The Starry Night

6.18.09 Star Lake Official Poster

6.18.09 Star Lake Official Poster

As Phish pulled into Star Lake, one of their hallowed summer sheds, last night, things felt like they were back to normal.  After the irregular indoor and festival shows of the south, it felt good to be back at a “regular” summer show.  And when Phish stepped to bat in the second set, it seemed that they felt the same way.  Creating a feel-good melange of improv that left everyone walking out with a smile, Phish played a set centered on jams rather than songs, a trend that is more than welcome among their fan base. Despite rather sloppy composed playing by Trey all night- we watched a “Bowie” fall to pieces in front of our eyes- the improvisation carried this show, and in the end, the jams are what count.  And that is why we’ll be listening to this second set quite a bit in between tours.

Phish @ The Fox (D.Vann)

Phish @ The Fox (D.Vann)

Leading off with “Disease,” an improvisational adventure was impending as the band played tightly through the song and far out into other territory in what turned into the highlight of the show, and one of the most engaging jams of the tour.  Moving beyond the composed jam for quite some time, Phish explored some darker places before twisting the jam into a similar ambient-groove that has been popping up all tour.  Following a dissonant and drone path, this murky improv morphed into the intro to “Free.”  While an appropriate and bombastic landing point for this course of improv, it has been avshame to see “Free” cut into a jamless song this summer after having being the staple of so much past summer funk.  At this point the bass bombs move directly into Trey’s guitar solo, leaving any full-band improvisation behind.  Maybe they’ll stretch one out at Alpine- though I doubt it.

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

After an oddly placed “Guyute,” Phish put the pedal back on the creative metal, launching into the tour’s second “Piper.”  Ready and willing to take another musical risk, the band laid it out in a jam that covered diverse territory.  Certainly exploratory, the band took the jam beyond it’s conventions, even building into a slower groove for a bit.  “Piper’s” musical trapeze act took several twists and turns before settling into into a mid-set rest in “Circus.”  But a brief rest it was as the band dropped into another fantastic “Harry Hood.”  This song has been completely revitalized this summer, and each time its reggae rhythms drop, we know we are in for a soul-searching adventure.  Once again taking the “song-of-tour” candidate on a delicate and triumphant journey, Phish crushed their magnificent classic with another unique path to the mountaintop.

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

6.16.09 (D.Vann)

Following “Squirming Coil,” the band didn’t take a bow, leaving time for one more monster.  After a few moments of silence, the opening of “YEM” sang through the pavilion; the perfect cap on a “Disease-Piper-Hood” set.  By far the most impressive rendition of the summer, the band blew up a vintage set-closing version of the song whose precise grooves and high-energy peaks were just what the doctor ordered.  Providing an all-out dance-fest to close the night, everyone was on a high for the goofy encore that saw Fishman perform his first song of 3.0- Syd Barret’s “Bike.”

Kicking off their four night run with a strong effort in Burgettstown, Phish and their travelling circus now head west to Noblesville and the cornfields of Deer Creek.  Looking to build on the last three weeks, the next three shows potentially represent the most exciting nights of tour.  And if the past is any indication, at Deer Creek and Alpine, anything is possible!

1st set note: Arguably the best versions of “Wolfman’s” and “Tube” since the comeback.

I: Golgi Apparatus, Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around The Room, Wolfman’s Brother, The Divided Sky, Heavy Things, Walk Away, Wilson, Tube, Alaska, David Bowie

II: Down With Disease > Free, Guyute, Piper > When The Circus Comes To Town, Harry Hood, The Squirming Coil, You Enjoy Myself

E: Grind, Hello My Baby, Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, Loving Cup

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209 Responses to “The Starry Night”

  1. nonoyolker Says:

    @ Bapslap – part of a torrent community, scooped from there.

    General comment, was listening to the EPIC Crosseyed ’03 last night to commemorate the Star Lake performance and was thinking, anyone who bashed v2.0 before this tour should eat their fucking words. I was a big v2.0 supporter, but a lot of people shit on the era, especially some people here (mostly because there was little to talk about before the reunion was announced). v2.0 has some stellar material and in general, blows what we have seen so far out of the water. Granted, the boys are rusty after a 5 year hiatus, a little older, but still. I am still steadfast positive that the boys are just going to get tighter and more exploratory, but those haters of v2.0 need to take some time and make some comparisons. You’ll probably be suprised.

