Summer’s Sleeper Set

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 31st, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.30.12 – Alpine Valley (Michael Stein)

Living the shadows of the elite sets of summer is an outstanding frame of Phish hasn’t gotten its due respect. With momentum like a freight train and speckled with several ten minute gems, what this set lacks in a true centerpiece jam, it more than makes up for in relentless flow. Composed of “all killer and no filler,” and with plenty to write home about, the first night of Alpine, unquestionably, comtains the dark horse set of leg one.

Alpine Valley Print

The lack of a timeless improvisational passage in a run of shows that was loaded with them, has been the primary reason this set hasn’t garnered the attention of its night two counterpart. But ask anyone who was at the two performances, and I’ll bet most would say that the opening night was the better show. When thinking of Alpine 2012, fans will immediately remember “Fee” and the crème de la crème sequence of “Light > Ghost,” but at the show—other than a couple classic covers to kick off the second set, those three jams carried the show. And because they were of such high quality, they could absolutely do that. But the first night’s second set had one dancing from start—well, at least second song—through the very last note of the set, a rare quality in Phish sets these days. Instead of focusing all of their energies in a front loaded frame and coasting to the end, the band kept the pedal to the medal throughout this main event.

After the show I called it a “perfect set,” and while. in retrospect, I might nitpick for a more significant closer, the flow of the set and jams within are nothing short of ideal. Once the chords of “Carini” followed a “Number Line” set-opener, the band didn’t come up for air until “Quinn the Eskimo” late in the show. Stringing together a series of high-energy jams—first groovy and then exploratory—the guys crushed this set from start to finish in a way they did very few this summer. There were no lulls, no fizzling, no bullshit—just pure musical fire. Phish has always had a way of filling Alpine’s vast pavilion with monstrous music to match, and on this night, there was plenty to go around.

6.22.12 (M.Stein)

“Carini” exploded out of form into heavy dance rhythms that resembled “Tweezer” far more than the jam it stemmed from. Though the band used the combo of “Golden Age > 2001” three times this summer, none popped like the pairing at Alpine. Transcending standard “Golden Age” rhythms and building into a more dynamic funk exchange, the band threw down an extended and intricate jam session that sits amongst the top dance floor bangers of tour. And when Trey hit a chordal tease of “2001” the band hopped right on the hint, seamless moving into the funk anthem.

Following the peak of “2001,” the vibe of the set changed, though its momentum didn’t waver a bit, with the start of “Rock and Roll.” Shifting gears from rhythmic conversations to exploratory rock, the guys carved out a stellar, guitar-led jaunt from the Velvet Underground cover, and surpassed it later in the set with a “Piper” that has gone under-appreciated amongst so many colossal versions of summer. In fact, “Piper,” in my opinion, is the improvisational highpoint of the set, though it almost seems like an afterthought on such an eye-popping setlist. The whole band converged on this jam unlike any other of the night, and when Trey hit a shredding, multi-note pattern, the jam elevates to another level. Firing as one, the guys got into a chugging, uptempo jam that found more than a few sweet spots and a surreal come down. Oh, and between “Rock and Roll” and “Piper,” the band unveiled the only “Steam” of 2012. Yeah, this set had it all.

6.30.12 (K.Harris)

Although “Hood > Zero” isn’t exactly a show-stopping closer, the band played solid versions of both. If Phish, instead, finished the show with “You Enjoy Myself” or “David Bowie,” this set would have that final touch and would draw far more attention. But in the end, would five minutes of standard “YEM” funk made that much difference? The lack of a big-time closer, however, is the only possible knock on this second half.

Very few set second sets these days contain both tour-highlight jams and non-stop flow. And while nothing in this set will make Leg One’s greatest hits, in terms of the live experience, few sets kept the party going from beginning to end like the first night of Alpine. A sparkling setlist, non-stop musical motion and plenty of jamming made this one of the most complete frames of tour. If you don’t agree, hit play on your iPod and see how many tomes you hit skip…See?

Number Line, Carini > Wilson > Golden Age -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Rock and Roll > Steam > Piper > Quinn the Eskimo, Harry Hood > Character Zero

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Jam of the Day:

Golden Age -> 2001 > Rock > Steam > Piper” 6.30 II

Quite a diverse chunk of jamming!

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Star Lake’s Summer Suite

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 30th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.23.12 – Star Lake (Mike Stein)

Almost every second set this summer was served in portions, split up into multiple segments of jamming by “landing pads,” fillers, or ballads. These interludes didn’t necessarily compromise the flow of a set, and they often enhanced the contour of the night. In one second set, however, Phish wove a single, united musical narrative from start to finish, centering the frame on 45 minutes of uninterrupted improvisation—Star Lake’s. Instead of separating their jams on this Saturday night, the band lumped them together—in proximity and style—to form the improvisational sequence of summer: “Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below.”

While other sets may have contained more outstanding individual jams, none were laced with more cohesive and thematic improv than Star Lake’s second half. After a groove-based one-two punch of “Jibboo” and “Mike’s” sparked the set, Phish’s suite of summer began. And when they finished the sequence, they had created four unique, yet connected, jams that stood on their own but were part of a greater whole. To begin, “Simple’s” bubbling textures dissolved into an ethereal spacescape of the likes that Phish explored all tour long. Focused on sublime harmonies as well as layers of dissonance and effect, “Simple” brought the set to soul-tugging depths with intricate, ambient interplay. Trey broke through this tonal passage with the opening chords of “Light.” Only the second version of tour following “Lighteca’s” mashup, Star Lake’s “Light” would once again prove the modern-era launchpad to be Phish’s most consistent path to breakthrough jamming.

6.23.12 (M.Stein)

As Trey finalized his guitar solo, he took a step back, favoring dissonant, accentuated whale loops over the band’s soft and rhythmic canvas. Mike took the helm as Trey got in touch with his inner Shamu, luring Fish and Page—and eventually Captain Ahab—into a dark, four-part, exchange. And out of this sequence came the percussive conversation got the band on the express train to Plinksville. As Page hopped to his clav, the band converged in one of the most memorable passages of tour. Infusing a summery, calypso chord progression into the jam, Trey brought the locked excursion into the heavenly realm. Peeling off a series of award-winning leads, Trey, with his bandmates, forged a jam that could never be mistaken for music from a former era. Stylistically centered in the here and now, the band explored this staccato plane, as Page, Trey and Mike played complimentary leads that, together, fully-realized “plinko” jamming.

