The Joy Resounding

Alpine Valley Official Print

“That was a perfect set.” So I said to my buddy upon the finish of “Character Zero” last night. Phish had just thrown down a second half that flowed impeccably from start to finish, with every jam played to conclusion and leading naturally into the next. The non-stop stanza contained thrilling improvisation throughout as the band wove together one highlight after another. Forming a whole far greater than the sum of its standout parts, the second set carried us on true musical journey. Packing a punch—with both sets—Phish greeted Alpine Valley to one of the finest start-to-finish performances of the Summer 2012.

When Phish jumped from a standard “Number Line” opener into “Carini,” the first thematic sequence of the second set began. Beginning here, and for the entire first half of the frame, the band focused squarely on dance grooves—and it was glorious. Instead of launching into abstract or a major-key territory in “Carini,” the guys remained anchored to hard-edged groove morphing into a snarling, yet smooth texture that one might expect to hear from a “Tweezer.” Seeing this seething segment to fruition, the band had dissolved into the ether when Trey came in with the opening to “Wilson,” pairing the two dark tales. And it was but an instant upon “Wilson’s” ending that the band kicked it into overdrive for “Golden Age.”

6.30.2012 (Kevin Harris)

For the second time this tour, the guys centered “Golden Age” in the second set, a song that has taken on even more meaning in the midst of this summer’s modern-era musical renaissance. And this time comin’ round, Phish just destroyed the dance floor. Adopting his minimalist summer playing to the funk realm, Trey eased back and painted this beat-driven collage with rhythms licks that could make a grown man drool. Page stepped to his clav, and Mike stepped to the forefront of the jam with precise and eclectic bass lines. All the while Fish remained in lockstep with his bassist. It seemed that everyone took a more prominent leadership role in this jam than Trey, who slunk back like an alley cat, offering delectable comps that spiced up an already thickening groove. “Golden Age” got the pavilion pulsating as the band switched feels into an ultra-textured modern-era feel—an offshoot of the “plinko” sound. Page and Trey speckled the top layer of the groove as Mike and Fish remained in an intricate pocket. Blossoming like a time-lapse film, this jam just continued to get gnarlier by the second, and the guy’s rhythmic interplay got more nuanced and insane. Producing, by far, the most post-show buzz, this jam got real on a Saturday night.

6.30.2012 (Jenni Brennison)

Hitting a change the sounded like the onset of “2001” the band made a quick and ultra-fluid transition into their dance anthem. Exploding Alpine Valley with this laser-like maneuver, the band continued their theatrics by lacing the compact version with the rhythmic complexities of “Golden Age.” And at the climax of this to-die-for, groovalicious centerpiece, Phish blasted right into “Rock and Roll”—a move that kept the show’s energy dial—and level of musical engagement—cranked at 11. If the opening half of the set was dance-centric, the more exploratory second half kicked off with “Rock and Roll.” Transforming from a torrid rock jam to an ethereal masterpiece within a time frame one might think required the flux capacitor, the band dropped another profound jam. If one thing has truly stood out in the many jams of 2012 is the copious ground the band covers in a short period of time with stunning fluidity. Dare I say, there are not many bands out there that can play with such a dense musical spectrum. “Rock and Roll” first moved into percussive textures before Trey swooped in with a gripping guitar lead that directed the rest of the jam. Meeting their guitarist on the astral plane, the band quickly transformed the piece into a cathartic and melody-driven, four-piece collaboration. Tearing off descending licks, Trey continued to bring the band further and further into fantasy land, and, eventually, into an ambient denouement.

6.30.2012 (K.Harris)

And the relentless set just kept hitting as Trey subtly seeped into the long-awaited 2012 debut of “Steam.” Taking the concept of a “landing pad” to a whole new level, the band blanketed the over-sized amphitheatre with the song’s liquid groove. Laying down an infectious and bluesy solo, Trey led the guys through a brief extension of the theme, and bringing the slow groove to a head with a wash of sound and effect, one could feel “Piper” arise from within the music, signifying another choice song selection in a gift-wrapped set that kept on giving. Phish’s ever-protean, improvisational rocket ship took a high-octane journey on this night, forging some fast-paced psychedelia. Trey hit a powerful lead phrase early in the jam that became the theme of the piece, woven throughout the powerful excursion. Chugging as one, the band hit a stride in this jam in which the music seemed to roll effortlessly through them. Even when the band switched feels into a spacier milieu, the coalesced nicely as they peeled back the sonic layers, exposing a vulnerable, melodic core. As the jam trickled into nothing, Trey threw out a musical lasso to reign in the crowd in the form of “Quinn the Eskimo.” As the band concluded the rousing cover, they rolled into the increasingly rare “Harry Hood.”

