TTFM: The Jams of 2004

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 30th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.9.04 - Hampton Coliseum

While many fans debate the year of 2003, a contingent of the community writes off 2004 all together. I am here to tell a different story. The year’s opening shows in Vegas were a complete trainwreck with only a few jams of interest, and it was after these nights in Sin City that Trey announced the band’s “retirement.” It is my theory that with this announcement, the pressure of Phish—and everything that came with it—was lifted off the guys’ shoulders and minds, thus when they took to the road for a short June tour, they saw the light at the end of the tunnel and played their hearts out. Brooklyn, SPAC, Deer Creek and Alpine—two at each—and more than a few highlights to speak of, including two of the band’s most impressive post-hiatus performances in Saratoga Springs. Then, in August, the band took their final run from Hampton to Great Woods to Camden and up to Coventry, Vermont. And despite the debacle of the festival, there are jams within this final run that deserve recognition.

After a positive response from Friday’s 2003 playlist, I thought I’d come right back and start the week with one from 2004. If you were there, you can attest to the passionate playing that Phish displayed this summer up until the very end. While there was often little precision through composed sections, there was never a lack of impressive improv—Phish could always jam. Now that they are back, happy and healthy, let’s celebrate the music of the year in which they crashed and burned! Stay tuned for part two on Friday…

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Tube” 6.24 II, Deer Creek

This version kicked off the final set at Deer Creek until Summer 2009.

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Twist” 6.20 II, SPAC

This jam—the most impressive from SPAC’s second night—was part of a seamless four-song masterpiece.

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Seven Below -> Buffalo Bill” 6.25 II, Alpine

An exploratory piece of psychedelia laced with unconventional groove.

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Antelope -> 2001” 8.11 II, Great Woods

This exceptional and out-of-left field song pairing opened the final set at Great Woods until 2009. A smoking sequence.

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Boogie On -> Ghost -> Free” 6.26 II, Alpine

Phish exploded in groove on the final night of June’s short tour.

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A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” 6.19 II, SPAC

One of my favorite jams. Period.

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46 Days > Possum” 6.17 II, Brooklyn

This “46 Days” was the centerpiece jam of the opening night of tour from Keyspan Park. Many fans watched this show at movie theatres across the nation.

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AC/DC Bag” 8.14 II, Coventry

A standout jam from Coventry? Yup.

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Scents and Subtle Sounds” 8.12 II, Camden

A tripped out final outing for “Scents” drenched in layered loops and drone effects finalized Phish’s amphitheatre tour, closing out the second set at Camden. Only Coventry remained.

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TTFF: Rewind—2003

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 27th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

7.2.11 - Super Ball (Graham Lucas)

For this Friday’s playlist, we rewind to the often-debated “post-hiatus” era. Regardless of what side of that fence you come down on, I’m sure all can appreciate these gems from 2003. Featuring a grittier, uncompressed guitar tone and uncompromising dives into experimental and psychedelic playing, Phish took things deep during their second go-round. While some jams wound up more focused than others, I hope these selections can be appreciated by fans of any era. Enjoy the distinct, “post-hiatus” sound on this winter weekend! And check out the book offer below.

***

Walls of the Cave -> Carini” 2.14.03 II, LA, CA

This monstrous jam emerged on the first night of winter tour ’03, restoring some faith after a less-than-impressive comeback run at MSG and Hampton.

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Wolfman’s -> Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.7.03 II, Phx, AZ

This gooey “Wolfman’s” jam merged with the debut of “Scents” in the desert on the opening night of Summer ’03.

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Stash” 12.31.03 II, Miami, FL

The defining jam of the first New Year’s Run in Miami.

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Seven Below” 7.13.03 II, Quincy, WA

A harrowing exploration that I missed for a high school friend’s wedding. The wedding sucked and  I haven’t seen the guy since. Fail.

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Split -> Free” 7.22.03 II, Noblesville, IN

The centerpiece of night two in Deer Creek, and probably the most lasting piece of the run.

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Twist -> Simple” 11.29.03 II, Philadelphia, PA II

This jam provided one of few highlights of a rather uninspired Thanksgiving run.

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Ya Mar” 8.2.03 II, Limestone, ME

What’s happened to the occasional “Ya Mar” jam? Some, like this one from IT, used to go deep.

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Suzy Greenberg” 12.28.03 II, Miami, FL

Phish oozes out of “Suzy” into seething jam that centers on a darkly-spiritual guitar showcase by Trey.

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Harry Hood” 7.25.03 II, Charlotte, NC

Just when Phish was beginning to break down improvisational barriers with “Harry Hood” (see Camden ’03 also), they called in quits in ’04.

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Cover (Masthay)

Get a Signed Book Now!

In case you haven’t heard via Twitter or Facebook, we are currently in a 72-hour window in which you can order “The Book” and have it signed as well as inscribed with a Phish lyric. You get to choose the song. I get to choose the lyric. This offer remains open for any orders placed by Saturday night at 8 pm Pacific. Please leave a “note” in your PayPal order telling me your choice of song! If you forget to do that, you can email me at mrminer@phishthoughts.com, but the other way works far smoother. With Valentine’s Day  just around the corner, get a book inscribed to your significant other with a lyric that means something in your life! It will last far longer than chocolate and roses! Just an idea…

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Wish List 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on January 25th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Bethel Woods - (Michael Messenbourg)

Phish had a phenomenal 2011. There is no question about it. Playing creative shows and jamming on a level unseen in this era, the band raised the bar for themselves moving forward. But apart from their playing—the obviously most important part— there are some aspects of their live show that could use a little polish. With some attention to the following departments, I believe Phish shows can elevate on a more consistent basis in 2012.

