A fall tour that spoke to fans new and old fused Phish’s musical styles past and present, forming a hybrid sound that seems to have caught everyone’s ear. Throughout their career, Phish’s music has always grown and changed as the band built upon their past while adding new ideas to the mix. Moving from one year to the next, some elements remained while others were replaced as Phish forged a protean path. A year and a half into their comeback, Fall 2010 transformed Phish from a band on the rise into one that had risen again. And coupled with the defining tour of this era came a new sound of Phish – a musical palette founded in their mid-’90s precision and intensity while laced with the modern style and approach of a mature band on the horizon of a golden age.
If we were to draw lines from this era of Phish music to its closest direct influence, I’d think we’d find an overlap between the years of 1993-1995 – an era that many cite as Phish’s finest. And what better time to use as a current reference point than an era when the band jammed with rabid creativity. Living and breathing their craft in totality, Phish rarely made technical mistakes during this era of drill bit focus, and their jams took a directed route into the heart of the matter. Though Phish’s style morphed through varying incarnations within these years, the band expressed a certain urgency behind their music as if they were playing for their lives. Now, fifteen years removed from the first era of prime Phish, the band sounds more like their mid-’90s selves than ever.
After their transition to arenas in 1996 and the cowfunk revolution of 1997, Phish music diverted from this mid-’90s style for the duration of their career. Moving into the era of groove from 1997-1999, Phish infused slowed-down, collaborative textures and abstract soundscapes into their bag of tricks as their sound transformed altogether. Phish reinvented themselves during the late ’90s, morphing into a larger-than-life groove monster and closing out the final years of the millennium focused on rhythmic and ambient styles of play. Many older fans grew disenchanted with the band’s direction during this period, while many new fans hopped on the train as Phish shows blossomed into outright psychedelic dance events. Exploring varying versions of this groove-based style through their initial hiatus in 2000, the band rode this wave to the second peak of their career between the years of ’97 and ’99.
Now, as Phish steps into the onset of their next peak era, they liken a vintage wine ripened with age. Able to pull from any part of their prolific career at any time, while simultaneously forging a new sonic path to the future, Phish has more in their repertoire than ever before. Their ensemble approach to modern jamming – a lead-less conversation between four seasoned players – suggests a new application to a paradigm of old. The music of Fall Tour sounded like a legitimate hybrid between the intensity and directness old and the fluid, mature communication style of now – a stunning combination when all goes well. And as the road of fall progressed, things went well far more often than not.
In a significant step forward, this tour was devoid of excessive sloppiness and aimless jamming; each night Phish had a plan and executed it. Whether or not their plan was to your or my liking was a separate issue all together. Most times when they dove into a jam, they swam out successfully with glowing results. Regardless of what song they played, it genuinely felt like the band was in the moment for each night of tour, another parallel to the Phish of old. As whole-band communication became subconscious again, segues slithered seamlessly and jams jumped down your throat like juggernauts. Anchored in their mid-’90s peak while firmly planted in the present, Phish music became the best of both worlds.
They say “If you don’t know your past, you don’t know your future,” but Phish is a band that will never have that problem. Always self-referential Phish has consistently built upon their former work in taking their music to the next stage. In the grand scheme, they have pulled musical techniques and ideas from era to era, and on the small scale, they routinely reprise musical themes within jams and individual shows: two defining elements of Fall Tour as the band jumped into a musical style that dripped with old-school Phishiness. Teases here, reprises there, segues and musical sandwiches all became active parts of every Phish show, not to mention the superb quality of jamming. Boasting a connectedness unseen this era, Phish navigated jams with effortless fluidity and intent while injecting these pieces with new ideas and creating dense musical excursions. The retro-influence on modern Phish is undeniable, and as we move forward, it will be interesting to watch how the past continues to influence the future of the band that everyone seems to dig again.
Jam of the Day:
“Light” 10.26.10 II
Manchester’s outstanding version beautifully builds away from “Light’s” theme and into a series of next-level grooves. Listen for the “Alumni” funk reprise that is clearly referenced in the latter half of the jam. An outstanding cap to another ground-breaking tour for “Light.“
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.26.10 Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, NH
If Utica represented the people’s choice for the two-set show of tour, Manchester came in a close second. With action from beginning to end, bust-outs galore, and a jam-laced second set, Tuesday night in New Hampshire delivered in full. Second-set must-hear highlights include “Light,” “Makisupa > Night Nurse > Makisupa,” and “Ghost > Mango > Weekapaug.” In a classic maneuver, Phish dropped a top-shelf show right before they headed into their high-key Atlantic City run.
I: After Midnight, The Sloth, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Mellow Mood, Access Me, Llama, All of These Dreams, The Curtain With, Scent of a Mule, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, It’s Ice, Walls of the Cave
II: Possum, Light, Mike’s Song > Simple > Makisupa Policeman > Night Nurse*> Makisupa Policeman, The Wedge, Ghost > The Mango Song > Weekapaug Groove** > Llama
E: Show of Life
*debut, Gregory Isaacs, **w/ Can’t You Hear Me Knockin Jam w/ Ghost and Night Nurse lyrical teases
Source: Schoeps mk41> kc5> m222> NT222>Aeta PSP-3> SD 744t (Taper – taylorc)Tags: 2010, Fall '10