Substituting Every Sound

Official 6/22 Print (Status Serigraph)

Phish greeted the Midwest with a musical monsoon, dropping their strongest top to bottom effort of 2012 in Cincinnati Friday night, featuring a centerpiece jam that has immediately leapt to the forefront of summer offerings. One could tell the band had their jamming shoes laced tightly from note one as they dug into a “Wolfman’s” opener with far more vigor than usual. And when the band encored with a soaring “Fluffhead” for the first time since 1990, it likened a collective signature on a memorable night of music in the old shed by the river.

In stark contrast to most nights this summer, Friday’s show opened with pageantry. Trey laid down a fierce, bluesy solo over the opening groove of “Wolfman’s” before Page took over on clav and everything got far gooier as Trey, simultaneously, wove a palm-muted, “plinko” lead into the fray. Minutes into the show we were knee deep in whole-band funk and the guys sounded locked for a huge night. The band’s rediscovered patience of 2012 allowed this jam to grow into something significant right off the bat—and far more engaging that any version of the year. And on the heels of this show-opening throwdown came a bustout and a straight up rarity. Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” immediately juiced the audience, but when the band started “Shaggy Dog” for the first time since October 29, 1995, the third time since 1992, and only the fourth time since November ’88, the bust-out meter went off the charts! And the first set action just kept rolling with a more current canine tale—“Runaway Jim.”

6.19.2012 (M.Stein)

“Jim” saw the band stretch out the 2011-enhanced “plinko” section into a full-blown jam, giving the song two legitimate sections of improv. The tightness and cleanliness of the Phish’s current playing was on full display throughout this piece as Trey led the jam with dynamic and emotional playing. But, perhaps, the standout improvisational display of the first half came next, as the band dropped into the ever-elusive Traffic cover, “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone.” As soon as the lyrics ended, the whole band sailor dove into a laid-back groove that quickly built all sorts of momentum. Trey played ultra tasteful leads and infectious rhythm chords within a driving dance pattern that had the pavilion popping off. In fact, the pavilion hadn’t stopped popping off since the band hit the stage, and as they segued smoothly into “Wilson” another highlight was noted for many yet-to-be-made summer mix tapes. And the first set action wasn’t close to over.

Following a second straight standout and classically contoured “Stash,” humor dictated the setlist for the rest of the frame. As the band revved up “Poor Heart,” they quickly aborted it before and Fishman immediately stood up and took a bow, comically basking in his mishap. Then, as Trey began “Moma Dance” the band was but two measures into the song when it was also aborted due to a Fishman flub. Trey then suggested that it might work better if Fish started a song on the drums. Thinking for but a moment, Fishman led the band into a furious “Llama” which exploded the venue for the bust out, musical, and comic value. Trey suggested that the band play his favorite song that starts with a drum intro, “Buffalo Bill.” And the bust outs kept rolling—but with jams balancing out the set. The stanza concluded with two final drum-started songs, “Saw It Again > David Bowie,” and when all was said and done, Phish had dropped—easily—their best first set of 2012, setting up a second that was sure to please.

Atlantic City (Shelly Siegal)

Just as the first Midwest show in Detroit last year, Cincy’s second set opened up with a “Disease” that was bound for glory. As the band entered the jam, Trey immediately hit a thematic opening sequence that set the jam ablaze. His non-stop guitar creativity continued throughout the composed jam and right out of song structure, when he handed the baton to Mike. Without a moment of hesitation from any band member throughout, this “Disease” continued climbing into fluid Talking Heads-esque, percussive groove that had overtones of “Psycho Killer.” But as the Page began bringing the jam out into never, never land with a fluttery piano line, Trey—all of a sudden—got jumpy and chopped off what could have been something far greater with the opening of an out-of place “Guelah Papyrus.”

