TTFF: Highlights of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on September 28th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (Michael Stein)

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Light > Ghost” 7.1 II Alpine

One of the smoothest and most original segments of music from Leg One.

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Undermind” 8.31 I Dick’s

The best first set closer ever?

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Birds of a Feather” 6.15 II, AC

At the end of the summer, this “Birds” from the first night of AC, can still hang with any jam of the season.

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Tweezer” 8.17 II, SF

A banger from Bill Graham.

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Twist” 6.22 II, Cincy

Jesus Christ Super Twist. Never Forget.

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Carini”  6.7 II, Worcester

The first jam of summer still sounds just as fresh as it did in June.

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Piper” 8.18 II, SPAC

The “Piper” of the summer.

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Sand > Roggae” 6.22 II, Cincy

A full-band funk jam in “Sand,” the likes of which we didn’t hear in the second half of summer.

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Harry Hood” 8.15 II, Long Beach

This multi-tiered “Hood” punctuated a majestic opening night in Long Beach.

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Miner’s Mailbag

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on September 27th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.22.12 – Starlight Theatre (Ryan MacNeil)

Today I am trying a new format for a post that I hope will become a weekly feature on Phish Thoughts. Yesterday evening, via Twitter (@mrminer), I put a call out for any Phish-related questions. I would then select some to answer for today’s post…and voila! I think it’s a cool way to keep a pulse on what the community is thinking about and a great way to interact on a more personal level in more than 140 characters. I will try to answer all the other questions via Twitter. I hope you enjoy, and I welcome any constructive feedback.

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@phantastic99 Do you feel the long layoffs after summer will hurt phish next summer?

I think Phish proved in Worcester this year that no amount of time off can truly “hurt” them if they practice and prepare for tour, so I suppose the answer to your question is no. But, with such extended time off (if things repeat themselves), I do feel there is a certain amount of “resetting” that naturally happens. It’s no longer like the late ‘90s where the band’s improvisational style directly builds upon itself from one tour to another. It’s more of a catch all—or catch anything—scene these days. For example, during Leg One the band was pushing plinko jams and in Leg Two they were virtually non-existent; everything was coming up blissful. I think that the band is capable of playing in so many different styles at this point, that it is far more about how they are feeling on any given night than what has happened, musically, in preceding shows or tours. Another example, Page was majestically integrating the Theremin into the best jams of Leg Two of 2011, only to bust it out once this year as a joke during Star Lake’s “Scent.” So to wrap back around to your question, I don’t think time off can hurt the band, but it would be fascinating to see where a fall tour that built off such an amazing summer would go to right now. But that’s not where Phish is at these days. With kids in school and families in full force, the band has adjusted their schedule accordingly.

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 @deadareus  Audience vs. sbd… What’s your personal preference and why?

Great question, and the eternal audiophile debate. I think that the crispiest, most ideal audience tape will always sound better than a soundboard. But there are so many variables in that audience tape coming out perfectly, that 9 times out of 10 I prefer the current soundboards. It’s a different experience though. Listening to an audience tape is listening to how the room sounded that night; it is an authentic, aural reproduction of the show. It will capture aspects of Phish’s sound that the soundboards can’t. But at the same time, soundboards allow one to hear the detail of the music with far more clarity—hence their advantage—though they can sometimes sound flat. I think LivePhish has their mix fairly dialed in at this point, and that’s what’s on my iPod at all times. With the immediacy of the soundboards these days, everything has changed in the listening game. Without a DAT to pop in immediately like back in the day, I know I’m not gonna’ wait for tapers to post torrents to re-listen to the show. We’re spoiled, but it is what it is.

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@WDurgin Does the music suffer when they webcast? #phishtroll

Haven’t you heard? After Leg Two, the theory has shifted: the music suffers when they don’t webcast!

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@likeanantelope December 95 or May 1977. Which was a better month of music? #phishandthedead #toughquestions

December 1995 by a country mile, but I’m kinda biased. With December ’95, we are talking about one of the peak months of music ever produced by Phish. There are hearty takeaways from each and every show in this month which, in many respects, was a stylistic culmination of the band’s entire career. My favorite era of Dead music is the early ‘70s—specifically the one drummer era of ’72 and ’73—when the jams were far more wide open and psychedelic. Everyone always touts ’77 Dead, but I always found those tapes to be far less intriguing than their earlier ones.

