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. Asher Says:

    Thanks!! That’s officially the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

  2. Cosmic Charlie Says:

    I definitely agree that as the three nights progressed, they kept getting better. The Disease was absolutely amazing. I felt like I was on a psychedelic train ride to the center of the earth and I wasn’t even at the show just listening through a good set of head phones on my couch! I think that Page has definitely stepped it up a ton and I love it. I have to admit that I thought Trey was kind of timid at first, but once things got rolling the groove was on. I am looking forward to see what the future has in store. Hopefully see some of you guys at the Pageant…and Deer Creek.

  3. gtgwbab2495 Says:

    Yes, that Fluffhead/Divided Sky was amazing. Such a bold move to do, considering they completely took fluff out of 2.0. I was blown away, they pretty much nailed both those songs.

  4. Frankie Says:

    I remember during Chalkdust turning to my friend and saying wow! they found yet ANOTHER new way of improvising with each other! Listen to it and you can trace elements of different eras but this is 2009 Phish!! Things are looking so good! 😀

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    “Phish is not back, and i will not be attending the summer shows. I have heard both Fridays and Saturdays show, and it was a complete slop fest. i had high expectations, but the band didn’t even play as good as post hiatus

    and Fluffhead was botched…. their wasn’t any energy to these shows…”

    ^^ camman. How can you say Phish isn;t back when you have never known them to begin with? You a little pissed you missed the most magical weekend in years? Slop fest- were you on PCP while listening man? Seriously….” The band ripped. Maybe Phish really isn’t your thing afterall. Sorry to say it man, but you are WAY off base here.

  6. Asher Says:

    I just did a little experiment and if you want to hear how far Phish has come I suggest giving it a try. I went back and listened to the AC/DC Bag (not including the jam) from Coventry then immediately listened to the Bag from last night. The difference is night and day. The proof is in the pudding.

  7. gtgwbab2495 Says:

    Has anyone noticed how on phish.net, under upcoming shows, ‘Phish Reunion @ Hampton’ is only -3 days from now! Haha looks like they need to do some updating. And it still has the Coventry setlist under Last Phish Show. Hah.

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    “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.”

    ^^ one of the most absurd comments I have EVER read in my life

  9. Wax Banks Says:

    There’s a lot of traffic on the site today, not all of it encouraging, but this is the best forum I’ve found for discussing the Phish if you’re serious/bordering on academic about it and generally positive about the band.

    I agree on the latter point but not really the former; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a discussion of Phish in any forum (maybe r.m.p. on its absolute best days in the mid 90’s) that approached ‘academic’ seriousness. But positivity probably matters more at this point in this corner of the fandom than precision! :p

    Concern about flubs is idiocy and not worth responding to – alas, I’ve come to late to this thread to stem that tide. The band played three tight, energetic shows without flagging, and deserve all kinds of praise for that. But as I said in the 3/7 thread, these were classic Phish events, but not top-notch Phish shows when compared with the best of previous years. 2/28/03’s ‘Tweezer’ is rife with little fuckups; it doesn’t matter. Hell, the mistakes usually prompt even greater intensity from the band! 5/7/94 was watertight but jokey and in places almost embarrassingly juvenile; so what? It’s an hourlong fuckoff from four master musicians!

    Yet

    1) it doesn’t hurt band or fans to acknowledge our shared weaknesses and

    2) the perfect is the enemy of the ROCK anyway.

    Maybe that is why they moved away from the half hour jams that were clearly drug induced in some way.

    I think this characterization is absolutely wrong, and unlike carping about precision it’s genuinely damaging to fan discourse. Trey was sober in Summer 2003 too as I recall, and remember how far those tunes went out (think of the ’46 Days’ at IT). (But then also note that the music was less complex and daring after the hiatus…) Lengthy improvisations aren’t ‘clearly’ anything, except lengthy. And this is a band that’s long been committed to unusually systematic improvisation and group practice/performance – I’d fault Phish’s manic one-idea-per-minute ADD-rock of the early 90’s as an ongoing drug casualty before I’d criticize the thoughtful, deliberate playing of the mid/late 90’s.

    ‘Induced’ is the wrong, wrong, wrong word here.

