The Maine Event

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 30th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

One night after Phish rewrote the improvisational record book for this era, they played a show far more defined by its setlist than open-ended jamming. Greeting the intimate Sunday crowd in Maine with an array of bust-outs and precise playing, the band issued their strongest first set of tour, but then opened up their improv only one time during the second set in an odd turn of events. Albany’s other-worldly playing, almost inexplicably, didn’t provide the impetus to step onstage and go for it again. Instead, the band played a non-stop, two set show that brought a consistently high energy in a classic building of Phish lore.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

Greeting the renovated arena with their own new, ultra-polished rock show, Phish came out firing in the first half, opening with the promising combination of “Possum,” “Disease.” Staying within the confines of their anthem for the first time this fall, “Disease” sparked the night with a standout shredfest, but the most interesting segment of the set came in the second half. After the band played the first “Weigh” of this era and the first “Nellie Kane” since 2000, the band sat into their third smoking piece of improv of the set, this time of the dark variety, in “Stash.” Building a standout sinister peak, this song set the ominous tone for the rest of the frame, as the band dropped into their third 3.0 debut with “Meat.” Taking the simple funk groove and creating a mini-jam, the band did more with Gordon’s Ghost-era composition than ever before. The rhythmic-focused “Undermind” provided another first set highlight as Trey experimented with a twangier tone and an explosive solo over his bandmmates’ building shuffle-groove. Meanwhile, Gordon kept busy hurling bass grenades into the fray in what turned out to be a step forward for the song. But the peak of the nasty first half came in the the set ending “Mike’s Groove.” Without breaking form, Phish built a massive guitar-rock jaunt that saw Trey crush an intense excursion of evil licks and bombastic patterns. A dirty dance through a dark alley, Trey led the troops to the safety of “Hydrogen” through some excessively hairy territory. Capped by a full-speed run through “Weekapaug,” Phish’s stellar opening frame set the table for a second set that held the imaginations of all captive for the forty minute setbreak.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Kicking off the second half with “Moma Dance,” the band oozed into the frame with some thickness, and then dropping into to the virtually- guaranteed type-II vehicle “Rock and Roll.” Showing love for Velvet Underground’s Loaded for the third time in four shows, this time, instead of launching into an interesting Phish jam, the band remained anchored to the break-neck, guitar rock for all but the last minute or so of the piece. When they finally eased up the intensity, the music began to blossom, and, with some patience, could have made a stunning journey. But it wasn’t to be – just as the music was turning transcendent, the band segued rather quickly into “Light.”

Providing the improvisational centerpiece of the night, “Light” transformed from a cathartic guitar confessional into a group exploration in the spiritual plane, Trey sporadically dropped his geyser-like melodies for more abstract offerings and the band built outward with him. Remaining in high gear, Phish soared through the multi-faceted centerpiece of the show, briefly reaching an incredibly addictive groove that they abandoned all too quickly. Remaining creative throughout and building delicately to an beautiful conclusion, the band took “Light,” and went for it, resulting in the most engaging piece of the show. Sometimes all ya’ gotta do is try!

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

As only real exploratory section of the night came to an end, the band slithered into a murky hard rock or heavy metal cover, with full on snarling guitar licks and a crashing drum beat. But as the lyrics unfolded and the band sang the chorus, it became clear that Phish was unveiling a reworked version of the Dude of Life’s “Crimes of the Mind.” Appearing for only the seventh time in their history, and the first without The Dude, himself, on vocals, the updated version featured a menacing guitar hook and a seething solo that left everyone smiling at the reinvented pseudo-classic. Yet another addition to Phish’s ever-broadening catalog, this one seems like it could have some real improvisational potential if the band chooses to go that route.

The rest of the set, while well-played didn’t feature anything outside the box. Though precise “Pebbles and Marbles” seemed to break up the set’s continuity a bit, and its customary, one-dimensional rock jam didn’t add any intrigue to the song-based evening. Juxtaposing the upbeat textures with their patented space-funk, Phish kicked into a short but sweet, bass-led “2001″ in a late set dance session that spun the mini-arena like a gyroscope . Phish emerged from the song’s peak with a run of potential set closers – “Golgi,” “Cavern,” and a classic “Antelope,” which the band drilled to punctuate the set. Enhancing the show’s kick-down value, the band featured a triple-encore of the rare a capella “Freebird” for the first time since 2000, “Carini,” and “Waste.”

Moving into the fall-tour’s peak run at Madison Square Garden, one can only assume Phish has a couple of monster sets in them to rival Albany’s masterpiece. Always bringing their A-game to the Big Apple, the next three shows could very well wind up being some of the most memorable of the year. It will be interesting to see what approach Phish takes in a building where they have traditionally jammed relentlessly. Only a of couple days to travel, recoop, and listen to Albany,  and we shall see!

I: Possum, Down with Disease, Nellie Kane, Weigh, When the Circus Comes, Kill Devil Falls, Water in the Sky, Stash, Meat, Undermind, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove

II: The Moma Dance, Rock and Roll > Light > Crimes of the Mind, Pebbles and Marbles, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Golgi Apparatus, Cavern, Run Like an Antelope

E: Free Bird, Carini, Waste

Tags: ,

Another Level

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 29th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

At set break last night, I had multiple conversations lamenting the relatively jam-less phenomenon Phish had become. The band’s musical re-evolution from the first to the second leg of summer had unexpectedly come to a screeching halt when the band stepped indoors. Fall had not progressed as imagined; the band simply wasn’t talking risks anymore. A tour that started with lofty expectations of improvisational escapades and musical growth had turned somewhat formulaic – a series of songs in the first and a couple ten-to-twelve minute jams sprinkled throughout the second. Hmm. Just what had our cosmic adventurers become? Where had their spirit of exploration gone? We heard glimpses of it at Red Rocks and The Gorge, and logically thought Fall would be the next step. With enhanced onstage comfort and a few tours under their belt, Phish was ready to take over the world again – or were they?

