TTFF: 50 and a Short Poll

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on February 22nd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
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12-28-12 (Graham Lucas)

 

Here are ten more jams/sequences—unranked—that take the next ten slots in 2012’s Top 50. Below, I threw in a random reader’s poll. Take a few seconds to weigh in on some Phishy questions.

Tweezer” 8/26 II, Charlotte, NC

This jam could be ranked higher.

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***

Back On the Train -> Hold Your Head Up” 6/28 II, Noblesville, IN

A rare move outside the lines of “BOTT” brought the show to outer space.

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***

Disease > Sand -> Twist” 6/29 II, Noblesville, IN

This sequence felt like the start of a huge set.

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***

Stash” 8/22 I, Kansas City, MO

A first set scorcher, one of the dark horse chunks of leg two.

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***

Golden Age -> 2001” 6/30 II, East Troy, WI

A hearty dose of whole-band funk at Alpine.

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***

Crosseyed > Slave” 6/16 II, Atlantic City, NJ

Solid Phish through and through.

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***

Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes” 6/15 II, Atlantic City, NJ

A quality, mid-set chunk of 6/15’s second set.

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***

Run Like an Antelope” 7/3 II, Wantagh, NY

A full-throttle run through the set closer.

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***

Drowned > 2001 > Reba” 6/17 II, Atlantic City, NJ

Another high-quality start of a set.

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***

Tweezer” 6/10 I, Manchester, TN

The Bonnaroo “Tweezer.” The best of Leg One.

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TTFF: Rollin’ 40 Deep

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on February 15th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.28.2012 - Chaifetz Arena (Jeremy Renda)

8.28.2012 – Chaifetz Arena (Jeremy Renda)

Rounding out 2012’s Top 40…

40. “Sneakin’ Sally > Ghost” 7/6 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

The meat of SPAC’s first night, one of the strongest two-setters of Leg One.

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***

39. “Piper” 9/2 II, Denver, CO

Dick’s “Piper” is short, sweet and to the point.

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***

37. “Golden Age” 6/25 II, Atlanta, GA

A dirty, underrated jam of Leg Two.

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 ***

36. “Down With Disease” 6/22 II, Cincinnati, OH

Before this jam was inexplicably lopped for “Guelah Papyrus,” it was all glory.

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***

35. “Seven Below” 6/23 II, Burgettstown, PA

Though an afterthought to Star Lake’s massive “Mike’s Groove,” this jam is quite unique and noteworthy.

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***

34. “Twist” 7/4 II, Wantagh, NY

This mellow, ambient jam provided the improvisational centerpiece of July 4th.

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***

38. “Light” 6/16 II, Atlantic City, NJ

The band is totally hooked up in the first “Light” of the year, and it was laced with “Manteca.”

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***

33. “Light” 7/8 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

A spectacular version which, in retrospect, I think is better than the “Piper” later in the set.

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***

32. “Golden Age > Prince Caspian” 9/1 II, Denver, CO

The beginning-of-the-set lead in to the Denver “Light” with smoking playing throughout.

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***

31. “Chalk Dust Torture > What’s the Use?” 8/25 II, Atlanta, GA

This outstanding “Chalk Dust” foreshadowed what would go down at Dick’s a week later. This jam certainly should have been in the previous ten jams if not higher.

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TTFM: The Third Ten of 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 11th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
12.28.12, MSG Graham Lucas)

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

These jams are getting increasingly hard to put in any logical order, but the bottom line is that here we are with ten more very strong pieces of improv from 2012—and Friday I’ll lay down ten more.

30.Sand -> Nellie Kane” 6/8 II, Worcester, MA

An experiment in fusing robo-funk with bluegrass results in some very melodic groove interplay that evokes the feeling of late-’70s Grateful Dead dance jams.

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***

29. “Carini” 8/31 I, Denver, CO

This was the first sign that IT was going down at Dick’s.

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***

28. “Tweezer” 8/17 II, San Francisco, CA

The underrated “Tweezer” of the year moves from hard groove into filthy, storage-esque ambience.

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***

27. Ghost” 12/31 II, MSG, NY

Overshadowed by the golf gag, this “Ghost” is actually quite gorgeous.

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***

26. “Golden Age” 7/3 II, Wantagh, NY

Jones Beach’s “Golden Age” migrates into a final passage of downtempo, psych rock.

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***

25.  “Simple” 8/18 II, San Francisco, CA

An abstract and melodic excursion in Bay Area psychedelia; a severely underrated jam.

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***

24. “Wolfman’s Brother > LDB > Wolfman’s” 12.28 I, MSG, NY

Unconventional dance grooves merge with “Little Drummer Boy” tightly woven into pocket.

