Ending With Joy

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 30th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
SPAC 8.16.09 (D.Vann)

SPAC 8.16.09 (D.Vann)

As Phish stepped on stage for the last time this summer, it was their last performance before their album Joy would be released on September 8th.  Instead of relying on classic show-stoppers for their final set of summer, they artistically wove together Joy’s first and last song, creating a forward-looking musical highlight to cap the tour.  With the encore at SPAC including “I’ve Been Around,” the band completed their season-long preview of the forthcoming album (that was leaked all over the web just yesterday.)

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

Instead of dropping the expected and overdue “Mike’s Groove,” “Reba,” or “2001″ as focal points of their final frame, Phish used two of their newest songs to craft the musical talking point of their last show, leaving us looking wide-eyed into the future.  After watching “Number Line” grow in improvisational scope throughout the second leg, when Phish dropped into its upbeat opening to open the second set, you had to figure it would be the meatiest version yet.  And when we walked away from SPAC that night, the conversations certainly centered around the sublime jam that stemmed from their newest launch pad.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

Phish broke the noodly mold of the song’s first-leg versions at Red Rocks, and then grew it further at The Gorge and Toyota Park, gradually becoming more and more creative with the jam- but this version would surpass anything that had come before.  In a twenty-minute journey, the band took their music to much darker places than previously visited by the song.  Beginning with Trey’s altered leads, Mike and Page hopped aboard, shifting the canvas from happy to eerie.  Fishman was the last to leave the song’s rhythms, and when he did, things became a whole-band experiment in psychedelic beauty.

Building into the ether, this jam was not only the culmination of all the versions that had come before it, but also a symbolic culmination of Phish 3.0 through Summer ’09.  Each version had grown in scope- just as the band had- into its current form; a metaphor for all we have to look forward to.  Delving deeper into Phish sorcery than any previous rendition, this “Number Line” developed into a full-on exploration of the dark side of the psyche.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

Landing in a lush, ambient forest, the band carefully took in the foreign landscape.  And out of this extended amorphous ball of sound came hints of something familiar.  Was it “Fast Enough?” “Man Who Stepped?”- thought my mind, racing through the past.  No- it was the first creative use of “Twenty Years Later,” and the band seamlessly slid into Joy’s retrospective closer.  This was the initial time we really got a feel for the song and its musical drama.  Put under the spotlight of the summer’s final set and crawling out of the murky musical fog, the slower composition flowed particularly well, hinting at its versatility.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

At a time when Phish could have easily ran through some of their popular classics to finish tour with a bang, they used the first half-hour of the set to explore their newest material, signifying what direction this whole thing is moving.  And after creating the most engaging passage of the night with Joy’s bookends, they took it back to the old-school with a “Halley’s,” “Harpua,” and a “YEM” included in the rest of the set.  But using their last stage as an illustration, Phish made no bones about previewing their promising future while still honoring their past.

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

Number Line > Twenty Years Later” 8.16 II

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The musical centerpiece of the final show of summer.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.16.2009 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Torrent

8.16.2009 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY < Megaupload

3830241489_3fd2195c80I: Llama, The Moma Dance, Guyute, Anything But Me, Cars Trucks Buses, Chalk Dust Torture, Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie, Cavern, Possum, Ocelot, Run Like An Antelope

II: Backwards Down the Number Line > Twenty Years Later, Halley’s Comet > Rock & Roll, Harpua > I Kissed A Girl* > Hold Your Head Up > Harpua, You Enjoy Myself

E: Grind, I Been Around*, Highway To Hell

*first time played

Source: Schoeps MK41>KC5>CMC6>Sonosax SX-M2>Apogee Mini-me(aes out@24 bit/96khz)>COAX>Edirol R-44 SD-HC Card>USB>Soundforge 8 (tracking, resample/dither to 16bit/44.1khz)>FLAC (Taper – Andy Murray)

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Weekend Nuggets: Darien Lake

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 29th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

DOWNLOAD OF THE WEEKEND:

8.13.2009 Darien Lake PAC, Darien Center, NY < Torrent

8.13.2009 Darien Lake PAC, Darien Center, NY < Megaupload

Official Darien Lake Poster

Official Darien Lake Poster

Overshadowed by Hartford and SPAC, the opening show of the summer’s final four-night run flowed well, had copious highlights, and set the tone for the end of tour.  The first set under the tent featured the darker bustouts of “Dinner and a Movie” and “My Friend” while carrying one of the outstanding “Wolfman’s” of summer and, in my opinion, the most engaging “Bowie” of the second leg.  The second set opened with a exploratory “Drowned,” sparking the unique highlight of “Drowned > Caspian > Rift.”  A smoking mid-set “Antelope” set up a revelatory “Fluffhead” closer.  This show is a real dark-horse, and deserves more attention than it has garnered.

I: Sample In A Jar, Dinner and a Movie, Wolfman’s Brother, My Friend, My Friend, Possum, Farmhouse, Sugar Shack, Brian And Robert, David Bowie, Bathtub Gin, How High The Moon, Golgi Apparatus

II: Drowned > Prince Caspian > Rift, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Sparkle, Run Like An Antelope, Suzy Greenberg, Fluffhead

E: Joy, First Tube

Source: Microtech Gefell M20 > JK Labs ECMS-23 > EAA PSP-2 > Sound Devices 722 (Line In, -0.3 dB) (Taper – Tim Burke)

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Weekend:

Drowned > Caspian > Rift” 8.13.II

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Phish cohesively strung together this unique run of songs to begin the second set at Darien.  Look out for the standout “Drowned” jam- totally patient and fully realized.

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VIDEO OF THE WEEKEND:

“Run Like An Antelope” Darien Lake 8.13 II (Part 1)

“Anrtelope” (Part 2)

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Moments In a Box: The Northeast

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 27th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

In our continuing remembrances of this past summer, let’s travel back to the final four shows of tour.  Returning to the Northeast after an other-worldly run out west, Phish came home to some classic sheds to punctuate the season.  While each show had improvisational highlights- many which have been discussed- here is a look at some of the moments that fit in between the more significant jams.

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Fluffhead” 8.13 Darien Lake II

Darien Lake 8.13 (D.Vann)

Darien Lake 8.13 (D.Vann)

At the conclusion of a smoking set that has been largely glossed over, Phish pulled out a massive version of “Fluffhead.”  Following the opening ebb and flow of “Drowned > Caspian > Rift” and a ripping mid-set “Antelope,” Phish played a top-notch rendition of their once-elusive classic to close it out..  After an almost note-perfect jaunt through the many composed sections, Trey took command at the top, gushing with a triumphant solo that packed a heartfelt wallop.  Out of the the many versions of “Fluff” this summer, this one sits in the upper echelon, and it served as a vibrant exclamation point to the band’s return to the circus tents of Darien.

