The First Four

6.13.10 (M. Wagner)

Phish couldn’t have opened their summer tour with four more encouraging shows. While displaying precise chops and improvisational acumen, the clearest difference between this summer and last year is the confidence, intensity, and urgency behind their playing. With no members slacking, the band resembles the Phish of old – a four-headed, fire-breathing dragon. The band has obviously reached a level of pure comfort on stage again, opening the door to new possibilities – and some of these scenarios have already begun to unfold.

The band has showcased four different types of shows to kick off the tour, all without repeating a song. While the first sets carried a similar vibe, highlighting different pieces with tension-filled, structured jamming, the themes of the second sets have gone four different ways. Chicago’s proved exploratory and transcendent, with several open jams. Blossom’s turned creatively anthemic, with a menacing centerpiece of “Backwards Down the Number Line,” a jam that easily gets my vote for the defining moment of tour so far. Hershey’s became a fantasy setlist with a balance of grooves and exploration to satisfy everyone, while transforming the GA show into a huge dance party. And finally, Portsmouth’s emerged as a song-based set with a light, summery vibe. Four shows, four diferent feels; the excitement continues to build.

6.11.10 (S.LaBrasca)

One of the questions coming into this summer concerned new covers, with many fans having tired of the same ol’, same ol’. And lo and behold, Phish has come out with three brand new covers in the first four nights of tour. Whether or not these songs will stay in rotation is yet to be discovered, but out of “Look Out, Cleveland,” Instant Karma,” and “Cold Water,” I would wager my money on John Lennon’s classic. In addition, Phish unveiled two original pieces, Trey and The Dude if Life’s “Show of Life,” and Mike’s “Idea.” These two, completely different songs will soon become launch pads for extremely different jams. “Show of Life” carries spiritual and uplifting potential, while “Idea” holds the reigns of blow-out dance sessions with bass-led grooves and two distinct improvisational sections.

Along with their tightness and confidence, the band has also displayed a willingness to take risks, delving into plenty of innovative improvisation. Taking a minimalist approach to many jams, Trey has often sat back, slowly building around Mike’s leads with atypical phrases ranging from bending, sustained notes to short, delicate licks. Hints of a new type of psychedelia have peeked out of this style, something the band may build upon as the tour moves on. The communication between Trey, Mike, and Page has been utterly impressive, and Fishman has been holding things down with authority.

6.11.10 (S.LaBrasca)

6.11.10 (S.LaBrasca)

The band’s proficiency has not only allowed them to sculpt open explorations, but extremely creative jams that have remained anchored to their song structures. Pieces like Chicago’s “Bowie,” and “Limb,” and Hershey’s “Runaway Jim,” “Split,” “Twist,” and “YEM,” are all perfect examples of this style that has revitalized so many Phish classics over the opening run of tour.

As they moving into the high-key, Northeastern portion of their tour, Phish is riding an undeniable wave of momentum. Between Hartford, SPAC, and Great Woods – the musical dramatics are sure to escalate in what is quickly becoming a very special summer.


1,967 Responses to “The First Four”

  1. Gavinsdad Says:

    Sumo – you are clearly bionic. Love it.

  2. Jtran Says:

    I keep meaning to stop listening to these last couple shows because I don’t want to get burned out, but I just started last night’s second set again

  3. BrandonKayda Says:

    Damn Sumodie

    That’s an incredible feat – you driving all the way to nTelos and back over 1000+ miles total, then hitting Hartford tomorrow. That is the definition of passion, my friend 🙂

    Have a great time at Hartford!!!

  4. ChefBradford Says:

    Nice link sumodie, thanks. There’s a link in that story to one about haters that’s also pretty great

  5. sumodie Says:

    @gd: Not quite as bionic as I used to be. Still have more energy than most though.

    And my attitude when seeing PH has never ever wavered from ecstatic

    Today’s disc made me recognize I am a huge fan of the whammy pedal -bring on the dissonance

    I don’t want PH sounding like 1995 PH

    I want PH sounding like it’s 2010!!!