    Trey has said many times that the band’s improvisations were originally a compositional/performative enhancement, not any kind of homage-to-the-Dead free-floating cosmic blahblahbah. I figure the band recentered themselves in Hampton, found their footing, and will head out from these new performances with a fire in their bellies. That’ll be fantastic. In the meantime, these three performances were long on joy and light on the things I like best about Phish, and I imagine my affection for them will be like what I feel for early-childhood friends: fond remembrance, the occasional stab of longing or curiosity, but I don’t seek them out except on special occasions.

    I suspect that come autumn and NYE I won’t be alone in that feeling. I welcome the change – which is the essence of Phish after all.

  10. Wax Banks Says:

    @Miner:

    “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.”

    ^^ one of the most absurd comments I have EVER read in my life

    I think the quoted poster’s denigration is out of place, and the ‘true form’ stuff is of course stupid, but Trey’s comparative slowness is obviously correct. He’s less hungry, less purely dextrous in his hands (though more assured and responsive to new impulses – one of the benefits of age onstage, in the bedroom, at the keyboard, etc.). I think Trey et al. won’t try to play the kind of jaunty high-speed stuff they played in 1992. Nor should they! That stuff was young people’s music, just a few steps beyond juvenilia. Phish are doing their In Rainbows stuff now; they don’t need to impress anyone and don’t harbor the illusion they can change the world, and they know they won’t live forever, so they’re making new, more careful choices.

    That said, for the most part they nailed the composed stuff this weekend. The fingers can do their work – they just don’t have energy to burn anymore. That’s no criticism at all!

  11. JPhishman Says:

    Miner, thanks again for the no spoilers. I had a good buddy over for Fri and Sat nights and we really felt the glory of the comeback through those downloads. Waking up the next morning to the SBDs was nice too to revisit some highlights.
    All in all I would say these shows definitely exceeded my expectations. Sure as hell didn’t expect 30 songs a night, or a Fluff opener!!! I sure expected more RR/Undermind material but def not gonna complain about the lack thereof. No question in my mind this summer is gonna be absolutely ripping. Especially by the post-Bonaroo half of the run. The question I do have though:

    How bout a Forbins? Judging from the fact that they are obviously very in touch with the foundation of the band…. it’s not a matter of if, but when….

  12. gtgwbab2495 Says:

    I would do the comparison on Bag’s between Coventry and last night, but I seem to not have Coventry. Miner, do you know if you ever had Coventry as a download of the day or a weekend nugget? Thanks.

  13. Wax Banks Says:

    @kevin are hollo!!

    I agree that the performances weren’t perfect. Big deal. As far as many fans are concerned – and remember, the average Phish fan (like average Joe) knows nothing whatsoever about playing music onstage, no theory, no history of improvisation, etc. – Phish’s return is like a family dinner. It’s being with family that matters, not how much you argue, so why complain?

    When I bitch to my brother about our dad, he tells me to be less negative. Then he bitches to me about our dad, and I tell him to be less negative. The goal is less negativity, and more dignity. Bitching isn’t always the way to get to either.

    But I take issue with your claim that these shows were fucked, or that the band didn’t deliver the goods. They played their tightest, most intense shows in more than a decade. Asking them to get all the way back to where they were in ’92, when every non-concert day was an all-day practice session, is madness. It mistakes the purpose of the shows. Which isn’t ultimately precision but power, communication. Anastasio’s always on about music is communication etc., and as an actual writer-by-trade it’s been important for me to learn that good communicators give up the fantasy of infinitely precise expression in favour of the sustainable truth of collaboration and interdependence – or else they die alone on a stack of pages reading ‘ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES TREY A DULL BOY.’

    Miner sometimes sounds like a Pollyanna but there’s room in the world for excess positivity; Camman sounds like an ignorant kid affecting jadedness but there’s room in the world for that shit too. Take it from me: I hate basically every goddamn thing there is, everywhere, ever, and these were still pretty goddamn exciting shows, played just about as well as four middle-aged men can play on a couple months’ rehearsal of a songlist a hundred goddamn songs in length.

    Hey, there’s even room in the world for music-school shoegazers too. 😉

    Searching for a real love
    (but not finding it here),

    W.