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***

Icculus” 8.14 Hartford II

Hartford 8.14 (D.Vann)

Hartford 8.14 (D.Vann)

After Phish had shredded this set apart with improv galore, they reached a point of sustained banter.  As Trey joked with the audience after “Catapult,” the band made a subtle change to “Icculus” in the background.  Appearing for only the tenth time since 1990, the audience responded immediately and enthusiastically to the musical shift.  Delving deep into Phish lore, Trey went on an early-nineties tirade about our over-technological generation, our need for the “fucking book,” and the “great and knowledgeable” prophet of Gamehendge.  An undeniably significant moment in the re-evolution of the band, the passion infused into this ancient bust-out confirmed that things were once again in order in the land of Lizards.

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Party Time” 8.15 Merriweather I

Merriweather 8.15 (K.Pusey)

Merriweather 8.15 (K.Pusey)

When discussing the band’s forthcoming album and new family-oriented vibe after Hampton, Trey joked that they should ironically title the record, “Party Time.”  This joke turned into a more substantial rumor when a track listing emerged from the band’s studio sessions in May that had “Party Time” amidst other songs.  It could have been an inside joke- we had no idea, but when Trey happily introduced the Fishman-penned original at Merriwether, the band and crowd erupted in laughter and cheer.  Kicking into their take on New Orleans party-funk, the band foreshadowed what could develop into a much larger and entertaining jam vehicle.  If I had to guess, we’ll hear a extensive version to open up the band’s highly-anticipated festival in Indio come Halloween- but for now, it’s “Paaaaaarty Tiiime!”

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***

“Harpua” 8.16 SPAC II

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

“Oom Pah Pah, Oom Pah Pah, Oom Pah Paaaaaaaah…”  And SPAC exploded.  On the final night of summer, Phish revived one of their oldest narratives about Jimmy, Posternutbag, and the fat, sweaty bulldog.  Stamping a show as special with its mere inclusion, this go-round was even more significant, as it was the modern era bust-out of  “Harpua.”  In this story, a depressed Jimmy meditaded in his bedroom, summoning his spirit guide in the form of Fishman floating in his window.  Imparting with him the all-powerful truth, Fiashman sang a spoof of “I Kissed a Girl.”  An absurd tale, no doubt, this return of “Harpua,” coupled with “YEM,” brought a Phishy end to an unforgettable summer.

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Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

Ghost > Wolfman’s” 7.30 II Red Rocks

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This was our first taste of the wide-open exploration that would characterize the western shows.  Like a breath of life into the world of Phish, this musical passage was the indelible memory from Red Rocks’ opening night.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.15.2009 Merriweather Post Pavilion < Torrent

8.15.2009 Merriweather Post Pavilion < Megaupload

Official Merriweather Poster

Official Merriweather Poster

A fun first set with many bust-outs was followed by the most tame second frame of tour.  The “46 Days,” however, is one of the jams of the summer.

I: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Axilla I, Foam, Esther, Ha Ha Ha, Party Time, Tube, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Strange Design, Time Turns Elastic

II: Tweezer > Taste, Alaska, Let Me Lie, 46 Days > Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Harry Hood

E: Good Times Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise

Source: Schoeps mk22> KCY> Schoeps VMS02IB> Apogee Mini-Me> SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)
(Taper – taylorc)

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Taste the Fear

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 26th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Merriweather 8.15 (K.Pusey)

Merriweather 8.15.09 (K.Pusey)

With so much new Phish to listen to these days, one of the most engaging and protean jams of the tour hasn’t gotten its proper credit.  Buried in a lackluster second set at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the band played one of their finest pieces of music since their return.  After listening to “46 Days” a few times over, it is certainly one of the most diverse, far-reaching Phish jams of the summer.  From heavy groove to ambient psychedelia, this jam brought us deep into the primordial soup before delivering us to heights uncharted.

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

After a high-energy and exciting first set, comprised almost exclusively of bustouts, everyone was ready for the band to bring the heat in the second.  And when they opened with “Tweezer,” it seemed like Merriweather was about to explode.  But instead, Phish played one of the most uneventful renditions in  memory, on the way to a particularly slow beginning of the set.  Segueing quickly into “Taste,” we soon found ourselves listening to an “interlude” of “Alaska” and “Let Me Lie,” but nothing  spectacular had happened to necessitate one.  Thus when Phish started up “46 Days” it could have gone either way.  Phish could have just as easily played a eight-minute rendition of the song, continuing the pattern of the night, or they could have gone huge on the song- something they’ve done more than a couple times in the past.  Needless to say, they chose the latter.

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

After a quick pass through the composition, Phish got right into the thick of things.  Springing off a bass-driven platform, the band entered some slowed down molasses-funk, and immediately we knew we were in for a ride.  Before long, we found ourselves knee-deep in a murky swamp of the mind, trudging through layered musical sludge that became slower and spacier with each step we took.  Bombarded with sonic textures, likening an alien encounter, Trey threw us a rope to hold onto via slower sustained melodies stemming from the dark side.  Mike led the band into menacing grooves, killing it with a unique backdrop that only he can provide.  Offering a faster idea, Trey hopped aboard the bass line, and soon infused the jam with its first taste of happiness.

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

The band settled into a soundscape with Trey delicately atop, and soon built the piece into awesome whole-band ambient sculpture.  As the music reached its most abstract point, Trey added a faster rhythm pattern that, at first, seemed out of place.  But as the band built around his offering, the music became divine.  And as Trey started to solo in this vein, Fish kicked a dance beat and the band was off into some of the most organic, and spectacular improv of the summer.  Completely switching gears from its dark beginning, the subsequent music is pure Phish majesty.

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

As the band continued into a tight, rhythmic pattern, Phish was in complete destruction mode, flowing as their heart desired.  Disconnected from any song structure, they played as if no one were there, and it was perfect.  Trey painted the blissful music with surreal melodic themes that Page complimented masterfully on piano.  Reaching a higher plane, the band collectively blossomed in a splendid segment of pure and utter hose. Trey’s lines transformed into mind-bending waterfalls in one of those you moments you couldn’t believe, even though it was happening right in front of you.

Following the jam’s soaring peak with an artistic denouement and a slip into “Oh! Sweet Nuthin,” Phish gave everyone a moment to breathe after their signature excursion.  The ballad was played with an emotional purpose, punctuating the exalting music that had just gone down.  Though it was the only taste of  exploration all night long, “46 Days” gave Merriweather’s second set some street cred with one of the greatest- and most overlooked- Winged music notejams of the tour.

