A Whole New Ballgame

Official 6/23 Print (D. Milllward)

Having just re-listened to Star Lake’s second set, I nearly shed a tear of joy upon the ending of “Slave”—this is the place I knew Phish would get to upon their comeback in 2009. Amidst so much skepticism, I believed that this band once would again blow our minds on a nightly basis. I had faith. In fact I knew it in my core. And in the mythical year of 2012, the time has finally come. Performing—what I can confidently say—is the best set of this era, Phish wrote another page of history in a venue of legend somewhere between Erie and Pittsburgh. Centering 42 straight minutes of connected, improvisational bliss in a second set that flowed like water, the band continues to set new standards for themselves this summer by the show. With stylistically innovative and self-referential jamming throughout the second set Star Lake provided a gleaming portrait of Phish 2012.

Following a standardish first set, and a fiery, though wholly regular, “Jibboo,” “Mikes” opener of the second, I thought we could be on our way to a “Saturday Night Special.” But when the band blossomed from “Simple” into the most engaging musical suite in memory, any thoughts of a glossy show vanished into the summer air. Easily the most astounding jamming we’ve heard all year took place in long form over the coarse of the second set, and it all started here…

6.19.12 (M.Stein)

Bubbling out of “Simple,” evoking memories of the Omni’s third set version in ’96, the band soon dissolved into a haunting sound sculpture that had “Storage Jam” written all over it. This four-piece mind-meld illustrated a desire to move beyond conventions, and as the piece was patiently floating further into the outer reaches of the Milky Way, Trey concluded the first movement with the opening to “Light.” One immediately felt that this jam would transform into the centerpiece of the show, and lo and behold, that is exactly what happened. Trey took an alternate type of lead out of the lyrics, favoring more notes rather than his usual pitch-bent melodies, a move that encouraged the rest of the guys to get involved early on. Transforming into an equitable and innovative conversation, this jam put a spotlight on the here and now with jamming that could only have come from 2012. With nobody in particular out front of the exchange, each band member patiently contributed exactly what needed to be played, forming a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. Over an eerie, beginning—driven my Mike’s envelope filter—Trey tastefully picked his spots with laser-like precision, dropping in the perfect rhythm chords to urge his bandmates into a fully-percussive exchange. Page used his clav to direct the jam into “plinko” land, and Trey responded appropriately, forming an aweing sonic tapestry. Picking up one of his own patterns and transforming it into a melodic theme, Phish had ascended into “plinko” heaven with the most forward-looking musical experiment we’ve heard since—well—the night before! As the band smoothly navigated the polyrhythmic exchanges, “Light” bent the boundaries of Phish music further than we’ve seen in a quite a while with some of the hippest, freshest interplay of the summer.

6.16.12 (S.Siegal)

And as the band wound down, Trey coyly strummed the intro to “Weekapaug” and the band immediately jumped into the intro to the song laced with the exact vibe of the previous “Light” jam. And as the band set smoothly on sail the seas of “Weekapaug,” they continued to reprise elements of the previous jam throughout, while pushing the song much further than we’ve heard in this era. I cannot remember a “Weekapaug” as engaging as this one since the Island Run—and though I may be forgetting a version or two—that’s saying a hell of lot. When it comes to the modern “Mike’s Groove,” “Weekapaug” has transformed into the new “Mike’s Song”— the half where the improvisation really goes down. And that was never truer than at Star Lake last night within “Mike’s Simple Light Groove.” Getting into wah-based stop/start jamming, amidst a multi-tiered escapade, the band was in robotic crush mode and could do no wrong. As they came to the end of “Weekpaug,” however, they weren’t looking for applause. Tweaking the final note with drone-like effects, Trey brought the band into a demented outro that kept everyone enraptured. Artistically connecting this ambient interlude with the intro to “Seven Below,” “Mike’s Groove” may have been over, but Star Lake’s Suite was still going strong.

As the band precisely played though the song and dove into the minimalist jam, the virtuoso improvisation just kept unfolding. Trey immediately took the piece on a harder edged, yet melodic, course as the guys—particularly Page—responded with a delicate backing. As they momentarily settled, Page came in with a “Weekapaug” tease and the whole band jumped right on it, crafting a reprise of the jam and a legitimate mash-up of the two songs, bringing this monumental—and inseparable—musical sequence full circle with a stunning conclusion. Another fresh sounding and new-school jam blended perfectly back into the “Seven Below’s” theme, and Phish—finally—stopped playing for the first time since the start of “Mike’s Song” 50 minutes earlier!

6.19.12 (M.Stein)

In absolutely classic fashion, the band followed up their most complex musical sequence of the year with the song that lured so many of us towards this magical scene to begin with—“Boucing Around the Room.” Executed to perfection, this performance of the song reawakened me to how phenomenal the oft-maligned single really is. Part of the fabric of Phish’s essence—which is very much what this set was all about—“Bouncing” fit perfectly in the late-show spot. And following another slayed “Julius,” the band sealed the set with a cherry on top with a cathartic, heart-wrenching “Slave.” Building off the stellar versions from tour, this was the perfect slot for the soul-quenching anthem. Meticulously dripping into the ether, the words patient, refined and tasteful don’t begin to approach the utter majesty of this set-closing rendition. Peeking out of the mix, Trey’s final solo began climbing for the mountaintop and every open heart ascended with him. “Wow!” As the band left the stage, that’s about the only thought that crossed my mind. This was a whole new ballgame. This is why I kept the faith. This is why I believed.