  14. Wax Banks Says:

    anyone who is saying anything negative about these shows is either
    A- jealous they weren’t there
    B- don’t love Phish
    C- missed the point of the weekend
    D- didn’t listen to how the band is playing
    E- don’t get that this was the best the band had played in eons
    F- doesn’t realize that huge jams were not what this weekend was about
    E- just loves being negative
    F- needs to stay home this summer when Phish conquers the world

    These are uncharitable and somewhat silly words, Miner, and I suspect you’ll cringe at ’em later on. But!!!! It is fair to say that the need to share criticisms immediately says more about the speaker’s need for self-declaration and such than it does about the criticized event. Most people are strangers to themselves, and what we think we’re doing isn’t always or even often what we’re actually doing.

    I’ve got some mild reservations about these shows, I want people to keep their quality in perspective, but time will handle most of those duties itself. A good party at which you don’t fornicate with gymnastics-trained triplets is still a good party.

    In the meantime, the only tempests Phish fans have are teapot-sized, which distorts everything. You’re excessively complimentary, others are excessively critical. Phish, meanwhile, are pretty much Phish. And I’ll see you fuckers at Star Lake.

  15. Wax Banks Says:

    Aah, I see my reservations from earlier this winter mightn’t have been out of place – methinks Camman is a troll, maybe? Never mind the idea of a high schooler wondering about ‘blowing hundreds of dollars’ on anything but college and mortgage payments…;)

  16. Mr.Miner Says:

    “Concern about flubs is idiocy and not worth responding to”

    ^^ Amen, Wax! At least someone said that besides me.

    ALSO, I am all about intellectual dialogue and constructive criticism / analysis, but a lot of the negativity on here today is just absurd- I suppose its mostly from 1 or 2 people. Lest I remind you, Phish is back. If you are coming here just to argue or hate, there is a site designed for just that called Phantasy Tour- you can find it here http://www.phantasytour.com/phish/boards.cgi

    ^^ take the crap there, please. Thank you!

  17. Wax Banks Says:

    Hearing the crowd drown out the music is something the Sbd recordings don’t really capture.

    Ironically, the crowd on the Hampton SBD’s was the loudest I’ve heard on a pure SBD source. Amazing. I was proud of you fools for making that joyful noise! Even if it was only the nitrous talking.

  18. Cosmic Charlie Says:

    They are all just getting the feel of everything again…if those shows weren’t up to par for everyone then I can’t wait to hear the one’s that are! This is just the beginning of 3.0 and to make judgments this soon in the game as to the entire future of Phish is crazy. This going to be plenty of shows and more than likely we will have different and concurring opinions on many of them. What really matters is that Phish is back and they are still ripping the sets to shreds. Honestly 44 isn’t that old, hell my grandma is 70 and she is still as vital as anyone I know.

  19. Col. Forbin Says:

    Wow, just kind of skimmed through these posts, and am shocked at some of the negativity I was actually surprised at how GOOD they sounded. I made it in to friday and sunday, and all I can tell you is that there wasn’t a bad set in there. Listening to them on the way back home today, just confirmed what I already knew. Yeah, they could have jammed a little more here and there, but this was different than your average shows. They had an agenda, and IMO, they executed it very well.

    Maybe I shouldn’t read too much into it, as most likely it is just sour grapes from the fans that couldn’t be there. Leaving the mothership all I saw were jaws still dropped, and minds still blown.

  20. karel barnoski Says:

    i wasn’t lucky enough to attend the hampton shows, but i have been listening to them(thanks minor & phish). i first had my mind blown by phish around 1993 @ SPAC. in 1995, when i went away to college, phish had become an arena filling phenomenon. over the last 15 years, i have enjoyed just about every live show i coudl attend, and i have always been satisfied, and at times blown away, like i was in at SPAC for my first show.

    how anyone can say anything negative about this band baffles me. for me, they remain the greatest rock band in history. and the fact they have come together again, playing as well as they are, is a gift. they inspired me to make a career out of sound. they showed me that you can make music that spans all genres, and sometimes may even change someone’s life, as it has with mine.

    i just want to give thanks for the opportunity to once again listen to phish live. page has inspired my keyboard playing and love for composition. no one does it better than phish. to me, they were(and now are!) the greatest rock band to take the stage, with no competition in sight.

    let’s keep this in mind before we find a wrong note, rhythmic error, or some other technical mishap. it’s about soul. leave technique for the jazz cats at juliard and eastman.

    peace,
    karel

  21. Wax Banks Says:

    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.

