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Tuesday 05/12/2020 by zzyzx

MOCKINGBIRD FOUNDATION VIRTUAL RUN

Announcing the 2020 Mockingbird Foundation Virtual Run!

Summer 2020 is shaping up to be a year of canceled events. Maybe we can’t gather in large groups, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to be together as a community, to both share an event and help The Mockingbird Foundation support music education! Outdoor walks and runs - with social distancing maintained - are considered to be essential activities for our physical and mental health. Let’s get together as a community and agree on this: we’re about to run!

Read the details below and then sign up!

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Saturday 02/22/2020 by zzyzx

MEXICO2 RECAP: AND THE OCEAN IS HELL

Author's Note: I usually write these reviews with the aid of extensive notes taken during the show. The Caribbean damaged my phone, temporarily broke my smart watch (messing up my timings), and destroyed a lot of my paper to take notes. We will soldier on anyway!

While Phish have played in Mexico before, this was my first year attending instead of watching on the couch. The one thing that most fascinated me as a spectator were the people dancing in the Caribbean Sea. The waves might have pummeled them, but they were having an amazing time splashing and cavorting. It was a beautiful, warm night in Cancun, and we decided that we would do the splashing ourselves, posting-up not far from the stage but surprisingly far from land... ok, about 20 feet from dry land, but that still is a somewhat abnormal perspective to see the band.

© 2020 Phish (Rene Huemer)
© 2020 Phish (Rene Huemer)

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Monday 09/02/2019 by zzyzx

DICK'S3 RECAP: FLEA-TING MEMORIES

After nine years in a row playing the same venue over the same weekend, we’ve all established our traditions and routines. All of that got upended this year due to a plague infestation. Prairie dogs that live there were potentially covered with infested fleas. With the traditional Shakedown lot closed, parking at a premium, and knowing that we couldn’t undersell the issue since The Black Death killed 60% of the population in Europe in the 15th century, we had to adjust. Europe saw the end of feudalism. We might have to take a shuttle from a remote lot to see our concerts.

By the end of the first night, it was clear that the logistical issues would not be a big deal. Phish had the shuttles running on a quick turnaround; I got back to my room earlier on Saturday than I normally would have with post-show lot traffic, only with no parking fee and with a free Nalgene handed to me for my inconvenience. This system was arguably better than the normal parking in the lot. The Shakedown lot quickly got replaced with a new Flea Market location. Vendors took advantage of this to make funny shirts and stickers and koozies referencing prairie dogs, fleas, and civilization-ending infestations. The plague warning signs were a popular selfie spot. During the first night, Phish made flea jokes and used a Pure Prairie League song ("Aimee") as walkout music. Another lyric was changed on Saturday. When Commerce City gave us plague, we made plagueonade. Yum!

© 2019 Scott Marks
© 2019 Scott Marks

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Saturday 09/01/2018 by zzyzx

DICK'S N1 RECAP: LOTS OF CURVES, PLENTY OF BALLS

Coming out of the canceled Curveball festival, speculating the plan for the first show of Dick’s has been a hobby for many. They would do rare songs to appease those who missed the festival! The show would spell something with the setlist! [Insert tweeter's/forum member’s/random guy who had seen a few shows' favorite song that they’ve never seen] would be played of course… twice! Others tempered speculation saying that Phish would just play a normal show, and people had to keep their hopes in check for the “Harpua” opener or for the mysterious ball that was the centerpiece of the artwork to somehow appear in Commerce City.

Somehow both groups were wrong. Phish didn’t play anything unusual. Every song had been played already on Summer 2018. Outside of “Cavern,” (somehow not performed since the way distant past of 7/28/18) every song had even been played in one of the 8 previous shows in August. However, despite playing a night where the building blocks were standard, they somehow still manage to confound any normal expectation.

Photo © Phish, by Patrick Jordan
Photo © Phish, by Patrick Jordan

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Tuesday 08/21/2018 by zzyzx

IT'S OK TO BE DISAPPOINTED

We're an optimistic bunch. That's a good thing, as most of us were able to salvage the weekend. However, we've gone way too far the other way. It's almost become a competition to see who can be the most "glass half full" about the event, to the point where I'm expecting a think piece explaining how this was actually the best Phish festival ever because it was so relaxing, and we actually had plenty of time to talk and hang out!

And while that's fine for those who believe it, I'm feeling like it's putting pressure on others to buy into that. Don't do it.

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Sunday 07/23/2017 by zzyzx

MOCKINGBIRD'S BAKER'S DOZEN #3

In celebration of Phish's 13-show run at Madison Square Garden, the Mockingbird Foundation is announcing 13 unsolicited "miracle grants" supporting music programs across the country. Each board member identified their favorite Phish show, and we found a worthy music education program nearby, part of the Foundation's long-standing Tour Grants program. We're presenting these 13 special grants chronologically, based on the dates of those favorited shows. Following #1 and #2, here's #3...

A little over 23 years ago (May 7, 1994 to be exact), Phish played a concert at the Bomb Factory in Dallas, TX. This show has become famous for its second set, an extended jam weaving in and out of "Tweezer" and songs such as "Sparks", "Makisupa Policeman", "Walk Away", "Cannonball", and "Purple Rain". This hour-long segment, which later became known as the Tweezerfest, stands largely unique in Phish’s history.

Phish have played many extended jams since this date, but taking the entirety of a set (sans an introductory "Loving Cup" > "Sparkle") to devote to the jam, to use it to tie together every song played at the end, even taking the normally short goofy "Hold Your Head Up" as a launchpad to explore a little more... this is something that marks this night as a special occasion.

For those of us lucky enough to be in attendance, the 2/3-filled Bomb Factory in the Deep Elum region of Dallas is the location of a euphoric event, a defining night in the lives of many of us. In honor of that electric evening, the Mockingbird Foundation is giving a $1,500 grant to support music education at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Dallas, TX. Located 9 miles north of the Factory, one can only hope that their band has been inspired by the energy present that night. As Jon sang, “Yeah, it’s time we all reach out to the new. And that means you too [the Benjamin Franklin Middle School of] Dallas, TX!”

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Saturday 08/22/2015 by zzyzx

CLIFFORD, SUPER, MAGNABALL, WE'VE SEEN IT ALL!

With a Phish festival and Dick’s in close proximity to each other, many fans had to choose one or the other. I – of course – made my usual call of both, but the trips so close to each other required some sacrifice. Rather than a sane trip, logistics required my flight to be a red-eye into Baltimore-Washington International.

While that sounds like an insane distance, it’s actually closer than most major northeastern cities (and only two hours further than Buffalo) as Baltimore is almost directly due south of Watkins Glen. As I learned driving from Charm City to Buffalo – well Orchard Park, NY – to see the Grateful Dead in 1989, US 15 is a straight shot from Harrisburg, PA to Corning, NY. Back then it was a winding road, pretty, but slowing down for many small towns. Now it’s largely a freeway. The southern section still retains much of its history, having the occasional town slowdown and plenty of “Gentlemen’s Clubs” and tourist traps sitting on the side of the parkway; but by the time you get past the home of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, it’s a freeway. It even branded in part as a disembodied section of the controversial Interstate 99* for 12 miles north of the New York state line.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

The plan was easy. Land at BWI, drive four hours, crash in my hotel. I didn’t count on the storm. It rolled through The City that Reads right before my plane landed, causing accidents everywhere. It over two full hours to make it to the Pennsylvania state line instead of the expected 45 minutes. It was irritating at first, but it then made sense. Weather fueled traffic jams are a festival tradition. It should be expected to hit one! That wasn’t the only reference to past festivals that happened on this drive. In one of the small towns, I passed a car with the plate “GLO STK,” clearly referencing the Great Went epic war.

Not even Camp Oswego was ignored as there was an exit on US-15 with the name Camp Canoe, bringing back memories of the artist who “rowed” a canoe (actually on wheels) down the main drag of that festival in 1999. Beyond that was the fog covered hills in north-central PA which brought forth memories of the ultimate Phish festival idea: it looked like Gamehendge out there!


Photo © Derek Gregory

The trip to Magnaball was a like a highlight show of the travels to earlier events. And while there might have been a terrifying moment as the storm hit its peak and my window fogged up, leaving me desperately hitting random buttons in the unfamiliar rental car as the ethereal voice of Siri floated through the speakers, telling me that now was the moment to somehow merge onto I-180, without a sense of danger and a bit of terror, the reward would be hardly worth it.

After a visit to Barton Hall to pay homage to 5/8/77 and a few traffic hiccups, Magnaball was achieved. It didn’t run nearly as smoothly as Super Ball IX – perhaps due to the rumored on sale of tickets at the show – but it still was reasonably easy to get there hours early. The first day at a festival is always exciting. There are the art exhibits to explore and – new for 2015 – Phish versions of game shows to play. As I walked by, I found a team looking for a fourth person, so I joined them. When we got to play, our question was, “Name a state that Phish hasn’t played.” As long as you can count on a ton of fans not answering “New York” to be annoying, there is no easier question for a Phish fan who loves geography; we swept the board! (AK, AR, HI, ND, SD, WY, for those keeping track at home).


Photo by Partick Jordan © Phish From the Road

A festival isn’t just about drives and art installations. There are also eight known sets of music. That is the underlying point of this exercise, after all. If there were any questions if the band would need a few minutes to settle into the moment, they were answered almost immediately. “Simple” was never common as a show opener, but Magnaball was its second straight time in that role. It wasn’t a perfunctory version, either; there was a brief jam filled with some beautiful Page riffs. It wouldn’t be the jam of the night by any means, but it felt like a promise.

While “The Dogs” had been played at a few shows since the Haunted House set, it usually was just that the main, high-energy jam would get thrown into the middle of another jam. This was the first complete version with the sampled introduction since the debut, showing that the song can work as a standalone as well as the filling of a jam sandwich.


Trey Anastasio and Eliza Anastasio. Photo by Partick Jordan © Phish From the Road

The first big shock of the night came next. For only the third time since Phish returned in 2009, “The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday” was chosen. It wasn’t just queued; it must have been rehearsed. Trey sometimes has problems with these early compositions, especially the ones that are rarely played, but this was nearly flawless, showing off the beauty of the piece. “Avenu Malkenu” also had a bit extra, as Mike threw a second pass into his “If I Were a Rich Man” jam. Four songs into the festival and we’ve had a doses of energy and beauty, showing that this would not be a throwaway or warm-up set by any means.

After a solid “Free,” Trey took a moment to talk about the Clifford Ball. Back then there was only one child born to the band – Eliza. He remarked that there are now eleven children, but today was Eliza’s 20th birthday. Eliza made a brief appearance on stage, Trey led us into a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” and there was a brief pause. If her quasi-eponymous song would ever get performed again, now would be the time. Instead we got “The Wedge.” Perhaps Eliza doesn’t like that the song pre-dates her by nearly five years, but it could have been worse; she could have been ‘Tela Multibeast Purple Humpback Whale Anastasio’. Regardless, “The Wedge” still resonated with the event. Nineteen years since the first major event: the discovery of the cow funk, the Indian Reservation all night set, the hiatus and the breakup, rehab and recreation, military bases, a desert oasis, and a race track, indeed: we could have come so very far in at least as many years.


"Bathtub Gin" – Photo © Derek Gregory

The surprises weren’t over yet. The first “Mock Song” of 3.0, –in fact only the second “Mock Song” ever – followed. I’m not sure that there was much of a clamor for this one, but this was a better arrangement that the one from The Gorge, with a very cool Page solo and more of a reggae feel. In addition, the line “Fewer, Pink, Kyle, Ball” was changed to “Clifford, Super, Magna Ball” – we’ve known them all, indeed. Keep this up and this will become a real song!

One of the most welcome trends of this era of Phish is what it has done for “Roggae.” The jams in it have been stunning, melodic pieces of soaring beauty. This one was no exception. They’ve gotten very good at peaking as a way of counterpointing the underlying power of the theme. It puts pressure on a song when everyone expects bliss, but they haven’t given us a reason not to yet.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

After what has already felt like an incredibly strong first set, Phish would be forgiven if they just played a quick peak jam in the closing “Bathtub Gin” and called it a break. That is not what happened by any means. The jam immediately leaves the structure of what the song does and runs off and plays. This “Gin” follows the pattern of many favorite jams in that it does more than one thing at a time. It’s completely improvisational, has multiple parts, but still manages to be danceable. Intense at parts, a complete dance party at others, this jam would have been an obvious highlight of many tours, let alone the first set of a festival. When it finally gets to the peak, tens of thousands of people all engaged in a massive dance party for twenty minutes. It was joyous, the kind of moment that causes us all to go to bizarre places and camp for three days. While not sounding at all similar, the bliss was reminiscent of another famous “Bathtub Gin” at a festival, the 8/17/97 Great Went version. The joy given there will not fade any time soon.

After a long setbreak filled with high-fiving and people glowing over the set, the band came back out into the chilly evening and opened with “Chalk Dust.” There used to be two kinds of “Chalk Dust Torture”: those that had a quick high energy jam followed by the chorus, and the kind – usually played to open a second set – that were open ended and never finished. Recently a third category has emerged. The song has its final chorus sung but rather than draw it to a conclusion a second jam emerges. It might not yet have the legend of the “Mike’s Songsecond jam, but it is always welcome. This one went on for another eleven minutes or so. If you’re looking for a repeat of the soaring energy bliss of the “Gin,” this doesn’t reprise that, but it rather is dark and melodic. The first is great for dancing rapturously in a field at a racetrack; this is more reflective, a good listen on a Sunday morning as you’re fixing your brunch sort of track. Phish play in many styles after all and appeal to many crowds.


"Harry Hood" – Photo © Derek Gregory

The fun of Phish is that you never know what will happen. If I told you that “Ghost,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” and “Bathtub Gin” were all played in succession and two of the three had very interesting jams, no one would expect that it was “Ghost” that just got the quick run through. The jam is more brief than bad. It hits a few quick interesting spaces before resolving into “Rock and Roll.”

The Velvet Underground cover – along with the traditional prayer of “Avenu Malkenu,” the only non-originals of the night – has largely returned to its previous role of being an upbeat rocker to put an exclamation point on the show. Played this early, it promised a bit more. And indeed, it did deliver. Two or three times Trey tried to signal a return to the final chorus, but they wanted to keep going. A slow funk jam gets created. It’s beautiful and you can dance to it and I could have heard Phish play it all night. That’s why I admit to an initial groan while when the “Hood” fired up. Do you mind people? I was enjoying that!


Photo © Jake Silco

Any lingering regret though can’t really survive “Harry Hood.” If for nothing else, at a festival show with an amazing “Bathtub Gin,” it just felt right to also have a massive glowstick war during “Harry Hood.” It’s less nostalgia than an accidental homage. The “Hood” itself was quite interesting. Sacrificing the build jam for a voyage, this jam wanders all over the track. If you’re the kind of person who needs to find something – anything – to complain about with a Phish show, the “Hood” peak was sacrificed in exchange. However, if you’re reaching the point of saying, “Well they ended one cool jam but immediately followed it with another one, but that one didn’t manage to also hit a soaring peak at the very end,” just to find something to point fingers at, well that shows the power of this show.

It wasn’t over yet. After a quick breather with “Waste,” perhaps the most popular of the new songs of this tour, “No Men in No Man’s Land” had one more jam to come. This was more of a fast funky jam than the reflectiveness of the “Chalk Dust” or the “Hood,” but it’s the perfect way to start to wind things down. We’ve done a lot tonight; now let’s dance our way home! Before we do though, there’s one last thing. We’re going to give you a “Slave!”


Photo © Andrea Nusinov

Sets with both a “Hood” and a “Slave” feel somewhat unfair. We’re not going to give you one of your favorite late set songs. Here, have both of them! It might rob the other two nights of possibilities, but it it’s always great when it happens. You don’t mind if I give you one more moment of euphoria, do you?

After the encore, a pretty “Farmhouse” – appropriate for the rural setting – and the always fun “First Tube,” it was time to reflect on a great night. One of the games people like to play when they talk about Phish shows is to break it up into quarters, putting an imaginary break halfway through each set. The reason why that became popular is that there has been a bit of a rut in the past few years, where the third quarter always had the best – the more cynical would say “only good,” but let’s not listen to them, ok? – music of the night. This tour has broken with that with great first sets and jams late into the second. In fact, with the early “TMWSIY,” the great “Gin,” and the late “Hood,” “No Man’s,” and “Slave” combination, it could be argued that all three of the other quadrants managed to surpass the third, not because the third was bad, but because the others were so good. That may or may not be true, but Phish delivered an amazing complete show to open Magnaball. If this turns out to be the warmup night, Magnaball will be the stuff of legend, passed down from generation to generation to while away the long Finger Lakes region winter nights.

* The Interstate highway system has a naming convention. One aspect of it is that north-south roads have odd numbers that increase from west to east. Interstate 99 is not just kind of a weird highway that doesn’t really connect cities – well it’s now two different highways near each other that don’t connect to each other even – but it’s completely misnumbered. Having I-99 being west of I-81 annoys people who care way too much about such issues. I’d mock such people more but back in the early days of Ihoz.com, I was kind of one of them, as http://ihoz.com/I99.html shows.

Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 1
07/22/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 2
07/24/15 SetlistRecap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 SetlistRecap – LA Forum
07/28/15 SetlistRecap – Austin
07/29/15 SetlistRecap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 SetlistRecap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 SetlistRecap – Nashville
08/05/15 SetlistRecap – Kansas City
08/07/15 SetlistRecap – Blossom
08/08/15 SetlistRecap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 SetlistRecap – Apline 2
08/11/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 1
08/12/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 2
08/14/15 SetlistRecap – Raleigh
08/15/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 3


Limited Edition MagnaBall Poster by Jim Pollock

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Sunday 10/19/2014 by zzyzx

RECAP: BACK IN THE SEATTLE AGAIN

by David “Zzyzx” Steinberg

Part 1: A Brief History of Being a Phish Fan in Seattle

In the early 90s, I was living in southern New Mexico attending graduate school. The conservative town was a bad fit for me, so I was looking for an escape. The chilly mist of the Pacific Northwest seemed to be about as far of an escape from the fiery Mesilla Valley desert, so cars were loaded, apartments were found, and jobs were located. If there was one thing I was worried about, it was not the lack of Phish. The year before I moved, Phish played two northwest runs. 1995 had one in October. We were able to give thanks in 1996 with a Tofurkey Eve Key Arena show. No, we weren’t receiving the dozens of shows that a New Yorker gets, but it wasn’t bad at all for being tucked away in the northwest corner of the country.

Then came The Gorge. Phish played the amphitheater in 1997. The venue was amazing. It was a little annoying to have only two shows all year in our region, but seeing Phish in an environment like that more than made up for it. 1998 and 1999 had a return to The Gorge as part of a more extended tour of the region – but, of course, sans Emerald City – but then after the hiatus we moved into the current pattern. Every other year Phish would play a two-night run in George, WA and then move on to other parts of the country. No one could blame Phish for doing so. If I were in a band and I could play against the backdrop of the Columbia River carving a canyon through basalt, of a land so desolate that you can’t see signs that humans inhabit the planet on the other side of the stage, I would most definitely do the same. It’s one of the most amazing places to see music in the world. The only problem is that – at 160 miles away and over a mountain pass – it’s not somewhere where you can see Phish and also sleep in your bed. It’s local and exciting, but not the same as an actual in town show.

Part 2: A Brief History of Being a Seattle Sports Fan

What’s the history? Pain. The Seattle Mariners are one of only two teams in Major League Baseball that have never even played in the World Series. The Seattle Seahawks have had more luck recently, but prior to 2013 had but one Super Bowl appearance, one in which dropped passes, a few questionable time management moments, and a series of increasingly bizarre calls, missed to the point where the referee actually later apologized, ruined their chances. The SuperSonics won an NBA title in the 1970s but then were bought by an owner who immediately worked to poison the team’s relationship with the community in order to make sure his insane arena demands would be rejected so he could move them to his home town. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been moments of joy and wonder, but – just like a hometown show – the ultimate prize has never really been attained.

Part 3: Joining Forces

At a Trey solo show in Seattle last spring, the guitarist mentioned the Seahawks’ new quarterback Russell Wilson and how it would be cool if the team played Phish’s “Wilson” chant for the fans to do. At the end of his speech he said, “Guaranteed Super Bowl.” This is something that I also have always wanted. I sent a letter to the Mariners back in the 90s asking that Dan Wilson have “Wilson” for this walkup music, a letter that received no response whatsoever. This gained some traction though. First in preseason, and then during the season, the chant could be heard. Random references to it could be seen throughout the city. School marquees said, “Ba-bump, ba-bump WILSON.” The Seattle Great Wheel and the town’s mayor tweeted videos that featured the song. Phish were featured in an NFL Films production. My team, my band, and it was ridden to a championship. Without question, this was the best year of my life as a Phish and sports fan. Not only did I attend my first ever victory parade, but I did so with my favorite band as a soundtrack to the event. How could it be any better?


© Phish From the Road

Part 4: The Reward

After an all east coast summer, the fall tour was announced, and there it sat. October 18, Key Arena, Seattle, WA. Phish would come here for the first time in 18 years. It would be not just a long awaited return but a celebration of all things that happened last year. What could mar this?

The day before the Seattle show, Phish played Eugene, OR. While driving there, my phone suddenly lit up with messages. Percy Harvin – an explosive player who helped seal the victory the year before but didn’t seem to be clicking this year– was suddenly traded for very little. The Seattle sports world suddenly moved from party time to confusion. Maybe that would work itself out, but Phish were still playing the Key. Phish fans would be hanging out by the Space Needle, and the International Fountain. This is a big deal!

A few minutes past eight, lights went out. The band came on stage, perhaps to play the “Wilson” to end all versions, but not to start. We’d first have a “Cavern” interlude, but then it came. I was thinking of all of the things that I would do if I were Trey in that moment. Maybe I’d license a few Russell Wilson highlights and we’d hear Steve Raible’s voice over the PA. Perhaps I’d sprinkle a few further playings of the riff throughout the night. Nothing like that happened. The crowd chanted, people were excited, but, quite surprisingly, Trey didn’t even mention the team or make any comment at all throughout the song. It was put out there, but just as something that happened, not as the big deal that the song and the team represented.

With the expected highlight of the night not being one, that did free up some room for the rest of the set. “Moma Dance,” while still played close to its 3.0 norm, showed a few signs that the band was willing to open it up a little, to play some subtle variations on the theme and keep it interesting. “Lawn Boy” had a few extra antics from Page as he played up his Vegas lounge act for all it was worth. Trey not only nailed the riff in “Sugar Shack,” a progression that has been a rough spot for him over the years, but he felt confident enough to play around with the theme. “Wolfman’s Brother” hit a nice peak. The set closing “Bathtub Gin” had an even better one, an intense finale that got the blood pumping and the crowd dancing. The first set might not have been one for the ages, but it was definitely fun.

After a short break, Phish came out again and referenced the last Seattle show. The earlier Key Arena night had a show opening “Down with Disease,” one that was incredibly strong. When they did the same in 2014, once again a Seattle fan’s mind was thinking about repeating. The jam started out strong and then found a funky space. Page was adding a few beautiful fills. A spacey element was introduced. At the point where things were shaping up so nicely, they moved into “Golden Age.”

Initial disappointment over the end of the jam couldn’t last too long. It’s a fun cover, and hearing Trey suggest that the return to Seattle after such a long gap meant that we were in the right place was very nice, and – again – this song leads to a jam. It got weird and spacey and showed a lot of promise, but again was quickly abandoned, this time for “Fuego.”

“Fuego” versions from the summer were mixed. Some extended out to long jams, others were played more close to the vest. This one was less of a Fuego and more of a Prius as it took a hybrid approach. The final chorus was never sung as another intriguing space jam was formed. This one was given a little more room to breathe, but again perhaps ended a tad soon as “Light” started.


© Phish From the Road

The fast funk jam that followed led to somewhere interesting. For the second straight night, Phish covered a Talking Heads song and once again turned the tempo away from their usual pace and closer to the original. Eugene’s “Crosseyed and Painless” was slowed down and Seattle’s “Cities” was sped up. It was an interesting take for Phish, hearing them play the song like that. It wasn’t as fast at the original – or Mike’s solo versions – but showed something different, improvisation that didn’t come out of a jam but instead from an arrangement choice.

If the night could be said to have a theme, it perhaps was made clear during the “Sand.” One of Phish’s strengths of the past few years was to be able create these uplifting jams of effortless beauty. They’d built and penetrate your mind and soul and body and make it impossible to do much else but dance euphorically. The “Sand” started that approach. Trey found an amazing riff. The rest of the band joined in. This was going to be it, the one moment of the night where the Key Arena totally exploded. Just as it was getting there, “Backwards Down the Number Line” started up. And while it was a great version with a strong mid song break, it also pointed out what could have been.

Just like last year, Phish and the Seahawks’ had interweaving. Instead of the easy good times of 2013, this was a bit more frustrating. However, even if things weren’t quite working to full effect, there still were the glimpses and moments that pointed to brighter days to come. Not every day is going to be the best. Maybe this set will get few re-listens, but – much like the early season for the Hawks – there are hopeful signs that show that the better nights of this town have potential to be epic. Phish playing Seattle, fans taking over Seattle Center, some nice peaks and Phish playing some favorite songs – these are their own rewards.

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Sunday 10/20/2013 by zzyzx

HAMPTON 2: SHARING THE GERMS

The last three times Phish have played the Coliseum have all come under extraordinary events. First Phish came back from their hiatus in the 2002/3 inverse New Years Run. Right before breaking up, they added a final indoor show in 2004, one with an amazing first set and a second that was… less so. When they returned again, the USS Hampton was once again the venue of choice. With all of the focus on death and rebirth, there hasn’t been a chance to just play a run of shows here. Finally 2013 delivers normal shows. Demand is down, everyone can get in, expectations are low (which – of course – leads to the inverse expectation game that makes expectations high because they were previously so low), it’s time for a normal run in an abnormal venue.

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Wednesday 08/17/2011 by zzyzx

CAROLINA TAB SHOWS ADDED

Two new Trey shows have just been added. Announced on Trey's and Phish's facebook pages, TAB will now also be playing at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, NC on October 6 and the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC the following night. There will be a pre-sale beginning Friday at 10 AM (EDT) at http://treytickets.rlc.net .

Nothing could be finer...

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Wednesday 08/10/2011 by zzyzx

THE CHANGES OF 3.0

One of the things that makes 3.0 feel like older Phish is that it's been evolving. Look back to the first era of Phish. We had the early years where no one knew how songs were going to go - "Fluffhead" and "The Divided Sky" took pieces from other songs to make their final versions - or even who was going to be in the band. Then we had the slow rise of the band as a touring outfit in the early 90s. This led to two distinct peaks in 95 and 97, revolving around different styles. The last thing that could be considered a change would be the addition of the Trey band songs and their groove based jams in 99. Since then Phish kind of felt like the same band. Sometimes they jammed more (2004), sometimes the songs were better played, but between 98 and 04, the change was pretty subtle. They played the same songs - with a large catalog, you couldn't take it over with new songs (giving a show a different feel) the way you could when the Rift songs came out - in the same venues in a fairly similar style. There was some truth to Trey's nostalgia band comments around the time of the breakup. It felt like there was no new direction to go.

That was a question for Phish’s return. Where – if anywhere – could they go to make music different from what they have done in the past? They took the Choose Your Own Adventure approach, retreating back to the last safe spot before all of the disasters happened. 2009 feels closer to 1992-3 stylistically than anything else. What’s been making it exciting is that the rules have been changing. Remastering the songs first led to subtle improvisational changes (e.g. the end of “Prince Caspian” being surprising in many 2010 versions) and then became the goofy mashup stylings of Fall 2010, where they could play two or three songs interlaced with each other.

We’re just getting used to Song Based Jamming, but the rules are changing again. In the four shows since Superball IX, two of them have featured a jam based on the style of the “Storage Jam.” It’s starting to look like that late night jam might be one of the defining moments of the band, along the lines of how playing Remain in Light started the cowfunk revolution. It’s a new style of playing, one that at least will define the end of summer 2011. Maybe it’ll be done before Colorado, maybe we’ll be hearing jams in this style in 2029. Right now we have absolutely no way of knowing; that by itself is incredibly exciting.

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Sunday 07/03/2011 by zzyzx

A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE 4TH SET

Ball Square has a building labeled USA storage. It has 4 sides, each with some doors. Some of them were open over the weekend for various art thingies.

After the show What Cheer played by one of the sides, drawing people in. Then a lot of mist came out of the roof of the building. And then a guy on stilts in a patriotic outfit started walking around.

Then after all of the lights at Ball Square went out and an announcement went out over the PA that the power was out and therefore the factories would no longer be able to make their product, which is the ultimate product. Then for some reason I didn't quite get, it suddenly worked and a box was handed to the stilt guy who put it on a ramp which carried it up to the roof of the building and dropped it over. Sometime during all of this, music started playing over the PA and after a few minutes it became apparent that it was Phish. Doors opened so we could see inside, but all we could see was silhouettes due to screens blocking our view as the band member you could see from your side played; each one had their own house, so to speak.

The jam went on for an hour or so, started out very dark and mainly effects based, but sometimes Floyd-esque. There's an amazing 4-5 minute section about a half hour in that really does sound like Pink Floyd. It then went into another sound effects jam before they started playing the most bizarre version of Sleeping Monkey ever.

There was a lot of confusion going around with people thinking that they chose the wrong spot to stand in - no one could move to a different side since due to the location of the secret set, What Cheer attracting people, the timing of the set (not long after the show) and the rumor getting out, it was easily the best attended secret set (note that the Lemonwheel 4th set was not secret. It was announced from the stage) - because their view was blocked, not knowing that that was true for everyone. Moreover the speakers were surrounding the building in a circle, pointing in, making it sound like the music was coming from behind the crowd instead of in front of them, a very surreal effect.

It was very weird and very cool, easily the highlight of the weekend so far.

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Friday 01/28/2011 by zzyzx

PHISH AND DMB THIS SUMMER?

Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard tweeted this:

DMB & Pearl Jam or DMB & Phish?”

The funny thing is that both Phish fans and Pearl Jam fans have been tweeted back “Pearl Jam.”  The rumor mill is suggesting that this is perhaps for Watkins Glen, the proposed AC festival, or (please let this not be so and let us have a real run there) the Gorge.  It’s interesting if nothing else.

http://twitter.com/SLessard/status/30959951086100480

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Friday 01/28/2011 by zzyzx

PHISH W/ DMB THIS SUMMER?

Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard tweeted this:

“DMB & Pearl Jam or DMB & Phish?”

The funny thing is that both Phish fans and Pearl Jam fans have been tweeted back “Pearl Jam.” The rumor mill is suggesting that this is perhaps for Watkins Glen, the proposed AC festival, or (please let this not be so and let us have a real run there) the Gorge. It’s interesting if nothing else.

http://twitter.com/SLessard/status/30959951086100480

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Friday 12/10/2010 by zzyzx

PHISH TO PPV WEBCAST MSG!

Wow, this is something that people talked about but now the band is actually doing. I hope there's enough interest in this that we can have webcasts for summer tour. Perhaps time to invest in a better TV so I can hook my computer up to it.

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Friday 11/19/2010 by zzyzx

IDEA, IDEA (ANOTHER IDEA) AND SANITY

I once knew a woman with a weird problem. Apparently her brain chemistry was such that her normal condition was that of someone on LSD. Jokes aside, this was not a fun thing for her at all. Normally she was blissfully unaware of her issues and would just tell her surreal stories and try to do her work as best as possible but every now and then she'd have a moment of clarity. She had goals that would never be realized because she was stuck in this weird internal world and there was nothing that she could do about it. The release of "Idea (Another Idea)" as a Mossbonus track caused me to think about her.

"Idea" by itself just seems to be one of Mike's weird songs. There's surreal imagery and the like but nothing too out of the ordinary, well if you ignore the line, "And I see you yelling and I don't know why." It's easy to miss that with all of the wacky imagery. I wrote the song history and never really noticed it despite pouring over the lyrics to figure out what it's about.

"Idea (Another Idea)" is the flip of "Idea" that takes that line as the core. It's the moment of clarity, admitting that, "Don't care what I leave behind/When I get caught up this way." The first two verses all seem to be about the struggle to cope. "Idea"'s "I've been lost," gets morphed into "I've been wrong," (and the concern is to stop messing it up instead of the weirder stacking it up) as he talks about his desperate attempts to stay off of the slippery slope into his delusions. It's a repeated motif - "I've rejoined the human race," the moment is one last strand of grace - but one that is doomed for failure. By the end of the song, we're back to surrealism.

While I doubt Mike had the thought of someone fighting with their sanity in mind when he wrote these two tracks (without my personal history, I never would have thought of it myself), it works as an interpretation. What was a goofy little song now comes across as rather bleak, but also rather powerful. It's too bad that the track is only an iTunes and Amazon bonus track, as it changes the one song that Phish have played off of the disc. Thankfully, it's available for only the 99 cent charge (as opposed to requiring a purchase of the entire album) and it's streaming on Relix: http://www.relix.com/audio/relix-radio/2010/11/16/mike-gordon-idea-another-idea-version

Moss is definitely a project where the bonus tracks have been interesting.

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Saturday 10/23/2010 by zzyzx

MOSS REMIXES!

Mike just loves doing weird little projects that fall below the radar. First there was the "Joey Arkenstat" album Bane (and if you don't own that, you really should. It's a weird 50 minute continuous track that ventures into interesting places), then there was the "Birth of the Universe" track, and now there's a new one on Live Phish: Moss Remixes.

A 24 minute selection of (mostly) instrumentals that build off of aspects of songs onMoss, this is pretty interesting. It's melodic, dark at times, pretty at others and is a perfect little spin for a quiet morning. Not only that, but it's absolutely free! I can't promise everyone will love it, but if you're a fan of Mike, what's the downside?

http://www.livephish.com/music/0,586/Mike-Gordon-mp3-flac-download-Moss--The-Remixes.html

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Monday 10/18/2010 by zzyzx

THE HALLOWEEN RUMOR MILL

So we're two weeks out now and people are starting to look for clues. There's no album game to play this year, so here's what people are speculating about. Since I don't know anything, I can just play along.

Rumor: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/Selling England by the Pound - Genesis

Source: The image of a Halloween ticket really looks a lot like a random poster for a Philly Genesis poster

Case For: Those are rather similar images. Remember how they had a banana image for the calendar when they did Loaded? There was a hint! Also TLLDoB has been rumored for 98 and was a finalist last year.

Case Against: The Dog Faced Boy is also very similar to a standard image of the guy. Also it's not exactly an image associated with Genesis; few people knew about that random poster before a week ago. Musically, it has the issue of being an unknown entity for the fans whereas they usually try to have one or two songs that everyone would know.

Rumor: A Night at the Opera - Queen


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Tuesday 10/05/2010 by zzyzx

HOW THE LP FREE DOWNLOADS WILL WORK

Live Phish just sent out an email explaining the free mp3s. Any ticket stub, be it Ticketmaster, PTBM, or the weird things Tickethorse has are eligible. You just type in the bar code number and that will unlock a download.

This leads two interesting possibilities. The first is that it’s likely a trading forum of some sort will open up. Mel and I both have 10/10/10 but we only need one download. You and your husband both have 10/29/10. Want to swap a code, one for one? I bet there will be all sorts of trading of codes. It’ll be a fun little thing to do. You could use it as a currency for informal gambling on games or a way of doing someone a favor. It’s the sort of thing that will bind the community closer together as an unintended consequence.


The flip of that though is that some people will take advantage. Yeah I’ll sell you my extra but I’ll cash in your bar code first so it’s not quite worth as much. Hopefully not too many people will play that game. If done right, all sorts of fun things could happen.

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Monday 05/31/2010 by zzyzx

TIME TO REVISIT PTBM'S SHIPPING POLICIES

When Phish returned at Hampton, waiting until two weeks out before shipping tickets made a lot of sense. It made scalping slightly more difficult and then anything that did that was a good thing. However 2009 has become 2010. Far from being a popular thing to scalp, people are now lucky if they can get face value for their extras for most nights.

The delay can definitely cause issues. If you get a partial tour fill, tickets could come when you’re already on the road. When you send tickets out this close to showtime, it doesn’t take much of a shipping delay to cause issues. And while scalping is something worthy of stopping, plans can fall through. The shows you think you’re going to in March might not be your actual June plan. Selling tickets to friends for face has always been part of the Phish community and that also is made more difficult by the delays.

Yes, the intent was good, but the problems outweigh the advantages. Free the tickets! Let Fed Ex packages fly!

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Tuesday 05/18/2010 by zzyzx

INTRODUCING THE PHISHSTATS FACEBOOK PAGE

In an attempt to bring Phish Stats to the 21st century, there now is a Facebook page. The goal is to have a new blurb (limited to the 420 characters of an update) somehow related to Phish Stats every work day except for when Phish is touring, then the last 3 times played update will run.

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Sunday 05/02/2010 by zzyzx

PHISH 3D REVIEW

I get asked sometimes why I continue to read Phantasy Tour despite all of the negativity there. I have a few standard answers: there’s information there that you can’t really get elsewhere, there are some very good threads if you know which threads/people to ignore, but there is another reason that makes it worthwhile. Sometimes the negative reviews reset your expectations.

The reviews of Phish 3D on PT were largely bad. Between the endless complaints about the song selection and the jump cut editing, I went in expecting to see the Coventry “Glide” on endless repeat with the camera switching every tenth of a second. As a result, there was no way I could have been disappointed.


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Monday 04/26/2010 by zzyzx

IF I TOLD YOU

Shuffle play can reveal some interesting things sometimes. This Party Time track just came up at work and I thought it was Akron/Family or something. Between the production, the weird drums, the bizarre keys, the chanting style of singing, and the complete lack of anything sounding like Trey’s guitar anywhere on the track, this is a unique song for Phish.

If you’ve never looked at the credits, this is a Page track. Maybe it was Vida Blue or the Spam All Stars or his solo band that inspired such a song, but this does show what the side projects are accomplishing. I wouldn’t want every song to sound like this, but as a change of pace, it’s fascinating.

This is why it’s kind of sad that Party Time was just released as a bonus disc on the box set. Between this, “Gone,” “In a Misty Glade,” and “Splinters of Hail,” Phish accomplish some things that they haven’t on any other album. Unfortunately, it will always be considered a novelty disc, and not the intriguing album that it is. Even “Let Me Lie” has an interesting arrangement. Maybe it was the freedom of just being a goofy release that let Phish put out these bizarre tracks, in the same way that the soundcheck jams are sometimes more interesting than anything that the show produces, but more of this please!

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Thursday 12/31/2009 by zzyzx

12/30 IMMEDIATE REACTION

 

There are three ways a Phish show can be spectacular - there can be interesting jams and otherwise unique versions of songs, there can be rare songs played, and there can be funny band/fan interaction.  Tonight had all three, which makes it really special.

Rare songs, I think we all know what those are.  Two debuts - including “Gone” which I was really hoping for - and then the return of the much lamented “Tela.”  Fan interaction?  Well there was the subtle game playing of breaking the 240 record that was going on for those who were in the know, and then there was the more obvious fact that they blerping brought a fan on stage to play the vacuum.   And then they gave him it!  Throw in a really nice “Sand” jam, an amazing “GBOTT,” and the “Run Like a Reggae Woman,” and you have the unique versions criteria met.

I don’t think there’s any way this show won’t be praised to the heavens.  There’s a reason for that though.  The easiest way of knowing a show was great was to ask people after the show what they thought.  A good show would have people saying mostly positive things, but a great show, one of THOSE nights?  Well when you ask someone what they thought about those, they just laugh or can’t be coherent or bitch about something just as a joke.   Walking out of the AAA, that was the reaction….

…and tonight is New Years’ Eve.  I can’t imagine they’ll top last night, but I can’t wait to see them try!

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Thursday 12/31/2009 by zzyzx

12/30 IMMEDIATE REACTION

There are three ways a Phish show can be spectacular - there can be interesting jams and otherwise unique versions of songs, there can be rare songs played, and there can be funny band/fan interaction. Tonight had all three, which makes it really special.

Rare songs, I think we all know what those are. Two debuts - including "Gone" which I was really hoping for - and then the return of the much lamented "Tela." Fan interaction? Well there was the subtle game playing of breaking the 240 record that was going on for those who were in the know, and then there was the more obvious fact that they blerping brought a fan on stage to play the vacuum. And then they gave him it! Throw in a really nice "Sand" jam, an amazing "GBOTT," and the "Run Like a Reggae Woman," and you have the unique versions criteria met.

I don't think there's any way this show won't be praised to the heavens. There's a reason for that though. The easiest way of knowing a show was great was to ask people after the show what they thought. A good show would have people saying mostly positive things, but a great show, one of THOSE nights? Well when you ask someone what they thought about those, they just laugh or can't be coherent or bitch about something just as a joke. Walking out of the AAA, that was the reaction....

...and tonight is New Years' Eve. I can't imagine they'll top last night, but I can't wait to see them try!

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Thursday 12/10/2009 by zzyzx

THIS PLACE IS OF THE DARK

So I was just listening to “Gone” off of Party Time and I was trying to think of what the lyrically darkest Phish songs are. These are the ones that come to mind.

“Esther” - it might be just a little too goofy to qualify, but it’s a woman who accepts a random gift and finds her life spiraling downhill rapidly the second she takes it.

“Free” - only if you accept that this is a song about drowning your wife and then proclaiming your freedom.

“Dirt” - almost definitely about someone killing themselves, leaving behind a despondent person futilely shouting their name into the wind and wondering if they could have done more.

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Tuesday 12/08/2009 by zzyzx

IS 3.0 REALLY THAT MUCH MORE STANDARD?

I've been arguing back and forth about this for a while. I feel that 2009 is pretty much a standard year for Phish. No it's not 1995 or 1997, but if you throw those years out, there's little to complain about with 2009.

People's perceptions are skewed because 2.0 was very atypical and no one listens to the average 1.0 shows so the exceptional shows seemed closer to the average than they ever were. Tape trading used to be annoying enough that no one had every show right after it was played, so again people only tracked down the exceptional. With a few exceptions, if you listened to every night of any tour, you'd hear a whole bunch of standard shows and the 3 or 4 standouts.

When's the last time you listened to the spring 1994 run up and down I-5, other than maybe 5/27/94? How often does summer 99 make it into your rotation? Hell, I saw a 6 show run in fall 95 that had a pretty good "Harry Hood" and the only "Keyboard Army (Reprise)."

No, 2009 hasn't been the best year in Phish's history. However, I think you can make a case that it's in the top 5. It's definitely behind 95 and 97 and 94. 2003 is probably better as it had the 2004 jams but didn't quite fall into flub world. After that though, any other year is pretty arguable.

Phish came back after a 5 year break and played shows that were more consistently interesting than most of their career and people focus on the fact that they aren't at the peak of their powers. I don't understand that, but I'm someone who saw 14 shows of Phish in 1990, so I guess I can put up with average shows better than most.

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Monday 12/07/2009 by zzyzx

JOY ARRIVES!

Believe it or not…my Joy Box just arrived!

David Steinberg, www.ihoz.com, via email 12/7/09


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