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Jam of the Day:

46 Days > Oh! Sweet Nuthin” 8.15 II

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.5.09 Shoreline, Mountain View CA < Torrent

8.5.09 Shoreline, Mountain View CA < Megaupload

2266988757_3aedc34579This mid-week stop in the Bay Area carried provided more than a few highlights, though has lived in the shadows of Red Rocks and The Gorge.  This show offers one the most exploratory “Diseases” of the year, a fine second set run of “Cities > Maze, Mike’s,” a hot first-set “Bowie,” and the return of Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”  Check it out.

I: Golgi Apparatus, Halley’s Comet, Chalk Dust Torture, The Divided Sky, When the Circus Comes, Time Turns Elastic, Ya Mar, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Suzy Greenberg, David Bowie

II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Down With Disease > Limb By Limb, Oh Sweet Nuthin’, Cities > Maze, Mike’s Song > Simple, Weekapaug Groove

E: Let Me Lie, Bold As Love

Source: Schoeps mk41> KCY> Schoeps VMS02IB> Apogee Mini-Me> SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)
(Taper- taylorc)

***

38_sm

Merriweather Post Pavilion 8.15.09 (Photo – Kenny Pusey)

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Moments In a Box: Red Rocks

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 25th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
8.2.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks 8.2 (G.Lucas)

After each tour ends, we spend countless hours learning the new music that just unfolded.  We make highlight mixes and listen to certain jams and sets time and time again, studying each subtlety.  When we listen back, we can remember those experiential moments of awe; those times that stood still- not always a result soaring peak.  Spanning the spectrum of human emotion, memories come in all shapes and sizes at Phish shows.   The following are a few of the most poignant moments from the band’s memorable run at Red Rocks.

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“Billy Breathes” 7.30 II

Red Rocks 7.30 (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks 7.30 (G.Lucas)

Placed within an ominous frame that featured “Mike’s” “Ghost,” “Wolfman’s,” and “Bowie,” “Billy Breathes” was an oasis amidst the darkness.  Unfolding late in the second set, the entire venue fell silent as the band meticulously moved through the ballad.  Painted with a delicate brush, this rendition stood out after the show had ended.  Its amazing how powerful a Phish song can be when given proper context and attention.  “Billy Breathes” seemed to strike a chord with most everyone in that night, as many commented on its power throughout the next few days.

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***

“Split Open and Melt” 7.31 I

8.2.09 (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

In an dark convergence of Phish and nature, this “Split” summoned harsh wind and rain from the heavens, creating an intense ending to Friday’s first set.  As the storm blew in, Phish took their jam further and further out, into an ominous, hypnotizing plane.  Getting downright sinister, Phish grew the jam into a piece of abstract, mind-control art.  Getting at the very essence of the jam, itself, this dip into the river Styx was a congruent soundtrack to the menacing weather- a perfect Phish synchronicity.

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***

“The Curtain (With)” 8.1. I

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Out of nowhere, after an innocent “AC/DC Bag” opener, Phish did the deed; they started up “The Curtain” for the first time since their Coventry demise.  Finally ready to put the past behind them, the band stepped up to the revered piece they so horribly botched as their previous swan song.  Taking the audience by surprise, the moment we had wondered about since March was, all of a sudden, happening.  In the glorious surroundings of Red Rocks, Phish swept the cobwebs from our memories with a sublime, heart-wrenching rendition of “With.”  Slowly narrating an introspective tale, Trey’s lines floated through the sky in a life-affirming moment for all.   In one of the most poignant passages of the summer, Coventry was finally conquered and we were moving on to greener pastures.

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***

“Reba” 8.2 I

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks 8.2 (G.Lucas)

In the waning daylight on the final night of Red Rocks, Phish unveiled the only “Reba” of the second leg.  A perfect selection for the setting sun of the triumphant Red Rocks run, Phish settled into the jam in a quiet way.  Riding a gradually building groove, the piece was a musical magical carpet ride through the colored eve.  With tasteful and creative phrasing throughout, the band created a soaring and emotive jam.  Like a sculptor and a ball of clay, Phish skillfully manipulated their medium forming a cathartic build within an otherwise mellow set.

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Winged music noteJam of the Day:

Down With Disease” Shoreline 8.5 II

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Of the many standout “Diseases” this summer, this west coast exploratory monster is firmly in the upper echelon.  The centerpiece jam of Shoreline’s second set, the band moved from rock, to groove, to ambient in this multi-layered piece.  The final section of this jam may be the most engaging, illustrating Phish’s willingness to push their improvisation, seeking deeper places.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

Red Rocks Poster Series

Red Rocks Poster Series

8.2.2009 Red Rocks < Torrent

8.2.2009 Red Rocks < Megaupload

The fourth and final night of this historic stand was highlighted a standout “Boogie,” “YEM” to kick off the second set.  Out of the smoke-covered vocal-jam emerged Billy Kreutzmann, joining the band for a fun-filled finale in Morrsion.  We’re invited back this time.

I: Roses Are Free, Wilson, NICU, Prince Caspian, Back On The Train, Reba, Grind, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Sample In A Jar, Sugar Shack, Waste, Kill Devil Falls

II: Boogie On Reggae Woman, You Enjoy Myself > Undermind* > Drums* > Seven Below* > 2001* > Waves*, Character Zero*

E: Bittersweet Motel, Bouncing Around the Room, Slave to the Traffic Light

* w/ Bill Kreutzmann on drums

Source: B&K 4022 (Taper – Craig Davis)

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A Phishy Affair

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 25th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Hartford 8.14.09 (Drazin)

Hartford 8.14.09 (Drazin)

The last time Phish was around, during the “post-hiatus” years, there were many magnificent  musical moments- contrary to popular myth- but something was missing.  Throughout the band’s past, they had not only put on great concerts, but laced their performances with humor, antics, musical jokes, and a general zany energy that defined a Phish show.  As the years wore on and the band got deeper into unhealthy habits, this energy- this Phishiness- began to fade, a clear sign that all was not well in Gamehendge.  As 2003 turned to 2004, Phish’s spirit was waning, and after a three-night stint in Vegas, things were clearly spinning out of control.

Hartford (A.Hill)

Hartford (A.Hill)

And then Coventry happened.  We were forced into a distinctly un-Phishy ending to the greatest chapter of our lives, and it just didn’t feel right. But alas, sometimes, as Nana said, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”  But the fates wouldn’t have it that way, and five years later we found ourselves back in the kingdom of Phish- but would it be the same?

