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. gavinsdad Says:


    dunno what would be the goofiest…they are a goofy ass band. tramps, drummer in dress, vac solos, rec specs, dayglo cactus, pant cuffs rolled up, any press photo from 89-92 (assface), trey in muscle tee, the list goes on and on. i was at a show (townsend, vt) in 1990 where trza shaved his head but for some reason i don’t remember seeing 94 i saw em at sunrise FL (cmon miner…post that shit…wtf?!?!) and they did this thing where they shot each other with their instruments at some point during the 2nd set and then laid on the stage (this was a trey vs mike thing) and that was a little more awkward than it was goofy.

  2. SillyWilly Says:

    one day I hope I’ve been to enough shows to forget where I saw them do something like that.

    those are good stories gdad and willowed.

    the shooting thing and the amp hiding thing is pretty good.

  3. Mr.Palmer Says:

    1. During a Mike’s Song in ’94 they brought out a womens high school soccer team onto the stage to do their school chant ( imagine 12 highschool girls shrieking at the top of their lungs). The girls then leave the stage and Phish continues Mike’s.

    2. MSG 10.22.96- During Weekapaug a bunch of transvestite circus performers come on the stage (probably about 12-15 of them) and they start dancing and contorting their bodies all over the place. On amps, on Page’s piano. A very bizarre scene. I was lucky to be in the front row that night too. Thank you PTBM! That Weekapaug has since been re-named the MSG Freakapaug groove.

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    the freakapaug story is wild!

    i love this stuff. its like if i had a band whats the best way i could keep it interesting? thats the stuff i would do.

    just so random.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ GD, what’s the date?

  6. Willowed Says:

    Also, keep this in mind. In 96-99 I was 20-22 years old so many a phish show I was partaking in the “delics” 😯
    This story could be a figment of my imagination.
    It could be a show where my neurons exploded then melted.
    This could have actually happened.
    Your guess is a s good as mine.
    I do think this happened though!

  7. gavinsdad Says:

    nice call Palmer….that 10/22/96 show (actually both those shows) are overlooked IMO. i had a blast at em…especially loved the dancers…good pix of em in “the phish book”…also got my swept away>steep…wasn’t in the front row…portal up behind fishman, natch.

  8. Robear Says:

    fun day to read back.

    was subbing at the local Yurok Magnate elementary school. those kids were walking all over me today. soooooo, ‘time for recess’. put ’em through some training, climbing a hill, running, obstacle course. it did not wear them out.

    Island ‘Roses’ = type II or open jam
    ’09 RR ‘Roses’ = type I or closed jam

    Any questions?

    You cats ( miner, aw ) prolly picked the trickiest song ‘Tweezer’ to try to compare points. On some level, it’s often both.

    ‘Piper’ is not a fun song to have stuck in your head.

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    10/21/94 miner 🙂

  10. Mr.Miner Says:


  11. Willowed Says:

    Ask and you shal receive.
    That is why this place is the best!!

  12. Willowed Says:

    Need to hang with the family.
    Enjoy the night friends!!

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    like willowed, although i was sober at this show, i like to think that at philly civ 94 NYE run (miner posted not long ago) Trey ran around the stage in circles swinging his megaphone over his head…but i checked that setlist twice and no Fee…why would he have the megaphone for anything other than fee??

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    yes, kids to bed time. later on.

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    im sure it happened willowed

    because its way more fun to think it did.

  16. Shafty Says:

    Reguarding weird things on stage.
    I went to the Tennessee run in 95 after living in Australia for a year.
    Watching Fishman sings Wings Beneath my Wings, to a seated Col. Bruce, who happened to be reading a paper through-out the entire song. What band brings out a special guest and has him read a newspaper while on stage?

  17. Robear Says:

    10/8/94 Patriot Center, Va ‘Girls Soccer Team Chant’

  18. halcyon Says:

    Great day to read back on the board today, seemed like today was firing on all cylinders….couldn’t post much due to work…work pfft.

    I once saw a photo on a wall of a persons house of that freakapaug show you mentioned Gdad. It was a black and white from Page side when all the dancers were on stage, and the band was locked in. It was such an amazing photo, and haven’t seen it in years. Been hunting that one down for a long time. Hopefully I will find it again.

  19. Willowed Says:

    One more thing. I am 50% sure that I am 100% positive that this happened during a Paug or a Possum.
    Again, This is a definite maybe!!

  20. Shafty Says:

    fishman singing that is

  21. Mr.Palmer Says:

    That’s it Robear! Were you there? I had a great time at that show. Beautiful college campus enhanced a decent lot scene if i remember correctly.

  22. Mr.Palmer Says:

    I might have to fire that 10.8.94 show up again. I used to have it on tape. If not in archive already, maybe Miner can throw that on the list as well.

  23. Robear Says:

    wuz there palmer. fishman’s side, about 10 seats back from the stage, 20 or so rows up.

    like g’dad sez: great, overlooked show

    a personal fave for sure. first time i’d seen them in a place that big. pretty much blown away at the prowess.

  24. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Not in archive. 10.8.94 FYI.

  25. Willowed Says:

    One more thing (I know I keep saying I am out) with tour approaching I would love to see one of those Monkey Mails.
    Those things make me wet myself!!


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