Exploratory Excursions

7.1.2012 (Jenni Brennison)

To conclude their Midwestern visit, Phish balanced Saturday night’s explosive throwdown with a Sunday performance whose highlights focused on cerebral, nouveau improvisation. Despite an inability to close the second set with authority, the band had already flexed their improvisational muscle considerably during a 25 minute segment of “Light -> Ghost” and a first set “Fee” that stands up to any ever played. Although a spottier show overall, Phish still showcased the type of fresh ideas and experimental playing that has flooded this summer’s tour. Using these three vehicles, the guys scripted a triumvirate of indelible jams that will hang in the 2012’s Hall of Fame.

7.1.12 (J.Brennison)

During a first set consisting of all but two summer debuts, things got serious in an instant as the band slid through a wormhole out of “Fee.” Stepping through a door into the ether, the guys ascended into a spectral daydream. Elevating through patient cooperation, Page tickled the piece with “plinkofied” clav textures while Trey sprouted soul-tugging leads over a rolling pocket. Using a beatless interlude in the jam, the guys turned a corner with a series of with fresh ideas, this time snaking into even more heavenly places. A jam that only a mature Phish could pull off, the band pushed and pulled the music as a single-cell organism, discovering an exalting plain of ambient groove. Creating an alternate reality midway through the first set, Phish smashed down the walls of their bust-out jukebox with majestic and mysterious music. Supported by a slew of rarities in the first set, it sure seems that the band is taking their self-imposed, 200-song challenge to heart. Covers of “Soul Shakedown Party,” “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” and “Frankenstein” saw the stage for the first time this year, as well as Phish originals, “Vultures,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” and “Meat.” The difference with bust outs this year as opposed to the past couple, is that all songs have all been clearly practiced and performed cleanly, a facet that makes all the difference in the world when playing one-off pieces. A fun first half—with a profound swan dive into ambient adventure—set the table for some serious music come the second.

Alpine’s two-night onslaught of covers continued at the top of the main event as a fiery version of “Crosseyed and Painless” dissolved into the oft-teased Zeppelin epic, “No Quarter.” Played with particular poignancy last night, this version dripped popped with the psychedelic energy with it was birthed on “Houses of the Holy.” But when the band concluded playing the music of others and focused on two of their central launch pads of 2012, the show reached its most magnificent heights.

7.1.12 (J.Brennison)

Crashing into “Light” out of  “No Quarter’s” dissonant residue, the band strapped on their jamming shoes and put the pedal to the medal. Following two completely original versions of their modern era epic in AC and Star Lake, the band came right back with a third. In this incarnation of the jam, the band shied from groove and took off into long-form improvisation. Favoring a rolling and melodic ambient texture, all four guys played as one unit as dramatically as any time this summer. A meticulous exercise in multi-part harmonies and symbiotic, melodic interplay, “Light” blasted into totally new places last night with free-form improv. Mike teased the bass line of “Frankie Sez” midway in the jam, and—momentarily—it seemed as thought that is where we were headed—but not even close. Continuing to push the envelope with one-minded bliss, Phish allowed the jam to blossom into a lush garden of Rhodes-laced, avant-garde tapestry. Playing with such attentive ears, each member’s musical ego dissolved into a stunningly gorgeous conversation. As Fishman dropped his beat, the band drifted further outward, melding naturally into a synth-based final segment that artistically transformed into “Ghost.”

7.1.12 (J.Brennison)

Now we have spoken of the fresh ideas bubbling from Phish this summer, but this “Ghost” has taken that concept to new heights. Moving so far from conventions, the guys engaged in a jam that—at times—hardly sounds like Phish at all. Taking “Ghost” for its third joyride of summer, this one would, again, sound distinctly different. After the guys settled into the piece, they promptly popped out convention as Trey hit a faster lick. Fishman immediately caught on and made a change to a house beat that one might expect to hear from a “jamtronica” outfit. The entire band hopped on this out-of-character shift, and Phish took a brief foray into the type of music that legions of their one-time followers have made famous. As Fishman switched up the rhythm again, the music took another turn, this time for the abstract. Morphing smoothly into another original segment, this jam seemed to be guided by a greater force as the music spilled out as if scripted. Migrating from beauty into a menacing groove, this “Ghost” gave musical density a new meaning. Layering a slow vocal reprise of “Still Waiting” over this murky groove, the guys gradually built out of the jam with a seamless segue into “Back on the Train.” Serving as a groovy landing pad for an extended sequence of unique and transcendent jamming, “Train” centered the crowd for what was certainly shaping up to be one of the sets of the summer.