Diversified Jam Vehicles

When “Light,” “Down With Disease,” “Rock and Roll” or “Piper” starts, everyone knows that we are almost guaranteed an exploratory jaunt. In fact, these songs comprised seven of my Top Ten jams of the year. At the same time, we all know—at this point—that when many other songs start, we are destined for a contained jam (or none at all), with “Tweezer” and “Carini” being two of the few songs that can still move in either direction. As a result, the element of improvisational surprise has largely been erased from Phish shows.

9.2.11 (Lucas via webcast)

In 2012, it would be great to see the band diversify their launch pads and jam out of different songs regularly. This would lessen the predictability of shows and spice up the live experience. With the band’s chops fully in tow after an very creative year, it feels like it’s time to begin switching things up a bit. The jams that stemmed from the aforementioned four songs differed greatly and were prolific, spanning the spectrum of Phish’s repertoire. Thus, it’s not band’s jamming that has become predictable, just where the jams will come from. In all of 2011, the only times the band brought an unexpected song into exploratory territory was Bethel’s “Halley’s Comet,” PNC’s “After Midnight,” Blossom’s “Sneakin’ Sally,” Super Ball’s “Golden Age,” the Gorge’s “Roggae,” and UIC’s “Undermind.” Six times in 38 shows just isn’t that often. Though the band did bring “Waves” back into the improvisational mix this year, there are plenty of more pieces in their catalog that the could be brought back in similar fashion. Additionally, what if they took “Halfway to the Moon” for a ride? And this brings me to my next wish…

New Material

Because 2012 seems like it will be a light touring year, it feels relatively unlikely that we will see a host of new material infused into Phish shows. But in their fourth year of the modern era, the band sorely needs a new batch of songs. Having thoroughly played through their 2009 album Joy during the last three years, 3.0 Phish needs some more originals. If this is truly about moving forward, let’s keep moving. “Steam” represented the sole debut of 2011, a song that holds huge potential. But the rumors of a new Phish album have faded into the background. When the band dropped into “Steam’s” debut in Blossom’s second set, there came with it a freshness; this was Phish in the here and now. We were hearing a sick new music for the first time ever—it was exciting! It would behoove the band to roll out some more originals—including brand new jam vehicles—and bring a whole new element of excitement to their shows.

The Resurrection of Two Favorites

(Jiggs Lot)

In addition to new material, the band really needs to bring two of their most open-ended jams back to prominence—“Tweezer” and “Ghost.” While Phish did throw down two excellent versions of “Tweezer” last year in Denver and Cincinnati, “Ghost” all but vanished from the scene with only one standout rendition in Charlotte. These two songs have traditionally been two of Phish’s most significant and exploratory jams; pieces that could go anywhere and would. And still, each time either of these songs started last year, that was the feeling I got. But aside from these three aforementioned examples—and they were spectacular—Phish never crafted a truly memorable jam out of either. Two of the band’s heaviest hitters should be highlights almost every time out of the gate, but neither has remained as consistent as in the past. The return of these two improvisational behemoths could greatly bolster any show they appear in.

More “Storage Jamming”

After playing a standout late-night set at Super Ball, Phish began to integrate this abstract, often Theremin-laced, style of improvisation into their live shows. As a result, some of the most original and groundbreaking jams took place during the second leg of Summer Tour. Hopefully, Phish will continue to explore this style of jamming during 2012. As in every era in their history, Phish may have found their newest “sound” within these abstract, psychedelic soundscapes. And as they continue to explore this style, nuances and tangential approaches will no doubt develop. “Storage jamming” represented Phish moving forward last year, as one would only hope that this innovative approach is built upon in the year to come.

Setlist Flow

(via Coventry Blog)

Though Phish, far more often than not, threw down shows that flowed quite well last year, they also were prone to some boneheaded calls. For a band leader who, self-admittedly, used to pore over setlists for hours upon hours perfecting the way the show moved from beginning to end, Trey made some questionable off the cuff decisions during 2011. There are two separate—and minor—issues here: the abrupt ending, or cutting off, of jams, and song placement. Let’s look at the first.

Two times last year, deepening “Tweezer” jams (Alpharetta and Super Ball) were cut off abruptly for mid-set versions of “Julius”—talk about deflating the sense of intrigue. Two times “Ghost” got lopped before any sense of a jam really got going (PNC and UIC) in favor of more innocuous songs. Just on New Year’s Eve, when “Disease” settled out of its thematic rock and roll into a murky groove, Trey opted for the fade out. These types of instances were manifold last year, and most often it was Trey barging in with a new idea while his mates were still entrenched in a jam. And the irony of most of these occasions is that another thirty seconds of patience and communication could have allowed the band to merge the two songs with legitimate flow. Why does this continue to happen? I don’t think anyone will ever know.