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

Through the first half of tour, no new musical direction had emerged. If the band decided to jam, they pulled out “Disease,” “Rock and Roll,” or “Drowned,” and launched into a high speed rock jaunt that inevitably broke down into percussive grooves before morphing into ambience and drifting off into the next song. Some outings were better than others, but the formula began to grow tedious. This wasn’t the Phish I toured with in during the mid to late ‘90s, and this wasn’t the Phish I toured with in ’03 and ‘04 – 2009 represented a new take on their music, and to say it wasn’t a bit watered down would be generous. Was it the lack of drugs? Was it a lack of intrinsic motivation? Nobody knew, but a consensus was beginning to form amongst kids who have seen the band for years on end that something needed to happen; and it needed to happen now; Phish had to start jamming again. The last thing I said before the lights came down was “This better be huge.” Darkness.

Somehow, someway, the band must have eavesdropped on our conversations in the 200 level, because when they emerged for their fourth and final set at The Knick something had changed. I don’t know what conversation the band had at setbreak, or how they plotted their plan of attack, but when they stepped onto stage, they let their any inhibitions fall away and went for the jugular. Fifty minutes of pure exploratory improvisation later, I gazed at the stage, drenched, refreshed, and so blissed out, words cannot begin to explain.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

“Seven Below > Ghost” defines why we see Phish; why we spend thousands of our dollars, weeks of our life, time away from our families, and all our vacation days chasing the sacred rite; searching for those moments – ever fleeting but ultimately inspiring- when the universe comes together in a vibrant confluence of ecstatic music, unconscious rhythm and soulful reverie. Fifty minutes of IT, guided by a spirit unseen in 2009, absolutely floored the entire Knick, leading to a deafening ovation in reverence of the magical mystery tour.

Organically building through multiple melodic themes with improvisation so fluid it made any other jam from the year seem contrived, Phish seemed to be playing to our greatest fears, showing us they most definitely still have what it takes to blow our minds apart. Cohesively connecting two 25-minute epics, Phish crafted far and away their most stunning music of the year. Nothing else even comes close. For whatever reason, everything truly came together for the first time in 2009 last night, and Phish presented us with a psychedelic excursion that stands up to their prestigious history.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Songs turned into mere vehicles as Phish allowed their instincts take over their consciousness in earnest, resulting in an epic voyage for the ages and hopefully a sign of things to come. But the question begging to be asked is, “Why now?” What were the precipitating causes of such a monumental – and obvious – shift in musical intent? Something of such magnitude doesn’t just happen out of the blue; the band clearly decided that last night would be different.  And boy was it ever. Completely redefining possibilities for the final week of tour, last night’s show at The Knick represented a massive step forwards to the hopeful return of the Phish of our dreams.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Rest of Set II Notes: Everything that happened after “Seven Below > Ghost” was simply frosting on the cake. If the PA had broken at that point, everyone would have picked up their belongings and headed for the exits with an ear-to-ear smile. But the did, in fact, continue with the quick bust-out of Velvet Underground’s “Cool It Down”- a song that seemed wholly appropriate following the initial segment of the other-worldly playing. Segueing into a celebratory groove session of “Jibboo” the band then took a breath with “Let Me Lie” before showering the audience with the liquid funk of “Wolfman’s Brother.” A full-on “Julius” wrapped up the set before the band came out and gave their own nod of recognition to the special evening their signature piece, “You Enjoy Myself.”

Set I Notes: The first half started with a bang with “Party Time” and “Stealing Time,” while also featured a solid “Foam,” and a botched “Split” that paled in comparison to Cincy’s version, as well as several others from this year. Notable bust-outs included “Sanity,” “Walk Away,” and the first 3.0 incarnations of “Uncle Pen,” and “Vultures.”

I: Party Time, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Uncle Pen, Sanity, Foam, Walk Away, NICU, Alaska, Split Open and Melt, Joy, Vultures, Backwards Down the Number Line

II: Seven Below > Ghost, Cool It Down > Gotta Jibboo, Let Me Lie, Wolfman’s Brother, Julius

E: You Enjoy Myself

Tags: ,

A Golden Age

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 28th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Cincy (J.Tortorice)

Cincy (J.Tortorice)

Phish stepped into the second half of fall tour with a strong two-set outing at The Knick that was highlighted by a sparkling new cover and an classic jam. Bouncing back from a slight dip of Philly’s second night, the band brought their polished playing and a bit of exploration in what came together as a great show with a particularly exciting second set.