After so many unknowns were answered at Red Rocks and The Gorge, Phish sailed back into New England in a triumphant homecoming.  When the band quit in ’04, Trey said he feared becoming a nostalgia act, thus when returning in ’09, we knew things would be forward-looking.  With a forthcoming album, more heartfelt and mature songs, Phish has entered a new stage of their lives and of their careers.  But on one special night in Hartford, CT, the band showed everyone that they haven’t lost touch with the spirit that inspired them from the start- Phish still had their Phishiness.

Hartford 8.14 (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

Though their renewed musical spirit was on display throughout the second leg, one wondered if their early days of Gamehendge narrations and allusions were simply a relic of a bygone era.  But when Phish opened Hartford with four songs that could have been pulled from their college days, a different energy to the show began to emerge.  “Punch,” “AC/DC,” and “NICU” got the party started, but it wasn’t until the dramatic drop into “Colonel Forbin’s” that we knew something special was at hand.  As Mike’s bass crisply cut the thick summer air, the band delved into their classic saga of the Gamehendge hero.  Clearly practiced, the band confidently and cleanly moved though the composition, with Trey even giggling as he mentioned “Icculus, the prophet.”  But as the time came for the first narration of 3.0, the band transitioned directly into “Mockingbird.”  Likely a by-product of their rehearsals, they bypassed any storytelling for a soaring run through “Mockingbird”- a gorgeous piece of music that is so much more than a mere bust-out.  By nailing the old-school composition, the band dosed the crowd with that Phishy energy, and when they dropped the first “Birds” of tour, the place exploded.

Hartford (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

In a torrid session of improv, Phish crushed the only version of “Birds” this tour; a rendition that veered from the song’s direct path due to dynamic interplay between Mike and Trey, subtle rhythmic shifts, and powerful piano leads.  While not getting into ‘type II’ territory, this was nonetheless an enthralling escapade.  Coupled with another strong version of “Stash,” these two dark jams anchored the old-school set.   “Stash” moved into some dirty psychedelia, led melodically by Page, as Mike and Trey created a cacophony of effected sound.  Trey climbed out of this sonic dungeon with wails that conveyed emotional desperation.  This piece is some seriously dark Phish, and easily throws its hat in the ring with the best “Stashs” from this tour.  Sidestepping any melodic interlude for a straight trip into the center of the earth, this is a dark-horse version that hasn’t gotten its due credit.

8.14 (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

The same early-era energy oozed into the second set, but not before Phish crafted the most enchanting- albeit oddly aborted- piece of music all evening.  Transforming the “Disease” jam into a percussive ride, and then into a slowed down musical medium, Trey infused the piece with stunning melodies as the band hit a mellow groove that oozed spirituality.   People have called this a “Reba jam, ” but that assessment is a mere attempt to label an incredibly improvisational segment of Phish that really had little to do with the song.  Could the music have been drawn from a spaced-out and slowed down “Reba?”- sure, but in my opinion there was no musical allusion going on there.  Instead, Phish was flowing in some of their most magical improv since The Gorge, which is why it was incredibly disorienting and flat-out wrong when it was abruptly cut off by the coarse opening of “Wilson.”  Trey had to be the only person in the entire venue thinking that dropping “Wilson” amidst this delicate jam was the right call, but ironically, he is the only one who matters.  What could have been a stunning summer highlight of  “Disease > Slave ” had Big Red been patient and used the five minutes of “Wilson” to bridge the two noble songs, turned into “Disease > Wilson > Slave,” which wasn’t too shabby either!

Centering “Slave” in the second set, Phish built perhaps the summer’s most climactic version of the usual set-closer.  A joy to hear as a focal point, “Slave” ascended with meticulous and creative offerings from all in a blissful melange of harmony and melody; a mid-set emotional peak.  Without skipping a beat, Phish slid into “Piper,” continuing the uplifting vibe of the set.

8.14 (A.Hill)

8.14.09 (A.Hill)

On this night, “Piper’s” break-neck jamming would reach another level of connection and interplay as the band trounced through the shredding piece with spirit and innovation- getting to some truly unique musical places.  Initially led outwards by a catchy Trey lick, the band turned the rock textures more rhythmic, creating some fast-paced whole-band patterns, as they completed each others’ musical thoughts with an awesome proficiency.  In the most dynamic segment of the set, this “Piper” continued on its driving path, cushioned by completely unique bass lines, and led by slicing and dicing guitar acrobatics.  Naturally arriving in “Water in the Sky” out of a more ambient section, it was cool to see Phish moving organically and landing wherever they landed, regardless of song or placement.

Hartford (A.Hill)

8.14.09 (A.Hill)

The non-stop nature of this set continued with the long-awaited return of “Ghost,” which had not heard from since the tour-opening highlight at Red Rocks.  Pumping the amphitheatre with more energy to the point of implosion, Phish tore into the jam with an opposite feel of Red Rocks’ wide-open funk; this time favoring more a more intense, driving course.  The band locked into some on-point improv, with Trey making guitar runs all over the place.  The consistent rhythm allowed him and Page to create some searing leads, directing the forceful jam to the top with their two-part creativity.

But when they arrived at the top of the blistering piece, Trey sat into a hard rhythmic riff that brought the band seamlessly into “Psycho Killer!”  Having been played over the PA before the show with lyrical accompaniment by many fans, one has to believe the band caught wind of this and playfully worked in the song for the only time since Dayton ’97.  But when they finished crushing the Talking Head’s song, the antics began.

Dance Contest (D.Vann)

"Dance Contest" (D.Vann)

Trailing down into a digital pattern that sounded more like a futuristic video game than music, the band sustained the pattern as Trey began poking fun at a kid in the front row who continued gyrating to the bizarre sounds.  Out of the joke came an impromptu Trey vs. Fish dance contest to the same music to the amusement of all.  The band had already ripped so hard, that any fun asides seemed completely appropriate- and Trey continued the side-show by beginning the lyrics to “Catapult” over the same backing texture.

Hartford (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

As he continued to banter over the strange rhythm, he turned the course of his narration as soon as the band began the chord progression to the rarely played homage to the god of Gamehendge, “Icculus.”  As soon as the song was discernible, the audience responded with an ovation.  Trey began talking about his youth, when there were no video games and technology, and comparing it to the present with us “crazy kids out there with [our] iPhones and [our] DVDs, listening to [our] auto-tuned music; it’s all machines!” Then, in the line of the night, he said, “But what I want to ask you is, when was last time that one of you  picked up a fucking book?!”  Exploding the amphitheatre with his comical splicing of present day culture and Gamehendge lore, we hadn’t seen Trey this animated in ages.  It wasn’t the fact that they were playing “Icculus” that was so exciting, it was hearing that passionate voice we had heard on our earliest analogs scream about the fucking book!  That’s what mattered!  Trey was feeling his history, basking in the culture he created, and subsequently feared and ended twenty years later.  His  spirit was back; after all the legal entanglements, addiction, and rehab- we had our hero had returned!  We had heard him play like a maestro throughout the tour, but rarely did he say anything. As he continued his absurd and extensive rantings, it was like being reunited with an old friend- a spirit we hadn’t felt in ages.  It wasn’t about the bust-out- it was about passion, a old-school passion we never knew we’d see again.  It was about The Book and all its symbolism.  It was about being reconnected to Phishiness again.

