The Dawn of A New Era

Merriweather - (Brian Adams)

Though I’m still largely in and out of post-tour sleepsville, I figure I’d get some thoughts up on this past tour. I’ve only scratched the surface of re-listening to the shows, but June was—without question—the most impressive tour since the band returned in 2009. Despite a tight song rotation, the band’s communication skills are clearly at the top of their game, and when Phish is now at their best, their music is as good as it has ever been. Jaded vets will always glorify their own touring days, but anyone with two ears and an open heart can hear the excellence that Phish embodies once again.

Merriweather (B.Ferguson)

Spinning through some of June’s highlights last night, I was floored by the virtuosity of the band’s current listening skills. The quickness with which Trey picked up on Page’s ideas and expounded on them was staggering—in so many jams. And then Mike would respond with an eclectic counter thought in no more than a nanosecond. These three-part conversations that underlined Phish’s best playing all tour illustrates a band matured and focused on equitable jamming, the hallmark of improvisational success. Fishman’s melodic sensibility and his ability to respond to Trey and Mike at once, provided the fourth part of these musical puzzles that dazzled crowds throughout the month. Within structured or open jamming, these four-part exchanges blossomed with dynamic vitality, a crucial facet of their game that has now fully returned.

With all of their individual skillsets at a 3.0 high, the band is now executing at a new level of proficiency—a level that allows for subconscious creativity of the likes we hadn’t seen this era. The only question that arose each night was how safe the band would play, and this decision came down to one person and one person only, Trey Anastasio. With the guitarist’s mood and patience, so went the contour of every show. When Trey lacked focus or seemed to be overthinking things, shows turned into choppy affairs with little cohesion as Big Red often favored more songs over musical flow. But on the nights when Trey came out with his patience of old—a la Bethel night two, Detroit, Charlotte or Portsmouth—sublime, timeless music resulted.

To be honest, Trey almost seemed like two different people this tour when comparing how he directed various shows. On some nights he had his own agenda, and regardless of what the band was musically immersed in doing, he asserted his ideas at awkward times with no context whatsoever. (See PNC’s “Ghost > Numberline” or Alpharetta’s “Tweezer > Julius for perfect examples.)  But on other nights, he allowed each and every jam to flow to its natural conclusion, playing with a wholly collaborative nature and crafting music that can stand up to any era. It’s quite the perplexing issue that has will never truly be answered, but we can only hope that as the summer moves on, Trey embodies his patient and selfless persona more often than the restless and intrusive front man he has often resembled.

Walnut Creek - Raleigh (John Crouch)

But when Trey was in it to win it—on the same page as the rest of his band members rather than swimming upstream—the music transformed into magic. The oustanding jams of June are too many to list, but some of the tour’s most magical moments included Detroit’s “A Disease Supreme -> Fluffhead -> Bowie,” Charlotte’s “Rock and Roll -> Ghost” and “Reba,” Blossom’s “Sneakin’ Sally,” Bethel’s “Waves,” “Halley’s Comet” and “Bathtub Gin,” Mansfield’s “Rock and Roll,” Cincinnati’s “Tweezer” and “YEM,” Portsmouth’s “Slave” and “Sand,” Darien’s mash-up of “Golden Age” and “What’s the Use?” with “2001”and so much, much more! And this was only leg one. During 2009 and 2010, Phish’s playing vastly improved from leg one to leg two of summer tour, but with their best playing being as good as ever, what I think we can look forward to is greater consistency night in and night out.

PNC (C.LaJaunie)

The top-notch shows of this past tour were often interspersed with spottier performances whose highs still matched the best moments of the month, but whose flow or risk-taking was often compromised for safer, high-octane playing. Looking past Superball and into leg two, I think that we will see an increased consistency of excellence from Phish. This translates into fewer nights dotted with head-scratching jam abortions and fewer shows anchored by safe, rocking, straightforward playing a la Bethel night three or Merriweather night two.