12.28.11 (G.Lucas)

The second aspect that occasionally plagued sets last year was song placement. No offense to the big guy, of course, but in the case of the two aforementioned “Tweezers,” “Julius” just doesn’t belong in the middle of the second set. Nor does “Guyute” or “Theme” or “Alaska” for that matter, all of which were featured in prominent second set slots throughout the year. In my estimation, finite rockers and intricate compositions don’t make for mid-second set pieces—there is simply no mystery involved. Everyone knows exactly where the song is going. Phish’s most powerful second sets are largely composed of jam vehicles and show stoppers, with natural landing pads, exhales and ballads mixed in. Sure, there are song-based shows where this paradigm flies out the window, but in general, “Julius” works far better at the end of a set as a rocking denouement than wedged awkwardly in the middle. Compositions like “Fluffhead” and “My Friend, My Friend” both which found their way into the middle of second sets during 2011, work far better as a closer and an opener, respectively. And straightforward songs like “The Wedge” or “Alaska” work best in the first set, not the second. These observations seem obvious to me and many others, and thus when they happen live, they seem all the more absurd. (See “Alaska > Velvet Sea” on NYE.) But alas, as I said to begin with, most shows of 2011 flowed quite nicely.

As we wait for the dates of 2012, it seems like the proper time to reflect on the year that was. And though Phish played better in 2011 than either of the previous two years, there are always parts of the show that could be sharpened. If the creative jamming continues to flow, perhaps some of these elements will fall into place. Or perhaps they won’t. But that’s my wishlist for Phish 2012.

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TTFF: Relics of ’98

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 20th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Denver 2011

This Friday’s playlist is composed of jams from a different era. All of the songs featured today have taken a back seat during the modern era of Phish, but were once central jam vehicles. I decided to pluck stellar versions from 1998 to add cohesion to the selections. Enjoy the tunes today and through the weekend!

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2001” 7.17.98 II

One of the all-time classic versions that never gets old.

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Tube” 7.16.98 II

The wide-open funk of the Gorge.

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Mike’s Song” 11.7.98 I

A somewhat glossed-over version that came as the second song of UIC ’98.

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Halley’s Comet > I Didn’t Know” 8.3.98 I

The opening jam of Deer Creek ’98. Might we be returning this summer?

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Free” 11.9.98 I

A crunchy first-set beast from UIC ’98; an instant classic.

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Cities” 7.31.98 II

Another quintessential piece of Summer ’98 from Polaris.

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Wolfman’s Brother -> Lizards” 11.18.98 II

One of the lesser discussed shows of Fall ’98—Greenville, South Carolina—had plenty to talk about.

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AC/DC Bag” 8.9.98 II

A smoking summertime version from Virginia Beach; the centerpiece jam from the night they covered “Terrapin Station.”

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You Enjoy Myself” 12.29.98 II

YEMSG ’98.

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Doubling Down?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 19th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

12-30-2011 (Graham Lucas)

Amidst the many rumors spiraling through cyberspace regarding Phish’s 2012 touring plans, two have taken hold and seem to have some legs. Coincidentally, the two stands that seem to be materializing are located in each coast’s gambling mecca—Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Each of the rumors have been semi-corroborated by a Las Vegas newspaper reporter and Atlantic City’s mayor, giving them a bit more substance than your everyday Internet hearsay. Since both are seeming somewhat likely at this point in time, let’s take a closer look at the buzz.

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LAS VEGAS: March 30 – April 1 ??

Vegas, Baby?

Phish only played on April Fool’s Day in their early years, the last time coming in Portland, Oregon in 1993. If this strongly rumored run goes down, this would mark the first time in 19 years that the band would perform on this made-for-Phish, prankster holiday. Just yesterday, Las Vegas Sun columnist, J. Patrick Coolican tweeted, “Phish fans: Source sez negotiations for a 2/3 nite VEGAS run APRIL FOOLS DAY have taken new intensity. 80-20 likely, sez source.” This tweet aligns with what I have been hearing from multiple sources, thus a return to the Thomas and Mack Center seems like a distinct possibility.

While I am always down for Vegas Phish, the timing on this stand seems a bit quirky. Mike is playing with his solo band at Jam in the Dam in mid-March and then playing another date in London on March 18. Trey will be focused on his symphony tour until March 10th. These two factors alone, regardless of what Page and Fish are doing during, would preclude much practice time before the first show on March 30th. Could they pull it off with but a ten-day buffer? Of course. Might the run turnout straightforward and contained as a result of the time crunch? Quite Possibly. It seems like latter-day Phish benefits from practice even more so than in previous eras, as their lives are diversified more than ever. These Vegas shows would be just the 5th, 6th, and 7th,performances since Labor Day 2010, and practice would seem more necessary than usual. We shall see what develops.

*****

ATLANTIC CITY: June 15 – 17 ??

Atlantic City

While Phish headlining at Bonnaroo is another rumor that has been circulating with strength, this three-day Atlantic City run would represent a Phish-only “festival” at Bader Field. Atlantic City’s City Council has already approved festivals for June 15-17 and June 24-25, and the mayor alluded to the former being a “jam band” festival that is expected to attract 30,000 fans. With Starr-Hill, Coran Capshaw’s sister company of Red Light Management, slated to throw these events (the other of which, allegedly, features a “rock band”) it is but a forgone conclusion that Phish will play these dates. Further confirmation comes in the fact that that the Dave Matthews Band, who brought their Caravan tour to Bader Field last summer, will not be returning for either of these dates. Many fans have taken all of this info, put one and one together, and booked hotel rooms for this weekend.

