Paradise Waits

Posted in Commentary with the tags on July 18th, 2015 by Mr.Miner

Miami 2014-15 (Andrea Nusinov)

Following Trey’s outstanding performance at the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well shows, there has been an anticipatory buzz around Phish’s forthcoming summer tour. With many questions on the horizon and a full slate of shows in which they will be answered, it’s once again an exciting time in the world of Phish. With Bend just around the corner, here’s what’s been on my mind about Summer 2015.

Trey @ FTW (Jay Blakesberg)

Trey @ FTW (Jay Blakesberg)

It wouldn’t be a stretch to posit that Trey’s preparation for Fare Thee Well represents the most focused guitar practice that he has undertaken since returning to the Phish stage in ’09. He has mentioned in interviews that he isolated himself for up to over five hours per day to study Garcia’s playing, to learn Grateful Dead songs, and to practice. When asked in a Rolling Stone what he’s taken away from his work, he said “One is just guitar stuff. I’ve made a conscious effort to learn everything I could about Jerry’s incredible style. I’m playing in different positions on the neck. It’s opened up a whole world of people I’d never listened to before.” While I wouldn’t bet on any stylistic crossover into his own band, there is no doubt that this preparation will affect his sharpness and readiness to tear things apart on the with Phish. During much of 2014, Trey lacked the powerful leads that traditionally have directed Phish jams. He often laid back with quasi-aimless rhythm playing while his band mates stepped up to varying degrees of success. During the Fare Thee Well shows, especially come Chicago, Trey’s lead playing was the undeniable force driving the band and holding jams on course. He took magnificently passionate solos all over the place, often flooring the stadium-sized audience with his six string prowess. If there is one thing that I feel that will certainly carry over from his Grateful Dead project, it will be his assertiveness. I surmise that Trey, the lead guitar player we know and love, will be back in full force this summer, and that alone is enough to make the any fan giddy with excitement. Phish is the best when Trey takes the lead, not necessarily dominating jams, but directing them. And with his chops as polished as they have been in years, things bode well for his musical leadership this summer. It remains to be seen if the overhauling of his tone for Fare Thee Well will spill over into his Phish articulation. While I doubt he’ll bring his full-fledged “Jerry sound” into the mix, he could integrate some new phrasings and effects that he picked up in such a diligent case study of Garcia.

10/31/14 II. Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

10/31/14 II Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

While many people in the community have been hypothesizing about Phish covering Dead songs this summer, I think the more pertinent question is what will come of the Halloween material? In Miami, we saw a slight integration of some of the band’s universally loved Halloween set, but will they commit to the material in full this tour? Will we see some of these jams reworked into actual songs? Inquiring minds want to know. Using “Martian Monster” as a set closer over the Holiday Run seemed to imply that it would become a legitimate part of the band’s rotation. I would imagine we see this infectious funk number fully integrated into the live show this tour. But what about everything else? The band used the “The Birds” as a jam motif during the New Year’s “Theme From the Bottom,” and it is more in this fashion that I think we could see these Halloween passages come to life. Most all of the vignettes from the Haunted House set weren’t fully fleshed out pieces of music, and if they stay that way, it would be really innovative for the band to use them as instrumental themes to jam in and out of within larger improvisations in the vein of “”Tweezer -> Shipwreck -> Tweezer,” “Bathtub Gin -> The Very Long Fuse -> Bathtub Gin,” or “Tube -> Your Pet Cat -> Tube.” They could also use them as bridges between pieces like “Tweezer -> Shipwreck -> Carini” or “Chalk Dust -> The Dogs -> Light.” In fact, we already saw this latter use on 11.1.14 in “Light -> Dogs -> Lengthwise.” While there is a possibility that we see a couple of them reworked into legitimate songs, I almost feel that it would be cooler to see them kept as improvisational devices. If any, I think “The Birds” has the best possibility of becoming a formal song. In terms of any real integration of Grateful Dead material? I seriously doubt it.

Summer '15

Summer ’15

Summer tour’s routing sees the band play nine one-off shows, with five of them coming in rarely visited markets. While small market, out-of-the-way shows were not to be missed in the Phish’s earlier eras, they have more or less become greatest hit sampler platters that lack truly adventurous jamming in 3.0. The overnight travel segueing into soundcheck and a one-night performance hasn’t always treated the guys well over recent tours, and from experience, I would be wary before chasing them through their stretch of the Southern and Midwestern single night shows. They represent a serious grind with potentially small payoffs. Or perhaps I’m just getting old. The band’s wheelhouse in this era has clearly been multi-night stands, and if I had to predict where the strongest shows of summer will materialize, it would be within the two and three night affairs—Bend, Lakewood, Alpine, Philly, Merriweather, Magnaball and Dick’s.

Magnaball

Magnaball

Finally, for the first time since IT in 2003 (excluding Coventry), Phish’s summer tour will culminate in a festival. This format of their earlier years always provided a larger than life showcase for the band’s musical achievements of their current tour. They traditionally used their festivals to show what they had learned through their month-long journey, and put their improvisational foci and successes on full display at their August fiestas. This was arguably the best aspect of placing festivals at the end of their tours. Instead of having to gear up for a massive event in isolation, the band was fully in the flow of playing and jamming as they will be this year, and I think Magnaball is primed to explode far more significantly than Festival 8 or Superball, both which were played in detachment. And at Magnaball, we will—in all likelihood—get to experience one more of the band’s hallowed “secret sets.” I find it fruitless to speculate on what will transpire in this year’s installment, because Phish is always one step ahead of their fans and come up with something that we could never have guessed. That said, following their avant-garde Storage Jam, folks will be anticipating this set as much as any other of the three-night festival.

Only a few days separate us from the beginning of another summer tour. When Phish came back in ’09, nobody knew exactly what to expect from them, how long they’d stick around or to what level they’d perform. Now, six years later, the band is going strong, surpassed most expectations for this era and the guys seem committed for the long haul. They have struck a balance in their personal lives and have no signs of slowing down. Having fully righted their ship and restored their legacy, it’s full steam ahead into 2015.

