2009: The Year of Set-Closer > Set-Closer> Set-Cl….

Let’s take another reflective view of 2009 and how it was different from any other year.  Instead of focusing on the musical quality, let’s focus on song selection.  A lot of 2009 shows contained songs that normally are considered set-closers in the middle of sets or in a string of other set-closers to close a set. 

Sixteen of last year’s forty-eight shows had strings of set-closers or a closer with unusual placement.  Obviously, through Phish history they have played some of the following songs in succession, or out of it’s typical place–I am just saying it seemed to be a pattern in 2009.

It started at Hampton; in the past year, “Squirming Coil ” was good at eluding the closing spot (as you will see soon), on 3/6 the first set closed with “Squirming Coil, David Bowie”.  I know what you’re saying “no big deal, stop analyzing and enjoy yourself, maaan.”  Just keep reading.

Then the Summer Tour got under way-
On 6/6 the second set closed with two potential set-closers and an infrequent set-closer, “Harry Hood>Possum, Bug”.  Up until this point, Bug had only closed 4 times out of 40 times played.  I know, I know, you don’t care–just keep reading.
“Character Zero” is on of Phish’s strongest and most frequent set/show-closers.  On 6/7 in Camden, NJ, after a long and jam heavy second set(remember 6/7 “Sand”?) Trey starts “Character Zero”.  Everyone assume’s that’s the end of the show, but out of the song’s loud and rolling end comes Trey with the opening licks to “Tweezer”, before the rest of the band has finished “Character Zero”. Listen –   –Note: This Tweezer is in last place in the Tweezer poll on the right.  It’s an excellent Tweezer, it might not be on par with Red Rocks’ or Miami’s, but I’d say it’s close to Cincy’s (just my opinion).  It’s much different from the other three in the poll in that it’s extremely driven.  Right as the jam starts, Trey takes it in a specific direction and doesn’t lose focus.  It clocks in at about 17 minutes and comes to a pretty good peak, the first collective peak since Phish 3.0 had started which made it a huge deal for me.  People will laugh when I say this, but this Tweezer is better than the Sand earlier in the set, now back to the post–This would be the 2rd time out of the 225 or so times the song has surfaced that it would close a set, 6/18/04 at Keyspan Park being the only other time.  Now before this post turns into a 6/7/2009 review, let’s move on.  

-On 6/10 the first set closed with Squirming Coil, Character Zero, and the second set closed with the three headed closer: Julius>Cavern>Harry Hood (yes, I know that Julius opens a lot of shows, but when it doesn’t open, it often is a closer)
-On 6/14 at the Bonnaroo Music Festival, they played Character Zero> Tweezer in the middle of the first set (yep, another Character Zero>Tweezer, this Tweezer also have great direction but then Trey kills it out of nowhere and goes into The Horse–more on that in another post).  This is pretty odd considering ever since 1997 Character Zero’s job was pretty much to close sets and be an encore (taking after the “king set closer”, Cavern).
-Although it’s not unusual in Phish history for Golgi Apparatus to open a set/show, it has been a heavy closer since 1990.  At Star Lake on 6/18 they opened the show with it and would also open a show in Miami on 12/29
-Mimicking Hampton, the first night of Red Rocks’ second set closed with another Squirming Coil>David Bowie closer combo.
-At the end of the first set on 8/8, the Wolfman’s Brother jam faked the end of another set by going into Character Zero, only to have Run Like an Antelope, another heavy set closer, hop out of the end-of-song noise (like Tweezer did on 6/7 and 6/14).
-8/11 at Toyota Park in Chicago (which marks the first type-II Backwards Down the Number Line jam) was a discombobulated show all around, without going into why the whole show was weird, focus on how the second set ended; 2001>Chalk Dust Torture, Harry Hood, Squirming Coil.  Wilson is not a very common song in a 2nd set, and certainly not towards the end.  Chalk Dust Torture, other than opening it, is almost never in a second set.  Then they do the 2 song set-closer again with Harry Hood and Squirming Coil.
-On 8/16, the Summer Tour’s closing show, they must have wanted to really give it that “closing feel” in the first set when it ended with Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie, Cavern>Possum, Ocelot, Run Like an Antelope–crazy, after each song the crowd thinks, “ok…is this the end of the set?”
-The day before Halloween in Indio, CA, Phish played what many (including me) thought would close the first set, Cavern.  They then go into two other songs before really closing it with their new, poorly received, close monster, Time Turns Elastic.  Cavern, like Character Zero, was basically made to close a set.  Character Zero is a closer because they have chosen the song to do that for so many years now, it’s what fans are used to.  Cavern, on the other hand, is a closer not only because they chose it to be, but also because it sounds like a closer.  It has the goofy lyrics, the climactic and loud ending with the crazy lights–odd for the middle of a set.
-In what I thought was really cool, Phish opened the show on 11/22 with David Bowie.
-Placing yet another Cavern inside a set, on 11/27 they played Limb by Limb, Cavern>Light.
-Two nights later they close the second set with a Cavern sandwich, another colossal closer–Golgi Apparatus>Cavern>Run Like an Antelope.
-And then only a couple nights after that at Madison Square Garden, on 12/5, they hold a Cavern sandwich right in the middle of the set; Old Home Place>Cavern>Funky Bitch. 

These are only some of the examples, but I think you can see how Phish/Trey is playing around with their traditional song placement.  It could possibly be because they are trying to accommodate the placement of their new songs, seeing where they fit best in the set (ex: Time Turns Elastic as their new big closer).  It could also be that I’m just crazy and can’t wait for some fresh Phish to review this summer–and if that’s the case make sure you let me know in the comments under this post or on the Facebook Fan Page for Online Phish Tour.