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 ***

23. “Tweezer” 8.22 II, Kansas City, MO

A cathartic second set opener in the Heartland with quite the peak.

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***

22. “Piper” 7/8 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

This locked in version reprises the “Light” jam from earlier in the set.

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***

21. “Runaway Jim” 8/31 II, Denver, CO

Though not the most focused jam in the world, this “Jim” certainly hits some sweet spots along the way.

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The Top Ten Shows of 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 7th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

10. 8/28—Chaifetz Arena, St.Louis, MO

I: Punch You In the Eye, Runaway Jim, Ocelot, Reba, I Didn’t Know, The Curtain > Peaches en Regalia, Mound, Sample in a Jar, The Sloth, Camel Walk, Possum, Quinn the Eskimo

II: Chalk Dust Torture -> Frankie Says -> Undermind -> Sand -> Walk Away, Limb By Limb, Julius, Also Sprach Zarathustra > You Enjoy Myself

E: Shine a Light

St. Louis Official (Vastagh)

St. Louis Official (Vastagh)

Set I: The first set in St. Louis combined a host a rarities and some well-loved classics to form a very entertaining set of music. A powerful trifecta of “Punch You in the Eye,” “Runaway Jim” and “Reba” kicked things off in the Gateway to the West, and after “I Didn’t Know,” the rarities started to surface. Phish dropped the first “Curtain” of Leg Two, but when they were ready to drip into the “With” jam—as they had done every time in 3.0—they rolled directly into “Peaches En Regalia” to form a potent one-two punch. Backing up this pairing with “Mound,” the guys continued to drop non-rotation songs, also including “The Sloth” and “Camel Walk” before closing out the set with “Quinn the Eskimo.”

Set II: This is a darkhorse set from summer tour that has lived in the shadows of its surrounding shows. Splicing together several mini-jams with patient segues, the band unveiled a set-opening sequence of ‘Chalk Dust -> Frankie Says -> Undermind -> Sand -> Walk Away” that moved with a liquid flow. “Chalk Dust” and “Frankie Says” each contained unique, out of the box jams that fluidly migrated into the next song, and though “Undermind” possessed no adventure, the band peaked the sequence with a blistering “Sand” before capped things off with “Walk Away.” Just when one thought the band might cool down with “Limb by Limb,” the song exploded into the centerpiece of the night with a spectacular type-II fiesta that stands as the best version of the song the band has ever played. The “breather” of the set came in the form of “Julius” before the guys topped off a non-stop second half with the classy combo “2001 > YEM.” This set should have been included in my previous posts about the well-crafted sets of the year, because it was certainly one of them.

X Factor: Flow and More Flow—I walked out of this show with it in the highest regard, as it was an experiential masterpiece. The second set never relented for a second, and the entire night never flirted with a slow moment. Though the mini-jams of set two are a bit more concise than they felt in the live setting, there is no denying their quality. And that “Limb by Limb” served as the most out-of-left-field centerpiece of the year, likening a musical left hook that nobody saw coming. St. Louis was a quality two-setter thaty, admittedly, was more of a live experience than one with limitless playback value.

*****

9. 12/30—Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY

I: Runaway Jim, Cities, Divided Sky, Back on the Train, Ride Captain Ride, Ocelot, Ya Mar, Horn, My Friend, My Friend, Run Like an Antelope

II: Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini > Backwards Down the Number Line > Julius > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Harry Hood > Show of Life

12/30 Sketch (Masthay)

12/30 Sketch (Masthay)

Set 1: Coming on the heels of a totally sterile performance on the 29th, the first set of this show felt like more of the same—well-played standard versions of common songs. A few quasi-rarities dotted the setlist in the form of “Ride, Captain Ride,” “Yamar” and “Horn,” but these selections didn’t do much of to enhance the vibe of the set. The energy turned up at the end of the frame with “My Friend” and “Antelope,” but like so many shows last year, the real action started after setbreak.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: The second set of December 30th provided the most musically impressive and conceptually crafted stanza of the New Year’s Run. This frame contained a darkness-into-light progression, though the entire vibe changed a bit to abruptly to necessarily label it artistic…

X Factor: Darkness—Rarely, if ever, in this era has Phish assembled such an extensive menacing adventure as they did on this night. The playing within “Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini” is very scarce in this era of good feelings, and when Phish let the cat out of the bag on this night, the results were astounding.