This run could conceivably come at the end of a short run in May and June (with Bethel rumored for Memorial Day weekend) and, if so, AC would be a great place to end a tour. As I discussed last week, three-night stands were Phish’s bread and butter last year, and another trifecta in AC—like Halloween 2010—seems like a great time for all. With all hotels in close proximity to each other, the post-music part of this “festival” would take place in the casinos and hotels up and down The Boardwalk rather than in campgrounds and RVs—a different mid-summer twist. And if you poll the fan base, I think you’ll find few fans who didn’t have a blast in Atlantic City last time around, so here’s to hoping this one comes to fruition!

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Jam of the Day:

Help -> Slip -> Bag” 4.1.86 II

In honor of a possible April Fool’s Day show, here was how Phish opened up their second set of 4/1/86’s “Festival of Fools” at Hunt’s in Burlington—the classic “Help -> Slip -> Bag.”

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The All-Star Songs of 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on January 17th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

12.30.2011 (Joe Iudice)

All “Type II” First Team

“Rock and Roll”—With several top-shelf versions last year, “Rock and Roll” is the unquestionable choice for MVP of 2011. When the band wasn’t crafting timeless pieces of music out of the jam—a la Gorge, Mansfield, or Charlotte—they were usually pushing the envelope with experimental playing—a la Merriweather and MSG. Hands down, the launchpad of the year.

“Light”—For the duration of its short life as a Phish song, “Light” has been a vehicle for cosmic improvisation. First the jam brought mostly ambient experiments, and then in Fall 2010, the band began to take the piece into the realm of quickened groove. This year, the band used their modern era jam to explore futuristic soundscapes that often showcased Mike’s lead bass playing. Phish focused more on this song as the year progressed, coming to life in Portsmouth and Super Ball before breaking sonic barriers in Lake Tahoe and UIC. Capping its year with Denver’s “Light -> Disease” Reprise” and a New Year’s Eve Theremin jam, “Light” remained in the upper echelon of jam vehicles.

“Down With Disease”—Between Clarkston’s “A Disease Supreme,” UIC’s extended jaunt, and many other versions in between, “Disease” has become “Old Reliable” for modern day Phish. Almost always moving into original ground and pushing the band far outside the box, “Disease” had yet another standout year in 2011.

“Piper”—A staple jam vehicle of post-hiatus and the modern era, “Piper” starred, once again, in 2011, taking the band into uncharted territory time and time again. Highlighted by Denver and MSG’s versions, “Piper” also had strong outings at the Hollywood Bowl, Super Ball, Raleigh and Merriweather, as the band created a diverse spectrum of jams.

“Waves”—A song that was a staple of the post-hiatus era came back in 2011 with a vengeance. After being played only three times in 2009, the song skipped 2010 altogether, and came back with strong last year. Although the band only played the song four times, three of them were incredibly memorable. Between its outings at Bethel, Super Ball, and UIC—all summer highlights—“Waves” got back on the train with some profound renditions in 2011.

*****

All “Type I” First Team

“Sand”—Just about ever time Phish played “Sand” last year, it ballooned into a show highlight. Having transformed into a whole-band jam during the fall of 2010, the song exemplified this paradigm shift last summer with intricate four-part conversations. If there was a Type I MVP, “Sand” would no doubt take home the trophy. Every time one heard those opening chords, a furious dance session was sure to follow

“Harry Hood”—The final “Harry Hood” of 2010—Worcester’s instant classic—set the bar high for the band’s classic song in 2011. And while the guys didn’t replicate such a monumental version in 2011, they played more than a few above-average versions. Trey began to integrate the stacatto stylings of Worcester’s version into several “Hoods” this year, including a standout renditions at UIC and the version of the year in Denver. But every time played, “Hood” seemed to carry a little something extra in 2011, beginning with its very first performance of the year in Bethel, NY.

“Chalk Dust Torture”—From Clarkston’s first-set-ending version to Tahoe’s mid-second-set shredder and from UIC’s aggressive jam to MSG’s surreal dissolve into “Hydrogen,” Phish actually used “Chalk Dust” creatively last year rather than treating it as a straightforward single. This old-school staple produced more than a few well-played surprises throughout the year, earning a place on this list.

“Crosseyed and Painless”—Though Phish hasn’t taken “Crosseyed” off the map since Red Rock’s in ’09, Phish has consistently crushed the Taking Heads’ cover. Annihilating the song’s infectious composed jam on many occasions this year, “Crosseyed” became a regular part of the bands’ rotation and a reliable piece of high octane rock and roll every time out of the gate.

“Bathtub Gin”—Including highlight versions to start the year in Bethel and to end the year in Denver, “Bathtub Gin” brought plenty of fire throughout 2011. Consistently cathartic jams stemmed from “Bathtub,” and though most stayed within structure, almost every version provided a jolt of energy to its show. Often coming at the beginning shows in 2011, “Gin” never failed to get things started and feet moving during first sets last year. Other standout versions include Super Ball’s, from the festivals opening set, and The Gorge’s, which sparked the second leg of summer.

