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. voidboy Says:

    strolling into 5-8-77 for the afternoon…

  2. voopa Says:

    Sing Along With Brad Ryan

  3. Chuck D Says:

    voopa, you going on brad ryan tour?

  4. Chuck D Says:

    not me this year; too many w00ks on BR tour lately. i think brad needs to step up and doing something about his scene, its really degraded over the last couple years…

  5. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Brad Ryan Tour last year was freakin’ sweet. totally agree with Chuck D though. You think Phish tour is a bad scene for wooks? Pfffffft!

  6. voopa Says:

    I’m rollin’ BR Summer tour with tanks, molly and lentils.

    “Hetty lentils! 3 for a buck!”

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    here’s my new (well, old, but new for today) favorite coffee song:

    Happy Beans by a band definitely residing in the “Where are they now?” file, Don’t Mean Maybe. As an added bonus, I think I am the only person to ever listen to their music on

  8. Chuck D Says:

    i listen to lala all the time, but I wouldn’t call it “my music”. i use lala to listen to find new stuff, or listen to other albums by artists I like… but probably most of all, I use it at work when i want to listen to an album that I already own, but I just dont have access to it.

  9. Chuck D Says:

    oooh, the only person to listen to Happy Beans on lala, gotcha. You must be Brian C. ::wave::

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    me too, chuck. I rediscovered Don’t Mean Maybe today totally randomly. hadn’t listened to them since I lost the tape I had some time in college. not great music by any means (I think it is labeled as “anarchist surf punk, but that doesn’t fit at all by my estimation) but took me right back to high school. not something I;ll go out and buy so it was nice to hear them again after so many years. is good for this type of thing so for that I’ll miss it when it is gone. oh well, c’est la vie…

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    dang! the ruse is up! you’re on to me!

  12. Aquaman Says:

    20 pages….and I am just getting to the BB.

    Looks like I am SOL today.

    Sorry I haven’t been in the conversation lately.

    Just stopping in to say, “‘Sup Fellas ‘N Ladies”?


  13. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    SO I just called my mom to ask what I could bring for my dad’s BDay dinner tonight.

    Nothing, they realy need nothing save for happy healthy family. So we are good to go.

    So my mom tells me how distraught she is becaue the house painters have painted Larry the Lizard their house mascot. Thye sprayed and now poor Larry is one coat of desert tan on one side and natural on the other. Moreover my mom is upset and hoping poor Larry doesn’t get taken down by the chemicals in the paint a water based exterior so we are probably good to go. Plus no one in our family has been impact too adversely by chemicals so we got that going for us, species differences aside. Most of our family knows and respects Larry and we would miss him tremendously. He is too personable and got himself painted because of that. We would have had to notify the whole family and prepared some sort of memorial service.

    If this story tells you anything, your take away shoudl be that this band sounds nothing like Dave Matthews.

  14. flarrdogg Says:

    If Larry the Lizard were my house mascot, I would probably annoy him by constantly saying: ‘This is what happens Larry. This is what happens when you f$#K a stranger in the ass!’ Hope he is okay- species differences aside.

    I guessing Larry don’t like DMB.

  15. Chuck D Says:

    best wishes to the health of Larry the [Chameleon] and your distraught mother.

  16. voopa Says:

  17. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    LLFA VOOPA I just peed a little.

  18. ChefBradford Says:

    I successfully used the word “gnarly” today. I’m going to celebrate by rashing.

    I’m out of rash? That’s fucking gnarky

  19. flarrdogg Says:

    ‘underage female jazz prodigy who probably shouldn’t be around this many drugs?!?!’ funny stuff.

  20. Skyballs Saxscraper Says:

    Spinning Bohemian Rhapsody from NYE 96…

    Can’t stop laughing…

  21. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Now that was a fun one. I’ve recounted my encounter with the Silver Crest that night countless times (though I doubt anyone is counting).

    Floor seats + Lucy + nye + horns + choir + phish + queen = llfa all night long

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    Check out my bohemian rhapsody story in the first month of archives on this site. Pretty insane stuff

  23. SillyWilly Says:

    What is the goofiest thing you ever saw the band do?

    …on or off the stage does not matter.

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    I just read that post, Miner.


    ive still got the chills.

    only with Phish, man.

  25. Willowed Says:

    Goofiest thing. I do not recall what show this was but it was at a North East indoor venue any where form 1996-1999.
    During a jam (not sure which one, Miner may recall) CK5 dropped the lights. Darkness engulfed the stage. The boys kept jamming. CK5 brought the lights back up and Page and Fishman were the only 2 on stage (or so we thought). Trey and Mike were hiding behind their speaker (amp) stacks playing the jam. Fans behind the stage new they were there (hiding) obviously but the fans in front did not. They popped up from behind the amp stacks and walked back to there normal spots all while laying down the darkness jam.

    Funny shit!

    Hartford 2009 was cool too.

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