6.20.2012 (M.Stein)

A notably inspired guitar performance throughout “Kill Devil Falls” pushed what could have been a questionable call into a genuine highlight. Without exiting stage left, the band attacked the upbeat song, but at the end of the piece—amidst an ambient interlude—the band went through a metamorphosis. Hanging up their rock attire and donning their sorcerer’s cloaks, the guys slowly oozed into the intro to “Twist.” And when it was over, everyone there would be slightly altered from the bands sonic spells.

“Twist” has been an improvisational enigma this era, with few versions bending the song’s structure very far, let alone breaking it. Well, this was the “Twist” we’d been waiting for! Anchored to the theme throughout the initial segment, while Mike dropped bulbous bass grooves, it felt like this might be another standard”ish” version. It wasn’t. At all. Following this initial portion, Trey led the band through a wormhole with a high octave, descending melody that brought the band deeper into ambient drama. With wizard-like musicianship, the band immediately set the controls for the outer realms and they locked into sinister madness. Wholly patient and completely fucking evil, Phish delved into music that I dream about. Within this primordial mixture—where one can barely tell which psychedelic layers and loops are coming from who—Mike emerged with a sinfully sinister bass line. Trey soon picked up on Gordon’s nugget of wizardry and began to shred the same four-note pattern, as if a metal guitarist, over a dark mélange of effected layers and mind-numbing loop. This pattern became the drone theme to a large segment of the jam. Trey, eventually, loosened up with hard-edged licks over a rolling bass led groove, and when Fishman adopted the cadence of “Twist” behind all of this, it—momentarily—sounded like sounds like the band was building back towards the song. But, instead, they dove back into psych rock fantasy land. Trey, finally, signaled the end of the jam with a repetitive lick, and the guys wound up the greatest tale of dark magic we’ve heard in ages.

6.20.12 (M.Stein)

“Halley’s Comet” followed up this timeless jam, but before anyone could tell if they might jam it, the band stopped on a dime with a forceful change into “Sand.” The second late-set “Sand” in a row—another 8+ minutes of densely-packed paradise—morphed out of the typical groove into a melodic and smooth, full-band funk escapade with stylistic similarities to Worcester’s outing. Transforming into another criminal dose of pharmaceutical grade Phish crack, the band let things hang out, bursting with danceable rhythms. When Trey decided to move on, he calmly layered the intro to “Roggae” over the pulsating groove, setting up a seamless segue. “Roggae” transformed into a cerebral late-set dip into the sea of tranquility, as Mike rolling bass leads pointed towards home. Trey’s cathartic playing over this canvas provided an introspective sequence in which he seemed to be finding himself as much as any of us were.

But when Trey cranked up a late set “Carini,” nobody was sure what to think! Shying from his traditional guitar solo, much like Worcester’s standout version, Trey immediately joined the band in a darkening soundscape. As he added millennial sheets of sound and distorted growls over a driving texture, the band felt like they were taking us deep once again on a marathon night of jamming. But as “Carini” was entering another stage, on the verge of fully blossoming into another masterpiece, Trey—inexplicably bailed out with the grating chords of “Chalk Dust.” Even Page looked in disbelief over the obvious ripcord. Instead of choosing one additional songs to end the set and allowing “Carini” to breathe, Trey choose two, and we were graced with a “Golgi” set closer. But sometimes, that’s how it goes.

The first “Fluffhead” since November 3, 1990, sealed the deal on a very special night of Phish, and such a maneuver suggests that they knew it too. Midwestern Phish very rarely disappoints, and with last night being the first of only six shows in the region all year, it sure as hell seems like tour is beginning its second peak. Without a show in Star Lake since early 2009, this will be the first time a revitalized band will sink their teeth into a venue of legend. My prediction…a great time for all!

I: Wolfman’s Brother, Peaches en Regalia, Shaggy Dog, Runaway Jim, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone > Wilson, Alaska, Stash, Llama, Buffalo Bill, Saw It Again > David Bowie

II: Down with Disease > Guelah Papyrus, Kill Devil Falls > Twist, Halley’s Comet > Sand -> Roggae, Carini > Chalk Dust Torture, Golgi Apparatus

E: Fluffhead

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769 Responses to “Substituting Every Sound”

  1. jdub Says:

    walking away from Woostah I was blown away by the number and quality of grooves. So many of them.