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A Live Bait-Inspired Playlist

Posted in Jams with the tags , on July 12th, 2015 by Mr.Miner
Miami (A. Nusinov)

Miami 2014 (Andrea Nusinov)

The week before tour is usually when archivist, Kevin Shapiro, drops his next installment of his Live Bait series, highlighting jams from the cities of the upcoming tour. I figured I’d drop a similarly inspired playlist of my own comprised of tracks that would be great to have in remastered soundboard fashion. Enjoy the jams as we await the tour opener in Bend, Oregon, one week from Tuesday.

Ghost” 9.12.99 II, Portland, OR

A monstrous jam that highlighted the first weekend of 1999’s Fall Tour, despite the higher profile shows in Vancouver and at The Gorge. (Portland is close enough to Bend to make this one count.)

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***

Reba > Walk Away” 10.29.98 II, Los Angeles, CA

The most creative “Reba” ever played.

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***

Runaway Jim > Circus” 7.31.97 II, Mountain View, CA

This exploratory, set-opening colossus illustrates that Phish did more than funk in the Summer of ’97. One can hear echoes of Raleigh’s iconic “Disease” jam from the previous week in the middle section of this jam.

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***

Yamar” 7.25.98 I, Austin, TX

Though Austin has a history of great Phish jams such as ‘98’s “Tweezer “and ‘99’s “Wolfman’s”, I’m choosing something a bit more under the radar in this extended first set “Yamar” from the first set of 1998’s summer installment.

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***

Chalk Dust Torture” 7.25.97 II, Dallas, TX

This show seems to linger in the shadows of the many amazing outings if Summer ’97, but with it’s non-stop second set, it really shouldn’t. This “Chalk Dust” opened the frame with some spectacular whole-band improvisation during an era when the song was rarely used as a launchpad.

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***

David Bowie” 6.15.95 II, Atlanta, GA

This “Bowie” is quintessential ’95 psychedelia and represents a culmination of several experimental versions earlier in the tour.

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***

Harry Hood” 6.22.00 II, Nashville, TN

Very rarely do guests truly click on stage with Phish, but this “Harry Hood” from 2000 is one time where things definitely jived. In the first show back from Japan, Bluegrass legends, Robbie McCoury on banjo, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, and Sam Bush on fiddle, joined the band for a beautiful rendition of their classic work.

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***

Sneakin Sally” 6.4.11 II, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Might as well throw a modern-era track on here. At the time, this “Sally” hit like a freight train and five years later, it stands the test of time pretty well.

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***

Mike’s > Ain’t Love Funny” 8.9.97 II, East Troy WI

This snarling “Mike’s” jam segues into a haunting version of the rarity “Ain’t Love Funny” by JJ Cale.

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***

David Bowie” 6.24.95 II, Philadelphia, PA

If Lakewood’s”Bowie” was the defining version of the first half of Summer ’95, this version from the Mann was the flagship version of the second. The band exhibits amazing precision and control over their improv in this piece which is an all-time classic. (Excuse the repeat)

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***

Ghost” 8.7.98 II, Raleigh, NC

This driving jam came at the end of the first set of ‘98’s stop at Walnut Creek and represents the most impressive passage from a relatively straight forward show. (Excuse the repeat)

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***

Rock and Roll  > Theme > Dog Log” 9.17.00 II, Columbia, MD

This absolutely sublime run of jamming opened the second set of this show, one of the strongest efforts of Fall 2000.

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The Top Ten Jams of 2014

Posted in Jams with the tags , , , on February 12th, 2015 by Mr.Miner
7.12.14 Randall's Island (Chris LaJaunie)

7.12.14 Randall’s Island (Chris LaJaunie)

10. “Crosseyed and Painless” 10.17 II, Eugene, OR

Phish came into Fall Tour rested and raring to go and promptly dropped one of the jams of tour on its very first night. The band moves from hard groove into far deeper psychedelic textures when all is said and done, in a smoking piece of music.

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***

9.”Chalk Dust > Ghost” 10.21 II, Santa Barbara, CA

This one-two punch that opened up the second set of Santa Barbara moved to some very cool places in both halves of the sequence. The most beautiful portion, however, comes deep within “Ghost” as the band hits a musical plane that felt congruent with the Southern California surroundings.

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***

8. “The Wedge” 7.20 II,  Chicago, IL

This jam popped out of nowhere in the middle of Chicago’s final frame, and changed the landscape of the set from routine to creative in an instant. The band hits on some minimalist funk as they calibrate their communication, finally hooking up in some serious grooves before turning on a dime into the infectious chord progression that resembles “Paradise City” among other songs. All in all, a very cool surprise slice of Phish.

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***

7. “Ghost” 7.12 II, New York, NY

This groove-turned-exploratory version of “Ghost” stood at the center of “Randalls Island’s second show, and represents the version of the year. The band applied their patient and intricate style of the early summer to this show stopper, leaving us with a peak moment of Phish from the middle night of their New York City stand.

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***

6. “Fuego” 7.8 II, Philadelphia, PA

This was one of the many long form jams over the first two weeks of summer that built to the Randall’s “Chalk Dust.” On relisten while making this list, this jam struck me as a bit meandering and scattered compared to the rest of the top ten. Delivered in movements, this “Fuego” is certainly is an improvisational beast and hits some choice places, but it lacks continuity and tightness throughout.

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***

5. “Chalk Dust > Piper” 11.2 II, Las Vegas, NV

Phish’s Las Vegas stand provided just what the doctor ordered after an inconsistent Fall Tour, and its finest jamming came on the final night in this second-set sequence of “Chalk Dust -> Piper.” The interplay in “Chalk Dust” turned far more creative than several extended versions of summer and fall, coming as a welcome refreshment from a jam that started to grow a tad stale. This “Piper” took a turn from its usual frenetic pace into a gentle, melody driven peak that proved to be the golden nugget of the entire musical sequence.