6.19.12 (M.Stein)

To close the evening, the band came out and played the first song that ever hooked me—and at this point an absolute rarity—“Lizards.” How fitting that on a night that redefined Gamehendge as we know it, the band concluded the show with the song in which Colonel Forbin, himself, first discovered the mythical land. It’s 2012, and this is the Phish for which we’ve all been waiting. They have arrived, and the summer isn’t even halfway over. The adventures that still await us are beyond imagination, but I can’t wait to turn each and every corner with the most magnificent band on the planet.

Set One Notes: The first set, though nothing to freak out about, was certainly no slouch either. Stringing together some high-octane favorites to start the show, the band immediately set a high-energy tone and never looked back. The rarity “Scent of a Mule” featured a drawn out—first musical and then comical—“Mule Duel” in which the band stretched out the ending lick of the jam ad infinitum, even bringing Page’s Theremin on the stage so he could play the lick with abstract acumen. After a quick “46 Days,” the first “You Enjoy Myself” of the year finally rolled from stage, and the band closed the set with a laid-back jam session on their seminal opus. I’m all for infrequent “YEMs” if they routinely breathe and expand like this one. All in all, a solid, tight, rocking opening half.

Set I: Funky Bitch, Backwards Down the Number Line, Gumbo, Maze, Torn and Frayed, The Moma Dance > Scent of a Mule, 46 Days, You Enjoy Myself

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

E: The Lizards

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521 Responses to “A Whole New Ballgame”

  1. DryIceFactory Says:

    Well put CH.

    I also have to believe we are going to see one of these go huge tonight.

    -Rust Belt Melt

    I hope its Tweez. We need a big fuckfest Tweezer for the highlight reel.

  2. DryIceFactory Says:

    Two more things.

    1. Last night’s poster, my favorite official print of 3.0
    2. I heard the Canadian mp3s have an extra 3 minutes tacked on to -7.

  3. poop goblin Says:

    Workin back through tour

    Not just bout the rarity of jammed versions

    That is 5 minutes of gorgeous flowing fish

    7 if spinning Canadian mp3s

  4. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    wow this KDF is sick sick sick

  5. poop goblin Says:

    Roses that is!

  6. poop goblin Says:

    Which one df?

  7. alf Says:

    I jumped on midway thru Light

    maybe I missed something over the stream

    Perhaps I need a relisten.

    ^to quote huggiebear: el. oh. el. get a clue.

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    cinci poop, finally got it downloaded

  9. Albert walker Says:

    Love that kdf man. Smokin groove huh?

    That song has really grown on me

    Fish just swings that beat

  10. Albert walker Says:

    If you posess a stream rankin scale you may want to reassess your situation

  11. Albert walker Says:

    Nothin earth shattering in Cincinnati dwd and kdf but sick little featish rockin grooves

    Dig it

    And the twist was kinda hot

  12. sumodie Says:

    that Light/Paug mashup at the Paug start is absolutely brilliant

    I don’t really care what’s the supposed best set this year when sets like last night drop


  13. Albert walker Says:

    I LOVE dcu set 1 night 1 as a complete set. Really sets up the nice flowing excursions of set 2.

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    cinci dwd has a few mins in the middle there with such a beautiful little melodic groove. love it. meat of that set is meaty

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    twist was earth shattering

  16. Albert walker Says:

    Sand roggae to top her. Great set. Love that combo. Sands are getting destroyed this summer

  17. willowed Says:

    Wife and I are chilin drinking dome wine. Got the green light for Denver


  18. Alf Says:

    I need to hit denver. Frack.

  19. willowed Says:

    Mr p. We can get back to town on labor day around late afternoon.

    Home in time to put kids in bus Tuesday.

    Trust me. Did it lest year.

  20. DryIceFactory Says:

    I’m booking my Denver flight tomorrow. I tried to pull the trigger too late on Star Lake and paid the price. The lesson, as always, just hit any Phish shows that make sense financially and don’t require you missing too much work.

  21. Leo Weaver Says:

    With fares like you boys are getting outta the NE, no reason not to book those tickets now. A bit pricier out of the Cackalack. Planning to lock mine down tonight or tomorrow before they go up any more.

    The past two nights have been absolutely stellar fucking phish. as others mentioned, no need to single out highlights, just spin from front to back.

    Me and the Wee Weaver cued up mkdevo vids of AC and DCU highlights on the system and cranked ’em loud. She digs phish.

  22. poop goblin Says:

    DCU set 1 night 2 really hitting the spot too. totally different vibe than night 1 set but also slamming.

    hot maze. not pimped enough maze with such crisp communication throghout and the tasty slow early pace. night 1 was more fun throughout but night 2 had the hotter jams with gin, maze, and roses. good stuff both nights.

    of course just a beautiful full band roses jam.

    and as much as I hate to say it a very swinging creative take on julius

    great stuff.

    no diving into dcu set 2’s

  23. willowed Says:

    Little weaver sounds cool

  24. willowed Says:

    Jamming to the ghost boogie here in the bose deck. Heaven.

  25. Leo Weaver Says:

    Waaay cooler than her dad willowed.

    Need to spin that woosta boogie again.

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