*****

8. 6/23—Star Lake, Burgettstown, PA

I: Funky Bitch, Backwards Down the Number Line, Gumbo, Maze, Torn and Frayed, The Moma Dance, Scent of a Mule, 46 Days, You Enjoy Myself

II: Gotta Jibboo, Mike’s Song > Simple > Light > Weekapaug Groove > Seven Below, Bouncing Around the Room, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: The Lizards

Star Lake (Millward)

Star Lake (Millward)

Set I: This set didn’t possess a heck of a lot of meat, causing Star Lake to drop to the bottom of the top ten. People love “Mule,” but I don’t dig on that song at all, thus this opening frame amounted to a set-closing “YEM,” and we all know how “YEMs” go these days—purely generic. But the second set was a different story.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: Phish’s second set at Star Lake stood out the minute it ended. With impeccable flow, clear structural intent, and plenty of improvisation, this one had it all. Firing collectively on this Saturday night, the band dropped a timeless frame of music in their Pittsburgh-area venue of lore…

X Factor: Cohesion—The most cohesive second set of Leg One, hands down. The songs not only flowed from one to another, but the improvisation within “Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below” was all cut from the same cloth.

*****

7. 6/28—Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN

I: The Birdwatcher, The Curtain With, Fuck Your Face, The Old Home Place, Pebbles and Marbles, Weigh, Chalk Dust Torture, Wolfman’s Brother, Cool It Down, Tweezer, Tela,  Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Mike’s Song > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Back on the Train -> Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up > Weekapaug Groove, Prince Caspian > Waves > Bug > David Bowie

E: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise

Deer Creek '12 (Masthay)

Deer Creek (Masthay)

Set I: Amidst 100-plus degree heat, Phish stepped onto the famed stage in the cornfields of Noblesville and dropped one of the most complete first sets of the year. Following an a cappella opener of “The Birdwatcher,” the band rolled out a series of rarities including “The Curtain With,” Fuck Your Face,” “Pebbles and Marbles,” and “Weigh.” After this run of songs, it felt as though the band hit the reset button and launched into the second half of the set comprised of more classic selections. “Chalk Dust” kicked this segment off and it led into funkified “Wolfman’s” which was followed up by the tongue-in-cheek combo of “Cool it Down” and “Tweezer,” as the band poked fun at the blistering heat while planted behind their stage fans. “Tela” emerged from an old-school ending in “Tweezer” and the setlist train kept rollin.’

Set II: This set kicked off with heavy-hitting “Mike’s Groove” sandwich that included the most improvised “McGrupp” to date and a version of “Back on the Train” that jumped way beyond convention into a dark, ambient fantasy before it seamlessly transitioned into “Hold Your Head Up.” “Bike” gave way to more antics in “Weekapaug,” as Fishman started the anthem on guitar while Trey still sat behind the kit. The two joined forces for a drum duet before Trey picked up his axe and slayed song’s feel-good jam. Phish didn’t allow the second half of this set to fizzle like so many others of the year, weaving together a gorgeous quartet of songs to close things out. This late run was centered on the first “Waves” of the year, a stunning rendition that covered a great deal of territory from quickened groove, through a cathartic passage and into deep space before subtly merging into “Bug.” “David Bowie” closed the door on a show that was quickly filed into history under the chapter of Deer Creek lore.

X Factor: Heat—The temperatures peaked in triple digits on this late-June day, making it—easily—the most tortuous show of summer tour. The band clearly understood this and treated the audience to a proper two-setter as they spared us from sitting through any filler in the ungodly heat.

*****

6. 6/15—Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ

I: The Sloth, My Sweet One, 46 Days, Camel Walk, Tube, Cities > It’s Ice, Ginseng Sullivan, Stash, Simple > The Wedge, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Squirming Coil

II: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > David Bowie

E: First Tube

AC 6/15 (Masthay)

AC 6/15 (Masthay)

Set I: The first set of Atlantic City’s three-day weekend contained quality songs throughout and also carried a flow of its own. “The Sloth” provided a jolt of energy in the opening slot and the band backed it up with a rare “My Sweet One.” Following “46 Days,” Phish stepped into a groovy triumvirate of “Camel Walk,” “Tube,” and “Cities,” highlighted by the best “Tube” of the year. If you’ve forgotten about this version, check it out, it was my first jam of the morning for most of Leg One. The band included “It’s Ice,” “Stash,” “Simple,” “The Wedge” and “Squirming Coil” over back half of a set that fit congruently with the sunset vibe.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: This set from Atlantic City is one of the more glossed over stanzas of Summer Tour. Boasting a liquid-like flow and non-stop jamming, there is no doubting its rightful place among the year’s best frames of music.

