Little Phish

10.31.10 II - Boardwalk Hall (Graham Lucas)

Phish redefined the Halloween experience on Sunday night in Atlantic City, ending their holiday mystery by playing Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus, the first live album they have ever donned as a musical costume. Transforming Boardwalk Hall into a legitimate Seventies dance party, Phish recreated the concert experience of another band, taking their Halloween stunt to another level. Joined by a horn section and conga virtuoso, Giovanni Hidalgo, on percussion, the band slayed a double-album that reflected the ensemble jamming featured so prominently throughout fall tour. Dipping into several musical textures, much like Phish themselves, Waiting For Columbus proved to be the ideal choice for the band right now. Elevating their game throughout the tour, Phish capped the winding road of fall with a defining Halloween performance that will certainly leap into any debate over the best ever.

Excerpting David Fricke’s eloquent article in this year’s Phishbill:

Phish are not just playing another classic album, back to front…[they] are covering a legendary Seventies concert experience – what is was like to be like in the room when Little Feat ruled a stage, fusing salty blues, New Orleans second-line funk, zippy jazz-rock mischief and country-diner romance in drop-dead songwriting, with snapping-treble guitar action and stunning improvised crosstalk.

Little Feat - Waiting For Columbus

And they achieved their task to perfection, recreating this experience to a tee and executing the album with unmatched musicianship. Far more complex than covering a recorded set of songs, Phish masterfully learned a series of songs and live jams recorded over seven nights in London and Washington, DC, during August of 1977. Playing the double-disc with passion and precision, the set never dragged for a moment, stealing the show – and the weekend – in Atlantic City. From beat one, the groove grabbed the audience and never let go, providing the genuine feeling that we had been transported to a different place and time.

Beginning with the infectious opener “Fat Man In the Bathtub,” the collaborative rhythmic focus of the album became wholly apparent right away, signifying a far more participatory experience than in past years. To quote Fricke, “…you will be expected to dance. Anastasio can’t help raving about the mad wicked action in these songs.” With varying time signatures, a dirty, blues-based sensibility, and collaborative improvisation throughout, Waiting For Columbus proved to be the aural treat after Phish’s Led Zeppelin “trick” on the 30th. The album not only showcased the band’s impeccable current chops, but also contained slower funk realms that sounded natural and addictive in Phish’s musical medium.

In terms of familiarity, everyone knew “Time Loves A Hero,” an Phish cover that has popped up in setlists from time to time, and the signature piece “Dixie Chicken” – both which provided earnest high points as Page took center stage on the latter. But familiarity hardly mattered with music this engaging; music that spoke to your body and loudly as your mind. Fusing blues, funk, jazz, and rock influences – much like Phish themselves – Little Feat’s culminating work fit provided the ideal soundtrack for a Halloween party.

10.31.10 II (Graham Lucas)

While the Waiting For Columbus set was drenched in songwriting and soul, carrying a notable energy and momentum from beginning to end, most would agree that the percussive-based “Spanish Moon” brought the most indelible group memory. Comprised of gooey, funk textures with dripping bass lines and nasty rhythm guitar licks, this ode to “whisky and bad cocaine” combusted the dance floor, providing the early favorite to stick in rotation. And when this piece ended, the retro-trip was only halfway over.

10.31.10 (G.Lucas)

Interestingly, Fishman wrote a piece in the Phishbill explaining that there has been no greater influence on his drumming that Little Feat’s late Richie Hayward. And throughout last night’s performance, the similarities became obvious as Fish covered Hayward’s melodic beats and lyrical phrasing. In classic Fishman fashion, he wrote,”I’ve already ripped this guy off so much that covering this album is my chance to finish the job once and for all!” He and Hidalgo worked in awesome unison, churning out dance patterns all night long that anchored the album in a dynamic rhythmic foundation.

