PHISH FRIDAY: A November (’09) to Remember

For today’s Phish Friday we’ve opted to skip the usual passover of anything in 3.0 as “relevant” to talk about during a column dedicated to the absolute BEST that the band has ever had to offer, because well, if we can all just spend a minute or two today to remember the amazing month that was November 2009, an absolutely pivotal month in the band’s history and one that had a few too many musical highlights to skip over, I think you’ll see the choice for today’s quick column to be fully reasonable. Sure, we’re saving the BIG November that everyone can agree on — November ’97 — for next week. Let’s jump right back into Nov. ’09 mode today, though…

Once the news started dropping that Phish was also planning a Halloween festival after their insanely triumphant summer tour returning to the road, it was pretty exciting to be a part of the Phish fan community at that point. There was optimism dripping from every review and they all seemed to echo something similar — it may not be perfect like it was in my memories, but holy cow we’re glad this band is back. So November was a huge treat for us fans because they were returning to the road in the fall after their Halloween festival. We were going to get 13 more shows after an already busy summer…

And if you were like me and the other 30,000 fans that were in Indio, CA for the band’s Halloween celebration, Festival 8, your November 1st started with a long line to get a breakfast of coffee and donuts shaped in mini-8′s and find a spot in the shade to wait for the band’s first ever full-length acoustic set.

If you consider that the band tore into acoustic versions of “The Curtain With” plus a “Wilson > McGrupp” combo to end the set, that’s a pretty impressive way to approach rounding out an otherwise mellow set and sun-drenched crowd still reeling from the amazing full album cover of Exile on Main Street the night before. After the final notes of Festival 8, the band took about two weeks off and returned to the stage in Detroit with a whole new set of tricks from Kuroda. The band then did two nights in Cincinnati before a stop at War Memorial in Syracuse. Then two nights in Philadelphia right before Thanksgiving, a day off and then a return to Albany for a massive two night run with the final November show in Portland, ME. Albany is arguably the heat of the entire month with the debut of “Golden Age,” which at the time was almost entirely unbelievable that the band would choose to cover TV on the Radio. And don’t forget about that massive “Seven Below > Ghost” that silenced all the haters at the time that were all “the band doesn’t jam anymore.” As if, bros. As if.

Take a look through some of the highlights that still stand out:

Notable Shows / Moments from November ’09

11/01 – The band’s first ever full length acoustic set as part of Festival 8. The Curtain With, McGrupp, and the sit-down / stand-up banter were the highlights.
11/1846 Days jam with lights… (listen to the crowd roar about one minute in)
11/21Torn and Frayed is the first Exile song to resurface after Festival 8…
11/24A fast Weekapaug gets a quick reboot…”STILL trying to make a woman…”
11/27 – Debut of Golden Age and Tomorrow’s Song, Fire encore.
11/28Seven Below > Ghost slayed everyone (nobody ever talks about the Let Me Lie later in the set also)

This was what Mr. Miner had to say about the Albany “Seven Below > Ghost” combo that had people talking…

Listening to Albany while driving last night, I felt like I was listening to Phish of a different era. A different energy blared from the speaker than I was used to hearing this year; the music likened the exploratory bravado that dripped from stages for years on end. I could truly hear the band searching for the sound, and then about halfway through “Seven Below,” hitting their stride like a gazelle on the Serengeti Plains.

It was THAT good, folks. And all in all, it was a month that the band was still finding their groove in and some really solid moments came out of it. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a striding gazelle type but it was pretty clear that everyone in the community found this to be a solid highlight to come close to capping off their year.

Any highlights we may have missed? Holler at us on Twitter via @LiveMusicBlog…Happy Turkey Day hangsovers, y’all!

NOVEMBER ’94 | NOVEMBER ’95 | NOVEMBER ’96 | NOVEMBER ’97