Strutting Out of Stride

6.15.12 (Jesse Herzog)

Phish opened up their Atlantic City run with a scorching second set jam-packed with free-form improvisation, pushing the envelope even further on what is clearly a limitless summer of possibility. Another show—and another outstanding set that stands up to any of this era— later, the band has hit a plane of egoless interplay that we have dreamed they’d recapture since they stepped on the stage in 2009. And now with each passing show, this new found improvisational fluidity is blossoming in time-lapse in front of our eyes. Morphing elements of every style they have ever touched on—the guys are in the process of creating a vintage year of Phish—2012 —that just may wind up being the best yet.

Crafting a set with a distinctly Phish2k vibe in both song selection and stylistic lineage, the band attacked the music in the second frame like a synchronized flock of vultures with no doubt as to their mission. The way in which Trey laid back throughout the set—allowing Mike and Page to lead every jam—and then seeped into the fabric of the music with utmost subtlety was the stuff of Jedi mastery. Before you knew it, that little lick that Trey had eased into the background of a jam had grown to prominence and was the peaking the segment, tying entire episodes together with utmost coherence. When many had least expected it, the band has come out this summer at the absolute top of their game, on a seemingly star-crossed destiny.

6.15.12 (J.Herzog)

Such was the case with “Birds of a Feather,” the centerpiece of the entire show, and easily the most astounding music we’ve heard from the band in some time. Completely comfortable with the most wide-open jamming, the band crafted an incredibly dense tale of sorcery out of a song they hadn’t touched in eons. Launching far from song structure and into a pure, Phish-wonderland, the band carved out completely original, and incredibly dense music for what seemed like an eternity. At ease where he once winced, Trey laid notably back at the onset of this jam, allowing Mike to lead the way into unknown territory with an assault of sublime bass lines. As Page and Fish were totally enmeshed with the group, at this juncture Phish transformed into modern day shamans, invoking spiritual revelations to anyone who had an open ear. This is the stuff of legends, when the guys come together to create music that one could never imagine. Again, this is why we come. It seems that anyone who has put any time into this band in past couple years will be getting their payoff in droves this summer, as the guys are on a totally enhanced level of communication—only four shows into tour—than we have seen anytime recently. The music is flowing effortlessly again, and when the band is moving as one, like they were last night, nothing in the universe can stop them.

Official 6/15 Print (DKNG)

Somehow, “Bird’s” extended trip into paradise twisted its way into a seamless segue—completely out of left field—into “Back on the Train.” Much like Worcester’s “Sand -> Nellie Kane” transition, upon listen back, Trey began introducing elements of the song in the final stages of the jam, setting up Fishman to—on a dime—bring them into “Train.” After some stellar Trey soloing in “Heavy Things,” the next dive into deep water came in the classic song pairing of “Twist -> Piper.” Taking a fresh, and laid back tempo into the jam, the band really got creative with this version of “Twist” like they haven’t in some time. While never fully leaving the song, they created a spacy, soundscape in which all four members contributed equally and awesomely. But when they turned the corner and “wooed” their way into “Piper,” things took a turn for the outlandish again. Packing so many themes into a patient jam, not like so many breakneck versions of lore that just jumped down your throat, the band found themselves back in “Birds” jam territory as they dug into things. It certainly seems that Trey’s 2012 approach is a minimalist one. Weaving the most tasteful licks into this jam, Red continued to defer to Mike’s (and Page’s) leadership, picking and choosing his spots like a hawk. But the way in which his themes crept to the forefront of this jam is something to behold. Getting into some elevated and forceful, yet utterly graceful, playing, the band left countless jaws on Bader Field as they wound their way into a hypnotic ending before bleeding out into “Billy Breathes.”