Hartford (Drazin)

Hartford (Drazin)

As the band closed the show with a “YEM” that was more antics than improv, it didn’t seem to matter.  Though I would have liked to see a huge blowout “YEM” to cap the night as much as anyone, Phish had left it all on the table in a series of high-spirited, non-stop jams.  So when Trey began to shimmy to his band’s groove instead of add to it, everything was relative to the special evening that had just unfolded.

Among all the musically significant shows this past tour, Hartford represented something unique; something special.  No doubt the music was great, but more than anything, that Phishy spirit that grabbed our imaginations at some point on our lives, and ran away with it, was back in effect.  Walking out of Hartford into mild summer eve, it felt as if the Lizards had wrestled The Book away from Wilson- and Errand Wolf- if only briefly, and all was right in Gamehendge once again.

=====

Winged music noteJams of the Day:

“Piper > Water In the Sky” 8.14 II

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“Ghost > Psycho Killer” 8.14 II

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=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.14.09 Comcast Center Hartford, CT < Torrent

8.14.09 Comcast Center Hartford, CT < Megaupload

3823520005_82f4aeb7e6After searching for a great AUD source, this is the best I could find for now.

I: Punch You in the Eye, AC/DC Bag, NICU, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Birds Of A Feather, Lawn Boy, Stash, I Didn’t Know, Middle Of The Road, Character Zero

II: Down With Disease > Wilson > Slave To The Traffic Light, Piper > Water In The Sky, Ghost > Psycho Killer > Catapult > Icculus > You Enjoy Myself

E: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Source: Schoeps MK4 > KC5 > CMC6 > Sonosax SX-M2 >  Apogee Mini-me(aes out@24 bit/96khz) > COAX > Edirol R-44 SD-HC Card > USB > Soundforge 8 (tracking,resample/dither to 16bit/44.1khz) > FLAC(Taper – Andy Murray)

***
jpg1

Hartford 8.14.09 – (Photo: Ryan Gilbertie)

Tags: , ,

The Set of the Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 24th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
7.31.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

You’ve probably already read my view that nothing from this standout summer quite matched the improvisational majesty of The Gorge’s first night.  But the single set that I find myself listening to the most is July 31st, set two- the gem of Red Rocks, and my personal favorite frame of ’09 Phish.  With an unmatchable energy, the most astounding segue in years, a “Tweezer” that simply owns, and a paradigm-shifting “Fluffhead”- it’s hard to match the non-stop quality of this stanza of music.

lady-of-the-rock-289x400The tone had been set on night one- Phish was far more comfortable than they were June, and ready to explore their songs in earnest.  We got tastes of their revitalized jamming throughout the 30th, particularly in “Stash,” “Ghost > Wolfman’s,” and “Bowie.”  And the message was clear- things were on!  Embodying a far more confident style of play, Phish seemed ready to rule the stage again for the first time this era.  And on night two, they did just that.

Following an energetic first set that brought an extensive exploration of “Bathtub Gin” and a mind-numbing, abstract “Split,” Phish stepped onto the Rocks after a setbreak downpour.  Throughout their career, the band has often been spurned to greatness by inclement weather, and when Phish took up their instruments and played nothing short of the hottest set of summer.

7.31 (G.Lucas)

7.31 (G.Lucas)

Kicking off the frame with a super-charged “Drowned,” the band’s energy was explosive as they slaughtered the song, carrying their steam-engine momentum into some full-powered improv.  The entire band was a collective volcano spewing white-hot musical lava as they careened out of the song’s structure with meteoric jamming.  Trey turned his leads into sheets of sound and effect, cranking the intensity before eventually settling a more percussive pattern.  Without missing a beat, the band shifted into the opening groove to “Crosseyed” in a stunning transition that nobody saw coming.  After so many trainwrecks in June when the band attempted segues, it was amazing to see them pull off one of such mastery in their second show back.  This moment instantly jacked the Red Rocks crowd, who responded with significant fervor.  Things were flying again, and Phish was at the helm directing this heat-seeking excursion.

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

"Crosseyed" 7.31 (G.Lucas)

As the band tenaciously tore into the cover, Kuroda pained the natural backdrop with psychedelic patterns, providing a dose of sensory candy to enhance the ride. Jumping out of the composition into a galloping groove, the band’s virtuoso communication- a central factor in facilitating top-notch jams- was back on display as they began to create.  Not contained for long, this jam evolved into a multi-faceted beast in the vein of  “Crosseyeds” past.  Completely leaving the song in the dust, the band was off, crafting a dark adventure of the sorts we had longed for during June.  Phish was absolutely going off- and it was during this jam I realized everything is moving towards places we’d never dreamed.  A true highlight of the summer, this “Crosseyed” was led out of the darkness by some surreal leads and harmonies from Trey and Page.  Triumphant in every sense of the word, this was one of those times your face hurt from smiling so hard for so long while raging- everything felt right again.  The band collectively peaked the jam, as Trey effortlessly flowed through high-paced, spine-tingling licks in one of the most exploratory 3.0 pieces up to that point.

Creating a soft, layered ambiance to come down from such a high emotional mountain, the music seeped into a mid set “Joy,” a song that continues to pop up amidst the band’s the most exciting sets.  It couldn’t have felt better after the full-throttle roller coaster ride of “Drowned > Crosseyed.”  And once it ended, the opening lick of the Red Rocks “Tweezer” echoed through the night, instantly shooting the adrenaline of everyone into the stratosphere.

"Tweezer" 7.31 (G.Lucas)

"Tweezer" 7.31 (G.Lucas)

My favorite piece of music from the summer, this “Tweezer” is pure Phish crack of the highest grade.  Redefining the song for the modern era, this version set a new-school standard for the psychedelic vehicle. As they bust into jam, we salivated in anticipation of the oncoming dark, musical elevation.  And what resulted was nothing short of masterful.  Coming out of the gates as smooth as ever, the band hit up some rhythmic patterns as Page washed the music with some spacey effects.  Landing in a ferocious bass-led groove, the band was locked into some new-school shit.  Completely overtaking my consciousness in a cascade of nasty grooves, I was this “Tweezer;”  there was zero separation between self and music- this is what I live for.

