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. BrandonKayda Says:

    Really interested to hear tonight’s show.

  2. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Any word from the front lines? Deep jams or Sunday night special?

    Agree @joe. Now drop the Mike’s Groove from Star Lake. Pretty please.

  3. Kevin Says:

    Use THE HORSE, Luke.

  4. GhostPhunk Says:

    second ghost of the year, wonder what the intro was like out of Golden Age. Shit’s getting real right about now on ter isn’t it? This looks like 3 solid outings for the home team.

  5. elementset Says:

    Officially the best 3 nite run of the modern era . Fact
    Golden ghost tweez piper antelope so choice.

  6. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Nice, elementset (and was that a Ferris Bueller reference?).

  7. Kevin Says:

    For the sake of clarity: does a 3 night run have to take place on consecutive nights? Or can it be three consecutive shows on the same tour?

  8. GhostPhunk Says:

    the latter imo

  9. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Been calling for the Golden Ghost the last few shows. They reading my posts?

  10. elementset Says:

    Folks, treys tone in antelope is $$$ very patient powerful version

  11. elementset Says:

    Miner will be raving, its everything u could ever ask for these past 3

  12. plord Says:

    Somebody predicted the Ghost and Tweez two-fear for tonight. And Miner was in a twitter Convo that called Gin and Ghost. Everyone was right!

  13. Iriewalton Says:

    Looking forward to spinning these shows tomorrow.

    Nice to see that the boys also showed that they can drop this type of magic in separate towns as before it seemed that back to back shows in different towns was their recent nemesis.

    Not any more…

  14. sumodie Says:

    Blossom race results:

    Sample in a Jar 5:52
    Tube 3:58
    Axilla I 4:26
    Bathtub Gin 11:26
    Roses Are Free 5:18
    Limb By Limb 7:06
    Free 7:09
    NICU 5:07
    Possum 8:43
    The Wedge 7:30
    Corinna 4:05
    Meatstick 9:06

    Golden Age 11:47
    Ghost 11:17
    Sweet Virginia 4:46
    Rift 6:18
    Tweezer 11:32
    Walk Away 7:09
    The Horse 1:19
    Silent In The Morning 4:38
    Piper 8:46
    Waste 5:24
    Run Like an Antelope 12:19

    Loving Cup 5:58
    Tweezer Reprise 3:34

  15. Lycanthropist Says:

    wheres the reports from the ground?

  16. tela'smuff Says:

    What an amazing three night run. Much luv to community and band.

  17. xpun Says:

    Nothing from the show on BB or twitter. Texted MIA. Nothing.

    The mothership has come early and taken them away.

    Moved this weekend = no internet besides phone 3G = no phish (LP app sucks)

    I have got some serious catching up to do. Amazing weekend in the midwest. Can DC/AV continue the rise? Anything is possible with this band.

  18. Doublelungtx Says:

    Report from ground; show didn’t pick up steam until really wedge. Short basic, going through motions. But the beautiful tempo and feeling of wedge started the magic. Rest of show was worth it. Second set showed how much the boys care and have a pulse om the music.

  19. xpun Says:

    I wonder how security enjoys them inviting fans on stage? Probably some nervous cats.

  20. BrandonKayda Says:

    Golden age jam looks exciting P

  21. MiA Says:

    Xpun. Didn’t get you text. Sorry. Sing alongs, played well. Golden age is $$$$. Ghost is $$$ and fun. Rift was showing off. Tweezer was $$$$. Piper was a groove we’ve all heard before, but works great (Julia getting down to piper in front of me was awesome) and Antelope was $$$$. Loved the Antelope. Grooved out!

    Crowd was loud with appreciation. Kuroda is really really getting those lights dialed in. Lit up the wood on the back of the stage, and was beautiful.

    I love Corrina Corrina and Waste. The gin was ok, but nothing really new.

    My friend Brian who made the trip thinks Exile is his favorite album of all time. So Torn and Frayed, Sweet Virginia and L Cup in two days.

    Tonight added a great texture to all three nights. I’m not floored but what a great three night run. And blossom is such a beautiful venue.

    I went to waterwheel and still had a hard time. For those that don’t know me, I’m 6’5, big and tall, and usually easy to find. Should have told that to folks. Usually wear a yellow hat and can be seen from a mile away.

    Love this band. Back to the in-real world tomorrow. Loved raging with Luther T. Great guy.

  22. MiA Says:

    Elementset, I love that trey tone now. Funk 2.0

  23. Bwana Says:

    full spin through Star Lake’s set 2… yes! the undersold sleeper summer is in full swing, building momentum — so nice to couch tour along with so easily. can’t wait for my turn. spac-ifically speaking…

  24. Multibeast Says:

    Echoin all of MiA’s thoughts. The golden ghost was the real deal from my seats. As stated before the boys are just tight. Slayin really any song they want. Saw telas and luther T for a min but once lights dropped 2nd we were running for the pav. Simply since the 1st set ripped too. We knew good things were coming.

  25. xpun Says:

    No problem MIA. Just glad to hear you’re still on this planet 😉

    Been having a personal conflict about BGCA. Want to go so bad and this weekend has made it impossible to skip. But first time home buyer and just thinking how far that $ could go to making this place all the mo better. Honestly thinking of trying to nix it as a mini honeymoon and soloing w BB crew. Would cut expenses in half at least. She’s never been to a show and really wants to see what my obsession is all about. I like that but don’t know if flying across the country to do so is the way to start her out. There’s always summer 13 for that. #Thatsmyproblemrightthere

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