Chase Center 10/17/21 (Scott Jones)

The ethos of Phish music has always been connected to the divine. Trey has spoken at length throughout his career about attaining a musical proficiency in which the band can get out of the way and become invisible, allowing the music to pass through them and speak for itself. In a 1994 interview with Steve Silberman, he explained this point of view:

The way I look at it is like being a filter. The music exists in the universe, and if you’re lucky enough, or strong enough, to get your ego out of the way, the music comes through you. The audience that we have is open to that. They understand that conversational transfer of energy. Their being open to it makes it easier for the energy to pass through.

This dynamic has provided Phish and their fans countless spiritual experiences over the past 38 years. It is this very magic that motivates us to go to so many shows—the feeling of transcending ourselves and tapping into mysteries far bigger that any one of us. These experiences provide the goosebumps when thinking back on those powerful moments that have colored our lives so vibrantly for so many years.

I could create an endless laundry list of these special instances, but Sunday night took things to an entirely different level. Though ritual is part and parcel of the Phish experience, the solemn rite they invoked in Sunday’s second set cut to the core of life and eternal existence. What took place was profound beyond words, but language is our medium of communication, so I will attempt to use words to point to the truth that unfolded.

As everyone knows by now, towards the end of Sunday’s first set a man jumped from the upper deck at Chase Center and fell over a 100 feet to his death. Some saw it happen, some found out at setbreak, and others not until after the show. I found out at setbreak—about ten minutes before the show was set to resume. Naturally, it shook me up. First I was startled, then I was scared, and then I was sad. I wasn’t sure what to make of such a tragedy amidst a place of pure joy. But Phish was about to step on the stage. What was even going to happen? What was supposed to happen? I had no idea. I felt confused. But I decided that my only choice was to embrace the reality of what transpired, let go, and give myself over completely to the experience of what was to come.

As the lights dropped, the band opened with “Evolve,” Trey’s pandemic-scribed composition that details the beginning of time and the creation of the universe. Told from the perspective of the divine creator, the lyrical couplet that concludes the song details the entrance of human beings into the cosmos and their struggle with earthly entanglements that are ultimately insignificant in the face of the eternal truth—

Then came the people with problems and hope
That don’t mean a thing, if they just knew the scope.


Upon the conclusion of the song, Trey started up “Set Your Soul Free,” a song about the spiritual unity of all beings and the liberation of the soul from the body. As this jam progressed, it moved from an upbeat space to a dark, heavy and abstract sonic realm. In my silent and thoughtless meditative state, an understanding emerged from within—this music represented the transitional, intermediary state that souls navigate between this dimension of life and the next dimension of existence after death. All faiths describe this liminal stage in different ways—Buddhists speak of the Bardo, Islam calls it Barzakh, Christianity espouses Purgatory. This complex and amorphous musical path narrated the transmigration of Sunday’s departed soul as it passed through the realm between worlds moving towards the hereafter.

The band came out of this incredibly deep musical passage into “Wingsuit,” a metaphor for the soul’s elevation out of the Bardo and into eternity.

Nothing lasts, nothing stays…
What’s old is gone…

And gliding away, you fly where you choose
There’s nothing to say and nothing to lose.

These words describe the ephemeral nature of life on earth and the truth of the beyond. There is nothing to lose—we are infinite beings whose consciousness exits in human form for only a brief blip of time and upon transitioning, re-merges with the One energy from which we all came. This staggeringly powerful rendition of “Wingsuit” musically ushered the departed soul from this realm into the next. Encompassed in awe at the sacrament at hand, I was brought to the brink of tears by the moment’s undeniable consecration as Phish transformed tragedy into ceremony.

Upon the soul’s elevation into eternity, the band broke into “Chalk Dust Torture,” a song in which the lyrical refrain of “Can’t I live while I’m young?” celebrates the very essence of life itself. And where the band took this jam provided the final step on the soul’s transitional arc. The music built into an extended, celebratory and uplifting excursion that depicted the arrival of the departed soul into the never-ending bliss of infinite existence—or in western terms—heaven. The heaviness of this set-long metaphysical journey arrived in deliverance—a liberation into the dimension of purity and truth, our eternal home steeped in serenity and wonder.

The mystic communion that transpired during Sunday night’s set was on an entirely different level than anything that has ever happened at a Phish show. This was so much more than music. This was about divine light that lives within us all. This light is what the essence of Phish has always been about, but never had it come so face to face with an actual event in which a soul moved through the stages of existence in the presence of, and to the knowledge of, the band and so many in attendance. With their performance, Phish musically communed with the departed soul present in the room, shepherding it on its inter-dimensional journey into infinity.

Death is a sad occurrence on the earthly plane because no longer can people enjoy that particular soul in human form. But death is also the most beautiful part of life—a soul’s transition into everlasting bliss. Phish’s willingness to embrace a tragedy and take part in this transcendental process was the most awe-inspiring event I have witnessed, and it brought my esteem for the band and their role as conduits between us and the divine into a whole new domain of reverence.

The ethos of Phish music has always been connected to the divine. Trey has spoken at length throughout his career about attaining a musical proficiency in which the band can get out of the way and become invisible, allowing the music to pass through them and speak for itself. In a 1994 interview with Steve …

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