Over the weekend, Trey finished up his three-week solo tour, a swing that drew critical acclaim and copious enthusiasm from all of the Phish community. Throughout his tour, Trey grew more and more comfortable, letting loose with his musical expression, aided by the pressure-less environment of TAB. The development of his chops in February bodes well for this summer, when Trey will rejoin his school of Phish. And just as Trey winds down, Mike is about to hit the road for a eight-date mini-tour of the eastern seaboard. Like Trey, Mike has spent a week in rehearsal for his upcoming dates, yesterday releasing a newly-created track called “Birth of the Universe,” giving us a glimpse into the band’s sessions. Let’s take a look at each of these solo tours, and what effect, if any, they will have on Phish come summertime.
Trey and Classic TAB
Trey is the unquestionable creative force behind Phish, hence his solo efforts always present more relevance for Phish’s future than other member’s side-projects. Many songs have migrated from TAB to Phish over the years, and this tour also left us with a series of potential crossovers. Often times, the songs he drops infrequently over a tour are the ones he is reserving for Phish to define. In this case, one obvious choice would be the new Anastasio / Marshall composition “Obstacle of Course.” Played only three times over the three week tour, the catchy song seems destined to be an addition to the Phish catalog come this summer. Additionally, the reworked “Love Is Freedom” from Shine, played only once at Connecticut’s Oakdale Theatre, seems like a perfect groove vehicle for Phish to adopt. Rife with the lyrical happiness that defines the band these days, don’t let the title fool you, this could be a serious improvisational springboard. Another song that could surface this summer is “Liquid Time.” Since Phish soundchecked the song twice last year, in Chicago and Indio, Trey, with the help of Don Hart, rearranged the piece to include TAB’s horn section, forming an alternate incarnation of the song that worked quite well. But with the piece’s genesis on Party Time as a Phish song, one would imagine it would jump back into the big pond come summertime. With one stellar version from Indio’s soundcheck already under their belt, one can only assume “Liquid Time” will become a larger launchpad for Phish in the future. The other song that I originally had slated for entry into the Phish universe,”Show of Life,” was played ad infinitum during Trey’s tour, making its transfer to Phish somewhat nebulous. Still boasting the sublime sound of Phish, this piece could fit quite well into a late-second set slot before a larger closing jam. Lyrically appropriate for the band’s current state, Phish has “found [them]selves right here” and “Show of Life” is a thematic piece focusing on redemption and the present moment, two prominent themes of Phish’s modern era. Only time will tell, but this could easily become a cathartic Phish anthem.
“Obstacle of Course” 2.11.10 II
“Show of Life” 2.8.10 II
The Mike Gordon Band
While Trey’s side projects always have a direct influence on Phish’s catalog and musical direction, Mike’s band has provided him an opportunity to distance himself from Phish, a place where he feels he often plays second fiddle. Mixing his own originals, primarily from The Green Sparrow, with an eclectic array of covers, Mike’s band puts on a collaborative show that engages in more whole-band jamming than Trey’s. Mike, no doubt, leads the way with his rhythmic and melodic sensibilities, but opens the door to more free form jamming, inviting his bandmmates to join in the experiment more earnestly than in Trey’s groove machine. With the bass player as bandleader, and also the best musician on stage, a very divergent musical dynamic emerges in Mike’s band. Concentrated on bass-led improv within the context of a five piece, Mike’s shows divert from the Phish sound quite a bit. With a solid band surrounding him, Mike’s ideas often push the band into engaging places. Gordeaux posted a glimpse into his preparation for his tour on Facebook yesterday. His post is excerpted here (and his newly released track can be listened to below.)
“On the first day of practices, we decided to come to the studio and invite the muse to control us for a day. I led a guided meditation in which we imagined tapping into universal energy that connects from the spheres, through us, and into the center of the Earth, and then we imagined being on stage as the music played the band and the coolest sound we could fathom came out. Each band member then described his aural vision, directing the others to create it. And this little sampling is Craig Myers’ vision, entitled ‘Birth Of The Universe.’ He described ambience wallowing from nothingness, and then mouthed out a rhythm that Todd could then interpret, helping to kick the thing into rock-ass gear. Nice work, Craig.”
Throughout Phish 2009, Mike easily ran away with the player of the year award, commanding his instrument as if it were his fifth extremity. Building off two successful solo tours that clearly bolstered his confidence and musical assertiveness, he came back to Phish like a man possessed. His contributions to Phish jams often stood out as the defining facet of their musical adventure, and growing through the year, Mike absolutely owned Miami’s New Years’ Run with a display of unparalleled creativity. Therefore, while Mike’s solo music may not directly influence Phish’s catalog, his musical risk-taking and role as a band leader has led to an extremely prominent role in Phish’s virtuoso on-stage conversations, a factor that should continue to stand out into 2010. As Mike hits the road, I will be looking for people to write reader reviews of his shows since I won’t be out east next week. If this is something that interests you, please check out the reader review page for examples, and email your piece to firstname.lastname@example.org!
The Mike Gordon Band dates are as follows:
3/05 – Revolution Hall, Troy, NY - SOLD OUT
3/06 – Toad’s Place, New Haven, CT
3/07 – Sherman Theatre, Stroudsburg, PA
3/09 – Rams Head Live!, Baltimore, MD
3/11 – Jefferson Theatre, Charlottesville, VA
3/12 – Theatre of the Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA
3/13 – Pearl Street, Northampton, MA
3/14 – Lebanon Opera House, Lebanon, NH
Jam of the Day:
“Run Like An Antelope” 8.6.97 I
This unique rendition of “Antelope” ended Riverport ’97 in divergent style. As this multi-faceted build comes to a head, the band doesn’t stop, drifting into an instrumental, theremin-laced “Makisupa” interlude before kicking into the final verse.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
8.14.97 Darien Lake PAC, Darien Center, NY < Megaupload
This stellar show includes a strong song-based first set with exciting versions of “Free” and “Antelope,” while the second set contains a divine “Harry Hood” which features one of the jams of the summer extending out of the song’s peak. Finally dropping into “Colonel Forbin’s” and the well-known Kesey-led Bozo madness, this show was a certifiable classic before the encore even ended. This show holds not only musical significance, but strong cultural significance as well. Check out my piece about this show, from the early days of Phish Thoughts, which delves into these larger themes. In addition, this Download of the Day goes out via reader request to Jim D!
I: Ya Mar, Funky Bitch, Fluffhead, Limb By Limb, Free, Cars Trucks Buses, Tela, Train Song, Billy Breathes, Run Like an Antelope
II: Chalk Dust Torture, Love Me, Sparkle, Harry Hood > Jam > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Merry Pranksters Jam > Camel Walk, Taste
E: Bouncing Around the Room, Rocky Top
Source: B&K 4021 (modified hypers) > Beyer MV-100 > SBM-1 > D8
Tags: 2010, Classic TAB, Mike, Side Projects