As the band wound down their percussive experiment, Trey initiated the beginning of “Weekapaug.” After two exploratory jaunts, one had to think “Weekapaug” would be a blistering cap on a “Mike’s Groove” for the ages, but as soon as the band broke structure and dove—headfirst—back into the textures of “Light’s’ jam, and it was clear that “Weekapaug” would only continue the risk-taking. Catching a heavier groove, the guys went on to create a multi-faceted “Weekapaug” for the first time in ages. Moving fluidly from one theme to another, the band raced through wormholes before Trey—seemingly—peaked the jam with a magnificently-placed “Divided Sky” lick, but the band refused to land in the final chorus. Careening through another segment of jamming, including an ambient finale, the band finally brought the anthem back around. Anyone in their right mind had to assume a breather was coming next, but when Phish started “Seven Below,” a song known for its improvisation, they showed no desire to slow down.

Official 6/23 Print (D. Milllward)

So much focus has fallen on the “Light > Weekapaug” pairing from this set, this stellar “Seven Below” has flown under the radar. Though Phish had ended countless musical suites with “Weekapaug” over their career, on this night, “Seven Below” would serve as the conclusion of their improvisational trek. For the fourth song in a row, Phish stepped onto fresh musical ground, while keeping the jam very tied to the one that came before it. Trey began a minimalist, though quite emotional, “solo” out of the gates, while Page played out front on piano. Just as hooked up as they had been for the duration of this sublime set, when Page coyly hinted at “Weekapaug,” Trey picked up on it instantly, cranking up his playing to reference “Weekapaug’s” jam as well. Pushing the music into a harder edge territory, the band moved quickly through a dense, standout jam, returning to the the song and concluding “The Seventh Simple Light Groove.”

As the band paused for the first time since the set’s beginning, the crown erupted in a massive ovation—everyone knew they had just witnessed something special. In a very classy move, Phish chose to follow the marathon of new-school improv with “Bouncin’”—and I’m not sure the song ever sounded better. Bringing it back to basics after pushing the envelope fro so long, the band placed their classic single perfectly. It seemed that Phish would punctuate the set with a rousing “Julius,” but upon its ending the band quickly passed into “Slave.” Serving as the light at the end of tunnel, a patient and collaborative take on “Slave”—far from just a guitar solo— finished the set with a majesty untouched by other 2012 versions.

6.30.12 (M.Stein)

Phish had IT in Star Lake this summer, gracing the amphitheatre with another in a long-line of musical triumphs. Coming into this show, the band had only logged one 3.0 show at the venue in June of ’09, thus they hadn’t let loose in their former shed of dreams since 2003. But on a Saturday night this summer, Phish more than made up for lost time as they dropped the set of the tour somewhere between Erie and Pittsburgh. Infused with connected and innovative jamming throughout, “Simple” through “Seven Below” provided a vivid portrait of modern-day Phish—and the rest just fell into place.

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Jam of the Day:

Simple > Light > Week > Seven” 6.23 II

The suite of Summer.

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TTFF: The Upper Echelon

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on July 27th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

7.4.2012 (Graham Lucas via webcast)

Ok. I sat at my computer copying and pasting paragraphs for about half an hour, trying—somehow—to come up with a definitive list of my favorite ten jams of tour, and trying to rank from 10 to 1. It was damn near impossible on both accounts. There were so many phenomenal jams over Leg One that any “Top Ten” or “Number One” comes down to what mood I’m in at the moment. Instead of ranking the jams, I’ve left them in a general order that reflects my inner-negotiations. It’s impossible for me to say that any of these  top jams are “better” than one another. We’ll just say that—as a group—these were my favorite ten jams of tour (though the next ten—to be unveiled next Friday—are insane as well!) As I said in the beginning of summer tour, 2012 is great time to be a Phish fan!

***

Piper” 7.8 II, SPAC

In this locked and loaded final voyage of summer, Phish navigated a series of different feels in a multi-part centerpiece. The band engaged in an exploratory odyessey with a rocket strapped to their back, communicating with ease at a break neck pace before shifting into divergent feels. Amidst a more potent rhytmic context, the band concluded by reprising the chord progression from the end of “Light’s” jam earlier in the set.

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***

Fee” 7.1 I, Alpine Valley

Blissfully converging in a delicate, plinko-laced groove, Phish wove melodic magic out of the evening air at Alpine Valley. Passing through a beatless bridge, the guys came up with a second captivating soundscape that, in previous years—or even on a different night—Trey would have bailed out of three different times. His patience paid off, however, as the band sculpted one of the most majestic tales of summer while the sun was still shining.

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***

Light > Weekapaug” 6.23 II, Star Lake

Rightfully, this song pairing shouldn’t be plucked from its surrounding setlist-mates “Simple” and “Seven Below,” but at that point the suite is almost an hour. Deep into “Light,” the band splashed into a plinko paradise, merging the staccato style with a calypso chord progression that resulted in some of the most innovative music of tour. This section led into, and was referenced in, the most dynamic “Weekapaug” jam we’ve heard in this era and beyond.

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***

Sally -> Ghost” 7.6.12, SPAC

As “Sally” began to get gnarly, Trey took a step away from the jam and dove into a high-octane, alternate universe. The band followed right along, diving headfirst into this hellbent tangent. Live without a net, the band set their improvisational motors to eleven and let it rip. Emerging far later in an ambient passage that morphed into “Ghost,” the pavilion exploded with the transition. A collaboration in rhythm and melody, this jam found a medium tempo and turned into a climbing, cathartic tale.

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***

Sand -> Golden Age” 7.3 II, Jones Beach

This paring of two of summer’s brightest stars featured the greatest “Golden Age” to date—a jammed-to-completion excursion that moved from rhythmic acrobatics into the type of downtempo psych-rock of which I dream. Throw in one of the most impressive “Sands” of summer to the sequence, and you’ve got quite the tour highlight.

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***

Carini” 6.7 II, Worcetser

This mind-bending jam that moved from seething musical dungeons into stunning ambient pastures, set the standard for improvisational density and fluidity on the first night of tour. The band morphed into an abstract sound sculpture that strongly suggested “My Left Toe,” plunging the depths with a soul-tugging, Siket-laced exchange. When this jam ended, I knew it was going to be a special summer.

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***

 Waves” 6.28 II, Deer Creek

It feels redundant to continue typing how fluidly jams of 2012 covered a spectrum of musical feels, but Deer Creek’s “Waves” is but another example. A jam that immediately vaulted itself into the conversation of all-time versions, this late second set gem moves through groove, bliss, and into a trance-inducing spacescape that eventually bleeds into “Bug.” A jam in which Phish is fully locked, this one is musical gold.