Having sound checked the song earlier in the day, the band brought out their delicate ballad in a very appropriate spot, serving as a soft landing point for the free-form madness that had just concluded. Following the ballad, and after an extended silence, Phish pierced the summer air with a drop into “Sneakin’ Sally.” Entering infectious funk territory without falling back on any clichés, this jam entered original planes of gnar. With booming bass lines blanketing the field, the band broke into a late-set dance session that lit the crowd afire. This first outright groove release after a tenacious set of psychedelia felt as cool as the Nestea plunge on a 100 degree day. Juxtaposing styles at just the right moment, the band absolutely hit the spot with “Sally,” tuning the party out with a filthy episode. And as the band built the funk a bit further out, Fishman jumped on the opportunity to initiate the first “Bowie” of summer.

6.15.2012 (Jesse Herzog)

Splashing into the jam with an array of self-referential teases that rehashed many of the evening’s songs, the band’s playful side was on display within this serious set of musicianship. Taking a generally liner contour, the band carved an intense closer that fit the set’s vibe perfectly. And as the band crashed the final chord into the cool Jersey evening, I looked at my friends—it had been one of those nights again. One of those nights we’ll look back on in many years and remember fondly for the eternal music and memories within. And that “Birds” jam…whoa…that “Birds” jam!

The band eased into their three-night run with a relaxed afternoon set that featured choice song selection and a couple notable high points. A loose and rhythmic “Tube,” far more developed than recent versions, got things moving in the daylight, and sparked a slinky triumvirate of “Tube,” “Cites,” and “It’s Ice.” But the standout jam of the set was, unquestionably, “Stash.” Laced with unusually intricate interplay, this version ran the sonic gamut, crafting a must-hear highlight. And the final piece of note in the opening frame was the set’s closing “Faulty Plan.” Finally opening the song up a bit, the band entered some raunchy, uncompressed “Zero-esque” jamming that served as an obvious harbinger of things to come form a song that has lied dormant too long.

Although it’s still the early goings, everything seems to be falling into place exactly like we’d all hoped it would. In fact, it’s almost as if the band has been eavesdropping on every complaint their fan base has had about them in recent years and addressed every single point. How did they do it? Well, that’s for them to know and us to marvel about. And from my seat, I like the view.

I: The Sloth, My Sweet One, 46 Days, Camel Walk, Tube > Cities > It’s Ice, Ginseng Sullivan, Stash, Simple > The Wedge, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Squirming Coil

II: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things, Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> David Bowie*

E: First Tube

* w/ “Stash,” “It’s Ice,” “Birds of a Feather,” “Simple,” and “Ginseng Sullivan” teases

6.15.12 (Michael Stein)

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338 Responses to “Strutting Out of Stride”

  1. Billy88 Says:

    Anyone hear a deconstructed oya como va jam in twist last night?

  2. MiA Says:

    Yeah, nice photos Jesse!

  3. Gratefulcub Says:

    Get off my cloud!!

    Love it

  4. glennw Says:

    Snowbank, it’s coming. I have the 2012 Mayan calendar “end of time” tour shirt that proves it. All of you luckies going tonight and tomorrow may see it happen!

  5. tela'smuff Says:

    fantastic Birds!!! Love the Piper>Billy Breathes as well. good stuff!!!

  6. Snowbank Says:

    Or the dawn of a new civilization. Either way, it’s no longer the status quo.

    The hose was just on last night.

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    They are the North Face apparel of music.

    That would mean they are over priced and used mainly by people who will never get their true intent… 😉

  8. stapes Says:

    Are they back? Kinda seems like it.

  9. poop goblin Says:

    In 3.0 birds been just as jamless as roses

    Was worried wed get the typical 3.0 little rocker

    Hot jams and buttery argues wtf is goin on?

  10. stapes Says:

    I love the ‘sound’ they’ve got going on so far this tour.

  11. Kaveh Says:

    Billy Breathes is letter perfect! Heavy Things reminds me of the stellar version from Miami 09. Overall this second set has a great flow to it; and now for the rest of the show….

  12. poop goblin Says:

    Not sure if she’s hired or not but grade A screamer across the hall

    Thought someone was gettin murdered 4 am and 11 am.

