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”

  1. sneven Says:

    “Just in case you want a dance tutorial before your next show.

    That is exactly how I dance to Guyute and TTE. Exactly.

  2. Chuck D Says:

    that lintels recipe looks excellent; reminds me of how my mom used to make it

  3. voopa Says:

    Hee hee…I’m watching angyjoggerz add recs to that spreadsheet in real time…freaky, man!

  4. lastwaltzer Says:

    @chuck d that recipe is for lentils, lintels invole:

    1. boil hot water
    2. itch head over water furiously
    3. cool and serve

  5. Kaveh Says:

    I think the biggest thing to watch for this upcoming tour and this relates to the Type of jamming that will happen, is Trey’s guitar tone. I feel that over this last year, it wasn’t the sound that really leant itself for deep Type III excursions – more often than not. So, like any band, the sound develops as they do, so maybe Trey’s tone, thus his style, will change a little bit from 2009; to which it could lead to some very interesting places.

  6. ChefBradford Says:

    Sneven, I hope you’re having a better day

  7. angryjoggerz Says:

    Private eyes, are watching you.

  8. Stupendous Says:

    Why do we all like the same band so much?

  9. angryjoggerz Says:

    No, Stupendous… I like the band SO MUCH more than you do, can’t you tell? I am not even going to discuss this with you, you are so wrong.

    ha. A hole day in effect.

  10. Kaveh Says:

    Let me also add: that the band wasn’t in the place to be throwing deep Type II/III jamming at us. As I feel, they, of course, had to regain their footing and that dictated the year. Trust me, I loved everything I heard and saw last year; as having a Phish show to look forward to and go see is always a great experience; it is just a matter of if the band delivers on that night or not; according to your understanding and definition of “delivers.”

  11. Stupendous Says:

    Your flat out wrong Angry Im way headier than thou 😉

  12. angryjoggerz Says:

    Dont make me start counting how many shows I’ve been to…

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Why do we all like the same band so much?

    I really think that it is because they offer something for each of us:

    great compositions, open jamming, closed jamming, log jamming, a dude in a dress, antics, story telling, vacuums, unique set lists, funk, bluegrass, jazz, psychedelia, rock, ballads, songs about pigs, songs about dogs, songs about life, songs about drugs, sappy songs, songs about nothing, a real sense of community, the chance to count our stats, music to dance to, music to make you think, music to scream out at the top of your lungs, great cover songs, bad cover songs, joke cover songs, CK5, a feeling of being “in on the joke”, a feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself…

    I think you get the point. :mrgreen:

  14. gratefulcub Says:

    Stup, after watching today unfold, it is obvious that we all love some band immensely, but it is not the same band. 🙂

  15. Stupendous Says:

    were all there for the same reason but hoping for different results…

  16. gratefulcub Says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I am there for the 10 to 1 bruh to chic ratio.

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    see my fourth example above 😮

  18. Stupendous Says:

    whatever rocks ur boat cub!

  19. gratefulcub Says:

    “a chance to count your stats” 8)

  20. sneven Says:

    @chefB – much better day indeed. Thanks!

  21. GOOCHY Says:

    I always think the “engineer” contingent of phans are awesome. They can’t just go and enjoy the show. It’s all about statistical analysis and what type of jam was where, and for how long. When was the last time that song was played? Where? Blah, blah, blah…

  22. GOOCHY Says:

    I should also note that engineers are also the most annoying continent in one of my other hobbies, which is home brewing. They might be even worse, maybe.

  23. angryjoggerz Says:

    I love having some type 2 fun, but prefer type 1.86.

  24. gratefulcub Says:

    Engineering should only take place between tours, or batches, when you are bored and want to yap. Engineering at a show? Pfft.

  25. gavinsdad Says:

    ::sung to the tune of “hot pockets”::


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