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***

Birds of a Feather” 6.15 II, AC

This profound, multi-tiered journey covers astounding amount of ground while never once losing cohesion. Merging aggressive textures with segments of groove, and landing in an extended pool of transcendence, this “Birds” wraps up everything I love about Phish in a single jam. Moving into the abstract and back again, Phish concluded this monster with a seamless segue into “Back on the Train.

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***

 Twist” 6.22 II, Riverbend

When Phish stepped into “Twist”—a song that hadn’t moved outside the box in memory—in the middle of Cincy’s second set in, few could have imagined what was about to transpire. Exiting song structure as a unit, the band reached deep into their satchel of dark magic and cast a musical spell that would hypnotize the entire audience. Playing with ultimate cohesion, it felt as though we had been transported into a different dimension. Realizing so much of their abstract experimentation within this jam, the guys prowled like a menacing assassin through this music; missing a beat or a note wasn’t a possibility. Emerging from the depths with a ferocious theme from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the band passed through this quote and seamlessly continued the jam as if commanding a ship through outer space. Gradually jamming back towards the song, the guys—instead—continued the piece into silence before dropping into “Halley’s.”

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***

Light > Ghost” 7.1 II, Alpine Valley

If Phish wove a tighter jam with more virtuoso communication over Leg One, I have yet to hear it. I’m a sucker for when the band hits egoless planes of improvisation where they share leadership of the music, playing off of, and developing, each others’ ideas as if controlled by a single mind. And that is exactly what Alpine’s “Light” represents. As Trey neared the end of his guitar solo, Mike picked up on his notes and began to echo them on bass. From this point on, the band entered the most equitable conversation of tour, passing the lead between Trey, Mike, and Page with incredible fluidity. One member would finish and continue the ideas of another in a jam that really stands out as prime example of collaborative improv, and one that furthered the ethereal ideas planted in the first set’s “Fee.” As the band wound down the piece with a new-age, synth-led section, “Ghost” emerged in seamless fashion, combining Leg One’s two heaviest hitters. Taking “Ghost” on, arguably, the most unique ride of summer, the band’s airtight interplay continued as they dropped into a “jamtronica” build and slithered into a slow, menacing groove. Moving without hesitation, within measures, into “Back on the Train,” Phish was absolutely on fire throughout this entire three song sequence.

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The Songs of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 26th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.22.12 (Michael Stein)

Before this summer, Phish declared they would break out 200 songs over their tour, and when Leg One ended, the tally was already at 207. Fresh first sets became proving grounds for once-a-year rarities, old covers, and—on several occasions—legitimate bust-outs that few fans had ever heard live. Keeping setlists spicy while playing notably fewer 3.0 staples, song selection was another factor that played into Phish’s best tour of the modern era.

With so many different songs coming from every angle, repeats were never an issue this tour. Though the band kept a far tighter second set rotation than first, few people had any problems hearing four to five versions of “Disease,” “Sand,” “Light,”  “Piper,” and “Ghost.” Believe it or not, Phish played only one “Divided Sky” and one “Guyute” over 20 shows! If one had the flux capacitor he could go back six weeks and make some big money on that statistic! And the “Divided Sky” (in Portsmouth) was magnificent. By staying true to their 200-song pledge, the band didn’t have time to repeat copious filler songs, giving the contour of tour a far fresher feel throughout.

6.23.12 (M.Stein)

The term “bust-out” has become a bit overused these days. When Phish plays a song that consistently appears once or twice a year—like “The Wedge” or “Contact”— it’s not a bust-out. But when the band opens up a show with a song they haven’t played since 1988—as they did at Jones Beach with “Skin It Back,” well—“That’s a bust out!” (In my best Crocodile Dundee voice.) In fact, the appearance of the Little Feat cover for the first time in 1,417 shows made it the “largest” bust out of all-time! And to celebrate the occasion, the guys stretched out the blues-funk number into a legitimate jam in what has to be considered one of the most significant openers of all time. Later in the very same set, Phish dusted off The Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” for the first time since their 1994 Halloween performance of The White Album! The third-longest gap between song versions came in Cincinnati, when the band took “Shaggy Dog” off the shelf for the first time October ’95, and only the third time since ’88! Practiced and polished, the once-extinct, old-school ditty rolled off the stage like it was in rotation. Contrary to the past few years, when Phish played rarities this summer, more often than not, they nailed them.

6.22.12 (M.Stein)

In addition to the aforementioned trifecta, the band also threw down three 3.0 debuts in “Shafty,” “Dog Log,” and “La Grange,” a threesome of the most sign-requested songs, for the first time since ’03, ‘03 and ’99, respectively. Fishman also broke out a few modern-era debuts of his own, performing “Purple Rain” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” for the first time since ’99.  Also making their first appearance in some time were several Velvet Underground songs off Loaded, all played during a second half of tour that sometimes felt like an homage to Lou Reed’s protopunk outfit. In addition to playing “Cool it Down” and “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” for the first time in over a year, the guys dropped the only versions of “Sweet Jane” and “Head Held High” since Halloween ’98. Both of these tunes were given the treatment, as Trey took a spirited and extended solo in each. Needless to say, Phish played some bust outs this summer!

Beyond all the first set variation, second sets never stagnated either. Diversifying their launchpads at just the right time, the band began jamming on songs like “Twist” and “Ghost” for the first time in ages, while adding “Golden Age” and “Back on the Train ” to second sets as a legitimate springboards. Phish also threw down several tour highlights with one-off jams, such as Worcester’s “Roses Are Free,” Deer Creek’s “Waves,” and Alpine’s “Fee.” Additionally, the band took new approaches on so many jam they encountered. No longer did “Bathtub Gin” have the same ten-minute path. The band  played beefier, more intense versions of “Ocelot.” “Carini” was totally unpredictable, producing different results each time out. A couple “Hoods” and “Antelopes” even contained enhanced interplay. Revitalized and recharged, Phish came out this summer with the intention to shake things up.

6.28.12 (M.Stein)

If one was on tour last month chasing a particular song, odds are he caught it. Leg One of Summer 2012 featured the widest song selection of any tour in history, while only on occasion feeling like an attempt to do so. Towards the end of tour, some first sets felt as though band was playing rarities for the sake of song count (see Alpine 1 or Jones Beach2), but most of the band’s elusive selections shrewdly fit within the context of their shows. Concerts, regardless of how improvisational in nature, are composed of songs. And aside from fizzling out of some second sets—which is another topic for another day—the band used strategic song selection to bolster their shows all tour long, transforming their eternally debated setlists into assets more often than not.

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Jam of the Day:

Roses Are Free” 6.8 I, Worcester

One of tour’s first shocking surprises.

