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”

  1. Mr palmer Says:

    Didn’t see Foam at woosta. Wasn’t really looking. My alcohol intake was down this run. Only really had drInks post show in hotel.

    AC will be different.

  2. poop goblin Says:

    The very short jam and smooth segue into a bluegrass rarity makes me think that piece came out of that closed door practice.

    Top shelf stuff. The wtf of sand being paired with nellie kane is that true impossible to predict old school surprise your ass phish

  3. Alf Says:

    butter is right, this is a beautiful review

    Great to see everyone again

  4. GhostPhunk Says:

    One of many nuances that have occupied my intrigue after these shows is the band newly honed in ability to slip into simultaneous amicable scaling. This used to be found in CDT and Bowie style jams and now they are weaving in and out of it anytime and at will.

    The newest part of the style that I’m walking away with is the confidence level that’s on display. Wasting no time to advance an idea. The most impressive piece of it all to me is the seemingly state of ease and bag of tricks that give the band somewhat of a safety net or common ground even many segments into heavy improvisation, that’s just mind blowing to me. They are on to each others every move right now.

  5. willowed Says:

    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.

    Fuckin A Right!

  6. wholetour! Says:

    will be mainlining bath salts all day and listening to this show.
    Maybe eating some face later to top it all off.
    cheers.

  7. stapes Says:

    Ocelot is swanky!

  8. kayatosh Says:

    zman’s 6.8.12 FOB schoeps aud. sounds even better than the one from the night before. Holller if another aud. deserves attention.

    spinning this roses jam. right into a clean theme. nice.

    well done to all who caught any or all of this woostah 2 pack.

    short over the weekend. got trapped friday. not smart. could be headed to AC w/ a lump of coal in my stocking. that won’t stop me from having a good time.

    Got word that good friends from San diego will be going to the AC shows and hosting some good times at their margate beach house in between. fun.

  9. sumodie Says:

    Word of the day is SORE

    but the afterglow burns bright!

    Off to the gym, can’t slack off now with that AC Tweez is in air

    that run is primed to EXPLODE

  10. poop goblin Says:

    a lot of peeps live and around here failed to pick up the brilliance of set I night especially in the context of what set II brought

    band was firey. off the 3.0 set I template with great original soung selection. great jam in torn and frayed and a tasty as shit nothin solo from page.

    throw in the first ocelot that worked featuring the new slowed down molasses funk and you got a killer set up for the more wide opened set II

    Buried > Jim on my real speakers boomin the FLACS = straight fire

    great Jim!

  11. MiA Says:

    Really feel like any “negativity” I had is like eating crow now. Can I go back and delete comments from here?

  12. MiA Says:

    Been spinning the auds. Sounds great Kaya.

  13. willowed Says:

    That Character Zero had some jedi type kick ass Trey shit going on. If you want to see how confident Trey is right now, throw on that Zero and you’ll find out real quick.

  14. poop goblin Says:

    Buried
    Jim (great version)
    tasty solo on Torn and Frayed
    don’t sleep on page just destroying Funk Bitch (getting hotter every time lately)

    for me that’s early set I gold

  15. poop goblin Says:

    plus Trey went to the Wah first not the whale in zero new it was in

    then got all growly on the octaver. just dirty. can’t wait to spin that little zero.

    it just feels Trey realized this segment of 3.0 has gotten stale and is trying to respin everything he can.

    plus with the sour reference and being off probation he could be on the MPP now. jah herb could be saving phish. just kidding. kind of.

  16. stapes Says:

    The Ocelot is great.
    Carini makes me want to stop around my house fist pumping!!!
    Needs to be turned up to 11!!!!!
    MIKE.

  17. willowed Says:

    He was doing some real interesting shit during that Zero.

    So dialed in. This bodes well for ter. Let’s keep this train rolling.

    AC bitches!

  18. poop goblin Says:

    MMP not MPP. fuck MPP..

    price of sour D up 5% in today’s early markets on Trey’s reference

  19. stapes Says:

    How were the lacrosse moms this morning @Willowed???

  20. poop goblin Says:

    Ocelot, Gin, and bit’s of Zero had that kinda wobbly, slow, tempo shifting, mind bending psychedelia

    boogie, 2001, and sand had this hard crisp, fusion funk with prancer just flexing his fingers

    Troy!

  21. poop goblin Says:

    Mike and Page droppin funk clinics on the Bitch!!

    Bitch is back!!

  22. stapes Says:

    7 – 8 minute mark of Carini is why I love this band.

    IT.

  23. poop goblin Says:

    check out prancer’s compin on this bitch too!!

    wow this really is a run highlight.

    can you tell I liked these shows?

    I still haven’t spun mehsg once and have spun the carini probably 10 times already.

  24. willowed Says:

    Leaving now to get to the field Stapes.

    I hope they look good. I think I’m still fucked up from last night.

  25. stapes Says:

    The Carini is top-level Phish IMO.

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