As this era of Phish evolves, it seems that first sets will be reserved exclusively for songs, and the second half is where any real improvisation will happen. And as the band’s playing is sharp right now, setlists and song choice become far more essential to the first half dynamic. Usually kicking down one or two structured jams within the first half, last night they played four. Featuring an early “Maze” and the late run of “Timber,” “Limb, and “Light,” all of these tightly wound pieces of contained jamming were highlighted by ripping guitar work by Trey. The most engaging piece sprouted once the set seemed over as the band launched from “Cavern” into the first-ever stand-alone “Light.” Building an ambient soundscape out of the guitar-led section, Fishman began to hit a beat behind the psychedelic madness that suggested something far deeper. But before we knew it, the band took their instruments off in bizarre ending to the set.

Cincy (J.Tortorice)

Cincy (J.Tortorice)

Sprinkling the initial frame with the first appearances of multiple songs this tour, including “Driver,” “Gumbo,” and “Two Versions of Me,” this added up to more than the average first set, but when the band opened second set with the foreboding suite of “My Friend. My Friend” they announced their presence of authority in a more serious fashion. Almost always precluding a large jam vehicle when opening a set, this time no one could have predicted what lied around the corner. Breaking out a new triumphant epic fusing uplifting playing and a driving groove in hybrid Phish jam that nobody had ever heard of before, the song and jam remained a mystery for the entire set. Only later was I informed that it wasn’t a Phish original, but a cover of the indie-electro act, TV On the Radio – noone I had ever heard of before. When I downloaded the original “Golden Age,” I discovered that Phish had created a huge new jam from the least likely of places, an pop-tronica track. Completely Phishifying the original, the band absolutely annihilated a brand new shining piece of improv that immediately stood out as one of the best jams of tour. I’ve got to imagine Trey picked this one out of the crowd and brought it to the band to practice and practice and practice, because when they unveiled the piece, it translated brilliantly. Both lyrically appropriate and acrobatic, the band chose a winner to add to their repertoire, and its debut absolutely blew up.

Cincy (J.Tortorice)

Cincy (J.Tortorice)

Following the explosive dance-cover, the band dropped into their the old-school rare and rare cover, “On Your Way Down.” The psychedelic blues-rock exercise provided an ideal interlude before launching into a centerpiece “Fluffhead” that carried plenty of steam and didn’t slow the set down at all. A bombastic guitar peak set the table for the second central jam from the set – “Piper.” Taking the piece to both inspiring and experimental places, the band crushed the jam in its most exciting version of tour. Bending notes around each other in a high-speed musical chase, Gordon used his envelope filter to drop a pattern of bass bombs that masterfully integrated with the band’s sonic fabric. Slowing into a spacier segment, the band morphed into a soft groove that slowly developed into the debut of Fishman’s Undermind’s composition “Tomorrow’s Song.” One of those pieces that I figured the band had already forgotten about emerged from the depths of the most exploratory jam of the evening. A pillowcase for the ears, the piece provided a creative and groovy musical landing point, as well as a breath of fresh air into the set.

The non-stop second half continued with “Prince Caspian” and peaked with a gorgeous rendition of “Harry Hood.” A classic take one of band’s oldest pieces, the impeccable jam soared with a certain regal quality that has characterized almost all “Hoods” from this year. Trey and Page painted the top, while Fish and Mike held down the bottom, symbiotically. This smashing incarnation climaxed the set, led forward by Trey’s sublime leads, before the band slid into the evening’s denouement of “Suzy,” “Coil.” Stringing together some classic songs to end an exciting frame of Phish, capped by the silly “Ive Been Around.” An all-around engaging show – and particularly hot second set – set the table for a large Saturday night at Albany’s Phishy downtown arena. See you there!

I: AC/DC Bag, Maze, Driver, My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, Gumbo, Bouncing Around the Room, It’s Ice, Two Versions of Me, Timber, Limb By Limb, Cavern, Light

II: My Friend, My Friend > Golden Age*, On Your Way Down, Fluffhead, Piper > Tomorrow’s Song*, Prince Caspian, Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg, The Squirming Coil, I’ve Been Around

E: Fire

* debut

Tags: ,

A Pre-Turkey Party

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 26th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
11.20.09 (C.Garber)

11.20.09 (C.Garber)

Following their first night throw-down in Philadelphia, Phish came back with a solid show that featured a slew of well-played rock and roll, but only a couple of jams that brought legitimate excitement. On the night before Thanksgiving, the band didn’t match the musical theatrics of the previous night, but played a rather generic show to bring us into the holiday break. The glowing setlist combo of “Tweezer,” “YEM” contained limited musical creativity, leaving the spotlight on the ferocious and exploratory “Birds of a Feather” that opened the second set as the shining moment of the night.

11.25.09 (Awd/HybridRadar)

11.25.09 (Awd/HybridRadar)

Coming off a very standard first set that peaked with a nasty “Antelope,” Phish came out after the break and dropped their first “Birds” of tour – and third since their return. The band focused their collective energies in a shredding-turned-open jam that reached places seldom seen by the song before crashing back into it’s theme seamlessly. Though Fishman played straight ahead beats all night, constraining the band’s exploration, in this piece he let loose for a bit, and the band followed into the only type II jamming of the evening. Starting within their raging rock grooves the band entered some thematic jamming led by Trey’s melodic leads. Gradually turning darker within the uptempo milieu, the band drifted into an experimental canvas. Trey and Page’s offerings became more abstract and Mike and Fish explored rhythmic complexities for one of few times during the evening. As the band turned to the swamp, Trey began slicing the musical space with sharp rhythmic stabs that allowed the rest of the band to loosen into psychedelic textures. And then – boom – right back into the song as if you never knew they left. This jam was the goods on a night that wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of interesting Phish.

