In a tour filled with so many standout shows and highlight jams, there is a propensity to lose some of the less monstrous moments in the flood of musical booty. With Phish so locked this summer, even minor pieces of improv popped with a different sort of life. Below are four examples of these undercover gems.
“2001” 6.8 II, Worcester, MA
When Phish broke out the first “2001” of the year inside The Centrum, the place absolutely exploded, and the band responded with one of the more impressive versions we’d heard in a while. Though Trey tickled the initial half of the jam with sparse rhythms phrases, it was after the first chorus that he kicked things into high gear. Amidst a popping and collaborative dance groove, Trey painted the music with thick James Brown teases, before working his way into a legitimate solo for the only time in “2001” this summer. With a funk-fusion sensibility, Trey tore off liquid leads that upped the entire excursion to another level. Sliding right into the final chorus on Fish’s intricate textures, Trey’s acrobatics continued in the breaks between each part of “2001’s” theme. Hitting the apex as if shot out of a cannon, the band wouldn’t play another version quite like this over Leg One.
“Tube” 6.15 I, Atlantic City, NJ
Though “Tube” has largely been left alone this era, contributing only a couple minutes of groove to first sets, in Atlantic City, the guys nailed a version that should be recognized. Extending beyond 3.0 standards, this “Tube” possessed a perfect tempo from the jump. While Page demolished his clav, Trey dove into meaty comping patterns that set the tone for the whole band to loosen into the jam. Passing the baton to Gordon, Trey stepped back, allowing the bass to direct the next segment. Moving through several stop/start throwdowns, this “Tube” palpably juiced the afternoon crowd in the opening set of the weekend. For the first half of tour, I started every morning—er, late afternoon—with this selection.
“Bathtub Gin” 6.19 I, Portsmouth, VA
Jedi antics aside, Phish’s first night at nTelos Pavilion didn’t feature much memorable music. In fact, the first set significantly outshone the second, and this “Bathtub Gin” is one of the reasons why. Taking a slower approach to the jam—akin to the Worcester version—Trey laid back at the onset of this conversation while the band bounced ideas off each other. As the guys, methodically, built this jam, Trey gradually emerged from the shadows. And when the latter half of the piece arrived, he took full command, showering the audience with six-string marksmanship, while leading the troops to a blistering peak. Without moving outside the box, the band engaged in airtight interplay throughout this first set standout, converging in the most cohesive jam of the night.
“Farmhouse” 7.1 II, East Troy, WI
Much like the Gorge in 2011, when Phish completed a long segment of deep, psychedelic jamming at Alpine Valley this summer, they came back to earth via “Farmhouse.” And in each instance—the song’s only appearance of the respective tours—the band’s cosmic energy spilled right into the ballad. Following “Light > Ghost > Back on the Train,” Phish unveiled an incredibly delicate take on “Farmhouse,” featuring an emotional, though minimalist, guitar solo over a sparse rhythmic backing. Mike played a counterpoint lead to Trey’s dripping melodies, and Page’s piano accompaniment provided the final layer of this introspective bliss.
Jam of the Day:
This stellar, late-set pairing from Cincy saw both jams go off.
Tags: 2012, Jams, Songs, Summer 2012