Casualties Of This Era

8.5.10 (Wendy Rogell)

Though Phish’s modern era has brought us new jam vehicles in “Light” and “Number Line,” it has also seen several fade away. Aside from the well-documented castration of “Mike’s Song,” three other crowd-favorites have completely lost their sense of adventure—”Halley’s Comet,” “Gumbo” and “Free.” The former two have returned to their pre-1997 form, while the latter has inexplicably shrunk into a Phish single. Because of its history, I think “Free” still has a chance to bust out, but, it feels like “Halley’s and “Gumbo” jams may be gone forever.

8.10.10 (G. Lucas)

Both “Halley’s Comet” and “Gumbo” improvisational jaunts were byproducts of the late-’90s era of groove and band’s post-hiatus “we’ll jam anything” policy. But when comparing current versions of these songs to the first decade plus of their lives, they look exactly the same. “Halley’s” was traditionally a four-minute launchpad into larger musical happenings, and “Gumbo,” until 1997, featured the same ragtime ending that closes the piece today. Thus, it seems that their improvisational gravestone will read “1997 – 2004.” But what a run it was. Both songs blossomed with The Cowfunk Revolution of ’97 and hosted stellar adventures for six years before appearing in 2009 as their retro selves. The only out-of-the-ordinary version of either song came in June ’09, at the anti-climactic Fox show, when Phish opened the second set with an extended, but straight-forward, “Halley’s Comet.”

“Free” is another case all together. There is really no logical explanation for its compact modern shape. Moving from Mike’s bass solo right into the closing chords of the former jam, the band has put nothing whatsoever into this song since they have come back. During the song’s early years of ’95 and ’96, Page took charge of its soupy psychedelia with strong piano leads while Trey often jumped to percussion. Though some versions of the song grew significant (see 6.26.95 as a prime example), more often than not, the jam didn’t reach highlight-reel territory. Nonetheless, there was always a jam.

10.12.10 - Broomfield (B.Perry)

And then in 1997, the year “Halley’s” and “Gumbo” sprang to life, the same rhythmic shift turned “Free” into a vehicle for thunderous funk throwdowns. Between the years of ’97 and ’04, the beginning of “Free” sparked wide-eyed anticipation from the audience as they waiting for Mike’s bass solo to dissolve into another world. Trey would swoop in with an idea and the band would take off amidst a thick joyride that always pumped a show full of energy. But since 2009, there has been no semblance of a jam. Refusing to let the song breathe at all, Trey has smothered the piece for no apparent reason. Sometimes used tactfully as a landing pad for deeper exploration, “Free’s” place in the setlist has also been obtrusive in this era, often appearing in the second set and breaking up the flow as a stand-alone rock song. On New Year’s Eve, Trey decided to vamp over the funk for approximately 12 seconds before taking a left turn back into the chorus. But just for that moment, it was clear that Phish could blow the roof off with the song at any minute, and the I believe that the version we’ve been waiting for is coming this year.

Hopefully I’m wrong about “Halley’s” and “Gumbo,” and 2011 will bring the return of all three of these former show stoppers, but if we get one out of three, it will be a success.


Jam of the Day:

Tube” 9.15.00 II

Though I doubt the band will ever reach the length of this Hershey version again, while we are on the topic of songs that could use some loving, how ’bout a longer “Tube?”




5.3.1991 Somerville Theatre, Somerville, Massachusetts SBD

Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

Sticking with the old-school theme, here is another soundboard from back in the day.

I: Bouncing Around the Room, Foam, Chalk Dust Torture, TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY, The Divided Sky, Fee, Paul and Silas, Tweezer, The Lizards, Sweet Adeline

II: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain > Sloth, Landlady, Runaway Jim, Tela, You Enjoy Myself, Harpua, Tweezer Reprise

E: Take the ‘A’ Train > BBFCFM

Source: SBD

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749 Responses to “Casualties Of This Era”

  1. neemor Says:

    Today’s Tube? 4 minute mark on up to 5 minutes or so…what Trey does with his effects is either perfect for the morning jam or just set me back forty five minutes.
    In other words, I forgot how to tie my shoes as a result of that jam, but I remembered that I have ‘Roos in the closet.