X Factor: The Festival Feel—Bader Field provided a festival-like atmosphere for the weekend, and coming after Worcester, as most skipped Bonnaroo, this show was the transition to summer tour in earnest. Everyone could easily congregate around speaker towers with all their friends and enjoy the wide-open freedom a Phish festi for the only time in 2012. The nearby casinos graced the show with a visual backdrop and a quasi-circus feel as this Atlantic City became a destination spot for much of the Phish community on this weekend in mud-June.

*****

5. 6/7—DCU Center, Worcester, MA

I: Buried Alive > Runaway Jim, Torn and Frayed, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, Rift, Nothing, Ocelot, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Possum, Rocky Top

II: Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On Reggae Woman > If I Could, Quinn the Eskimo, Harry Hood, Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

E: Loving Cup

Worcester 2012 (Masthay)

Worcester 2012 (Masthay)

Set I: The first set of the year kicked off in high-style with “Buried Alive” and continued with “Runaway Jim” and “Torn and Frayed.” Just like that we were underway; the highly anticipated indoor shows to kick off the summer were off and running. The band sounded polished and ready for tour, adding the rarities of “Nothing” and “Beauty of a Broken Heart” in the opening frame. Though the setlist was far from eye-popping, the music was spot on and everything seemed primed for take off in set two.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: Since 2010, Phish has most often come out on the first night of tours and dropped a monster show. Last summer’s opener in Worcester followed this pattern congruently. The second set of 2012 holds up as one of the year’s best, containing several standout, stylistically diverse jams.

X Factor: First Show After MehSG—Outstanding first shows of tour have become a tradition over the past couple of years, but this one carried a little extra weight as the first show of the yearn and considering it was the first performance since 2011’s lackluster New Year’s Run. This night in Worcester, specifically the second set, likened a soul cleansing for all involved after the band had slogged through their year-end party. The course had been corrected, illustrating that the MSG was a clear aberration and the band was ready to launch into 2012.

*****

4. 8/15—Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA

I: Suzy Greenberg, Cities > Kill Devil Falls, Guelah Papyrus, Cool It Down, Rift, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Bathtub Gin, Quinn the Eskimo

II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times

E: Julius

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Long Beach Official (MMM)

Set I: So much focus has been placed on the amazing second set of this show that the first set has been largely forgotten. But as first sets go in 2012, this one wasn’t too shabby. “Cities” appeared in beefier form than usual in the second slot of the show and Velvet Underground’s “Cool It Down” came two songs later. The two most significant pieces of this frame, however, came in “Stash” and “Bathtub Gin,” the latter being one of the strongest and most overlooked versions of the year.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s description of this set, excerpted here: When Phish hit the west coast to start Leg Two, everyone had Long Beach circled as a potential blowout. A tour opener in an old-school area before a high key, three-night weekend in San Francisco had all the ingredients of a must-see show. And when the dust settled, Phish had dropped another spectacular tour opening bomb that contained, arguably, the set of the year.

X Factor: The Advent of Long Form Improv—Leg Two represented a crucial juncture in Phish’s modern era development. The band had grown quite proficient at nailing 10-15 minute jams, but the question remained as to when the band would stretch things out into the long form passages so many of us love. The band came out on the first night of Leg Two and immediately spoke to that question with a devastating combo of “Rock and Roll > Ghost” that spanned 40 minutes. We had our answer. They were ready to dig deeper than ever before in this era, and over the course of this tour they would add quite a few more monstrous jams to their 2012 resume, all sparked on this gorgeous night in Southern California.

*****

3. 9/1—Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, Commerce City, CO

I: Run Like an Antelope, Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer > Fluffhead, Roses Are Free, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, When the Circus Comes, Theme From the Bottom, Golgi Apparatus, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Golden Age > Prince Caspian > Light, Boogie On Reggae Woman, The Wedge, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Mike’s Song > No Quarter > Weekapaug Groove

E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Repriise

Denver Official (Stout)

Denver Official (Stout)

Set I: Most of the audience that filled Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium on 9/1 was still riding high from 8/31’s throwdown, and when the band opened up this show with “Antelope,” the first such occurrence since 1990, everything picked right back up where it left off. Extraordinary song choices dotted the front of this frame, as “Tweezer > Fluffhead” backed up a second-song “Number Line.” Lost in all the highlights of Dick’s, this “Tweezer” is actually quite good, capping off a proficient second leg for the song with a slick, groove-based incarnation. The rest of the set had a more conventional contour, but the juices were flowing and the band was ready to dig far deeper after setbreak.

