From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Phish will travel the long and winding road of Summer 2011. Totaling 30 shows right now, and with one more announcement on the horizon, this will be the largest tour the band has undertaken since their return. Granted their are breaks in between the four portions of shows, but when the band plays together this much within a short period of time, magic begins to happen in a different way. Regardless of how well Phish is playing at the time, there is only so far their jamming will go in the context of a 14 show tour like last fall. But when you combine nearly 35 shows within one season of playing, musical trends develop, improvisational themes emerge, and styles of play become crystallized as a portrait of a point in time.
Think back to the longer tours of the mid-’90s when the band toured incessantly. The iconic months of August ’93, November ’94, and December ’95 didn’t pop out of nowhere, rather they were a direct result of extensive touring and constant improvising night after night after night. And while Summer 2011 can’t replicate the group dynamic that arose over a 54-show fall tour in 1995, the countless shows that comprised the winter, spring and summer of 1993, the number of shows does correlate much more with summer tours of the late ’90s.
Phish’s 1997 Summer Tour consisted of 38 shows (19 in Europe), Summer ’98 equaled 33 shows (9 in Europe), Summer ’99 clocked in 23 shows (3 in Japan), while the band’s Summer Tour of 2000 was comprised of 25 shows (7 in Japan). Add the 30 shows already on this summer’s slate with a few more around Labor Day, and Summer 2011 lands right in the same ball park as many well-loved summers of lore. Over the course of these previous summers, though less so in 2000, distinct jamming styles developed with such focused playing. Could we be looking an earnest stage of musical change this summer? With the tightness, creativity and momentum of Fall Tour and New Year’s Run in tow, alongside successful side-projects from Trey and Mike, the band could be on the brink of quite the memorable season.
Starting in Bethel, slated through UIC in mid-August, and rumored to end in Colorado around Labor Day, any way you cut it, Summer 2011 is shaping up to be a monster. With that much time on stage together, things will happen that are unplanned, go unspoken, and will bring surprise to everyone, band included. This amount of playing, though broken up into four segments over three months, will still provide a certain density of improvisational minutes unseen by the band since their return. Might we witness some of their most impressive playing thus far in this era? In my opinion, the odds are high. Broken into legs of 18 shows, a three-show festival throwdown, and nine shows, where the treasures will arise is anyone’s guess. And legitimate theories could be posed as to why each of the three scheduled segments will blow up. Whether it be classic East Coast venues and the most shows at once, a super-sized festival, or the inspiration of west coast nature, each part of summer seems to have its own perks and potential. Pick and choose where you must, but remember, it’s about the shows you hit, not the ones you miss! (Most of the time.)
Jam of the Day:
A classic summer nugget from Polaris ’98.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
7.20.1998 Venura Co. Fairgrounds, Ventura, CA
Highlights of Ventura ’98 include the opening “Bathtub Gin” (Riverport’s little brother), “Drowned -> Makisupa,” a rare appearance of The Who’s “Sea and Sand,” and “Harry Hood.”
I: Bathtub Gin, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds of a Feather, Theme From the Bottom, Water in the Sky, The Moma Dance, Split Open and Melt
II: Drowned -> Makisupa Policeman > Maze, Sea and Sand, Prince Caspian > Harry Hood
E: Sexual Healing* > Hold Your Head Up, Halley’s Comet
Source:AKG c568eb (OTS, pointed at stacks) -> Aerco Pre-Amp -> Sony D-8 @ 48KHzTags: Summer 201