Alpine Valley Official Print

A minimalist take on “Farmhouse” shone as a mid-set breather, as the band’s the meticulous improvisation spilled into the millennial-era ballad. But once “Farmhouse” ended, the band, however, crushed their own musical momentum with a series of questionable song choices. Sputtering to the end of the show with a first-set-esque sequence of “46 Days,” “Heavy Things,” “Joy,” and “Julius,” a set that had flowed as well as any through “Farmhouse” took a nosedive and never recovered. I, honestly, think that the band shot their proverbial load on the otherworldly sequence of “Ghost -> Light,” and if they felt like they had to play songs for the rest of the set, then so be it. Sometimes when you have such strong centerpieces to a show—and “Fee,” “Light” and “Ghost” are all “type II” reveries—whatever falls around them is just gravy—too salty, or not.

When looking back on 2012’s return to Alpine Valley, many fans will rightfully recall the airtight, powerhouse second set of Saturday night. But when crafting any summer highlight reel, it will be a moral imperative to include Sunday night’s top-shelf trifecta. As the band moves beyond the Midwest and into the stretch run of Leg One, things are strong as ever in the world of Phish. Playing with a focused creativity unseen since the late-‘90s, the guys are mining musical gold on a nightly basis. Whether a set, an entire show, or—in the case of last night—a few timeless jams, one can be sure to leave any current Phish show with some form of improvisational treasure.

I: Soul Shakedown Party, Lonesome Cowboy Bill, Vultures, Gotta Jibboo, Dirt, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,Access Me, Meat, Frankenstein, Fee, Maze, The Squirming Coil

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

E: Meatstick

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1,479 Responses to “Exploratory Excursions”

  1. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    whoops double post, but certainly 4.0 loops

  2. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    I am going to mention it again. Golden Age, prophetic!

  3. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    The age of miracles

  4. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    When that happens, they can do no wrong! That = Sand->GA->Wolfman’s->Walk Away

  5. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    I am the last one left!

  6. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    Fluff, fluff fluff, fluff came to New York!

  7. voopa Says:


  8. jp Says:

    a golden age to be a phan, thank you for this tour!! not even halfway through and just crushing!

  9. bobby weird Says:

    Props to mention of scotty from max creek…. Man, them’s some special n rich memories.

  10. sumodie Says:

    Fok fok fok what a sick nite, beer time just blasted back to western mass

    Was it me or did that Antelope go BOOM?

  11. Al Says:

    Looks like a really strong second set. I hope MKdevo or HarpuaSBD were there….

  12. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Such a huge 2nd set. The sandy ga is why I go to Phish shows and the antelope still has me energized. Can’t go to sleep

    The energy in the venue was explosive from note 1. Can’t wait for nite 2

  13. sumodie Says:

    I got skull crushed thru Walk Away

    So much so i thought Bug was the encore

    good thing i stuck around

    btw, JB is an sick ass venue. the sound & views from way up in the mezz were are superkor. Anyone who complains can gladly take my nearby Great Woods & Hartford amphitheaters

  14. Bodi Says:

    Just back from jb1, near great show tonight, many genuine fist pumping moments, skin it, an antelope that had been shot in the rump with a crossbow and went apeshit! Fascinating to watch the push and pull of that antelope jam, seemed like a real tug of war between mike and trey for a while, which fed the tension build even more. End of golden was sublime creation, wish they built on that a bit more.. Trey aborted wolfmans pissed me off, it was such a gnarly swamped out wolf early on, had real groundbreaking potential… Ahh well, such Is the phish these days.. Still hard to walk out of a show like that without a smile, quite a ride.. See y’all there for uncle sams bday!

