Elaborate Evolution

Worcester 2012 (Masthay)

Everything sounds different now. Whatever took place during the off-season has resulted Phish has coming out of the gates in 2012 with a renewed intent to do things differently than they have in the past few years. At every musical fork in the road, the band is choosing the path less traveled—and that has made all the difference. Examples of this were strewn throughout the show—in both sets—and it made for power-packed night of adventure. From the first “Roses Are Free” jam in 12 years—and only the third of all-time—to the slowed down 180 degree polar opposite take on “Bathtub Gin,” the band set a precedent in the first set of the show that fulfilled Trey “Kill Devil Falls” lyrical prophecy—“This time it’s gonna” be different.” And from the first two nights of tour, its sure looks like that will be the theme Summer 2012.

One of the most profound diversions of last night show was the re-emergence of the first set. We’ve been waiting for this to happen for most of this era, and perhaps last night’s opening half could be a sign of things to come. Using both sets equally last night, the show elevated right off the bat as Phish promptly moved from the end of “Roses Are Free” into a compelling and exalting jam in only the third song of the show! Trey began soloing over a sparse and nuanced pocket in a tone reminiscent of the Cypress version, as the band set sail on a jam that has little to no precedence. Anchored by a sublime four-piece conversation, the band moved fluidly through one of the most spectacular jams of the night, and one of the moments so many fans have been waiting for since the dawning of a new millennium. Weaving totally original music on the spot, mere minutes into the show, it was clear that the re-energized and revitalized band we saw in Thursday’s tour opener is here to stay.

6.4.11 (M.Stein)

Following a fourth-song landing pad (!) in “Theme,” the string of “Axilla,” “Julius, “ and “Bouncin” kept the energy high for the heavy end of set couplet—“Maze” and “Bathtub Gin.” “Maze” featured some of the most ferocious Page and Trey interplay of the night as Trey comped Page’s outstanding organ solo with hard-edged, atonal offerings. And then it was Big Red’s turn to take center stage. With a fiery solo that illustrated a finger dexterity of lore, Trey assumed the role of guitar assassin in “Maze”—and throughout the show—in a way that he didn’t on night one. He was on fire all night and it not only reflected in the jams, but also in song choice as everything seemed hand selected for Trey to really expound on his six-string theatrics—but it all happened naturally. Not one element of the last two nights has seemed forced or thoughtless at all, and that—in itself—is a huge change for the better.

The band continued their inventive takes on old songs with a “Bathtub Gin” that was different than any in this era. Favoring a slow and rootsier cadence, with a heavy, wobbly bass—similar in feel to last night’s “Ocelot”—the band moved away from the upbeat and linear versions that have been so prevalent in 3.0. And by stepping back and allowing the music to breathe, they created a whole new dynamic in a jam that had turned fairly stale over the past couple years. Slowly climbing out of the initial gooey textures, the band was actually able to reach a far more effective peak than they would have if they had headed straight for the top. Trey and Mike stood out in this “Gin,” as the two guitarists’ interplay anchored the atypical experiment. Finally reaching a furious pace, Trey’s solo led a chugging and cohesive band to the peak of the jam, and the end of a spectacular opening frame.

5.28.11 (M. Messenbourg)

While the second set didn’t necessarily contain the impeccable fluidity of the Thursday’s main event, the playing throughout was no less spectacular. Sidestepping the twenty-pound “Tweezer” sitting in the room, the band launched into the second set with one of their most consistently creative jams of this era, “Down With Disease,” and this version would be yet another notch in the song’s belt. At risk of sounding repetitive, the most exciting fact of this extended jaunt was how the band allowed things to ebb and flow naturally; the contours of song never once felt predestined. Allowing their improvisational chops to do the work instead of their thinking minds, the resulting music was surreal. Exiting the composed jam, the band opened the piece into an equitable three-piece conversation backed by some of the smoothest break-beats you’ll hear Fishman play. Truly a jam that equaled more than the sum of its parts, the band concluded this sequence with with Floydian denouement that—if I had my druthers—would have continued for quite some time. But as the jam came to a close, Trey brought in the opening riff of “Sand”—and this would be a spectacle to behold.