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“Shakedown” 6.16.12 – AC (Steve Lehrman)

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Summer Segues

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 25th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

SPAC 2012 (SammyC via Crowdseye)

Seamless segues haven’t exactly been Phish’s strong point this era. In fact, between ripcords and rushed changes, this facet may have been the weakest of their game—until this summer. Though every transition wasn’t perfect, some were jaw-dropping, and the overall movement between songs became more fluid than at anytime since their ’09 return. Instead of one band member switching gears, segues were allowed to develop over time and—often—nailed at full speed, creating immediate adrenaline boosts in their sets. Below are a handful of my favorite transitions from tour.

“Sand -> Nellie Kane” 6.8 II, Worcester

Worcester 2012 (Masthay)

Nailed at full speed amidst a funk throwdown, this segue—though feeling at the time as if it came out of the blue—was set up perfectly by Trey. As he not-so-covertly teased the lead line of “Nellie Kane” amidst a furious, melody-laced, full-band groove, the last thing anyone in the venue was thinking about was bluegrass. Powering forth like a soul train, the band kicked it into overdrive as Trey morphed into other guitar leads, but the groundwork had been laid. The guys continued cranking on their next-level dance session, but when they hit a change, Trey wove “Nellie Kane’s” beginning, in earnest, right into the music. With negligible reaction time, Fish switched into the bluegrass cadence and the intergalactic groove morphed into a country shuffle. Flawlessly executed and fully bizarre, “Sandy Kane” stands out as the most dynamic segue of summer—thus far.

“Birds -> Back On the Train” 6.15 II, AC

After re-listeing to this sequence last night, I’m not sure that anything from summer is better. Fierce, exploratory and transcendent, this “Birds” has it all wrapped up in one locked and loaded package. The guys had taken the piece light-years from song-structure into free-form jamming, and when they seeped into an ambient realm, it seemed as if they might wind down. But Trey picked the tempo right back up with his solo, and as he diced the minimalist canvas with short rhythm chops, Fishman changed from an abstract rhythm into a shuffle beat, and—on a dime—the band switched into “Back on the Train.” Following an astounding fifteen-minute jam, the guys could have faded into silence and received a huge ovation, but by pushing their creativity, they crafted another masterful transition.

“Light -> Manteca -> Light” 6.16 II, AC

6/16 Print (DKNG)

Several times this summer, Trey suggested a change before going for it, making the ultimate shift far more cohesive. This is seamless sequence, in which Trey laid the groundwork well in advance of the actual transition, is a perfect example. As soon as the band splashed into “Light’s” jam, Red—very noticeably—teased “Manteca,” a move that got the rest of the band thinking in that direction. About a minute later, when Trey continued to hint at the song, the guys were totally with him. The rhythm section switched over smoothly and the band landed in the jazz cover without a hitch. After moving through the theme and verse, Fishman altered the beat and they were right back in “Light” as if it never happened.

“Tube -> Psycho Killer -> Tube” 7.6 I, SPAC

Amidst an explosive first set “Tube,” Phish pumped up the pavilion by gradually building their crack-groove into the elusive Talking Heads cover, “Psycho Killer!” Closing one’s eyes and listening to the tracks off the Live Phish soundboard, there is no discernible switch or hesitation, whatsoever, throughout the entire, two-segue sequence. Perhaps planned from the get go, this shocker was pulled off with Jedi-like precision and provided an adrenaline-filled memory from one of the nights of tour.

“Disease -> Blister In the Sun” 7.7 II, SPAC

SPAC 2012 Mini (Masthay)

While soling during the opening section of “Disease,” Trey found himself in a melody that closely resembled the Violent Femmes hit. As if he caught himself by surprise, he moved into a full quote of the song—and just like the rest of the summer, Fishman was right there. And so were Mike and Page. Facilitating the segue, Fish smoothly shifted rhythms as Trey stepped to the mic, and Phish brought out the song for the first time since Barcelona ’98. Though the set fizzled from the “Disease,” this initial segue spoke to the spontaneity the band felt all tour long.

“Light > Ghost” 7.1 II, Alpine Valley

Moving away from full speed transitions, Alpine’s “Light -> Ghost” provides an example of a patient and well-executed ambient migration. Too often the band seeps into an murky realm only to have Trey layer a new song over the sound collage. But this segue is different. Phish brought “Light,” one of their most collaborative and cerebral jams of tour, into a new-age, synth’d out denouement. Page took the helm and directed this retro-futuristic segment as Trey and Mike picked along. As Page concluded his solo with a final, pitch-bent chord, Trey laid the opening of “Ghost” into the empty space like an artisan. The band let him vamp solo for a few measures before oozing into the groove and completing the patient and slick maneuver.

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Jam of the Day:

Sand -> Nellie Kane” 6.8 II, Worcester

The most acrobatic segue of tour.

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*****

Summer 2012 (SammyC via Crowdseye)

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First Sets of Fire

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 24th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Atlantic City, NJ (Chris Klein)

First sets—though fun all tour—never made or broke a show. Comprised of bust-outs—large and small—and one or two contained jams, firsts sets largely spoke to people  based on song preference. Phish never botched a set this summer, using most opening halves to get some songs under their belt before the main event after dark. But on a handful of occasions, the band dropped first sets that contained plenty of action of their own. These four first sets not only flowed well and contained some legit jamming, if any rarities were included, they didn’t seem sprinkled in just for novelty’s sake. And when the band starts off the show with an power-packed opening half, only good things result.

****

6/8, Worcester

Free, Kill Devil Falls, Roses Are Free > Theme, Axilla, Julius, Bouncin, Maze, Bathtub Gin

Long forgotten in tour’s second show, this first set may just be the best of tour. Following the first night’s monumental throwdown, the band and crowd came ready to rumble on night two. Jumping right into the thick of things as if coming off an extended setbreak, Phish cranked through “Free” and “Kill Devil Falls” before starting up “Roses.” Out of nowhere, Phish slid into a “type II” wonderland, and nearly fifteen minutes later, everyone—us and them—emerged from only the third improvisational escapade to ever stem from the Ween cover. Though many would select Alpine’s “Fee,” this “Roses” certainly gets my pick for the first set jam of tour. Coming down into “Theme,” the guys kept the energy high with “Axilla” and “Julius” before punctuating the set with “Maze” and, arguably, the finest “Bathtub Gin” of tour.

****

6/22, Riverbend

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

Phish stepped off the East Coast and into the “Rust Belt” with a smoking first set in Cincinnati. Lacing their jamming shoes tightly from the jump, the guys dug into a thick “Wolfman’s” to spark the show. The annual bustout of “Peaches” was followed by the first version of “Shaggy Dog” since Fall ’95—and only the third since 1988. A fine-tuned “Jim” led into a dense groove collaboration in, “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” Phish followed a strong “Stash” with two botched song beginnings, prompting Trey to invite Fishman to play all the songs that start with the drums. Stringing together three rarities—”Llama,” “Buffalo Bill,” and “Saw it Again”—with a “Bowie” closer, the band had clearly come to play on this Friday night.

