It’s Only Getting Better

3.7.09 (C. Jones)

3.7.09 (C. Jones)

With a show that brought the fire from the “Sanity” opener to the “Tweeprise” encore, Phish left the audience in awe and salivating for summer tour.  With a setlist that reads as a joke, Phish created a “perfect” show.  The band absolutely left no doubt in anyone’s mind or heart as to who their favorite band on the planet is again.  After nearly twelve hours of emotional and enthralling Phish music, I’m spent.  I will absolutely write about the show in detail, but it is going to have to be after a day of transit back to the west coast.

In a nutshell, the band took their final step from somewhat structured jamming into completely free flowing improv with a 22 minute exploration of “Down With Diesease.”  And the fantasy setlist became a joke when the combination of “Twist > 2001 > Moma” dominated the second half of the set.  Phish is back.  Miner is out.

No Spoilers is up for all three nights!!

264 Responses to “It’s Only Getting Better”

  1. kevin are hollo Says:

    i’ve got to hand it to the youngun, he’s not taking this thing lightly.

    here’s what happened for this listener: tried to stay up late friday night with the wifey, but once 1:30 rolled around and no active links, it was bedtime for junior. so on saturday, good friends josh and rose came into town for dinner, and josh being an old tour guy too, we were excited to give the first night a listen (my wife had made me peek at the twitters, so i had an inking, but they were all out of order!).

    needless to say, i was anxious, had high hopes (esp after reading that interview from the NYT), and was prepared for the best.

    on friday night, they delivered!

    it’s not so much the “tightness” of things, how well executed the songs are (tho that’s a factor), but there was something much different to the sound of these four this time around. as others have said, page’s role and dynamics are very much now at the forefront of this band! that’s exciting stuff! he’s the only one who has never played the lead role (we all know fish’s not allowed to talk) and it’s about time he be given the reins.

    as for trey…oh trey. we love you so much! it’s like the frank o’hara poem for billie holiday 🙂 please get up! no, seriously, i very much enjoy his playing on friday night. there’s a tentativeness, a humility to the soloing, almost as if he’s relearning how to sound like himself, but without tripping up on the cobwebs.

    the stash, david bowie, and tweezer were all full of those tentatively ferocious moments. it’s great stuff! cam, if you don’t hear it…well, you’ll need to listen again. this music used to demand multiple listenings anyway, so just pretend there’s a test.

    as for saturday night…

    another story completely. seeing the setlists, i thought after the energy and emotion of friday night, that this would be the show that stuck a feather in my cap. not so! it’s all wrong from the get go, totally lackluster and uncertain. sorry, but reba played pretty tightly? not sure what you’re using for comparison, but it ain’t the lawnboy. and it’s not just the composed sections, the outros are full of holes! yikes, i had to turn it off, really hard to hear superman playing kryptonite.

    what happened between friday and saturday? i never got around to hearing the hood and YEM, but i’ma listen right now. i expect them to be top notch, but that second night on night 2? i don’t even wanna to go there.

    for those of you chiding cam (tho i do think it’s overreaction at its finest :), think about it: he’s never seen the band live! all he has are those precious artifacts, some of which will forever stand the test of time as models of “perfection.” a lot of us have learned to take things with ample salt, bearing witness to the rise and fall of the tides. but he’s going from archive to archive, with no reference to the real!

    a strange situation…

  2. Danny B Says:

    I need tickets to any night of Jones Beach, Mansfield, or Camden. After listening to all three shows form this past weekend, I am finally ready to spend over face value on some tickets. I live in NYC but will travel to pick up tickets, pay with paypal, hell I will even trade some guitar pedals. hit me up if you got any extras dan.bennis@gmail.com

  3. KB Says:

    Thanks so much for all your efforts this weekend! Those of us who couldn’t attend the show are indebted to you. Herculean effort.

  4. kingshaffy Says:

    I’ve been going to shows since 93. I was there saturday and sunday. And I listened to friday. Anyone complaining either is delusional or just not a fan. Truly truly outstanding. I’ll put up sunday night against any show, any era. Period.

  5. stormchasingmikey Says:

    HD Video from Sunday uploading to YouTube now…..

  6. b23 Says:

    Hee hee!

    Good luck with that, Mr. Cam.

    The shows are not at all what I was expecting (would anyone have predicted only one 20 minute jam out of like eleven hours of music?), but definitely ahead of the January 2003 shows.

    Not perfect, by any means, and I doubt that I’ll revisit too many of the short songs a whole lot (I’m an infidel who always, always, always skips past things like Horse/Silent), but there are fantastic moments throughout.

