The Fizzle Factor

Atlantic City 2012 (Shelly Siegal)

The only any real criticism that bubbled from the fan base over Leg One was how second sets sometimes fizzled out. Sometimes front-loading sets with the heaviest improv of the night, only to coast to the finish line with a series of out-of-place singles, Trey fell prey to this phenomenon a handful of times this summer. This is quite an odd occurrence for a bandleader who would, self-admittedly, pore over setlists for much of his career, ensuring Phish shows flowed quite well. These days, that is not necessarily guaranteed. But, let’s not overstate things. Only five shows out of 20 second sets of tour fizzled out significantly. That means that 15 finished strong, or at least with a sense of completeness. All in all, I think this issue will right itself naturally, especially looking at the percentages, but it is something worth inspecting.

6.20.12 (M. Stein)

The sets I am referencing in this discussion are AC3 (6/17), nTelos1 (6/19), Deer Creek2 (6/29), Alpine2 (7/1), Jones Beach2 (7/4), and SPAC2 (7/7). In each case except nTelos—a set that never got going—Phish played a legitimate improvisational passage to start the second half. Interestingly, however, only one of those sequences—Alpine’s “Light > Ghost”—sits among tour highlights. Does the fizzle factor come into play when the band isn’t feeling musically hooked up? The general pattern of sets that fizzled might suggest this. Let’s look a little closer.

The third night of Atlantic City kicked off with “Drowned > 2001 > Reba,” a high quality, but mostly contained, run of jams. The first night of Portsmouth was a song-based second set, with only a “Split” jam to speak of, thus its hard to say this set fizzled as there was no place to fizzle from. Phish front-loaded Deer Creek’s second night with an extensive, though unspectacular chunk of jamming in “Disease > Sand.” While this sequence wasn’t bad by any means, it didn’t pop with anything original—fun while there, but without much playback value. After “Sand,” the band quickly moved from song to song but for a brief, though interesting, “Bathtub Gin.” Alpine’s all-star set, fizzled to near-boredom with a run of “46 Days,” “Heavy Things,” “Joy,” “Julius” over the final thirty minutes. The band’s July 4th performance started with a promising sequence of “Boogie,” “Tweezer > Twist,” only to transform Singlestown USA, less “Harry Hood” for nearly an hour. SPAC’s second show started promisingly with a strong “Disease -> Blister in the Sun -> Disease,” but morphed into a novelty show of “Blister” teases in a run of standard songs.

7.8.12 (R.MacNeil)

Interestingly, sets that fizzled—as a whole—produced few pieces of timeless music. Out of the five sets above, we are left with “Light > Ghost” in the upper echelon, Jones Beach’s “Tweezer > Twist” on the second tier, “Disease > Sand” on the third tier, and contained highlights of “2001 > Reba” and “Harry Hood.” In five second sets of 2012 Phish music, that’s not that much. Perhaps this is a coincidence, or perhaps Trey has a propensity to call for singles when jamming isn’t necessarily clicking as usual? In the end, we’ll never know, but—at times—it seems a tad of forethought might go a long way in closing a show with authority.

It often feels that Phish has gone away from show-stopping set closers. Aside from the over-used “Antelope” and the occasional “David Bowie” or “Slave,” sets were prone to end with “Zero,” “Julius” or another innocuous single. Though not a huge deal in the scheme of a summer filled with riches, second set closers are the final taste of real Phish for the night, often determining the immediate post-show vibe. Encores, though occasionally significant, are as much for reorientation as anything else. The biggest change in this department has resulted from the band moving away “You Enjoy Myself” to close sets without a new replacement emerging. Though dubious, perhaps one will rise in the coming weeks, or perhaps the band will just keep playing “Antelope.” But if this is the only flaw to write about—effecting one in four shows—we’re doing pretty damn well!


Jam of the Day: 

Carini > Sand” 7.6 II, SPAC

The heavy-hitting pairing came at the front of the second set on SPAC’s first night.

[audio:,] Tags: , ,

253 Responses to “The Fizzle Factor”

  1. Leo Weaver Says:

    You need to get out to more museums (or other art installations) g$. Enrich your life, maaaan!

  2. Litteringand Says:

    Dear Mr. Miner,

    This was not how I expected you to talk about me in your blog. I am a top tier verision from the summer and can not be held responsible for troy ripcording the Gin later on in my set. I have sent a letter to my local wook rep and you will hear from him shortly.

    You have yourself to blame,

    The Deer Creek Sand

  3. stapes Says:

    9 years ago tonight was IT soundcheck. I still think it is one of the finest pieces of music they performed in not only 2.0 but in their whole career. Love the ambient spacy beginningSkin It Back jam halfway through taboot. Great weekend all around

  4. voopa Says:

    “Cincy Twist…silencing tweakers since 6/22.”

  5. tela'smuff Says:

    Happy Birthday Jerry!