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***

4. “Simple” 8.29 II, Commerce City, CO

Denver’s “Simple” is some good, clean wholesome Phish. A journey that moves straight out of the gates with an upbeat tempo, peaks with some of Trey’s most cathartic playing of the year. In fact, this jam is the piece in which Papa Bear awakened from his late summer slumber during which he dreamt about playing weird, aimless rhythm guitar in a rock band for a tour. But his awakening was glorious. And just then when you’d think this piece was winding down, a dance party breaks out. This was a feel good jam through and though, and a great welcome to the Rockies.

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***

3. “Down with Disease” 1.3.15 II, Miami, FL

This “Down With Disease” was the finest piece of improvisation to come out of the inverted New Year’s Run in Miami. The band connected four distinct and disparate themes with notable fluidity once they jumped ship on “Disease’s” composed jam. Improvising at a higher level than at any time in the Sunshine State, Phish slowly deconstructed each section and blended it into the next, creating an incredibly dynamic flow of music. Deep within this “Disease,” the band descended into some of the most gorgeous music of the entire year—a stunning space of aural gold in which Trey spun grail melodies over an ethereal backdrop. Red worked out of this quiet midsection with some grittier leads that developed into a harder rock peak of the jam, putting an exclamation point on the trip before coming down via an abstract denouement.

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***

2. “Harry Hood” 7.1 II, Mansfield, MA

In a year that featured more open jams out of “Harry Hood” than any in history, the first is still the most impressive. After a set and a half that amounted to lay up lines, the band got their feet wet with “Ghost -> Weekapaug” and then absolutely took the plunge in this now-iconic “Harry Hood.” The band’s coherence and command as they bob and weave through open waters is nothing short of astounding. This jam is both exploratory and super-tight simultaneously, creating a truly epic piece of Phish.

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***

1. “Chalk Dust Torture” 7.13 II, New York, NY

This jam from the final night of Randall’s Island is the runaway jam of the year. This “Chalk Dust” is among the elite versions ever played and is a clinic in improvisation. Phish took us on a wild journey in this monstrosity, and each and every movement is impeccable. From the initial burst and melodic peak to the meditative, astral jazz finale, this near 30-minute epic is truly on the all-time level. This “Chalk Dust” was the centerpiece of a very special evening of Phish.

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The Top 10 Shows of the Year

Posted in Shows with the tags , , on February 2nd, 2015 by Mr.Miner

Miami 2014-15 (Andrea Nusinov)

Honorable Mention: 7/20 Chicago, IL, 7/25 Charlotte, NC, 7/30 Portsmouth, VA, 8/1 Orange Beach, AL, 8/31 Commerce City, CO, 10/22 Santa Barbara, CA, 11/1 Las Vegas, NV, 12/31 Miami, FL

***

10. 7.27.14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

Merriweather 7/27 (Andrea Nusinov)

Merriweather 7/27 (Andrea Nusinov)

Almost any of the honorable mentions could be pulled into this slot for different reasons. I chose the second night of Merriweather for the following reasons. 1) It was quite a feat for the band to channel the type of old-school. zany energy it took to throw down this wild second set. It shows they are still in touch with the musical pranksmanship that, in many ways, put them on the map. 2) The “Tweezer” and the “NICU” jams are pretty awesome nuggets of Phish. 3) The band was absolutely glowing and clearly had an incredible time playing this show. 3) The first set is quite strong. 4) I didn’t want to deal with getting shit on social media for leaving this show out of the top ten.

I: Fee, The Curtain With, 46 Days, 555, My Sweet One, Sand, Bouncing Around the Room, Saw It Again > Fuego, You Enjoy Myself

II: Wilson > Tweezer -> Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Waiting All Night > Free -> Tweezer -> Simple -> Tweezer -> Free ->Catapult -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Down with Disease -> NICU -> Hold Your Head Up > Jennifer Dances > Hold Your Head Up, I Been Around

E: Boogie On Reggae Woman > Tweezer Reprise

***

9. 10.31.14, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV

10/31/14 II. Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

10/31/14 II. Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

A sharp and Halloween-themed first set gave way to one of the most outlandishly conceptual sets of music of the band’s career in set two. A complete blowout of the imagination, Phish led us on an adventure like none other in covering Disney’s “The Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.” If I was ranking these shows on the live experience, this would be much higher on the list, but I’m ranking them on their musical content after the dust has settled. By the time the band went to jam in the final set, they didn’t have much left in terms of focus or creativity, thus this show doesn’t possess much replay value after you’ve memorized the ten musical vignettes. In no way am I trying to diss a signature night of Phish by placing it here, it was one of my favorite nights of the year, but looking at timeless jamming, this one falls a little short.

I: Buried Alive > Ghost, Scent of a Mule, Sample in a Jar, Reba, 46 Days, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Lawn Boy, Saw It Again, Tube, Wolfman’s Brother

II: Intro, The Haunted House, The Very Long Fuse, The Dogs, Timber, Your Pet Cat, Shipwreck, The Unsafe Bridge, The Chinese Water Torture, The Birds, Martian Monster

III: Punch You In the Eye > Golden Age > Tweezer -> Heavy Things, Guyute, Sand-> Tweezer Reprise

E: Is This What You Wanted?, Frankenstein

***

8. 11.2.14, MGM Grand, Las Vegas NV

Though Halloween featured a theatrical blowout, this show possessed more consistent playing throughout and one of the most impressive passages of Fall Tour in “Chalk Dust > Piper.”

I: Runaway Jim, Foam, Mexican Cousin, Ocelot, Sugar Shack, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Halfway to the Moon, Bathtub Gin, Free, Walls of the Cave

II: Chalk Dust Torture > Piper > Theme From the Bottom > Wombat, David Bowie, The Line, You Enjoy Myself

E: The Moma Dance > Slave to the Traffic Light

***

7. 10.28.14, BGCA, San Francisco, CA

Phish had hit a bit of a slump before turning things around during this fiery, two-set performance. The jams of the night came in “Kill Devil Falls,” “Twist,” and ‘Harry Hood,” but the beauty of this show was also in its non-stop ferocity over the entire night. A slacking Trey pulled himself together for this one and really shone, playing powerfully and creatively all night long.