    Oddly enough I’m halfway with Kevin on this one. ‘Reba’ was played well enough up until the jam, not 100% (and Trey fell off the track during the ‘Chase,’ irritatingly!) but not 0% either. The jam doesn’t do anything for me – an unexceptionally pretty C-grade ‘Reba’ to borrow the overwrought and overrated Charlie Dirksen’s old standard. Intriguing style from Trey on that one – reminiscent of his standout bluesy licks-based playing during the TAB tour last autumn – but it didn’t make for a standout ‘Reba’ at all. Trey didn’t seem to be in tune with his bandmates at all during long stretches of that jam.

    Again: these shows were mixed, but not in a bad way. Just not in the way I’d want. I choose to believe that better things are yet to come – but I’m not displeased with where things are now. You don’t ask for a finished product on Day One (or Day Three!); you just want the process to be underway. By god, it is that.

  22. full tour! Says:

    wax….when i made the “drug induced” jam comment earlier, it wasn’t meant as a swipe at the band. Hell, i love those jams that go off the deep end. In fact i was complimenting trey on his new found sobriety. His playing seems to be more sharp and focused now that he dosen’t have that monkey on his back. I’ve tried opiates and they are not my ballgame. In fact, the only times i tried them i felt sick and like the life was sucked out of me. I knew people that went from being good friends to being mindless zombies in a matter of months from being on those disgusting drugs. I watched it ruin people’s lives. I’ve watched people die from it. I was lucky that that class of intoxicant never agreed with me, because god knows where i’d be today.

    You can clearly hear the grip the opiates had on trey during 2004, especially the vegas run. It brought phish 2.0 down in a ball of flames. You can even hear it in his solo performances after phish broke up. Don’t get me wrong, i love some of the stuff he was doing even on the junk.All i was saying is that we got big red back, and to my ears he sounds better than ever. Since i have played music since i was about 6 years old i know all about that place where music come from within one’s soul. I cannot imagine being dependent on opiates and having to play shows on a regular basis. What if your dope sick? The show must go on no matter how bad you feel.

    That being said, i think we are lucky that trey is back to being sober and that he even gave phish another chance. I feel that with that weight lifted he can get back to business. I give him mad props. It takes balls to attempt to play this music, especially if he grew accoustomed to playing intoxicated. Its all about that “comfort zone” and opiates are a hell of a drug to break away from. for him to find his new “comfort zone” it might take a while, but from the sound of these last three shows it sounds like he is pretty much there already. I’m eager for what the future has in store for us all. Its like we all were given a second shot at doing this right.

    So cheers to trey because he is really someone i look up to. He’s got the fight still in him and he’s stronger than ever.

  23. (:{> Says:

    listening to last night for the first time. Foam. TITE!!!

  24. Wax Banks Says:

    Final (hopefully) thought for the moment: that ‘Twist’ is in no danger of a ‘Best Ever’ callout, but those final two minutes weren’t quite like any Phish I’ve heard – and I was pleased to hear how long the boys kept up that interesting synthy group texture after Fish kicked in the ‘2001’ drumbeat. I like my ‘2001’s 20 minutes long and naaaasty, please, and this one wasn’t that – Trey did as little with this version as at Great Woods in 2004 (suck it haters!) – but I think it was meant to serve its 1993-era purpose, kicking off the next song with a little dancing rather than standing on its own. (Weird to think of a six-minute song as a prelude, eh? Well that’s Phish too.)

    As for ‘Moma,’ Trey’s learned to do a lot with these chunky ‘Loving Cup’-style blues-funk solos, though no version of ‘Moma’ tops the 11/23/97 ‘BEK’ (one of that tour’s gnarliest jams – damn what a night that was!) for intensity or scale. But ‘Moma’ is a raveup now, not a waist-deep wah-funk song (for that style cf. 12/30/97 encore), and it served admirably in that capacity last night. No complaints – and yet again, nothing epochal or even particularly memorable from Moma’s corner, y’know?

    Which is to say: a pleasure, and pleasure’s OK. (I dislike ‘WMGGW’ s a cover in general but they did it up right. Trey’s finally just right for that song’s melodramatic bombast now.)

  25. Wax Banks Says:

    Aww, fuck it, I have to post yet another comment. (Sorry folks for the blather!)

    Best. Wading. Vocals. Ever.

    A small thing, sure, but hearing Trey leap onto those background lines and finally nail them with full force buoyed me up.

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