  6. phoammhead Says:


    I just started 2nd set Chicago for the 2nd time and I was at the show – gotta love it! 🙂

  7. sanchothehutt Says:

    So earlier this year, I apparently requested tomorrow and Friday to go up to the parents’ cottage in Door County, WI. As I left work today, I looked at my girlfriend and said, “I’m going home to check ticket prices for flights to Hartford.” I was totally kidding, but as I got to my car, realized that THIS MIGHT HAPPEN!

    Then I checked flight prices, factored in the fact that I know nobody on the East Coast, and here I am watching Law & Order.

    Sigh I wish I could make Willowed’s BBQ to meet you fools. Can’t wait for Alpine.

  8. kayatosh Says:

    way to go, sumo. you saw a great show. that set II rules. from the bottom to the top, really good.

  9. Jtran Says:

    Do you have a link to a decent source? That’s the only one I don’t have yet.

  10. Mitch Says:

    thanks for the heads up sumo. still back in the old post

  11. sumodie Says:

    @bk: thanks!

    And best wishes for you (and your Dad!) to have a mind melting PH experience at your upcoming shows

    In last night’s show I heard the new 3.0 PH sound clear as day -and I think it will only announce itself more as tour progresses.

  12. sanchothehutt Says:

    ^Today’s disc made me recognize I am a huge fan of the whammy pedal -bring on the dissonance

    I don’t want PH sounding like 1995 PH

    I want PH sounding like it’s 2010!!!


  13. fee4zy Says:

    Love Muppets doing covers. I grew up with the Muppets and Jim Henson was the first painful loss for me.

  14. Dr. B Says:

    It bears repeating…

    Our boys are SO back. It’s just thrllling to listen to this new stuff–and I’m only 2 show in. How a band can re-invent themselves so well so much is beyond me. My hats off to these four gentle men….

    Given this, just can. not. wait. till The Greek, which so far this year, is my only Phish… (and still missing my night 3 tix).

    PS-I’m in Cusco, Peru right now, teaching a study abroad class. There’s this Llama shirt that’s a nod to this country’s most famous animal in the little shops. I’m SO getting one… : )

  15. kayatosh Says:

    “Phish’s music is space cadety, and a lot of the people at the concert were stoned like geologists, but the whole experience pushes you to see the world more beautifully.”

    from the article posted by sumo. good read.

  16. jdub Says:

    @sumo, well done sir. Glad you had a great time down south and look forward to this northeast run that is sure to kick thing up a notch

    @Miner, wonderful insights as always. And thanks for being so damn reliable for all of our Phish needs.

  17. Jtran Says:

    This 46 Days is amazing..

  18. kayatosh Says:

    another great passage:

    “Why isn’t dancing in public something systematically encouraged (and possibly financially incentive-zed) by the government? I mean, what are our goals here? Do we want to be remembered for war and technological innovations (that might lead to the end of our species), or as the society that danced whenever we could?”

    exactly why we need robear as pres.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    jtran: yep!

  20. sumodie Says:

    IMO, nTelos ably demonstrates that the new 3.0 PH sound is here (was not at first 3 shows) – the evolution has arrived, though perhaps only in its early stage

    I’m not the most articulate at describing music, but I know that’s what I kept thinking last night. Sure, no extended jams, but there was so much going on that I was not hearing last year. And I loved 2009 (recognizing that it was a rebuilding year after all)

    Let’s see how these next 4 go….

  21. kayatosh Says:

    Jtran: you probably won’t do better than this one for 6/11 as far as auds.

    what a show.

  22. phoammhead Says:

    Trey rips Chicago Maze . . .

  23. Jtran Says:

    Thanks Kaya

  24. kayatosh Says:

    i’m with you, sumo. i’m super pulled in by phish 3.1 Been listening since sat. morn. to all the shows repeatedly. there’s something here to really be grateful for. I’ll have my ears on at camden.

    might follow a similar party plan to hersh — get super vriped at home, one beer pre-game in the lot, and then nothin but pre-rolls.

    spinnin this hersh jim that you all seem to dig.

  25. phoammhead Says:

    Jtran, I’m streamin’ off a site . . . I ‘m not sure what the miner policy is on sharin’ that . . . I got it this board last night, though . . .

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