I: Crowd Control, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Wingsuit, Water in the Sky, Plasma, Halfway to the Moon, Poor Heart, Gumbo -> Sanity > Run Like an Antelope

II: Kill Devil Falls > Mountains in the Mist, Fuego > Julius, Twist > Runaway Jim > Harry Hood

E: Loving Cup

***

6. 7.4.14 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

SPAC '14 (Andrea Nusinov)

SPAC ’14 (Andrea Nusinov)

A fire-filled show was squarely centered around the epic debut of “Fuego’s” jam, an event we thought would foreshadow far more than it did. Phish backed this up with strong takes on with “Disease,” “Twist” and “Light.” Though a “YEM” could have dealed the deal a lot better than a “Number Line” and “First Tube,” the damage had clearly been done in a very memorable holiday outing.

I: The Star Spangled Banner, 555, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Reba, Waiting All Night, Runaway Jim, 46 Days, Rift, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

II: Fuego > Down with Disease > Twist > Light > Theme From the Bottom, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

E: Character Zero

***

5. 7.12.14, Randall’s Island, New York, NY

7.12.14 (Chris Lajaunie)

7.12.14 (Chris Lajaunie)

This second set was the best of the summer to date when it dropped. There was no filler, no bullshit. Just perfectly sequenced jams with the “Ghost” of the year at the heart of the set. “Punch,” “Carini” led off and an stunning “Hood” closed a frame that will surprise you on respin. And then the next night happened.

I: AC/DC Bag, 46 Days, Yarmouth Road, Devotion To a Dream, Free, My Sweet One, Back on the Train, Halfway to the Moon, Sparkle, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, The Line, Run Like an Antelope

II: Punch You In the Eye, Carini > Ghost > Wingsuit, Rock and Roll, Harry Hood

E: Tube > Joy, First Tube

***

4. 10.17.14, Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR

10.17.14 Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

10.17.14 Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

Phish started out Fall Tour with an absolute banger. Sculpting a seamless, improv-laden second set with one of the jams of the year in “Crosseyed and Painless,” Phish had things fully dialed in for this tour opener. “Carini -> Plasma,” “Twist” and an awesome “Hood” filled out this impeccable frame of music. The “Reba, Roggae, Simple -> Maze”segment of the first set is also particularly choice.

I: Waiting All Night, Free > Poor Heart Sample in a Jar, Strange Design, 555, Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Roggae, Simple -> Maze, The Squirming Coil

II: Carini -> Plasma, Farmhouse, Halfway to the Moon > Twist, Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood > Rocky Top

E: Wingsuit, Sleeping Monkey > Quinn the Eskimo

***

3. 8.30.14, Dick’s, Commerce City, CO

8/29 (Graham Lucas)

8/29 (Graham Lucas)

All things came together on the band’s second night in the Rockies in 2014. Phish unfurled one of their most cohesive performances of the year, with a nearly perfect second set. The guys were fully hooked up and following their lead guitarist who had his best individual night of the year. Phish had suffered during the late-summer without Trey’s leadership, but the clouds parted on this night, offering us the guitar god we all fell in love with and vintage tone that went unreplicated after before and after Dick’s. Though this set doesn’t boast a true centerpiece jam, it carries an improvisatory thread throughout with a more than serviceable “Disease” jam and a “Carini” that will make a dead man’s spine tingle.

I: Free, The Moma Dance, Halley’s Comet, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,555, Rift, Sample in a Jar, Devotion To a Dream, Yarmouth Road > Sparkle, Wingsuit,David Bowie, Cavern

II: Down with Disease -> What’s the Use?, Carini > Light > Fuego > Slave to the Traffic Light, Meatstick > Bold As Love

E: The Horse, Silent in the Morning, Fluffhead

***

2. 1.3.15, AA Arena, Miami, FL

Miami (A. Nusinov)

Miami (A. Nusinov)

The second set of this show, minus the token opener, is among the most complete of the year. Phish never came up for air during this frame, as each song got the full treatment. The “Disease” alone, is a gargantuan improvisational feat, shifting seamlessly through several distinct themes, but they ran with the spirit on this night, getting particularly deep with “Light,” adding an uncharacteristic rock peak to “Sneaking Sally,” and crafting sinister bridge between “Sand” and “Harry Hood.” It is very seldom these days that Phish throws down an entire set with such a sense of adventure, but this was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon type of performances.

I: Maze, AC/DC Bag > Divided Sky, Cavern > Scent of a Mule, Plasma, Devotion To a Dream, Water in the Sky, Split Open and Melt, Character Zero

II: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Down with Disease > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Sand > Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg

E: Good Times Bad Times

***

1. 7.13.14 Randall’s Island, New York, NY

Randall's Island (Andrea Nusinov)

Randall’s Island (Andrea Nusinov)

There’s just no question that the Phish threw down their most profound effort of the year on Sunday, July 13th at Randall’s Island in New York CIty. Capping an initial fortnight of summer tour that focused on wide open and patient jamming, this show features a “Chalk Dust” jam that can rightfully be thrown into a conversation about the band’s best jams of all-time—not just of this year or of this era. They carried this golden thread through a delicate “Light” and the best “Tweezer” of 2014. And while everyone has memorized the second set, the first is the best first set of the year as well. In a scene rife with debate, there should be none here.