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@alicht What are your top 5 shows of 2012 thus far?

1) 8/31 Dick’s, 2) 8/19 Bill Graham, 3) 9/1 Dick’s, 4) 8/15 Long Beach, 5) Tie: 8/28 St. Louis and 6/7 Worcester; Runners Up: 6/15 AC, 9/2 Dick’s

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@AceMcCready68 With the band stretching songs past 20 minutes do you think the 4 song second set will happen in the next year?

No. I don’t think they have the stamina or the drugs to jam four songs in a row for fifteen plus minutes. We can only hope. About the stamina that is.

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@seif69 I would like to see you talk about the (non)religious themes in songs like Bug, Lifeboy, Sand, etc. #phish

Clearly, Trey and Tom have exposed an agnostic, if not atheist, bent in these tunes. (“I will choose my own religion…” “You don’t get a refund if you overpray”) With anti-establishment themes like these, the band is subliminally luring their fans away from organized society into a cult of rock and roll idolatry where loyalists spend $75 dollars for ticket, $20 for parking and $50 dollars for a poster every night. When these lemmings are doped up on psychedelics, their fragile minds are suspectible to delicate, lyrical manipulation, as in the instances that you have referenced. (Also see: “Time for the Meatstick, Bury the Meatstick, Time for the Meatstick” and “Please her with a tweezer.”) Most Phish fans are so caught up in hypnotic dance that these messages integrate with their brainwaves on a frequency that is undetectable to the human psyche. These altered brainwaves seduce their followers away from their families and into lives of on-tour debauchery. “It doesn’t matter.” Get it?

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@benerickson922 How would the introduction of new original material impact future shows/tours?

Shit. I was hoping it would have impacted shows already. But so far, so good. Ya’ gotta believe if the guys plan on playing for a while, and all signs seem to point that way, that they will cut a new record. That’s what bands do, right? It’s been the longest gap of Phish’s career without producing a new album, and would hope that changes soon. How would it impact shows? It would provide spice and variety while keeping things on the up and up! It’s time to add another signature jam or three to this era to go with “Light” and “Golden Age.” Expect most fans to bitch about any new material for the first tour, and then begin to come around slowly as usual.

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Jam of the Day:

Down With Disease” 8.17 II, SF

The most far-reaching jam of BGCA outside of night three.

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Leg Two All-Stars

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on September 24th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.29.2012 – Oklahoma City, OK (Ryan MacNeill)

During Leg Two, Phish stuck to a very tight second set rotation. When looking to compile a second leg All-Star team, a few songs—“Light,” “Chalk Dust,” and “Tweezer”—jumped right out. But the 4th and 5th spots on the first team (using the NBA model) weren’t shoo-in selections. After a bit of thought, however, here are my picks.

“Chalk Dust Torture” — Already discussed in an article last week, “Chalk Dust” leapt onto this squad with three outstanding versions in its last three outings of summer, including an all-timer in Colorado.  Bursting out of nowhere following two relatively standard versions, “Chalk Dust” broke form in Atlanta in a big way, going unfinished into “What’s the Use?.” The next two versions, in St. Louis and Colorado, went in totally different directions, culminating with Dick’s masterpiece.

“Tweezer” — Also seen in an article of its own, “Tweezer” not only made the all-star team, but also took home the comeback player of the tour. Going 4-for-4 on the tour, “Tweezer” rolled out only great jams this tour, a welcome change from recent runs. From the darkness of Bill Graham’s to the bliss of Kansas City and Charlotte, “Tweezer” covered a lot of territory over Leg Two, and it is great to see the old dog gain this honor in 2012.

“Light” — If Phish had only played the Dick’s “Light” this tour, the modern jam vehicle would have a legitimate place on this squad. But in addition to this version of instant legend, “Light” also produced the moment of the summer, and arguably, the tour’s second best jam in Bill Graham finale. The other two times out, in Atlanta and Oklahoma City, “Light” had its least potent outings of the entire summer, but with Dick’s and BGCA’s versions, “Light” has captured another first-team All-Star selection, and is in the conversation for MVP.

