Mid-Tour Momentum

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.

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833 Responses to “Mid-Tour Momentum”

  1. oldskool Says:

    Fusco, I agree with what you are saying and new and old and would even take it one step further. Listen to Cobo set I tells an entire story over the set, the way the lyrics come across in Horn is down right spooky. Then begin to think about groupings of songs in context together. Look at set II. Once could say the Disease represents the end of Phish with “this has all been wonderful and now I’m on way way” which transitions into Free and the “Feeling I forgot” and then Waste. I believe they are truly looking at song placement in such a grander scale than ever before.
    Again please take this posts as nothing more than crazy ramblings from an oldskool phan 🙂

  2. tela'smuff Says:

    huh. i think the issue with ‘Cuse is the song placement? The flow was strange. That Theme seemed ill placed, as did the Twist. Why even bother with that version of Twist. It was pretty unspectacular. This Horse>Silent is also not a great placement. Silent doesn’t do it for me as much anymore mainly because it always feels like it could fall apart at any second. Trey can barely play it minus the solo at the end.

    Philly will rage. I too don’t see a harkening back to the days of ’95 psych outs, and it’s apparent the funk days are pretty much behind us. The pure rock bliss from Cincy would be more than enough for me. I like the direction!

  3. cal Says:

    oldskool–you are making an amazing point there. I think you can take it a little further and say that to a degree, the lack of drugs in the bodies of the musicians plays less to the drugs in the bodies of the fans. I know it’s a tired cliche when people talk about certain musicians who started sucking when they got off drugs, but things do change. I also know that in general, as people mature they don’t feel the need to do the drugs they did when they were younger (obviously I’m leaving out the concept of addiction here).

    I think back on some of my favorite Phish shows from years gone by, and I know that the drugs and the music were intertwined to the point where I felt like the tapes I listened to later were of a completely different show. And there were a few “transitional” years where I had a (silly) fear that the power of the music would slip a little now that I wasn’t really interested in the drugs any more.

    So it occurred to me that this past weekend in Cinci was the soberest Phish of my life since my very first show in ’95, and it may have been my favorite pair of shows since that first one. I feel like I am still craving the same shit from a Phish jam that I always have, but maybe the trajectory of my intoxication has been so similar to that of the band that my tastes are just aging right alongside theirs, I don’t know.

    But whether you take drugs into account or not, the more heartfelt stuff is taking precedence over the silliness and sloppiness, and whether things get more “psychedelic” or not as the band evolves/matures, they are certainly riding another career crest right now. I’m just very grateful to be along for the ride.

  4. Neemor Says:

    Read the lyrics to Beauty of a Broken Heart to see a good example of the lyrics being a bigger part in ’09…pure poetry.
    I’m dying for My Soul…hope it replaces the Lawn Boy that has been following me around.
    DBone, paragraph 1.2 is really good, to me. Well said.

  5. Neemor Says:

    Sober Phish is where it’s at.
    Just sayin.

  6. BTB Says:

    “positive ph community” YUP – someone else said it earlier “kid on Christmas”

    I am definately in the kid on christmas camp. You should have seen me before the lights dropped at Cobo, I was waiting to open the box that looked exactly like a nintendo.

  7. gavinsdad Says:

    i said it before but this is a great board. think many of us just have to say that from time to time. i never was on a board until now. i started seeing these guys in Spring ’90 and i was so young then that i didn’t really know what i was going to be a part of. at my first year of shows i was surrounded by 18/19/20 year olds like myself (i’m 40 now)…i went to Colorado St. U. at the time and basically we were just lucky to be there and lucky to have had the band make the trip again from VT. all these years later i am that same guy Leo Weaver mentioned…”the kid on xmas morning”. i guess it’s just really hard to put into words what i leave outside the venue one i hand my ticket to the guy at the turnstile/gate, etc. once i’m in it’s all about pleasure and the worst trainwrecking show in the world packed with fluff and flubs is still so much better than what i left outside in the lot.

    anyway…i too subscribe to mr. c’s fan 101 maxims and even tho i’m a bit of a flailing dancer i find a place where i’m not gonna hurt anyone. the adventure of becoming a phish fan is in exploration of the history, the recorded material, the studio material, the live shows and the massive mythology, both old and new. it’s fun to see such dedication and solid criticism here on this board and all around me at shows. any 16 year old that’s holding it down and not covering their shoes with microbrews if a friend of mine….you’ll just have to wait til the set is over and i pass you an L cause im in another world until then.

    enjoy people…see you at the wacho tonite.

  8. Neemor Says:

    Gavin is a lucky boy….

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    love the drop into first tube out of the char 0 – that’s the great “it wasn’t the closer!” moment

    oldskool – diggin your pov for sure you’re right on.

    dbone – exactly what I was trying to say a few days ago – “old school” is not 97-98 when they broke through and jams became an every day thing. Old school phish before 93 was almost free of “jams” as we know them now, and as they transitioned in 93-94 they were the exception and generally pretty setlist dependent. The expectation of some huge psychedelic jam each night was something that did not come along until 95 or so.

    I used to have this idea about the transition of deadheads into the phish crowd (and their treats..) and the way that drove the evolution of the band’s sound as new vibrations were taken into account. The spaced out tweezers and dw/d etc from late 95 certainly go along with this..