  2. Albert Walker Says:

    I think other hack musicians like myself can agree

    remembering all these composed sections and playing them with the precision of back in the day will take a while

    it’s not like they are going to the shed and practicing Bowie until they get it right

    they are practicing on stage and making great improvements

    I tend to be pretty negative and am more than impressed with how far they have come

    it will be a process and am glad to witness this process unfold this weekend

  3. ColonelJoy Says:

    @SOAM,

    Phish are considerably healthier gents than the Dead were at a similar stage. The frustration is that they appear to be able to bring it, where, when you and I saw the Dead, while they brought it in moments, it was rarely sustained very long. Yeah, I loved it, but if I had seen Europe 72’…it would have been worthless, save a few good Fires and some Jerry Balads.

    I would say the decline is not nearly as precipitous as the Dead’s was, not even close to this point.

    I agree, it is still early in the comeback. It feels like all the pieces are there. I’m not hearing much harmoniousness in the jamming….maybe that will change in the second leg of tour.

  4. Walfredo Says:

    SOAM- I think Hampton is being seriously underrated at this point. The whole point of Hampton was to celebrate the band getting back together. They have so much damn material they were able to stack-pack 3 nights of huge sets- one right of the other- and because it was only a 3 night run through the kitchen sink in and never do a repeat… So from that perspective- what was there to complain about?

    For a summer tour run- it just isn’t possible to be that fresh each night. Songs, and themes of songs are going to repeat from show to show. Most hardcore reviewers- either go to or listen to all the shows- and factor in if something is “overplayed”…

    I for one- could not have had more fun, or been more impressed with the bands energy, playing, and spirit at Hampton. It was a perfect weekend- and that will never change in my mind…

    Combing through a whole run of shows- you can find more standout versions of different songs- but I don’t think any show this summer front to back compares to the heat that was brought in Hampton each night- and largely that is because of the 3-night comeback run format- where everything is a bustout- and they can pick and choose from the catalog- the energy in that room each night- and the 4 hour nightly shows…

    BTW- Starlake sounds like a great show! It looks like they are going to push it hard to the finish line of this run… Wish I could make it to Alpine this weekend…

  5. ColonelJoy Says:

    @ Nonoyolker,

    I’m in total agreement. Only Asheville an Camden so far can compete with the better parts of 2.0.

    They will get there.

  6. Albert Walker Says:

    @Nono

    I think it is more watching a band on a upswing vs the down swing
    there were hot ass shows in 2003-2004, but you could feel things coming down around them

    if you listen to Fenway and then StarLake you will hear a band gaining there footing not losing it and I think that’s where the excitement comes from

    I’ve seen jazz musicians and rock (much older than Phish Winwood and Clapton just last night) whose chops are still there so who knows how much upside could be there

  7. Posterus Nutbagus Says:

    is it just me, or does it seem like each setlist is rather similar? i was surprised there was no ocelot or KDF!

  8. Leo Weaver Says:

    Eager to get home and listen to this one…IMO, the setlist had great potential, looks like a fun one. And I really like the Hood, Coil, YEM trio…that makes for a big ending with 3 of my faves.

    @SOAM, re: Hampton, I think part of it’s “well-reception” was that was the first time in 5 years ANYONE had seen/heard them again, so there was the euporia of the moment…and the extra allowance of some slop due to needing to knock the rust off. I was at those shows and they sounded GREAT at the moment. I even kept the discs (or parts) on near-constant rotation because it was just so good to hear/feel the music again, but all the flubs showed up. Now that I’ve got a few other 3.0 shows to pull from, the Hampton shows are near the back of the shuffle…and I’ve found parts of them that make me hurt. Does it reduce the fun I had or the quality of experience??? Not one little bit! And we fans do tend to get a little more critical as tour wears on. I’ll tell you this…every show I go to is well-received by me…I always walk out with a smile on my phace…word, I can and will never replace replace those experiences. And yes, it’s early in their comeback…I don’t think we’ve seen the best of 3.0 yet…I feel like they’ve still got to take the training wheels off. My prediction is that we’ll see much more from them later this summer…hopefully it all starts this weekend!