6.18.11 (J. Crouch)

When my buddies and I looked at the Live Phish app after the show last night and saw that “Sand” was listed at 8 minutes and twenty seconds, we at first considered if it was a typo. But upon listen back, it just may be the most densely packed groove leviathan to ever see the light of day. At points within I was so overtaken by what was blaring from the speakers I felt like I could hardly dance. If you are ever in major withdrawl from straight up Phish crack, mainline this “Sand” and you will be taken off to never, never land. Crystallizing all that was right about the groove era and moving beyond it with modern accoutrements, the band let things hang out in a dance jam like none other in recent memory. When Trey infused a “plinko” melody into the already textured-funk, the roof blew off the The Centrum for the second straight night.  Soon, taking a melody he had played earlier in the jam, Trey led the band away from the darker textures and actually moved fluidly—in a WTF? move—from “Sand” into the bluegrass stylings of “Nellie Kane.” And they somehow pulled it off without missing a beat.

6.3.11 (M.Stein)

The heavy-handed groove would continue, as the band fit a smoking, though succinct “Mike’s Groove” in the middle of the set with a dubbed out “Makisupa” interlude. On point and hard-nosed playing, though nothing outlandish, characterized this mid-set sequence that was back-weighted in “Weekpaug.” It seemed that the band had time for final set closer, but instead of going for a larger song, they chose to bust back into the groove-based theme of the set in a scorching “2001.” And what a great decision it was, as the band finally put some balls behind the usually compact funk instrumental. The opening half of the song featured more laid back Trey, while in the second half, he got on top of things with a swagger. First using swanky rhythm chops and then moving into jazz-fusion leads, he painted the uber-infectious dancescape multiple shades of red. Following the final helping of funk, the boys headed for home with “Character Zero.” And keeping it fresh until the very end, “Zero” even featured an uncharacteristically grimey breakdown.

After only two shows, Phish has set the bar quite high for Summer 2012, and right now the sky is the limit with the fluidity and one-minded playing on display in Worcester. As the band heads down for a show at Bonnaroo and then back up to AC next weekend, this summer is just getting started. Be it the Mayan mythology of new beginnings and spiritual evolution, Phish seems to be locked into the themes of the ancient calendar as we evolve—as a community—into Phish 2012.

I: Free, Kill Devil Falls, Roses Are Free > Theme From the Bottom > Axilla, Julius, Bouncing Around the Room,Maze, Bathtub Gin

II: Down with Disease > Sand -> Nellie Kane, Mike’s Song > Makisupa Policeman > Weekapaug Groove, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Character Zero

E: The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg

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1,422 Responses to “Elaborate Evolution”

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  1. ThePigSong Says:

    Awesome! Can’t wait for HD Couch tour tomorrow night.

  2. RoosterPizza Says:


    THanks for the note on the no spoilers page. Enjoy your beer- you’ve earned it.

  3. Yoyo Says:

    Review is spot on. The band was exploring the thick gooey funk all night. They played with so much patience – always allowing the groove to develop rather than forcing things to top. excellent show.

  4. Sanchothehutt Says:

    Miner loved it–that’s good enough for me! I danced my ass off to that bathtub last night. Thanks to all u streamers out there. I can’t wait for DC/AV later thus month!!!!

  5. dyda Says:

    could be that playing an indoor venue to a more serious crowd has something to do with the improved first sets

    given previous years’ tour opening weekends i wouldn’t get my expectations too high just yet. let’s see where we’re at after the large fields of atlantic city & roo & the less diehard crowd they’ll draw for those shows. it’s my hope this continues & they bring The Phish (and not the watered down multi band fest phish to the next 4 shows) but we’ll see where we’re at come ntelos

  6. ThePigSong Says:

    He painted the uber-infectious dancescape multiple shades of red.


  7. JeffieM Says:

    This gin sounds great to my ears…

  8. MiA Says:

    E: The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg

    Old school fun right there.