    @Sumo – i’ve seen A&M once, and loved it. great show.

    went to bed after listening to the DC Sand last night and it’s just a straight up smoking dance number through and through. I also think it’s the Sand that really starts to breakdown into some interesting space at the end, that we later got in JB in SPAC. whereas the DCU and Cincy versions moved into another song before truly coming to a natural conclusion.

  6. Guyute711 Says:

    Culture is for suckers Leo. Give me a High Life, a spliff and a flat screen and I’m good. 😉

  7. GhostPhunk Says:

    Morning all!

    Great job Miner, I was wondering when this one was coming. I think you nailed this one. “Does the fizzle factor come into play when the band isn’t feeling musically hooked up?” Certainly seems logical and we are definitely asking a lot these days. Anyone in any profession is going to have days that aren’t as good as others. This is just reality.

    “second set closers are the final taste of real Phish for the night, often determining the immediate post-show vibe. Encores, though occasionally significant, are as much for reorientation as anything else.” – This really resonated with me, might be my favorite part of the piece. It’s worded perfectly.

    One other head scratcher for me was Rift seeing the second frame. Portsmouth winning the “strangest placement award” with it in the sweet spot. I love Rift…. just not there.

    Oh well, things are great in Phish land, Happy happy Fat Man.

  8. phoammhead Says:

    lolz . . . don’t act like you’re kidding, g$

  9. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    No more “fake openers”!

  10. kayatosh Says:

    the phish show is a voyage.

  11. Multibeast Says:

    Morning all
    Not sure if it is too early for this, but most likely it is just too awesome:

    “The video’s YouTube description, which claims the song’s beat and lyrics are so addictive, they are ‘certain to penetrate the foundations of modern philosophy.'”

  12. IrieWalton Says:

    Great column, Miner. Thanks for filling the void between Leg I and II.

    Also, thanks for the trip down memory lane @ Stapes. Hard to think that 9 years ago I was heading up to Maine with a grip of friends to celebrate graduating from college a few months earlier. And little did we all know that we would find ourselves sitting in traffic for 15 hours and baneing on the top of cars to pass the time.

    And if you’re looking for a quality roots spotify playlist I stumbled upon this one and it’s the goodz: Roots Reggae for Jah

    Big Up!

  13. Dr Pronoia Says:

    So with my vacation only a few days away I’ve been feeling really burnt out this week. Crispy, crispy burnt. Hate people, listening, doubting everything, the whole nine, and worse yet, I’m out of ‘nice’ by the time I get home, leaving me irritable and checked out for my family.

    This morning I started to turn it around by taking advantage of a late start to go with my wife and son to a toddler dance class thing that was really cute.

    But walking from there to my office I was nearing my building, which has scaffolding on it for repairs, and I paused to nod hello to a middle aged nurse who was smoking a cig outside, and in the four feet that separated us, in that split second, a large fist sized chunk of concrete slammed to the pavement from way up high. Huge bang and we were sprayed with quarter sized shrapnel from it. I have to think one of us could’ve been killed by it (the bldg is 20+ stories high).

    A few seconds faster pace and I could have joined Jerry today. Talk about a perspective change. I’m happy as fuck with my life right now and love everyone.

    File this under – tell your loved ones how you feel

  14. stapes Says:

    @ IW – we went through Canada and came in from the north. Only sat in traffic an hour or 2 at most. People around us were in it for around 15 hours. Good memories indeed. Gonna spin IT highlights the next few days.

  15. stapes Says:

    Damn Dr P!

  16. Multibeast Says:

    Whoa Dr P. That definitely puts everything in perspective doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing…always a good reminder.

  17. kayatosh Says:

    dr. P lives!

  18. IrieWalton Says:

    Wow, Dr. P.

    Mr. Universe definitely gave you a “check yourself” moment right there.

    Glad that all ended well.

  19. Dr Pronoia Says:

    I felt exhilarated and adrenelized immediately after but now I’m feeling more shaky and freaked out honestly. Scary to get such a vivid reminder of how fragile this life is

  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    Snoop lion. Nuff said.

  21. SillyWilly Says:

    glad you’re ok, Dr. P

    would be pretty stupid of the universe to take you of all people out

    In our agency, they’ve been all about “compassion fatigue” for the last year or so.

    They’re always asking us how we feel, but never really telling us how to fix it. Or allowing us to address the systemic problems that would fix it.

    So, then I always think of ol’ Sisyphus pushing his rock.

    only, we’re gonna win. we’re definitely going to win, Dr. P

  22. sumodie Says:

    Today’s top pic nicely ties in with miner’s post; those ovals fizzled out too

  23. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    ha @Sumo, I originally thought this article was gonna be about the lights.

  24. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Yeah silly that’s a legit danger in the helping fields. It’s a sign you need a break and to refocus on your own self-care. But I only feel it right before a vacation, so I wonder if it’s a stagger-to-the-finish-line, justify the vacation thing

  25. GhostPhunk Says:

    I think the word “organic” in reference to what the LED’s were not, is spot on. The rest of the light rig is so smooth and beautiful, those rope lights on steroids were harshing that vibe.

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