    Check out Fishman in “Back on the Train” (and how he and Trey link up throughout T’s solo, connecting in a way that I became rarer and rarer in 2004). Check out Page in “Rock and Roll.” (And check out how well the band responds to each other during that song). Check out where “Split” goes. Check out how far down “Antelope” gets.

    And as far as rousing curiosity for the summer? Absolutely.

  7. kevin are hollo Says:

    i thought one of the more interesting aspects of these shows was the song length.

    that more than anything else really harkens back to a simpler time, when the object was to take things are ‘far as’ as possible; rather, to do something interesting in the time allowed.

    almost as if to say, “whether we fuck it up, or rip it straight through, let’s keep it moving.”

  8. kevin are hollo Says:

    oops. when the object was NOT to take things out…

  9. Baxter Says:

    I’m with Miner. They’re only getting better. “The band absolutely left no doubt in anyone’s mind or heart as to who their favorite band on the planet is again.”

    I am a 21 year vet, I first saw Phish in 1988 in Durham, NH. I was not at Hampton, but have listened to all the shows. Sure, there were a few flubs, but I loved what I heard and can’t wait for summer tour. Only, I don’t have any tix yet. Who’s got my Mansfield tiggit? email me : baxtercs@comcast.net

  10. Wilfred Brimley Says:

    The one question these shows left me thinking about was Trey’s playing…I thought he was up and down from song to song and especially in some of their jam vehicles he seemed tentative or unsure at times…I really would have liked him to take control and lead more at times…Not a complaint but just an observation…Usually when I can listen to songs multiple times though, I begin to appreciate his playing style more….time will tell

  11. Hans Says:

    Mr. Miner and all involved! Thanks you SO much for the no spoilers. Do it again for the summer tour please. It’s way cool to ride my bike to work in Holland listening to Phish 3.0 …

  12. jon_hansen Says:

    Wilfred

    I agree, and I think that’s the one thing that is going to keep Phish from ever returning to true form. In a way, back in the ’90s, Trey simply set the bar too high. He’s older now, and of course he’s never going to play the same again. The fingers just simply don’t move as fast. Seems like he’s just reaching around for those jams now, but just can’t get to them. This version of Phish is going to be much slower, and a lot more mainstream-ish unfortunately. They just can’t do it anymore like they used to.

  13. jon_hansen Says:

    Canman,

    I agree with you to a point…the shows are relatively disappointing given the expectations, but this is how it’s going to be. This is the new Phish. They’re older, and they just can’t do it like they used to anymore. That’s what the fan now has to get used to unfortunately.

    My worst fear is that all the new fans that are just seeing Phish for the first time are going to go around calling these shows “the greatest ever” (by the way, for Miner to call Saturday night one of the greatest shows ever was pretty ridiculous). With all the shows available from livephish from ’03-now, will they ever bother going back to download the good stuff? That worries me from a historical, legacy perspective.

  14. dyda Says:

    there are plenty of archival releases available on that site too and you have to scroll past them to get to the 2.0 stuff

    just be happy they’re back and making the effort. after all what was the trey quote about becoming a shadow of their former selves? they wouldn’t be doing it if they weren’t sure the product was quality on par with their standards.

    seems that the only real dispute is on the quality of trey. page, mike and of course fish sound great to me.

  15. Baxter Says:

    @ Hansen,

    Don’t agree. The show exceeded my expectations. I think they sound different, but for the better, not worse. Remember, they had to re-learn 86 different songs this weekend that they hadn’t played live in 5 years. They are not OLD, and they can still do it, and it will be better. Just give them time to settle into the groove, this summer will be off the hook. They will bring up the speed, and will never be Maine Stream. The Phish swims in space dood.

    There is no other band out there that I would rather see. I’ll see you at Mansfield and we’ll talk to George during set break.

  16. Jeff Says:

    B+ on the shows (had there been more jamming, I would have given a A). My take on the shows is that the band made a huge list of all the songs they wanted to play and played them they did. i don’t think this is a new phish that won’t jam, they just sacrificed jamming for the chance to play as many songs as possible. i thought it was a total attempt at the tightness and energy of 1995. The speed and raw energy displayed on most of the songs was nothing short of electric to me. I came up in 94/95 with Phish, so that style was my introduction. I long got over the fact that funk Phish was gone and I am happy to welcome back this manic energy from the band. The only flub that really affected my attitude was during PYITE. Any other flub made was a small thing that to me, never impeded the flow of the song. Page was the clear MVP, but, on Sunday he was almost too high in the mix and stepped on Trey when Big Red was really trying to blast off (IMO). Trey was fairly reserved, but did shine at times throughout all 3 nights. Short of them playing Harpua or Forbin’s, I was not in the slightest bit disappointed. They played tight, with a ton of energy, and finally brought the real HEAT Sunday night Set II. This was a great indicator of the jams we can expect this summer. The Disease jam was reminiscent of the Gin jam in Cincy 03, the Seven Below and Twist were much like Trey’s jamming last fall. All in all, I expect big things this summer and will enjoy every lick.

