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Link Sunday, 11/01/2009
Empire Polo Club, Indio, CA

Set 1: Water in the Sky[1], BOTTBack on the Train[1], Brian and Robert[1], Invisible[2], Strange Design[1], MistMountains in the Mist[1], Curtain WithThe Curtain With[1], Army of One[1], Sleep Again[2], MSOMy Sweet One[3], Let Me Lie[1], Bouncin'Bouncing Around the Room[1], Train Song[1], Wilson[1] > McGruppMcGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters[1]

Encore: Driver[1], Talk[1], Secret Smile[1]

Set 2: BagAC/DC Bag > Rift, JibbooGotta Jibboo, Heavy Things, Reba[4], WedgeThe Wedge, GuelahGuelah Papyrus, Undermind, Sparkle, SOAMeltSplit Open and Melt

Set 3: Tweezer -> Maze, Free, Sugar Shack, LxLLimb By Limb, ThemeTheme From the Bottom > Mike'sMike's Song > 2001Also Sprach Zarathustra > Light > SlaveSlave to the Traffic Light

Encore: Grind, Esther, TweepriseTweezer Reprise

[1] Acoustic.
[2] Acoustic; Phish debut.
[3] Acoustic. Fish whistled his solo.
[4] No whistling.

Noteworthy Jams: Back on the Train, The Curtain With, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Undermind, Light

Average Song Gap: 13.36

Performers: Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon

Notes: This show was part of the three-show Festival 8. The first set, which started at noon, was billed as Phish's "first full-length acoustic set" (complete with complimentary coffee and Festival 8 themed donuts). The first set featured Trey and Mike on acoustics, Page solely on piano, and a unique stage setup that had Fishman stage right with Page on the far left. Before Brian and Robert, Trey encouraged the crowd to sit down due to the "mellow" nature of the set; he added that they had never before played to a crowd that was sitting. Whether the crowd should stand up or sit down became a running joke throughout the set, until Trey confessed during Wilson that he only asked the crowd to sit down at the request of the crew and, in fact, he hates telling people what to do (and also hates sitting down). This show marked the Phish debuts of Invisible and Sleep Again. Fishman performed a whistle solo on My Sweet One. The band briefly left the stage after McGrupp, returning to encore with Driver, Talk, and Secret Smile. Reba lacked the whistling ending. Trey took a moment before Tweeprise to thank those who helped put on the festival.

Links:
LivePhish Download LivePhish Download

Song Distribution:
5 Farmhouse
4 Undermind
4 Billy Breathes
4 Rift
4 Lawn Boy
3 The Story of the Ghost
3 Stash
3 A Picture of Nectar
2 Joy
2 The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday
2 The White Tape
1 Party Time
1 Junta

Songs by Debut Year:

waxbanks , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
waxbanks The acoustic set is delicious - songs like Army of One, McGrupp, and Curtain With(!!) really come alive in this stripped-down setting. For fans it's a must-hear for historical reasons, but it's also surprising evidence that the band could just do acoustic shows if they wanted to, and still make a fine living. Lovely.

Set 2 is a weird, rocky thing. Bag through Heavy Things is a superb run of tight/loose tunes, then things go a little haywire. There's some tension in Reba - Trey pushes for a fast tempo in the opening but the band holds back, and though 'the chase' is fine, the transition into the jam is a trainwreck. The resulting jam is equally tense, not gelling as it normally does - check out Fish's weirdly standoffish middle-school drumming in the first half of the jam. Trey's playing on Reba through Melt led some listeners to believe he'd fallen off the wagon, an uncharitable assumption...in any case, Wedge and Guelah are eerily bad, Undermind is astonishingly good (because Trey goes absolutely batshit during the jam, driving the whole thing to new heights of intensity), and Melt is a weird hear-it-to-understand nightmare. It's hard to rate this set; it's worth hearing but I don't know how often I'll listen to anything but that blistering Undermind.

Apparently a conversation took place between sets 2 and 3!

The band goes deep right away: a big bold echt-2009 Tweezer segues slyly into a huge Maze. Fishman is a *monster* on these first tunes - he drives the segue into Maze, which he singlehandedly turns into a must-hear version. It's a standard thrilling 2009 Free, all bass bombs and barroom funk, though I seem to recall the return-to-song chords being a little shaky at first. The boys pull it together and pretty much *nail* the vocals on the way back, thank heavens. After a riotous Sugar Shack we get a celebratory LxL and compact Theme (again, forceful vocals).