Set II: The 50-minutes that kicked off set two—“Golden Age > Prince Caspian > Light”—dominated the landscape of this show. Though the movement between songs wasn’t fluid as in Bill Graham’s sequence, the playing within was just as mind-melting. This segment, anchored by a version of “Light” that stands as the most incredible jam of the 3.0 years, stood out immediately and has matured like a fine wine over the five months since it took place. The focus of this night has so squarely been on the multi-thematic, other-worldly “Light” that the first two jams in the set have been (rightfully) overshadowed. “Golden Age” is one of the strongest versions of the year, while Trey took “Prince Caspian” off course into darker territory, crafting one of most unique renditions of all time. Following the centerpiece of the weekend in “Light,” the band exhaled via “Boogie On,” “The Wedge” and “Horse > Silent,” before ramping things up with an adrenaline-fueled “Mike’s > No Quarter > Weekapaug” to close out the set. Despite a slight pause in the action to recoup, this set is absolute fire.

X Factor: The Best Jam of 3.0—When you hear the best improvisation the band has played in four years, the stakes of the set—and show—are immediately raised. Spanning so much of their musical spectrum within a single jam, Phish had everyone’s jaw firmly planted on the ground by the end of this treasure. Building on each version of summer and far outdoing them all, Dick’s “Light” will be the eternal takeaway from Summer 2012. If Phish played nothing else to support the stunning take on “Light,” it would have been fine by me, but they added quite a but more, putting this night right up there with the best of the year.

*****

2. 8/19—Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA

I: Crowd Control, Party Time, Axilla, Reba, Free, Mound, Walk Away, NICU, Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo, Roggae, David Bowie

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> Crosseyed and Painless > Theme From the Bottom, Rocky Top, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Meatstick, Bug, You Enjoy Myself

E: Ride Captain Ride > Tweezer Reprise

BCGA 8/19 (Taylor)

Set I: This set picked up with the mid-set run of “Reba,” “Free,” “Mound” and “Walk Away,” but it’s peak came at the end with the threesome of “Jibboo,” “Roggae,” and “David Bowie.” All in all, this was a solid first set, but nothing out of the ordinary. At setbreak, I said that if the band didn’t play a massive second set that the Bill Graham run would be seen as a disappointment. And we all know what happened next.

Set II: Sometimes an out-of-this-world sequence of jamming can elevate an entire show, and this set’s “Crosseyed > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally > Crosseyed” did exactly that. Totaling 50 minutes of unbridled adventure, this run of songs takes the cake for the improvisational segment of the year. Combining “Crosseyed’s” open-ended exploration with tight, thematic jamming in “Light,” and capping things off with a funk-filled victory lap in a bravado-laced “Sally,” Phish threw down the gauntlet at the top of this set. This three-song leviathan knocked the socks off anything played in 2012 up to that point, and still stands strong as the most focused hour of jamming in this era. The back side of this set left a little bit to be desired, but it was all gravy at that point as the entire venue was on cloud nine. The band brought things home with “YEM” to skillfully close one of the most exhilarating sets of the year.

X Factor: Intangibles—It’s hard to describe the feeling in the intimate Bill Graham Civic Auditorium that night, as the vibe was intense and infectious. This show defined the energetic exchange between band and audience that makes the Phish experience so sacred. There was no show in 2012 that contained a more unified feel between every person in the room; it felt like each of the 7,004 participants was locked into the moment. It is even harder to describe the metaphysical explosion that took place during the segue of the year, when a “Tweezer Reprise”-laden build at the end of “Light” spilled seamlessly into “Sneakin Sally.” A communal eruption like none in memory provided the experiential moment of 2012—one of those magical occurrences that nobody in the room will ever forget. This special night in the city by the Bay can’t be recreated or relived by tapes alone, there was something more at hand. And that’s why we go.

*****

1. 8/31 —Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, Commerce City, CO

I: First Tube, Uncle Pen, Carini > Kill Devil Falls, You Enjoy Myself, Ocelot, Undermind

II: Runaway Jim > Farmhouse > Alaska, Chalk Dust Torture > Emotional Rescue > Fuck Your Face

E: Grind, Meatstick

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Denver Official (Stout)

Set I: Phish dropped two bombs in this first set in the form of “Carini” and “Undermind,” the latter being a top five jam of the year. It is rare to see any long form improv in opening frames, let alone jams of this magnitude, thus this set jumped forth as the most significant opening frame of 2012. An extended, third-song “Carini” signified something strange was afoot at the Circle K, and a mid-set “YEM” confirmed this. By the time “Undermind”—the most astounding first set closer in memory—ended, it was clear this would be the show of the year.

