Due to the copious amount of great music that came out of summer’s opening leg, one jam has been notably missing from many discussions of top-shelf highlights from June. After three-nights of fire in the Midwest, Phish returned to the east coast for a mid-week stop in Great Woods. Sandwiched between their Midwestern throwdown and a groovalicious night in Darien, its not surprising that Great Woods—a venue that should be renamed Mediocre Woods for this era—has been glossed over. Thought there wasn’t a lot of highlight material at Mansfield compared to other shows of June, but towards the beginning of the second set, Phish threw down a version of “Rock and Roll” that stands up to just about anything played over the entire tour.
Before the band had even launched from the song’s classic rock textures, creativity defined their interplay. As Trey annihilated his solo, his band mates were similarly crushing the piece—Page on piano and Mike dropping high-octane bass lines—in a showcase of torrid energy. And though the band was connected early on in this standout jam, things got far more interesting once they entered uncharted territory.
Flowing into a sparser musical texture, Mike took the lead with bold offerings as Page hopped up to his clav and Trey chopped atypical rhythms licks over a powerfully rolling beat. The band’s fluent communication translated right into this new sequence, and as they, collectively, slowed the jam down, the music grew more engaging by the moment. Once they reached a certain tempo, the guys quickly launched into abstract, melodic interplay as Trey wove his lines over Fish’s ultra-delicate breakbeats. If the band was locked to begin with, by this juncture they were Krazy-glued together and fully tapped into to the source. Trey entered his spiritual register, repeating a melody from the gods over an increasingly ambient backdrop. And as the band converged around Trey’s theme, they immersed the audience in bliss. Moving as a single entity, the Phish had reached a golden moment.
But the jam only stayed uplifting for so long. As Trey tore off one sinister lick, the entire piece took a turn for the dark side. Mike and Fishman formed an intricate unique pocket, as Fish continued his standout playing. Trey unleashed seething guitar lines over these rhythms and the band dove into a menacing experiment, considerably upping the intensity of the music. Page offered piano comps to this darkening passage as Trey just absolutely went to town. With the band adhered in a single-minded mission, each member brought eclectic and connected phrasings to an increasingly evil brew. This sequence jam blossomed into psychedelic monstrosity, and once it reached its peak, the band allowed their wall of sound and effect to gradually wash into a drone landscape. Removing the crowd from this sonic dungeon, Trey softy played the opening lick to “Mango Song,” bringing the dark into the light and resolving the band’s dip into the netherworld.
Because the show’s relative mediocrity, this experimental “Rock and Roll”—that built directly from Phish’s Midwestern mayhem—has been wrongfully slighted in post-tour playlists and analysis. Maybe you are familiar with this jam or perhaps you’re not, but either way, click play and let this dark-horse adventure take your mind for a spin.
Jam of the Day:
“Light Up or Leave Me Alone” 6.14 I
A smoking highlight from the first night of Alpharetta’s two-night stand.2011, Jams, Summer 2011