I: Sand, Winterqueen, Reba, Birds of a Feather, Water in the Sky, Possum, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Split Open and Melt

II: Chalk Dust Torture > Light > Tweezer, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Sing Monica, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer Reprise

 ***

Miami 14-15 (A.Nusiniv)

Miami ’14-15 (Andrea Nusinov)

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First Nights of the Later Eras

Posted in Jams with the tags on December 2nd, 2014 by Mr.Miner

10.17.14, Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

Phish continued their unspoken tradition of dropping a chunk ofnheavy-hitting first night improv right on through the 2.0 and the modern era. Enjoy this long playlist of highlights, all plucked from the first nights of tours and chronologically ordered for your listening pleasure.

Bathtub Gin” / “Walls -> Carini” 2.14.03 II, Los Angeles, CA

After their shaky comeback run at MSG at Hampton, Phish announced their presence of authority with a feel-good and deeply grooving “Bathtub Gin” in the first set, and this menacing, wide open second set combo of “Walls -> Carini”  at the old LA Forum.

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***

Wolfman’s > Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.7.03 II, Phoenix, AZ

This second-set opening combination was like happening upon a treasure in the middle of a desert. As “Wolfman’s” grew darker and demented, Phish twisted into the debut of “Scents and Subtle Sounds” in one of their greatest new song unveilings of their career What first sounded like a fable soon transformed into a glorious jam, and Phish’s Summer Tour of 2003 was officially underway.

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***

46 Days” 6.17.04 II, Brooklyn, NY

Coney Island’s Keyspan Park was a perfect atmosphere in which to kick off a summer tour. This version of “46 Days” went deep, opening up the psychedelic vortex that would engulf the eternally underrated first leg of Summer ’04.

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***

46 Days” 11.18.09 I, Detroit, MI

This dark horse version of “46 Days” from Cobo’s opening set came out of nowhere and is pure filth. A total diamond in the rough, Phish was still getting their sea legs back and dropped this dripping piece of psych-funk on the first night of Fall ’09.

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***

Ghost” 6.11.10 II, Chicago, IL

This version of “Ghost” from 2010’s opening night at Toyota Park was gargantuan at the time. And even years later, it can still hold its own.

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***

Waves > Caspian > Crosseyed” 5.27.11 II, Bethel NY

A methodical deconstruction of “Boogie On’s” groove led into this powerful trifecta from opening night of 2011 at Bethel. Both “Waves” and “Crosseyed” pack a punch, though of a decidedly different musical nature.

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***

Rock and Roll -> Meatstick” 8.5.11 II, George, WA

Opening night at The Gorge in 2011 resulted not only in an all-tour jam, but an all-timer. This sequence is still among the elite of the modern era. A month after Super Ball’s Storage Jam, Phish integrated the dark and abstract style into this improvisational behemoth. And what a segue into “Meatstick,” also up there with the all-time greats.

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***

Carini” / “Ghost > Boogie On” 6.7.12 II, Worcester, MA

Throw opening night of summer tour indoors and one gets much darker results. Both “Carini” and “Ghost > Boogie On” highlighted the second set, the former with more abstract psych rock, and the latter with grooves aplenty.

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***

Rock and Roll  > Ghost” 8.15.12, II, Long Beach, CA

It was in Long Beach on the opening night of Leg Two during Summer 2012 that Phish truly rediscovered long form jamming for keeps. It seemed as though they had reeled in their jams a bit over Leg One to tighten things up, and over Leg Two they began to let things breathe again. This “Rock and Roll” is a loose exploration that is a stark contrast to the tighter, thematic style of jamming we’ve heard over most of 2013 and much of 2014.

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***

Carini” 10.18.13 II, Hampton, VA

In a Fall Tour littered with jams at every turn, Phish dropped one of tour’s elite excursions during the first night of the run at Hampton Coliseum. This jam needs no introduction at this point, as it garnered almost instantaneous fame in the community. No jam of 2013 contained more swagger than the Hampton “Carini.”

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***

Harry Hood” 7.1.14 II, Mansfield, MA

This all-time version of “Harry Hood” went down during this summer’s opening night at Great Woods, and it would be the best version of summer tour. This version inaugurated a year of wide open “Harry Hoods,” though I’m not sure this version has been topped.

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***

Twist > Crosseyed > Hood” 10.17.14 II, Eugene, OR

This three-song sequence from Eugene was packed to the gills with high-level and creative improvisation, setting the bar incredibly high for Fall 2014 on just the first night. “Crosseyed” provided the centerpiece of the set with a multi-tiered leviathan, but the bookends were incredibly inventive takes on their songs as well.

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The Forum—Photos by Jesse Herzog

Posted in Shows with the on November 26th, 2014 by Mr.Miner

All Photos by Jesse Herzog

Trey

10.24.2014

692A4976

The Forum

The Forum

The Chairman of the Boards

Trey Anastasio

Troy Anastasio

Mike

Cactus

10.24.2014

10.24.2014

Trey

The Skinny Guinea

Trey

The Bad Lieutenant

TTFM: First Nights of Tour

Posted in Jams with the tags , on November 24th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
10.17.14 Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

10.17.14 Eugene, OR (Eric Battuello)

Beginning in 1997, whether they knew it or not, Phish began a tradition of throwing down a very significant jam on the first night of their tours. Sometimes they came amidst fiery tour openers and sometimes in lesser shows, but like clockwork, Phish announced the beginning of tour with a filthy jam that would most often hold up to anything played over the duration of the run. This unspoken ritual began in earnest in the summer of 1997, and that is where today’s playlist begins, tracing each tour through 2000. (Europe ’98 and Summer US 2000 were exceptions, thus not represented.)

***

Ghost” / “Bathtub Gin” 7.21.97 I, Virginia Beach, VA

When Phish came back from a month-long tour of Europe, in which they explored their new medium of cow funk, they were rearing to show their fans what they had going on. It didn’t take long for them to show off the goods at the first show of the US Summer tour in Virginia Beach, opening with a deeply jammed “Ghost.” Later in the first set, the band dropped the jam of the show in “Bathtub Gin.” Enjoy both jams below.