11.25.09 (Awd/HybridRadar)

11.25.09 (Awd/HybridRadar)

Without needing a cool down song – the set had just kicked off – the band dropped into a randomly placed “Farmhouse” that diffused the energy a bit from the highlight opener. But that all changed when the band dropped into the second “Tweezer” of fall tour. While Cincinnati’s version provided a dance clinic, this version merely dipped in rhythmic playing before turning into a guitar showcase over an unchanging groove. No one but Trey seemed to bring anything original to the table in this relatively average rendition. Toying strictly with the “Tweezer” theme, this version simply didn’t hold up to most ’09 versions. At the very end it seemed they might be going somewhere as they descended from their guitar-rock peak, but their funkier playing lasted but a minute before they faded to silence.

Immediately starting “You Enjoy Myself” in the middle of the set, one figured the piece would counterbalance their arena rock with some extended funk, but this but this took a different, and interesting direction. Stepping into a laid back opening of the jam, Trey played staccato melodies from the start in this lampin’ segment of music. The band built out of this quieter section, into a more standard, yet raging second-half of searing “YEM” rock. Trey annihilated this section, and together, both halves amounted to a legitimate outing for the song, though after the spectacular Cincy “YEM,” this one sounded more straight forward.

11.20.09 (C.Garber)

11.20.09 (C.Garber)

The oddly constructed set continued with the always-pleasurable “Esther.” Playing the song as well as they have since their return, it provided an ideal interlude before the set’s final blowout. Time for one more big time song to lead us into Thanksgiving, Phish chose the least-exciting song in their repertoire, “Time Turns Elastic.” A real bonehead maneuver, Phish finished the show with their long-winded composition that should really find its way back to the orchestra. Sure, the band played it well, but really?!? Trying to defibrillator a dead horse, the band moved from their slowest piece into “Tweezer Reprise” in a harsh juxtaposition of styles. And like that, the set ended.

A welcome bust-out of “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” appeared for an encore, but it sure seemed like they should have played another song out of the ballad; a strange conclusion to an underwhelming evening. A night after blowing the roof of the Wachovia Center, Phish reeled it in a bit with a sharply-played show with an odds setlist that never really got off the ground. The highlights of lie in “Antelope,” “Birds,” and “YEM,” with “Birds” being the only must-hear piece of the night. Hey, ya’ can’t win em all, but it sure is fun as hell trying.

Set I Notes: Comprised of a lot of blues-rock, the only pieces of note the shreddier-than-thou, set-ending “Antelope,” a particularly well-played “Divided Sky,” and a stretched out “Ocelot” that developed into nothing more than an intense version of the standard jam…It’s hard to get exited about “Halley’s Comet” these days, as it seems to be settling in as a four-minute launch pad for the 3.0 era as opposed a jam vehicle as in the late ’90s…Phish brought Trey’s “Sleep Again” from Indio’s acoustic set into their electric show for the first time ever. A song I’ve always liked since Trey debuted it back in ’08, I’m sure this one will get mixed reviews from the peanut gallery…Though not nearly the caliber of Detroit’s slow, methodical death march, last night’s version of “46 Days” definitely packed a punch without breaking structure.

I: Kill Devil Falls, 46 Days, Sugar Shack, Halley’s Comet, The Divided Sky, Sleep Again, Ocelot, Train Song, Wilson, Run Like an Antelope

II: Birds of a Feather, Farmhouse, Tweezer, You Enjoy Myself, Esther, Time Turns Elastic, Tweezer Reprise

E: Oh! Sweet Nuthin’

Tags: ,

Back At Home Again

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 25th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Philadelphia Phish – there ain’t nuthin’ like it! As the band hit the first show of their major east coast arena run, they rolled out two sets of top-notch playing and a setlist that bordered on make-believe. With no filler in either frame, the band threw down a full-length party at the Wachovia Center last night. With a first set filled with rarities, and improv strewn throughout both sets, Phish slaughtered what has to be considered the strongest full show of the fall.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

When looking at it on paper, last night’s first set appears to have been written by an online fan listing the songs he wanted to hear. With six songs appearing for the first time this fall, including “Camel Walk” for the first time since their return, the opening frame felt completely fresh and energetic. Throughout the entire set, and show, Phish sounded as good as they have all year, completely on point and flowing with their seeming effortless nature of lore. Nailing song after song as if they were mere calisthenics, the band was clearly overjoyed to be back in Philly again. Wearing a Flyers jersey throughout the set, Trey continued his guitar acrobatics, leading the band through a “Chalk Dust” opener and splashing into an early “Bathtub Gin.” With the first “Gin” of tour coming right at the beginning of the show, one immediately got the feeling that things were on for the evening – and that inclination turned out completely accurate. With tasteful, contained improv, the band took command of the audience right away, peaking “Gin” with a fury and eliciting a massive ovation after the fact. With the liquid funk of “Cities” and “Camel Walk,” Phish quickly found themsleves amidst one of their most exciting first sets of the year, and as they dropped into “The Curtain (With)” things only kept building. Taking their hallowed composition indoors for the first time since Fall 2000, the band floated floated into a virtually note-perfect “With,” where the band showcased both their compositional and improvisational chops. And we somewhere in the middle of the opening frame.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Following the the dancy combination of “Wedge,” “Moma,” Phish dropped the first “Reba” of tour, and this time, there wouldn’t be any flubs. In a spectacular rendition, Phish not only nailed a note-perfect composed section, they offered delicate smorgasbord of groove highlighted by unbelievably expressive soloing by Trey within a locked down band dynamic. A stunning overall version led into the seeming set closer of “Golgi,” but Phish wasn’t done just yet. Tearing into the burliest “Faulty Plan” to date, the band stretched the song into a growling dose of arena rock to close the set.

