Super Ball—An Instant Classic

Super Ball IX (G.Lucas)

A few days removed from Superballin’ and I’m still reeling from the quantity of amazing Phish that went down over the weekend. For 13 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds over three days, Phish threw down a musical showcase at Watkins Glen International, while recapturing their festival magic of lore. Though Festival 8 provided a blissful return to the festival setting in Southern California, it didn’t feel the same as Phish’s historic Northeastern fiestas. Super Ball most definitely did. As a full-powered band collided with the fantasy-like festival grounds, a musical spark was lit early in the opening show and a fire of blazing Phish burned all weekend long. Coming off a stellar opening leg of Summer Tour, when the guys hit the stage at Super Ball IX, things seemed to loosen up in just the right ways as they crafted a weekend of dreams. Phish—the improvisational juggernauts we fell in love with—are back on the scene with new improvisational tricks up their sleeves and an enthusiasm to match.

7.1.11 - Watkins Glen (G.Lucas)

Over the course of three shows, the band played so many profound jams that its been impossible to listen to, wrap my head around, and digest them all in such a short amount of time. With more standout music at Super Ball than at any other three (or four)-night run in the modern era, Phish exploded with innovative playing throughout the weekend. Capping the festival with four unforgettable sets, including, perhaps, their most psychedelic performance to date in their late-night “Storage Jam,” Phish left their fan base in a state of bliss and disbelief after a weekend that surpassed most everyone’s expectations. It was that good.

The band’s masterful improvisation shined throughout the festival, whether playing within song structures or exploring new territory—something they did quite often over the three days. The reaction time between band members was negligible as they patiently crafted one standout piece after another. The tempo of their playing adopted to the booming sound and open-air surroundings, slowing down just a bit and allowing Mike to dominate the stage, directing jams with dark and eclectic bass lines throughout the weekend. But Phish’s virtuosic whole-band interplay, showcased all weekend long (and especially during their late-night set) wrote the story of the festival, leaving fans new and old in a state of utter joy. For those of us who saw them in their heyday, the band’s creativity has fully returned. And for those experiencing a full-powered Phish for the first time, well, get ready for the ride of your life!

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

Within all the musical theatrics of the weekend, Phish introduced us, in earnest, to a new musical style—extremely abstract, and often beatless, psychedelic sound sculptures. An improvisational direction hinted at throughout June (in jams such as Bethel’s “Waves” and “Disease,” Alpharetta’s “Disease” and Raleigh’s “Split”) was displayed on night one in the mini-jam before “Crosseyed” and during “Simple,” and then fully expounded upon during their late-night dip into the abyss in 5.1 surround-sound amidst the interactive art installations of Ball Square. After focusing on eerie, abstract and ambient exploration throughout this hour-long performance, Phish infused similar sounds into their festival finale, particularly in “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” and “Waves.”

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Historically, Phish has honed in on jamming styles at their festivals which they continued to explore during subsequent tours. Melodic ambient interplay at Lemonwheel (highlighted by the fourth set’s “Ambient Jam”) and IT’s growling psychedelic textures of 2003 (underlined by the unforgettable Tower Jam) provide the best examples. During the band’s final slate of shows in August, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this type of abstract experimentation they continue to push forward.

Most of all, Phish’s creativity—in all directions—was on display at Super Ball. From the groove-based turned exploratory “Golden Age” to the Tyrannosaurus-sized “Tweezer,” and from the scorching-turned-funky “Disease” to the intricate interplay of “Light,” Phish jams were sprouting from every angle at Watkins Glen. There is so much to discuss and so much to process from the weekend (and leg one), that it is hard to know where to begin. But with a month off we have plenty of time breakdown the exploits of the festival and beyond. Look for more detailed analysis and discussion of Super Ball IX this week as we bask in the glory of Phish 2011.


Jam of the Day:

Golden Age” 7.2.11 III

One of Super Ball’s upper-echelon excursions.

[audio:] Tags: , , ,

600 Responses to “Super Ball—An Instant Classic”

  1. DukeOfLizards Says:

    NOT TO BE SLEPT ON: 7/2 Boogie On.

    Whenever Mike gets in those bomb-dropping moods, I always imagine his inner monologue as that of a six-year-old playing with toy weapons.

    “Pyewww! Pyewww! Gotcha!”


    “Bwowwwww!!! Yeah! You’re dead!”

  2. halcyon Says:


    email sent

    forgot to mention that they are throttling the amount of invites, so you might need to try a few times before access is granted.