“Rock and Roll” — “Rock and Roll” got the Leg Two party started in the LBC with one of the jams of the tour—a 25 minute, multi-thematic leviathan that showed Bieber his maker. Phish followed up the tour-opening standout with one of their most coherent and transcendent jams of Leg Two in Oak Mountains second-set opener. “Rock and Roll” only came out one more time in Leg Two—an innocuous mid-second-set rendition in Oklahoma City. But in such short tour, two top shelf excursions equals an All-Star berth.

“Golden Age” — The fifth spot on this team could go to any one of three different songs. “Golden Age,” however, gets the nod on the strength of two great jams, in Atlanta and in Colorado. Atlanta’s version is one of the dark horses of Leg Two, and Dick’s versions has gone incredibly underrated due to the monstrosity of the “Light” that followed.

Honorable Mention: 

“Sand” — Despite Denver’s all-timer, Phish infused far less creativity in the three other versions of tour, falling back on Trey solos each time. Losing quite a bit of bite from Leg One, “Sand” still had what it takes to claim an easy second team berth.

“Ghost” — Long Beach saw, arguably, the “Ghost” of the year, and Dick’s version closed tour with a scorcher. But there was a lot of time in between.

“Piper” — Phish never truly let loose on a “Piper” during Leg Two, with its most pronounced version taking place in the tour closer. Another strong, but underdeveloped version came in Kansas City.

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AUBURN HILLS ’97 GIVEAWAY!

12-6-97 The Palace

Thanks to Phish’s home offices, I have five download codes for Phish’s brand new release of a legendary show—December 6, 1997, at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is a top fiver for me, and one of the best shows of 1997. This show has been begging for Fred Kevorkian’s remaster treatment for quite some time, and I’d like to thank archivist, Kevin Shapiro, for finally gracing us with this treasured nugget of Phish history!

To win one of these five download codes (mp3 only, sorry), Tweet me (@mrminer) a one-Tweet description of the second-set opening sequence, “Tweezer > Izabella.” Please use the hashtag #palacegold. I will RT the six winners at 12 noon PST and Direct Message you your winning codes!

Thanks for playing!

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Jam of the Day:

Rock and Roll > Ghost” 8.15 II, LBC

The astronomic start to Leg Two in Southern California.

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TTFF: The Week Between

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on September 20th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.29.2012 – Oklahoma City, OK (Ryan MacNeill)

So much attention has been lavished on the Bill Graham and Dick’s shows that I decided to select jams from the week in between the three-night stands for this week’s playlist. Additionally, I chose to skirt any jams I have featured in articles or have written about specifically, so hopefully there is something new for everyone in today’s selections. Enjoy the weekend!

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Tweezer > Piper” 8.22 II, Kansas City, MO

The phenomenal one-two punch that kicked off set two at Starlight Theatre.

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Twist“ 8.29 II, Oklahoma City, OK

This “Twist” provided a gorgeous interlude in an otherwise underwhelming show.

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Sand -> Walk Away” 8.28 II, St. Louis, MO 

A scorching version that squeezed between “Undermind” and “Walk Away” in St. Louis.

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Reba” 8.28 I, St. Louis, MO

Both “Rebas” of Leg Two came right at the beginning of their respective shows, this one—the better of the two—as the fourth song in St. Louis.

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Crosseyed > McGrupp” 8.26 II, Charlotte, NC

This smoking Sunday night combo sparked kick set two in North Carolina.

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Stash” 8.22 I, Kansas City, MO

Have you heard this outstanding first set “Stash” from one of summer’s strongest two-setters?

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If I Could” 8.22 II, Kansas City, MO

Another piece of Starlight’s standout show, “”If I Could came within a second set “Mike’s Groove.”

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Slave to the Traffic Light” 8.24 II, Pelham, AL

The best “Slave” of Leg Two.

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Under the Radar

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on September 20th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Phish played so many oustanding jams during leg two, that several top-shelf excursions have flown under the radar. Below are four jams that one shouldn’t forget when making his Leg Two playlist.

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Simple” 8.18 II, SF

BGCA (Michael Stein)

Buried in the least impressive second set of Leg Two was this ambient “Simple” jam that came a bit late to salvage things, but has plenty of post-tour playback value. The band trickled out of Trey’s solo and into a near-beatless realm anchored by ethereal harmonies. Painting a crying solo over the band’s drone canvas, Trey added an emotional thread to the abstract conversation. Speckled with loops and effects, this piece evoked the feel of Bay Area psychedelia and is probably the most undersold jam of the tour.

