With the planned Phish 2021 New Year’s run postponed until April, the band has teamed up with Phish Radio and SiriusXM to present LIVE From The Ninth Cube, a free, three-set concert livestream set to take place on New Year’s Eve. The concert is set to begin on Friday, December 31st at 8:30 p.m. ET and will stream on LivePhish as will as SiriusXM Phish Radio (Ch. 29).
Billed as a special edition of Phish’s running archival webcast/cooking series, Dinner and a Movie, the evening’s menu appropriately features lemon-based dishes: Lemon and Herb Chicken, Lemon Pasta, and Lemon Bars. To wash it all down, Trey Anastasio has provided a pandemic-encapsulating recipe for a “Giant Bowl of Lemonade” (Step 1: Get handed lemons; Step 2: Make lemonade…). Find the full recipes here.
So, what is The Ninth Cube? When is The Ninth Cube? In which reality is The Ninth Cube? These are all valid questions as fans anticipate this unprecedented Phish experiment. The answers, of course, will remain a mystery until the stream fires up on New Year’s Eve, but that’s not to say we don’t have any details to go on. In fact, “The Ninth Cube” is a rabbit hole of Phish nerd-ery unto itself, the linchpin to a full-blown, time-traveling, comic book multi-verse that the band has been quietly establishing within its mythology for years—or, you know, just making up on the fly by cleverly connecting existing dots.
Okay, a disclaimer is probably necessary before we dive in: there is a lot to go on here. If you so choose, you can go full Charlie-Day-Conspiracy-Theory-meme on the concept of “The Ninth Cube” and its meaning in the Phish canon—and you can be sure the band intended it that way all along. We’ll spare you the full dissertation here. Hell, we won’t even get into the question of where The Ninth Cube might be located. Instead, this special Dinner and a Movie LIVE from The Ninth Cube Stream Companion will give you some background on the concept and highlight some finer points of “Ninth Cube” Phish lore that could be invoked as part of this mysterious New Year’s performance—and even the abridged version is dense.
Let’s start at the beginning (in our timeline, anyway): Kasvot Växt. For Halloween 2018, Phish concocted an obscure Scandinavian band and “covered” the group’s 1981 album, í rokk. Per the Phishbill distributed to fans that night, Kasvot Växt came together by way of a secret government experiment known only as “Niu Teningur,” which translates from Icelandic as “Nine Cubes.” Read a passage on “Nine Cubes” from the Kasvot Växt Phishbill below or check out the full thing here:
So what do we know for sure? [The members of Kasvot Växt] all met as either scientists or subjects while living briefly in a remote research bunker in Greenland in the late 1970s under the auspices of the ‘Niu Teningur’ project. … Translating to simply ‘Nine Cubes,’ ‘Niu Teningur’ is perhaps the greatest Kasvot Växt mystery of all.
“To anyone asking about ‘Nine Cubes,’ good luck,” reads a lone posting from a message board dedicated to Greenlandic research installations, translated via Google. “You will only get denials and great confusion. It was the Cold War and many countries were trying to find an edge so they tried different crazy things. But it never led anywhere. You want me to believe a man can divide boxes with his mind? You’ll have better luck teaching a rabbit to read his carrot before he eats.”
In an age of conspiracy theories and misinformation, Kasvot Växt place as a strange and slightly unsettling footnote to a project whose truth remains buried behind kilometers of red tape and multiple language barriers. If even a fraction of the rumors about the ‘Niu Teningur’ project are true, it’s perhaps for the best that the wider world hasn’t discovered Kasvot Växt just yet, a narrative requiring more nuance than a hyperbolic reissue campaign could muster.
The supernatural mystery of the “Nine Cubes” is referenced in KV tune “We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains”, a song that may offer the best advice for viewing this whole sage: as the lyrics begin, “Everything’s overlapping…”
“WACTOOB” and the rest of the Kasvot Växt songs have found their respective homes in the live rotation as Phish songs, but the band resurrected the mysterious storyline with 2021’s Halloween “costume,” Sci-Fi Soldier‘s Get More Down. In a new take on the Kasvot-style musical character study, Phish concocted a comic book about Sci-Fi Soldier—a “New Miami”-based band from the year 4680—and, in a body-snatching, timeline-hopping scenario, performed the group’s “album” to save Earth.
The comic served as a narrative companion piece to the more abstract songs played during the Halloween set. At its core are several new developments to the sprawling saga of the Nine Cubes. In addition to the futuristic characters directly referencing Kasvot Växt as “prophets”—which provided a concrete link between the realities of the 2018 and 2021 Halloween characters—the comic book cemented a critical new development to the complex concept of the Nine Cubes: “Each Cube is a window to a possible reality,” Page McConnell lookalike Pat Malone explains in the story. “At any given moment, time can be frozen and nine possible realities can be viewed.” In other words, the Nine Cubes could be seen as the main junction for all of Phish lore, the thing that connects Gamehendge to New Miami to 1980s Scandinavia to the Baker’s Dozen to whatever show the band plays next.
