Lighting the Fuse

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Phish kicked off the final act of their summer circus under the tents at Darien Lake last night.  The amusement park atmosphere oozed into the amphitheatre as Phish crafted a festive show with a standout second set- combing diverse songs into a creative frame that included some of the most stunning improv of the tour.  Combined with a first set that carried its weight just fine, Phish offered a full platter last night in Darien, playing their fourth standout show of their career in the western New York venue.

Toyota Park, Chicgo (D.Vann)

Toyota Park, Chicgo (D.Vann)

After a strange and impersonal stop in a Chicago soccer stadium, Phish tour felt like home again in the intimate confines of Darien Lake.  Coming out for the second set to an already amped audience, Phish stepped up and played one of the best jams of the tour in an open-ended and adventurous “Drowned.”  Taking one of their favorite vehicles of the summer on a psychedelic odyssey, Phish gave a nod to the insane set-opening version of 2000 that made it to immortality as a Live Phish release.  Last night’s go-round featured the band’s revitalized jamming style, born at Red Rocks and on display throughout the past two weeks, stringing together creative ideas into a completely original piece of music.  Writing in the car on the way to Albany, I haven’t had the luxury of revisiting this magnificent jam yet, but my gut is telling me it is right up there with the company of The Gorge “Gin” and “Rock and Roll” in terms of exploratory risk-taking and success.  Connecting several passages of extremely cohesive improv, the band took us on a set-opening “roller-coaster of the mind,” to quote Trey, himself, from Darien Lake ’93.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

As the band brought the tour-highlight down into an ambient palette, they artistically passed into the intro of “Prince Caspian.”  Using the dreamy composition to resolve “Drowned’s” excursion, Phish placed the usual late-show power-ballad squarely in the the middle of the second set.  Exploding a focused and regal version of the fairy-tale saga, Trey took a glorious solo as the band chugged away, creating a continuing whole-band highlight.  Before crashing into the final chords of the song, Trey started the opening licks to “Rift” in another creative call that worked masterfully.  Taking up the opening rhythms, the band jumped atop the change and they were off and running into a blistering rendition of their mid-’90s classic.  Showcasing their precision all night long, this second-set “Rift” carried every bit of momentum of the previous thirty-plus minutes into a triumphant and shredding version of the song.  “Drowned > Caspian > Rift”- a Phishy combination of songs that flowed beautifully- and as the band landed on the last vocal note of the song with pride and a sense of musical arrival, the crowd greeted them with a heartfelt ovation.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Following the opening suite of the set, Phish moved from “Rift’s” first song to its last with a interlude of “Horse > Silent.”  And as the band subsequently cued up “Sparkle” in the middle of the set, you knew something big was coming next.  As the amphitheatre overflowed with energy, the band slipped into a centerpiece “Antelope.”  Taking the mid-set jam on a ferocious jaunt, the band got into some snarling patterns, putting the magnifying class on the frenzied improv.  Navigating the break neck music locked together, this jam embodied the narrative essence of the song- musically depicting a dramatic escape from an oncoming predator on the Serengeti.  The stand-alone mid-set version allowed “Antelope” to shine in a unique place, wrapping up a second-leg of versions that have re-upped the ante for the old-school song.

When the band dropped into “Suzy,” it had the certain vibe of a feel-good set closer, but as the band wound down the swanky funk textures, Trey delicately strummed the opening to “Fluffhead!”  Even though the song is “back in rotation,” every time it starts it still feels like a complete surprise; providing the same sensation last night when it was unveiled as the exclamation point on an energetic and unique set of Phish.  While sometimes “Fluffheads” can have huge emotional impact without impeccable playing, Phish crushed a virtual note-perfect version in a huge set-ending highlight of the night.  Bringing the show to an energetic peak, the band used their multi-part composition as a show-stopping closer on a tremendous summer night in New York.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Phish brought out the fireworks in the first set as well, featuring a second song bust-out of “Dinner and a Movie” that, with their re-found diligence, sounded awesome.  Following one song that almost everyone wanted to hear, the band rolled out a first-set funk-down with a thick and expressive “Wolfman’s.”  The liquid-groove session was bookended by another sinister bust-out in “My Friend, My Friend,” a song that converged with nightfall in a dark confluence of Phish and nature.  After a well-played “Sugar Shack” whose carnival-esque melodies gelled with the night’s surroundings, the no-brainer first set diamond came in the late-set “David Bowie.” As Phish dove into their psychedelic opus, they did it with aggression and meaning, bringing the delicate piece on mind-numbing journey into darkness with more than a few original passages of improv.  Molding arguably the heartiest “Bowie” of the entire summer, Phish was noticeably clicking as they careened into musical space. A version that was an experiential highlight of the entire show, I’m sure this one will hold up on tapes.