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Rock and Roll” 8.24 II, Pelham, AL

8.24.12 (Ryan MacNeill)

As Leg Two turned towards Colorado, this “Rock and Roll” had my vote for jam of tour. Once springing the piece from high octane rock textures, the guys moved into a clavved-out section of darkening percussive grooves. Trey carved out a sinister solo atop this momentum-filled segment, but when the band seeped out of this faster section and Fishman hit a medium-tempo groove, the quartet converged in a dreamscape of bliss. The second half of this jam is one of the most heavenly passages of Phish music this year.

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Golden Age” 8.25 II, Atlanta, GA

Official Atlanta Print (M.Davis)

For whatever reason, Lakewood doesn’t stick out in my mind when thinking back over Leg Two, but the show had two outstanding second set jams—“Chalk Dust > What’s the Use?,” (featured yesterday) and this “Golden Age.” The band dialed it back a bit on their new-era cover this past leg, but certainly not on this night, as they dove head first into an expedition in robofunk. Trey turned to his signature, Fall ’97 guitar scratches as Mike took over with envelope-filtered bass leads. This groove template actually popped up a few more times over the rest of tour, specifically in Dick’s “Chalk Dust.” Gordeaux forged forth on his bass led jihad, while the rest of the band danced gingerly around his atomic leads. Rarely did Phish give themselves to this type of focused rhythmic excursion over a blissed out leg two. After demolishing the dance floor, the band oozed into a storage-laced comedown that likened a soundtrack to the underworld. With so much to listen to, this one can easily get lost in the shuffle. It shouldn’t.

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Limb By Limb” 8.28 II, St. Louis

8.22.12 (R.MacNeill)

Phish played, arguably, the greatest “Limb by Limb” in history, rivaled only by 12.3.99, and nobody seems to be talking about it. Following a seamless stretch of music lasting almost forty minutes, when the guys started “Limb,” it felt like a cool down selection. But it turned out to be the highlight of the show. The band burst into wide open territory, when Trey hit an evil lick in the middle of the normally temperate jam, things got buckwild. Completely exiting the song structure and into one of the most compelling 2012 passages of music that didn’t take place at Dick’s, the band dove into deep waters. (Something many fans wish they would do more often with “Limb.”) Peaking the jam with a dramatic six-string expose, Trey took this one to the top with a rocket on his back. The St. Louis “Limb” is on the level of anything from summer tour. Simply awesome Phish.

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Through Alternate Paths

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on September 19th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

9.1.12 (Graham Lucas)

Although “Chalk Dust Torture” had been a Phish staple from the early 90’s onward, never leaving regular rotation, it had rarely been used as vehicle for exploratory jamming. While a handful of versions popped off through the years—most notably Camden’s ’99 masterpiece—“Chalk Dust’s” remained a high-energy rock song throughout the band’s career. Over leg two, however, that pattern changed dramatically. Hosting three outstanding jams in its last three appearances of summer, “Chalk Dust’s” quickly became a Leg Two All-Star. Only once, however, did Phish extend “Chalk Dust” from its normal jam within the song, twice preferring to improvise out of its ending. But any way you cut it, “Chalk Dust” gave birth to a trio of stellar excursions during Leg Two that deserve inspection.

Following a standard shredder at Bill Graham and a particularly heavy-hitting, show-opener in Kansas City, when Phish tore into a late second set “Chalk Dust” in Atlanta—literally, the 400th of their career—it felt like they had hopped the train to Fizzletown. Not long into the jam, however, Trey elevated the chugging rhythms with cathartic melodies, coaxing simultaneously stunning piano leads from Page. Fish and Mike were right there without missing a beat, and Phish set the controls for the outer realms of the galaxy. Transforming the normally benign single into thrilling, multi-dimensional journey, the guys finally landed their musical spaceship on a far away planet, and as they climbed down to the surface to explore the new land, Trey hit the opening lick of “What’s the Use?” A totally under-appreciated nugget of gold, this “Chalk Dust” jam foreshadowed what was to come for the rest of tour.

