Vocals: Page, Trey (lead), Mike (backing)
Historian: Craig DeLucia, lumpblockclod
It's rare that Phish songs debut on New Year’s Eve. The first post-hiatus show on 12/31/02 was bound to be an exception, though, as Phish was sure to begin to integrate material from the then-recently released Round Room into the live concert rotation. “Seven Below” charged out of the gates in the third set, not only as a debut, but as the musical and visual centerpiece of the New Year’s spectacle. Given that the only other song to make its debut following the traditional performance of "Auld Lang Syne" on New Year's Eve was the jam segment of "Down With Disease," it seemed clear that the band had big plans for "Seven Below."
Indeed, “Seven Below” became an instant fan-favorite and seemed to herald the new, post-hiatus sound. The main guitar lick, which recalls the best of legends like Fripp and Eno, proved as infectious as anything Phish has ever written. That lick stuck in the heads (and dancing feet) of many fans through all of the Phish 2.0 era. Structurally “Seven Below” is rather simple; sometimes, though, simplicity can breed one hell of a good time. Start with an intro based on that crazy-catchy lick, add a quick verse of lyrics, toss in a musical bridge driven by Page, then another run through that lick for good measure, and then witness an empty canvas on which to build improvisational beauty. The Round Room version returned to the central theme after the jam, and ended slightly askew with a bit of a laugh as if to chuckle at the future potential of that wide-open space. The first few live versions did not include the studio ending, although that tag first appeared on 7/10/03. Of the remaining versions, some included the return to the “-7” theme, while others remained unfinished in their trip through the frozen tundra of jam wilderness.
"Seven Below" – 2/16/03, Las Vegas, NV (Part 1)
"Seven Below" – 2/16/03, Las Vegas, NV (Part 2)
Phish proved throughout 2003 that, like an old circus act, they could move in and out of “-7” with the greatest of ease. Whether inside a “Disease” sandwich on 2/16/03 or out of “Halley’s Comet” on 7/27/03, or whether placed nicely inside a first set (7/31/03) or second (7/13/03), the appearance of “Seven Below” usually seemed to herald something memorable. 2/20/03 marked the first jam-fest standalone version, and a rare reprise of the lyrics. On 7/19/03, Phish wove that frozen texture of “Seven Below” into a jam that emerged from “Rock and Roll.” This was just a precursor to one of the most celebrated sets of 2003 – the third set of the first day of the IT Festival (8/2/03), where “-7” provided the glue between “Rock and Roll” and a monumental “Scents and Subtle Sounds.” Titanic versions of "Seven Below" continued into 2004 with 6/20/04 and 6/25/04 providing two of the strongest versions to date. Underscoring the song's importance to the 2003-04 era, "-7" was included in the presumed "final set" at Coventry. In all, “Seven Below” was played 17 times in 2003-04 – ten of those were either the centerpiece or a part of the central theme of a show’s second or third set. It’s not very often that a song emerges from the gates with such consistency and importance.
As the band adopted a more streamlined jamming style in the Phish 3.0 era, "Seven Below" was played less frequently, both in number of appearances and length. The song was played in just three of the first 41 shows of 2009, including the notable 8/2/09 Red Rocks version with Billy Kreutzmann on a second drum kit.
"Seven Below" – 8/2/09, Morrison, CO (Part 1)
"Seven Below" – 8/2/09, Morrison, CO (Part 2)
It seemed to be almost forgotten when it came roaring out of the gates to start the second set on 11/28/09 at Albany's I'll-Always-Call-It-The-Knickerbocker Arena, eventually giving way to a mammoth "Ghost" and forming what many consider to be the jamming highlight of 2009. While the 24-minute Albany version led to two additional performances that December, few "new crystals of snow" have been reported since. The song made only four appearances in 2010, and one of those (the three and a half minute 8/6/10 version) was really mere flurries. Still, it's reassuring to know "Seven Below" is not entirely forgotten, and the legendary Albany version shows that on any given night, its potential could be fulfilled.
You must be logged in to leave a comment!