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. Mr. Palmer Says:

    How much do YOU have to pay to clean up after 40k phishies?

  2. Guyute711 Says:

    I put $260 down and get $200 back, a shirt, like 4 meals, and the chance to meet other garbage men and women who I can share a friendship with for a lifetime.

  3. albert walker Says:

    Damn this lemonwheel Tweezer smokes

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    not a bad deal @ guyute. got live bait loaded up on the player, ordered some Thai for dinner, and just cracked a cold one. I’m so not into pre-’93 phish. Not because i hate it or anything. There just too much great stuff from the mid 90s on. I can’t consume it all. I will try this time.

  5. willowed Says:

    My daughter gave a presentation about VT today in 3rd grade.

    State bird – Hermit thrush
    State animal – Morgan Horse
    State tree – Sugar Maple

    she neglected to hell her class that the Phish from Vt are from….VT.

    Needless to say she is grounded for the rest of the week.

  6. willowed Says:

    open air jams

    Clifford Gin – bites me in the booboo every time

  7. willowed Says:

    she neglected to tell. not hell


  8. willowed Says:

    Stae band – The Phish

    mostly known for:
    Face meltage
    brain abduction
    plinko funk
    musical density….followed by a giggle and a “fuck that”

  9. Guyute711 Says:

    Just finished up the Tweez AW. Like pretty much everything on here it was great.

  10. phoammhead Says:

    back from dinner

    i may have mislead when i said special a page back or so

    meant simply girlfriend molly

  11. Guyute711 Says:

    Festival sized jams please

  12. Mr.Miner Says:

    cant believe he left the gumbo off the Gumbo -> Sanity > Tweezer.


  13. Guyute711 Says:

    Yeah but it’s because of the Gumbo with the Giant Country Horns from Arrowhead Ranch.

  14. P.S.H.S Says:

    On fathers day i was told that one of my presents was in the mail.
    I had forgotten about that until today, when I recieved my couch tour
    t-shirt and mockingbird foundation sticker!

  15. halcyon Says:

    LOL @ PSHS that is great!

  16. phoammhead Says:

    yeah, spinning this bait 5 now and enjoyin’ it

  17. Guyute711 Says:

    Let’s finally listen to a real Free. I miss you Free.

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Alright, i tried. . skipping right to the Went DWD on the Live Bait. I just have a difficult time sitting through a 15 minute ’87 Harpua.

  19. phoammhead Says:

    ahhh, bane . . . .

  20. plord Says:

    Wait, what? WHAT?


    People, when I ask “what’s the news”, I’m talking about THAT.


  21. Guyute711 Says:

    Ha ha plord

  22. kayatosh Says:

    doing some relistening of highlights from the lat two. don’t sleep on 6.18. I enjoyed the twist, and the piper is exceptional. many great to exceptional pipers this tour.

    got 6.19 sand sally light # line cued up. sand is $$$. FACT

  23. phoammhead Says:

    the trick was to surrender to the phlow . . . .

  24. P.S.H.S Says:

    Way out of left field! I showed it to her one night and had a good laugh at my expense. Didnt ever expect to actually get one, but shall wear it proudly

  25. Guyute711 Says:

    Cypress Mike’s is filthy!!!!

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