    To those of you guys going, have fun for me! See you at Merriweather if not Gorge…

  9. Walfredo Says:

    Colonel- on the same token- absolutely everything they have played is so much better then Vegas 04 run or Coventry or many of the really, really bad moments from version 2.0… You don’t have to worry a band you don’t recognize might show up and ruin your weekend.

  10. nonoyolker Says:

    @ colonel and albert, totally agree. I’ve seen 4 shows this tour (fen, jb3, mansfield, and camden) and they have surely been getting stronger. My point was more a general comment. Been on this site since early last fall and was just remembering how some people shit on and generally dismiss v2.0 during all that down time, mostly when we had little else to discuss. Just was remembering back and wondering what those peeps thought about the tour so far.

  11. Leo Weaver Says:

    And don’t get me wrong guys, I think the Hampton shows were awesome, probably the favorite 3-night run of my phishtory. It was just so perfect. And I still think the RnR>Limb to start 2nd set of second night is a highlight of 3.0. Just glad to have the guys back. Coventry put a really bad taste in my mouth…I didn’t listen to them much at all from then until the Hampton shows were annouced. Like I said, it feels REALLY good to have the music back in my life (though the wifey is getting tired of having to shout to get thru my headphones…hehehe).

  12. andrewrose Says:

    No Bittersweet Motel? 🙂

  13. Walfredo Says:

    Leo- to me there were many highlights at Hampton. It was a magical weekend- sometimes tapes can’t do an experience justice… I know its cliche- but seriously you had to be there.

    I get that most reviewers are trying to come from an analytical perspective and compare version A versus version B and not bring in bias. I will readily admit- if you comb through the best versions of the songs played this tour- you will find better versions of most songs played at Hampton… But I am yet to hear a show- including Camden- that matches the intensity from beginning to end of any of the Hampton shows… It was just such a strong opening statement- of we are freaking back!

  14. Summer98 Says:

    I loved some of the ’03 stuff. The Cincy shows in Feb. ’03 in particular stand out, they spread the Mike’s Groove over both nights and there was some pretty heavy jamming. So far I’m liking what I’m hearing this tour. I thought there was a nice build from GW>Camden>Asheville>Knoxville with Knoxville being a really great mini tour peak. I do feel like the last few shows might have been a small step back, maybe related to the different feel of the venues or the pressure/hype of the big stage and then some deflation. I haven’t listened to Star Lake yet but will over the weekend.

    I’m so jealous of you guys going to DC. This is the first time since 1996 that Phish is playing DC and I’m not there!! I know it will be great. Drive safe and have fun.

  15. Doc Says:

    Even in their heyday, Trey was known to disappear during composed sections from time to time. Just listen to the Reba from 12/31/95 – he completely botched the fugues, but the jam makes it one of the best versions they ever played.

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    after the hampton reunion (which I thoroughly enjoyed, in an energy way, though there was slop) the only 03 show I saw was greenville 3-1-03 and it was fantastic. 04 we caught alpine and coventry and both had highlights though it was painfully obvious trey didn’t want to be there and he certainly didn’t want to play those songs. i enjoy the highlights I’ve heard from both years and never really got all the phish 2.0 hate..

  17. SJC Says:

    to add to summer98’s thoughts of the “step back” the last week or so (which I agree with btw)…they’be been playing one night on/one night off the last week. IMO that can really disrupt the flow of things.

    Look for them to crush the rest of this tour.

  18. Leo Weaver Says:

    @walfredo…I agree, many many highlights from Hampton. And yes, it was magical…I was there all 3 nights (seriously) and enjoyed the hell out of it…as I said in my follow -up post, probably the favorite 3 night run I’ve been to. And the second set, second night is still a fave full set of 3.0 for me. And you’re right, many songs played at Hampton are better than some on this tour. And it was an incredible “we’re back” statement. I still get chills when I pop in the first hampton disk and listen to the louder than anything ovation just before the first plucks of Fluffhead. That roar (in person) may’ve been the loudest thing I’ve ever heard.

