but since it was primarily gift card money, I kind of want to keep them on the hook for as long as I can and see what happens. (Flat screen??)

    Which brings me to today… I call again today just to see what’s up. I get a young guy on the phone who tells me that the items are in stock which should be good news but if they’re in stock… shouldn’t they be on a truck headed to my house? Anyway, the dude won’t play ball so I hang up with his assurance that I should get an email or a phone call in the next 3 business days up dating my situation. What’s another week, right?

    A luta continua…

  17. Stupendous a.k.a The Beasel Says:


  18. Mr.Palmer Says:

    El Dude- not that i can find re: remove button. On a positive note my ratio is 6.0. I think thats good. I need to buy a new external. Any recommendations on external HD that are MAC compatible?

  19. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Anyone listen to the DOTD (12.30.98) miner’s link? Any good? I requested it, but i think Robear said it sounded like it was recorded in a barrel. Anyone have a better source? My best 4 consecututive days of music ever! NYE ’98. So much fun. Took a different person each night. Except 12.29, which i did solo, even though MSG security swiped my glass piece at setbreak and smashed it in front of me. I laughed at him, and then proceeded to rock the fuck out.

  20. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Palmer

    I’ve bought the Sony external burner, it’s a dual-layer too I believe. I’m on my third but I’ve burned thousands of CD’s/DVD’s

    They’re a 100.00$

    I’ve always felt that it’s better to burn out the inexpensive burner than the internal drive.

    Just my .02$

  21. EL Duderino Says:

    The remove button should be on your torrent client screen that appears when you’re downloading

  22. Mr.Palmer Says:

    How many gigs for that sony?

  23. Mr.Palmer Says:

    “is” that sony hd

  24. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Palmer

    Maybe I miss understood you. I thought you asked what external burner I use, but I guess you asked what external HD’s I use.

    I have two. They’re both made by Maxtor. I have a 500gig Maxtor and a 1TB Maxtor Plus. The Maxtor Plus is definitely made better. They’re inexpensive. Get one. It’s great…like filling an empty bucket full of your favorite music.

  25. VoidBoy Says:

    @Selector J,

    Love it. Not the “worst” internet story I ever heard… but still very good. I can’t wait to hear how this works out. Sorry you got “A class” BS from a “top” company… but had it be Frys (I don’t know if you have Frys in your area… though I guess online it wouldn’t have mattered) they would have insisted that your “purchase” was concluded and you were out the money. What I call an insult to injury place of business. Good luck on the vinyl reissues…

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