Putting an effervescent stamp on the night, the band sculpted a standout version that some lost coherence at the very top, though it hardly tarnished the splendid ride to glory. Bursting out of the feel-good climax of the song, the guys dropped into “Character Zero.” Avoiding all distortion and effects, Trey just wailed out-school on this version, even adding a series of classic, late-90’s “Jean-Pierre” (Miles Davis) licks into his solo. And as the final note came crashing down, I was awed by the set’s seamless quality, not to mention top-notch jamming. There was never a single awkward moment in Saturday night’s main event, as the guys unveiled one of summer’s most outstanding efforts. Without space for breath, this airtight set will always underline Alpine’s Saturday night performance, but this whole shindig got started far earlier in the evening.

6.30.2012 (Kevin Harris)

Coming on stage into a humid Wisconsin evening, Phish crafted quite an engaging first set. Dropping an early rarity in “Daniel Saw the Stone,” the show got going in earnest with the third-song “AC/DC Bag.” The guys peppered this version with extra mustard, as they did with the subsequent versions of “Moma Dance” and “Runaway Jim.” But the most sublime couplet of the opening half followed with “Let It Loose” and “Reba.” Dripping the emotional Stones ballad into the mid-summer’s, the band immediately pulled in the attention of the Alpine’s monstrous audience, and then kept it locked right there with a lush and extended “Reba.”

6.30.2012 (K.Harris)

The meaty opening set continued with “Sloth,” and another spin-worthy “Ocelot.” Two more summer debuts—“Poor Heart” and “Circus”—provided a buffer before the true, late-set gem, “Timber.” Moving into some out-of-character, melody-driven harmonies for a part of this rendition, “Timber” immediately became a set break talking point upon its conclusion. A vigorous “Suzy Greenberg” drew a thunderous ovation from the crowd as the exclamation point of the opening half. And as we sat during setbreak and gazed into the purple sky of southern Wisconsin with a bright white waxing moon hung low in the sky, things couldn’t have been any better.

The first night of Alpine immediately jumps to the forefront of contenders for show of the summer. Not that a winner should be chosen, but last night was just that good. It is truly a blessing to bear witness to what is going down nightly on Phish tour these days. Playing with clear inspiration, the guys are—indisputably—throwing down their most creative run since their return. And the first night of Alpine stands tall in the forest of amazing summer shows. After all, it’s not every night the band plays a perfect set.

I: My Soul, Daniel Saw the Stone, AC/DC Bag, The Moma Dance, Runaway Jim, Let It Loose, Reba, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Ocelot, Poor Heart, When the Circus Comes, Timber (Jerry) > The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony >Suzy Greenberg

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

E: Good Times Bad Times

6.30.2012 (Kevin Harris)

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345 Responses to “The Joy Resounding”

  1. Oldskool Says:

    @viola, no offense but if Ghost and Tweezer are standard fare I am not really sure what you are looking for?

  2. robear Says:

    The Blossom Ghost was. It standard fare. Still waiting for a Tweezer to write home about.

  3. robear Says:

    Was not^ standard fare.

  4. viola Says:

    i want then to push the boundaries. hey, they started IT with the the storage jamming last year. thats what i want, the same old clav, chord comping jam style gets water’d down. can mike lead a jam tonight please?

    i’m dreading a second set crosseyed tonight. i cant stand that song cause its so typical and it offers nothing new. its a very easy way for them to “jam” 10 minutes and think they are delivering the goods when in fact its run of the mill. and that goes for all their “jam” vehicles.

    i was excited as hell to get steam last night but clearly the boys had not practiced or even thought that song through. it was a let down to say the least. so if tweezer, free, ghost , boogie, and crosseyed are from the same cloth as earlier in the tour i will be disappointed. its not to say that i wont dance my ass off, its just that i want the boundaries pushed into something we haven’t heard. ya dig?