Some fans thought Mike's Song might not show up at all, but it arrived with bells on in the middle of this final set, with a big surprise waiting after the closing chords: 2001. It's a cheeky midtempo version, very Page-centric (like so many of the weekend's best jams), and clears the way for the deep-space jam of the weekend, the darkest Light of the year. That setlist should real Light > Jam > Slave; the transitional passage between the two songs is really its own creature, fully seven minutes long. Slave is what you'd hope: patient, delicate, cathartic.

And that encore? As good as it looks, with Grind containing - by the way - its steadiest 'for a grand total of...' section yet.

11/1/09 III is an immediate contender for set of the year, though I'd go with the most abstract late-summer stuff first. But it's a Fenway-style late-night blowout with better jamming, including that one transcendent run of songs that otherwise very fine shows like Fenway are missing. Sets 1 and 3 are the ones to get if you're stingy with hard drive space, though you ought to make room for that Undermind as well.
Score: 10
kflinn1 , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
At its core, Vermont jam band Phish is a fascinating blend of dichotomies - serious and silly, focused yet erratic, sublime while stumbling - all of which adds to the don't-you-dare-miss-a-single-show mentality that pervades its fan base. Phish-heads turn out in droves wherever the band schedules dates because they know that somewhere in the midst of those dichotomies will be one (or many) shining moments that will keep them coming back, again and again.

Yet, on Sunday, the final day of the band's Festival 8 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, all sides of Phish were on display for the estimated 40,000 attendees.

EXHIBIT A: THE ACOUSTIC SET

The day began with Phish's first all-acoustic set since back-to-back nights at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit in 1998. While coffee and figure-8-shaped donuts were distributed, the band members took their (unusual) places - on opposite sides of the stage than normal, with a smaller kit for drummer Jon Fishman, a lone grand piano instead of the arsenal of keyboards employed by Page McConnell and a stool apiece for bassist Mike Gordon and guitarist Trey Anastasio.

Early in the 90-minute set, Anastasio suggested the audience sit instead of stand, as the band would be "playing a bunch of mellow songs." Eager to please their shaggy, bespectacled icon, the majority of fans did just that for the better part of the set. While the gesture was one of respect for the band and its music, it contributed to a chatty crowd; that usually isn't a problem during an electric Phish performance, but on Sunday morning it proved an unfortunate distraction.

Loquaciousness aside, Phish's selections walked the line between the safe and standard ("Water in the Sky," "Driver") and the more adventurous and rearranged ("The Curtain With," "McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters"). The latter two shone as examples of what Phish can do when the band members put their noses to the proverbial grindstone and actually practice (another stellar example being the previous night's front-to-back cover of the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St.).

Towards the end of the acoustic set, Anastasio chopped out the four-note intro to "Wilson," and as the audience chanted back, he and Gordon leapt to their feet (with the crowd following instantly thereafter) - and the sit-down portion of the show was officially over. Anastasio even apologized mid-song for asking everyone to take a seat, confessing that his own attention-deficit personality makes it hard for him to sit still. If that doesn't scream dichotomy, nothing does.

EXHIBIT B: THE SECOND SET

After a nearly three-hour break, Phish returned to the stage for an 80-minute electric set marked by a number of its more challenging songs, ones with odd time signatures, stop-on-a-dime changes and complicated arrangements. With the exception of a relatively rare Fishman flub halfway through the rigid-then-relaxed "Reba," Phish mostly nailed the rickety twists and turns of "Rift" and the swinging, fugue-like portions of "Guelah Papyrus" (all songs written in the first decade of the band's existence).

How do these examples fit the binary nature of the band?

Well, to be fair, they're not the most complicated songs Phish has written - "Divided Sky" and "Fluffhead" both made well-executed appearances on Saturday - but they're excellent examples of tunes that the band shied away from in its "post-hiatus" years of 2002-04, avoided mostly because the daily practice-practice-practice mentality that earned Phish its stripes early on seemed to fall by the wayside during those years.