The Gorge (J.Doran)

The Gorge (J.Doran)

And just as band landed their intense voyage, ostensibly ending the set, they revved up a “Bathtub Gin” that immediately evoked memories of The Gorge’s other-worldly excursion.  This first set version, though, was much more contained, breaking structure with cathartic melody while remaining anchored to the song’s rhythm in an interesting and dichotomous version.  Before closing the set with “Golgi,” the band paid homage to the late Les Paul, who passed yesterday at 94, by playing a jazz standard popularized by the guitar legend- “How High the Moon.”

One down.  Three to go.  With a show that began summer’s last four nights in style, Phish still left plenty room to blowout the next three with endless possibilities.  Will they play another “Ghost?”  After a massive version on the first night of Red Rocks, we haven’t heard from the song again.  Will they drop a second-leg “Ocean Song”- maybe at SPAC- its improvisational birthplace?  Where will the end-of-summer “Tweezer” fall?  With their current “anything-goes” style, these next three second sets are as predictable as the the lotto, upping the anticipation for the conclusion of summer.  Act two comes tonight in Hartford, and we shall see what Phish has in store- you’re guess is as good as mine.

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

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560 Responses to “Lighting the Fuse”

  1. whole tour! Says:

    lol, yeah that donna-less run from winter 73 was EPIC!

    @ brandon…it’s dick’s pick #14 from 11/30 and 12/02-73. The whole boston 73 run is worth checking out. All pistons firing!

  2. wvbrdr Says:

    @ Brandon Pick up 11-17-73. No Darkstar, but Playin>UJB>Morning Dew>UJB Playin.

  3. Jay Says:

    but…but..The Donna screams make the show!!!

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    I don’t know why everyone bitches about Donna (not just on here, but on other Dead-related convos.) From what I have heard in my 77′ shows, she really doesn’t sound that bad.

    Thank you guys for your recommendations. I will get on that. is my best friend.

    11-30-73 and 12-2-73….got it.

  5. joe Says:

    so pysched for spac. leaving tomorrow, camping and maybe betting on the ponnies. Randomly overheard two seperate conversations today of people (from boston) that are heading for the show made me even more excited…

    cool video of sneaking sally gorge:

    @brandon, maybe not the best dead ever, but a cool moment from my memory is the standing on the moon from this show. Old Jerry conveying emotion. another memory from this one is feeling the balcony actually shaking during iko (might have been the snowman acid, or was it the blue martian, can’t remember)

    anyway, see everyone in Saratoga. Love the discourse on this board. Refreshing to read thought out analysis instead of the usual internet message board stuff. (cue the wolf in pulp fiction saying let’s not go sucking each other’s dicks just yet)

  6. BrandonKayda Says:

    Is that the whole set wvbrdr? Sounds interesting. I really like the Playing>Terrapin from 5-28-77. That whole set has good segues. I heard they used to do 20minute Playing In The Band’s. Sounds awesome.

  7. wvbrdr Says:

    For a face melting Playin, check out 8-27-72. It just rips.

    Not the whole set, there’s an Eyes after that too.

    I can point you to some pretty bad Donna shows too.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    longest Playin was in excess of 50 minutes and is deadly, mind numbingly boring

    best Playin’ jams are in 72-73 imo, before it really sprawls out – focused explosions of jamming

    If you’re spending money on DPs and like the 77 stuff go with the big one that has 5-18 and 5-21-77, all of both shows. There’s no such thing as “best of 77” but those are two of my favorites and 5-18 is a long Playin’ sequence that’s among the finest. Also the 12-29-77 DP is very great.

    To use a VERY VERY loose metaphor – 1977 is like 1994 for Phish: tight, practiced, and raging with fiery energy. 1972-74 is more like ’97-98 Phish, looser and more focused on long improvisational segments. No funk though; or very little.

    Before everyone rushes to pick apart that metaphor, I know it’s only accurate on the very surface, but as far as it goes I think it’s valid.

  9. BrandonKayda Says:

    Thanks Joe. I heard that even in the 90’s (which….equals about 03-04′ Phish I’m guessing….this is based on what other people have said, not me) there were still really hot moments.

    Damn, an Eyes after that?! Add in an Estimated and Sugar Magnolia and you’ve got an amazing sounding set. I will check that out. Thank you very much

    I just really like the way they build their jams. They don’t rush into it at all, especially on like Dark Star, Slipknot, etc.