  13. stapes Says:

    Great selection for late set 2 cool down ballads so far with If I Could and Billy. Now let’s get Mist and Lifeboy thrown in there.

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    1.1.11 simple jam during piper last night, thought they turned it into a song and were about to debut it.

  15. joe Says:

    anybody up for a quick tt sesh?

  16. Kaveh Says:


    ^ Yes.

  17. ThePigSong Says:

    Hey glenn, that’s awesome you and your son share Phish! Well done.

  18. revise your despise Says:

    Great review Miner!

    Sounds like the BB massive all had a great time. So very happy for you all.

    Getting my car in road trip shape for next weekend. Can’t wait to get home and spin this second set. Looks tasty!

    Phish 2012: The juice was worth the squeeze

  19. MiA Says:

    @PhanArt: This poster show is amazing. Easily close to 1000 people circulating in all day. Still an hour twenty to go. Stop on down!

    Sounds hopping. Thanks SW and Xpun!

  20. MiA Says:

    “That would mean they are over priced and used mainly by people who will never get their true intent… ”

    They aren’t overpriced. But yeah, the rest still stands.

  21. Corey Says:

    How was the Art show? Slept in. Our 4 miler back to the Nugget did us in.

    Gonna go run and think up a dream set for tonight.

    Was our fav PHiSH artist signing stuff in the Freezer yesterday?

    Anyone know whether more “old” posters will be up for grabs today? Or were they all snatched up yesterday?

    My wife just said when Mike plays that hip bass stuff, leading the band into new musical territory….time stops. Like in set II, several times last night.

    What’s up with the non-running Ferris Wheel? Somebody get that going!! Sheesh…

    I had a rather scrambled review posted at 3a.

    In short: Tune selection was wonderful.
    Sloth, Stash, Tube, Simple, Wedge, Stealing Time…all great. Simple closed in on the Greek.
    My Soul means good soulful music to come.
    Birds was fantastic, pushed forward smoothly into Train…which wasn’t long enough.
    Twist and Piper were movin’ and shakin’ as Billy Breathed and sang softly. Beautiful.
    Sally and Bowie had the goods and were an unusual (and positively good and welcomed) pairing finish with PHiSHsilliness. Twist got funny too. Woooo!

    Reminded me of Utica in terms of tune choice and packedwithstuff performances from all.

    Scene: I second @Bearito’s assessment. Dirty AC crowd. There were some families/ekids and definitely room in the back. It’s like Indio meets Jazz Fest meets SuperBall. I think more folks will be at Alpine. Didn’t seem like a huge crowd. Though it was tough to gauge numbers. Simple, understated lights. Like buoys, kinda. Lit up with the colors of neon.

    Walk back to the Nugget: not too sketchy. Nice block here, dilapidated houses there, questionable folks riding bikes slowly with cell phones around the corner. I call it colorful. We got back safe. Will try for cab back tonight. If you come from the Nugget, watch out for van driver Larry. He’s a loose cannon, evrn looser driver and may reveal his temper when pushed. Again, a colorful drive to the show, by a Sloth like driver. Made us wait jusy to cram other folks in. They never came. We grew impatient and jumped into another van. Then he accosted the new driver, demanded we get out or give him money. We didn’t and left. Then, he cuts us off at the pass and gets out demanding that our new driver pay him again. Unreal. She got a nice tip. Larry didn’t get squat.

    Don’t make PHiSH fans late to shows because your greediness guides you, Larry. We’re not that kind of crowd.

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    Planes Of Gnar is the name of my GWAR cover band

  23. MiA Says:

    Not sure if she’s hired or not but grade A screamer across the hall
    Thought someone was gettin murdered 4 am and 11 am.

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s back in the US?

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    that’s Chris Brown beating up Drake again actually

  25. BrandonKayda Says:

    Is this show really as good as you all are saying? Sounds awesome.

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