MVP: “Rock and Roll”

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: “Waves”

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: “Steam”

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Jams of the Day:

Chalk Dust Torture” 8.16.11 I, UIC

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Sand” 6.11.11 I, MPP

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Weekend Nuggets: MSG Highlights

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

“Tweezer” 12.28 II (HarpuaFSB)

*****

“Piper -> Twist” 12.30.11  (mkdevo)

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Jam of the Weekend:

Down With Disease > Free” 6.10.11 II

Another monster “Disease” from last year, this one from Camden, New Jersey.

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TTFF: More Type II From 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Watkins Glen (Brian Ferguson)

This week, I figured I’d highlight some of the outstanding jams that didn’t make my personal “Top Ten” last week. This Friday’s playlist comes from the many Honorable Mentions from last Friday’s post. But as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so any “ranking” is purely opinion-based. Enjoy these ten gems—in no particular order—from the last year, while the 2012 rumor mill is already churning.

***

Down With Disease > No Quarter” 7/3, Watkins Glen, NY

There were so many great “Diseases” last year that Super Ball’s version, which is quite impressive, doesn’t often get mentioned. Powerful whole-band interplay laces this festival outing before the guys gradually moved into “No Quarter.”

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Roggae” 8/5, The Gorge, Quincy, WA

This best-ever version of “Roggae” graced The Gorge at sunset before the band came out at night and dropped the defining music of this era.

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Sneakin’ Sally” 6/4, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

The band builds from robofunk into some out-of-character psychedelia in one of the year’s most satisfying groove-based excursions.

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Seven Below” 9/2, Denver, CO

This part of the “S” show was, perhaps, the most innovative jam from the summer’s final run.

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Boogie -> Waves > Caspian” 5/27, Bethel, NY

The sequence that started 2011’s improvisational focus on the very first night of summer.

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Simple” 1/1, NYC, NY

This blissful piece of improv moves into an ending so good that it could have been composed.

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Drowned > Maze” 5/31, Holmdel, NJ

Phish gets into some dark and abstract music in “Drowned” that foreshadowed the Storage Jam at Super Ball.

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Carini -> Tweezer” 12/28, NYC, NY

A dark-to-light “Carini” blended seamlessly into a funked-out “Tweezer—a high point of the New Year’s Run.

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Light -> Dirt” 8/15, Chicago, IL

Another bass-led adventure through a musical wormhole.

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After Midnight” 5/31, Holmdel, NJ

This surprise opener of PNC’s second set of four, went deeper than any version since Big Cypress.

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Three Of A Kind

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 11th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Throughout the Summer, Phish performed no less than four three-nights stands: to start the summer in Bethel, to end the Summer Tour in Denver, a mid-season festival in Watkins Glen, and a return to the intimate environs of UIC Pavilion in Chicago to cap Leg Two. Within these three-night affairs, the band was able to showcase the full spectrum of their playing styles, and got a chance to settle into one room (or one stage) and really let things loose. Without the pressure of only two sets and onto the next city, three nights allowed Phish to musically move any direction they so desired, while giving fans a three-day break from the road. Inevitably, as the band relaxed into these four stands, some of the best shows and jams of the summer resulted. Let’s take a look at last summer’s three-nighters in chronological order.

Bethel Woods, 5/27-5/29

Official Bethel Print (Stout)

Phish came blasting out of the gates at Bethel Woods last summer, kicking off June’s tour—and 2011—in mind-bending fashion. Though the band had gained considerable momentum during the second half of Fall 2010, and played a legit New Year’s Run, nobody expected to experience what went down in Bethel over Memorial Day weekend. When the band came out blazing after an almost six month layoff, many fans expected a warm up show for the first show of tour. But May 27th proved to be anything but a warm up, starting a trend of very significant tour-opening shows 2011.

Bethel Woods (Chris Klein)

The first night at Bethel Woods, though featuring an above average first set, was all about the second. Centered on the psychedelic joyride of “Boogie On > Waves > Caspian > Crosseyed,” the band played with far more confidence and audacity than we had observed at MSG. And the second night of the stand shook the Phish universe to the core. Putting together the most impressive two set show of the modern era up to that point, the band absolutely destroyed the northern New York venue with two sets of barn burning Phish. Highlights of this second night include, “Cities,” “Halley’s Comet,” “Runaway Jim,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Disease > Free,” “Number Line,” and “Harry Hood.” Everything Phish touched turned to gold on this night, and it was this show on May 28th that caused many fans to begin rearranging their summer plans—3.0 Phish had never been like this before.

On the third night in Bethel, the band ran out of creative gas, as they played a straightforward rock and roll show to their salivating crowd. And while this show has likely gotten little play on anyone’s iPod, the safe Sunday night affair seemed just fine on the heels of the improvisational exploits of the first two shows.

