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. bearito Says:

    Some people just don’t need it Sumo

    I’m just not one of those people.

    Maybe it’s b/c I live on land built over swamp?

    I’m Ron Burgundy?

  2. Mike in Austin Says:

    If you’ve never been chaffed, you don’t need The Bond (IMO). When you are, it’s like … heavenly.

    Now I use Arnica Gel and Triflora on my body for muscle soreness and joints. It’s amazing how well it works. My wife is a Physical Therapist and swears by it.

    Now I’m really out.

  3. [Not Tom] Says:

    People know you?

  4. [Not Tom] Says:

    later MIA.

  5. bearito Says:

    Loving Trey’s tone on this Port Sand

    Slippery if you will…

  6. Mike in Austin Says:

    Is this Wilt Chamberlin?

  7. [Not Tom] Says:

    I love the LivePhish App. I can “airplay” the stream from my iPhone to my home system. Thanks Phish.

  8. bearito Says:

    So mad Android doesn’t have the app!

    I can at least use my ipod touch to stream while at home.

    Would be nice on the road though.

  9. bearito Says:

    Such a $$$$ SAND!

  10. voopa Says:

    What up folks? Spent the afternoon at the park, picked up a z after work, preparing for mrs. v’s week long stay at Music Camp, Giants pulled ahead…life is good!

  11. sumodie Says:

    Port Sand was awesome live, first spin was pretty good, 2nd spin had me spinning hard again. Worried my brain will explode on the 3rd spin…better wait till tomorrow

    @ramblin: hope you get the time off! I’ve got some extra camping supplies that I would likely be able to share too

    ***BB SuperBall meet-up sheet***

    click on “BB Meet-Ups” on the right side of the Phish Thoughts home page (under the Donate button). Or just click this:

  12. bearito Says:

    Went Gin & a Manhattan

    Life is good here to Voopa!

    Wish I could have gone up to Port from Raleigh.

    Buddies made me leave! Bastards 😉

  13. [Not Tom] Says:

    Love the “water” effect that Trza uses a few times in nTelos Timber. That’s probably not what it’s called, but that’s what it sounds like to me.

  14. chefbradford Says:

    Ah, you know it’s Phish festi season when the Bunny pokes his ears up:

  15. Guyute711 Says:

    Turn on the Bunny and Darien is on. That’s right bitches, Darien!!!!!

  16. bearito Says:

    That Timber smokes. Hope they keep it in rotation this summer.

    Forgot how great this Gin is! So nice to have a great recording of it.

  17. bearito Says:


  18. chefbradford Says:

    And you can make requests. Wonder what Simple this is?

  19. chefbradford Says:

    LivePhish feed I think, according to the Twitter feed on the site

  20. bearito Says:

    Scweet! More SB9 treats

    In very exciting news to audiophiles & vinyl lovers and collectors, Phish will be selling never before released vinyl editions of a couple of albums at the JEMP Record store as well as a limited re-release of “Two Soundtracks” that quickly sold-out on Record Store Day. The store will be located next to the House of Live Phish. The “White Tape”, “Party Time” and “Two Soundchecks” will be available.

    For details, see Phish’s Facebook page.

  21. ThePigSong Says:

    Yo Kids, just read back a few pages and I’m getting fucking stoked for SBIX! Just got off work a day early and I’m celebrating with a beer and some Live Bait 5. booya!

    Logistically the weekend is a nightmare for me, but catching two of three days is a win in my book!

  22. bearito Says:

    Fo sho Pig

    2 is better than none

  23. bearito Says:

    This Mikes is a MONSTA!

  24. [Not Tom] Says:

    @ chef – I don’t think it’s the same LP feed.

  25. [Not Tom] Says:

    I’m hearing Harpua from SPAC ’09 on the Bunny right now.

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