Bring Back the Jams

2009 Phish was different from Phish 1.0 and 2.0 in a number of different ways, obviously.  One thing that was different were the songs they decided to jam out or decided to keep short.  Some staple Phish songs, known for their jams, seemed to hesitate when it came to its improv.

Bathtub Gin:  Other than the epic Gin from The Gorge last summer, these have been pretty bland and short.  With a nine minute average in 2009, there was not much room for exploring.  Again, The Gorge’s Bathtub Gin was wonderful and is a must hear.  Trey ends the 18 minute or so jam with the band jamming over his carefully placed digital delay loops.  A testament to Trey experimenting with his digital delay loops in 2009.
Wolfman’s Brother:  Oh, what I would do to hear Page open a second set with Wolfman’s Brother.  In 2009, Wolfman’s Brother was often found in the first set.  Little emphasis was placed on the song that opened the flood dates for some of Phish’s most improvisational jams.  The only version that really kind of sticks out to me as worth listening to was Red Rocks’.  They need to bring this song back in 2010 as a 2nd set monster–it can’t only be contained to the first set.  Wolman’s Brother isn’t meant to be the short little ditty it was introduced as in the mid-nineties every time it’s played.
Tube:  This song was meant to have a short and nasty jam in the middle of the short beginning and end composed caps.  The only versions that come to mind from 2009 that seemed to stand out were Star Lake’s Page/Mike throw down and Red Rocks’.  Bring back the thickness, bring back the funk and, please, bring back the funky wah!
Weekapaug Groove:  This song has really taken a turn for the worst.  I can’t think of any interesting versions in 2009.  Every time they played it, it was a through-the-motions type of jam–completely uninspired.  I don’t know why, either–this song was made to be wailed on, it’s simple lyrics and composed section with the ability to have an open ending make Weekapaug Groove an ideal candidate for improvisation.
Gotta Jibboo:  This song was never a staple song of Phish’s, however they have been playing it pretty frequently.  And if they are going to play it this frequently, they might want to consider changing up how the jam sounds a bit.  To me, every time they play it, it sounds like the Red Rocks’ version.  It’s a good version, tight, inspired and fun…but they cannot allow it to sound like that every single time.  Comon guys, use the open ended vehicle for some real fun.  I guess the Gotta->Wilson->Jibboo was pretty cool from Miami, though.
Runaway Jim: I was listening to 8/14/1996’s Runaway Jim the other day and thought about how the song is played now.  It’s usually a show opener now, and it usually is about 9 minutes with no direction or real improvisation at all.  Runaway Jim wasn’t always known for it’s improv–many versions throughout the 90’s were short and sweet–however, they would always pop up here and there with a bust out jam or even in a different spot in the set (rather than opening the show every time).  
David Bowie:  They are playing this song a lot.  The song is never bad, either.  Since it’s not and open ended song like most of the songs above, there is a natural build up in the jam segment.  The band has no choice but to get more and more intense, otherwise they couldn’t go into the thrilling end segment.  However, the versions of 2009 are pretty plain.  Maybe 10-12 minutes long, with little creativity on how Trey is going to bridge the gap of an almost completely silent beginning to a blazing sprint across the finish line.  This song has so much potential for intense rock and super eerie jams.  They could also get a little more creative with the introductions like they used to do.               
This Post’s Related Shows:

Wednesday, 08/14/1996 Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA

Soundcheck: Funky Bitch, Tush
Encore: Julius
Notes: Julius was dedicated to Brad Sands’s brother Matty.

Thursday, 06/18/2009 Post-Gazette Pavilion, Burgettstown, PA

[1] Aborted.
Notes: This show featured the first Walk Away since October 5, 2000 (80 shows). After Grind, Trey remarked that Page blew the wrong note on the pitch pipe and had them all singing in the wrong key. They decide to perform another a cappella song and Trey joked that if they couldn’t get it right, Fish would sing Bike. Sure enough, Hello My Baby was no better and was aborted. However, true to his word, Trey announced that Fish will now sing Bike. For his part, Fish took the opportunity to welcome everyone to “the trainwreck portion of the show.” Bike was played for the first time since September 12, 2000 (95 shows).