  10. Dbone Says:

    thanks neemor –

    Oldskool’s post and the discussion about sober phish, sober phish fans are also something I’ve thought about a lot. Nothing wrong with whichever way you go, but i think i’ve gotten a more balanced appreciation of the music in 2009 and that’s probably due to a lot of things, being a little older, a little (or lot) less partying, not being able to actually go to shows but listening to them on no spoilers, etc. don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather be at a show and I know that is *is* about the experience of being there. but experiencing it in the modern age as it were gives me, in fact, a totally different perspective. I’ve only recently come to see that and see it positively.

    Oh, and if phish is reading this board – europe spring 2010 please, email me for exact dates that fit my schedule 😉

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    first tube appropriately kicked ass – this is psychedelic phish, I don’t care if you knew it was coming. Any mention of the set falling off misses the point.

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    though I do hear the silent in the morning criticisms. It’s been a while since those arpeggios sounded smooth and it has been awkward for a while..

  13. Fusco Says:

    Interesting stuff oldskool. It makes sense that Trey is approaching set lists thematically — Joy does it and so does Exile.
    One of the things I was really curious about before fall tour started was how Phish would translate the happy vibe that dominated summer tour to indoor arenas where the music is generally darker. It’s interesting to think about Phish answering that question thematically in their set lists — i.e., dark songs/jams give way to songs that are happy/cathartic. Your Cobo DwD > Free is an example or Cinci Tweezer > Light.

  14. tela'smuff Says:

    i actually recall an interview where Phil Lesh said he was creating setlists that told a story or theme for a night and it was up to the fans to determine what he was trying to say through the music, or something like that.

    Trey could have picked up that idea from Phil, much like the family backstage vibe.

  15. Ziggymon Says:

    If I should jump up and hollar
    Without a reason, straight from the collar
    It’s my soul
    It’s my soul

    It’s my soul people
    It’s my soul

  16. She Divides Says:

    RE: TTE–I have heard it at 3 shows and it is definitely growing on me. There is a part a little over 1/2 way through the song (just after 10 minutes in the F8 version) where I get a little lost and sick of it, but then they resolve that and rock out the end in a way I really enjoy. So despite the issues I have with that middle part I doubt the end would feel so good if I didn’t go through that lost space in the middle…
    I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to further absorb TTE at either Philly2 or C’ville!

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    trey talks in the phish book about how much consideration he put into creating setlists before they dropped them .. how he would try and include a piece from every style they do every night, and how he would try and change keys throughout and that sort of thing. The idea of flowing a big block of music in Eminor with a nice happy G major segment and resolving with a song in C or something like that.

    It was evident in Hampton how much care had gone into crafting those setlists the way the weekend flowed told a definite story.

    To a composer who has essentially gone through every imaginable iteration of Jam in his career, considering the show as a whole is the logical next step.

  18. Neemor Says:

    Jam landing pads are a more important feature than I remember them being in the past.
    The answer to the happy vibe of summer transitioning indoors is that the dark jams need to land in light.
    It’s a beautiful concept, and one that works very well.
    It doesn’t sustain the dark but instead is a analogy for life….
    Good stuff.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Neemor,
    going back to your FBI shirt idea, you could also call it a Full Band Communicative Mind Meld [FBCMM, to the kidz]. I can see a t-shirt with a picture of Spock (or maybe just his brain) on it.

  20. gavinsdad Says:

    @ cal, c0w, dbone and others –

    this is a wild subject worthy of more of a deep dive..don’t know if it’ll happen today but i saw phish as a young one from 90-93. this was intertwined with my hardest GD touring that wrapped up in early summer 93 when i put myself in rehab. no need to go into the particulars but we were all getting too loony back then (and this is way before the phish lot pharmie phase).

    so then i saw phish stone cold sober from 94-04. i had an amazing time through this very long period…met some people from the phellowship (un, er, ugh) but never really invested alot of time participating in that. most of my friends i linked up with at the shows were still doing their (drug) thing.

    in fall 2005 after 14 years clean/sober and much handwringing and rumination i started up the MMP (with alcohol) and i’ve been having a pretty decent time with that. i’ve had some extra treats along the way when the circumstances are 99% right (outdoor fests with my wife and kids at home..heh) but since phish started up again it’s been puffing for the most part. if i was at indio i would have added some extracurriculars. but overall i don’t have the 6 full years of seeing the band on psychs/pharma/e variants etc like many out there do.

    the only discernable difference for this guy is that the herb helps me climb into the music far better than i was able to in my sober phase. back then i’d really have to find a sweet spot in the show to grab all of the separate band members nuances.

    now…regarding the band’s sobriety…too many people have commented on this and i never know how to take this speculation but it certainly appears that across the organization that they’ve taken widespread steps to make things comfortable for them and like you’ve all been saying…a happy comfortable band is a ripping band. it’s only 9 mos. in so i think if they get some r&r interspersed with their touring that NEXT fall is gonna really rip faces off.

  21. Neemor Says:

    I totally just got lost in that Drowned>Twist.
    Had no idea what song it was….
    What a jam.

  22. tela'smuff Says:

    HOLY GTBT!!!!!

    Trey just took it deep.

  23. gavinsdad Says:

    ps…sorry for the novels guys/gals.

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    I feel like Trey is also interested in crafting a composition out of the entire Tour. The way tour openers have their own special feel, they get some momentum around now, then tear it apart by the end, and the last weekend blow it up completely then end with a special summary section..

  25. halcyon Says:

    Deep thoughts the past few days by everyone….I wish I could chime in, but right now I don’t have the words…its like I have a blank space where my mind should be…:-)

    nyuk nyuk nyuk…..terrible joke I know

    Seriously, this board has some perceptive peeps… thanks!

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