This past month, the band has certainly arrived. For any naysayers who thought Phish couldn’t regain their past glory in this decade, well—eat crow. The band has IT harnessed again, and as Trey said for an upcoming Rolling Stone interview, “everything seems to be dialed in right now, the band feels loose in all the right ways.” Creating musical highs on par with any era, the band has now fully entered the next phase of their career as a creative tour de force. After watching the guys’ skills re-evolve through 2009 and 2010, their musical output of June has been incredibly rewarding for anyone who maintained faith in quartet through the rebuilding process. Firing on all cylinders like they haven’t since sometime in the ‘90s, Phish is back to sculpting nights of musical majesty laced with spectacular improvisation. Hop on the bus, folks, this summer has a long way to go. Next stop, Super Ball IX!

PNC (Chris LaJaunie)

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1,359 Responses to “The Dawn of A New Era”

  1. c0wfunk Says:

    “First complaint: Trey’s sentences are too short now. It’s always subject, noun, verb. He doesn’t even bother with nonrestrictive clauses anymore. Where’s the creativity? Jeez, Trey, what happened to the nineties, when you’d spin these amazing sentences, full of improvisational semantics, experimental punctuation, blending the future perfect tense seamlessly with the past progressive?”

    fucking brilliant.

  2. ohhphee Says:

    @cowfunk

    Yeah, that site was posted the other day. Absolutely hysterical and on point.

  3. ohhphee Says:

    Sound familiar? Where have I heard that kind of analysis before?

  4. c0wfunk Says:

    ahh figured it had been, but so much goes by here I’m sure some missed it 🙂

    that article is chock full of brilliant quotes

  5. Robear Says:

    Top of the morning!

    ::doesn’t know spreadsheets::

    Anyone flying into ROC on the 29th for the Ball?

  6. win butler Says:

    What’s a ‘Jaded Vet?’

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    how’s miner got that teaser quote from the RS article? Is there a blurb out somewhere or he’s got the inside hook?

  8. DukeOfLizards Says:

    @MiA

    You mean six more shows for you until the band announces Phish Tour December 2011, aka America Gets Alderaan’d, for which we will all quit our jobs and w00k out.

  9. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    anyone with two ears and an open heart can hear the excellence that Phish embodies once again.

    ^
    Always good to note this.

    Open mind, open heart.

  10. Selector J Says:

    Jaded Vet

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    I remember at bonnaroo I talking to zzyzx after an official video guy tried to get him to say “worst show ever” into the camera. He would not oblige. Amazing how dude is the living embodiment of comic book guy.

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    love the “got scheops” sticker on that case. True nerds made that graphic.

  13. c0wfunk Says:

    true nerds who know it’s spelled Schoeps.

    ^^showing off how nerdy I am.

  14. Selector J Says:

    zzyzx rocks that shirt proudly, iirc.

  15. ohhphee Says:

    @Selecta

    Nice rhythms this morning. Great vibe.

  16. ohhphee Says:

    You say sheops. I say shoeps. Let’s call the whole show off!

  17. jerm Says:

    Perhaps a Jaded Tour Vet FB page is in order so that all can connect and talk about how good Phish used to be back in the day before they started Juliusing Tweezers….

  18. ohhphee Says:

    I think you forgot the 😉 @jerm. 🙂

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    Reviews written by the guy who is performing arts director for The LEAF I’m always rattling on about..

    he was on atl>portsmouth and there’s a review up for each.

  20. Selector J Says:

    thanks, ohhphee.
    Glad you’re digging it. I’ve got a few more Pablo tunes that I can play before running afoul of the RIAA/ASCAP rules.
    Might play some non-Pablo stuff after that if there are any listeners.

  21. Robear Says:

    FTR, we can spin Sel J’s reggae show on an iPad!

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Local anesthetic wore off completely at 3 AM local. Ouch!

    Sumo, nice work on the meetup page. Maybe designate a cloumns for arrival/departure defactoidails.

    Wish I was going?

    Bollywood Hole it shall be.

  23. Beantownboy Says:

    @ Cowfunk

    re: Trey’s quote

    That appeared on some Twitter feed for a guy who works at Rolling Stone. No one has been able to find the actual article, yet, since it seems to still be in development.

    Another Trey quote, from the same source, said that he (trey) has always wanted to cover Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”.

  24. ohhphee Says:

    @Robear

    I don’t have i anything. Trey would not approve.

    I am driving in to the ball from the Windy Shity. Hope to see you there.

  25. ohhphee Says:

    Note to self: listen to more Augustus Pablo.

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