Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

Originally Performed ByPhish
Appears On
Phish Debut2009-06-02
Last Played2023-07-23
Current Gap38
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty), lumpblockclod
Last Update2016-02-21


Whether you occupy the corner office on the upper floor of your corporate tower, a windowless cubicle in the tomb-like tilt-up at the downtrodden end of the industrial park, the cashier’s station at the local supermarket, or a stage in front of thousands of adoring fans... you probably have grown weary of your place in our wage slave society at one time or another. This is not where/what/who we planned to be when we grew up. Somewhere along the path to our personal “American Dream,” the plan has become faulty. We feel trapped, uninspired, bereft of joy, empty, and alone. However, thanks to the wonders of the Internets, e-mail, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, we no longer have to suffer alone. With a few keystrokes, we can share our pain with everybody. Such a situation is the origin of “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan.” 

“Got a blank space where my mind should be.”

"Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan" - 8/15/10, East Troy, WI, from the Alpine Valley 2010 DVD/CD

Listening to the first line of “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan,” it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think this song was a relic of the ‘80s written in the same vein as a song like “Sanity.” However, where the latter case of mindlessness drips with anarchistic psychedelia, the former is imbued with the empty despair that lies at the thoughtless core of workplace malaise.

“Got a CLIF Bar and some cold green tea.”

The second line reveals this as a more modern creation, from the early aughts. Written as an ode to the mid-morning snack that helped Tom Marshall get through his nine-to-five workday where he would “dream of being free,” a dream he would share via e-mail with his fellow desk jockey and songwriting companion Scott Herman, and ultimately realize by escaping from his solitary confinement. The song was written and first recorded in 2003 during the same session that produced “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.” This original demo, featuring a multi-track Trey playing all positions, is a funky groove that in parts is evocative of “Shakedown Street,” with a salsa beat. Inexplicably shelved and not included on Undermind, the song may have been lost forever when Phish parted ways in 2004. 

AUDIO: "Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan" - October 2003, The Barn, Vermont

During the Joy sessions in 2009, the old plan was unearthed and transformed into the more familiar power rock anthem version we know today. Perhaps the notion of being free struck a power chord with Trey, having recently endured his time in drug court and recovered from his days spent living a faulty plan. When weighed down with the demands of our keepers, we are well served to stand strong, go Galt, and simply shrug the weight of the world off our backs.

"Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan" - 6/17/11, Charlotte, NC

Phish debuted the song on the first night of a three show run at Jones Beach in June, 2009. Along the spectrum of Phish songs, “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” certainly tends toward the less experimental end. Nevertheless, the straight-ahead rock guitar that dominates the song has always left fans waiting for the version that will launch band and audience alike into the stratosphere. It hasn’t come yet, but the band must see the same potential, as “Stealing Time” – though normally a first set stalwart – has been a relatively frequent set closer. Conversely, there has also been the occasional show opener (6/6/09, 10/12/10, 12/28/12, 7/1/14, 10/29/14 and 1/1/16) and a single instance (8/8/11) where “STFTFP” served as part of an encore. Though not the song to turn to for wild improvisation, it has been played a few times in the second set where that kind of thing is more in keeping with the plan. Among these second set versions (6/18/10, 6/11/11, 7/3/11, 8/2/13 and 1/3/15) the 2013 performance at BGCA is the closest this song has to a "best version" to date. It has a particularly strong Type-I jam and an outro that flirts with leaving the song structure entirely. Alas...the power ripcord.

So if you are stuck in a rut at work, heed the words of Tyler Durden and remember that “You are not your job!” Dream the dream of being truly free, because “it’s only after we have lost everything, that we are free to do anything.”

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