Where Were The Fireworks?

7.4.2012 (Dan Lewis)

Traditionally a band who steps up to big occasions and knocks it out of the park, Phish, instead, plowed through 33 songs, most in painfully standard fashion, in what amounted to one long first set for the 4th of July. A centerpiece sequence of “Tweezer -> Twist” provided the single chunk of undeniably timeless music for the night, but other than a scorching jam out of “Susskind Hotel” in the first set and a few notable bust outs, there was little meat to a show that looked primed to blow up on a holiday known for explosives. When I saw signs on the highway that declared “No fireworks display at Jones Beach” driving in, I didn’t realize they were referring to the concert too. Though everything was played with energy and all that, in comparison to the many shows of summer, Phish’s holiday installment couldn’t hold a candle.

A marathon opening set contained yet another Velvet Undergound cut off Loaded—the fifth in six shows—this time “Head Held High.” Unplayed since Vegas ’98, the references to the band’s illustrious Halloween legacy continued with an enthusiastic take on the upbeat tune. Then, a real treat came in a clean version of the incredibly rare “Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday -> Avenu Malkenu -> TMWSIY.” A quality “Bowie” felt like the set closer, but the band still had a while to go, including the jam of the first half in Mike’s “Susskind Hotel.” Bursting into a chugging groove, the band redefined the possibilities for the piece with a torrid conversation that popped from the stage. The band brought out The Greasy Troll for an early-show slot, taking “Purple Rain” off the shelf complete with “tucking” antics to the delight of most fans. Closing the 18-song opening half with the “Star Spangled Banner” the band has set the stage for a more improvisationaly based second set—but it never happened.

7.4.2012 (D.Lewis)

To Phish’s credit, they really had something going through “Taste,” but the set really just fell to shambles after that. To say it fizzled would be a gargantuan understatement. But first, let’s get to the centerpiece of the show—“Tweezer > Twist.” Upon splashdown in “Tweezer’s” jam, Trey stepped right into a guitar solo, leading the band through a fairly generic build, and it looked like we might get hit with a straight rocker. After peaking the build, however, the band settled into a darkening, minimalist soundscape. Trey unleashed growls behind Page’s laser synths and a delicate, ethereal pocket. Trey then began to drop the sounds of the universe behind this experiment, as Page comped this witches brew with juxtaposed keyboard melodies of beauty. Transforming into a storage-esque sequence, the band seemed primed to go deeper when Trey turned into “Twist.” And here would unfold the true gem of the show.

7.4.2012 (D.Lewis)

If the demonic “Twist” from Riverbend had an angelic, twin brother, this jam would most definitely be his other half. Diametrically different than Cincinnati;s descent into Hades, this jam would liken an ascent into heaven. Blending into a four-headed melodic mind-meld, the band spun a stunning tale of majesty. Defining an “amoeba” jam, where nobody is necessarily leading but all are collectively pushing the music, this “Twist” reached hugely cathartic realms of sound and harmony, spinning the audience—gently—into far off galaxies. This music felt like it could have continued with its own motion for an eternity, but at some point Trey decided to move on to “Taste.” Using the polyrhythmic composition as a landing pad for the “Tweezer > Twist,” “Taste” was a fine rendition in its own right, and I was right there with them at this juncture of the set. But when Trey decided to next play “Quinn the Eskimo” in the middle of frame, it wasn’t a good sign.

The following hour plus of music would contain only several interesting minutes in “Harry Hood,” where a delicate and thrilling take on the song passed through the calypso chord progression of the famous Gorge “Light” of ’09.  But sandwiched in the midst a bunch of standard—not to mention unthinkably mellow—songs, the effect of a gorgeous “Hood” was somewhat lost in the fray. After straightforward takes on “Julius” and “Rock and Roll,” the band seemed to be recording a Phish lullaby album.  As the band strung together “Horse -> Silent,” “Hood,” Shine a Light,” “Show of Life,” and “Slave,” watching the three teenage kids next to me try to stay awake through the show was just as entertaining as any of its music. Honestly, I’m not sure what the band was thinking by combining four mellow set closers in a row, because each of them became less and less powerful as they unfolded to the point where it felt like a bad Phish-based SNL skit.

7.4.2012 (D.Lewis)

The encore of “Sleeping Monkey > Reprise” is the quintessential encore to follow a mind-expanding set of music, but when the band rolled into their classic pairing, it seemed wholly out of place last night. Interestingly, most of my friends really liked this show, and after listening back, I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, I missed. “Tweezer -> Twist” and “Susskind” were certainly on the level, but everything else, less “Hood,” was completely standard in every way, and in a three plus hour show, that’s a lot of dead time. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, I guess.

In the context of a spectacular tour, these past two Jones Beach shows felt a bit underwhelming. Coming off seven Midwest shows of magic, of which only two trailed off significantly, these spotty shows on Long Island didn’t feel up to snuff. When playing 30 songs, there is only so much room to jam, and while Phish definitely took advantage of a couple opportunities, the show felt incredibly thin, especially considering the occasion. As we head up to SPAC for the final three shows of Leg One, I’d expect a bit more to go down in the woods of Saratoga than we saw on the beach of Long Island.

