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. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Oh wtf I didn’t see the 5 minute Worcester jam tracked after the Roses, I thought it was just a 5 min roses with like a 30 second jam. Fuuuuuu why wasn’t I there!

  2. jdub Says:

    Congrats xpun!

  3. snowbank Says:

    if you want to send me a DL code, I will use it.

    snowbank bb @ geemail

  4. DocGanz Says:

    Round trip ticket to AC for next weekend- 800 bucks #punishmentforsleepingonit Oh well. Lots of West Coast dates in my future

  5. halcyon Says:

    Congrats XPun!

    Radiohead webcast last night was great. Looking forward to Phish’s, will be able to stream webcast while at work. Great way to cap it off.

    Doc G! Hope your well. We were supposed to be out in SD this summer, but trip has been postponed.

  6. poop goblin Says:

    for me the psychedelic left turn into Nellie out of that we’ve never heard this Sand groove just added to the old school feel

    when you couldn’t predict or even understand where they were goin

    nellie Kane out of Sand? plus the exercise of rolling through 4 different dirty funk permutations and melting buttery into a bluegrass tune to me makes it great

    its weird, it’s unaccepted and extremly phishie

    my .02c

  7. kayatosh Says:

    love maze, but don’t like many versions of maze (some tend to grate). last night’s works on many levels. patient intensity. wow. killer maze. 4 headed monster stuff.

  8. stapes Says:

    It will be interesting to see what they throw out there at Bonnaroo

  9. poop goblin Says:

    but would not complain of 20 minutes of those similar sand grooves

    just had that density we know what we are gonna drop we are gonna drop it but not vamp it out too hard feel. worked for me. and like miner said that groove was so deep felt at least twice as long live.

  10. tela'smuff Says:

    the ending of Disease was cool. i’m with Miner, i would have loved for that to continue. they are tapping into some new territory. excited to see how it develops over the summer. Dick’s is looking like the can’t miss run.

  11. jdub Says:

    Do I really have to pick between Carini and Roses? Oh man, just straight bliss.

    The inverted drop off into the Carini abyss and MLT type soundscape was one of the craziest experiences I’ve been apart. Place went helical. And stayed that way for a while. Unreal.

  12. tela'smuff Says:

    i hear ya, that was totally unexpected and completely phishy. not really complaining, more just highlighting how unreal those Sand grooves were, and just the fact that they were ever changing. as good as groove as i’ve ever heard the boys play.

  13. stapes Says:

    The Hood is not too shabby.

  14. kenny powers Says:

    I don’t know what’s happening

  15. DocGanz Says:

    Halcy- Doing great. Just bought my first place, so settling in out here. Let me know if you plan to make it out here. JTran’s like 20 minutes away too.
    Watched the Radiohead show last night- thought it wasn’t as good as the Coachella set but might have been the stream quality or the two nights of Phish that put a damper on it.
    Im camping at Dicks and once again flying solo, so if anyone else decides to hit it up and camp, let me know

  16. stapes Says:

    don’t lie @tela’s. you just felt like Nellie Kane came up punched you in the dick then ran the other way.

  17. poop goblin Says:

    Sand, Boogie, and 2001 all featured this harder crisper jazz funk style

    I hate fuckin boogie and was bitching pre jam

    Trey shoved that shit right up my ass. can’t get that little lick he was playing out of my fucking heads. shit was pure fire. room blew the fuck up too.

  18. Gavinsdad Says:

    Re Taste – was never bullish on the gorge 09 taste which I watched intently when I was there. Now this Woosta Taste is something I can get behind. Extremely spirited and hot…great Page work.,…awesome way they slipped into it out of the “siket-ness”….

  19. dorn76 Says:

    Page’s banging on of the keys bleeds into Trey’s cue during Gin, to the point he’s forced to yell “Leo!” instead. Crowd goes nuts.

    And those “atonal offerings” (nice description) during Maze. Touched me in my naughty parts.

  20. robear Says:

    Boogie On night one highest of highlights?

    Reds fingers finally catch up to his brain. Sick

  21. poop goblin Says:

    don’t know about that stapes

    really feel anyone that thinks that true segue in the age of no seague phish out of a groove that swanky is a punch in the dick may want to hand in their phish card

  22. jdub Says:

    Page opens the belly of the beast during this Carini meltdown with crazy synth sounds and then into some seriously soulful play that just brought it home. So lovely. Listening now it sounds even more impressive than in person. Blown away in person. The trickle into Taste is spot on. Oh man… gonna enjoy this.

  23. poop goblin Says:

    plus to most of us kids that came up 94 and before Nellie kane still holds a pretty important place in phishness

    it’s not all loops and glowsticks

  24. DavidSilver Says:

    “its weird, it’s unaccepted and extremly phishie”

    Word to that. that segue was so unexpected, but so fluid and natural. Brilliant. The problem with Sand is that I’m never happy when it ends. They could crush that song for 2 hours and it still wouldn’t satisfy me.

  25. Gavinsdad Says:

    Loved Norwegian wood during the JB #line but man it fits perfectly into the Taste framework. Like, perfectly.

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