Snippets of that new overlap quickly came into play on Halloween, from the various quotes of older Phish songs in the Get More Down lyrics to the explicitly stated singularity of Sci-Fi Soldier deity Holy Blankenstein and Trey’s decades-old Gamehendge prophet, Icculus.
[via Sci-Fi Soldier Get More Down comic book]
The next place to look for “Ninth Cube” intrigue is one night before Sci-Fi Soldier touched down on Earth, 10/30/21, and its peculiar “Harpua”. While all its talk of “Holy Blankenstein” and “turtles touching donuts” being the “very stuff of the universe” sounded an awful lot like gibberish that night, the “Harpua” narration sounds more like a sincere mathematical explanation of Get More Down in hindsight—however inscrutable it may remain.
As Trey Anastasio told SiriusXM Phish Radio’s Ari Fink during their recent 2021 “Year In Review” special, “The Ninth Cube was actually the Rhombus, it just bent in transport. It came from the future. All of this is gonna lead to that eventually. You’re almost there. Were you paying attention to my “Harpua” story [from 12/30/21]? … That math theorem I was expounding on? I can tell you what that is, for the record.”
“Well, there are nine cubes,” Trey continued. “If you looked when we walked out onstage [for Sci Fi Soldier], there are three circles and four squares. The math theorem was ‘circling the square’ [sic], where it started, which is a formula, how you can put a square… it’s the circumference of a square in a circle, which is impossible because you have to use pi, which is not finite. So, it can’t be done, but there’s a formula where you work it out. So I was explaining that the reason there were four squares and three circles, and then the song in the middle of the thing was called ‘The 9th Cube’. That was the missing shape. So, the formula on ‘The 9th Cube’ was circling the square [sic], so that you saw that you lay the square on top of the circle, you use this formula .. it becomes a square, and when it stands up in the video, it becomes a cube, and then when you put it on a plane, on an x/y grid, and it becomes a torus, a donut. So, turtles touching donuts is the very stuff of the universe.”
[Screengrab via Trey Anastasio Instagram Story, posted 12/31/21 early afternoon]
For what it’s worth, “Squaring the circle” is, in fact, a real mathematical exercise. The term has also been widely used as an idiom meaning “doing the impossible.” Listen to Trey Anastasio’s full breakdown from SiriusXM Phish Radio’s “Year In Review” via the “interviews” tab on the SiriusXM app.
Like much of the “Ninth Cube” mystery, explanations like these seem to obscure the truth even further. It’s hard to separate which bits are building up to something and which are genuine distractions or embellishments. It often seems like they’re just picking up fragments of old mythology and assigning them new significance. There are plenty of details, however, that make us wonder. Take the “Floating Aerial Neuro Technology Orientation Station”—F.A.N.T.O.S.—which appears in the Sci-Fi Soldier comic. The easy explanation would be that Phish used the existing acronym from Kasvot Växt’s “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” as a starting point for this new story and retrofitted the letters with Get More Down-specific meaning. Then, you come back across an old podcast episode in which Tom Marshall says that Trey already told him “S.A.N.T.O.S.” stood for “Subterranean Arctic Neuro Technology Orientation Station.” That episode was released in 2018.
So, what does this all tell us about what awaits us on the Phish New Year’s stream LIVE from The Ninth Cube? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. By invoking The Ninth Cube, Phish has opened the door to ample thematic layers both familiar and untold in this unusual livestream event. You could use the existing “Nine Cubes” backstory to argue that we’re in for more high-concept sci-fi, more time traveling, more shifting between realities, more of the dimension-bending visuals that come with them. You could also use the Cubes’ mysterious nature in the Phish canon to argue that something entirely different is just as likely; there are plenty of other realities to explore in those cubes, after all, and one of the central themes in Sci-Fi Soldier was that the human race’s fatal flaw is thinking too much.
Despite all this background, what we know remains the same as when we started. Amid ever-infuriating obstacles, Phish continues to expand its narrative universe with excitement, irreverence, and imagination—perpetually intent on our delight. Clear your mind of the postponement bummer and get ready for what is sure to be a memorable spectacle. This lemonade doesn’t taste half bad.
Big shout-out to the team at SiriusXM/Phish Radio for helping make Phish New Year’s LIVE from The Ninth Cube a reality. Tune in for the three-set show on Friday, 12/31/21 at 8:30 p.m. ET on SiriusXM, LivePhish, and YouTube. Happy new year, everyone. Be safe out there.
Phish will perform three full sets tonight at 8:30PM ET LIVE from the Ninth Cube, presented by @PhishRadioSXM & @SIRIUSXM. The show will be webcast for free at https://t.co/1CnoMOIPJY and https://t.co/4E0Bs5cvLz w/ a simulcast on @PhishRadioSXM. pic.twitter.com/IP9S7rWRmj
— Phish (@phish) December 31, 2021
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