****

6/28, Deer Creek

Birdwatcher, The Curtain With, Fuck Your Face, Old Home Place, Pebbles and Marbles, Weigh, Chalk Dust, Wolfman’s, Cool It Down, Tweezer, Tela, Stealing Time

One hundred plus degree weather and ridiculous levels of humidity made the first set on Deer Creek’s first night almost unbearable. Sweating by doing nothing at all, one had to pick and choose his place to rage in this opening frame, less he didn’t fall flat on his face. Recognizing the circumstances, Phish responded with one of the more powerful first sets of the tour. Battling the heat with the serene stylings of “The Curtain With,” the band wouldn’t stay relaxed for long. “Pebbles and Marbles” upped the momentum of the set, while “Weigh” and “Chalk Dust” maintained the flow. But when the ferociously danceable trifecta of “Wolfman’s,” “Cool It Down,” and “Tweezer” hit, everything transformed into moisture. The rare Gamehendge ballad, “Tela,” gave everyone a figurative breath of fresh air, before the guys closed the set—a bit anticlimactically—with a standard “Stealing Time.”

****

7/6, SPAC

Runaway Jim, Ocelot, Heavy Things, Back on the Train, Funky Bitch, Tube -> Psycho Killer -> Tube, HYHU > Cracklin’ Rosie > HYHU, Stash, Bouncin, Paul and Silas, Horn, Corinna, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone

 Coming off two holiday shows at Jones Beach, things felt primed to explode when Phish got into the woods of SPAC—and explode they did. The band loosened up with a couple tight jams in “Jim” and “Ocelot” before picking up the pace with “Back on the Train” and “Funky Bitch.” Things got nasty, however, as Trey led the band in a “Tube -> Psycho Killer -> Tube” dream sequence. Placing Fishman in the first set, a welcome trend of 2012, the band followed his best Neil Diamond with a demonic “Stash.” Rarities “Paul and Silas” and “Horn” filled the gap before a stellar and unconventional, one-two punch of “Corrina” and “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” slammed the door on the opening frame. The band really let loose on “Light Up,” stretching out the piece into a rousing set closer.

****

Honorable Mention: 6/7 Worcester, 6/19 nTelos, 6/30 Alpine Valley, 7/1 Alpine Valley, 7/3 Jones Beach

 =====

Jam of the Day:

Fee” 7.1 I, East Troy, WI

Though I didn’t select its set as one of the top first frames of summer, Alpine’s “Fee” goes head-to-head- with Worcetser’s “Roses” for frist set jam of the tour. It’s amazing Trey lasted so long without a beat.

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****

7.4.2012 – Jones Beach (Graham Lucas via webcast)

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The Second Sets of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 23rd, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.17.12 (Michael Stein)

While gazing over the summer setlists this past weekend, there were so many great second sets that ordering them one-by-one seemed like an exercise in futility. But as I looked a little longer at the second sets of Leg One, I found that four “tiers” of shows emerged. Using nameable qualities—or lack thereof‑—to separate these tiers, a macro picture of summer emerged. But before we get into analyzing—and overanalyzing—what shows should be where, let’s take a step back to recognize that even the Tier Four shows have solid chunks to offer, and in some cases, more than one. Point being, Phish just played an amazing tour.

The main elements that separated shows were lack of flow or the “fizzle factor.” The first is self-explanatory, while the second refers to a set that started out strong but didn’t finish with authority. The elite sets that made the top tier of Leg One, in my opinion, contain outstanding improv—most often with a centerpiece jam, possess an undeniable flow from beginning to end, and have supporting jam sequences that could be no-brainer highlights of lesser shows. Let’s take a look at these four groupings and then inspect a couple takeaways. Each tier is listed in chronological order. (I wasn’t at Bonnaroo, thus it isn’t included.)

*****

 TIER ONE

6/7, Worcester:

Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On > If I Could, Quinn, Hood > Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

The opening night of tour featured a second set that can stand up to any of summer. The opening sequence of “Carini” through “If I Could” is pure improvisational gold. Juxtaposed against the mediocre MSG shows over New Years, this tour-opening set felt like an indoor soul cleansing. With central jams of “Carini” and “Ghost -> Boogie On,” there is no question that this set belongs in the upper echelon of 2012.

6/15, Atlantic City:

My Soul, Birds -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally > David Bowie

Atlantic City’s first night has everything I look for in a second set. Start-to-finish flow, a centerpiece jam in “Birds” and incredibly strong supporting sequences of ‘Twist > Piper” and “Sally -> Bowie.” A scorcher through and through, and a set of non-stop adventure, AC’s opening night stole the show down the shore.

6/23, Star Lake:

Jibboo, Mike’s > Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below, Bouncin, Julius, Slave

This unbelievably cohesive frame of music is centered on a sublime, 45-minute chunk of jamming—“Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below.” Interlacing “Light’s” jam in “Weekapaug,” and “Weekapaug’s” in “Seven Below,” Phish was flowing like lava on this Saturday night with a modern-sounding symphony. Sparked with “Jibboo,” “Mike’s” and brought home with “Bouncin,” “Julius,” and an outstanding “Slave,” Star Lake stopped for nobody.

6/28, Deer Creek:

Mike’s > McGrupp, Back on the Train -> HYHU > Bike > HYHU > Weekapaug, Caspian > Waves > Bug > Bowie

With an unconventional setlist and a Fishman appearance in the middle of the frame, Phish pulled of one of their most musically impressive second sets of summer. Served in wonderfully packaged pre-and post-Fishman suites, this set flowed particularly well, and several jams jumped off the deep end. Pairing the greatest “McGrupp” that I know with a deeply psychedelic “Back on the Train,” and following Fishman with the seamless sequence of “Caspian > Waves > Bug > Bowie,” this set is an absolute gem. The “Waves” is a tour highlight, and in the running with best versions ever played.

7/6, SPAC:

Chalk Dust, Carini > Sand, Roses Are Free > Punch You In the Eye > Sneakin’ Sally > Ghost > Suzy, Antelope

Phish took no prisoners on the first night of SPAC, putting together one of the finest second sets of tour. Opening with a scathing combo of “Carini > Sand” and focusing on the even more adventurous combo of “Sally > Ghost,” Phish played live without a net on this night. Using “Roses” to ground the set before utilizing “Punch” to launched into its second half, Phish didn’t come close to a ballad in frame of fire. Capping their performance with aggressive runs through “Suzy” and “Antelope,” Phish had the pavilion buzzing long after they left the stage.