7.31 (W.Rogell)

7.31 (W.Rogell)

When the band stepped into the next section of improv, Trey rolled out one of the most infectious licks of the entire tour; and the whole band was slamming it down in a dream come true.  That intense inner fire, those rendonkulous dance grooves- it was a feeling I hadn’t felt in so long- like shedding a skin and being indoctrinated into the new universe of Phish. Naturally sliding through the most addictive dance grooves of tour, the band hit a change as Trey nailed a slick rhythm pattern that set up the rest of the jam.  He  would alternate between these rhythm licks and darker leads for the rest of the piece in a dynamic juxtaposition.  As the band wound down, seemingly ending the piece in old-school fashion, they ripped back into the jam, creating a downright raucous.  One of Red Rocks’ defining moments, and one of the summer’s indelible memories, this “Tweezer” ended in a slower repetitive pattern that set up a transition into “Number Line.”

The new song’s first appearance of the tour would be more improvisational than any previous version- the first step in a second-leg evolution that saw it develop into a major jam vehicle by SPAC.  The upbeat jam saw the band weave their quasi-staccato offerings around each others at a spirited pace, taking the jam outside of its norm for the first time.  And then, just as we were catching our breath and when we least expected it- “Fluffhead!”

7.31 (G.Lucas)

7.31 (G.Lucas)

Stamping the already crazy set with their hallowed composition, the band hit the top of “The Arrival” with cathartic enthusiasm, as Trey’s soaring solo led us in what was presumably the final peak of the show.  But when they got to the top of the song, in an unprecedented maneuver, they began improvising out of the peak of “Fluffhead”- an experiential mind-fuck.  And as Phish held the sonic intensity of the jam, they dissolved into “Piper,” leaving “Fluff” unfinished.  Whaaat!?  It was a certain Scooby-Doo double-take moment of disbelief- did that just happen!? It did; and Phish sunk their teeth into a thunderous “Piper” jam that carried no feeling of the show winding down.

7.31 (W.Rogell)

7.31 (W.Rogell)

The band stepped into some blistering textures, as all members came together in a fiery musical tornado, carrying the same sense of connection that had defined the set itself.  One could see the moment in the madness when Trey figured out how this adventure would come close, as he stepped to Mike and Page, sharing his ideas.  Before long, Phish had the fiery passage to a point of relative calm as each member dropped out for piano solo.  Page artistically used his solo to begin The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” and Phish had finally reached the landing point of their non-stop odyssey.  With the powerful cover that was debuted at Red Rocks in 1995, the band came full-circle, closing the incredible set in an homage to the original Fab Four.

This entire episode was like being reborn into the revitalized fire of Phish’s new world, and leaving Red Rocks on the last night of July, spirits were higher than ever.  Taking a step far beyond their their first night’s performance, this transcendent set of music sent us the message loud and clear that June was over and things would be different now.  And so it began- our initiation had ended- and chapter three was now fully underway.  Sparking the rest of the summer, the significance of this night should not be lost, deserving a pedestal among the sixty frames of 2009.  Continuing the musical snowball that started the night before, this night would give the band some forceful moemtum that would carry them  through the rest of the summer.

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

“Tweezer > Number Line” 7.31.09 II

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====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

Red Rocks Poster Series

Red Rocks Poster Series

7.31.09 Red Rocks < Torrent

7.31.09 Red Rocks < Megaupload

After perusing a handful of great AUD sources for this night, this one gets my vote.  No matrix has surfaced yet to my knowledge.

I: Runaway Jim, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Time Turns Elastic, Lawn Boy, Water In The Sky, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Split Open and Melt

II: Drowned > Crosseyed and Painless, Joy, Tweezer > Backwards Down The Number Line, Fluffhead > Piper > A Day in the Life

E: Suzy Greenberg,* Tweezer Reprise

* w/ “Drowned” and “Crosseyed” teases

Source: B&K 4022 (ortf) > Sonosax > 744T (Taper: Craig Davis)

***

7.31 (G.Lucas)

7.31.09 Red Rocks (Photo: Graham Lucas)

Tags: ,

Weekend Nuggets: Saturday at The Gorge

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on August 21st, 2009 by Mr.Miner

DOWNLOAD OF THE WEEKEND:

8.8.2009 The Gorge < Torrent

8.8.2009 The Gorge < Megaupload

The Gorge 8.8.09 (W.Rogell)

The Gorge 8.8.09 (W.Rogell)

Here we have Saturday night’s Gorge show, an affair that showcased Phish’s more rock-based jamming.  The clear high point of the night was the monster “Rock and Roll” that opened the second set, which remained a summer highlight.  A centerpiece “YEM” anchored the middle of the set in laid-back style, while a growing “Number Line” got into some significant late-set  improv, segueing into “Piper,” whose fast-paced jam closed the thematic set.

The first set featured an opening bust-out of “Mango Song,” included  a completely original take on “Tweezer” and made engaging runs through “Wolfman’s” and “Antelope,” with the latter standing out as a weekend highlight.  Definitely a show that delivered high-octane psychedelia- and several standout moments- this capped band’s first west coast run since 2003.  Enjoy the weekend folks!

I. The Mango Song, Chalkdust Torture, Middle of the Road, Tweezer > Driver, Twenty Years Later, Yamar, It’s Ice, Wolfman’s Brother, Character Zero, Run Like An Antelope

II. Rock And Roll > Makisupa Policeman, Alaska, The Wedge, You Enjoy Myself, Backwards Down the Number Line > Piper, Grind

E: Good Times, Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise

Source: FOB Schoeps MK4v>CMR>Benchmark AD2402-96 @ 24/9 - (Taper: Jamie LuWinged music notetch)

***

Jam of the Weekend:

“Rock and Roll > Makisupa” 8.8.09 II

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***

VIDEOS OF THE WEEKEND:

“Tweezer” jam 8.8 I

***

“Rock and Roll” 8.8 II (partial)

Tags: , , ,

The Show of the Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on August 20th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
The Gorge 8.7 (G.Lucas)

The Gorge 8.7 (G.Lucas)

I am never one to rank Phish shows- or even compare them much for that matter- but sometimes one night just shines brighter than the others, leaving you with an unmatched feeling of awe .  While there is clearly subjectivity in preferences of musical style, sometimes virtuoso improvisation cuts through subjectivity, creating a virtual consensus about particular shows.  In discussion with many people who saw all the shows this summer, the central talking point always comes back to first night of The Gorge.  While there are plenty of other shows that standout, there was a certain ethereal quality to the band’s improv throughout this show that was unmatched for the rest of the summer.  Trey wasn’t playing guitar-god, and became but a piece of a complex musical puzzle, fitting within the whole, and rarely on top, of the music.  The entire second leg is littered with highlights, but no show featured the consistently patient and organic jamming that defined August 7th at The Gorge.