    Speaking of that, does anybody know of some really hot Help>Slip>Franklin’s? I already have the BEST (5-9-77) but some other ones would be nice.

    Are there any really good 80’s shows worth mentioning? I never see anybody talking about the 80’s. I think completely was talking about a big Dark Star bust-out in 89′. I should check that out. Didn’t the Dead shelf St Stephen for like 9 years? It’s so much harder to keep track of Dead bustouts, they have like 400 songs.

    So much music I need to catch up on.

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    oh yeah dude – Donna – just wait. just wait. you’ll find out soon enough. she does sound really good on some things but she ruins way WAY more stuff than she helps. we are NOT exaggerating.

  11. joe Says:

    brandon, actually late 80, early 90’s dead hasn’t even happened for phish yet, assuming we are still using loose analogies. And that is a whole conversation for next summer tour maybe.

  12. BrandonKayda Says:

    6-4-77 (or maybe it was 14 or 24) had a really interesting sounding set. I haven’t heard the show but wasn’t the second set like Terrapin>Playin>China Cat>Not Fade Away>I Know You Rider>Franklin’s Tower? Madness. I don’t even know how song of those segues are even possible.

  13. joe Says:

    late 80’s, I should have said

  14. wvbrdr Says:

    I’m a big fan on ’81 shows, Jerry can’t play a wrong note and it’s before his voice went to hell.

    I’ve got to think on some hot shows for you. Check out 5-6-81, I think it’s a Dicks Pick.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    we should probably take the Dead talk off the Phish board for now. I’d be glad to make recommendations over the weekend in email if you’d like to hit me up, Brandon: tyler23rh at comcast dot net – just don’t want to drown the PT crew with the volume it takes to really talk Dead.

    Stephen was shelved in 78, brought back to massive FAIL and sadness in 83 and permanently retired. Sad.

    I would actually recommend One From the Vault as the very next thing you should pick up, maybe. It’s from ’75 and is a unique and magical show featuring a great, prototypical Help > Slip > Franklins.


    Great energy in the Darien Drowned jam and lots of hot variations on a theme but not that great “morphing again” stuff

  16. joe Says:

    Mr. C, you are right, I just wanted to add my 1 penny to the recommendations, but we are in the middle of the present and all and there is a band that is still bringing the fire

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah the analogies between eras don’t hold up across the board. I think those 2 sets of eras can be compared usefully but that’s about it. ’03 Phish was a jamming machine, totally unlike latter day Dead.

  18. BrandonKayda Says:

    I wish I had started to listen to The Grateful Dead before I did. There is so many shows, etc I want to hear. I think they are going to eventually take over my obsession with Phish (which took over my obsession with Ween)

    Oh well, atleast I am ahead of the other kids my age. In like 10years when they start to listen to them I can be the “tour veteran” 🙂

  19. ATL 007 Says:

    @ Whole Tour

    Seems me, you and HVS007 are the only ones to give Knoxville its propers…Hope the Waves>SHOS>Bowie is on the DVD in the Joy box set…wishful thinking! That was a masterful 30 min

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’m 100% all for helping Brandon and anyone else find good Grateful Dead to listen to – I live for that shit – but I don’t want to bore other people who are here for what the URL says the site is about 😮

  21. wvbrdr Says:

    good point Mr C.

    that antelope is pretty ripping, very different from the gorge. from where I’m sitting, they just seem to be really dialed into the crowd energy. in all these shows.

  22. wvbrdr Says:

    ^^ I’m talking about Darien

  23. whole tour! Says:

    Hell yeah! ATL!
    I still can’t get over how awesome it was…really a standout show from that first leg. I had so much fun and met so many cool people it was great. I hope they come back to that arena again because they fucking rocked that place. I usually find myself listening to that ocelot, foam, undermind > mike’s groove, then that second set was a monster. The afformentioned Waves > SIHTOS > Bowie, the reba, julius, and hood. No matter how much “better” this leg has gotten, that knoxville show will always be special to me. It was TIGHT!

    I too hope to see some of it pop up on that DVD.

  24. whole tour! Says:

    that kuroda lights on the crowd during the end of Waves would look great in HD on a huge flat screen with dolby 5.1 surround kicking. one can dream…lol

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    Knoxville is great! One of the real first leg keepers IMO! count me as part of Team Knox, and no I wasn’t there.

    @Brandon, no reason to pick between them. GD was and remains my deepest musical love but Phish is here and now and they are truly amazing.

    My answer to the question “Would you rather listen to Phish or the Dead?” is “yes please!” (or really, “depends on my mood”)

    You have plenty of time to dig into all of these things

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