The Past Meets The Future

Official Utica Poster

In a show that shot us back in time both in setting and musical content, Phish played two unparalleled sets of music firmly rooted in history while stretching into the future, showing us that things are just beginning to hit stride for this era. Building off of their recent fall exploits, the band threw down a show that resembled none of this era in any way, shape, or form – an entire evening that felt plucked from the mid-’90s. With each passing night of tour it feels like we are witnessing a rebirth of Phish – the real Phish – the band that puts on mind-numbing shows like it’s their job. The one-brained, four-headed monster took the attack from moment one last night, creating two thematic frames of music that redefined what is possible in modern era Phish.

I’ve yet to tackle a show like this in words, and I feel like it may best be done without re-listening and simply giving my initial impression, because this one was an absolute shocker. Phish stepped in Utica Memorial Auditorium – the room MSG was modeled after – and took us on a journey that likened a night from ’94 or ’95 but with a completely modern musical vibe. With an eternally twisting path and white hot jamming throughout, Utica provided the two-set psychedelic adventure of everyone’s ideal Phish show. Navigating completely original improvisation with a retro feel, Phish took a huge step forward in this era last night, evoking their past mastery along the way. The present and the future came smashing together at Utica Memorial last night in what can only be considered a massive win for anyone with even a tangential care about the future of Phish music. So here we go…

12.29.09 (W.Rogell)

The night opened innocently enough with “My Soul” and “Stealing Time” before things turned crazy for the duration. Beginning with “Vultures” and ending with “Antelope,” Phish threw down a retro-style set full of  jamming, teases and transitions. Following a smoking rendition of “Vultures,” Phish cranked their creativity to eleven for the rest of the night, dropping into a “Wolfman’s” that transcended any version they’ve played this era. They didn’t just toy with loafing funk grooves, the systematically deconstructed the song in a series if mini-jams that brought the focus of the show squarely upon the band’s improvisation, a focus that would never waver in a game-changing night of music. Blending into “Cities,” the Talking Heads cover provided a splash landing of groove for their prior rhythmic acrobatics.

Utica Memorial Marquee

Once “Cities” ended, the thematic part of the set began with the shredding fall debut of “Guyute.” And from then on, the first set transformed into “Guyuitca,” as the anthem found its way seamlessly into each song for the rest of the frame. But more significantly, the music from here on out was on another level than we have seen this era. A mid-first set “Bowie,” (yes, you read that right) provided a ridiculous early peak to the show, and contained vicious improv. Morphing into segments of “Wilson-inspired” jamming, Phish blended the two songs in sinister fashion. During one of the sections, Trey repeated “Guyute’s line,”Bouncing Like A Newborn Elf” in an eerie tone over the groove. Phish was letting loose and we were only in the middle of the first set! Moving as one through criminally smooth soundscapes, Phish began the aural festivities early Tuesday night, but who knew where we were heading. Following the smashing rendition of “David Bowie” Phish dropped into the “Wilson” that had been teased throughout. And when the band got to the heavy metal part, Trey layered one of the peak lines of “Guyute” right into the mix. As this musical roller coaster moved on, we found ourselves in another rarity – “McGrupp.” A technically sound version captivated the intimate crown amidst this amazing first frame, and soon the band finished “McGrupp,” they started “I Saw It Again!” At this point the opening half was growing into an absurd spectacle – a trend that continued as Phish improvised out of “Saw It Again” into and ambient, “Guyute-laced” bridge into “Antelope.”

10.12.10 (S.Short)

I don’t know a how long its been since the band dropped an “Antelope” like they did last night. A song that had become predictable, always staying within its constraints, broke all boundaries in Utica as Phish took the jam into wide open, uncharted psychedelia. It sounded like we were safe and sound back in good ol’ 1995…but this was 2010! Phish is currently moving forwards and backwards simultaneously in some sort of time-space paradox, but it is happening right into front of our eyes – right now. Tearing apart “Antelope” like they haven’t in well over a decade, we were privileged to the set closer reestablish itself in full. When setbreak came people were fully freaking on the masterful nature of the opening frame, and there was nobody that disagreed. But if the audience was buzzing then, the second set caused a full on skull implosions for all in attendance.

10.12.10 (L.Hubbard)

“Drowned” ignited a fire in the second set as the palpable energy of the first half spilled right into the second set opener. The band engaged the audience with the uptempo piece as they set the table for quite the set of Phish. Pushing the thematic rock jam into a snarling percussive playground, the band carried a certain momentum through this jam, but as they were in full stride, Trey decided, coyly but abruptly, to change courses. But when that course leads into “Sand,” you’ll hear few gripes from me. Obviously liking what he heard in Charleston’s first set versions as much as we did, the band immediately inserted the song in the second set only two shows later. And boy did they give the groove vehicle the joyride last night, annihilating the rhythmic juggernaut in dynamic and diverse fashion. Boasting a subconscious communication throughout this jam, Phish brought a sweltering dance session to the already humid arena. Leading with confident and playful lead melodies, Red fully immersed himself in the the Mike and Fish’s thick pocket, creating a intense and jazzy feel to the driving piece.