  5. poop goblin Says:

    Golden age is that 4.0 funk. Why I go

  6. robear Says:

    Viola, I think I follow you.

    Did u dig what they did with AC Twist, Star lake Week>7, Blossom Ghost? Those really floored me and felt like a great blend of old and new styles.

  7. snowbank Says:

    Alpine Valley DL codes? Anybody?

    PooG and Robear- Where us staying in SF?

  8. voopa Says:

    The only thing I’m dreading tonight is a crappy stream. The last 3 have had their moments, but last night was a little choppier (and a little brah-ier too).

    Off to run errands, then give last night a proper (re: LOUD) spin.

  9. viola Says:

    im a snob… i dont deny that. thats what happens when you see 60 shows!

    troy left a pedal on during the opening of the blossom ghost and it is outrageously bad. am i the only one who heard this?? troy doesn’t turn it off until after the first chorus. it ruined it for me so i need to respin it and check out what happens during the rest of it. i thought that the creek dwd sand twist was better than most., of course the sand nellie cane is forever classic. after 11 shows i am now a firm believer in wuster night 1 set 2

  10. BrandonKayda Says:

    I think you mean AC Birds, Cincy Twist @robear 😉

  11. MiA Says:

    Predictable is tough at times with Phish. I get it at times. I mean, they were breaking boundaries, and we want that trajectory to keep going forward.

    Rip chording Gin doesn’t help in that equation. But this Golden Age does.

  12. MiA Says:

    Yeah, that feedback in Ghost really put me off too. What can you do?

    The stream was perfect. One “Whooooooo” and I quit being invested. Perfect. Waited until today to listen.

  13. robear Says:

    Vi the pedal was awful. I watched
    Kdevo vid to see wtf was happening.

    Check the jam though. Reminds me of the big 98 versions with all the layers of guitar effects.

    Yeah, what BK said.

    Viola, thoughts on Week>7 below from Star Lake?

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Phish is the most unpredictable music act in the world.

    Perspective people, perspective.

    It seem predictable to us because we are a bunch of over obsessed nerds..

  15. robear Says:

    Your a nerd. I’m a grouch. 😛

  16. butter Says:

    sick article Miner, very inspiring music it sounds

  17. BrandonKayda Says:

    AC Birds, Cincy Twist, Star Lake Weekapaug = my favorite jams from tour

  18. robear Says:

    Funny that much of the song variety has stayed in set 1.

  19. robear Says:

    Not sure @Glowbanks

  20. robear Says:

    Hangover subsiding. 2 drink Robear had 4. #losing

    Onto set 2 fluff a thon!

  21. BingosBrother Says:

    So true palmer. Might sound funny, but after last night I think kuroda is as responsible for jam abortions as anyone. not intentionally, but after lightin them the last 3 years he has gotten so used to songs just ending that he throws on the big one for the ending and the band sees it and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Chill out CK, this ain’t 2009.

  22. BingosBrother Says:

    Totally Saturday special show, but in the coolest way. Pretty sure phish pleased everyone last night. Crowd going nuts during Suzy and Page just throwin it back at us. Long ass 1st set. Tonight will be the goods. Spocks Brain, bitches.

  23. tela'smuff Says:

    What the hell u kids talkin about? Still complaining after these last 6 shows?

    Golden Age and Piper last night, in addition to Timber. Highlight list stacked.

    AJ told me something about Grouch Tour?

  24. dognamedwilson Says:

    “2001 was hott but they almost always are so no points there.”

    “daniel saw the stone cant be touched after the star lake opener in 03. alpines version doesn’t hold a candle to it.”

    ^uh, dude, ah, never mind. Not even worth pointing out whatevs

    Have fun out there y’all

  25. viola Says:

    im a big fan of the paug -7… that whole mikes groove is worthy. light gets gooey and the paug is o.g. original. troy is straight dancing on those rapid pull offs. pages ground game in the weekapaug is not to be missed. trey feeds right off him and rips IT.

    i’m a fanner for all string muting that lays a ground floor for troy to weave notes. the opening of weekapaug is awesome in that it ties up the light before the first lyrics. lots of textures going on the paug. its a gem

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