9.2.12 (Michael Stein)

The next time Trey called for the Picture of Nectar classic was in the unassuming slot of second set opener in St. Louis. It seemed like things would stay in bounds this time, but as the band wrapped up the song, they awkwardly bounced off the final downbeat and into uncharted waters. The guys came together quickly in a section of high-speed groove before Fish steered the ship towards calmer currents. Within seconds of this change, Phish immersed the arena in an ethereal and emotional open jam. Like hitting a switch, the guys jumped into IT out of nowhere. Trey spoke the words of the universe through his guitar in this understated and underrated passage. After a short, but engaging, full-band jam, Trey seamlessly wove the opening of “Frankie Says” into the mix. The band would fuse three more songs onto this opening couplet before stopping for a breath, and the most memorable chunk of that entire stretch was “Chalk Dust.”

8.25.12 (Ryan MacNeill)

When Phish got to “C” in the “F.U.C.K. Y.O.U.R. F.A.C.E” show, they had just finished playing second set versions of “Farmhouse” and “Alaska.” With only “E” to go, and few possibilities therein, “C” had to go huge. Thus, when the band started “Chalk Dust,” it seemed like yet another surprise call, but when considering its Leg Two action, it immediately felt like the natural choice. Even before this jam ended, Dick’s “Chalk Dust” had broken all barriers, capturing the heart of everyone in the stadium and beyond, and contended with Camden for the all-time number one version. You can pick your favorite, but this one is mine. Blasting out of the end of the song, much like St. Louis (and with far more precision) the band took little time to switch from from down-your-throat rock and roll into a hard groove collaboration that brought echoes of Atlanta’s “Golden Age.” Trey sliced and diced the music with rhythm chops while Mike threw down commanding leads that directed the beginning of this unforgettable jam. In no time, the guys were fully locked and moving as a single unit through hyperspace. Riding this four-man momentum, Phish shot through any conventions and into totally original music on the back of Trey’s most impressive melodic themes of the summer. This was the stuff of instant legend; musical glory of the highest degree. And to finish things off, they moved into a looped out, intergalactic, bass-led denouement that settled into a quiet outro and a massive ovation.

1990

Coming to life in the final week of the season, “Chalk Dust” added a colossal surprise to summer tour’s long list of riches. The use of their anthem about youth angst as a exclamation point on their best tour in ages, held a certain irony for the guys as they cranked out some of the best music of their career while pushing fifty. On top of their game and as enthusiastic as ever, if one thing can be said about the guys in Phish, they are—most definitely—living while they’re young.

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Jams of the Day:

Chalk Dust > What’s the Use?” 8.25 II, Atlanta

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Chalk Dust -> Frankie Sez” 8.28 II, St. Louis

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Chalk Dust Torture” 9.1 II, Denver

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A Perfect Storm

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on September 17th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.19.2012 – Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (Ken Scelfo)

Despite the non-stop highlight reel went down in Denver to close Leg Two, the single, most powerful moment of the entire summer took place two weeks earlier in San Francisco. As the band sat smack dab in the middle of their best set in ages, something special happened in Bill Graham Civic Center. A friend described the moment that Trey peaked August 19′s “Light” as 7,004 people reaching orgasm at once. At first, his description seemed like a crude metaphor for such a metaphysical occurrence, but on second thought, it accurately conveyed the intensity and mind-blowing nature of an indescribable experience. When thought of in such terms, the preceding thirty minutes of “Crosseyed > Light” had been most provocative foreplay of the year, and the band had us in quite a compromising position.

8.19.12 Official (K.Taylor)

Settling “Light’s” airtight jam—momentarily—onto a quieter plane, the guys subtly started a “Tweezer Reprise” progression. They had dropped a gem of a “Tweezer” on Friday night, but its “Reprise” had yet to appear. It felt incredibly appropriate for the band to punctuate this monumental jam sequence an unexpected, mid-set “Tweezer Reprise!” Page punched at his organ as Phish moved into a high-speed “Reprise” jam. As they smoothly increased the tempo, skillfully pushing the drama of the moment, one could feel the energy build and build and build—not only within oneself, but throughout the entire building—dominating the collective mind. Devilish rhythms framed the sounds that kept building and building and building…Was this happening?!

Page manically clobbered his organ in stride with his mates as they sat on the brink of detonation. But! Instead of cranking into “Tweezer Reprise’s” signature riff, Trey tore into a free form, hard rock lead that poured gasoline on a concert hall packed with blazing embers! The. Place. Fucking. Exploded. Riding this transcendent tsunami, Trey took one breath and sparked the year’s most powerful segue–a musical uppercut into “Sneakin’ Sally.”