8.7 (W.Rogell)

8.7 (W.Rogell)

Three of the top jams of the summer came from this show, and it could be argued that the three top jams stemmed from Phish’s powerful return to The Gorge.   But as mentioned earlier, there is no need to rank music.  The band tapped into an energy on this night- influenced by the mind-expanding natural surroundings, and what resulted was- in my opinion- the finest night of Phish this year.

Right from the start, the band’s music had a palpable energy, crushing an opening “Disease” that set a high-spirited tone for the evening.  Merging the wide-open landscape with the wide-open, bluesy-funk of “Ocelot” the band stretched out a relaxing, yet engaging, version of the constantly-evolving song.  Even from these first two pieces of the show, you could feel Phish’s enthusiasm; their music popped with a certain energy and creativity, even within this more contained opening context.

Gorge_Aug07_4

8.7 (G.Lucas)

But the magnitude of this show lied in the enchanting and exploratory improvisation that gelled perfectly all night long.  Each jam was seen to fruition, with no abrupt endings or transitions, and we often found those frozen moment deep into pieces of  improv.  The creativity of each single jam was paramount on this evening, resulting in some of the most sublime music of the entire summer.

The first hint of what was to transpire came with the first set “Stash.”  Following up Red Rocks’ opening-set highlight with another psychedelic success, this jam hinted at the outward planes we would soon visit.  The “Sneakin’ Sally” that came next is a top contender for the jam of the tour.  Crafting a piece of improv so original and diverse in scope, Phish masterfully moved through several distinct stages of music, creating one of the enduring memories of 2009.  As the song morphed into a mid-song, “YEM”-like vocal jam, Phish was letting their mojo flow in whatever way they felt.  But when the vocal jam ended, and the band slammed back into the song, the transcendence began.

8.7 (W.Rogell)

8.7 (W.Rogell)

Progressing out of the funk and into a more abstract rhythmic canvas, they began building the jam out of the song’s structure and into some increasingly nasty territory.  With each member using their instrument as a rhythmic tool, the band was knee deep in completely original music. The improv grew darker and more ambient, where Trey began painting gorgeous melodies over the drone backdrop.  Combining a dark spacescape with uplifting melodies played in Trey’s spiritual register, this part of the jam is incredibly moving.  Fishman decided to lend a quiet backing beat to the music, and soon the band climbed out of the murky ambiance into a triumphant passage that oozed nobility.  The band was totally together on this insane trip, crafting a jaw-dropping Phish excursion that included all band members equally, crafting an opus that was greater than the sum of its parts.  Concluding the set by stepping into “Cavern,” the band left the crowd in awe at setbreak.

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

A chunky “Moma” sparked the second set, which slid into the third-ever version of “Light.”  A song whose exploratory nature was hinted at during Bonnaroo, fully blossomed on this night.  Locked and loaded, this piece saw the band gradually coax the high-paced improv beyond its confines into a more percussive groove.  What was so cool about this jam was that the band continued pushing themselves, even amidst a great jam, and eventually they hit the jackpot.  Organically building from the rhythmic canvas, the band found themselves in a stunning calypso groove that sounded composed.  As they often do when they hit a sacred musical place, the band added a layer of vocal accompaniment, clinching the magic of this inspiring piece.  Seamlessly segueing into “Taste,” the soaring landing point fit thematically with the standout improv that just ended.

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

The only non-improvisational segment of the second set was a passionate, centerpiece “Fluffhead”- and who can argue with that- and a perfectly placed “Joy.”  Selecting a cohesive and connected setlist, while harnessing the undeniable energy abounding from the geography and isolation, Phish was slowly forming one of the great shows in Gorge history.

Once the opening licks of “Bathtub Gin” hit, the next fifty minutes of the set plus encore would be chock full of top-level jamming, creating tour highlights in “Bathtub Gin”- battling “Sally” for jam of 2009, a magnificently emotive “Harry Hood” that stands out among other leg-two versions, and a “Slave” encore that was like a cherry on top of this Phish sundae.

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

As the the “Gin” jam began, the band playfully quoted “Praise You,” the Fatboy Slim song that found its way into the peak of the Red Rocks’ “Ghost.”  As the band slid through some locked-in, feel-good patterns, Trey was absolutely killing it.  But he soon changed his tune into some dirtier and more aggressive guitar work, urging the band into a creative segment of original groove.  This is when the jam really began going places. Fishman and Mike  formed a driving rhythmic pocket as Trey added fluttery melodic themes above Page’s clav effects.  But as naturally as the band found themselves there, they moved into some slower, behemoth rock textures.  Getting downright nasty, they entered a segment of incredibly spacious grooves that matched the over-sized surroundings.  At this point, Trey played a space-like descending melody over the band’s pattern that would carry the jam all the way to its rest.  Getting more abstract and sparse through its final segment, the band built the jam down just as they had built it up, ending in an ambient, atonal place that suggested an extra-terrestrial encounter.  As the band sustained the wall of sound, Fishman hit the intro drum roll of “Harry Hood.”

8.7 (G.Lucas)

8.7 (G.Lucas)

As the band dropped into “Hood” you had the feeling the version would be colossal given its placement in this insane set and its consistently top-notch performances all summer long.  And as expected, the delicate piece merged with the warm summer night in a glowing ball of bliss.  Taking their time and space to explore the cathartic jam, the interplay of Trey, Mike, and Page during this will give you goosebumps, and it is some of Trey’s most genuinely soulful playing of the tour.  An emotive and extended version of the classic closed a truly epic set of Phish.  And when they came out with a “Slave” encore to close the eve, the musical aftermath seemed fated.  A song that matched the vibe of the set congruently created a final peak of the night; a warm, empathetic piece that provided an introspective mirror of the self.

There were many nights of this past tour that standout in my mind- specifically Red Rocks 7.31 and Hartford as the creme de la creme- but after listening through to each, there is something different taking place during the Gorge’s first escapade.  With magnificent, selfless pieces of flowing improv Phish consistently reached that other-worldy plane we quest for.  The jams of the night often sounded completely effortless, channeling that larger universal energy- bigger than any individual or band- the energy that defines the very fabric of the Phish experience.

