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. DocGanz Says:

    Whats up GsDad? Long time no see… How are you and the pham?

  2. jdub Says:

    Yes it does @gdad! As if it were meant to be. So fluid. Listening right now actually.

  3. Gavinsdad Says:

    (daily stretching for AC started over a week ago, just ran in the hot hot heat. Bring it on)

  4. stapes Says:

    @ pooG – i was just busting his balls based on a convo on here last night. I agree that its a slick segue and one of the most natural of 3.0. I’d go w/ DWD->WTU for best though.

    either way, i am really liking these 2 shows!

  5. stapes Says:

    love me some phish bluegrass. especially nellie kane.

  6. Gavinsdad Says:

    @jdub – glad to hear u had such a good time

    @docganz – how goes mang? Will see you on the floor in SF later this summer. We’re all doing well here…getting ready for little league saturday to kick off. By the way….I forget her name but that girl you brought to my house a couple summers ago….I’ve run into her a couple times since at shows 🙂

  7. poop goblin Says:

    ya I’m just worked up cuz the band pulls off something that perfect and believe there were a bunch of kids bitching sand didn’t vamp harder

    it was a gift of brilliance. love it even if timers clock showed it a bit light.

    now I’m really out time to run

    bump that night ! funky Bitch!

  8. st8 of mind Says:

    Excellent write up today Miner. Your words are filled with the richness of the playing. Keep up the good work! Thanks.

  9. DavidSilver Says:

    Not too many bands that can juxtapose 2 songs like Sand and Nellie Kane and totally pull it off. That segue was way better than DWD->WTU imo. But I’ve never thought much of that segue. Seemed to require way too much thinking and an hour to come together. I like my segues fast and slick.

  10. jdub Says:

    Fishman made a huge statement last 2 nights. The back bone of the whole deal – makes the tour announcement video a little prophetic.

    I didn’t see any leg 2 last summer so can’t compare but I haven’t heard Fishman this on point and loud in years.

  11. stapes Says:

    that’s what’s great about this band. something for everyone. some love certain things other hate those same things.

    i just like seeing them feel comfortable enough to do something like that, play around, be LOOSE again. not some choppy ‘segue’ where trey just starts up the opening riff to another song.

  12. tela'smuff Says:

    again, i didn’t bash the segue, bluegrass, or nellie kane, i’m just fluffing the Sand, which at the point was at legendary status, imo. that’s all. i was a ’94 kid as well, and loved the bluegrass era of Phish. Phish card stamped and laminated.

    i will say, i was expecting a different reaction from miner. i’ve seen him say he’d prefer to never hear Phish play bluegrass, or something to that effect, so to move from that Sand to Nellie, i expected a different reaction. which i think speaks to the organic nature of the segue.

  13. kenny powers Says:

    it’s hard talking sometimes

  14. kenny powers Says:

    lolz @poop

    i saw Timer heading in to the show, a security guard was trying to flag him down just to tell him he had walked past the gate like 7 times. i said “call him Timer, it will fuck him all up”

    all 7 capes

    i farted

  15. DocGanz Says:

    Agreed st8!

    GsDad, Nice! Glad to hear you and the fam are doing well. Cant wait to rage it hard at BGCA! Jenny Hartford (not her name but where we met up on tour)- yeah she’s good people, still hear from her now and then but have been out West since that run a few years ago

  16. poop goblin Says:

    def not meant at you telas. more the general convo of the jam in the room and other new school kids chatting as post show. didn’t get any negativity out of you just made me think of someone saying last night Sand got > nellie kane’d like it was horse’d

    was chillin with miner and a bunch of our common peeps during that Sand and believe it elevated so massive in that short time and sounded so composed and slick just excited the Sand went down

    for me was just impressed musically to get from that groove to such a different feel so effortly after destroing those funk groove permutations in such a short time. talk about musical fuckin desnity


    really out now

  17. stapes Says:

    sorry my dick punching comment brought all this up. just having fun w/ the convo on here last night.

    okay, i’m off to get driven around to 5 new-to-me breweries.

    have a great saturday everyone.

  18. DocGanz Says:

    Whatup KP?

  19. tela'smuff Says:

    right on. i was all hurt and shit. ha. fact of the matter is, that Sand was what dreams are made of!!


    all making the highlight list. really pumped for midwest run.

  20. poop goblin Says:

    I’m glowing for once no one will get arguing for me unless I’m defending how stoked I am for summer and how sick this weekend was.

    at least for a day

    have a fun one

  21. stapes Says:

    docganz i owe you some beers at Dicks. you left like a 6er in my cooler last year.

    KP you making CO this year?

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    About to go first spin of last night. Pulled an Aud ( Zman). Had to spin Carini again first.

    Glad to see all the glowing reports from the field. Before I went to sleep i looked at the setlist and thought it was a regular 3.0 rocker….glad i was incorrect.. We get to do this all again in 6 days!. Yeah!

  23. stapes Says:

    GROUP HUG!!!!!

  24. DocGanz Says:

    Im down for that Stapes- tell me when and where…

  25. poop goblin Says:

    it was a rawker Palmer. but Trey was on FIRE!!

    and Gin, Maze, Roses, and the DWD > Sand > Nellie pretty atypical

    also zero, let’s just say needs to be spun

    oh yeah and 2001 gets some of that hard funk fusion boogie on treatment

    good stuff

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