8.19.12 (M,Stein)

Though I have been present for more than a few energetic zeniths in my time at Phish, I cannot recall an instance of communal eruption like “Light -> Sally.” Four improvisational Jedis, their spontaneous creativity, and the vitality of 7,000 dialed-in fans converged in a moment unparalleled in recent history. As the band pulled off this staggering maneuver, amazement, excitement, and sheer exultation grabbed my soul and gave it a sturdy shaking. Ages had passed since Phish touched me like this, and I’m fairly sure everyone in the building felt the same. Although the band, arguably, eclipsed their Bay Area performance in Commerce City, no moment of the last decade can match the magic deep within Bill Graham’s finale.

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Jam of the Day: 

Crosseyed > Light -> Sally -> Crosseyed” 8.19 II

The jam sequence of the year and beyond.

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Back Into the Freezer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on September 14th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.17.12 – Bill Graham (Michael Stein)

If “Ghost” took home the Comeback Player of Tour award for Leg One, “Tweezer” certainly ran away with the trophy for Leg Two. Phish’s had tamed their exploratory vehicle in recent years, popping out of the box with an outstanding version every once in a long while. The band still wove creativity into each version in spurts, though usually relented to a quasi-standard guitar build, with the potential of something more tacked onto the end. But during Leg Two, “Tweezer” returned to its proper place of prominence with four standout versions, three of which were featured in the second set.

The first “Tweezer” of Leg Two unfolded in dramatic fashion in the middle of Bill Graham’s second set. Following a monster “Disease” and an interlude of “Birds,” one could feel “Tweezer’s” opening notes about to drop. And when they did the tiny 7,000 person concert hall exploded. The intensity throughout the composed section was palpable, as everyone seemed dialed into the energy of the band. Slow and heavy hitting grooves came growling out of the gate as the band hooked the undersized crowd with their larger-than-life rhythms. Trey integrated a plinko lead and the band was off and running in an infectious opening sequence. Gradually, Trey infused a heavier guitar lead pushing the piece into a more typical “Tweezer” build but once this section peaked, the band pushed forth into the most engaging music of the jam— a looped out, piece of storage-laced, bass-led psychedelia. The most experimental music from any “Tweezer” this tour, this sequence stretched further into legitimately abstract planes before slipping into “Twist.” Overshadowed due to its placement at the beginning of tour, Bill Graham’s “Tweezer” was as good as any played on Leg Two.

8.19.12 – Bill Graham (Michael Stein)

As the band flew from the Bay, they landed in Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre. To greet the Heartland in their first visit to the historic venue, Phish dropped a “Tweezer” to open the second set, and what blossomed was a thing of beauty. From note one of this jam, Phish had the course set for the heart, patiently laying down the foundation for a blissful excursion. Playing with a melodic sensibility, the band shied from outright groove for realms of the divine. This laid back music merged seamlessly with the gorgeous summer night, and on a dime, the entire band turned to an uplifting theme. As if whisked away on a magic carpet, the guys, with the audience in tow, took off for the heavens. Reaching a hugely cathartic peak, and sitting in IT for some time, the band, and Trey, specifically, poured their soul into this version, providing an 180-degree turn from Bill Graham’s darker concoction. Trey slayed heart-wrenching melodies while leading everyone to the mountaintop in my favorite version of the year. The band remained in orbit, hovering in a sparkling, ambient place, before seamlessly merging with “Piper.”

9.1.12 – Dick’s (Graham Lucas)

The next time “Tweezer” popped up was in the middle of a second set “Mike’s Groove” in Charlotte! The surprising placement only added excitement to the opening section as the band and audience, alike, prepared for takeoff. Splashing into the jam with a buttery groove, the guys immediately felt connected as they surfed a mellow opening wave. At a particular juncture within the whole-band exchange, Trey held a long sustained note and then launched into one of his greatest guitar solos of the year. Moving through several distinct themes within a blissful escapade, Red took the helm as his bandmates crafted the perfect pillow for his golden melodies. Inspired and letting IT flow, Trey, for a second consecutive version, took “Tweezer” into incredibly emotional domains. Turning into the centerpiece of the set, this jam provided the highest high in Charlotte’s Sunday night affair.