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***

Stash” 11.13.97 II, Las Vegas, NV

Phish opened up Fall ’97 with a strong overall performance at a shrunken Thomas and Mack Center (half of the venue was cut off by a curtain). The jam of the show was the first of several standout versions of “Stash” that would transpire over the following month. This ominous second-setter landed in a tribal-like ambiance while steering clear of any grooves in a deeply psychedelic journey.

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***

Tweezer -> Free” 7.15.98 II, Portland, OR

Phish had barely any time between the last day of their European tour in Barcelona (7/10) and the first night of their US tour in Portland, Oregon (7/15), so you could say they were warmed up. The “Tweezer -> California Love -> Tweezer -> Free” that the band dropped in the second set of this tour opener needs to introduction—pure filth from a band on fire.

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***

Reba” 10.29.98 II, Los Angeles, CA

Phish dropped a monster second set at LA’s Greek Theatre to open Fall ’98, and this wide open “Reba” was its centerpiece. Introducing their new group-wide, ambient sound that would be expounded upon over Fall Tour, the band sculpted a mind-expanding masterpiece that deserves discussion amongst the all-time greats.

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***

Free” 6.30.99 II, Bonner Springs, KS

Perhaps the most polished, badass, groove-era version of the song ever played, the Bonner Springs “Free” is like a freight train in the living room of your mind. Methodically maniacal, this version carries the perfect pace from the start, featuring Mike in the middle of the formation for the first time. Trey’s solo possesses a generous amount of swagger.

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***

Stash” / “Tweezer” 9.9.99 I / II, Vancouver, BC

Both of these tour-opening jams illustrate the dark, layered and ambient nature that characterized Phish’s late ’99 style. Each of these jams were immediate keepers and they have stood the test of time.

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***

Bathtub Gin > 2001” 12.2.99 II, Auburn Hills, MI

This scalding sequence got tour winter started quickly at the Palace in Auburn Hills.

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***

Tweezer” 6.9.00 II, Tokyo, JP

Phish landed in Japan and wasted no time getting down to business, dropping this monstrous and exploratory “Tweezer” on their first night in Tokyo.

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***

Ghost” 9.8.00 I, Albany, NY

This fuel injected version of the late-’90s groove vehicle came as the third song of the first set—of tour.

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The Top Ten of Fall Tour

Posted in Jams with the tags , , , on November 16th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
10.24.14, Los Angeles, CA (Jesse Herzog)

10.24.14, Los Angeles, CA (Jesse Herzog)

There’s nothing like making art compete, so welcome to this Fall’s Top Ten Jams! Trying to make this top ten list from was tougher than usual, because simply put, there weren’t that many great jams this tour. The guys did, however, churn out just enough high quality to make a solid top ten list. So without further ado, here we go…

Honorable Mention:  “Carini -> Plasma” 10.17 II, “Light -> Cities” 10.18 II, “Harry Hood” 10.28 II, “Down with Disease” 10.29 II, “Twist” 11.1 II

10. “Harry Hood” 10.17 II, Eugene, OR

To cap Eugene’s second set, the band picked up with “Harry Hood” right where they left off this summer, playing another revitalized and wide-open version of their classic. After navigating multiple themes, the band concluded this version with a proper build and peak. Certainly lesser heard that the San Francisco and Vegas “Hoods,” Eugene’s version was the proverbial cherry on top of a pretty perfect second set and gets my pick for the best of Fall.

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***

9.”Light” 10.29 II, San Francisco, CA

Much like Bill Graham’s “Twist” opened into a slow, dark lair, the next night’s “Light” followed a similar dynamic, traversing more than one ambient realm. This jam highlighted San Francisco’s final set with truly engaging interplay, but it met an awkward ending due to Trey’s hard-headed move into “Possum” as things were getting particularly nasty, costing this jam some serious style points.

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***

8. “Down With Disease” 10.24 II, Los Angeles, CA

A jam that traverses several musical feels comes to a final peak with the same classic rock rhythm progression featured in this summer’s Merriweather “Ghost.” A solid, full-band jam through and through.

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***

7. “Light -> Dogs” 11.1 II, Las Vegas, NV

Phish wasted no time digging into the new music they scribed for their Halloween set. On the next night, they combined “Light” and “Dogs” to form the improvisational centerpiece of the second set. Trey gets into a zone for the few minutes preceding the move into “Dogs,”  unleashing a series of powerful leads with a hard-edged, digitally beserk guitar tone. The band expounded on “Dogs'” theme, jamming the piece out of structure and into “Lengthwise.” I believe this was only the beginning of a new chapter in Phish’s career.

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***

6. “Drowned > Theme” 10.22 II, Santa Barbara, CA

This set-opening sequence from Santa Barbara’s second night totally smokes. “Drowned” moves from a melodic and ethereal space into a far darker second half, landing in “Theme From the Bottom.” Then, in perhaps the surprise move of tour, the band blew out the end of “Theme” into a sinister funk passage could rightfully accompany a bank robbing mission.

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***

5. “Kill Devil Falls” 10.28 II, San Francisco, CA

Add Bill Graham’s second night to the short list of times Phish has blown out “Kill Devil Falls.” San Francisco’s outing got the full treatment in the band’s sharpest show of Fall Tour, opening the second set with a traipse into an abstraction. Though it had been years since the band improvised out of the Joy rocker, they promptly utilized it to sculpt one of the more progressive jams of Fall Tour.

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***

4. “Twist” 10.28 II, San Francisco, CA

“Twist” followed its Fall ’13 renaissance with another strong campaign this Fall. Phish played three great renditions of “Twist” this run, but none reached a more profound place than the version from Bill Graham Civic Arena. What appeared to be a tight though standard run through the song completely opened up as it built towards its final theme. What transpired was several minutes of utter transcendence. The band downshifted into a creeping tempo in which Trey played some of his most mystical guitar of the tour. Completely connected, Phish explored this idea to its conclusion with music that likened ancient myth.

