The Path of Joy

Indio (G.Lucas)

As summer tour slowly approaches, it is natural to speculate what lies ahead for Phish. With new Anastasio / Marshall material expected, as well as other new Trey songs (e.g “Show of Life, “Liquid Time”), one wonders how their last batch of songs will pan out. While Joy gave us “Light” and “Backwards Down the Number Line,” it remains to be seen if any other songs from the band’s 2009 comeback album will have a lasting impact on shows.

After Joy’s two jam vehicles, no other song from the album provided serious repercussions in 2009, unless you compile all the minutes of show time that “Time Turns Elastic” ate up. While often incorporated into first sets, “Ocelot” still has yet to transform into something greater. Phish has stretched the song out within its playful structure more than a few times, but never used it to explore new territory. Miami’s version provided the first glimpse of something slightly more creative, hinting that “Ocelot” may yet come out to play. But without a second set version to date, the intention to push the piece outwards just doesn’t seem to be there.

Trey and Tom (Relix)

“Kill Devil Falls” speckled ’09 setlists with healthy doses of innocuous, straight-forward rock and roll. Although Phish twice took the song into original terrain, and Bonnaroo’s version provided one of June ’09’s highlights, the jams hardly had to do with the actual song. The composition essentially ends before the band revs up a rock groove, rebuilding the piece into a quasi-“Birds of a Feather” jam. While some may enjoy the blues-rock textures, the song adds little to the overall contour of a Phish show. When the desire strikes Trey to play “Kill Devil Falls,” “Birds” would be the more engaging choice to reach a similar musical plane.

The statute of limitations has almost expired on “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan.” When the band debuted this song at Jones Beach last summer, it seemed they were unveiling the next dirty jam vehicle into the mix. And each time Phish played the song throughout the year, everyone kept expecting the next version to be the one that took a jump into the dark side. But Phish never as much as hinted at jamming this “Stealing Time.” Every single rendition likened the album version, and at this point, the song slides in below “Character Zero” in intrigue and improv. Trey seems content keeping this one as a boisterous first setter, but I’ll be the first to celebrate an extended jaunt through the blank space were my mind should be.

Jones Beach '09 (W.Rogell)

Aside from Joy’s title track, a poignant ballad which works quite well as the landing point for jams, “Time Turns Elastic,” is the album’s only other piece that Phish infused into 2009 setlists with any regularity. Unfortunately, Trey’s meticulous orchestral composition bombed horribly as a rock song, chewing up valuable set time with anti-climactic, over-indulgent prog-rock. The composition works beautifully in the symphonic setting, but by the end of the year, whether smoking a spliff or taking a piss, many fan adopted accompanying activities to enhance the near-twenty minute lull the song represented during a show.

“Sugar Shack” and “Twenty Years Later” appeared five and four times, respectively, but neither song did much when they showed up. “Twenty Years Later” provided a surreal landing point for SPAC’s “Number Line” Philly’s “Disease,” but the song itself remained a straight composition. This piece, however, illustrates the fact that a well-placed song doesn’t have to be a jam vehicle to enhance a show. Perhaps the band will play place a greater focus on “Twenty Years Later” in 2010, but it doesn’t seem like the most likely scenario. While a clever and catchy song, “Sugar Shack” never found its niche in 2009, unable to jive with its surroundings songs. Probably best used in the first set, Phish placed it in Camden’s second set and Indio’s third set, doing nothing for either frame’s continuity.

12.29.09 (W.Rogell)

“Light” provides the glaring exception to this jam-less trend, emerging as one of the year’s most diverse and dynamic vehicles for improvisation. Providing both a philosophical and musical ethos for Phish’s modern era, the band merely scratched the surface of this song’s potential during fall tour; more intergalactic journeys coming soon. Interestingly, “Light” didn’t really fit into the Americana, blues-rock vibe of Joy, and it transformed into the most psychedelic piece off the album by far. “Number Line” took two notable jaunts last summer, but its significance completely disappeared once fall rolled around. The de facto theme song of 2009, “Number Line’s” 2010 destiny is unbound.

While Joy excited the community as Phish’s first album back from retirement, most of the songs provided little improvisational influence on 2009 Phish. Some of these event-less singles may prove to be more in 2010, but when the dust settled last year, Joy’s songs didn’t contain very sharp teeth. While providing solid musicianship and quality songwriting, the pieces often left improvisational gaps in Phish’s live show with similar, vanilla incarnations. Although we have yet to see the best these Joy’s songs have to offer, more rhythmically-angular and musically-open songs would be a welcome addition come summer tour.

It was Joy to reunite in 2009, but something tells me that the mystery of 2010, looming only a month away, will be far more riveting.


Jam of the Day:

Free” 6.30.99 II

From the opening night of Summer ’99, a “Free” the way they oughta’ be.




5.17.94 The Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA < Megaupload

5.17.94 The Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA < Torrent

The Arlington Theate

An under-circulated show from Spring ’94.

I: Suzy Greenberg, Maze, Mound, If I Could, Scent of a Mule, Ginseng Sullivan*, Dog Faced Boy*, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

II: Runaway Jim, Glide, Tweezer** > Lifeboy, Uncle Pen, Big Ball Jam > Sample in a Jar, Hold Your Head Up > Love You > Hold Your Head Up, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Highway to Hell

*Acoustic and without microphones

** w/ Earache My Eye jam (Cheech & Chong)

Source: AKG 461

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606 Responses to “The Path of Joy”

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  1. garretc Says:

    Wow, what a cool looking venue that Arlington Theatre is! Anybody herb there? Is it as cool in person as in the picture?

    Great write up today Miner! Seems like such an obvious topic, yet I still didn’t see it coming… But I agree! Here’s to more jams!