A top notch “Theme” and a surprise “Axilla” set the table for an increasingly elusive “Birds of A Feather” that sparked the second half of the set. Each jam Phish dropped last night featured subliminally intricate interplay and was filled to the brim with dense ideas and high-speed collective improvisation. And “Birds” fit this description perfectly. After a short breath in “Tela,” Phish set up the sequence that sealed the deal in upstate New York. In a show defined by its unpredictability, when the band hit up another second set “Split,” they gave new meaning to the word.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Taking “Split” on a soul-searching odyssey, the band took the piece on a blissful escapade for the second straight time, but this one wound up quite differently than Broomfield’s highlight. Launched into the stratosphere with an ethereal jam that felt like floating through a fantasy, the music played the band as they took the piece on a spectacular ride landed quietly and unfinished in “Have Mercy.” (An extremely tactful use of The Mighty Diamonds cover as opposed to the last few times it has appeared.) The band surprised everyone as they moved out of roots vibe into another gorgeous piece of open jamming, begging the question if they would work their way back into “Split.” But with yet another curve ball, they gradually moved into the intro to another sonic jaunt, “Piper.”

Darting and dashing with lightening quickness the band progressed through several planes of torrid psychedelia as “Piper” provided an angular sprint through multiverses of sonic texture. Blowing out another wide open jam, the band found themselves organically landing in a “Birds Reprise” which they promptly out of back into the peak of “Split.” Combining mindfucking improv with setlist trickery, Phish found themselves in the show of life last night, living the moment and creating an musical adventure unseen this era. Capping the show in idyllic fashion with a slowly building “Slave,” Trey worked a melodic theme early in the jam which he toys with all the way to the top. After a particularly ripping “Good Times, Bad Times” encore, the show couldn’t have felt any more refreshing. Most stood soaking with sweat after the retro-futuristic Phish set, and nary has an entire crowd felt like that in ages. It really felt like it used to on the most intense nights, and it was a magic that had yet to be felt this era. Utica was, by any accounts of the overused descriptor, an epic Phish show.

Fall 2010

Perhaps these signature nights are best defined by the looks on fans’ faces after the show. As people spilled into the miniature town of Utica, eyes glowing and smiles gleaming, people mingled around the venue genuinely lost in vortex of what had just gone down. Every single person I spoke to after the show was on the same page; this shit brought this whole 3.0 era to the next level. It was hard to believe, but that show had really just happened. This fall, Phish is starting to revisit the contours of shows from decades ago, but with an increased collective skill level with which they are simply making their best music in eons. And each night it’s only getting better. As we hit the halfway point of tour, Fall 2010 is certainly living up to any expectations and moving right beyond them. Catch ’em while you still can!

I: My Soul, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother > Cities, Guyute, David Bowie*^, Wilson*, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Saw It Again* > Run Like an Antelope*

II: Drowned > Sand > Theme From the Bottom, Axilla > Birds of a Feather, Tela, Split Open and Melt > Have Mercy > Piper > Birds Reprise > Split Open and Melt, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Good Times Bad Times

* w/ “Guyute” quotes / teases, ^ with “Wilson” interludes

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1,837 Responses to “The Past Meets The Future”

  1. b-rock Says:

    Morning BB! Can’t wait to hear this one, checking the setlist this morning was a jaw-dropping experience. And I thought the Augusta sequence was nuts. Back to the top to read the write-up. commencing thoughts of “you lucky bastards” for those who attended… NOW.

  2. P.S.H.S. Says:

    Officially pissed the fuck off this morning!!!!!!!
    Just got to my office, all pumped to dl the augusta show with my free dl code, and the guy who sold me the ticket, redeemed it!!!! WTF!!! I paid $70.00 for a ticket from someone on miner’s board. i could have gotten a fist full of miracles at the show, probably should have to get a legit code. This type of shit doesn’t fly with me at all. I realize that miner will probably put up a great dl in a few weeks for free, but that’s not the point. I pay full price for tickets because it is my way of showing support. i don’t buy albums, i don’t dl that much either.
    sorry for the rant, but i’m sure some of you understand my frustration

  3. Corey Says:

    Still driving back but, uhh yeah, what Miner said.
    Last night was a blast, from the past.

    Too much more of this shenanigans and people are gonna start injuring themselves

  4. kenny powers Says:

    @ nono

    “i have officially begun my pre-show ritual for Providence.
    1) Strict diet of raw eggs and sea kelp
    2) 20 deep knee rock squats every hour on the hour
    3) Nightly quick-draw gold bond application exercises”

    For real? or just joshin’? i am intrigued.

  5. Monsterpus Says:

    The Utica poster looks more like a photo than a screenprint.

  6. b-rock Says:

    PSHS – that is some bullshit. Unless agreed upon in advance, you pay for the stub, you get the DL. There’s principalities involved!

  7. albert walker Says:

    Looks like another fun one. Although it may have taken a little longer than I liked with the slow start and spotty playing throughout 2009 things have def started to steadily progress since those 12.29 and 12.30 ground breaking shows in Miami.