***

Winged music noteJams of the Day:

Sneakin’ Sally 8.7.09 I

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Light > Taste 8.7.09 II

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Bathtub Gin > Harry Hood 8.7.09 II

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=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY

8.7.2009 The Gorge < Torrent

8.7.2009 The Gorge < Megaupload

I: Down With Disease, Ocelot, Pebbles And Marbles, Possum, Sleep, Destiny Unbound, Stash, Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley > Cavern

II: The Moma Dance, Light > Taste, Fluffhead, Joy, Bathtub Gin > Harry Hood

E: Slave To The Traffic Light

Source: DPA 4023 (ORTF) > Lunatec ACM V3 + DPA 4028(NOS) > AETA PSP-3 > Sound Devices 744t  (FOB)

***

Gorge_Aug07_10

The Gorge – 8.7.09 (Photo: Graham Lucas)

Tags: , , ,

Regional Differences

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 19th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Darien Lake (E.Dailey)

Darien Lake (E.Deily)

Phish’s playing has always been influenced by their surroundings. Whether comparing indoor and outdoor shows, amphitheatre and festival gigs, or east coast and west coast shows, the differences in their musical style are striking. Without judging the bands’ different styles, one can certainly hear the difference in a Gorge show versus an MSG show- and if you can’t, well, you’re just not listening.  This past tour was distinctly divided by region, with seven western shows, one in the Midwest, and four in the Northeast, and when perusing the musical highlights of each, stylistic differences certainly emerge.

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Opening at Red Rocks, the band entered a surreal, open-air atmosphere filled with very few extraneous fans who didn’t care about the show.  Between the stunning geography and the band’s ability to play to the stars, Phish blew up the wide-open, energetic and focused environments with jams of the same qualities.  As soon as Phish stepped on stage at Red Rocks, we heard a different in style from June- more relaxed, more patient, and more exploratory.  While this shift certainly had to do with the band’s enhanced comfort level after their first tour, there is no doubt that the laid-back environment lent its influence to the many amazing jams throughout tour’s first four nights.  Allowing more space in the music for their notes to breathe, the band’s musical characteristics of the weekend were illustrated in jams such as”Ghost > Wolfman’s,” Drowned > Crosseyed,” “Tweezer,” “Antelope,” and “Disease,” to name a few.  Make no bones about it, things changed over the five weeks off, but Red Rocks had a lot to do with the musical theatrics we witnessed over the four nights.

Shoreline 8.5 (W.Rogell)

Shoreline 8.5 (W.Rogell)

The scene shifted to the Bay Area for one night- the birthplace of the psychedelic revolution.  Busting out Hendrix, Velvet Underground, Taking Heads, and Los Lobos covers, Phish used Bill Graham’s classic amphitheatre to give a nod to many of their musical predecessors, regardless of their regional roots.  Featuring a multi-faceted and exploratory “Down With Disease,” Phish donated their own nugget of psychedelia to the historic shed.  Capping the show with intense excursions through “Maze” and “Mike’s,” you could tell we were no longer out in nature.

The Gorge (W.Rogell)

The Gorge (W.Rogell)

As we moved up to The Gorge, Phish settled in for two nights at the glorious venue; a site where they have historically played differently.  Featuring slower tempos and less notes, Phish has always allowed their music to bellow over the majestic and open-air surroundings; so much so, you can pick a Gorge tape out of an audio lineup.  The natural awe of the venue often gets soaked right into the band’s music, resulting in patient, other-worldly jams.  This summer’s first show in George, WA. was a perfect example of a “Gorge Show.”  Featuring patiently cosmic improv all the way through, this show sounded like a Gorge fantasy, with more than one of the tour’s best jams coming during night one.  The “Sneakin’ Sally”- which might just take the cake for jam of the summer, the “Bathtub Gin”- which isn’t far behind, a exploratory-turned-calypso “Light,” a first set monster “Stash,” arguably the most soulful “Hood” of the summer and a soothing “Slave” encore- this one is hard to hold a candle to.  But it wasn’t just that the jams were amazing, they were distinctly wide-open “Gorge-type jams,” and if you’ve listened to the band’s history at this venue, you understand what I mean.  These aforementioned jams would never happen at a tightly packed east coast shed- they are of a completely different vibe. (And vice-versa, the Chiacgo “Carini” or the Darien “Drowned” wouldn’t ever happen at The Gorge.)  “Wolfman’s,” “Antelope,” and “YEM” brought this style the next night in a distinctly less-Gorgey, but excellent, Saturday night show.  Interestingly, but consistently, Phish plays to different vibes in different parts of the country.

Toyota Park, Chicgo (D.Vann)

Toyota Park, Chicgo (D.Vann)

When the band jumped ship from the west coast, we all experienced a bit of culture shock, landing in the gritty surroundings of Toyota Park on the South Side of Chicago.  A far cry from the beauty of the west, the venue was large and sprawling like the city itself, creating an incredibly impersonal feel.  The stage was massive and removed from the crowd, and the crowd was once again infiltrated with frat boys and dirt-surfing hangers-on that plague mid-west and east tours.  After a week pure bliss, the band and the people on tour had to adjust to the urban jungle, and not surprisingly, Phish’s show wasn’t the most cohesive.  Feeding off the over-sized soccer stadium, the band played some standout jams, but the artistry of the setlist left something to be desired.  Dropping the biggest “Number Line” up to that point, a bombastic “Carini,” a spirited “Jibboo,” a solid “2001 > Chalk Dust,” and an impressionistic “Hood,” the music was all there, but the songs just didn’t fit together well and the set was discombobulated- much like the venue itslef.  We were all glad to hop into more familiar surroundings as we made our way to Darien Lake.

Hartford (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

During the last four shows of tour, Phish swam back into their Northeast zone of comfort, hitting up four amphitheatres they had played many times before.  And as the music began to flow, there was an increased urgency and force behind in most of the jams, a noticeable difference from the wide-open textures of the west coast.  The standout improv was still there, but in a completely different vein.  Listen to the Darien “Drowned” and “Antelope,” the Hartford “Birds,” “Disease,” “Piper,” and “Ghost > Psycho Killer,” the Merriweather “46 Days” or the SPAC “Numberline” and “Rock and Roll,” and you will notice a more driving intensity behind the music giving it a more full-on feel.  Just comparing the Red Rocks and Hartford “Ghosts” illustrates my point quite well.  By no means am I saying one style is any better than the other- I love it all- but I am noting a musical pattern that is consistent for Phish.

Trust me, if you offered me a night at MSG or a night at The Gorge,  I would defer the decision to someone else, because each are separate but equal monsters.  While this geographic pattern of musical styles has always held true for the band, the differences in playing were accentuated this past tour as we hopped from region to region with no “connecting” shows in between.  In any tour that touches different corners of the country, one will hear different incarnations of Phish’s sound, as they adapt to their physical surroundings along the way.  People will always have opinions and preferences about each style, but you can’t have the yin without the yang, and therein lies the beauty of Phish tour.

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“Makisupa Switch-Up” – The Gorge 8.8.09 (Photo: Eric Battuello)

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