    Phish groove is back in full force. How awesome is that! With a new sound we’ve all been waiting to fully develop. Seems like the sound of the era is galvanizing nightly. Enjoy this people, the good and the bad.

  2. MiA Says:

    Stunning stuff.

    Set II was like a higher and higher trajectory all night. Kept getting better and better.

    Julius is … Oddly … A must here. Groove tastic.

    My favorite light.

    The band is in must see mode. Probably a “break” tomorrow?

    Go see Phish. Killing it. Seriously.

  3. jdub Says:

    @MiA, Did they get into that quiet jazzy space with Julius as they did in Woostah and Portsmouth? Or different all together.

  4. voopa Says:

    “Phish groove is back in full force.”

    Totally. My tour bud and I listened to the CinciTwist this afternoon, and he said just that: They got their groove back.

  5. MiA Says:

    Started jazzy. But turned 3 different ways. They couldn’t let go of the groove. It’s like kudzu.

  6. voopa Says:

    Wow. Circa ’92 Santana Tour Trey YEM solo. Fucking awesome.

  7. jp Says:

    interesting set 2 connection tonight esp with meat of show being in the same place both times:

    Wednesday, 07/21/1999
    Star Lake Amphitheatre, Burgettstown, PA

    Set 2: Mike’s Song > Simple[2] -> My Left Toe -> Prince Caspian > Weekapaug Groove, Golgi Apparatus


    Set 2: Gotta Jibboo > Mike’s Song > Simple > Light > Weekapaug Groove[3] -> Seven Below,Bouncing Around the Room > Julius > Slave to the Traffic Light

  8. voopa Says:

    Jibboo head was a little sloppy, but damn if Trey doesn’t tear right into this solo. Damn.

  9. rendog Says:

    Loving this mikes

  10. c0wfunk Says:

    You kids are funny. Thats some great reading a couple pages back

  11. voopa Says:

    Light>Week>-7 is a best ever. Holy crap.

  12. jp Says:

    all good in the hood – glad to hear some positive feedback on set 2 from those in attendance

    have a feeling Miner will be focusing on later frame in his review – looks like another win for the team tonight

  13. tela'smuff Says:

    Jiboo thru Seven Below was almost just one jam to me. Storage funk is the New Style. Mad props to AJ and his crew. Massive throw down.

  14. jp Says:

    sweet, sounds like 6.23 confidently takes its place amongst the best of tour then?

    6 top notch shows already of 10?

    like them apples

    6.7, 6.8, 6.15, 6.16, 6.22, 6.23

    with 6.10, 6.20 solid

    and 6.17 and 6.19 average-ish (on the curve)

  15. jp Says:

    10 more in leg 1?? yes please

    it’s a golden age

    an age of sound

  16. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Best light since the Greek.

  17. MiA Says:

    I like it more than Greek.

  18. Dr Pronoia Says:

    fell asleep super early

    great show huh, MIA? You guys are getting the MW treatment…love it

  19. MiA Says:

    Yeah Dr. P. can’t wait to relisten. I know that in the moment, time expands, and on relisten things shorten up. I was surprised that twist was 14 min. And trey had a few moments of slop. But even the forgotten lyric in lizards was played thru well (to me they nailed it).

    I love funky grooves and Trey and everyone just had a switch flipped. I can’t explain it. They were showing off this communication that’s happening.

    On paper I would say the show looks ok. But in person, after almost every song, I thought. Yep. Good choice. But really great flow. Even Bouncing. Crowd loved it. It didn’t whiplash the set like a “Joy” or “Velvet Sea” such would have.

    They didn’t just put some “sauce” on the jams. We were drowning in the sauce (sounds like a drunk simile, not meant to be)

    First time to star lake but what a great venue. Such a nice place. Huge. Tough to find people/meet up. Gotta do a better job tonight.

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