A Five-Night Flow

12.31.2010 (George Estreich)

When digesting a Holiday Run, one must step back and take in the whole ride rather than look at each show in a vacuum. This year, Phish sculpted an artistic musical contour over five nights that possessed a natural flow from Worcester’s kick-off through Madison Square Garden’s finale. Highlighting divergent styles on different nights, and peaking the run with two of the most successful sets of the “year,” Phish not only played four out of five outstanding, individual shows, they crafted an unparallelled five-night adventure to ring in 2011.

Amidst outlandish blizzard conditions, fans fought their way to the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts for an early start to 2010’s New Year’s Run on December 27th. After braving treacherous traffic and road conditions, and navigating clogged-up, east coast airports, the initial show felt like a reward for the efforts expended by all fans to reach the promise land. Worcester’s first set started off more fully invigorated than most opening sets, featuring surprise, jammed-out versions of “Cool It Down” and “Roggae,” as well as a string of inspired singles. The second set initiated the run with a smoking “Mike’s Groove” that favored a heavily-improvised “Weekapaug.” An emotive “Farmhouse” set the table for one of the pieces of the entire run — an enchanting sleigh ride through a sublime “Seven Below.” As patiently glowing, open interplay led into a mind-numbing mash-up with “What’s the Use?” this excursion quickly jumped onto the top-shelf of 2010 Phish jams. The band eased out of this defining piece into “Twenty Years Later” and an elegant rendition of “Velvet Sea,” before finishing with a triumvirate of classics — including the run’s first “Bowie.” Kicking off their their holiday celebration with a well-rounded shot of musical adrenaline, Phish welcomed everyone to the end of the year showcase.

12.28.2010 (James Reed)

The following night in Worcester was the tale of two sets — the first was strewn with upbeat improvisation and spurts of shining psychedelia, while the second became a coherent frame of delicate introspection. The opening set carried the energy from the first night in dynamic explorations of “Wolfman’s” and “Stash,” while also featuring “She Caught the Katy” and the catchy debut of Anastasio and Marshall’s newest effort, “Pigtail.” After “Carini” opened the second set with a surprisingly contained jaunt, the band ventured into more meticulous jamming around mellower, emotionally-driven selections for most of the set. In “Back On the Train > Limb,” Phish wove together two sharp, contained pieces with a seamless segue and a sense of understated eloquence. Following a notably well-played “Frankie Says > Albuquerque,” in which individual notes and the space between them were given equally attentive care, Phish dropped into — in my opinion — the jam of the entire run in “Harry Hood.” United by a selfless ethos, Phish fused precise rhythmic interplay into a blissful and futuristic collaborative canvas, resulting in a life-affirming tale of experimental triumph. Using this masterpiece to peak the set’s stylistic theme with perfection, the band then came down from the stratosphere with a scorching and extended version of “Bug.” Highlighting intricate and quiet interplay all set long, Phish created a beautiful calm before the oncoming, big-city storm.

12.30.2010 G.Lucas)

Madison Square Garden provided a stark change of scenery from snow-covered New England landscape, and Phish responded to the high-key environs by playing a largely energy-based show that also featured some, classic, 30th-style exploration in “Tweezer > Light.” Taking two of the year’s most successful songs, Phish went for it, first coming up with a fierce peak in “Tweezer” before drifting into engaging (if not totally locked-in) bass-led, atmospheric jamming during the piece’s second half. “Light,” a song that hadn’t delivered a lackluster version all year long, notched its first with an aimless exploration that never gained liftoff. On a night that traditionally enters darker realms before an upbeat party on New Year’s Eve, Phish certainly followed that vibe on the 30th, but for whatever reason, didn’t play with the same fire and fury that displayed throughout the following two nights. When “Tweezer > Light” didn’t necessarily reach the places it might have, the band took the course of energy anthems for the rest of the night in the only underwhelming show of the run. Sandwiched in the first set, however, was the show’s certain high-point in a smashing “Bathtub Gin,” followed by Little Feat’s “Fat Man In a Bathtub,” and “Timber Ho!” Thus, while the overall musical achievement didn’t reach the level of the four surrounding shows, the 30th, nonetheless, provided the darker, exploratory experience to fit the overall, five-night contour.

12.31.2010 (George Estreich)

When Phish came out on New Year’s Eve, they immediately sounded more dialed in than the night before. Even through a relatively uneventful first set, their playing was clean, crisp and refreshing. But when they came out for the second set, the New Year’s party got quite serious. Launching off the arena rock vigor of “Wilson” and “46 Days,” Phish dropped a peak version of “Sand,” and an all-time version of “Ghost” that has become an instant classic. With Trey at the top of his game for the final set of the 2010, the band showcased how far their improvisational skills have come within two years as they annihilated the peak of the show — “Disease > Ghost, YEMTeca.” Combining assassin-like precision, Phishy humor laced with musicianship, and a “Ghost” that will bring a grown man to tears, Phish peaked the entire four nights with this holiday sequence. (But the fifth was yet to come!)

