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

Tags: ,

1,422 Responses to “Elaborate Evolution”

  1. stapes Says:

    I can’t seem to spin 6/8 cuz I can’t pull myself away from 6/7

  2. DocGanz Says:

    Hey Kaya- let me know if you know some good people from San Diego- we’re putting together a nice little scene out here, slowly but surely…

  3. MiA Says:

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

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    But seriously, nice to see Trey looking down and stepping on the pedals.

    Watching the Carini on MkDevos, and the crowd was a very non-MSG crowd. Everyone standing motionless there with jaws slacked.

  4. stapes Says:

    I’m enjoying the mkdevo vids too @MiA.
    Good stuff.

  5. harryhood Says:

    Almost home from a great couple of days…….. awesome time meeting/hanging with a bunch of you!


    Make sure to hit the links for another 18 before heading out! Great couple of days in Cape Cod guys…….

  6. kayatosh Says:

    i’m w/ you, poop. loving trey’s muscular chops and slick riffs. band sounds great.

    haven’t dug into night 2 beyond roses and theme, but night one I spun all day yesterday. agree that set I is not to be overlooked. solid top to bottom. love nothing and beauty of — rare and extremely well-played.

  7. MisterChristian Says:

    Free wasn’t as jammed as I remembered it, sorry for the tease call last night. My mind must have fused Roses with it.

    But whatever, I was ready to move on with Phish after New Years, but when they go and do what they did these past couple nights, I know that aint happenin.

  8. verno329 Says:

    @BK Here’s your Roses on the Tube


  9. poop goblin Says:

    I think he was using his floor volume pedal MIA for a lot of that cool stuff in Carini.

    very slick tonal washy stuff. reminiscent of 99 but way more spacious and less busy. softer and melodic with just that great 99-04 style busy breakbeat phish at times.

    that Ghost is just wild

  10. poop goblin Says:

    volume swell stuff

  11. poop goblin Says:

    hearing the wanna be new school kids diss on nothing and callin it a bathroom break song

    and then have Page rip one of the slickest wurlitzer solos I’ve ever seen is priceless.

    love this set I. one of my favs of 3.0. just an amazing 2 setter.

    Carni, Ghost, and Boogie are all some of the best stuff we’ve gotten since the return.

  12. stapes Says:

    Nothing has never disappointed me.

  13. kayatosh Says:

    DocGanz: my san diego friends are great peeps. they used to live in NOLA for years. the guy in the married duo plays guitar in a band called Smokey Hoof and looks a lot like jerry circa 1974-75.



  14. MiA Says:

    Troy shouldn’t look at people IMO. Stare at whatever thing you want on the floor, but let us just look ridiculous standing there drooling.

    If you want to step on something, go ahead. When trey starts stepping on shit, I figure he’s getting crazy ideas in his head.

    I love crazy idea’s in Troy’s head.

    The more Hendrix type sound has been missing, and the Zero was like paradise found.

  15. DocGanz Says:

    Nice, will try and get in touch. Thanks!

  16. stapes Says:

    wow fist good spin through this Ghost.
    it is great.

  17. stapes Says:


  18. MiA Says:

    Trey’s work in Maze tells me his head is in the right space. That is some pure old school Trey guitar strangling there.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    “Carni, Ghost, and Boogie are all some of the best stuff we’ve gotten since the return.”

    ^^^ no doubt. agree 100%. ghost has “you better believe it baby” flavor in the jam. and some guy forget flavor as well.


  20. MiA Says:

    I think my orangeness has something for those looking. Hasn’t worked in a while.

  21. MiA Says:

    I think the “slowdown” of Gin was Fish catching his breath after that ripping Maze.

    Outta here. Everyone have a great day.

  22. poop goblin Says:

    last night was up with UIC 1 IMO for some of the best Trey action since the return from a rippin shreddy guitar god approach.

    check out his runs in that rawkin week. just flying!

    and yup destroyed Maze.

    told miner at setbreak. Trey’s gonna dominate set II cuz he’s just feeling it tonight and loving showing off like the old days. good stuff.

  23. phlorida phan Says:

    Just arrived at home, fkng great time had by all…i hope… nice to have finally met some bbers. Alf, ghostphunk, and hh, only hung for a few, but great. Hope you all rage that ac tweez for me.

  24. kenny powers Says:

    last night’s first set was one for the AGES.

    face melting first set roses? anybody? beuller?

  25. kenny powers Says:

    Trey was elevated by all god damn means

Leave a Reply