*****

Tier Two

6/16, Atlantic City:

Crosseyed > Slave, Light -> Manteca -> Light > Theme > Golgi Apparatus, Sand, Number Line, Antelope

This set was hard to keep out of the top tier, but I just didn’t feel it held up to the crème de la crème. Centered on the stellar “Lighteca,” and supported by a “Crosseyed” that all-but-seamlessly segued into a knee-buckling “Slave,” the only other piece of interest was a late-set “Sand.” With songs like “Theme,” Golgi,” and “Number Line” compromising the flow of the set, this one just missed the bar.

6/22, Riverbend:

Disease > Guelah Papyrus, Kill Devil Falls > Twist > Halley’s > Sand -> Roggae, Carini > Chalk Dust, Golgi

Laced with magical interplay throughout, including one of the jams of tour in “Twist,” Cincy’s second set was kept in the second tier due its choppiness. Though “Disease” was glorious, Trey ended it quite abruptly with “Guelah Papyrus,” and after “Roggae,” the final three songs of “Carini > Chalk Dust,” and “Golgi,” felt like they were picked out of a hat. But when focusing on the jams—“Disease,” “KDF-> Twist,” and “Sand > Roggae,” this set packs plenty of improvisational gold.

 6/30, Alpine Valley:

Number Line, Carini > Wilson > Golden Age -> 2001 > Rock and Roll > Steam > Piper > Quinn, Hood > Zero

What the first night of Alpine lacks in a centerpiece jam, it more than makes up for with relentless momentum, non-stop flow and several 10-minute gems. Never stopping for air, the band crafted an ultra-groovy first half of the set through “2001,” including a plinko-funk throwdown in “Golden Age.” And then the guys sculpted two standout excursions in “Rock and Roll” and “Piper,” highlighting exploratory playing during the second portion of the set. Filling in the gaps were the only version of “Steam” this year and a show-capping combo of “Harry Hood” and “Zero.” If I weren’t being so stingy with Tier One, this set one could be argued upward. Though the following night at Alpine reached higher highs, this set was a start-to-finish powerhouse. Had there been a significant closer versus “Quinn,” Hood,” and “Zero,” this would be sitting higher.

7/1, Alpine Valley:

Crosseyed > No Quarter > Light -> Ghost -> Back on the Train, Farmhouse, 46 Days, Heavy Things, Joy, Julius

This set is one of my favorite of sets summer through “Farmhouse”—but then the fizzle factor came into play in major fashion. The final segment of the show read like the middle of a first set—“46 Days,” “Heavy Things,” “Joy,” and “Julius.” Though everything was solid, it seemed like the band had shot their load during the first half of the set and coasted to the finish line. Sometimes that’s what it takes for them to reach their highest highs these days—and “Light -> Ghost” is my favorite playing of tour—but the set’s final third certainly keeps it out of the top tier.

7/3, Jones Beach:

Chalk Dust, Sand -> Golden Age, Wolfman’s -> Walk Away, Bug, Fluffhead, Wedge, Antelope

The first night of Jones Beach seems to have everything to qualify for Tier One, but is missing that intangible “x” factor. A smoking opening combo of “Chalk Dust,” Sand -> Golden Age” featured one of the jams of tour in “Golden Age.” And though the band hit a slight stumble between “Wolfman’s” and “Walk Away,” they didn’t fizzle out, following “Bug” with the summery triumvirate of “Fluffhead,” “Wedge,” and “Antelope.” “Antelope”—the first to raise a brow since Utica—provided a late set highlight, but when I had this paragraph in Tier One—and that’s where it started—it just didn’t feel right. Is it because “Wolfman’s” wasn’t allowed to breathe, cut short for a trio of jamless songs? I’m not totally sure. I had a blast at this one, but listen back boils down to “Sand -> Golden Age” and “Antelope.”

7/8, SPAC:

Axilla > Light > Twist, KDF -> My Friend > Swept > Steep > Piper > Free, Kung > Hood > Cavern, Bowie

This set was one of the hardest for me to place. Though it doesn’t hold up in flow to the top sets, it is played well throughout, and centered on two monster jams in “Light” and “Piper.” Supported by a “Kill Devil Falls” with quite an interesting outro, the rest of the set is just kind of there. The awkward mid-set c0mbo of “My Friend”—best used as a set opener—and “Swept > Steep”—best used as a landing pad for improv—provided a lull in the action, and while Trey shines in “Harry Hood,” nothing else really pops to me. But, damn, “Light” and “Piper” are right up there with the jams of tour.

*****

TIER THREE

6/8, Worcester:

Disease > Sand -> Nellie Kane, Mike’s > Makisupa > Weekapaug, Velvet Sea, 2001 > Zero

Kicking off with an explosive combination of “Disease > Sand -> Nellie Kane,” and supported by a late set “2001” that is one of the dark horse gems of tour, this set suffers from a case standarditis right in the middle of the second set in the form of “Mike’s > Makisupa > Weekapaug.” The only real keeper from this one is “Sand -> Nellie Kane,” hence its placement.

6/20, Portsmouth:

Rock and Roll > Tweezer > Free, Guyute, Birds, Hood -> What’s the Use? > Velvet Sea, Possum

Though compared to Portsmouth’s first show, this felt like a colossal triumph, on listen back, I feel this is a very solid tier three show. A quality—though unspectacular— opening combo of “Rock and Roll -> Tweezer > Free” set the table for a huge set, but the band hit some momentum issues with “Guyute” and a standard “Birds.”Hood -> What’s the Use?” is the highlight of the set, even though it’s a sin that the band didn’t follow Fishman back into “Hood.” A “Velvet,” “Possum” pairing closed this night with a whisper.

6/24, Blossom:

Golden Age > Ghost > Sweet Virginia, Rift, Tweezer -> Walk Away > Horse > Silent > Piper > Waste, Antelope

A fun-filled and powerfully-played set peaked with the opening pairing of “Golden Age > Ghost.” Though this sequence was great, albeit chopped a bit too soon, there was little other true meat to the set. The “Tweezer” was pure fire until antics ensued and “Piper,” though short, was notable. A hell of a lot of fun to be at, this isn’t a set with timeless playback quality from top to bottom.