    @Cow, yes, that 03.01.03 show in Greensboro was the heat…next nite in Atlanta was fun too.

  19. andrewrose Says:

    @ nonoyolker

    I’ve not posted anything, really, since this tour started, mostly because I’ve been sitting back and listening, given I couldn’t make it to any shows. But I have to agree than so far, Phish 2.0 is much, much stronger than 3.0 in my opinion.

    I’m not saying there aren’t encouraging signs with the band as they are now, but I definitely think it’s revisionist history for anyone to think that 2003-2004 was some horrible valley for the band that they’ve started to emerge from. The decline in my opinion happened very quickly in summer 2004 (and there were even some great shows then, see SPAC, 6/19 and especially 6/20). But 2003 is actually one of my favourite years for Phish, next to 94, 95, 97, 98 and 99.

    Maybe that speaks to my personal tastes, but February 2003 saw some incredible music, and saw the band get hot very quickly. It started innocently enough with some hot jams (the 2/14 Bathtub, the 2/20 Tweezer), but the shows in Worcester and at Nassau that year (2/26, 2/28) are some of the best they’ve ever played. Can anyone really tell me that a single set on this tour comes close to that first set in Worcester? Or any jam this tour approaching the grandeur of the Nassau 03 Tweezer?

    In fairness, a two year hiatus is not the same as a five year one, especially when you consider all the other factors at play here (and there are many). I love Phish, I’ve been seeing them for over 15 years, and I’ll probably fork out some cash to see them in August. But despite the excitement of them being active again, and hearing some tight playing, so far this isn’t the band I’d hoped they’d be at this point. I even think some of the jams being praised are being overrated a bit just by virtue of being ‘jams’ at all. The Camden Sand, the Asheville Ghost…these are nice jams, but we used to get two to three of these a night, remember?

    Who knows, maybe front to back tight shows with great jams and creative segues will come. But even this tour’s highlights so far (Camden, Asheville) don’t quite compare in my books to the standard I think I would have applied to Phish in any era …. except maybe pre 93? Now if that means we’re headed for mid-to-late 90s Phish in the next few years to come.. bring it on!

  20. Kevin Says:

    @cowfunk

    It probably depends on which era you prefer. I was always a huge fan of 92-93 Phish, where the band was really tight and pretty much just played song after song. Jams were relatively brief, straight ahead rockers.

    My interest started dying in summer of 1999, when the band really lost their crispness and seemed content to stand there for 20 minutes and noodle until something finally happened. Summer 2000 was almost unbearable for me. Another 30 minute Sand. Yay. Maybe it was exploratory. But it seemed so LAZY to me.

    I’m thrilled with the current direction the band is taking, because it seems they’re focusing on crispness and songs rather than jamming for the sake of jamming.

  21. SOAM Says:

    I think I’ll flag a weasel for a ride…

  22. SOAM Says:

    Remember when there was no phish and you went to a concert and there was a little bittersweet feeling because while you love music and concerts-nothing came close to seeing and hanging with phish and our phreaky family…

  23. SJC Says:

    ^amen.

  24. Leo Weaver Says:

    Bingo SOAM…all’s right in the world again. I’d rather have the flubs and forgotten lyrics over a Phishless world any day. I really think they’re gonna continue to get better and open up more as they get more comfortable and in the groove. Seems like someone mentioned this a few days ago, but I also think maybe after this tour, we’ll see the tours get a little shorter.
    @SJC, I agree with that one night on one night off thing. Here’s hoping they string together a few “on”s for the weekend…

  25. nonoyolker Says:

    @ andrewrose, i agree w/ a lot of what you said. Well stated. Especially your remark about their “decline” in ’04 being rapid. I think a lot of people dismissed the year based on Trey being super spunzo Vegas-style and the calamity at Coventry.
    @ SOAM, it is just an honest observation. Nobody has more passion or wants the boys to kick ass more than people on this board. We all love them being back and want them to be at their full potential. JB3, Camden, and Asheville showed a lot of promise and at this stage of being back, the boys should be slaughtering venues like DC and Alpine. Here’s to the boys hopefully shredding this weekend.

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