Interpreting the legendary guitar work of Lowell George, Trey added his own accents and spice to the already-swaggering leads. A choice that seemed hand-picked for Trey, Waiting For Columbus provided him the chance to magnify his current style while encouraging more percussive offerings than we’ve seen from The Ocedoc this fall. One of Trey’s finest Halloween performances, his gutsy guitar tone fit the album perfectly and he navigated the diverse live tracks with staggering proficiency. Phish had clearly practiced this complex album with diligence, as the entire band came together in a magical Halloween transformation; an unforgettable set of music for the annals of Phish history.

10.31.10 II (G.Lucas)

By putting a barbershop quartet spin on the humorous and vocally-based, “Don’t Bogart That Joint,” and bringing Fishman front and center for the beautiful ballad “Willin’,” the band still managed to fit a few Phishy twists into an incredibly authentic performance. “Sailing Shoes” and “Feats Don’t Fail Me Know,” the final two songs of the liquid-flowing set, brought two more quintessential stops in the bass-led percussive pastures that underlined the entire album. And as Trey dug into his final solos of the second frame, they felt completely natural – as if he was swimming amidst his own music rather than playing that of another. Wearing a tightly-fitting musical costume, the lines between Little Feat and Phish became completely blurred last night in a Halloween set for the ages. The band pushed their holiday tradition to the next level this year, throwing an outright dance party like no other this fall, while simultaneously providing a genuine glimpse into the musical tradition that birthed Phish itself.

More to come on Halloween’s other two sets tomorrow!

I: Frankenstein, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Ghost > Spooky, The Divided Sky, Roses Are Free, Funky Bitch, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stash, Character Zero

II: Fat Man in the Bathtub, All That You Dream, Oh Atlanta, Old Folks’ Boogie, Time Loves a Hero > Day or Night, Mercenary Territory, Spanish Moon, Dixie Chicken > Tripe Face Boogie, Rocket in My Pocket, Willin’, Don’t Bogart That Joint, A Apolitical Blues, Sailin’ Shoes, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

III: Down with Disease > Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo, Camel Walk, Suzy Greenberg, Wilson > Harry Hood, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself

E: Julius

10.31.10 II Graham Lucas)

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870 Responses to “Little Phish”

  1. KWL Says:

    i’m less and less sure that phish can get much better…

    this is not a criticism.

    it is to say: phish is pretty fucking good right now.

    i mean, yeah, there are things that can improve…but in general, i feel like the band is back to form, the swagger and confidence are there, the chops are (mostly) in place… they are making music as good as any era

    in the future, they won’t be any ‘better,’ they will just be ‘different’

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    damn I said a bunch of nice shit about neemor and he left

    I was all heartfelt and stuff

    serves me right

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    sand from utica is illin’

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ KWL….Phish is getting better all the time…they have not even come close to hitting their ceiling, and I like current Phish as much as any era ever.

  5. KWL Says:

    well ok then 😀

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    lol….I’m not crushing your theory, just giving one of my own 🙂

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    opinions…opinions… didn’t mean to state mine as fact.

  8. KWL Says:

    i’m still in post-show glow mode after the AC run so i’m allowed to gush just a little bit 8)

  9. KWL Says:

    the fact that there is no long signature jam in the AC run (a la greek run or jb # line) and i was still blown away by the music says something pretty significant to me (b/c those jams are what i’m after more than anything else)

    i found IT in so many places in AC that i can’t keep them all straight

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    @KWL we’re well into semantics if I take this much further…I can’t remember who it was but someone expressed earlier today that they have been ‘laying a foundation’ this year in terms of rebuilding their skills both individually and as a group. I think that’s insightful and probably on point.

    They’ve come out onto a new plateau, skillwise, where they’re back in grasping range of the kind of rigorously technical things that used to be their hallmark. But as has been noted, they’re much wiser now, with more to say, more grounded, clearer, and in many ways much more sophisticated both personally (so it seems from the outside) and musically.

    So when you combine that growth with reclaimed technical chops I think we shouldn’t presume to guess what they’re capable of. I get a very, very strong vibe that something really new and huge is coming our way, too. That part’s just a feeling but if there was a way to quantify it, I’d bet the farm.