  2. neemor Says:

    Mike’s Sanity Weekapaug from Providence was the slickness.
    Lest we forget.

  3. Matso Says:


    Agreed. I don’t mind the mini-Tube’s actually. I thought the 1.1.11 version was pretty sweet. Not as crazy about the 10.30 version as some other people though.

    Tube was rarely more than 10-15 min anyway between ’97-04 (not a proper Type II launch pad, more of a Type III kind of thing).

    @ Willowed –

    Connection between Halleys and Timber – both were consistent second set opener’s between ’95-97. Timber sort of disappeared for a while after that though (I placed many a bet on Timber after 97 to open the second and got burned).

  4. willowed Says:

    Agree Neems – That had some cosmic energy flowing in it!

  5. neemor Says:

    Downloaded 12.1.94 last night….looking forward to a lot about that recording in SBD format.
    Especially the road trip that it will soundtrack.

  6. neemor Says:

    The reason why Halley’s and Timber remind you of one another is because they’re like those hot-ass, sexy blonde twin cheerleaders that were in your high school back in the day, willowed.
    Super fine looking (on paper) but all they’re willing to do for you is make you daydream and probably give you blue balls.

  7. EL Duderino Says:

    @ neems

    agreed on the Halley’s and would add Tube to that list…

  8. lastwaltzer Says:

    “Mike’s Sanity Weekapaug from Providence was the slickness.”nEEmor

    Right but Mikes gets no jamming. I love love love the paug on that one, trey solo is sublime and features some lines that he uses in the greek hood. My favorite paug of the fall.

    To me they’ve stepped up the energy level on mike’s and paug, they just need to make something happen now. Remember last year when these tunes actually dragged? Or that awful one from philly?

  9. neemor Says:

    Wrapping this first cup of coffee up:
    I really think that the day that the band again begins to unlock the door and can upon up delerious improv (especially of great length) on any tune at will are coming.
    They’re following a natural, sustainable path to the way back. They’ve got the chops back, they can certainly be destructive (in a GOOD way) at times and we saw with the “2010 Treatment” that they can apply their sound to anything (think ‘cowfunk’ in that respect)…length is really the last piece of the puzzle.
    Question is whether that’s the sound they want to go with from here on in…if they even want to jump into those depths or keep things their condensed, raging ways for the time being.

    Eventually, I predict that it will take one giant leap into the abyss…one thirty plus minute beast, maybe during a Tweezer, but it doesn’t matter, where they tread darkly into space again…and when they do, all bets are off.

  10. lastwaltzer Says:

    A song doesn’t need to be twenty minutes in order to feature something interesting, IMO.

    The MSG Tube while short has great feel and the funk section was played really well. Like I was saying before they don’t need to go off the deep end to make something happen. I think the 46 days and Sand from MSG are great examples of that,they stay inside the box but there is some really interesting jamming occurring.

  11. neemor Says:

    I choose to consider Mike’s as part of Groove and grade it thusly.
    Until they start going deep at will, Mike’s is contained to it’s structure.
    As is Halley’s and Gumbo.
    What seperates MIke’s is that it is supported by the ingenuity that can come from the Groove sandwich.

    And either way, when they drop into the “glowstick jam”(for lack of a better term), if you’re not raging, you’re doing it wrong.

  12. EL Duderino Says:

    I’m sure i’m probably the only who feels this way here…

    But would respectfully disagree LW…

    Tube is not a complicated excursion and 40 sec of sickness just doesn’t quite do it IMO

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    well said lw. Another example is Twist. We may not get the ultra mind fuck versions of the late 90’s any longer but a 9 minute version like 1/1/11 seems to get a lot done in a short time frame. All comes back to musical density i guess. That being said, i would certainly welcome a return to those early Twist days.