Super Ball 7/1-7/3

Super Ball (G.Lucas)

Though Indio provided an idyllic backdrop for Festival 8, it just didn’t feel the same. But when fans began to populate Watkins Glen International on June 30th, the entire infrastructure of the festival felt far more like the dreamlike weekends of lore. With themed art installations and notably smaller grounds, Super Ball was the user-friendliest Northeast festival to date. And boy did Phish respond. The first day with filled with fiery playing throughout both sets, with the improvisational highlight coming with an ethereal and ambient take on “Simple.” The second day of the festival began to heat up in earnest towards the end of the second set, setting up a monstrous nightcap. The third set of the day was one flowing highlight whose centerpiece sequence read “Golden Age > Piper > Caspian > Tweezer.” The bonus here was the only jammed out “Golden Age” to date, less a small funk jam at Darien. The exploratory spirit applied to this festival version would vanish during second leg of summer, as the TV On the Radio cover became an anthem rather than a vehicle for jamming. “Twist > 2001 > Harry Hood” provided the other highlight segment of the set before the band continued to play random singles, compromising the cohesion of the frame as a whole. But when this set ended, the true highlight of the festival began.

The Storage Jam (B.Ferguson)

The Ball Square Jam. The Storage Jam. Call it what you will, Phish’s late-night surprise set—a rite missing from Indio—returned with smashing success at Super Ball. Guised within an artistic rendition of a self-storage shed and immersed in an hour-long rotation jam, the band explored  some of the most experimental music of their career. This jam saw the return of Page’s Theremin, a gimmick he had used in 1996, that he brought back with a whole new skill set. This instrument would make its way into some of the most engaging Phish jams during the second leg of summer—The Gorge’s “Rock and Roll” UIC’s “Undermind,” and Denver’s “Piper. This dark and wholly abstract style of play that was broadcast to fans in surround sound, would establish a new style of improv for the second leg of Summer—“Storage Jamming.” And it would only take hours before this style began seeping into their live show.

On the final day of Super Ball, Phish came out and played, arguably, their strongest two-set show of the year. The band tore every piece to shreds, whether it was the first set’s “Destiny Unbound,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” or “Reba,” or the second set’s “Disease -> No Quarter, “Light,” or “Waves -> What’s the Use?.” Phish had IT on July 3rd, and played a memorable show laced with full-band interplay that is among the best of the entire year.

UIC Pavilion 8/15-8/17

Unofficial UIC (Ortiz)

Phish had a rich legacy at UIC Pavilion before stepping foot in the venue last summer. With two standout ’94 shows and a legendary three-night run in the fall of ’98, the band returned to a venue where they had exclusively spat fire. And for the first two nights, that is exactly what they did. “The Elements Set” needs no introduction, as the second set of 8/15 has become fan favorite from the moment it happened. The quintessential frame of  “all killer, no filler,” Phish barely stopped for air while cranking through “Sand -> Light > Dirt, Waves > Undermind > Steam > Fire.” Not to mention a stellar first set that puts this show squarely in the running for the two-setter of the year

On the second night in the Chicago, the band came back with just as much gusto and creativity, applying their skills most furiously in the first set during standout versions of “Chalk Dust” and “Limb by Limb.” But the massive version of “Down With Disease” that opened the second set stole the show, moving through countless interesting realms before the band calmly migrated into “Twist.” Trey anchored the middle of the set with strong solos in “Number Line” and “Theme,” before the band got back at it with an increasingly rare “YEM” to close the night.

The third night opened in promising fashion with the old-school Gamehednge staple “Colonel Forbin’s > Mockingbird,” but considerably fizzled thereafter. The highlight sequence of this show was the pairing of “Crosseyed” and “No Quarter” to jump start the second set, but after that, though great songs kept coming, no musical excitement accompanied them. Thus when “Tweezer” and “Ghost” passed with virtually no jamming, the energy of the set deflated considerably. The band kept the fun high by continuing to work in vocal teases of “Still Waiting” in just about every song of the set, and after two nights of serious musicianship, though this show felt a little empty at the time, it suited the last night of tour just fine—kinda.

Denver, Colorado 9/2-9/4

Official Denver Print (LandLand!)

Simply put, Phish’s Labor Day weekend run at Dick’s soccer stadium was their strongest and most consistent three-night stand of the year. Punctuating their touring season with three of its strongest shows—all including smoking first sets—this run represented 2011 Phish at its finest. Beginning with the “S” show, Phish threw down jams with airtight communication, highlighted by the forward-looking experiment that grew out of “Seven Below.” But beyond jamming, the band was playing inspired music all night long in a show that also featured “Sneakin’ Sally > Sparks,” and “Scents and Subtle Sounds > Slave.”

After a fiery opening set on the second night in which even song sprung to life with vitality, the band played one of the most on point second sets of summer. Kicking off with “Disease -> Tweezer,” the “Tweezer” jam immediately transformed into one of the IT moments of this era, as the band came together in a life-affirming musical masterpiece. After splicing a spirited version of “Golden Age” and a shredtastic “Kill Devil Falls” into the mix, Phish arrived at the second profound moment of the set—“2001 > Light -> Disease Reprise.” Taking risks and succeeding like champions, the band had the switch locked in the “On” position all night long, including the standout “Antelope” with “Disease” teases that ended the set.