Ever since Phish's return to touring this past March, there's a distinct focus on nailing many of these difficult compositions, as though the band members fully understand that they indeed have something to prove. This take-no-prisoners approach is vastly different (at least on the surface) than the happy-go-lucky young guns who rose to the jam band promontory in the '90s.

EXHIBIT C: THE FINAL SET

Beginning with the syncopated throaty funk of "Tweezer" and finishing with the ascendant peak of "Slave to the Traffic Light," Phish fired on nearly all cylinders during its concluding set. Here, the dichotomy lay in the vastly differing styles of songs that comprised the nearly two-hour finale, as the band moved from the aquatic, slip-sliding "Free" through the oddly timed polyrhythms of "Sugar Shack" and "Limb by Limb" to the disco-tinged delight of their cover of Deodato's "2001" theme.

The highlight of the set (perhaps the day, perhaps the whole weekend) was the late-set arrival of "Light," a cathartic epistle in which the band claims "the light is growing brighter now" and begs to "guide us to our goal / purify our souls." On the recently released Joy, "Light" begins with 80 seconds of plush ambience before storming through another three-minutes-plus of straight-ahead rock `n' roll. On Sunday night, Phish reversed the formula: Anastasio strummed the opening chords to "Light" as the closing cacophony of "2001" died out; here, the space opened up after the main thrust of the song ended.

As McConnell moved from piano to organ to synthesizer, and the jam out of "Light" grew heavier and spacier, a towering wall of diode-carrying balloons arose from the side of the stage, fluttering in flashy hues of blue, orange and pink. Eventually, the jam folded in upon itself just as fluidly as the balloon structure eventually sank back to earth, accompanied by washes of synthesizer, beating toms and volume swells.

This bizarre blend of scintillating arena-rock and gutsy atmospheric turbulence serves as a pronounced example of the new Phish, its latent dichotomous nature, and how the band best serves its two halves just as those halves serve the band. Like the set-closing "Slave to the Traffic Light," it's a ponderous lesson in group dynamics. Hearing loud and rowdy give way to gentle and delicate (or the other way around), seeing all smiles even when someone flubs a particularly difficult change, or feeling the way through a kinda-first-time outing on acoustic instruments, it's all what makes Phish's shining moments easier to find than miss.
Score: 4
Feetoid , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
Feetoid The acoustic set was like Phish Sunday school, complete with Mr. Anastasio telling us to sit down and Mr. Gordon getting us on our feet. I felt like a kid at camp being a part of it, good times. My first ever Bouncing came in acoustic form which was also cool. 27 shows no Bouncing, it was long overdue. Before the set I watched my Bears dominate on the big screen with an impressive turnout of "Bears phans". It was refreshing to chat amongst such a large group of fellow Chicagoans now that I'd lived in LA for a year.

As far as the 2nd set goes the Reba wreck stands out in my mind which is a bummer. I'm a huge SOAM fan so simply hearing it makes me happy. The beginning of the uptempo jam section really got me dancing, just as it always does.

The 3rd set definitely consists of the DEEP PHISH variety. Prior to seeing a 3.0 show a friend of mine who'd just seen em said, "Its still Phish, just a half beat slower." Now that I'd seen this, I knew exactly what he was talking about. This set was deep just like deep house is deep. Extreme attention to detail, slower tempos, dark textures, a seemingly underwater sound at times, the perfect set to watch with your friend Molly. It was the bonus/reward set for the heads that stuck around (a lot of weekend warriors missed it). Tweezer->Maze kept my uptempo energy left over from the SOAM closer going. Free rocked in euphoric fashion as it always does since the first hiatus. Sugar Shack was snuck in there for obvious reasons but I didn't mind, especially since it was followed by LBL. Mike's included a deep & dancey 2001 which led to an amazing Light that brought me back to my first epic Light at the Gorge. This "desert Light" however, had a white hot Kuroda presence that I haven't seen since. Musically I'd say BGCA III 2012 is the best Light I've seen, but this one comes pretty damn close and stands out as THE Light that really made me excited to hear this jam vehicle in the future. The rest is gravy.

All in all a great weekend. I'd love to see them here again, perhaps at Coachella which everyone in LA says would never happen (I say fuck that). I've never been, but I'd go for Phish and just to see the looks on all the slack jawed hipsters faces...melting.
Score: 2
minnie , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
It was my first Phish show and all I have to say is "Oh My God"!