The Wachovia center buzzed with excitement at setbreak – everyone knew that they sat in the eye of the storm. Whatever came next, if one thing was for sure, it would be fire. Turning things on end, the band came out with their usual set-closer of “Possum” to kick off the second set. Building off its Cincinnati incarnation, this version followed a more boisterous path, forming a surprisingly spunky opener. Setting the table for something big, the band entered a section of ambient noise out of which emerged the tour’s second “Disease.” The only current Phish song that guarantees a completely open, type-II adventure, last night’s knocked the socks off the Philly audience. Akin in texture to Detroit’s version, the exploration piece built collaboratively into another piece of next-level jamming. Following an organic path into a blissful plane, Phish brought “Disease” way out into a finely woven psychedelic silk carpet ride through the universe. Getting into some completely original and textured group playing, this jam developed into a no-brainer highlight of the tour – and of the year. Certainly the the song of the moment, the band soared built a creative opus last night featuring both groovy and melodic abstractions that provided the one of the most indelible musical moments of 2009. Take a listen for yourself – as soon as possible! As Phish played the introspective excursion to its natural conclusion, they morphed from the sonic fallout into “Twenty Years Later.”

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Played for only the third time ever, this song provided a mystical landing point for the majesty of “Disease.” Lyrically poignant and musically different than most Phish songs, it was good to hear the band feature their new song in a central position once again, and it worked great. Keeping the surprises coming, the band rolled, without hesitation, into a mid-second set “Harry Hood.” Sculpting a heart-tugging, cathartic epic, this version embodied pure hoodness to the hood degree. With sublime full-band interplay, and the continued masterful playing of Trey, this centerpiece “Hood” reached triumphant levels and exploded in one of those peaks that could inspire the world. This first incarnation of the tour provided a mega-jolt of energy to the middle of the show, which carried right over into the second “Mango” of the year, and into the unheard of combo, “Hood,” Mango,” “Mike’s!”

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Firing up their aggressive musical suite, the opening licks of “Mike’s” likened aural crack, knowing that we would soon be immersed in the wrath of Phish. Being indoors seems to be allowing the band to reconnect with the ethos of “Mike’s,” as they crafted a version whose bombast and full-on improv built on Detriot’s version in a snarling tale of horror. A nuanced and well-connected “Simple” provided a gorgeous interlude into “Slave?!” For the second time in three “Mike’s Grooves,” the band has inserted their divine build, one-upping Cincy’s centerpiece into arguably the most awing version of the year. Playing the initial section through with hardly a beat, the band came together like a four-headed monster in a version that fit right into the flow of the evening. And a “Slave,” “Weekapaug” show-closing combo doesn’t get much better – unless Trey to decides to instruct the band to drop into half-time to create an incredibly danceable set of grooves instead of the usual speed-rock of “Weekapaug.” Out of left field, Phish sprinkled one last dose of creativity to this show, creating an original take on a classic. As Trey sang, “Still trying to make a woman match your mooove…” all things seemed right in the world of now matured world of Phish. With a start-to-finish blowout, Phish returned to Philadelphia in fine style approaching the mid-week holiday with a show that immediately upped the ante for tonight and the rest of the tour. Ready or not, here they come!

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Cities, Camel Walk, The Curtain With, The Wedge, The Moma Dance, Reba, Golgi Apparatus, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Possum > Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later, Harry Hood, The Mango Song, Mike’s Song > Simple > Slave to the Traffic Light > Weekapaug Groove

E: A Day in the Life

Tags: ,

Mid-Tour Momentum

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 23rd, 2009 by Mr.Miner
11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

Building off of an extensive Summer and Indio, and stepping indoors at just the right time, Phish is clearly getting their groove back. Their playing has oozed confidence and comfort, while characterized by precision and fire. When the band chooses to jam, they are doing it with a determined and patient creativity, and as we move on to the second two-thirds of tour, I’d imagine we’d begin to hear more open jamming. It would be nice to see the band focus on grooves and psychedelia a bit more than shredding rock and roll, but beggars can’t be choosers. Phish are definitely playing what they feel and playing it quite well. The most profound change in their dynamic since this fall tour started has been Mr. Trey Anastasio. While he may have been the slowest member of the band to regain his unbridled confidence, he has recently transformed into an absolute monster. Allowing his inhibitions to fall by the wayside, he has been shredding with an abandon unseen in years. Using meticulous lyrical phrasing amounting to guitar narratives, his sense of thematic jamming has returned in force, and it has effected the entire band.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

