Finishing up our run through tour this week, today we will look at some of the most transcendent moments of Phish’s final June leg. Having built improvisational momentum over the previous weeks, the band certainly kicked it up a notch for their final four nights. Contained within this weekend were some of the most exploratory jaunts of the tour, foreshadowing what awaits come August and beyond. Though hard to select just a few, here are some moments in time that no one will dispute.
“Oceans > Drowned > Twist” Deer Creek, 6.19 II
Take your pick, because this entire segment of music is pure money. Following an unprecedented hour-long rain delay before the second set, sparked by a monsoon and copious lightning you might see in National Geographic, the house lights finally went dark. Just as promised, they started set two at 11pm, and given the torrential circumstances, we all knew we were in for something special.
Playing off the soaking wet surroundings, the band took things out with the welcomed heavy drop into “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.” Exactly five years to the day that the band unveiled their SPAC epic, they used it to launch the best set of June. After breaking out the template in Knoxville, we knew that the song was back in the mix, and we would eventually get that next big version we had so eagerly awaited. And on the five year anniversary of its definitive excursion, we had waited long enough.
Taking the song beyond its guitar-led jam and into an ambient wonderland of percussive rhythm and psychedelic sorcery, Phish delivered. Given its context, the highly-anticipated jam couldn’t have been delivered at a more powerful time. As the band worked through a spectrum of deep mystic textures, Trey sprinkled some of his magic atop, guiding our way through the forest beautifully. As they wound down their improv to a piano solo, Page transformed the piece with a seamless transition into “Drowned.” Moving from “Oceans” to “Drowned,” Phish was definitely toying with their setlist while annihilating the jams that stemmed from each song. The Who cover similarly transcended its structure into a dirtier jam that wound its way to some high speed funk chops. Combining two stylistically different pieces, Phish- inspired by the weather- took the crowd by storm.
Potentially a bit prematurely, Trey came in with the opening chords of “Twist”- a third creative jam strung together to begin the set. With some of the tightest playing of this opening triumvirate, “Twist” was an ideal and familiar landing point for this segment of madness. Given the context of the band’s contained playing all tour, this “moment” was incredibly encouraging.
“Tweezer Reprise” Deer Creek, 6.19 E
Following the band’s most creative and exploratory new-school set, and sheltered from the insane weather slamming the amphitheare, Phish let loose. With lightning bolts framing the stage- and one particularly awing strike on the right side of the pavilion during the song’s initial build- everyone’s heads were on the verge of explosion. There are musical moments, and then there are experiential moments of unbridled energy, passion, and adrenaline; those when life simply can not feel any better or more exalting. This was one of those times. Everyone– from Trey marching like a madman on stage, to the last soaking fan on the lawn- was so alive at this moment, energy coursing through our collective existence, as mother nature and Phish converged in a spectacle like none other. Sure there have been rainstorms at shows, but this was different. This was 2009; this was Deer Creek; and Phish had just played the greatest set since their return. They weren’t playing “Taste” when lightning struck close by (a la Raleigh ’97), they were playing freakin’ “Reprise” in a complete deluge! Sometimes, life just doesn’t doesn’t get any better, and when you saw the band framed by lightening bolts, peaking the show- well, I get goosebumps just thinking of it.
LISTEN TO 6.19.09 “TWEEZER REPRISE” NOW!
“Piper” Alpine Valley, 6.21 II
After blasting off the last set of tour with the unexpected and ambient-laced highlight of “Crosseyed > Disease, Phish landed in a soaring version of “Bug” to wrap up their initial segment. But as the ending of the song was carried out, Phish wasn’t about to slow down, slipping into “Piper.” While the other two “Pipers” on tour (JB, and Star Lake) were exploratory and adventurous, they weren’t necessarily the most cohesive pieces of improv. This would be different.
Cannonballing into the jam, the band wasted no time hitting the gas. Immediately they locked into some full-on, take-no-prisoners, type playing. After the earlier adventures of the set, the band was warmed up and navigating the music as one entity; one of those times when they seem like a four-headed monster. Trey and Page engaged in some fast-paced interplay, while Fish sat into a series of breakbeats that gave the music an urgent, sprinting feel. Stopping, starting, and cutting on a dime, Phish ran though this jam like Barry Sanders effortlessly evading tacklers. Completely in tune with each other, the band nailed one of June’s tightest pieces of improv.
It felt like Phish hit a stride in this “Piper,” powerfully uniting their musical ideas, taking risks and succeeding; a process that wasn’t omni-present on tour. This was an instance where the music took on a life of its own; the music was playing them. Ridiculously dense, filled with copious musical thoughts, this “Piper” was an encouraging piece of psychedelia as the tour wound down. Getting exploratory without losing their cohesion is a mark of success in Phish’s current progression of their craft. Heading into leg two, Deer Creek and this Alpine show upped the ante of what’s to come. But looking back, this “Piper” is right up there with any jam of June.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.16.1996 Civic Center, Omaha, NE < TORRENT
11.16.1996 Civic Center, Omaha, NE < SENDSPACE
This download comes as a result of much reader discussion. Lauded for its otherworldly “Hood” which saw Trey hold one note for almost three minutes straight, this show was both unique and enthralling. Boasting an odd setlist with even more peculiar execution, Phish crafted a wild ride on this night in Nebraska. See the “Hood” video below!
I: Poor Heart, Down With Disease, Guyute, Gumbo, Rift, Free, The Old Home Place, David Bowie, Lawn Boy, Sparkle, Frankenstein
II: La Grange, Runaway Jim > Kung* > Catapult, Axilla > Harry Hood, Suzie Greenberg, Amazing Grace
E: We’re an American Band^
*w/ Vibration of Life