7/4, Jones Beach:

Boogie On, Tweezer > Twist > Taste, Quinn, Julius, Rock and Roll > Horse > Silent, Hood, Shine a Light, Show of Life, Slave

Another front loaded set, Phish’s July 4th edition was centered on a blissful “Twist” and a gorgeously divergent “Harry Hood.” “Tweezer” seemed destined for the stars before the band slipped into “Twist,” and after “Taste,” the guys played an hour of completely standard music, less “Harry Hood.” And when the band followed “Hood,” with similarly mellow song selections of “Shine a Light,” “Show of Life,” and “Slave,” it made me wonder why they no longer use setlists.

*****

TIER FOUR

 6/17 Atlantic City:

Drowned > 2001 > Reba, Roses > Chalk Dust > Caspian -> Silent, Bug > A Day in the Life > Disease

Bursting out of the gates with “Drowned > 2001 > Reba,” this set caught the first train to Fizzletown as soon as that sequence was over. Fine versions of mellow songs provide a nice soundtrack to a Sunday night while doing something else, but that’s not what we’re looking for here.

6/19 Portsmouth:

Back on the Train, Rift, Split, Mango, Number Line, Limb, Shine a Light, Lengthwise -> Maze, Cavern, Fire

Portsmouth’s second set amounted to a ninety-minute extension of its first, and were it not for Trey’s entertaining light saber antics, this set would have fallen fairly flat. The show that birthed “tucking” was focused far more on fun and songs than any sort of cohesive jamming. “Split Open” stood out, but that’s about it.

6/29 Deer Creek:

Disease > Sand -> Twist -> Rift, Bathtub Gin > Fluffhead, Ride Captain Ride, Antelope

Though the front of this set is front-loaded with a one-two punch of “Disease” and “Sand,” I haven’t found myself revisiting either version very much in favor of others. “Disease” is jammed to completion without ever getting anywhere super-engaging, and after “Sand,” the set kind of fell apart. Trey was certainly having a blast, but when he aborted “Twist” for “Rift,” and the band cut an intriguing “Gin” far shorter than first set versions for a midset “Fluffhead,” serious music didn’t seem to be their concern on this night. A fun Phish set—kind of—I haven’t found much playback value in this one.

7/7 SPAC:

Disease -> Blister in the Sun > Disease > Boogie On, Golden Age -> 2001 > Number Line, Caspian -> Scent of a Mule -> Blister in the Sun -> Scent, Mike’s > Contact > Weekapaug

This is one of those gimmicky sets—like the Moby Dick escapade of 2000—that some fans will treasure and some will yawn at. After a very significant “Disease” stopped off in “Blister in the Sun,” the rest of the set amounted to a standard performance with countless “Blister” teases. Showcasing the playful side of Phish in between two more musically-focused second sets, this one fit fine in SPAC’s three pack, but doesn’t stand very well on its own.

=====

TAKEAWAYS:

It’s pretty clear that the first night of any given stand exploded, and the following shows were composed of its fallout. There were no occasions over the summer where subsequent nights of any given stand clearly outshone the first, less Portsmouth. What’s the reason for this? Who knows. But don’t miss those first shows! It was also pretty crazy to me to have a high-quality set like Blossom’s in the third tier of tour, but that speaks to the consistent greatness of Phish these days. I would genuinely say that there were no bad shows this tour, just varying qualities of good, and that is exactly where we want to be. Phish 2012—it’s been a long ride, but it’s great to be here!

=====

Jam of the Day:

Waves > Bug” 6.28 II, Noblesville, IN

Phish.Bliss.2012.

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6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)

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Stein’s Shots: Best of Leg One

Posted in Uncategorized with the on July 19th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

“Steam” – 6.30.12, East Troy, WI

Michael Stein is one of the premiere concert photographers on the scene today. With an impeccable sense of the moment, Stein captures priceless portraits of his subjects time and time again. It just so happens that he is also a huge Phish fan. Hitting the road with the band for most of Leg One, Stein has hand selected a 38-shot gallery that represents his favorite shots of 2012 to share with Phish Thoughts today. I want to personally thank Michael for sharing his work with this site for over three years, and here’s to future collaboration! This post provides a preview, but be sure to CLICK OVER to view the rest of his Leg One gallery!

 ****

6.30.12 – East Troy, WI

**** 

6.16.12 – Atlantic City, NJ

 ****

6.23.12 – Burgettstiwn, PA

 ****

6.17.12 – Atlantic City, NJ

****

6.23.12 – Burgettstown, PA

****

6.28.12 – Noblesville, IN

****

“Sleeping Monkey” 6.20.12 – Portsmouth, VA

SEE THE REST OF THE LEG ONE GALLERY NOW!

The Axis of Phish

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 19th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Leg One 2012 (M.Stein)

Anyone who paid attention to Leg One of summer tour can attest to the incredibly fresh and dynamic jamming on display throughout. Improvisational passages covered insane amounts of ground in a limited time frame, while still moved fluidly between ideas. Though laced with a distinctly modern sound, jams throughout tour, simultaneously, carried a retro feel. The main reason for all of this was the re-emergence of Phish’s central axis: Trey and Fishman.

Traditionally, before the onset of the groove era in 1997, Trey and Fishman formed the improvisational backbone of the band. Fishman had a propensity to follow the ideas of his lead guitarist—an unconventional style, as drummer’s usually lock with their bassist to form the “pocket. Fishman’s co-leadership of jams pushed Trey out of his comfort zone and into original territory. And this unconventional cooperation produced unconventional results—Phish music as we knew it through 1995.

And then came The Cowfunk Revolution of 1997. As the band focused on groove-based playing for the next several years, Trey and Fish moved away from their improvisational partnership. During these years of rhythmic focus, Fish and Mike—with his new Modulus bass—linked up to form the deepest pocket Phish fans had ever heard. Instead of a consistently “moving” in a jam, the band “settled” into funk vamps as Trey, with loops and rhythm chords, and Page, with clav patterns and keyboard effects, painted the top of the music. All of a sudden, the dynamic of Phish music changed completely, ushering in a new wave of fans while many older heads grew disenchanted.

Leg One 2012 (M.Stein)

This summer, however, the axis of Trey and Fish has returned in full force. When listen to any of the jams from Leg One, one can hear Fish following Trey around time and time again. This musical dynamic, not only explains the retro feel of modern jams, but also their density, as the pocket never settles. Profoundly changing the sound of their music and enhancing the adventure of their jams, with their return to their early improvisational ways, Trey and Fish have completely revitalized the band.