    as far the canman’s comments – Fluff botched? This is why I never paid attention to this kid. I always sensed some kind of desperation.

    favorites of the 3 nights:
    Fluffhead
    Divided Sky
    Tweezer
    Grind
    Heavy Things (best ever version?)
    B.O.A.B.H.
    Rock n Roll
    Ghost
    Sanity
    Free
    DwD

  17. Matt Says:

    I’m not liking the doubt (although peppered and not straight up) that some of you guys are sprinkling around.

    5 years is a LONG time. It’s longer than 2 years. In five years, Phish went from the tight, firey jams of 93 into the funk-tastic jam machine of 98. The cobwebs were broken off this weekend. I think any musician here knows that jammin with your buddies in a studio or in the basement is A LOT different and less stressful than playing in front of a sold out coliseum. I really think that Trey was mostly just nervous. That’s what it sounded like to me. He needs to loosen up — that will happen on tour.

    This Phan has no doubt that the boys will be that perfect mix between a well rehearsed 93-Phish and a funky jamtastic 98 by midsummer. No doubt in my mind.

  18. Baxter Says:

    @ Jeff,

    I’m with you man, I think having the huge set list was a gift to the fans, so they could hear the best of Phish, and the jams will come out later on. I loved what I heard. Of course, I saw Phish extensively from 1989 through 1992, and then after 1995 didn’t see them again until 2004. I listen to all the late 90’s a lot, and that is what got me back into Phish. They are just at a different period in their life, but the music is still phenomenal.

    It’s similar to the Grateful Dead, they had different sounds to their music over the years, and everyone has a favorite period they think of as the best. I loved 1983, because that’s when I saw my first Dead show.

    I am more excited than ever for new Phish music, and look forward to the new album and summer tour.

  19. notkuroda Says:

    I’m listening to Set II night II and it’s pretty hot!

  20. nonoyolker Says:

    They knocked the dust off the gear this weekend, blessed the crowd with a TON of tunes from the shelf and summer tour is going to be the HEAT! Mark my words…

  21. anabiono Says:

    has anyone been able to download last nights mp3s off of phish.com yet?

  22. camman Says:

    i’ve been relistening to the second show.. and while the 1st set i think was totally botched, the second set is growing on me. i was hoping for lots of jams, maybe even a 4 song set, not 16 song sets… in that way i feel like they sold out a little, but when i listen to sundays show this evening, i will have to seriously think about my summer palns, as to whoever said it, i’m not going to see Dave Matthews this summer. Trey did seem so hesitant and inconsistant at times, and thats what was the most disapointing. He did the talking in the Times article. His name was the one attached to the free Mp3’s press release. Its been a hard five years on big red but he should had stepped up to the plate a little more….and hopefully they won’t botch the next Hood either, that was possibably the biggest disapointment so far…

    thats all the neagitivity i’m going to spread about the band until i’ve ehard the third show

  23. robert Says:

    it really seems to me that page, mike, and fish are in phine form. especially page, he’s really on top of his game. the keys are much more prevalent, and incredibly impressive! his cascading improvisational licks on fluffhead and divided sky blew me away night 1. but trey’s solos and improv work are just not what they once were.

    take, for example, PYITE from night 2. trey supremely fucks up some of those classic riffs! maybe a combination of nerves, age, and drug use. who knows.

    i just hope to god that he can loosen up and get his edge back. as much for the rest of the boys’ sake as ours. come on, red.

  24. Mrs. Miner Says:

    I’m shocked by all the negative comments! But I guess that is just part of the deal with the Phish community- there are always the haters who need to find things wrong to complain about- it’s how they “enjoy” the experience, I guess. But ya got to love the haters too, they always make me chuckle b/c so much seems to go over their heads. Listing the imperfections in the show is one way to go, I guess. Ah well, we all see Phish for different reasons. I

  25. Matso Says:

    I give these shows an A++. Compared to every other Phish show played from 2005 to 2008, they were the Heat. ; )

    @ camman – don’t worry about the flubs. These are difficult songs to play. Trey’s solo in the Hood is all that counts and it was great.

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