Star Lake’s Summer Suite

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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238 Responses to “Star Lake’s Summer Suite”

  1. lumpyhead Says:

    Voops, I got your leaf, no prob.

  2. halcyon Says:

    Thanks Kaya!

  3. Slicksasquatch Says:

    No ph for Halloween . Apparently page is sitting in w the meters

  4. PigSong Says:

    Congrats on a new gig halcy, glad to hear day one went well for you.

    Picked up Mission St IPA from TJ’s earlier. About to pour one, really like this beer, especially at $6 a sixer.

  5. steamer Says:

    just got the opening to attend starlight show. anyone with experience there? phish is always worth it of course but is venue a plus or minus or neutral? any advice on where to sit? intel appreciated

  6. stapes Says:

    Best of luck @ Halcy! CO will miss you.

    In local news, the town of Nederland just voted to “remove all criminal penalties against buying, selling, possessing, consuming, growing and transporting marijuana for anyone age 21 or older.”

    http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_14833206?source=most_viewed

    Will be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe the BB should go in on a mountain cabin co-op……

  7. MiA Says:

    I figure federal agent’s are now planning on how to get a transfer to Nederland.

  8. Beaten Worker Says:

    So I posted during tour about how important it seemed that Trey wore a printed Flyers tee during one of the shows (cant remember which show, but he stated in an interview about how he wears things now that limit distractions for himself, ie all the button down or blank shirts he wears every show) and how that seems to be an indication of the level of comfort he is gaining with each show.

    Well after watching him at spac 1, set 2, and seeing him wear a flat brimmed, tour pinned, new era hat, I feel even stronger about that sentiment. Things feel different now then the last 3 years. More focused and important.

    The feeling is back. The IT, if you will. The feeling of listening to a show that you werent at, and getting chills the whole show. The feeling of goosebumps rolling down your arms when the jam starts. The “holy shit, these guys are true masters of their craft”, night in and night out. The feeling that anything can happen at any moment. Its all back.

    And this is coming from someone who has only been able to see them since 09. I have listened extensively to their catalog. Reading setlists, analyzing the difference in sounds between different eras, trying to imagine what it was like to be at a legendary show.

    I cannot stop listening to this past tour. No highlights of tours past. All 2012. And I couldnt be happier. I have 4 shows on the books for leg 2, and I am more excited about the possibilities of what is to come then I have been in the last 3 years. The reason being, I KNOW they will deliver. The way they should. The way they did.

    #guinessinducedphishthoughts

  9. stapes Says:

    so apparently they did that 2 years ago…..

    that’s a paddlin’

    #stoney

  10. Bwana Says:

    ^ BeatenWorker

    New Years excluded you can pretty much extend back to Leg2 of last summer with the above sentiments in my mind… UIC1 Set 2 is certainly still at the top of my list for best set of 3.0.

  11. Beaten Worker Says:

    @Bwana

    I agree, there have certainly been shows/moments going back to last year (and since the comeback) that have been great. However, this whole tour just felt different. And I saw the first 3 shows of the New Years run and stand by the fact that there are some GREAT moments that get lost in the sloppiness (Contact, Cities, Crosseyed>Lifeboy, Piper, to name a couple).

    But I dont know what it is that stands out so much about this last leg for me. And I wasnt present for any of the shows. It felt special. Back to that sacred sound. The unhinged, “lets see what happens” feeling that I have always listened too.

    Again, there have been moments, and shows, and runs, that have gone there since the reunion, but last leg seemed to really find a new sound. Phish has always taken concepts from tours past and built upon them. And, it seemed to me like, from the start of tour, they have found the sound they have been looking for for the last 3 years. That staccato, alien summoning, porno funk noise that they threw into each and every song they played. And I dont even think they have touched on where its going to end up. Leg 2′s have been the tours where they have taken the sound they were working on to a higher level, and I just cant wait to hear what they have in store.

    Id say that im just a bit brewed, but these are things ive been thinking since I heard the first note of Worcester.

  12. voopa Says:

    Woohoo!

  13. Slicksasquatch Says:

    http://www.jambase.com/Articles/94222/Page-McConnell-Halloween-Run-with-The-Metermen-in-NYC

    Has this been discussed . I am kinda shocked no Halloween

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