Segueing Out of Summer

9.4.11 Graham Lucas via webcast)

Phish slammed the door on their greatest three-night stand of the year last night, again crushing two sets of highlight-ridden music for their Denver audience. In their tour finale, the band unveiled a spectacular final set littered with buttery segues, smoking improv, and the razor-sharp musical marksmanship displayed throughout three glorious nights in the Rocky Mountains.

9.4.11 (M.Stein)

Once summer’s last set kicked off with “Rock and Roll,” it would be quite some time before the band put their instruments down for a breath of air. Another frame of Phish in which the highlight was “the entire thing,” the band closed tour in high-style with a set teeming with creativity and seamless communication. Moving from “Rock and Roll’s” full-throttle shred fest, the band dropped into half-time—a pit of musical quicksand that slowed things into a swampy realm immediately. As the band was breaking down the music into its next stage, Trey began layering the iconic introductory lick to Abbey’s Road’s “Come Together” into the mix. As the band latched onto the idea and crafted a smooth transition into the song, they dusted off the Beatles’ classic for the first time since Cleveland on December 8, 1995. And just as the band smoothly as they spliced the set’s first two selections, so would they their next two, sculpting fluid transitions into “Twist” and then “Piper.” I know I’ve said this in the previous two reviews, but the band—again—oozed a vigor and confidence unseen even at UIC’s previous trifecta only two weeks ago. Such demonstrative playing would take them  through my favorite “Twist” I’ve heard in some time—an intricate four-part exchange that possessed a laid-back yet directional quality that allowed the piece to breathe while still never losing momentum. All night long, Trey’s lead lines attracted a white-hot spotlight, and within this “Twist,” his playing absolutely shone. Completely within context and without missing a beat, he laid down “Low Rider’s” melody, another idea on which the band smoothed right into as they jammed on War’s ‘70s relic before slipping right back into “Twist.” The seamless transitions continued as Phish morphed, with uber-patience, from “Twist” into its song mate from birth in 1997, “Piper.”

Page on Theremin (G.Lucas via webcast)

At this juncture, the set had still not stopped for a moment and the band was absolutely on fire. Under such circumstances, there was no better place to launch into than the wide-open musical fields of “Piper.” A piece that takes no time at all to get into deep waters did so especially last night, as Phish locked into a whole-band groove early on and with ease. And from there, the improvisational beast of the night would truly take foot. Moving through infectious dance patterns at a mile a minute—a vibrant illustration of musical density—Phish took hold of the jam by the jugular and never let go. Never meandering and directed like an inanimate assassin, the jam sprang to life as the music coursed through the band from another dimension. Passing through several sections of hard-edged rhythms, including an indiscernible vocal chant over a sublime sequence, the show’s centerpiece culminated in a wide-open, Theramin-laced chase through a psychedelic portal. In, perhaps the most precise and fast-paced uses of his retro-futuristic toy—the magic ingredient to some of the most sublime jams of late-summer, Page led the way deep into the storage shed. And amidst this exploratory monstrosity, Trey wove in mind-melting “Mind Left Body” licks that briefly allured his band mates amidst this primordial soup.

9.4.11 (Michael Stein)

To resolve “Piper’s” journey into the center of the earth, the band brought us to heaven with the most magnificent rendition of “Harry Hood” since Worcester’s modern classic last December. A version that combined a modern staccato soundscape feel with a very old-school, whole-band assault on the song’s theme, when “Hood” is given this kind of treatment, it delivers us to places only known only to the heart and soul. With a mid-‘90s precision and sublime guitar melodies, Trey led the whole-band excursion through the holy piece with phrasing so sublime it sounded like he was narrating a story. Passionate to the core, this “Hood” provided an hugely cathartic exclamation point to the first part of the set and the shows highest high. Regal and life-affirming while also quasi-experimental, this “Hood” is a must hear and taps into the very ethos of the band.

9.4.11 (M.Stein)

Phish followed up this platinum playing with a dip into the second “Roggae” of the late-summer. It seems that the Gorge’s opening night sunset psychedelia cracked a wall in this song and its potential is now beginning to seep out. This blissful soundscape provided the perfect compliment to the sky-scraping “Hood,” and an ideal late-second set selection whose change of pace doesn’t didn’t alter the improvisational focus of the show. And at the least-expected time of the night, Phish dropped into “Ghost.”

Charging into driving, groove-rock textures, the band was locked in annihilation mode. Trey and Page simply went to town, riding their galloping rhythm section into a highly-danceable version. Well into a highly danceable version, Trey unleashed a bold and familiar lick, but before I had time to process what it was, the band had slid right into their cult-classic “Guy Forget” for the first time since Phoenix 2000, and only the second time ever. Blending right out of the “Ghost” jam, the band finally returned their ever-elusive piece to the live stage after several soundchecks over the past few weeks. A smashing highlight in a set—and weekend—filled to the brim with mind-numbing musicianship, the band crushed the “Ghost -> Guy Forget -> Ghost” combination, and then closed the set with a searing run though “Walls of the Cave” within one week of the ten-year anniversary of 9-11. Bringing the set full circle with a “Rock and Roll” tease within the fiery “Walls” jam, when Phish had finally did put their instruments down, no one could possible have asked for anything more.