  15. Bodi Says:

    Btw look for me selling my return of the Jedi T’s on lot tomorrow! Limited pressing!

  16. sumodie Says:

    Whoah, who knew that tonight’s Skin It Back was the biggest bustout in phistory, last played July 29, 1988 (1,417 shows). Shit, I think I lost my bustout punchcard too…

  17. sumodie Says:

    Navigating unfamiliar LI expressways post Phish is hard enough

    but when all the highway announcement signs are screaming that an adult is missing and that a grey Toyota Camry license plate #ANG—- is wanted

    it kinda freaks you out. a LOT

    sure hope that story ended on a good note

  18. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Ok with Quinn getting up in an hour and despite liberal landing pad usage it looks like I’m not getting any sleep tonight

    My cup runneth over with Phish these last few weeks. AC1 for my bday with a huge BB contingent, with an all timer 2nd set for me.

    Then tonight, where I spent the first set dancing hard at each nailed tune, nervous about how good a time my wife was having after 2 years maternity leave so to speak with Phish. They hit her with 2 super sentimental songs for her – halleys and joy, and when the lights went down for set 2 she said she was so happy she came. By the time she turned to me deep in sand and said “I’m scared (which she now denies but totally said)” I knew the Phish from VT had shown her IT once again.

    Musically, CDT got a little weird but obviously it was sand>golden age where the improv meat of the set was. I don’t know how they’re managing to simultaneous combine the delicate and melodious with the funk grooves the way they are, with each outro getting ominously spare and spacey.

    Was too blissed to catch anything shorted about wolf mans but by walk away the crowd was eating out of their hands. Both fluff and antelope were played to frenetic perfection IMO. Maybe the best, craziest antelope I’ve seen

    So I would’ve been happy with a mediocre show where my wife regains her appreciation. Instead she gets some top notch Phish and I win both ways.

    Mr p, The BBer who shall remain nameless, and purple – I’m glad she got to meet you guys and humanize the BB some

    Finally, the use of the LED ovals was subtle and effective tonight from closer up and with a straighter mindset. They were unobtrusive and didn’t take away from the music, whereas at AC I was so far back all I could see were the ovals and my mind baby got overwhelmed and salty. CK seems to be refining their use…

    My .02

  19. sumodie Says:

    I got a good lesson that my other half doesn’t have to experience Phish the same way I do (how dare he leave for a pretzel during this epic jam, i’m filing for divorce!)

    No, no capes were involved in this altercation

    Daylight breaks, zzz time awaits -Happy 4th!!

  20. Oldskool Says:

    Love that they are consistently melting faced on a nightly basis right now. I love to think about some young kid getting IT for the first time at any given show. With this being the first generation to grow up without Jerry in a very long time I think it is so important from a cultitural perspective that these guys continue on and show the new generation the light.

  21. Al Says:

    ^agreed 100%

  22. Al Says:

    Here’s a snippet of a show review on Livephish.com

    …All members of the musical group, The Phish, from Vermont played with great vigor and skill. The young red head who seems to be the leader seemed to be smiling a lot, indicating enjoyment and happiness at the sounds that were emitting from his masterful fret work…

    nice 🙂

  23. Dr Pronoia Says:

    We all needed to ‘catch our breath’ after that walk away. Sand>>walk away was pure genius

    Sucks that with only an iPhone I can’t relisten today so I can offer more than flufftastic impressions and more detailed phishthoughts, but you know how it goes

  24. RoosterPizza Says:

    This Jones Beach night one was some show. I have listened to it in its entirety twice. wow

  25. Lycanthropist Says:

    Way too early to be at work

    Especially on July 4th.

    I believe last night made a believer out of one of my pessimistic buddies.

    Chalkdust > Walk Away was pure phish crack.

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