There are so many moments frozen in time that occur over the course of a Phish tour. One of the beauties of shows is that these moments can be completely different for each of us. But there is a peculiar duality to the Phish experience- while being one of the most personal experiences on earth, shows are the sites of the most collective energy I’ve ever felt. Firmly rooted in the personal, some moments are so grand and transcendent, that they become collective moments of catharsis. These are those times when everyone is overtaken and living the moment- a different type of energy takes over the room. This week we are going to revisit some of these moments from the first half of summer tour, region by region. Today let’s start with the Northeast.
“2001 > Slave” Jones Beach, 6.5 II
Playing amidst a steady rainstorm, the inclement weather sparked a fire in Phish as everything clicked in their most adventurous set up to this point in tour. As the band’s debut of “Twenty Years Later” carried out into a sustained note, Fishman’s snare hit, and the band spun into a late-set, torrential “2001.” Unveiling their space-funk for the first time of the summer, the band took us on a rain-soaked excursion in groove. The swirling drops against Kuroda’s vibrant backdrop enhanced what was an already supremely adrenalizing moment. Entering some colorful and thick rhythms, Phish loosened up their playing as the crowd fed off the musical crack.
But when the song peaked, it was a mystery what the band would drop. Having played so many of their big songs through the first couple nights at Jones Beach, I had no idea. Out of left field came the perfect choice- “Slave.” Just the thought of a “2001 > Slave” combo makes your spine tingle. And amidst a clearing storm, Phish climaxed their first spectacular set of summer with this triumphant version. Climbing slowly between the raindrops and beyond the clouds, we set sail on a sea of sonic bliss. Hitting the top with a purpose, the band sat in an extended peak that sent everyone home smiling. After this awing version capped a show that saw the band begin to coalesce, the drive to Great Woods seemed like a breeze.
“Fluffhead” Great Woods, 6.6 II
Following a searing set-opener of “Seven Below”- a musical highlight in its own right- Trey strummed the opening to “Fluffhead.” Taking everyone by surprise, Phish centered the sought after suite in the second set spotlight. Following some notably tight improv in “Seven Below,” the band was clearly feeling it, making the call for one of their most technical pieces. Having notoriously avoided “Fluffhead” in the post-hiatus years, the band announced their new intentions by opening Hampton’s reunion with it, but this was the first time the band was playing the song in any sort of normal context; without battling butterflies.
As the “Fluffhead” started, the crowd erupted, upping the already intense audience ambiance. As the band moved through the composition, they were not only nailing it precisely, but the music was popping with energy. As a younger fan, I used to chase “the perfect Fluffhead,” and leaving this show, I thought to myself, “I have found it.” Attacking the composition with enthusiasm, the band annihilated the song unlike they had done in a long, long time. When they got to “The Arrival,” the roof of the pavilion was proverbially blown off, as Trey’s sky-scraping solo led the celebration; one of those moments when your ego is sucked into the glowing pool of collective consciousness.
LISTEN TO the 6.6 “FLUFFHEAD” NOW!
“Tweezer” Camden, 6.7 II
“Character Zero” closes sets; “Tweezer” doesn’t. Thus, when the band dropped the “Tweezer” melody at the end of Camden’s second set, a common first thought was, “Reprise?!” Phish had dropped a stand-alone “Reprise” from time to time as an exclamation point to a show, but only once before in their career had the band ever played a “Tweezer” to close a second set, justifying everyone’s disorientation. And this wasn’t your average set or show- this was Phish’s first true throwdown since coming back together. Bookending the second frame with a twenty-two minute “Sand,” this “Tweezer” loomed large as the jam opened its jaws.
Jumping off one of their favorite launchpads, Phish splashed into some slow syncopated patterns, as that feeling of burning passion overtook your entire being; a spiritual surge of excitement that you can find nowhere else on earth. As Mike pounded away heavy lines, Page hopped to the clav and Trey began playing a sinister, secret agent commando lick, that snarled off the stage. Loving its sound as much as the crowd, he immediately looped the phrase, layering a majority of his solo- and the jam- over the recurring and addictive riff. After finally dropping his commando loop, the band brought the jam, the show, and the audience to a colossal peak, crushing any traces of the tentative playing that characterized some the earlier shows of tour.
Dropping one of the tour’s defining jams at a particularly dramatic moment, Phish created an indelible memory for all in attendance, and a musical highlight for those who weren’t. As we followed the lines going south to Asheville, everything was looking up in the world of Phish; and this “Tweezer” would remain in the upper echelon of June’s finest points.
LISTEN TO the 6.7 “TWEEZER” NOW!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
6.6.09 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < TORRENT
6.6.09 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < SENDSPACE
A well played show from start to finish, with the second set bringing the heat. “Seven Below,” “Fluffhead,” “Hood,” and “Possum” are all standout versions.
I: Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan, Nothing, Back on the Train, Golgi Apparatus, Sparkle, Gotta Jibboo, Lawn Boy, Let Me Lie*, Taste, Makisupa Policeman, Prince Caspian
II: Seven Below, Fluffhead, Scent of a Mule, Heavy Things, Harry Hood, Possum, Bug
E: Contact, Julius
Source: Schoeps mk41Tags: 2009, Jams, Summer '09, The Moment