Set II: Though many figured out the setlist gag by setbreak, the band came with one surprise after another in the second half, furthering the face-fucking theme of the night. The guys added two more outstanding jams to this show’s resume with the first exploratory “Runaway Jim” of this era and, arguably, the greatest “Chalk Dust” ever played. The best show of 3.o included “Farmhouse” and “Alaska” smack dab in the middle of the second set, as well as an intentional “Also Sprach” fake-out, illustrating the well-planned nature of the show-long trickery. The first “Emotional Rescue” since 2000 and an absurd “Meatstick,” “Grind” encore capped the night that everybody has been talking about since it ended.

X Factor: FUCK YOUR FACE—Forcing their own hand with a limited number of songs to spell out “Fuck Your Face,” the band extended jams all night long. Despite the setlist games, however, this show—unquestionably—contained Phish’s most impressive playing of the year. With four astounding jams, including two that are easily among the best of this era (“Undermind” and Chalk Dust”), Phish left a wake of fire in the Rockies on the final night of August. Aside from the top-shelf improv, their outlandishly tight playing shone through all night in selections such as “First Tube,” “Uncle Pen,” “Farmhouse” and “Ocelot.” This show was not just a standout performance, but a conceptual masterpiece as well.

*****

Honorable Mention: (in chronological order) 6/16 Atlantic City, 6/22 Cincinnati, 6/30 Alpine Valley, 7/1 Alpine Valley, 7/3 Jones Beach, 7/6 SPAC, 8/22 Kansas City, 9/2 Denver, 12/28 MSG

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The Sets of the Year

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 5th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

Despite Phish’s modern renaissance, set craftsmanship hasn’t exactly been one of their strong points since their ’09 return. Their days of meticulous attention to setlist flow have gone by the wayside and, most often, their highlights come as improvisational passages within less than tenacious frames of music. Many times, the band has had a powerful second set in the making only to have its cohesion disintegrate with a haphazard second half. (See 7/18/19, or 9/1 for prime examples.) In their heyday, each song played had a purposeful role in the contour of a set, whether it was an opener, a launchpad, an interlude or a closer, but in the modern era, things have been a bit more piecemeal. Occasionally, however, Phish harnesses their artistry of old and sculpts a set that amounts to more than the sum of its parts, evoking the type of setlist continuity that was once second nature. Today, I present a handful of 2012 sets that fit such criteria. Below the capsule summaries is a poll to see which set you like the most. Enjoy!

6/7 Worcester II: Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On Reggae Woman > If I Could, Quinn the Eskimo, Harry Hood > Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

Worcester 2012 (Vogl)

Worcester 2012 (Vogl)

Since 2010, Phish has most often come out on the first night of tours and dropped a monster show. Last summer’s opener in Worcester followed this pattern congruently. The second set of 2012 holds up as one of the year’s best, containing several standout, stylistically diverse jams. One of the hallmarks of strong sets throughout history has been a significant jam right off the bat, and in Worcester, “Carini” provided just that. Migrating from its dark feel into atypically melodic and ambient interplay, this jam stands up as one of the year’s most impressive and overlooked pieces. Spilling into “Taste,” in an unconventional pairing that worked quite well, the band then wasted no time getting back into the thick of things with a sinfully smooth sequence of “Ghost > Boogie On.” By melding “Ghost’s” creative, open jamming with a rousing, guitar-led shred-fest in “Boogie On,” Phish touched on several aspects of their skill set within this non-stop run. After using a gorgeous rendition of “If I Could” as a come down from their improvisational theatrics, the band plugged in “Quinn the Eskimo” as an interlude before closing things out with the classic combo of “Harry Hood > Cavern.” The band brought the night full circle while adding some Phishy spice to its ending by busting into a “Buried Alive Reprise,” revisiting the song that had opened the show.

***

6/15 Atlantic City II: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > David Bowie

AC 6/15 (DKNG)

AC 6/15 (DKNG)

This set from Atlantic City is one of the more glossed over stanzas of Summer Tour. Boasting a liquid-like flow and non-stop jamming, there is no doubting its rightful place among the year’s best frames of music. Phish has long used punchy set openers to get things moving before getting their hands dirty, and in this case they employed “My Soul” in this fashion before diving into a long-form “Birds of a Feather.” “Birds” traveled far outside its conventions into an engaging, high-speed ride that eventually morphed into transcendence, serving a hearty dose of improv at the front of this set. Crafting an unlikely and seamless segue into “Back On the Train,” Phish maintained drill bit focus as they moved into a beefier-than-usual version of their Farmhouse era staple. When they came to the end of “Back on the Train,” Trey used his looping pedal to hint at “Heavy Things” and the band hopped aboard a smooth change into the song, continuing the turn-of-the-millennium era vibe to the set. The action continued with the classic song pairing of “Twist > Piper,” replete with a band-audience exchange of “Woooos” right through “Piper’s” introduction. “Twist” received some extra love, foreshadowing Cincinatti’s break-out version a week later, and AC’s “Piper” exists as one of the year’s most underrated renditions, featuring airtight and melody-based interplay throughout. The rare ballad “Billy Breathes” served as a poignant cool down and immediately following the breather, the guys dropped a fierce set-closing combo of “Sneakin’ Sally > David Bowie.” I have been perplexed why this set hasn’t gotten more attention in the overall discussion of 2012 as it was far and away the band’s strongest Atlantic City offering. Combining high-quality jamming and out of the ordinary song choices, everything came together on the first night down the Jersey Shore.