12.27.2010 (A.Hill)

The third set of New Year’s Eve brought the well-documented, feel-good event of the year in the Global Meatstick Extravaganza. Following the theatrics with with a series of succinct rock songs that kept the party moving, Phish chilled briefly in a serene “Waste” before climaxing the night with”Slave.” Traditionally, this celebratory evening capped the Holiday Run with noisemakers, silly glasses and relatively innocuous third sets. But this time, we had another show! And one didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to sense that it would be the most complete effort of the run.

Building off New Year’s celebration, Phish doused their audience with two frames of musical focus, including a second, airtight set of creative interplay that went unrivaled by any other of the run. After a linear “Crosseyed” jam got the blood coursing through people’s veins, the rest of the set was chock full of original musical exchanges. “Twist” brought a meticulous conversation between all four band members that pushed the limits of “contained” jamming, while “Simple” broke into the transcendent realm, melting hearts with original improv drenched in spirIT. Never letting up within this entire set of adventure, Phish kept the pedal to the metal with a swanky “Sneakin’ Sally,” a dubbed-out “Makisupa,” and one final, magnificent “David Bowie” to end a season that featured so many incredible versions. Taking this Holiday Tour to another level with a fifth night, Phish peaked the run with its most cohesive show by a long shot, ending — and starting — the year on an incredibly high note.

But January 1st’s peak was but one part of a five-night ride that started in a winter wonderland and ended in a concrete jungle. And along the way, Phish sculpted their shows and jams with parallel direction. Starting with a spark, the band turned to the emotional and intricate side before greeting New York with energy and exploratory intent on opening night. Then, blowing out The Garden with their two finest efforts of the week, the last two nights peaked the run with notably different shows. I’m sure everyone has their favorite night and favorite jam, but when looking at 2010’s Holiday Run from a macro-perspective, it contained an organic path from beginning to end — and plenty of great music in between.

1.1.2011 (Chris La Jaunie)

Here are some recommendations:

12/27: Must Hear: Seven Below > What’s the Use, Weekapaug // Other Highlights: Cool It Down, Roggae, Mike’s, David Bowie

12/28: Must Hear: Harry Hood, Stash, Wolfman’s // Other Highlights: Kill Devil Falls, Pigtail, Back on the Train > Limb, Bug

12/30: Must Hear: Bathtub Gin, Tweezer // Other Highlights: Maze, Fat Man In a Bathtub, Timber, Boogie > 2001

12/31: Must Hear: Sand, Disease > Ghost > YemTeca // Other Highlights: Ocelot, 46 Days, Slave

1/1: Must Hear: Twist > Simple, Sally // Other Highlights: Tube, Walk Away, Jibboo, Reba, Crosseyed, Makisupa, Bowie


Jam of the Day:

Seven Below > What’s the Use?” 12.27 II

The central sequence in Worcester’s opening night, and one of the most impressive jams of the year.




12.27.2010 DCU Center, Worcester, Massachusetts

FLAC (via etree), Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

Official Worcester Print

I: Sample in a Jar, Funky Bitch, Cool it Down, Roggae, Heavy Things, What Things Seem, Roses are Free, It’s Ice, Mountains in the Mist, Julius

II: Mike’s Song > Mound, Weekapaug, Farmhouse, Seven Below > What’s the Use > Twenty Years Later, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Possum, Cavern, David Bowie

E: Loving Cup

Source: (FOB) Schoeps mk5> KC5> M222> NT222> Aeta PSP-3> SD 744t (@24bit/96kHz) – (taper: taylorc)

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711 Responses to “A Five-Night Flow”

  1. angryjoggerz Says:

    I think they sound best when they are doing what they really want to do, and 3.0 is a real testament to that.

  2. albert walker Says:

    I actually have the post tour glow still Joe believe it or not

    just discussing

    set II 12/31 and set II 1/1 flipped my shit at MSG

    2 of my fav sets of 3.0 back to back

  3. albert walker Says:

    yeah AJ

    I agree

    I just think there are much better rock bands that Phish if I feel like seeing a rock show

    I don’t go to Phish to see a rock show

    but if that’s what they want to play I think they should. I just probably won’t see as many shows. others will I imagine.

    now I’m really out

    watching season 2 of fringe. bad tv fun stuff


  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I think the band, and Trey in particular aren’t nearly as patient as they used to be. If they attempt to go deep and it’s not clicking , Trey just bails and moves on.

    They may have every intention of going type 2 on any given evening, but at first sign of stagnation its time for Horse’d . Very difficult to put a finger on it.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    While they were all done at AC, to much praise, it’s like some people aren’t excited to see them preform the finger acrobatics mastery anymore.

