While the rumors have already started to roll in about 2011’s summer schedule, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on Phish’s transformational year of 2010. The band rung in the year with four significant shows in Miami that represented a huge step forward in their improvisational cohesion. Blowing away the unexpectedly contained playing of Fall ’09, Miami brought Phish into the new year with a bang. And though the future seemed much brighter after Miami’s holiday run, it remained to be seen how six months off would treat Phish’s newly re-discovered chops.
After practicing for several days at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, the band kicked off Leg I of Summer Tour on June 11, with a two-set juggernaut at Toyota Park that inaugurated Phish into 2010. On a tour that will forever be remembered for Trey’s prominent use of his whammy pedal — better known as “the whale” — Mike began to gain more prominence in Phish’s music as Trey slid back with his minimalist offerings. This welcome trend continued throughout June, and by the time the tour ended in Alpharetta, Georgia, Mike had become as much of a leader of Phish’s jams as Trey. This two-headed musical leadership would mature throughout the year, as both guitar players worked symbiotically through most all of the band’s improvisation. In addition, June’s leg featured a wide array of bust-outs and one-time covers, spicing up setlists with the unexpected night in and night out.
Phish carried their momentum of their top-notch tour opener to Blossom (where they played, perhaps, the jam of June in “Number Line”) and Hershey, starting the tour on a tear. But over their stretch in upstate New York and New England, their consistency dipped before coming back with a vengeance over the tour’s peak weekend in Camden and Merriweather. The band broke through to the other side with Camden’s “Chalk Dust” and then “Light,” while Merriweather took things to the next level with a spectaular “Rock and Roll” and the seamless “I Saw It Again”-themed second set on 6.27 that was centered around a sprawling “Piper.” Much to the dismay of many fans, Phish’s Southern run never reached the heights of their Mid-Atantic showcase, though the band’s July 4th stand in Alpharetta provided a fine consolation prize.
But the second leg of summer tour is when modern-era Phish took off in earnest. August began a next-generation transformation that would conclude during a universally-loved fall tour and an outstanding Holiday Run. Starting out on a hilltop in Berkeley, California, Phish played three of their most creative shows of the entire year at The University of California’s Greek Theatre. With pristine acoustics in the classic stone setting, Phish threw down many open-ended jams that met with smashing success, highlighted by of one summer’s defining pieces in a sublime and exploratory “Light.” Focused more squarely on open jamming than at any other time in the year, Phish also wove tales of wonder out of “Disease,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Simple,” while embarking on top-shelf versions of “Cities,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Tweezer,” “Harry Hood,” “Suzy (plus Reprise)” and “Slave.” But more significant than any of these individual jams was the introduction of Trey’s brand-new, “magical” guitar — “The Ocedoc.” Revolutionizing his tone and modern style of play, his new guitar facilitated the red-headed Jedi’s return to prominence — a process that would be solidified during August’s second high-water mark at Alpine Valley.
Peaking the summer with four scintillating sets of music, Phish threw down a near-perfect show on August 14, and a raucous affair that matched musical might with the Goliath-sized venue on night two. In addition to hosting another of summer’s defining jams — a ripping-turned-psychedelic “Disease > What’s the Use?” — Alpine also turned into a weekend-long guitar showcase in which Trey fully found his mojo again, leading jams with power and creativity. As illustrated through his play in “Reba,” Antelope,” “Bowie,” and “Ghost,” Trey’s skills had caught up to his classmates’ and Phish morphed into the four-headed monster of lore. Taking this new found confidence to Jones Beach, Phish finalized the summer with two top-to-bottom efforts that included another jam of summer in a transcendent “Number Line.”
In between these two peaks of August, Phish traveled deep into the Rockies for one of the most special weekends of the year in Telluride, Colorado. With everyone you knew within a few town blocks, a veritable Phish festival at the end of the street, and a to-die-for natural setting, Telluride became a communal experience that transcended the shows. But there was some great music as well, including the most impressive “Piper” of summer and a supernatural “Carini.” Deer Creek, though one of the more hallowed venues in Phish history, proved to be somewhat of an exhale after the high-key west coast shows and before the Alpine shows-turned-DVD-release. But when summer ended, Phish had made another step forward in their playing and their jamming with fall tour yet to unfold.