When Trey stepped back from a jam this summer, and began to add effects and tonal color, Fish couldn’t fall back on the pocket—because a stable pocket was never there in the first place. More often than not, Fish shifted with Red, morphing into more abstract, minimalist textures, while coaxing fresh ideas from Mike and Page. When this movement happened smoothly, the band showed a clear intent to explore spacier and non-drum directed soundscapes. Many of tours most stunning jams stemmed from these instances—Cincy’s “Twist,” Deer Creek’s “Back on the Train,” Alpine’s “Light,” and Jones Beaches’ “Golden Age” provide but a few examples. At other times, however, when Trey downshifted within a jam, Fish seemed to lose his musical “marker.” If Page or Mike didn’t step up with a new idea quickly, the band’s engine sputtered and lost momentum, sometimes falling prey to ambient fade-outs or abrupt endings. Examples of these alternate occurances—in varying degrees—can be found in Cincy’s “Down With Disease,” Blossom’s “Piper,” Jones Beach’s “Tweezer,” and SPAC’s “Roses Are Free.” All told, however, this new-school/old-school communication has brought the band to new levels of improv over Leg One, and with a little polish, could really shoot their playing into the stratosphere come Leg Two.

The Trey-Fish axis has been central to Phish jamming from the beginning. The quirky and symbiotic musical relationship between the guitarist and drummer has always created a palpable motion within jams—the music was always going somewhere now. That time-warped adventure resulting from dense improvisation has returned in full bloom this summer. Distorting minutes into lifetimes while covering a wide spectrum of feels, 2012 Phish jams are as efficient as ever. Riding the foundation that brought them to prominence, inspired with new ideas, and playing as well as ever, the band is smack dab in the middle of making this summer one of their most memorable yet.

6.7.2012 – Worcester (Chris Klein)

=====

Jam of the Day:

Ghost -> Boogie On” 6.7 II, Worcester, MA

In honor of @RobsGonePhishin, who almost wrecked his car while raging too hard at the wheel to “Boogie On.” Glad things worked out, buddy, we’re glad, glad, glad that you’re alive!

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The Brightest Stars of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on July 16th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

(Dan Shinneman)

Though many different songs took center stage throughout Leg One, the following four jams were undeniably the brightest stars of summer. While “Light,” “Ghost,” and “Golden Age” consistently forged innovative paths, “Sand” consistently brought down the house. Let’s take a closer look at the four improvisational pillars of Phish’s opening run of 2012.

“Light”

The signature jam of the modern era continued to grow expand this summer, as every version provided a totally unique take on the ever-changing jam. Beginning in AC with a hard-edged groove mashup with “Manteca,” and continuing with Star Lake’s new-school venture into a plinko paradise, Phish pushed improvisational boundaries with “Light” each time it hit the stage. At Alpine Valley, Phish wove a minimalist, melody-driven and ethereal tale that transformed into one of the more cerebral highlights of tour. And in their tour finale st SPAC, the guys took the jam for one last joyride, landing in a stunning melodic theme. Sculpting a tour highlight each time they played the song—less a standard run through at Bonnaroo—the boys put “Light” in strong position inb the MVP race. But its main competition would come from a revival story.

 “Ghost”

6.30.12 (K.Harris)

Resurrecting “Ghost” from the dead, Phish revitalized their late-‘90s jam vehicle in profound fashion this summer. For the most part, modern-era “Ghosts” had remained a springboard into groove or guitar-led jamming, but rarely a launch into full-band exploration. That all changed on the opening night of tour with a seductively, laid-back rendition that saw the band forge original ground with the tune for the first time in ages. Remaining in the background due to its location at the beginning of tour, it deserves a rightful place at the table with any summer versions.  Then came Blossom. Emerging from a standout “Golden Age,” “Ghost” settled into a sinister full-band groove before moving into the abstract on the backs of Fishman and Trey. Getting into a very creative, drone-like pattern, the band was now infusing totally fresh ideas into “Ghost.” And speaking of new ideas, out of a new-age, synth ending of “Light,” came the Alpine “Ghost.” With virtually no time in conventional realms, the band moved into a “live-tronica” sequence that knocked down yet another music door before slithering into a slow musical dungeon. The band also showcased “Ghost” in, arguably, the set of the summer, once again rising from the depths of a jam—this time, “Sneakin’ Sally.” Carving out a stunning version that spent zero time vamping, Phish used one-minded interplay to sculpt a quasi-ambient jam that covered all sorts of ground before a cathartic arrival. Easily the comeback player of the tour, the only question is whether “Ghost” brings home one trophy or two.

 “Golden Age”

7.3.12 (S.Lehrman)

In 2012, the band finally decided to settle on “Golden Age” as a jam vehicle. After a demented pinko foray at Super Ball, 2011 only saw the cover come off the shelf as late-set filler. But that all changed this tour. When the song’s first summer outing fused into “2001” at Bonnaroo, the guys found a go-to combo that would come out twice more over the rest of the run. At Blossom, however, when breaking “Golden Age” to open the second set, they stretched it out far more significantly. Following an super slick rhythm sequence, Trey initiated a more intricate groove in which Fish followed right along, soon blossoming into a deep space sound sculpture. Alpine’s version featured delicate textures and plinko theatrics before smoothly moving into “2001.” Jones Beach’s version, however, may be the most complete of tour. Migrating from throw-down funk into a percussive palette, and gradually into a slowed down piece of Floydian psych-rock, Phish jammed this one to absolute completion. Entering a totally different style of music altogether, Jones Beach gets my nod out of the several of tour. Ending with a brief version at SPAC that, again, segued into “2001,” the band capped a run of standout jams from their modern era cover.

“Sand”

7.8.12 (R.MacNeil)

“Sand” has become the Phish’s preeminent launch pad to crack-like grooves. Filled with whole-band, rhythmic passion, each time the guys seeped into the millennial-era jam, everyone knew they were in for a treat. Kicking off the tour with, arguably, the most dynamic version of 2012, the band cranked through eight of the densest minutes of music you’ll ever hear. Laced with melody and evoking the sound of late-’70s Dead, the band annihilated a piece that segued seamlessly into the bluegrass juxtaposition of “Nellie Kane.” AC’s late-set version also popped out of the usual groove, and growled with a bit more guitar-focus than those sandwiching it. Cincy’s late-set version was in the dance floor, melodic variety of Worcester’s and segued smoothly into “Roggae.” But Deer Creek’s “Sand” was far more extended with outstanding—and stylistically diverse—guitar narration from Trey throughout. Jones Beach’s July 3rd version built into a second, consecutive multi-tiered scorcher that touched on several variant textures before landing in a plinkofied, looped out segment that brought them into “Golden Age.” The final version of tour came our of a gnarling “Carini” at SPAC and became the third spotlight version in a row that moved through several distinct segments of lockstep jamming.

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Jam of the Day:

Light -> Ghost” 7.1, East Troy, WI

Summer’s two heaviest hitters wrapped into one staggering sequence from Alpine.

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