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. Willowed Says:

    There were some great moments. I am with you in regdrs to the My Friens. When you see it on a set list you know the show had some balls!
    20 Years Later is y far my favorite jam from Joy. That jam has darkness potential

  2. Gavinsdad Says:

    That 10/21/94 show was important to me too. I remember leaning over to a tour kid when the Simple started to ask what it was and he gave me the background. I didn’t know a soul in Florida at the time…I was finishing up college…but there was everyone as usual…the venue was so intimate. The foreplay/longtime to this day was a real special treat

  3. Mitch Says:

    palmer, long island is near new york city. you could even take a train to the show. i’ll hopstop it for you so you can see for yourself.

  4. William H. Bonney Says:

    I did that run as well GD, thought we were goin to get the 10-20-94 posted last week, but no dice. Top Shelf Phish to be sure.

  5. Mr.Palmer Says:

    LLFA@ Mitch. I assumed you meant the show was in Teaneck. My family thing is that night. I was actually contemplating seeing Pearl Jam next tuesday in Newark. Last i checked there were still some tix available. Not sure i want to spend $80 though.

  6. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Will they ever pull out Purple Rain again? One of the few Fishman tunes that is actually bearable. Bring it back!

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Nice memories. Little less animated this evening than it was in here this afternoon, eh?

    One of my favorite goofy phish things was during the two show run in Ann Arbor spring of 93 (I think it was April maybe?). First night during a totally insane BBFCFM Trey forgot he was supposed to start it back up after one of the pauses so everyone just sat there (Mike & Trey were lying on their backs with mics bent down to them on the ground) until he remembered everyone was waiting on him. Next night during I Didn’t Know, instead of the vac solo they brought phans on stage and Page asked them how what happened the night before had made them feel. Only phish…

  8. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Yeah man, people get all worked up about that type 1 , type 2 shit. As long as i’m dancing i’m a happy camper.

  9. Mr.Palmer Says:

    Gonna get baned and check out some Lost. Later….

  10. SillyWilly Says:

    That’s really funny, TypeIII.

    I could see Page asking people how that made them feel?

    LLFA. like you said, only phish.

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    You get through finals okay, silly?

  12. halcyon Says:


    You are in Mass. correct? Near Worcester, or Westborough? My wife’s Gma lives in Westborough. Next time I am there visiting I will try and get in touch and meet for a beer, or at a show somewhere.

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    I have one more on Friday, TypeIII.

    thanks a lot for asking.

    had my toughest one this morning. thought it went ok, but everythings graded on a curve so if i thought it went well then there’s probably more than a few people who did better than i did.

    we’ll see, i guess.

  14. ChefBradford Says:

    Or you did better than more than a few people

    Good luck on your last one, bud

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks, Chef.

    I’ve been approaching my exams with one goal: to be able to tell myself I did my best. After that, its out of my control.

    I can deal with not doing as well as others, but I have a hard time with knowing I could have studied a little more, or prepared a little better.

  16. KWL Says:

    burgettstown ’03 crosseyed > alpine and red rocks ’09 crosseyed


  17. SillyWilly Says:

    Im watching Lost…I haven’t watched a lot of it, don’t really understand all thats going…but what I’ve seen three commercials for Vampire shows/movies.

    What is America’s obsession with Vampires?

    i dont really get it.
    sorry if im offending anyone.

  18. garretc Says:


    Vampires are popular in America because “sex is bad,” but people still want sex, and vampires just so happen to be ripe with sexual symbolism…

  19. garretc Says:

    Did you really think there’d be vampires on the board that you would offend?


  20. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Kurt Co-baned up in here.

  21. SillyWilly Says:

    right on, garretc

    i knew there’d be a way to deconstruct vampires.

    that’s why its usually a male vampire “biting” a female, and her first time is extremely painful.


  22. KWL Says:


  23. Angryjoggerz Says:

    Down with vampires; wolfmenz are where its at!

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    i wish my jar wasn’t empty…

  25. voopa Says:

    Here’s the complete link to the summer fest pic I posted earlier is part of . Good Stuff.

    Speaking of good stuff, I threw on 7/29/03 because I wanted to hear Harpua, and the “Pittsburgh Jam” is fantastic! Forgot about this one…

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