    (Sorry Robear, I know how you feel about “jammy” music…)

  2. McGGGGG Says:

    No love for Kill Devil Falls??? Cause this time’s gonna be different !!!!!!!!!!!

    Great write up! Need more Faulty Plan and SIHTOS darkness jams this summer.

  3. Dbone Says:

    right on with the write up – as usual. 2 comments:

    1. people tend to forget/overlook the evolution of many of the now classic songs that we came to love – particularly ones that appeared first on an album and then developed live. Very few of these types of songs broke really far out of their mold in their first two tours and we’re also dealing with a band that has taken a long break while redefining itself in a new context. Remember all the posts a year ago about how they have so much music to re-learn and focus on. The very fact that so many new songs saw regular rotation is somewhat amazing. I agree with Miner that some of those Joy songs will see their day. Also, I hope that some of the 2.0 stuff makes its way back. Could they be avoiding that because it came out of a bad period in the band’s/personal lives? Like when you go to rehab you’re not allowed to hang out with your bad friends?

    2. Free’s the way they’re supposed to be? I guess its a matter of personal preference but I think the New Year’s run 98 free is the way they ought to be (I forget the exact day). Whereas the later free’s had the liquid bass breakdown, i like the one’s with the more straightforward pyschadelic rock. the 98 new year’s free has a great combination of the breakdown but then trey developing the re-entry into the chorus is worth another listen.

    So, based on these 2 comments here are 2 ideas for posts for Miner – if he’s taking ideas still. A post on the development of other album first songs into their current (jammed out) incarnations. And a post on Free similar to ones that have been done on the evolution of other songs (or was there a free post and I missed it?)

  4. Willowed Says:

    Yes, yes, yes….one more month!

    Make it a great one today!!

  5. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    It took Wolfman’s Brother a while to blow up and look what it became.

    I think that some of the Joy material will find new legs, or even a second wind, on their sophomore outings this summer.

    Good topic for an AOTD, Miner.

  6. prosin Says:

    Stealing Time and KDF are great songs. Listen to them for what they are; straigh forward Rock n’ Roll songs. Not ever song needs to be jammed out. Just as there is a place for Julius and Axila, not they’ve added two more Rock songs. I disagree that they need to jam these songs out, a shot to the heart rock song has it’s place in a Phish show just as much as a 30 minute Tweezer does.

  7. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    While I agree that “not every song needs to be jammed out,” what I hope for every time Phish begins a tune, is that there will be some interesting and original improvisation displayed on stage. For this reason, Character Zero has grown old for me.

    To be clear, in my opinion, while all jamming includes improvisation, all improvisation does not necessarily include a jam.

  8. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    ^ all “Phish” jamming includes improvisation.

    This is not a truth for all “jam” bands.

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    it’s a little early for it, but seconding KWL’s commodore perry IPA by Great lakes. I’ve had two of their brews, this being one of them, and they are both quite good. lotsa character.

    off to work. have a good one board. i sense the “jam” debate coming full steam ahead.

  10. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    We need a Google Docs spreadsheet with Blackboard Recommendations on it. Individual Tabs for Music, Beer, Books, etc.

  11. Dbone Says:

    that’s a great idea Marshall – I’m too busy, lazy, and technically inept to get something like that going but i’m all in favor of the idea.

  12. bouncin fan Says:

    I think kdf, sugar shack, # line, Alaska, and faulty plan are excellent first set filler songs

    The play birds not kdf could just as easily be play chalkdust not birds. For every new phish song there is always a similar jammed predecessor.

    In the past we got 2 more open jam vehicles per album. This time we got 1 with light but it was a monster.

    Being heavily fed the joy material last summer the album did get annoying by Miami but no more than hearing farmhouse every night in 99.

    Once it is dropped out of heavy rotation and added to the rest of the canon the songs should work well.

    One thing for sure I hope they find a new jamming style. The songs they play to get there makes no difference to me.

  13. SillyWilly Says:


    Thats a great idea!

    Could you imagine trying to work through the immense headiness that would be present on that google doc? It would definitely threaten my spending money, as I’d want to buy something off the list

    So much good stuff would be on that thing.

  14. BTB Says:

    Gavinsdad – As a regular Great Lakes drinker (fluffer?), I concur on most of their beers being tasty as hell. Most notably, they are very sugary/sweet and give a tremendous buzz.

    If you make it to BTB Fest, I’m going to have tons of Great Lakes Beer for everyone to sample.

  15. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    Working on a spreadsheet for recommendations

  16. lastwaltzer Says:

    Ocelot seems to have built quite the psychedelic middle section which I won’t be surprised to see expanded upon in the future.

    Too me Stealing Time just another Character Zero, a place for Trey to shred. Although I’ll take my shredding without a shout out to a corporation.

  17. Kenny Powers Says:

    can you get this Great Lakes stuff around Boston? never seen it. love local craft brews.

  18. lastwaltzer Says:

    @silly, got your email by the way. I’d have responded but I’m stealing internet from my neighbor until comcast comes out and last night they must have caught me cause its off………..womp womp……………

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    Extremely Happy Great Lakes made it to Wisconsin just a few months before I got here.

    I’d be a sorry drinker with out the G-Lakes.

  20. SillyWilly Says:

    No worries, LW!

    Im headed in to take a final anyway, so Ill be out of commission til this afternoon

  21. Angryjoggerz Says:

    This time its going to be different.

  22. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I think I’ve changed the settings to allow anyone to edit it now, without needing permission.

    Will someone give it a try?

  23. lastwaltzer Says:

    do you need an account to access it?

  24. [Not Tom] Marshall Says:

    I am trying to make it viewable/editable by anyone without signing in. That’s what I’m trying to check out – whether that is the case

  25. Mr.Palmer Says:

    seemed to work fine NTM. Porn recs? llfa

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