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***

3. “Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost” 10.21 II, Santa Barbara, CA

This Santa Barbara sequence stood out immediately, highlighted by a truly special “Ghost” which slowly slithers into a delicate space that matched the venue’s gorgeous surroundings. In comparison to Vegas’s version, the trajectory of this “Chalk Dust” jam remained a bit more standard, though the band’s interplay throughout is quite on point. It seemed like Trey went all out in this sequence and then ran out of gas for the rest of the set which fell pretty flat.

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***

2. “Crosseyed and Painless” 10.17 II, Eugene, OR

In their first show—and one of the strongest second sets—of tour, Phish blew the doors off this “Crosseyed” jam in the fashion we hope they will every time they drop the Talking Heads’ cover. This multi-tiered excursion fluidly connects several themes, as the band set the bar quite high out of the gates this fall. Moving through a full-on plinko stage before morphing into a soundscaped ambient groove, the Eugene “Crossesyed” is the most accomplished  stand-alone jam of Fall Tour.

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***

1. “Chalk Dust > Piper” 11.2 II, Las Vegas, NV

Simply put, this sequence blows the rest of Fall Tour out of the water. Trey’s focus, energy and creativity finally reached the level of his bandmates, and the result was a jam that sounds far more locked and inspired than the rest of these pieces on this list. Quite honestly, it’s like night and day, illustrating the relative mediocrity of Fall tour. In this sequence, Phish (read: Trey) actually sounds like the sharpened musicians we know them to be, as it’s amazing what a fully dialed guitar player will do for the dynamic of the band. Both halves of this two-pronged attack thoroughly depart from their conventional jam spaces, providing refreshing takes on “Chalk Dust” and “Piper,” two jams that can often get caught in ruts. On this tour, Phish saved their best playing for the eleventh hour, but better late than never!

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Tags: , , ,

A Set of Sorcery

Posted in Commentary, Shows with the tags , , on November 10th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
10/31/14 II. Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

10/31/14 II, Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

Well, they did IT again. Using Halloween as a platform for one of their most profound on stage achievements yet, Phish reinvented their own holiday tradition while playing a set of music pulled from our wildest dreams. Choosing to “cover” a Walt Disney album comprised only of sound effects and narration, the band wrote ten instrumental jams to accompany the record’s eerie vignettes in a complete blowout of the imagination. Morphing fantasy and psychedelia on a night scripted for such a mash-up, Phish played an absolutely masterful Halloween set, while pleasing every fan in attendance for—quite possibly—the first time in their 31-year career.

PBcoverNobody knew what to expect when handed a Phishbill that read “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.” A quick Wiki search informed that the album was a collection of sound effects from the vaults of Walt Disney. It had narration on one side but it contained no music?! It quickly became apparent that Phish would follow their own lead of 2013, and use Old Hallow’s Eve to debut a set of original music! But what form this music would take was anyone’s guess. And few could have imagined what would soon transpire.

As the lights came after the Halloween set, the most common thought heard muttered was, “What just happened?” Phish had dropped ten top-notch instrumental jams on the that were used to musically describe scenes set up by the Disney narration, and everyone was desperately trying to wrap their head around the pinnacle Phish experience that just went down. Via live sampling, Page incorporated the album’s sound effects and much of its narration into the set’s increasingly dancy jams, creating a hour-long mindfuck for the audience. Though most fans were mesmerized in a state that fused disorientation and disbelief, there was one thing that everyone knew in real time—“This was most definitely the shit!” The dark instrumentals grew funkier throughout the set, concluding in the non-stop dance party of “Chinese Water Torture,” “The Birds” and “Martian Monster.” Complete with dancing zombies for the first and last track and set in a faux graveyard, this was the band’s quintessential Halloween performance. Though their cover albums showcased a different kind of mastery, this year, Phish distilled the mystic and macabre nature of Halloween into a set of music like never before.

10/31/II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

And it didn’t take long after the show was over to realize what was possible with these composed jams. These “songs” were the polar opposite of Fuego’s largely jamless material—they were already jams—composed themes for the band to expound on in the live setting! Now, if the guys wanted to keep the music moving with no stops, instead of necessarily jamming towards another song they could now simply jam into another jam—and keep jamming! Phish proved on be on board with such thinking, for the next night they seamlessly moved from “Light” into “Dogs” from the Halloween set, and then improvised upon its theme for a stretch before dripping into “Lengthwise.” As illustrated by this immediate example, these Halloween jams represent motifs that the band can weave into their improvisational storytelling. They may have just changed the game—once again—right in front of our eyes.

Phish in Las Vegas has always brought something memorable, but “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” was on a whole ‘nother level. Combining their career-long penchant for spectacle with their unparalleled musicianship and sense of the moment, Phish executed one of their finest sets of music in a career loaded with staggering performances. Furthermore, this set typified the artistic ethos of the entire Phish project over the course of 31 years.  Never content with their laurels of yesteryear, the band has continuously infused innovative styles of music and performance into their live show throughout their career, leaving a legendary wake in the history of rock and roll.

10/31/14II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

 

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

 

10/31/14 II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

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All-Tour Jam Vehicles & Summer Awards

Posted in Jams with the tags , , , on September 15th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
Merriweather 7/27 (Andrea Nusinov)

Merriweather 7/27 (Andrea Nusinov)

First Team

“Chalk Dust Torture”

Top Version: 7/13 Randall’s Island

Other Standouts:  7/9 Mann, 7/25 Charlotte, 7/29 Portsmouth

Two-thousand-fourteen has been “Chalk Dust Torture’s” most significant year in its 23-year history. The rock anthem had been known for blowout jams every now and then, but this summer really changed the game for “Chalk Dust” as it became a routine launch pad. Phish threw down six significant versions of “Chalk Dust” this summer, and more than half are legitimate keepers. Though most of the jams followed a similar contour with constant motion, the band diversified the major versions and carved out several top-level improvisations. Mann’s version set the tone for Randall’s all-timer, while Charlotte and Portsmouth’s versions anchored the back half of tour.

