As Phish steps into Leg II of summer tour, they will undoubtedly bust out more songs, both old and new, digging deeper into their never-ending catalog. Beginning this process over the early summer, the band exhumed some of their oldest pieces, while also breaking out more elusive, contemporary songs. Between “Fuck Your Face,” “The Connection,” “Alumni Blues” and “Nothing,” Phish touched on their earliest days through their post-hiatus era. But despite the copious bust-outs over Leg I, Phish inexplicably continued to leave two shining gems of their post-hiatus years on the sidelines – “Scents and Subtle Sounds” and ” A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.”
These two songs, one moving towards the light and one moving toward darkness, provided defining jams of ’03 and ’04, and why Phish consistently ignores them has become baffling. Last year, the band played two versions of “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” – both in the first leg of summer. In Knoxville, the band didn’t jam the song, drifting thematically into “Waves,” while Deer Creek was a different story. After a 90-minute lightening-induced setbreak, Phish dropped the song as a heavy opener amidst the storm. Moving into a brief ambient section, the piece showcased one of 3.0’s first creative excursions, and was certainly a step in the right direction. Though it seemed to be gaining momentum, this song hasn’t been heard from again. Phish dropped only one version of “Scents and Subtle Sounds” in 2009, a succinct kick-down to lead off their last set at MSG.
In the first show of Summer 2003, Phish introduced a new blissful jam out of the depths of “Wolfman’s Brother,” and before anyone knew it, “Scents and Subtle Sounds” made a splash on the scene. Working its way into regular rotation and and providing the springboard for two of the tour’s most impressive jams,”Scents” wasted no time becoming a staple of Summer ’03. Opening the third night of Deer Creek with a 20-plus minute jaunt, Phish broke the song wide open. However, the band one-upped themselves a week later in Camden, New Jersey, playing a first-set version that reached into very essence of Phish exploration. Organically building out of the theme, the band built a quintessential post-hiatus masterpiece that still stands the test of time. Segueing in and out of “Scents” in a prominent third-set slot during ’03’s end-of-summer festival, IT, Phish confirmed their passion for their new song.
One year later, on the brink of Coventry, Phish closed their last conventional show in Camden with another adventure into the void. Favoring darker, ambient textures that reflected the tone of the time, Phish crafted an abstract sonic mural as their last amphitheatre work of art, and their final truly sublime excursion of their “career.”
After a album-version debut of “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” debuted during 2004’s opening set at Coney Island, Phish came back two shows later and redefined the song forever. Opening SPAC’s second set on June 19, Phish wove a stunning tale of psychedelia that reached more than one soul-caressing passage. With a jam so perfect that it sounded pre-written, Phish hit the nail directly on the head in their second voyage into darkness deep. In one of SPAC’s crowning moments, Phish threw down the only epic version of the “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” before signing off later that summer.
So that brings us to today. Phish has reached far and wide into their song repertoire, and barely touched upon these two pieces that drip all sorts of potential. Some fans posit theories that these songs bring unwelcome memories of a dark era in Trey’s history. Really? Phish has brought “Undermind” into the mix, and routinely play “Seven Below,” “and “46 Days” from that era, while occasionally reverencing Undermind (the album), so I don’t buy the “bad memory theory.” If this was the case, then why did they bring them back at all? Though I have no logical way to explain their absence, there must be something more going on here. No?
The mystery remains why Phish allows two of their most profound jam vehicles to sit in the wings as they continue to bring out every other piece in their songbook. The return of one or both of these pieces to improvisational prominence tops any list of pipe dreams I could write as we inch closer to The Greek. Likely? No, but at this point anything is possible. Maybe I should bring a sign.
Jam of the Day: Leg II Venue History Week
“Tweezer > Fluffhead” 8.1.98 II
A recent SBD leak of the staggering “Tweezer” from Alpine ’98.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
Dipping into the archives, today we have a catch-all SBD download of the band’s first visit to Telluride, Colorado in 1988. In this one file set, not only is there the classic 8.6.88 show from The Roma, but also partial recordings from three shows earlier shows in the week, as Phish between The Roma and Fly Me To the Moon Saloon due to a booking oversight. Check the setlists below.
7.29.88 The Roma – Partial
Colonel Forbin’s > Mockingbird, I Didn’t Know, Good Times, Bad Times, Rocky Top, Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Contact, Whipping Post, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Take the ‘A’ Train, McGrupp, Bold As Love
7.30.88 III The Roma
Harpua, Fluffhead, Anarchy, Dear Mrs. Reagan, Terrapin, Antelope E: Fire
8.3.88 III Fly Me To the Moon Saloon
?: Freebird, II: I Know A Little, YEM, Jesus Left Chicago III: Peaches En Regalia, Mike’s > Hydrogen > Fluffhead, Happy Birthday, Harry Hood, Satin Doll, Funky Bitch, Walk Away
8.6.88 The Roma
I: La Grange, YEM > Cities, Take the ‘A’ Train, Funky Bitch, Dinner and a Movie*, Fire
II: Golgi, AC/DC Bag, Satin Doll, BBFCFM, Slave to the Traffic Light*
*track cuts off
All sources are SBD