The final “Tweezer” of Leg Two—the only first set rendition of tour—came as the surprise third song in Dick’s second show. Though not as developed as the previous three second-set versions, this jam held its own just fine. Opening with a smooth and relaxed groove session, Trey turned the swank up to eleven with an assault of rhythm licks, the likes of which he rarely treats us to these days. Easing into more typical “Tweezer” territory out of the crack-like opening, the band moved steadily through a solid build-and-peak before Trey returned to the “Tweezer” lick, seemingly signifying the end of the jam. But the band moved right beyond this, oozing into a spacier, groove-laced denouement. This segment seemed, momentarily, like it was heading towards a Bill Graham-esque jam, but Trey came in with “Fluffhead” to keep the first set moving, and thus ended “Tweezer’s” summer.

8.26.12 (R.MacNeil)

It had been quite some time since Phish consistently infused “Tweezer” with creativity and original playing, but within a powerhouse second leg of Summer Tour, the band applied several of their modern sounds to their vehicle of lore. Crafting four unique versions that each possess start-to-finish playback value, Phish brought “Tweezer” back to significance in big way over Leg Two. With one version left in the year, most likely in The Big Apple, perhaps that monstrosity of a “Tweezer” that has been looming in MSG’s rafters since the band’s return will finally drop in all of its urban grit and glory. But I digress. Needless to say, among the many developments along the plot line of Leg Two, the return of “Tweezer” stood out as one of the brightest.

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Four “Tweezers” For Friday:

Bill Graham” 8.17 II, SF

FTFF

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Starlight Theatre” 8.22 II, KC

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Verizon Wireless” 8.26 II, Charlotte

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Dick’s Stadium” 9.1 I, Commerce City

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The Era of Good Feelings

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on September 11th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.20.2012 – Portsmouth, VA (Michael Stein)

This summer, if one thing was evident from Worcester to Denver, Phish felt great. Filled with joy, their positive emotions permeated their music all summer long, redefining the meaning of “Bliss Phish.” Where improvisational segments once turned towards the dark and ominous in such pieces as “Tweezer,” “Ghost,” and “Rock and Roll,” this summer,the band veered for the light in almost every instance. Thus, Summer 2012—especially Leg Two—was largely defined by these uplifting, melody-anchored escapades.

The Long Beach “Ghost,” KC’s “Tweezer,” Alabama’s “Rock and Roll,” Charlotte’s “Tweezer,” Dick’s “Undermind,” “Chalk Dust,” “Light,” and “Sand” head the top of this tour’s bliss jam class, and herein lie many of tour’s most magical moments. The joy and light that lives within every one of us recognizes these similar vibrations released by the band, resulting in truly heart-opening experiences. While I’m all about dark Phish jams, more often it is a bliss jam that connects one to the infinite. Why are so many people still reeling from Denver’s tour closing three-night finale? One reason is because so many of Dick’s jams elevated to this place of communal reverie, creating experiences more powerful and inspiring than normally outstanding Phish jams. The band was tapped into IT, creating more than music in the Rockies. They were harnessing universal messages from beyond everyday comprehension and channeling them through their instruments. Finally stepping out of the way, the guys were conduits in Denver,  as Trey often talked about in the mid-‘90s, allowing life’s energy and sounds to flow through them. And that made all the difference.

8.19.2012 San Francisco, CA (Michael Stein)

Most of the issues fans have pointed out in this era—rocky transitions, odd song selection, ripcorded jams, fizzling sets—have, arguably, come from the band overthinking things and not letting IT flow. On this past tour, however, that problem vanished in the air, as Phish glided through a fortnight of dreams. When thoughts cease, the false self dissipates and truth arises, and throughout Leg Two—specifically in Colorado, we experienced the truth.

6.19.12 – Portsmouth, VA (M.Stein)

At so many junctures during Leg Two, where Trey used to bail, he persevered, breaking down improvisational walls that once constrained him. And with the cooperation of his ready-to-jam bandmates, the guys formed excursions that shot arrows through our hearts all tour long. Phish’s good feelings didn’t only effect open jamming, but was infused into each “Harry Hood,” “Ocelot,” “Maze,” and even “Golgi Apparatus” that they played. The band was in the moment all tour long, and every second felt as important as the one before.

