While Phish put together several flowing second sets during summer’s opening leg, one stood head and shoulders above the rest. In most frames of summer, even the better ones, Phish included slower segments, stops for air, and breaks from jamming. While these aspects don’t necessarily hurt sets, the lack of these factors can surely contribute to a top-notch offering. Concluding their tour’ s peak weekend, Phish stepped on stage at Merriweather for the eighth and final set, and spun the most impressive stanza of of 2010. Including choice bust-outs, exploratory improv, and impeccable craftsmanship, no other set of summer approaches the musical cohesion and flow of Merriweather’s Sunday night delight.
While other halves may have brought higher peak moments, few maintained a similar molten flow, and none carried the thematic unity, non-stop action and utter Phishiness of the weekend’s closing showcase amidst the woods of Maryland. After playing the two most exciting shows of tour on the previous two-nights, Sunday could have gone either way – a reeled-in breather or a blowout that upstaged every other set of the weekend. And in move that resembled the Phish of lore, the band chose the latter.
As Phish stepped onto Merriweather’s deeply-recessed stage, dropping “Wilson” to spark their Mid-Atlantic finale, the Gamehendge opener didn’t indicate any particular direction, hiding the band’s intentions. But as they slipped into the first “Meatstick” of the year, and only the second of this era, the millennial anthem notably juiced the crowd, as Trey wrung emotion from his solo before leading the band into a murky bog of groove. Thickening by the moment, the rhythms began plotting their own liquid course into night, but Trey had other ideas. Coming in abruptly with the opening riff of “I Saw It Again,” he waved off his band mates who continued the bulbous groove, creating the only awkward moment of the set. Finally giving in to their front man, the band broke stride and began “Saw It Again,” a move that seemed odd at the time, but provided the creative impetus for the rest of the night. The elusive Phish-metal quest became the dark thread, tying together the musical suite of the summer.
Digging into the piece’s sharp edge, Phish annihilated the rarity, tacking on a heavy and abstract, post-lyrical segment, where all band members continuously shrieked “I Saw It Again!” over evil textures. Indulging in their sinister brew, the band stretched out the piece, into a harrowing sculpture of dissonant psychedelia. Blending the song’s sonic residue and final screams into the opening of “Piper,” the band stepped into one of the summer’s defining jams. As Trey sung the song’s initial round, he comically referenced the phrase “I Saw It Again” in rhythm with the climbing lyrics – a theme that would run throughout the set. But when Phish finally let loose, careening into “Piper’s” jam, a stunning piece of creativity was born.
Connected with crazy glue and firing musical ideas like a sawed-off shotgun, Phish locked into, perhaps, the summer’s most jaw-dropping sequence. Without a clear, linear path, the band collectively navigated this jam like a ship bouncing in the white-waters of the open sea. Combining their dense musical style with an improvisational abandon seldom seen these days, the band took the audience for a maniacal magic carpet ride. Just as one member relented, another would introduce a new idea, furthering the aggressive odyssey without losing any sense of union. All four members connected profoundly in this break-neck chase, confirming their lasting ability to rewrite the cosmos on any given night. The electrifying piece ended naturally, descending into a slow groove drenched in ambient effect and harmonies, that soon morphed into the molasses of the long-awaited, second “Ghost” of tour.
Within the composed breaks, Trey, congruently and comically, continued the set’s theme, fitting the lyrical quote “I Saw It Again” within the rhythm of other songs. Launching into the jam with multi-note runs over a deep pocket, Trey soon turned to the whale in some incredibly tasteful use of the summer tone. As the band built a mountain of momentum, Red alternated tones, as the band wound up in shredding peak. With energy sky-high, Trey unleashed passionate leads over the driving foundation, carrying out the musical intensity. And in the surprise of the set, without letting on, Phish had built “Ghost” into The Rolling Stones’ classic “Jumping Jack Flash,” and all Trey did was step to the mic and begin to sing, in as a segue that was as seamless as possible.
The band’s take on the Stones’ kept the set moving at a relentless pace, while providing a dark cover to go with an already menacing frame of music. Jamming off the song’s ending, Phish entered a distinct groove and began chanting ” I Saw It Again!”, returning to the song that started this tenacious summer marathon. Peaking the suite with a final gasp of guitar fury, the band calmly dripped into”Contact,” a piece inserted perfectly in its traditional post-psychedelia slot in the setlist. Gordon’s metaphorical, auto-comedy also featured lyrical teases of “Saw It Again,” setting up a set-closer that could only be “You Enjoy Myself.”
Punctuating a night that touched the very essence of Phish, the band’s seminal opus presented the clear choice to end the night. And just as “Contact” ended, Trey counted off into “YEM.” As the band moved through the composed half with pristine playing, by the time “the note” hit, Phish had Merriweather on the verge of explosion. Jumping over the cliff and landing in the awaiting ocean of funk, Trey substituted his scream of “Boy!” with “I Saw It Again!”, threading the comedy through the entire second half. Then, as the band vamped over the “Wassha Uffizi” section, Trey stepped to the mic in one of the frozen, micro-moments of tour and sang, “Boy, man! I saw it agaaain!” Bringing an ear-to-ear grin to himself and every last person in the crowd,Trey’s last lyrical nod pumped the show full of the type of energy only a set like this can; and the band and the crowd bounced upon the tramps together, preparing for the upcoming incineration. As Trey and Mike hit stage, the band inserted a crafty quote of “Jumping Jack Flash” into the onset of their infectious groove. Capping the night with a celebratory dance session, Phish moved from sparse funk into a rolling musical snowball, gathering force through a succinct, yet powerful, version. And they tactfully closed the jam with the same “Jumping Jack Flash” quote with which they had started, ending an evening that was soaked in spirit of Phish.
Weaving their clever brand of humor into a non-stop set of scintillating improv, the band threw down their strongest musical statement of the early-summer within the cozy confines of Merriweather Post. Leaving the woods of Columbia that night, five shows remained after Phish had redefined their summer tour over the past four. Interestingly enough, however, the final stretch never reached the level of Merriweather, as the band favored straight-forward, rocking affairs. Highlights certainly bubbled throughout the South, but never a set like the one the band unleashed on the Sunday of tour’s most eventful run. Combining all aspects of the Phish experience into a ceaseless adventure, June 27 – set II stands alone as the shining star of tour.
Jam of the Day:
“Piper” 6.27.10 II
The centerpiece of tour’s most exciting set.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
6.27. 2010 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD < Megaupload
I: Walfredo, Mellow Mood, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Divided Sky, Tela, My Soul, Ginseng Sullivan, Sample in a Jar, Bathtub Gin, Brian and Robert, Run Like an Antelope
II: Wilson, Meatstick > Saw It Again > Piper* > Ghost* > Jumpin’ Jack Flash** > Saw It Again > Contact*, You Enjoy Myself*
*w/ “Saw It Again” lyrical teases
**Debut, The Rolling Stones
Source: Schoeps mk4v > KC5 > M222 > NT222 > Aeta PSP-3 > SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)Tags: 2010, Summer '10