I had no expectations and the guys did a great job. The whole festival crew was amazing and basically I was amazed to the max.

Thank god for music, Trey, Mike, Page and Fishman. I got hooked at Phish.
Score: 0
enigs , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
Best birthday ever.
Score: 0
aarong , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
Acoustic set rocked, set 2 was amazing - lots of old school fun. 3rd set was loved by many, but they played a trifecta of songs that I don't care for - free, limb by limb and Theme. So that was a rest session after a very awesome weekend.
Score: 0
phishhead802 , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
phish fest was the most amazing experience i have ever been too!! props to the fellow 802er's who went on that journey it was well worth it... i love phish.
Score: 0
neyney77 , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
Set 1: very sweet crisp sound. I could eat that stuff forever.
Set 2: starts great up till Reba. Sad too, it was the one I was waiting all weekend for ;) Oh well live goes on. Undermind get an A.
Set 3: Set to remember to download. Mikes->Slave....Sick, Sick, Sick!!!
Encore: Grind? No weekapaug? Oh well Phish is back and we gona rock!
Score: 0
MiguelSanchez , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
MiguelSanchez this is a pretty solid show. i thought the acoustic set would go one of two ways. either it would be just typical slower phish songs or it would be amazing. i would say that it definitely leaned toward the standard issue slow songs, but I will say mcgrupp and the curtain with are very impressively done. the curtain with, in particular, is very cool. wilson also worked well.

the second set never really got there. I know it was the first electric set, but one would hope that it would have the second set feel. melt and jibboo both have some nice exploration. papyrus is a nice treat too. otherwise, this is somewhat of a missable set.

the tweezer>maze that starts the 3rd set is very nice. trey owns the tweezer and page nails the maze. there were a lot of hot mazes in '09, and this is one of them. i think i still like alpine's and shoreline's better, but this one is a doozy too. free keeps the momentum going. sugar shack and limb by limb don't really fit well here, in my opinion, but theme from the bottom starts to bring it back around. mike's song is nice and rocking before spacing out into 2001. this is a good strong version of this tune. light is an interesting little tune. i really don't like the song, but i love the jams they pull out of this one. I saw a great one in cincy, and the gorge from the summer was really nice. this one though, might be my favorite thus far. trey has some really nimble playing here as they slowly work their way into a very focused slave. if you like esther, you'll like this encore. personally, i think it is somewhat missable.

highlights

set 1:
the curtain with, wilson>mcgrupp

set 2:
jibboo, papyrus, reba, melt

set 3:
tweezer>maze, mike's>2001>light>slave
Score: 0
muchado , attached to 2009-11-01 Permalink
muchado man festival 8 was so beautiful.

this is the last day of the festival and it began in the early morning or afternoon with this chilled out acoustic set on a sunday. i can't remember the set time, but seeing as they served coffee and donuts it must have been before noon. maybe not though considering the night before was halloween and they played pretty late.

i just wanted to say that i love this acoustic set. sure it could have been crazier, but let's focus on the gems that are here. "invisible" is a mike gordon & leo kottke tune that got the one and done treatment from phish here. too bad as this is a really fun tune, almost calypso. at the festival site the skyline was beautiful mountains so "mountains in the mist" was just perfect for this set and setting. "curtain with" is the highlight of the set. love how it is tucked into acoustic set considering the last time it was played at a festival (coventry). "sleep again" a trey solo tune sneaks into this set and is unique treat. "train song" acoustic is meant to be played this way along with the other "billy breathes" album era "talk" (a song that is rarely played and is perfect here). "mcgrupp and the watchful hosemasters" is the other huge highlight here, completely unexpected. while many of the songs in here are beautiful ballads "secret smile" is just absolutely gorgeous here and filled with brimming emotion.

set 3 "the burble" came out for "light", a very alien jam, but before that chris kuroda choreographed the ending of "mike's song" with a pyrotechnic show from the the huge tiki torches on the concert grounds. it was just a memorable moment seeing the phish crowd in being lit up each time a flame shot out with all the shadows and highlights that comes with being under giant balls of fire.

seeing as this was a halloween festival obviously in fall "esther" was the perfect encore to end the festival. "it was late one fall night, at a fairgrounds near ground..."
Score: 0

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