The most compelling second-set improv thus far has stemmed from Detroit’s “Disease,” and Cincy’s “Rock n Roll” and Syracuse’s “Drowned”- the three vehicles they featured the most this summer. It seems like time to switch it up a bit from the rock-only set openers; time to drop in some darker and slower type-II springboards to open set two. How about opening up “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” or dropping another “Sand?” In the end, it doesn’t matter what songs they play, as long as they continue to evolve into more frequent psychedelia…Three of the central second set jams over the last two shows – “Rock and Roll,” “Drowned” and “Piper” have held a great similarity to each other – percussive grooves turned ambient space…The two dirtiest pieces of music thus far have ironically come in first sets – Detroit’s filthy, dripping “46 Days,” and Cincy’s evil “Split.” Now let’s see some of that type of improv stretched out under the spotlight of set two! As we turn the corner towards Philadelphia and Albany, two cities that have historically played host to legendary Phish, the band looks to build on the momentum from their opening leg as everyone moves towards Thanksgiving. And this year, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Tags: ,

Retro-Phishing: Sunday In Syracuse

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 23rd, 2009 by Mr.Miner
11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

As soon as one stepped foot into the War Memorial in Syracuse, NY, a palpable Phishy energy took over. Upstate New York, an intimate minor-league hockey arena, 8,000 fans, and an elderly security team that might as well have been ghosts, it certainly didn’t feel like 2009, more like 1994 – the last time the band played at the venue. This retro vibe laced the entire night, as the band responded with a super-charged, two set affair that carried a ferocious energy from the “Bowie” opener through the “Good Times, Bad Times” encore, including a handful of bust outs along the way.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Initiating the crowd with a rare “Bowie” opener, the band clearly meant business. Playing off the miniature-sized venue, the band brought out one of their oldest jams to the forefront right away. Opening with a piece of improv for the first time this tour, Phish set an ominous tone to the show with a dark, explosive opening. Moving through an delicate beginning in which Trey and Page’s cohesion shone, the band gradually built the jam into some nasty “Bowie” grooves. Since Detroit, everything has taken on a new life with Trey’s creative guitar playing; his licks and phrasing have been impeccable thus far, pumping a new energy into every improvisational dip.”Bowie” provided a perfect example of this, as Red’s precision and passion injected a noticeable intensity into the opener; an intensity which his band mates were more than ready to match.

A furious run through the first “Julius” of tour kept the musical intensity right on going with some full-on blues rock, whose musical feel spilled over into one of the first set highlights in “Kill Devil Falls.” Once the composed song ended and the jam got underway, the band took off into a collective build over a the straight-forward groove. Getting creative with a head full of steam, Phish cannonballed into a smoking version of the song. While not getting completely type-II, the band still built something more than the generic jam that permeated more than a few summer setlists. The next point of interest came with the second appearance of “Funky Bitch” since the band returned for this go-round -  and only the third since 2000. With active participation from all members, a mini-series of dance grooves emerged in the middle of the first set.

11.20.98 (M.Stein)

11.20.98 (M.Stein)

Though Phish played an engaging opening frame, they left the most exciting part for last. Closing the set with a sinister exploration of “Stash,” Phish blew the roof off the joint with a menacing bookend to compliment “Bowie.” Morphing into maniacal musicians, the band slowly molded the jam from its eerie opening, through a period mellower patterns before taking the it out into more abstract territory. Without ever losing their sense of urgency, the band came together in period of ordered chaos and simply crushed it. Seamlessly rejoining the the song’s ending build, Trey continued his personal assault on any eastern arena he sets foot in. Playing like a different guitarist than this summer, he is only one factor that points to the band getting their groove back in earnest this fall. An absurdly intense peak left the crowd aghast at the psychedelic jaunt as they gathered their personal belongings for setbreak.

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

As we sat thinking what might transpire in set two, the calls of “Crosseyed,” “Drowned,” and “Twist,” flew through the air, and before we knew it two of these three came to fruition. “Drowned,” Phish’s ubiquitous summer set opener, and “Twist,” their prodigal song, both came together in the meatiest portion of the show. Combining with “Piper” and the ultra-bust-out,”Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars” in a scintillating run of music, Phish didn’t allow anyone to catch their breath until well into the set. After slaughtering “Drowned’s” composed jam, the bombast gave way to sparser psychedelic grooves that saw Mike lead the way with a galloping bassline – though you’d never hear it on the official soundboards which are back to being all Trey and Page since the band moved indoors. Getting into a percussive groove similar to portions of Cincinnati’s “Rock and Roll.” Trey began to play a funked out lead over top of the music before switching to rhythmic chops and then outright soloing as the the band moved through the multidimensional jam. After breaking down their music even further into a chunkier portion, Phish faded into an ambient outro, and the opening licks of “Twist” emerged from the sonic murk.

720823216_2rmgt-M

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

A song that was long overdue, its return to rotation came as a short version that merged with “Piper” in a flowing segment of songs rather than as a huge jam vehicle. Navigating the song’s composed jam more than proficiently, the moment the “Twist” would finally break form hung before us with no end. And just as Trey wrapped up the the structured jam with a heavy guitar kick, he abruptly slid into “Piper” instead of elevating to the expected type-II reverie. Though similarly concise, “Piper” did get beyond its structure, moving into an up-tempo musical chase. Flowing cohesively at a break-neck pace, the band got back into a percussive rhythm, this time led by heavy organ work and shorter guitar licks. Resembling the middle part of the “Drowned” from earlier in the set, Phish definitely had their fast pace rock grooves going last night. As they built into a increasingly tense musical plane, Fishman crashed in with a heavier beat and the band sped up into the first appearance of “Big Fat Furry Creatures From Mars” of this era, and it fit in perfectly with the upstate, old-school vibe. A particularly maddening version, the mere appearance of the quirky metal classic stamped Sunday night’s set as indelibly special. Which is far more more than can be said for the token three minute “Tube” that the band decided to play in honor of Fishman’s lyrical acumen in his home town.

