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)

Tags: ,

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

  1. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I think you are onto something, adub.

    The excitement of first launching on tour for the band.

    The excitement of first launching on tour for the fans.

    I could be wrong.

  2. c0wfunk Says:

    not sure this was clear but I wasn’t at raleigh; the effect may well have worked quite a bit better with live acoustics than from sbd in my headphones.

  3. Jtran Says:

    “Not trying to raise expectations but I’m very excited for the jamming that will come out of this run. Could be the epic run we’ve all been waiting for.” aw

    And the great thing about it is that if the music isn’t the best thing in 3.0 we’re all still at a Phish festival. Win win

  4. marcoesq Says:

    right, right. my frontal lobe explosive playback only allows me to revisit such sickness in 15min increments

  5. marcoesq Says:

    that whole 2nd set waas pretty narsty

  6. bearito Says:

    Yeah Cow, that effect was wicked live. Swirling, piercing, reverberating, echoing all come to mind. Not quite the same in my headphones. Sounds dope as shit in my truck’s sound system though.

  7. c0wfunk Says:

    yeah just reviewing the setlist. Methinks a hampton comes alive run is probably due here before too long. Got kinda played out being the big release and all but it’s been a while.

  8. marcoesq Says:

    Now, would have I preferred the following show’s Ghost->Halley’s->Tweezer>Possum>Velvet Sea>Zero?

    Probably. But thats ok

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    extra bonus probably making me hate on it is that the damn song’s been stuck in my head since I heard that recording. Did it. Just like that.

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    I think the night before that run gets overlooked a lot too..

    Set 2: Also Sprach Zarathustra[1] > Rock and Roll -> Taste, Frankie Says, Gumbo -> Chalk Dust Torture, Frankenstein, Been Caught Stealing
    Encore: You Enjoy Myself[2]

    Their version of “something” left something to be desired in the first set, but that 2001>rnr>taste and the gumbo were really nice from what I recall.

    I remember the big tom hits in gumbo reverberating through that coliseum in a huge way.

  11. marcoesq Says:

    ^Right. With that Cities, Curtain to open the show. thassaw statement

    like fukaoka ’00

  12. marcoesq Says:

    We need a BIG 2nd set Gumbo->? in 3.0

  13. Robear Says:

    Wishing I could close my eyes next week and wake up at the SBIX. It will be an epic day of travel from behind the Redwood Curtain. I’ll be thinking of all you spoiled kids that come on here to question 3-4 hour drives for shows.

  14. c0wfunk Says:

    we’ll see. But it seems that page wanted his solo back, and he got it. Of course I love the funk gumbos but hearing Page do that blues shuffle solo always makes me forget.

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    “jaded noob” ftw

  16. albert walker Says:

    Holmdel 1

    After Midnight
    Drowned
    Maze

    Top shelf of tour second set action right there. Love the after midnight jam. Like the LUOLMA jam from Atlanta nice to see them pushing the boundaries of the standard blues shuffle type jam

    Great stuff.

  17. dusty Says:

    Hampton 97II still gets my vote for energy levels blowing the roof off the joint. I still can’t listen to cowfunk era without messing up my expectations.

    Side note…cleaning out the house yesterday and found 6 cases (lagunitas) of cassettes and 2 cases of dats. What in the world to do with these. Some have decent fillers or ones I recorded here and there. Blast from the past. I laid out a bunch of the cooler tape covers and took a picture. Man do I miss tape covers.

  18. marcoesq Says:

    hells yes, love the pnc1 goodness. that 2nd set is durty

  19. Fly Says:

    Hi friends

    Getting pumped for Ball 2.0. First 30 min jam of 3.0!

    @AJ if you ever think I could masquerade as you, I’m always down for a China trip

    Damn you must eat well, banquet style

    I’m jealous; don’t be a jaded China vet! But I feel you. SO much flying, bro. And prob no time for yourself.

    Oh shit, right, Piper->MFMF. On second not intoxicated listen it was good but not epic. Def worth a playlist spot but prob not a go to piece, as the segue is very nice but came at the expense of the jam going stratosphere

    Fly out

  20. thedayman Says:

    wow this darien 46 days is pretty hot. some stellar guitar acrobatics by big red. but then again, i cant remember the last not smoking version of this song.

    would love to see them open up a second set with it and take the outro jam out for a ride.

  21. marcoesq Says:

    Wow, there were 84 one-timers played this tour. That stat just hit me upside the head

  22. Kaveh Says:

    @AW: Listening to that segment right now. I got all of tour in front of me and keep jumping around from show to show; pulling what I think and what has been offered here as good solid chunks is sinister Phish 3.0. Thanks everyone!

  23. marcoesq Says:

    yeah, could definitely see a big 46 days to open up a SB set

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    went out to dinner tuesday w/ the kids we went to Charlotte with Friday -> the gf was going on abuot how she didn’t like Icculus and the tshirt thing and thought “they went too far” .. when I tried to explain it was a joke she just really didn’t get it. When she went to the bar dude explained she thought it was antichrist messaging. Fucking hilarious. Guess she hasn’t read the right book.

  25. marcoesq Says:

    haha, “Chicks don’t dig Icculus”

Leave a Reply