  14. H-Love Says:

    I appreciate your insight and love reading your write-ups but why all the analytics. Do you really think the boys get caught up in all of the specifics of what tunes they are jamming out vs. one’s they are not? I mean c’mon now Miner, take it at face value for what it is. They’re are rock band that we love and I trust whatever they are feeling at anytime as long as I believe there hearts are into the music which I believe wholeheartedly to be true. My guess is they would be laughing there asses off reading this article like “are you kidding me? Its all just fine to me. Jam out whatever you want boys! Ill be there with an ear to ear smile whether its a 5 minute free or a 25 minute free. That’s why they call it art! Just sayin….

  15. butterflyeffect Says:

    the wild type II mike’s are certainly lacking, but there have still been some tasty mike’s IMO

    listen to manchester mike’s and tell me that it’s not hot

  16. lastwaltzer Says:

    “Tube is not a complicated excursion “Dude

    absolutely but if they’re gonna play something short I’ll take a tube with a mini funk and a mini blues jam over some of the more pop oriented tunes.

    And your right 40 seconds of funk in a four minute version barley gives you time to shake a tail feather, but correct me if I’m wrong but the MSG one is about 7 mins and while I could use more funk vamping it still did the trick for me.


    See when they throw a bone in between mikes that doesn’t change the fact that mike’s was boring, to me its just a way to get people excited. I’ve loved some of the jams that came between mikes and paug but it doesn’t change that the mikes and paug portion were lack luster.

  17. neemor Says:

    What I find most encouraging is the fact that as I listen back to some of the instant classics from the past year especially, I notcie that at any given point, any of the band members can step up and take the jam in the direction they want.
    For one example, see the Split>Have Mercy>Piper>Birds jam>Melt.
    Trey kicks off the Have Mercy vocally while the return to Melt is initiated by Fish.
    The fall-band interplay and listening to each other is the hardet part to get back, but when it has fully returned, I think that it’s Mike (alongside Fish) who will need to step up and stamp their thoughts onto jams to extend them fully….to break through TreyDHD.

    It’s not far off and when it happens, we’ll know it.

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    re: Mr.C’s fall ’73 comp he posted. Any reason why when i drop these into itunes they all just go into files based on the dates of shows as opposed to the way the compilation was intended to be heard. I have to manually go back and put it together?

  19. neemor Says:

    To me, Mike’s is never boring.
    When they drop into the jam, no matter how short, the near-future is always bright.
    Mike’s for me has always been a ways to a means rather than a stand-alone jam.
    It’s certainly had it’s moments, but I think it has to be considered a part of a greater whole.

    Perfect example of condensed jamming so characteristic of 2010.

    Plenty more to come.

  20. lastwaltzer Says:

    “I think that it’s Mike (alongside Fish) who will need to step up and stamp their thoughts onto jams to extend them fully….to break through TreyDHD.”nEEmor

    What band are you listening too?!?!

    Mike has been pushing jams since summer of 09, if you listen closely you will often hear mike play some line and trey pick them up as mike changes theme. Hell I just listened to the Broomfield light this morning at the very thing happens towards the end with a funk groove.

    Fishman has also stepped it up since chicago.

  21. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    heard your news report
    you know you’re falling short
    purty soon we’ll trust you for the weather
    when that ships comes in
    you won’t know where its been
    you’ve got to try to see a little further

    kind of an apt verse for today’s topic. nice one, miner. sure to get the convo raring.

  22. lastwaltzer Says:


    were gonna have to agree to disagree, mike’s has featured tons of great jamming over the years TONS.

    hell for a majority of its existence it was simply Mikes>h20>paug or simple.

    Too me when they throw a whole set in between mikes and paug those tunes just become regular songs in the set, its not like they keep coming back to the themes. There is just a mental connection between these tunes.

    Its like the dead starting a set with help>Slip and not coming to franklins till the end its not like all the of the sudden the whole set is one piece of music.

  23. lastwaltzer Says:

    they are still individual tunes making up a set.

  24. sumodie Says:

    @mrP: I didn’t know that about mrC’s GD comp -guess I’ll manually edit the tags before dropping into itunes

  25. Kaveh Says:

    @Miner – thanks for the write up today.

    Good morning to you all. Happy Hump Day!

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