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

But after the non-stop musical mania of “Drowned > Twist > Piper > BBFCFM,” the rest of the evening petered off on the explorational tip – much like last the second night of Cincinnati. Highlighted by ripping versions of “Theme,” “Maze,” and “First Tube,” the rest of the set, while blistering, remained wholly within the box. A raucous “Good Times, Bad Times” put a strong ending on a relentless show. An energetic show to the core, Sunday’s excursion provided a throw back Phish experience for all, and another piece of confirmation that the band is loving life and only getting better.

I: David Bowie, Julius, Sparkle, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Heavy Things, Funky Bitch, Sample in a Jar, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Let Me Lie, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Stash

II: Drowned > Twist > Piper > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Tube, Theme From the Bottom, Maze, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Character Zero, First Tube

E: Good Times Bad Times

Tags: ,

The Conclusion of The Crown

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 22nd, 2009 by Mr.Miner
11.21.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

11.21.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

Sometimes one set can kick Phish into gear, and Friday night’s blowout seemed to do just that, as the band came back Saturday on fire from note one, triumphantly capping their first two-night stand of the fall. Using a far more balanced effort than either previous show, the band spread their jams over both sets, creating a fully engaging evening from start to finish. Completely settled into the arena groove, Phish put together another devastating second-set combo in “Rock And Roll > Ghost > If I Could,” but the jam of the show may have come before setbreak in the blissfully insanity of “Split Open and Melt.”

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

All of their jams, composed or otherwise, have been kicked up a notch since stepping indoors, and the first “Wolfman’s” of the tour held true to this pattern. As Trey picked lead lines over the band’s chunky groove, this version evolved into a smooth-operating dance-session to get the show underway in earnest. With jazzy grooves aplenty, the band got their improvisational chops warmed-up early on Saturday night. Following what has become a rather standard piece in “Ocelot,” the band dipped into their Halloween costume for the first time, breaking out the heavy favorite from “Exile” to remain in rotation,”Torn and Frayed.” Sounding even sharper than during their now-renowned cover set, Phish nailed a similar-length version that sounded sweeter than ever. Needing a new cover song oh-so-badly, the band chose a winner that fits their current style perfectly. A welcome addition to the catalog, look for a this one to open up a second set at some point this tour, leading into an extended piece of improv.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

But the no-brainer jam of the set – and, in my opinion, standout piece of the evening – came a few songs later with an utterly mind-numbing “Split.” Moving through multiple phases of creative jamming, Phish progressed through a sublime melodic build before arriving at a menacing musical dungeon. Increasing in both intensity and abstraction, the band created one of the most incredible musical moments of ’09. Patiently molding a lasting psychedelic masterpiece, the band nailed the change back into the “Split” jam with ridiculous accuracy, exploding into the groove. A most outrageous piece of music, this is one that needs to be heard to be believed.

After coming down from the madness with a soft musical pillow of “Dirt” and a “Limb” that featured incredibly lyrical soloing by Trey, the band soared into a set ending “Antelope.” Showcasing the overwhelming guitar mastery of Big Red’s fall tour thus far, he drove this “Antelope” into smithereens with his retro-machine gun style that has recently emerged. Ending the first half on an incredibly high note, the band finally played a far-reaching opening set that contained more than one pieces of legit improv for the first time this tour.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

On the first Saturday night of fall, Phish broke out one of their most popular openers in “Rock and Roll,” pleasing all in attendance with the cover-turned-type-II journey. Moving out of the blistering rock jam, the band broke things down into a series of percussive grooves that turned the music far more interesting and dancable. Naturally moving int  a textured canvas of rhythmic communication, the band carried some distinct momentum into this second portion of the jam. But as things moved forward they only got more intriguing as the band entered a third plane – a deeply inspiring ambient section likening alien intervention. Harnessing the power of the other side, the band had moved from rock to groove to all-out psychedelia before morphing into “Ghost.” Bouncing with the rediscovered indoor energy, Trey led the band in a high-octane version that picked up the pace from its summer incarnations. Another example of his uncompromising play in Cincinnati, Trey crushed this version with an extended series of stunning leads that varied from the fiery to the melodic. Without getting far out there, this “Ghost” absolutely smoked, providing a jolt of adrenaline, that coupled with “Rock and Roll,” created – potentially – the most creative segment of tour thus far.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

After a searing peak to a period of full-on jamming, the band dripped into a surprise landing point of “If I Could.” Maintaining the rearranged, more delicate, format from its Jones Beach return, the band collectively wove a gorgeous musical fabric that tickled the soul. This first half of the set presented us with one of the most engaging segments of improv this run; a tour that is slowly shaping up as the return of the well-oiled monster we once knew. At this point, the band turned to a series of singles to close out the show for the weekend crowd. Highlighted by a magnificent, multi-peaking “Caspian,” and a short but sweet “2001,” the band killed this run of songs despite the lack of any real jamming.

Building on an incredible two nights at the Crown, we make the quick turn-around up to Syracuse for the tour’s smallest show. With 8,000 people on a Sunday night, things are looking quite bright for tonight. I’ve got bags to pack. See you there!