9.4.11 (M.Stein)

And unlike any other three-night stand during the year, Phish came out and played their third, consecutive standout show in Denver. Opening with “Maze” and continuing with first set highpoints of “Tube” “Timber,” and “Bathtub Gin,” the band certainly meant business on their final night of summer. Centering the final set of Colorado around a sublime triumvirate of “Twist – > Piper > Harry Hood,” the band’s playing was at top level at this point in the year, as they flew through jams with immense creativity and immaculate proficiency. Add a surreal second-set “Roggae” and “Ghost -> the second “Guy Forget” of all time -> Ghost,” and we’ve got yet a third contender for show of the summer—all from Dick’s alone! A raucous “Walls of the Cave” closer slammed the door shut on Summer Tour 2011—by far and away—the most magnificent tour since Phish’s 2009 return.

These three-night stands provided benchmarks along the road of Summer Tour. When looking at the consistency of music throughout these four stands, one can easily observe the transformative nature of Phish music last year. Building off of 2009 and 2010, during 2011, the band began to forge new improvisational pathways for their music, craft timeless jams that stand up to any era of Phish, and rewrite the record books for what is possible in this era. It took a couple of years to get there, but in 2011, the band exploded with the type of consistently creative playing that I—and many others—had faith would return. From Bethel to Super Ball to UIC to Denver, the three-night stands in 2011 centralized the band and community for some of the most enthralling experiences of the year. We’ll see what 2012 brings, but if I had to guess, I bet we see a couple more of these musical trifectas.

7.3.11 - Super Ball (Graham Lucas)

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2011’s “Type I” Highlight Reel

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 9th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.6.11 - The Gorge (Graham.Lucas)

Phish’s current creativity is far-reaching, seeping into all parts of their show and certainly extends beyond their exploratory jamming highlighted on Friday. I was going to wait until this coming Friday to highlight the band’s best contained, or “type I,” jamming of  2011, but instead, let’s get right to it! This following is how these picks are organized. First, I listed—in no particular order—the band’s strongest “type I” vehicles of the year, and highlighted my favorite version of each. I also noted one or two other standout versions as well. The tracks are simply ordered for playlist listenability. Then, I have a series of “One Timers,” or songs that only blew up once during the year—but that version deserves mention. Enjoy the many tunes, our the continuing look back at the year that was 2011.

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Bathtub Gin” 5/28 I, Bethel, NY

“Bathtub Gin,” though never making into the second set last year, still produced a couple of standout versions and was always reliable for a solid piece of improvisation. My favorite version of the year came in Phish’s second show in Bethel, New York. Closing a spectacular first set, this jam moves into a serious funk jam, eventually blending with “Manteca” and back into “Gin.” One can hear the electricity in the air during this version, as Phish began their conquest of 2011. Honorable Mention: 9/4 Denver—a guitar clinic in groove.

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Reba > David Bowie” 7/3 I, Watkins Glen, NY

The Gorge 2011 (G. Lucas)

Phish played some standout versions of both of these classic jams throughout 2011, and wound up pairing them to finish the first set of Super Ball on July 3rd. Each of these Super Ball versions represent my pick for the top “Reba” and “Bowie” of the year. You can hear the fluidity of the band as they were in top form for their mid-summer festival, specifically, this final show of the weekend. Page and Trey flirt with “Dave’s Energy Guide” as the “Reba” builds into an out-of-character section. The two songs are joined by an ambient, storage-laced bridge. Honorable Mention: “Reba” 6/17 Charlotte—a second set version where the band swims in IT, “Bowie” 6/3 Clarkston, MI—the conclusion of “Disease -> Fluffhead > Bowie”

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Sand” 6/19 II, Portsmouth, VA

“Sand” absolutely blew up in 2011. Every single version, less 12/30’s, was a legitimate highlight of its show. Featuring full-band interplay in every version since its reinvention last Fall, this became one of the anthems of summer. My favorite version came in June’s final show at Portsmouth, Virginia. Getting into a retro-futuristic stop/start funk jam, as well as a “Sand Reprise,” the band’s dynamic, rhythmically-focused imporv truly popped off in this summer highlight. A “Sand” and then some.  Honorable Mention: 8/6 The Gorge—Trey infuses a slight whale call into the groove while the band crushes within the venue’s open air anvirons; segues back into “Tweezer!”

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Run Like an Antelope” 8/6  II, The Gorge, WA

6.5.11 — Cincy (M.Stein)

Though “Antelope” has remained fairly standard throughout 2011, a couple versions expanded beyond the norm. In the Gorge’s version of 8/6, not only did Trey provide a summation of the second set within the song’s intro, the band locked into a slammin,’ yet laid back, jam that oozed with both patience and ferocity. Passing through a “Golden Age” segment of the jam, teasing the final song from the set, Phish came together in this “Antelope” in far more engaging fashion that any other time last year. Honorable Mention: 6/4 Blossom—a quality first set closing rendition.

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Wolfman’s Brother” 8/15 I, Chicago, IL

It seems like “Wolfman’s” has permanently settled into a role as a first set song in 3.0. After taking some of its jams out in 2010, Phish brought the song, largely, back to form but for one or two occasions when it segued into another. My selection for the most engaging “Wolfman’s” of the year is an easy one—UIC’s version from 8/15. After moving through a legitimate funk session, Phish moved into a second jam where Trey initially laid way back in the mix filling in the space of his band mates groove. Gradually he integrated his lines into the music, finishing in victorious fashion. Honorable Mention: 7/2 Super Ball—a fury of funk grooves to get the festival going during its first set.