I: Alumni Blues* > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Head Held High, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Kill Devil Falls, Bittersweet Motel, The Moma Dance, Gumbo, David Bowie, Alaska, Susskind Hotel, Hold Your Head Up > Purple Rain > Hold Your Head Up, The Star Spangled Banner

II: Boogie On Reggae Woman, Tweezer > Twist > Taste, Quinn the Eskimo,  Julius, Rock and Roll > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Harry Hood, Shine a Light, Show of Life, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

* w/ Dave’s Energy Guide tease to open the show
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508 Responses to “Where Were The Fireworks?”

  1. MiA Says:

    War was awesome.

  2. Luther T. Justice Says:

    I agree. Mike in Docker khakis is not what we want to see.

  3. Luther T. Justice Says:

    Although khakis do breathe well.

  4. 20 Minute Halleys Says:

    WTF regarding the fireworks…my thoughts exactly regarding the jones beach signage regarding fireworks, are lack thereof. I thought, “okay don’t disturb the band with a fireworks display mid or late first set,” makes sense.
    That was my only real let down last night.

    Regarding music, I thought this was a Trey led performance that was played really clean…and while it did not go into the ether, per se, it certainly sounded amazing.

    What’s wrong with the boys sounding good!

  5. alf Says:

    selector nicing up my tour packing again

    i could get used to this

  6. SillyWilly Says:

    Thanks, Selector J!

    I love this song.

  7. 20 Minute Halleys Says:

    though the lightning flashing behind the clouds, if that is what that, driving out after the show did provide and eerie and entertaining site!

  8. litteringand Says:

    Not to worry, I predict some purple people eater pants for SPAC

  9. Yalta Balt Says:

    These past 2 nights were the Trey show loud and clear. Gordon needs to start taking over the jams from the beginning and start to build some kind of theme. If not, Trey will wail and wail and come to the standard “un-organic” peaks that happen in almost every “jam” It almost looked like Gordon wasn’t really awake the first night thus Trey pointing him out in Antelope. Even though there were probably 3 highlights, I wish the band would have been locked in a little more.

    Maybe the Webcast really did affect the band, i.e Trey.

    to quote a friend…..”Tomorrow night is gonna be sick!!”

  10. punkmug Says:

    I had fun watching last nights cast. Was in some pretty good headspace though. Set 1 was a lot of fun for me. Set 2 started fine, but they did lose me after Taste as well. No worries, SPAC will bitch slap us so hard our driver’s licenses will cry.

    @Silly. We had talked about my brother in law’s rental houses in Milwaukee at AV2. I talked to him yesterday and both places are rented. Sorry man. I’m sure something will come thru for you. (if it already hasn’t and I’ve missed it here on the bb over the last day or two)

  11. kayatosh Says:

    yes! selector time. thank you.

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    @Punkmug

    thanks a lot for asking!

    I’m not too stressed about finding a place. I have a week to look and I have some friends who said I could stay with them for a little while.

    But, thanks a lot for asking for me. I’ll keep your brother in law in mind if I need a place in the future.

  13. pauly7917 Says:

    completly agree ….couple of good moments but overall a dud!!

  14. kayatosh Says:

    love selector’s voice — so youthful and mellow.

  15. punkmug Says:

    Good to hear you have options Silly. Things will work out, they always do.

  16. Luther T. Justice Says:

    There’s always the option of livin in a van down by the river @Silly.

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    love selector’s voice — so youthful and mellow.

    which is odd considering he’s a 75 year old former death metal band lead singer with a 40 year smoking habit and a penchant for fire breathing.

  18. litteringand Says:

    Random- There is a 40-50 sec section in the Alpine Ghost jam that sound like nothing I’ve ever heard from this band. Its like full on rave city and i fucking love it.

  19. MiA Says:

    Was that a “my cousin vinnie” joke?

  20. chris Says:

    you’d think the band belongs in a geriatric’s ward base on some of the insight of certain fans.

    I agree a striing of set closers is another head scratcher

    It comes down to this. If the music is this good without jamming, imagine if they actually jamme..

  21. MiA Says:

    I don’t have a problem with them not jamme, but more about why they quit in the middle of a good one.

    I thought twist could have gone on a lot longer.

  22. Kaveh Says:

    Morning BBers!

  23. Ghostface Says:

    I was couch turring but totally agree with @miner. I even think the Tweezer>twist was abandoned too soon. Hoping Trey doesn’t get into this bad routine to close out the tour. Just happy SPAC isn’t being webcast, they seem to play it safe on webcast nights. Patience, letting the jam breathe and love is all I ask for, see where it goes, don’t panic, find a groove and stick with it for more than 4 bars. I love this band.

  24. punkmug Says:

    @MIA. Luther was referring to a SNL bit.

    Tweezer was solid but took a little while to get to IT which was fine, but then it was Twisted..which is also fine, but like you said MIA, Twist needed a little more meat to it IMO. I feel like I’m nit picking though, the amount of hot hot music the guys are pushing out is truly staggering right now. Any critique is simply just Phish geekery for me at this point. Phish is destroying minds again and it feels good.

  25. Rich Says:

    Sometimes I think you don’t even like Phish… It’s ONLY about the jams to you…and that is all well and good…but…remember they have some kick ass songs too that we all love to hear. You forget that from time to time.

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