    ^ well only if its a means to an end. def not in it for the precise prog rock…

  6. phoammhead Says:

    just spun tweezer>light from 12/30

    i think trey is trying to re-create both of these tunes in this effort

    i give trey credit for trying to go somewhere new – i believe he took a risk – this is not a bad thing, imo and i don’t hear it as being bad – definitely not bombed, imo

  7. joe Says:

    I know. just messing around. and add me to the list of people who would love more jams and less ballads. I don’t mind a mix of rockers, though. just not a majority of straight rockers.

    I do think we’ll see bigger jams. chops and sound seem to indicate that’s where it’s going.

  8. albert walker Says:

    def no

    the melodic modal medium paced Trey from 1/1 is the fuckin shit

    very cerebral jazzy modal shit going on

    as a musician very impressive

    the shred is dead

  9. albert walker Says:

    can’t get away

    discussing Phish is addictive

    even if it seems I’m doing it with myself. no one is around.


  10. Mike in Austin Says:

    I think a good composition is a good composition. I love Esther, for it being a great composition. I’m not sure what a means to an end means. Are you saying that you only want to hear the compositions if it drives them to jam more?

  11. Mr. Completely Says:

    I knew @AW would be on board with 1/1 when he respun it. It’s so clean and sophisticated…nice

    “need a new Light”

    ^^^ yeah this is the flipside of what I said earlier in response to Butter about the new songs. There are lots of new songs, but most of them basically in the same pocket musically speaking. Phish doesn’t really need a whole bunch of new first set rockers IMO.

    Halfway to the Moon has some good potential still I think but PAge tunes always seem to get the shaft…and it’s not *really* a super natural launchpad song

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I’m not sure i see a connection between nailing the comps and the jamming. 2.0 was all about the jams while the comps were a mess for the most part. To the point where the band didn’t even bother playing certain songs anymore because of the intricacies.

  13. Mike in Austin Says:

    Phish was showing off Set I, and playing perfectly. Part of the reason Set II ripped it up. They were limber. There were probably a ton of people hoping for Divided Sky to end, so they could pay something else. Round Room probably wasn’t it, but SO glad they played it.

    The Walk Away was RIPPING as they could. They nailed Reba until the very end. Then slayed it again.

    I think 1-1 Set I is extremely solid, and will go to quite a bit. My kind of set.

  14. joe Says:

    Halfway to the Moon seemed like the perfect whale vehicle at the time. Now that the whale is gone, might we never see it again?

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    “i give trey credit for trying to go somewhere new – i believe he took a risk – this is not a bad thing, imo and i don’t hear it as being bad – definitely not bombed, imo”

    yeah not bad at all. The Tweezer is good and almost gels to great but is just a little incoherent. And they tried pretty hard on that Light but in the end bailing on it was the right thing to do. Not bombed, just an experiment that didn’t work. Part of the price.

    “I don’t mind a mix of rockers, though. just not a majority of straight rockers. ”

    yeah, I like the big rock jams to punctuate the show and get everyone off. But that can’t be the whole thing. As @aw said lots of bands can do that.

  16. angryjoggerz Says:

    Have fun in Maui, C. I got married there, love it. Rogue side is rage side.

  17. Mr. Completely Says:

    basically if you want big jams you have to take moments like that Light as part of the deal. that’s just how it is. you can’t have it both ways.

    MSG Light is the price of MSG Ghost, I guess

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    word man thanks. we actually fly out Saturday AM. I have tomorrow off to pack and stuff. Home now, about to go cook dinner and all that

  19. Mike in Austin Says:

    I agree about 2.0. You rarely saw them play something like Foam, or MFMF or Fluffhead because … they couldn’t. That cuts the available songs down considerably. Maybe having a bigger catalog to go to, makes them feel a little more like they can remain interested in their own music.

    What do I know. I really like the composed stuff, and think that when they get that all together, Trey seems pretty proud of himself and the band.

  20. Mike in Austin Says:

    I’m out too. Have a good trip Mr. C.

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’m curious what the consensus is among the oldschool and/or prog/composed oriented fans about the more recent versions of Foam and Guelah esp. MSG. I still have a hard time picking up the nuances in the tricky parts…need to go spin some 92/93s and listen in detail so I know the composed parts cold. Reba, Hood, YEM, Fluff I’m good on…

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    what island(s) Mr. C?

  23. Robear Says:

    loved ‘Foam, Guelah’ at MSG. sounded great, and to my ears, more engaging than a rocker in the same slot. mental improv. when they play ‘divided’ like they did on the 1st, it’s like the greatest song in the world.

    ‘Foam’ = bands hint to take that Lucy if you were on the fence

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I thought they were well played by 3.0 standards as well. Heard the same 2 in AC and felt MSG had improved slightly. Rift is another one i put in that grouping. Extremely difficult songs to play and stay in synch.

  25. plord Says:

    “‘Foam’ = bands hint to take that Lucy if you were on the fence”

    Hahahahahahaha if I’m not mistaken, this is exactly what happened to me at Greek III.

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