    The return to the more challenging risk taking setlists is just one more step in this progression.

    Even more importantly songs like Augusta Gin, Brim Light, and Split and others seem to be heading in a new jamming direction from previous 3.0 versions. Seems like they are aware they’ve maybe run into some dead ends with some of the jamming styles and are looking to push em in new directions from earlier 3.0 tours.

    New years 2010 was the first run I felt it would be fair to judge the boys. Huge undertaking getting back to playing like the band I grew up loving. Starting to get impressed again with the consistency and creativity. By the time they get to MSG this shit will be blowing the fuck up. Great time to be a fan.

    Can’t wait for 3 nights in AC

    Have a good one kids

  8. tela'smuff Says:

    OMG! that second Wilson tease towards the end of Bowie is……..

    jeebus. this Bowie!!!

  9. halcyon Says:

    Happy Birthday Dizzy Gillespie!

  10. Little Buddy Says:

    Wow is all i have to say! Last night totally blew my mind. We were saying all night that it felt like 1995 too. The show was a total throw back, but without an ounce of nostalgia. Phish has never felt fsher two me.

    It may be worth noting that there was a girl in the front row with a guyutica sign. Is can only imagine how she felt as Trey kept weaving the ugly pig throughout the second set. Guyutica indeed!

    I worked the ww table last night for the first time. Really a great experience. If anyone is looking to put energy into something positive during at a show, i hugely suggest talking to the ww folks and getting involved. Really made the night that more more special for me.

    Drove the two hours home top the ROC after the show. Gotta get another hour of sleep in before i head off to work. Schedule to go to umps on Saturday. Right now i have a weird feeling about it though. After last night i almost feel like I don’t have to go. I’m just tired i think. But last night I found what I’ve been searching for since the return. Amazing. And I was 100% sober. Nothing but the music and the sweltering humidity in that building to get me high. And boy did it ever.

    Time for a nap.

  11. nonoyolker Says:

    @ KP – kidding… sort of. Have to be quick with the GBs though, you never know when you are going to need a fast application of the powdery medicated

    Anyone else having trouble with streaming last night on the LP app? I want to blast out my office walls, but technology is forbidding

  12. Jtran Says:

    HOT HOT HOT Bowie

  13. fat bastard Says:

    time to bust out the felt chess board and see if the phans have improved over the last 15 years

  14. kenny powers Says:

    i guess i’ve missed all the Gold Bond references….are we talking chafage of the nether region from too much boogying? or an enhancement of some extracurricular enjoyment?

  15. albert walker Says:

    3 nights AC!!!

  16. Jtran Says:

    @AW

    If you do end up hearing of anything for Silly and I we’d greatly appreciate it. Our connections are pretty limited comparatively. Thanks man!

  17. Lycanthropist Says:

    @aw

    so whats left in the progression back to excellence?

    when do they make the turn from rejuvinating the baseline to exceeding excellence?

  18. BeantownBoy Says:

    Just got to the first Guyute from last night and I have the biggest smile on my face.

    The boys are back.

    Sure, there have been some great rock and roll shows this last year and a half, but beginning with this true we all heard the pieces coming together from Brim through Augusta. Last night, the puzzle was finally put together.

    Hold on New England.

    We’re about to get hosed the fuck down over the next two weeks.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    KWL said something cool last night that really rings true.

    He said he’s going to have the post-show glow this morning for the first time ever without being at the show.

    That’s how I feel.

    Haven’t even spun this yet, but I feel satisfaction from all the great reviews.

  20. nonoyolker Says:

    @ KP – The former, but in a strange and slightly disturbing way, you may be onto something with the latter…

    WORK LP APP – I NEED TO RAGE

    Curious, was the image on the Utica ticket Guyute?

  21. albert walker Says:

    I’d say from what I’ve heard so far lycan Trey is still catching up a little as far as the jamming on this tour

    better flow and song selection and new directions with jamming

    kinda of like the SC Sand and Tweezers the Brim Carini’s and Augusta Gin’s to be a little more frequent

    the consistency is def back but maybe 1 or 2 more jaw dropping jams per set

    haven’t heard last night though only through Augusta

    could be the show that makes the leap

  22. Lycanthropist Says:

    @nono

    you can view all the tickets at Live Phish

    last nights was a PYITE ticket

  23. jdub Says:

    Wow, it is really happening. The band has improved in one way or another every night of tour so far. How fantastic is it that their are 7 more shows to bask in this beautiful evolution.

    Through Wolfman’s and the patience, creativity, and group mind meld is off the charts.

    So excited right now.

  24. BeantownBoy Says:

    AW, I think you’ll find by the funk/vocal jam in Cities last night that the leap has been made and then the rest of the show is just a celebration.

    But, I’ll be interested to hear your take.

  25. Lycanthropist Says:

    word up @AW

    Broomfield – Llama
    Charleston – Fly Famous Mockingbird
    Augusta – The Sloth
    Utica – PYITE

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