***

6/23 Star Lake II: Gotta Jibboo, Mike’s Song > Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below, Bouncing Around the Room, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light

Star Lake (Millward)

Star Lake (Millward)

Phish’s second set at Star Lake stood out the minute it ended. With impeccable flow, clear structural intent, and plenty of improvisation, this one had it all. Firing collectively on this Saturday night, the band dropped a timeless frame of music in their Pittsburgh-area venue of lore. “Jibboo” got the party started as the band doled out some candy grooves before the scintillating meat of the show. The following 50 minutes—“Mike’s > Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below”—contained a unified suite that could be argued as the band’s most outstanding playing of the month. Though “Mike’s Groove” dictates a certain structure, Phish hadn’t exactly given the sequence much attention in the 3.0 era. But on his night that all changed. A fiery “Mike’s” gave way to a “Simple” that dripped into ethereal textures, moving things into a more cerebral realm. As the band dissolved into a sparse canvas, Trey came in with the onset of “Light,” and in this selection Phish delivered one of the indelible jams Leg One. Migrating from atonal loops into outright grooves and then into a now-famous calypso paradise, this version set the improvisational bar quite high for the song of the year. Phish closed out the “Groove” with a retro ’97 style take on “Weekapaug” that immediately popped as the most dynamic modern version. One expected the band to insert a breather after this focused four-song run, but instead Trey initiated “Seven Below,” tacking yet another jam onto this mid-set smorgasbord. “Light > Weekapaug” has overshadowed “Seven Below” ever since the show, but “Seven Below” has plenty to offer with its cathartic, full-band exchange. Punctuating the suite with this refined jam, the band concluded the centerpiece of the set. “Bouncing” is often reserved as a classy cool down from a particularly hot sequence and it absolutely fit perfectly in this slot. It appeared that the band would close the night with a serving of blues-rock in “Julius,” but upon its ending, they moved directly into a set-closing “Slave,” thus cementing the artistic contour of the frame.

 ***

8/15 Long Beach II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times

Long Beach Unofficial (Masthay)

Long Beach Unofficial (Masthay)

When Phish hit the west coast to start Leg Two, everyone had Long Beach circled as a potential blowout. A tour opener in an old-school area before a high key, three-night weekend in San Francisco had all the ingredients of a must-see show. And when the dust settled, Phish had dropped another spectacular tour opening bomb that contained, arguably, the set of the year. Many of the most successful sets in Phish’s career have started out with an improvisational monstrosity, and “Rock and Roll” kicked off Long Beach’s second half with exactly that. After a stellar opening leg of summer tour, fans looked for the band to stretch things out during Leg Two, and with a twenty-five minute exploratory epic in their first show, the guys got right to business. Spanning so many musical feels, all connected with notable fluidity, this “Rock and Roll” made a massive impact on the fan community. The band was loose, yet so connected, and they allowed this jam to take an organic course. Not focused on a single theme, but rather rolling through many, “Rock and Roll” represented the style of open-ended jamming that the band had been building towards over Leg One. This colossal foray into both darkness and bliss was just what the doctor ordered on a hot August night Southern California. Resolving this madness with a “Ghost” that peaked with ferocious and unrelenting catharsis, the band had crafted one of the year’s most spectacular sequences—and it didn’t take a re-listen to know that. Often overlooked in this frame’s opening run is the seamless move into “Limb by Limb,” a high-flying version that carried all the energy of the previous pairing. “Guyute” served as a well-placed composition after all the wide open jamming, and the band absolutely nailed it. “Dirt” slid in seamlessly as the emotional breather of the set before the most intricate and dynamic “Hood” of the year brought the crowd to its knees. Phish offered a ration of classic rock with “Good Times, Bad Times” to stamp this flawless set complete.

 ***

9/2 Denver II: Sand -> Ghost -> Piper > Twenty Years Later > Lizards, Harry Hood

Commerce City, CO (Stout)

Commerce City, CO (Stout)

Though Denver’s best music came during the weekend’s first two shows, Phish’s final set of summer was the tightest of the weekend. Only six songs long with no questionable calls, this stanza can make a strong argument for tops of the year. The now-revered Dick’s “Sand” kicked off this fiesta with an extended, three-tiered jam that moved from straightforward groove into a to-die-for middle section of ambient laced rhythms and concluded with a scorching rock peak. Instead of ending the song, however, the band made a silky smooth, calculated segue into “Ghost.” Though this version of “Ghost” didn’t stand out, especially in comparison to the other versions of the year, it served as a solid second-song jam that bridged to “Piper” via another seamless segue. “Piper” launched into the stratosphere quickly, as Trey fired off high-paced licks one after another. The level of interplay in this jam may, in fact, be the most locked in the band was all night as they crushed the compact piece. Phish descended from 50 minutes of non-stop action into a meditative cool down of “Twenty Years Later,” a modern song that was powerfully juxtaposed with “Lizards,” the classic Gamehendge composition that followed. These two songs symbolized the bookends of the band’s career on the final night of a transformative summer tour. And to close out the last set of the season, there was no better choice than “Harry Hood.” This thematic set-ending triumvirate closed an impeccably constructed frame whose craftsmanship hearkened back to a former era.

 ***

12/30 MSG II: Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini > Backwards Down the Number Line, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light

12/30 Official (J.Flames)

12/30 Official (J.Flames)

The second set of December 30th provided the most musically impressive and conceptually crafted stanza of the New Year’s Run. This frame contained a darkness-into-light progression, though the entire vibe changed a bit to abruptly to necessarily label it artistic. The initial sequence of “Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini” delivered a potent juggernaut of Sith-like sorcery whose menacing pathways were the stuff of dreams. The wide-open improv in “Disease” hit on several different themes while “Carini” got into the most abstract psych rock we’ve heard in this era. Bridged by “Twenty Years Later,” a dark single in its own right, this three-song run is a true anomaly in modern era Phish—the type of sinister music that has been absent from their current repertoire. However, the moment Trey decided that they were done with “Carini,” leaving a blissful tangent hanging in midair, likened someone scratching the record to a stop at a dance party, as he started the awkward intro to “Backwards Down the Number Line.” An iota of forethought could have made this move far smoother, and the jarring transition created the only speed bump in the set’s flow. This change of vibe ushered in the second half of the set, which continued with “Julius” and ended with a staggering “Slave” that immediately put its hat the ring for the top version of 3.0. To compare six-song stanzas, this one contained more impressive jamming than Dick’s, though it lacked the seamless segues that wove together the band’s summer swansong. Which is more important? Well…that is up to you.

***

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TTFF: The Second Ten of 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on February 1st, 2013 by Mr.Miner

8.19.12, Bill Graham (Ken Scelfo)

Once again, don’t make too much of the rankings here, as I could have cut and pasted all night. I do, however, like the order in which these tracks settled. Look for jams 21-30 next week—there’s that much (plus more) any left to cover! Also, stay tuned next week when I unveil my picks for the sets and shows of the year.

20. “Roses Are Free” 6/8 I, Worcester, MA

Some of the freshest sounding music to come out of Leg One. Fishman’s work is immaculate.

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***

19. “Ghost > Boogie On” 6/7 II, Worcester, MA

This segment needs no introduction—some of the more fluid jamming of Leg One. Trey owns the “Boogie.”

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***

18. “Light > Weekapaug” 6/23 II, Burgettstown, PA

“Light’s” calypso section is hard to beat, and this is best “Weekapaug” of the era.

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***

17. “Waves” 6/28 II, Noblesville, IN

The only “Waves” jam of the year, and it was a winner.

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***

16. “Birds of a Feather” 6/15 II, Atlantic City, NJ

A stellar jam at the onset of one of summer’s most complete sets.

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***

15. “Limb by Limb” 8/28 II, St.Louis, MO

I think its safe to claim this jam as the most impressive “Limb” of all time, as the band smoothly moves from the song’s theme into a wide open adventure.

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***

14. “Fee” 7/1 I, East Troy, WI

A stunning foray into ambient sound-sculpting while the sun still shone at Alpine.

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***

13. “Rock and Roll” 6/24 II, Pelham, AL

This personal favorite is one of the fiercely underrated pieces of 2012. The heavenly final segment was worth the price of admission alone.

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***

12. “Sand” 9/2 II, Commerce City, CO

Though the band akwardly exits the groove for the outer reaches of the galaxy, once they get there this jam takes off.

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***

11. “Carini” 6/7 II,  Worcester, MA

Perhaps the most underrated jam of summer; stunning interplay throughout.

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