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Stash” 7/2 II, Watkins Glen, NY

Though “Stash” more often than not provides the first jam of its show, and hasn’t made it into the second set since the band’s return—the noted shows was a three-setter, and set II was essentially set I—Super Ball’s version carried a bit more rhythmic complexity than usual. This “Stash” represented the point where the band began to build momentum for the rest of the show and their late-night Storage Shed extravaganza. A quality moment that is often forgotten about from the last year’s festival. Honorable Mention: 6/10 Camden—a classic, modal take on the jam with quality tension and release.

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Tweezer” 6/5 II, Cincinnati, OH

Though I highlighted the phenomenal Denver “Tweezer” on Friday, most often, the song was a vehicle for “type I” jamming rather than open exploration. In this Cincy version, the band sits into a vicious funk exchange for much of the piece before Trey peaks it with foreshadowing “Crosseyed” licks. Far dirtier and groovier than Denver’s melodic mind-meld, this is the other side of “Tweezer. Honorable Mention: 7/2 Super Ball—a crunchy, mechanical, larger-than-life version dripped from the speaker towers before ending abruptly for “Julius.”

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Harry Hood > Roggae” 9/4, II, Denver, CO

9.2.11 - Denver (G.Lucas / webcast)

“Harry Hood” continued to offer energetic and passionate playing throughout 2011, often finishing sets with cathartic exclamation points. But each of my two picks are versions that were more centrally located in their second sets. Denver’s 9/4 version melds the jam’s modern staccato soundscapes with the airtight, thematic playing of lore to create a new-school masterpiece. A truly triumphant piece of music, no version approached the Denver “Hood” this year. And the “Roggae” that followed harnessed the same vibe as the “Hood” jam, standing out in its own right. Honorable Mention: 5/28 Bethel—more exploratory than given credit for, 8/15 UIC—ended the night on a huge high.

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Slave to the Traffic Light” 6/19 II, Portsmouth, VA

Several times this era, Phish has centered “Slave” in the second set rather than leaving it as the shows denouement. And my pick for “Slave” of 2011 comes from Portsmouth, Virginia, in this exact context. Capping an opening run of “Crosseyed > Walls,” this version was incredibly patient and reached divine levels of interplay. Complete and utter bliss, this rendition is what this song is all about. Honorable Mention: 8/9 Lake Tahoe—another mid-set monster, 9/2 Denver—the conclusion of the “S” show, Trey holds a sacred note for quite some time.

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Chalk Dust Torture” 8/16 I, Chicago, IL

8.15.11 - UIC (M.Stein)

The usually straightforward Phish anthem veered into more than a couple memorable jams in 2011, and my pick for the “Chalk Dust” of the year comes from the first set of UIC’s second show. Roaring to life like few versions have this era, Phish attacked this jam with uncharacteristic aggression, reaching intricate points that were more reminiscent of “David Bowie.” Sparking the show as the third song, this one provided a golden memory. Honorable Mention: 6/3 I Clarkston—a laid-back and patient take on the song to close the first set, 8/9 Lake Tahoe—intense version laced with teases and breaks down beautifully into “Slave,” 12/29 MSG—a fantastic transition into “Hyrogen” amidst a “Mike’s Groove.”

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Backwards Down the Number Line” 5/28 II, Bethel, NY

On a night when the band could do no wrong, they shredded this second set “Number Line” with atypically active interplay for this song. Focused on a whole band conversation rather than Trey’s noodling, this jam gets intricate and quite engaging, easily qualifying as version of the year. Honorable Mention: 6/19 Portsmouth—Trey gets into some Allman—esque soloing while the rest of the band is playing gently accompanying him.

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Crosseyed and Painless” 7/1 II, Watkins Glen, NY

7.1.11 (G.Lucas)

Though it pains me that Phish has decided to use this once prolific jam vehicle as a means to high-speed and aggressive rock playing, they, nonetheless, routinely shred the composed jam to bits. Two versions standout above all others in my memory from 2011, and its no surprise that each contained a little bit extra. My highlight version comes from Super Ball, as an ambient jam led into the song and out of it before a Trey emerged with a cool transition into “Chalk Dust.” Honorable Mention: 8/17, UIC—featured a tripped out interlude between “Crosseyed” and “No Quarter.”

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Weekapaug Groove” 6/8 II, Darien, NY, and 12/29 II, NYC, NY

“Weekapaug” has consistently proven to be more interesting than “Mike’s” in this era, a trend which certainly held true last year. Two versions stand out to me from 2011, the plinko-laced rendition from Darien Lake and the more commanding percussive-funk of December 29th’s version. Since we are all familiar with the recent one, I’ll play Darien.”

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ONE TIMERS:

2001” 6/8 II, Darien Center, NY

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Light Up or Leave Me Alone” 6/14 I, Alph., GA

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Destiny Unbound” 7/3 I, Watkins Glen, NY

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The Curtain With” 6.10 I, Camden, NJ

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Limb by Limb” 8/16 I, Chicago, IL

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Wilson” 7/3 I, Watkins Glen, NY

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Mound” 7/3 I, Super Ball

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Scents and Subtle Sounds” 9/2 II, Denver, CO

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