***

“Harry Hood”

Top Version: 7/1 Mansfield

Other Standouts: 7/12 Randall’s, 7/19 Northerly Island, 8/29 Dick’s

“Harry Hood” had a complete transformation over summer tour. Previously, the band had taken the “Hood” jam far out of structure four times in thirty years (Charlotte ‘03, Camden ‘03, Worcester ’10, Hollywood ’13). This summer they did so three times in a month (Mansfield, Randall’s, and Chicago) and then also veered slightly off course another twice more (Philly, Denver). For the first half of summer, while Phish was focused on deep improvisation, “Hood” became an open jam vehicle, birthing three instant classics. But as the summer progressed and the band’s jamming waned a bit, so did “Hood’s” role as a springboard into the ether. The band played a quality contained version at Merriweather, used it as a means to four duets in Alpharetta, and played a stellar though relatively in-the-box version at Dick’s.

***

“Ghost”

Top Version: 7/12 Randall’s Island

Other Standouts: 7/26, Merriweather, 7/20 Chicago, 8/29 Dick’s

“Ghost” could make an case for MVP of summer tour. Just hear me out. It appeared eight times this summer and never disappointed. Phish crafted three very diverse and creative jams out of “Ghost” at Randall’s, Chicago, and Merriweather,  while using it as a blissier, peaked out jam on three other occasions at Mansfield, Oak Mountain, and Denver. The Mann’s version isn’t particularly outside the box, but is quite smooth and enjoyable nonetheless. And even its least significant version in Clarkston was the highlight of a throw-away show, thus it’s hard to make a case against a jam that is essentially batting 1.000.

***

“Down with Disease”

Top Version: 7/11 Randall’s Island

Other Standouts: 7/4 SPAC, 7/15 CMAC, 8/1 Orchard Beach, 8/30 Dick’s

Some things are like clockwork. The sun comes up every morning, bears shit in the woods, and “Disease” is always on the top shelf of jam vehicles for the Phish from Vermont. Ever since breaking out and becoming a consistent springboard in the years of ’96 and ’97, “Disease” has been Old Faithful, never wavering in its quest for the most innovative jams around. This summer, “Disease” had another rock solid tour with several high quality outings that took on different shapes and sizes. Randall’s version is at the head of the class, while Dick’s and Orchard Beach’s also elevated in different directions (as they might as well have been played by different guitar players). SPAC’s “Disease” feels like the forgotten version of tour, though got into a intricate jam following “Fuego” on July 4th. All in all, Summer 2014 another all-star tour for one of Phish’s staple anthems.

***

“Light”

Top Version: 7/19 Chicago

Other Standouts: 7/4 SPAC, 7/13 Randall’s, 7/26 Merriweather, 8/30 Dick’s

“Light” has become a regular all-tour selection in the modern era, always pushing the boundaries of Phish’s sonic comfort zone. “Light” was most often used as a supporting jam this summer, but flourished in this role with multiple late-set standouts. It’s best outing, however, came as the centerpiece of Chicago’s second show, plunging the depths of space jazz. Randall’s version also stood out, coming after the jam of summer and riding the same magic into a gentle and surreal Mind Left Body jam. SPAC’s, Merriweather’s and Dick’s versions all popped off late in the set, keeping the high-end improvisational vibe rolling right through the end of the show.

SPAC '14 (Andrea Nusinov)

SPAC ’14 (Andrea Nusinov)

Second Team

“Carini”

Top Version: 8/30 Dick’s

Other Standouts: 7/5 SPAC, 7/12 Randall’s

“Carini” saw a huge step backwards from its monstrous 2013. The band didn’t truly commit to any particular version from summer tour, using it mostly as a vehicle to ethereal soundscapes. Randall’s version got pretty interesting and intricate, but the “Carini” of the season easily goes to the explosive rendition we just heard in Denver, featuring Trey’s most soul-inspired peak of the year.

***

“Fuego”

Top Version: 7/8 Mann Music Center

Other Standouts: 7/4 SPAC, 7/30 Portsmouth

“Fuego” had quite an odd summer. Phish played the song lord knows how many times, but only jammed it thrice. Two of those three jams are among the best of the summer, including Philly’s masterpiece, and Portsmouth’s is fully connected as well. “Fuego” could make a case for the first team, but it’s fighting some pretty horrible percentages.

***

“Tweezer”

Top Version: 7/13 Randall’s Island

Other Standouts: 7/27 Merriweather, 8/1 Orange Beach

“Tweezer” had a fairly laid back summer, tough its campaign was highlighted by unique and inspired Randall’s Island outing. Merriweather got the full “Tweezefest,” but the actual “Tweezer” jam is a thing of beauty-turned-psychedelia. Orange Beach’s version reaches a gorgeous space but feels a bit underdeveloped.

***

“Piper”

Top Version: 7/5 SPAC

Other Standouts: 7/18 Chicago, 7/30 Portsmouth

“Piper” was most often used in combination with other jams this summer and was almost always good for some interesting minutes of jamming. Its one truly shining moment came as more of a centerpiece in SPAC’s final show in which the band truly developed the jam into something special.

***

 “Bathtub Gin”       

Top Version: 7/11 Randall’s Island

Other Standout: 7/3 SPAC

On the strength of two versions, “Bathtub Gin” made Second Team, All-Season . There’s just nothing else out there with two better jams from summer. And these two were pretty great.

***

Miner’s Post-Season Awards

Jam Vehicle of Summer: “Chalk Dust Torture”

Runner Up: “Ghost”

Rookie of the Tour: “Fuego”

Runner Up: “Wingsuit”

Show of Tour: 7/13 Randall’s Island

Runners Up: SPAC 7/4, MPP 7/27, Dick’s 8/30

Run of Summer: Randall’s Island

Runner Up: SPAC

Segue of Summer: “Twist -> Circus” 7/25

Runner Up: “Free -> Tweezer -> Simple -> Tweezer -> Free”

MVP of Tour: Jon Fishman

***

READER’S CHOICE AWARDS

Tags: , , ,