The Phish from Vermont have arrived—again. If 2009 and 2010 provided building blocks for this era, and 2011 was the year the band began to forge new ground again, 2012 is the year they have hit full stride. Each and every night of Leg One, Phish came to play with a polished musical consistency that all fans have longingly sought since 2009. Practiced and adventurous, the band left a wake of fire across the eastern US over June, addressing almost all of their fan base’s grovels while crafting timeless jams with the effortless nature of lore.
The band’s collective patience that popped up in certain jams of 2011, quickly became the hallmark of 2012. Beginning with Worcester’s opening-night bomb and carrying right through SPAC, Phish—especially Trey—displayed a willingness to let the music breathe. This patience gave all jams a far more dynamic quality right off the bat, and the resulting interplay left us with hordes of highlights to debrief throughout the next month.
Throughout summer’s opening leg, Phish certainly righted several issues that had plagued their shows in the modern era. Trey’s infamous “ripcord,” though not gone completely, didn’t play a large role in disrupting summer shows. In fact—in quite the opposite direction—the band dropped handfuls of stunningly seamless segues of the like we hadn’t heard in years! In addition to a wide array of bust-outs this summer, including one we thought we’d never see in “Skin It Back,” the band diversified their central jam vehicles to include “Ghost” and “Twist”—two songs that were in desperate need of revival, “Golden Age”—used primarily as a single last year, and “Back on the Train.” The band also included noteworthy one-off jams on “Roses Are Free,” “Birds of a Feather,” “Fee,” “Skin It Back,” and two-off jams on “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” and “Sneakin’ Sally.” Notably absent from setlists were long-form compositions, as “Divided Sky” and “Guyute” made only one appearance each, though “Fluffhead,” a veritable 3.0 anthem, still dotted several sets.
The guys’ musicianship shone all month, but none more brightly than Jon Fishman’s. Arguably, one of the last band members to fully get up to speed in 3.0, Henrietta-turned-Friar-Tuck absolutely owned his kit this past tour. Fishman’s next-level beat science drove the band all June and became the defining facet of so many tour highlights. Creatively steering so many jams this summer, Fish’s leadership has been crucial to the band’s enhanced communication. And when The Greasy Troll is on fire, the backbone of the band—Trey and Fish—becomes far more daring. Though Phish is unquestionably a four-minded monster, the symbiotic relationship that has always existed between Trey and Fish blossomed in 3.0-style this summer, pushing the band further and further into new territory. When reviewing your favorite sequences from this run, be sure to hone in on how tour MVP, Jonny B. Fishman, kicked them up a notch.
And the highlights! Oh, the highlights! Far to many to list in a summary piece like this, suffice it to say that we will have plenty to talk about for this month and beyond. Almost every single night of tour, Phish dropped at least a sequence, if not several, of to-die-for jamming. Taking the concept of “musical density” to a whole new level, the band covered staggering amounts of ground within single jams, moving fluidly through many diverse feels.
If 3.0 is the “The Golden Age” of Phish, 2012 sure seems like the start of “The Rennaissance.” Reaching levels not approached in the past three calendars, the band has melded their modern foci of enchanting sound-sculptures and “plinkofied” rhythmic bliss with the rest of their musical repertoire, forming a refined style that encompasses their entire career. Using this wide musical palette, Phish painted different styles of shows over summer’s first act, ranging from from dark and improvisational to playful and song-based, speaking to everyone in their audience. And if the contour of the past few years stays true in 2012, we are in for one hell of a second leg!
One of 2012’s most engaging sequences.
Tags: 2012, Summer 2012