I: Wilson, NICU, Wolfman’s Brother, Ocelot, Torn and Frayed, Strange Design, Ginseng Sullivan, Albuquerque, Split Open and Melt, Dirt, Limb By Limb, Run Like an Antelope

II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > If I Could, Backwards Down the Number Line, Prince Caspian, Suzy Greenberg, 2001 > The Squirming Coil

E: Sleeping Monkey, Axilla

Tags: ,

An Indoor Adventure

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on November 21st, 2009 by Mr.Miner
"The Crown" - 11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

"The Crown" - 11.20.09 (Photo:Wendy Rogell)

With a stellar second set full of maestro-like improv, Phish officially announced the beginning of Fall ’09 leaving memories of the previous three sets in the dust. In complete contrast with the composition-heavy opening frame, Phish blew apart The Crown with a series of major jam vehicles, crafting their first mega-set of the the fall. Strewn with dramatic flair and amazing improv, the second set reminded everyone in the building why they had made the trip to Cincinnati.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Launching off a fiery “Punch” opener that never gets old, the band dropped their first indoor “Tweezer” since their comeback show in Hampton. And boy how far they’ve come! In a straight-up dance odyssey, Trey led the band through a full-on escapade in swamp-groove; exploding with swank and ferocious licks over a crack-like backdrop. Engaging the entire band in a jam of pure, unadulterated swagger and rhythmic acrobatics, Trey annihilated his leads throughout, forming the stuff of dreams. In an all out aural assault, Phish destroyed The Crown into oblivion within the course of fifteen minutes, and the set wasn’t even half way done.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Using a short ambient outro after a endless swarm of nasty grooves, the band segued into their newest standout vehicle, “Light.” Flowing seamlessly from one of most passionate jams of this era, and into their newest cathartic launchpad, the band crafted an indelible memory in the second-ever incarnation of “Tweezer > Light.” Taking off into “Light,” their musical palette turned distinctly more melodic as Trey turned from his snarling side into geyser of organically cascading melodies that made this one of the strongest outings of the song to date. Absolutely re-writing the book with his dizzying guitar work, Trey brought his magical song of summer indoors for the first time, and the confinement of its energy seismically shifted its future potential.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Just as the band began to climb back down the backside of the mountain, they entered a delicate funk groove that transformed into the most creative use and exploration “Get Back on the Train” in memory. Immersing themselves in short, collaborative textures, the band played off each other masterfully, clearly feeling IT. Featuring another seamless segue, this time into “Possum,” Phish continued their non-stop musical suite, upping the levels of intensity considerably from their copious summer jaunts through the song. With far less focus on the bluegrass side,, the band dove into a more psychedelic-rock assault on the usual country bumpkin. And when the music finally stopped, we were left with an amazing portion of Phish that read “Tweezer > Light > Train > Possum.” An unlikely combination of songs came together to create one of the now-indelible portions of ’09 Phish. And to put an exclamation point on their adventure, Phish delicately fluttered into “Slave.” A truly magnificent version, it has been a long time since the band came together with such a fierce passion on a “Slave” jam. A song that can sometimes fall into a generic build, this version stood out among the many versions we have heard this year with multiple builds, plateaus, and crescendos. Carrying undeniable majesty with sublime phrasing by Trey and immaculate full-band improv, this version sits on the top shelf of ’09 renditions.

11.20.009 (W.Rogell)

11.20.009 (W.Rogell)

With time for one more solid jam, the band dropped the nastiest “YEM” of the modern era. Ever since coming indoors, Fish’s beats have become increasingly dirtier, and this shift was showcased during the tightly wound groove-factory of this “YEM.” Once Mike and Trey landed on stage from their final leap off their trampolines, shit was on as the band kicked into some of the most infectious rhythms of the night. Showing everyone they’ve still got what it takes to rock a party right, Phish crushed their classic song with a version that inspired the inner dancer in everyone in the venue, and reminded us of a band we once knew.

This second set provided a blistering example of Phish fully beginning to hit their stride again. With a couple runs under their belt, the publicity of their return over and done with, we are back on Fall Tour. Each piece of improv from the first two shows has been outstanding, and they finally threw out all the filler in last night’s second half, crafting one the year’s standout sets of music and an all-out throw-down of serious magnitude…for the kidz.

***

1st set Notes:

Using the first half of each of the last two shows more like recitals, Phish put the spotlight on their complex compositions last night featuring “Divided Sky,” “Time Turns Elastic,” and “Fluffhead.” Totaling nearly fifty minutes of jam-less Phish, this decision seemed, in my opinion, a bit over indulgent. Coupled with the uber-generic 3.0 opening of “Chalkdust,” “Moma,” the first set amounted to a beautiful “Fast Enough” and a killer “Jibboo.” And though the “Jibboo” certainly killed, one jam a set ain’t gonna cut it, unless… (see above)

I: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance, The Divided Sky, Alaska, Water in the Sky, Fast Enough for You, Time Turns Elastic, Gotta Jibboo, Fluffhead

II: Punch You In the Eye, Tweezer > Light > Back on the Train > Possum, Slave to the Traffic Light, You Enjoy Myself

E: Joy, Golgi Apparatus, Tweezer Reprise

11.20.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

11.20.09 (Photo: Wendy Rogell)

Tags: ,

Cobo Photos

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on November 19th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
-1

"46 Days" (M.Christie)

"46 Days" (M.Christie)

"46 Days" (M.Christie)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

In the Zone (M.Stein)

In the Zone (M.Stein)

Tags: