from - From The Road - Super Ball IX

This set is so sick, that even though I wasn’t there I want to write about it.

Friday, 7.1.11 – Super Ball IX
Watkins Glen, NY

Set II

Crosseyed & Painless ->
Chalk Dust Torture
Sand >
The Wedge
Mike’s Song >
Simple >
Bug >
Horse > Silent
Weekapaug Groove
Joy >
Character Zero

E: Show of Life

They played a lot of damn music this weekend. And, as the NY Times reported, “there aren’t many rock bands anymore that can play for 13 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds over three days and genuinely leave those fans wanting more.”  I know the feeling!  I would love to review all 8 (7+1) sets of IX, but I’m settling for just this one.

The Crosseyed opener is sickeningly hot. This alone would make the whole set worth getting. Especially the intro to it (and the intro into the Chalkdust, too! For a second there it sounds like “Light”). In fact, one might argue that the proper notation for all this is:

Set II

Intro Jam ->
Crosseyed & Painless ->
“Go away from the Light” Jam ->
Chalk Dust Torture

Great stuff!

Of course Mike owns the Chalkdust. Listen for some really key bass fills from him in the verses, especially right as they head into the chorus each time.

Sand was very Sand-y. This one was slow (which is just normal now, I suppose) and laaaaaaaaaaid back. Sometimes Trey really aggressively goes after those licks, but this time there’s more full-band interplay in-between the “…you can heal the symptom…” vamping, Even from Fishman! Mike & Page get really bluesy mid-way through the jam, and this thing straight up SWINGS! For a long time, I missed that this swing style was lacking (or less at least) from Phish Sand vs. the ’99 Trio Trey Band Sand. Great truly great, inspired jamming in this version, too.

Sand kind of bleeds over into The Wedge (certainly not “->” and not really a “>” even) and I’ll say it again — love this tune. They should play it every night. But only when I’m there.

By the way, I really like this Sand. I keep rewinding* to it over & over again.

*yeah, rewinding. I like to get the No Spoilers recordings sometimes, because I have to listen to the entire set uninterrupted. Can’t just skip back a track. Just like a tape.  Remember tapes?  (apparently, even Maxell does not remember them…) Plus, AUDs are really freaking amazing now! Maybe because the only people left taping are the superstars who are well-educated masters of their craft, and who love the hell out of taping shows. There was a pretty good (and really long) article on the phishnet blog recently which interviewed two veteran tapers.

Mike’s was short but solid (Trey performed the instrumental equivalent of kicking Mike in the nuts to bring an abrupt end to this jam).

Simple is a song that asks us that age-old question, once pondered by paleolithic hominids: “What IS a band without skyscrapers?” The answer, of course, is “shit.” That band would be complete shit. But Phish HAS skyscrapers, rather obviously, and is therefore rescued from that terrible fate. They are, in fact, THE shit.

Not all Simples are good.  This one is pretty good, though.

from - From The Road - Super Ball IX

Another reason AUDs are cool because you can really perceive a shift in the jam. During the Simple, for example, at one point Page hits a chord on one of his effects-laden keyboards (the Moog, probably) and you can hear the crown react. Then you can hear the texture of the jam really change, and build from there. I listened to the SBD for comparison, and there really is no comparison. The AUD is infinitely better for this perspective. (The portion I’m talking about here is what immediately precedes the really cool ambient jam in this song…also, the AUDs are also much better for hearing Mike’s own ambiance during both of these portions.)

This jam clearly ended before Bug started (“Simple, Bug”).

Horse>Silent was interesting because Page accompanied Trey for the Horse intro, instead of Trey accompanying himself.

Weekapaug sounded like it was awesome, as per usual. Joy sounded nice.

Zero’d. Apparently, great sets end with a Zero. Really, they’re just multiplying everything by 10 when they add a Zero at the end. It’s a good rule-of-thumb when your dealing with rock n’ roll. Nice grunting from Fishman before the vocals come back in. Zero is great live, just was never my favorite set closer. The festival-sized sing-a-long on the outro is pretty cool, though: “AH! AH! AHHHHHH-OH!”

Trey says “thanks” not once, but twice! That’s more talking than we sometimes get in a whole 4-show run! (but then the 1988 storage shed story came on Sunday, and hopefully changed all that…)

Encore: Show of Life. Good encore.

Great set! I guess I really like the first half better than the second, but you really can’t argue with the flow here! I feel like the Bug, Horse>Silent (and Encore) were really nicely placed for those at the festival…no sense blowing your whole wad on the first night. But they blew enough of the wad to let people know that they were freakin’ serious about playing their Big Balls off the rest of the weekend, too.

By the way, on a slight tangent, Sunday’s version Big Balls is hilarious. It was just priceless hearing Fishman sing those lyrics.

Nothing is better with this band than when they’re totally lose & having fun. Are they the cleanest, most precise rock band in the history of live music? Well, certainly not at these moments (see the Alpharetta Birdwatcher>Kung). And sure, I do wish that I could have both all the time. But this festival was just a crap ton of fun and you can feel it in the music. Especially during the moments in-between the songs! Sometimes there’s a >, and sometimes there’s a full-on ->, but sometimes you just want to label Song One>Jam, Song Two. That’s really the best, right there. This was also true of these last leg 1 shows, although it was a quite a bit more so at Super Ball.

I hope that makes sense…sorry, where was I?  Oh yeah:  It’s truly unbelievable the amount of good music that came out of this past weekend….

from - From The Road - Super Ball IX


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