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. bob dylan Says:

    i found out i’m not the only one who hates show of life this past weekend.

    i’m not alone.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    the Wild Thing puppet in the wide camera shot is really adding a lot to this set for us

  3. GhostPhunk Says:

    yes sir @plord, nice meeting you man.

  4. BingosBrother Says:

    Whats wrong with patchwork?

    I’m down with Show of Life fo sho.

  5. Guyute711 Says:

    Nice bingos nice

  6. MiA Says:

    Show of life doesn’t suck.

  7. joe Says:

    alice cooper doing strange shit with a blow up doll should come with every stream

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    “Those fastballs were of the Jaime Moyer variety.”

    ^^^ thats the trouble when I make a baseball analogy

    someone who actually follows the sport says a thing in response and I got nothin’

  9. YborCity Says:

    This is a very blah encore song IMO… I remember loving it mid-second-set at the Greek in ’10… Regardless of of the lyrical business, I don’t think it belongs in either set closer or encore… Mike, Page, and Fish need to do a better job of keeping Trey’s solo material out of the band’s cannon…

  10. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I like this tune in this set up

  11. MrCompletely Says:

    i’m ok with show of life except for some of the harmonies

    as a bull-stubborn contrarian on tour in the early 90s and living in Eugene mid 90s, patchwork and I are kinda mortal enemies, I’m afraid

  12. sumodie Says:

    I wont miss waking up tmrw at the roo exhausted, hot & nasty. wont have to pack up camp & drive 12+ hours home, crashing at some crappy motel along the way

  13. skyballs saxscraper Says:

    bonus Julius?

    bonus Julius.

  14. bob dylan Says:

    i don’t care if you all like it. i found out i’m not the only one hating it and i’m standing up in solidarity.

    i like patchwork in rare instances now. mine are retired cept for the occasional sunday and i’ve even worn mine to work so there…

    mr c, i’ve got a wild things shirt if you’d wear it.. i’ll toss it in the package. or your kids.

  15. jdub Says:

    So my 4 day weekend started and ended kind of the same. Just different places. funky B>Moma, Possum, Rocky Top – epic Carini, then Hood to bring it home.

    The joke is in full affect @Sumo

  16. plord Says:


  17. tela'smuff Says:

    i enjoyed the hell out of tonight, and the stream was a blast, i just hate Alaska. not the state, the song. 😉

    The Carini>Shafty will make my playlist, maybe that Hood>Light. Hoping we get another 2-3 Tweezers that make me forget the Roo version.

  18. bobby weird Says:

    Yes, in hindsight it all makes brillent sense but at the time I didn’t see it coming. But then I’ve never been known to…never mind. Haha.

  19. GhostPhunk Says:

    wow, reality check from sumo

  20. BingosBrother Says:

    Jaime Moyer is the 49 year old who played some games in the bigs this year. The definition of crafty vet.

    You SOL haters are going straight to hell.

  21. lumpyhead Says:

    AC YEM is gonna put a hurtin on

  22. Guyute711 Says:

    I packed for ac as i watched the show tonight. I may be ready early.

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    guatemalan and patchwork both, really

    no real reason. I’m just ornery like that. I like picking meaningless subcultural fights.

    everyone’s gotta have a hobby, and I can’t afford the Ukrainian hookers who are willing to do the other thing all that often

  24. bob dylan Says:

    jdub, least WW was worth it, no?

    didn’t check in here to see your take.

  25. skyballs saxscraper Says:

    Hoping for a big SPAC Waves.

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