    Looking forward to this show.

    Love to hear a good first set. Really interested to hear this Gin. Haven’t heard a Gin in 3.0 that has grabbed me yet.

  9. Luther T. Justice Says:

    groove leviathan

  10. jdub Says:

    Well put @Miner. Last night was more balanced than night 1 but night 1 had the higher high. Pretty excited about what went down. Roses off the bat made for good times. An r u kidding me moment.

    The big difference, as Miner put it so well, is the patience. Nothing seemed forced at all either night. Even the sideways maneuver into Nelli Cane was completely organic and seamlessly executed. And that Sand is pure Phish crack. My goodness…

    Great seeing a bunch a you, wish I could do more. Coaching Sons T-Ball game in 2 hrs so time to go. Enjoy the day folks!

  11. JerBear Says:

    “Haven’t heard a Gin in 3.0 that has grabbed me yet.”

    Bethel 2011 Gin is heartbroken. 😉

  12. c0wfunk Says:

    Seems like the next logical evolution – last year they really moved to the next level of comfort with the songs and were starting to play with many tunes- within the structure, letting them breathe instead of reciting them note for note. Now, in the right setting, that comfort level will lead to exploration. The setlist jenga is taking it’s next step of evolution. Like Dyda, I’d be careful about setting expectations on 2 shows in one of their more comfortable venues – hopefully the role that comfort plays in this thing is well established by now – as they hit the rode there’s bound to be some rock shows / some energy shows / some trey pop the clutch moments. Excited to see how it all flows from here! Don’t get but one show and it’s not til the end, I imagine there will be much water under the bridge before CLT! (Who’s got my heady down front pavs for that one?)

  13. stapes Says:

    Spinning through some highlights of the past 2 nights. Sounds like a different band than MSG.

    Mike sounds readicculus on these boards!!! Love it.

  14. MiA Says:

    That gin grabbed me. Woot!!!!

  15. JerBear Says:

    Holy frijoles! Just got through Sand. The last minute or so made me put down my coffee and acoustic and shake my ass a bit as the song just took a hard left onto Shakedown Street.

  16. MiA Says:

    They tried, but just putting Manteca in the middle of a song didn’t do it for me.

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    I’d also like to note how far expectations have evolved.. all of a sudden Gin is “a jam that had turned fairly stale over the past couple years.” this band has only been back for 3 years! Perception is funny.

    One of my favorite things about your writing, Mr. Miner, is how you embrace each night and each moment as though it holds clues to the past, present, and future (aptly, as it does). Your certainty in observation helps give your writing an air of authority. I think that is what sometimes chafes people as well, but when it’s positive it can be so uplifting.

  18. phlorida phan Says:

    Rockin out to show 40,000′ up, livephish app best 5 bones spent along with southwest wifi. Landing back in tampa 1.5 hrs.

    All bb expectations meet, other than 2nd mikes jam, but that may have been caused by a phan getting cuffed by the fuzz during mikes resulting in makisupa

  19. Kaveh Says:

    Morning BBers! Great time. Thanks to all. Great to start Summer Tour. Enjoy.

  20. MiA Says:

    LivePhish app is awesome.

    The band gives so much.

    Where are my Vimeo clips? 😉

  21. Dr Pronoia Says:

    boys can go ahead and just keep tweez in their pocket for AC1, and a ferocious 1st set SOAM

    no need to drop tame, festi versions at the ‘roo

    already a very solid Summer 2012 highlights playlist developing. i like it

  22. JerBear Says:

    I’m a sucker for a Manteca-fill. For some reason or another, that Bethel Gin in particular excites me. I guess it was the fact that even without being there and seeing the band’s faces you could tell that they were having an absolute blast on-stage.

  23. mr.palmer Says:

    The AC Tweezer will break bones.

  24. stapes Says:

    Did Troy hit the Theme lick last night?!?!??!?!

  25. joe Says:

    I should have followed their buses to Bonnaroo when I had the chance last night. fuck this work stuff.

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