The summer tour that once loomed like a never-ending monster has finally been laid to rest. With three shows that represent the crème de la crème of 2011, the band has completed their 33-show path, and—god damn—the Golden Age of Phish has reached a whole new level of excellence! In a perfectly-placed encore, the band concluded its summer of reinvention with the song that represents of the rebirth of Phish, and hearkened back to the unknown, though limitless, possibilities of 2009. Well, two years later, as Trey sang “The only rule is it begins” amidst a triumphant tour-closing jam, the words of promise have never rung truer.

9.4.11 (G.Lucas via webcast)

First Set Thoughts: The third outstanding first set of Denver opened with a bang in the form of “Maze”—the first time the song has opened a show since Albany on December 9, 1995. Spirited versions of “Back on the Train” and “Rift” set up the first set gem—and one of the best single jams in the entire show—“Bathtub Gin.” Running an absolute guitar clinic, Trey broke out countless licks in his repertoire in a rare showcase of such focused, six-string acrobatics outside of Trey tour. And with the complimentary support of his band mates, Trey signed his autograph forwards, backwards, and upside-down on a version that immediately jumped out as the most groovalicious in ages. Thought not extending the time of the song very much, Phish has now learned how to make “Tube” into a beast again. Last night’s version was the second consecutive outing that popped with creativity and shining luster. A compact, though incredibly intense “Timber” followed before “Chalk Dust” closed its summer with another creative—though more contained—adventure. With three consecutive first sets of substance, and six straight sets of top-notch Phish, the band flew out to Colorado and wrote their own narrative of How the West Was Won.

I: Maze, Back on the Train, Rift, Bathtub Gin, The Way It Goes*, Halfway to the Moon, Gumbo, Halley’s Comet > Tube, Timber, Roses Are Free, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Rock and Roll -> Come Together -> Twist** -> Piper > Harry Hood > Roggae > Ghost -> Guy Forget -> Ghost, Walls of the Cave

E: Backwards Down the Number Line

*debut, Gillian Welch, ** w/ “”Low Rider” jam

9.4.11 (Graham Lucas via webcast)

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1,016 Responses to “Segueing Out of Summer”

  1. Lycanthropist Says:

    CO shows just move me in a very deep way.

  2. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Cannot figure What I like the most from this past weekend aside from all of it.

  3. Kurt from Indy Says:

    arent we all just sooo happy how the yearrrrr-summer has culminated!? so fine so fine each time around has seemed to represent a turning point but really they were just showing us how awesome theyve been in different ways, however CO has got to be the peak with 3 shows top 2 bottom just silly good, each one getting better, and, adding sentimental value

  4. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Colorado Phish!!

  5. Kurt from Indy Says:

    such a great summer cause theres still jams from the first show throughout the 1st half of summer that can stack up w anything, but the 2nd half is just more heavily weighted with monsters and slick shred/shed jams which couldnt make me happier

  6. Cable Hogue Says:

    I still haven’t quite processed what an incredible experience listening to the S show was for me. I was moved by that webcast in pretty much the same way as any show I’ve been at. Headspace set and setting had much to do with it, but it was a truly transcendent experience. Listening to Seven Below through Slave, on a back porch in New Hampshire, with great friends, on a perfectly clear summer night with a sky full of stars and a head full of colors, I firmly believe that I was at that show in spirit. And it was good. Didn’t see one second of video for the show, didn’t miss it in the least…haven’t listened back at all, it was a special experience for me.

    This vermonter’s going to do what he can to get into this benefit.

  7. Cable Hogue Says:

    BTW, saw TVOTR in Boston tonight. Loved it. Crappy venue (Harborlights pav in Boston), but the energy and groove was undeniable. Great live act.

  8. Kurt from Indy Says:

    ^ thats really cool, i was in one of those suites at the show so it was really different than anything id done before, webcasts are cool, but still havent been to a totally bitchin set up with a crew, we didnt have a great view of the stage but our amenities were great, great music, great firends, great times, great location, its a tough situation to find shitty stuff, im pretty sure i still danced my ass off during julius, but then again ive always loved front row balconies

  9. Kurt from Indy Says:

    i guess just cant find enough good things to say about that CO weekend and i didnt even take any L.

    @cable, cool man, i imagine it would be fun to catch them live, glad ya enjoyed them

  10. Kurt from Indy Says:

    getting to guess w your best buddies what the next song was going to be… each song made me laugh, loved it

  11. Tom Says:

    Yeah Cable, was looking forward to going to that, but I had to leave for college

  12. Cable Hogue Says:

    I believe @Miner was asking a few pages back what Trey was singing/chanting during “Piper”…I believe it was a riff on the lyrics to “Roadrunner” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers…..

  13. Kurt from Indy Says:

    so i cant help but think that for nye they would of course plow up again, right? but then theres no fall tour…. rust? hopefully they write a new song called rust thats even better than steam! and msg roof blow off

  14. voopa Says:

    Yep Cab-

  15. Kurt from Indy Says:


  16. RedRedWorm Says:

    The cohesiveness yet looseness of all 3 nights in CO is truly astonishing and is why I travel long and far to see this band. Just ecstatic to see the band playing at this level again. Quite the exclamation point (and way much more) to what had already been an incredible Summer!

    Thank you Mr. Miner for all that you do for the scene as well. Don’t post much, but love reading the reviews and intelligent and witty commentary around these parts.

    See you at all at NYE (hopefully)

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