    If I had a farm.

    Which I don’t.

    So there.

  11. KWL Says:

    err… a la greek light

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    word @kwl that’s so true

    I’m as hardcore a jam hound as anyone and I love this tour

  13. butter Says:

    word Miner

    really great piece today too,

    this cover stands up on respin, big time, instant classic

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    alright y’all

    gotta go do some things

    peace, always nice when I can drop in at night, very different flow and feel here, not necessarily better but a nice change of pace

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    they’re at a point right now where they can do anything. i’ve accepted the fact that one night they will play a utica and then one night they will randomly play an augusta 2 (or whichever that really songy show was, i forget). just means you best be seeing 4 shows at a time 🙂

  16. Aquaman Says:

    I agree with Miner.

    Phish can get better. Given their intention to keep practicing. I’m starting to think they don’t even have to practice their tunes if they don’t want….just be in the same room together.

    It is only then that the Jedi mind meld can flow between them. (Sounds like I am implying it is not flowing now….that not the case it flows now)

    I still keep going to the Sat Tweezer. This might sound like total projection, but given the history of Ramble On I fully believe they intended to play the entire tune. Trey stright mesed up the Ramble On – solo breakdown – now I didn’t get thrown off, or anything, I just noted that during THE critical most compelling momet of Ramble On, try fusked up the solo. Plain and simple. A++ for intention – B-/C+ for execution.

    The improvement that waits in the wings, is when intent and execution are both A++. I truly believe that place is coming for them. And when it does, watch out.

    My 2 cents.

    @SheDivides – I really enjoyed meeting you. I told someone earlier if you dress up as Snow White again, I will volunteer to be one of your woodland animals.


  17. butter Says:

    and i meant to add psychedelic, to my razor sharp – dirty funk – blues improv rock description

  18. Aquaman Says:

    Maybe I shouldn’t type lying down.

    Sorry for the errors

  19. KWL Says:

    my sense at the time (haven’t relistened) was that the zep stuff just sort of spiraled from WLL and they hadn’t practiced the other tunes or planned them beforehand

    but what the fuck do i know

    (spoiler alert: absolutely nothing)

  20. KWL Says:

    stand up! stand up!

    good day on the board today… helped me be completely unproductive…

    looking forward to miner’s take on those other 2 sets

    (my take: fuck yes they were great)

    great time to be a fan. night y’all.

  21. Aquaman Says:

    see ya KWL

  22. Robear Says:

    ‘good day on the board today… helped me be completely unproductive…’

    yeah, me too for the most part. i’m trying to stay away…….

  23. She Divides Says:

    Thx aqua! It was great to run into you guys. I sewed the whole costume so I was pretty happy it worked out well. I had originally been planning to get friends to dress up as the 7 dwarfs – but woodland animals would be great too! 🙂

  24. butter Says:

    Phish is getting better all the time…they have not even come close to hitting their ceiling, and I like current Phish as much as any era ever.

    ^this is what i was wording up

    with their skill set and creativity right now, any song could blow up anytime

  25. plord Says:

    @neemor, Love the 20YL lyrics. “I cling like a Lizard to the side of a cliff” indeed. As for the air/water, water/land line, I am reminded that “On the sea of Hypnocracy, the shore is just another wave” – St. Dilbert

    As for MA2, low point of tour for sure, but it suffers from an extra 20 demerits for being the second jukebox show in a row. Confounding our expectations again. But don’t sleep on the highlights, people! The 13 min Stash in set 1 *was* the best of 3.0 until AC. The Wolfman’s is type 1 but straight nasty. I still love the Roggae jam, there’s a point where Mike goes off the track and suddenly it’s very psychedelic up in that situation; and then into, as has been noted, a very hot Taste.

    It would be a shame to miss all that just because it’s from the worst complete show of a ridiculously hot tour 🙂

    Don’t sleep on those highlights, people!

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