Music reflects the people and environment from which it is created, and with Phish and their fans teeming with joy all season long, everything clicked on Leg Two, resulting in a wake of euphoric music. As the band criss-crossed the nation with an absurd quickness, each night they were able to slow everything down, and take it one measure at a time. This commitment to improvisational patience combined with the gratitude, celebration, and appreciation that wafted through the air at every show, created a magical mixture that pointed the band towards catharsis more often than not. When it comes down to IT, music is all about feeling, and throughout Leg Two, things had never felt better.

6.20.12 (Michael Stein)

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Jam of the Day:

Tweezer” 8.22 II, Kansas City, MO

One of my favorite bliss jams from summer.

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6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)

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A Colorado Crusade

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on September 10th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

More than a week has passed since tour’s finale and I still can’t get these Dick’s out of my ears! It’s been all but impossible to listen to anything else from summer tour, as Phish hit a new level of playing over Labor Day weekend in Colorado. The band finally got there this past tour, crafting thematic journeys that stretched over long periods of time, always connected by innovative ideas. Seldom did the guys shy from improvisation, and more often than not, they saw excursions to completion. Phish even beefed up the back end of many second sets this tour, tying up almost every loose end from 2011. With the band back on the train like never before in this era, everything came to a head at Dick’s, where timeless music unfolded all weekend long.

The opening of Denver’s Labor Day stand has, within two years, has grown a tradition of setlist trickery. Last year, the band composed a show of songs only beginning with “S,” but this year, they one-upped themselves, spelling out “F.U.C.K. Y.O.U.R. F.A.C.E.” in a twelve-song show! Forcing their own hand, the band  jammed their proverbial faces off, crafting the show of the year. With two epics in each set, Phish rarely throws ‘em down like this these days, and the quality of playing was to-die-for. When “Carini” erupted only three songs into the show, Phish turned the Hose on full blast, and left it there for the weekend. When the dust settled on August 31, “Carini,” “Undermind, “Runaway Jim” and “Chalk Dust” had vaulted into their groups of all-time versions, respectively.

9.2.2012 (Michael Stein)

Though the first night took the cake for the show of the weekend (and the year), moments everyone will eternally remember were the 23 plus minutes of Saturday night’s “Light.” A showcase of improvisational mastery like few others, the band morphed through several stunning jams with a criminal smoothness, arriving in a final sequence that put the icing on the cake. Spanning almost everything Phish does, this jam sprung into the band’s elite performances of all time (top 5?), and ran away with “Jam of the Summer.” This “Light is so good, in fact, that its preceding “Golden Age > Caspian”—a pairing that contained top-shelf jamming throughout—is getting thoroughly overshadowed. But this set-opening combo should not be sold short, as it certainly features Dick’s-level playing throughout. And what a “Caspian!”

Colorado Print (Masthay)

The band finished things off Sunday night with the set of the weekend, a seamless masterpiece highlighted by summer’s final “Sand.” The jam was chugging along with its usual, sinister groove when the band soared off course and the universe split open and melted all over the stadium. Veering into legitimate open jamming for the first time ever within “Sand,” Phish crafted one last piece of blissful, transportive music to punctuate the weekend. Turning quickly from hard groove into an ambient space, “Sand” immediately elevated into the heavens, riding a mid-tempo wave of glory. Passing through a massive rock peak, Phish places “Sand” on the top-shelf of Dick’s jams, but they didn’t slow down for a minute. Sculpting almost an hour of full-on improv, the guys backed up “Sand” with a seething “Ghost” that crept into a circusydelic “Piper”—all connected with meticulous care.

It’s hard to remember another run like Dick’s 2012 since the band came back in ’09. That’s because there hasn’t been one. Leaving us with a more all-time Phish jams than the rest of Leg Two, combined, Dick’s shattered anyone’s loftiest expectations. Providing a musical expose like none in memory, one might have to go back to the late-90s to find any arguable parallel. As I said after Worcester, 2012 is a great time to be a Phish fan, and at the summer came to a close in the Rockies with a phenomenal “Harry Hood,” this sentiment resounded through the mountains and valleys. And it was good.

9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

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Jam of the Day:

Sand -> Ghost -> Piper” 9.2 II, Colorado

Got an hour?

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