While Fall 2009 wound up bringing some stagnation to the Phish’s play, a notably downsized Fall 2010 would have the opposite effect, catapulting the band into their current golden age with the best playing since their return. On a retro-tour that caught fire in earnest on the second night of South Carolina, Phish reinvented themselves in a week of musical adventure that tore through Augusta, Maine — featuring a sacred “Reba,” Utica, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island. In the veritable ghost-town of Utica, New York, in the middle of the week, Phish threw down, arguably, the show of the year, fusing an old-school playfulness with a powerful display of new-school musicianship. Phish dropped another mid-week bomb in Manchester, New Hampshire — highlighting “Light” and “Ghost” — that set up Atlantic City’s Halloween trifecta.
Three-nights on the Jersey shore proved to be just what the doctor ordered, as Phish punctuated fall with three stellar nights of music. Carrying a full head of steam into fall’s final weekend, Phish did not disappoint anyone who traveled to the tourist Mecca, playing three universally-loved shows with all sorts of highlights. But the defining moment of the weekend came in Phish’s sixth musical costume, Little Feat’s Waiting For Columbus. Bringing one of rock and roll’s most acclaimed live albums to life in Boardwalk Hall, Phish emulated some of their heroes while throwing down an groove-based, ’70’s style dance-party for the ages. When fall tour concluded, the entire community — young and old — seemed to have fallen back in love with the band that once courted their heart.
Taking things back to their geographic roots, Phish played an unprecedented five-night New Year’s Run in Worcester and New York City that contained some of the year’s most memorable jams in “Seven Below > What’s The Use?,” “Harry Hood,” “Tweezer.” “Ghost,” and “Simple.” And finally — out of “You Enjoy Myself” — the band culminated a year of musical hints and teases by breaking into a long-awaited “Manteca.” Beyond the music, Phish orchestrated a global “Meatstick” convention, kicking in 2011 with their hot d0g of legend and a choreographed parade of Broadway performers who helped Phish pull off their grandest midnight moment of all-time. Without going too deep into topics freshly discussed, Phish concluded the year with musical exclamation point in New Year’s Eve second set, and opened 2011 with 1.1.11’s equally potent second half. Finishing the year by rocking the The Garden, a round room that has become their de facto New York residence, it looked like smooth waters ahead as the band embarked on the their third year of chapter three.
Hampton for Memorial Day? The game rolls on…
2010 Post-Season Awards
Type II Jam Vehicles – First Team: “Light,” “Rock and Roll,” “Simple,” “Piper,” “Ghost”
Type II Sixth Man of the Year: “Carini”
Type I Jam Vehicles – First Team: “Sand,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Tweezer,” “David Bowie,” “Stash”
Type I Sixth Man of the Year: “Slave to the Traffic Light”
2010 Improvisational MVP: “Light”
Show of the Year: 10.20.2010 – Memorial Auditorium, Utica, New York
Comeback Player(s) of the Year: (tie) — “David Bowie” and “Sand”
Most Improved Player of the Year: “Twenty Years Later”
All-Rookie Team: “Halfway to the Moon, “Show of Life,” “Summer of ’89,” “My Problem Right There,” “Pigtail”
Bust Out of the Year: “Fuck Your Face” – 7.1 Charlotte, NC (4.29.1987 – 1,413 shows)
Jam of the Day:
“Ghost” 12.31.2010 II
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
12.31.2010 Madison Square Garden, New York City
I: Punch You In the Eye, AC/DC Bag, The Moma Dance, Scent of a Mule, Burn that Bridge*, Weigh, Ocelot**, Beauty of My Dreams, Gone, Rock and Roll
II: Wilson, 46 Days, Sand, NICU**, Down with Disease > Ghost, You Enjoy Myself > Manteca > You Enjoy Myself
III: Meatstick^, Auld Lang Syne, After Midnight, Backwards Down the Number Line, Piper > Free, Waste, Slave to the Traffic Light, Grind
E: First Tube
*debut, **w/ Auld Lang Syne teases, ^International Meatstick Extravaganza
Source: Schoeps mk41> KC5> M222> NT222> EAA PSP-2> SD 744t (@24bit/96kHz) (taper – taylorc)Tags: 2010