  3. mitch Says:

    Sumo, forgotto ask how your Jedi roadmap skills worked for big ball.

  4. verno329 Says:

    Look me up on g+ too voopa. Could be a really cool way to share some new music out there too

  5. sumodie Says:

    mitch, jedi roadmap skills weren’t really necessary. we did ride along some gorgeous back roads in the hopes of camping in Hawaii, except at Thurs ~2:30pm that campground wasn’t open

    It took us all of 10 minutes to get thru security on the east side of WG and into the 4 state campgrounds. Found a really sweet spot in N Dakota after getting the ok from lot staff to head out on our own

    (kept thinking some douche ala Bethel Woods was gonna scream at us to suck his dick but everyone left us alone -staff were super cool all weekend)

    The bigger roadmap trippin news is that I actually used my GPS again for the first time since Bonnaroo ’09

    The region around WG was as beautiful as at Bethel Woods. No fog tho

  6. InAMinute Says:

    Am I the only one who can’t stop listening to jimis if 6 was 9? Eerie reminder of the storage set. Incredible. If the sun……

  7. sumodie Says:

    Just finished a replay of Friday sbix -time to go back to jam>cross>cdt

    Loved the Show of Life encore that night -up nearer the stage two Chinese lanterns were released just as that tune began -was perfect!

    There were mad numbers of chinese lanterns going up all weekend, during the shows, from the campgrounds, etc. Really added to the weekend vibe

    (no idea how safe/not safe they are, but must’ve been over 100 released over 4 days easily)

    jam>crosseyed slays again!

  8. voopa Says:

    Thanks halcy, nothing yet. Remember- 3 “o”s…gmail requires at least 6 chars.

  9. angryjoggerz Says:

    what is google + and how can I get in?

  10. verno329 Says:

    Damn! Just respun Sball Tweezer for first time. That is just nasty. Somehow I had skipped over it on my first run throughs. That won’t happen again

  11. halcyon Says:

    I will try again mr v…..should have gone through, unless they are throttling invites now

  12. verno329 Says:

    Twist spinning now. Everything they play right now is so on point. What a great festival.

  13. thedayman Says:

    superball was incredible. still reeling from the experience.

    @sumo – the chinese lanterns seemed really safe until halfway through the second set that night when i saw one that would not go up at all man! it would go about 10 feet up and float back down towards people like a fiery beach ball being tossed around. finally it took flight after a few people were nearly sent to the burn unit.

    in my spun state i was trying to yell caution to these people but forgot i was at a phish show with music blasting in my face. my buds laughed their asses off, llfa

  14. Esteban Says:

    Listening to 7/2 II… How did I miss the It’s Ice the other night on the stream? Sweet surprise there…

  15. verno329 Says:

    I said the same thing earlier today Esteban. I actually stopped what I was doing at work and said “how did I miss this during the stream?” Loved this Ice

  16. Esteban Says:

    I mean, I know I’ve been up all day, and Saturday was a haze after Friday night’s antics and the anticipation of the streams all weekend, but still… I’ve been through the shows now at least two full passes (or so I thought), and we kicked down in various neighborhood backyards and kitchens all weekend, the Bunny in the background

  17. Gavinsdad Says:


  18. Gavinsdad Says:

    Last of the robane gone.


  19. sumodie Says:

    hell yes, finally booked our flights for the Gorge!!!

    (thankfully I got 1 ticket using frequent flyer miles)

    if Graham doesn’t like Gorge Phish, well, I’ll just have to heave him off the cliff and into the Columbia River, lol

    will be awesome to reunite with my old crew again, plus my Telluride buddies are coming out too. Gonna be a regular 3 ring circus, cannot freakin wait

  20. Andrew Says:

    Clutchy Hopkins is A constant spin for me, the mix I pass on the most to new ears can be found here:

    Can’t say enough about the selections Paris DJs put up, absolutely some of the best comps around. World flavors for all taste buds, these cats dig deep and deliver. Enough for everyone.

  21. Robear Says:

    DF, where are you in the ASIHTOS video?

  22. Robear Says:

    No Canadiens in that video.

  23. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    around 9:45, very bottom on the right, i’m the one who does the crazy thing with his head. i’m also in there a bunch of other times but it’s hard to tell because it’s from behind, but you can see me give trey the thumbs up a couple times

  24. Esteban Says:

    @Andrew I don’t watch a lot of music videos, but the one on that link is pretty sweet. Fun with cardboard fingers.

  25. mitch Says:

    Nice avatar t leo

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