TTFF: Recent Summer Highlights

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on June 28th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
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7-4-2012 (George Estreich)

Tweezer” 9.3.11 II, Commerce City, CO

One of the most cathartic grooves in ages. This jam brought it all together at the first Dick’s stand.

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Simple” 8.6.10 II, Berkeley, CA

A very cool, experimental jam from The Greek.

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Disease -> What’s the Use?” 8.14.10 II, East Troy, WI

Perhaps the most natural transition of the modern era comes—and a fiery jam, taboot.

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A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” 7.3.11 I, Watkins Glen, NY

The lone jam from the song following SPAC ’04, immediately integrated the ambient style from the Storage Jam the night before.

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Piper > Mist” 8.9.10 II, Telluride, CO

This “Piper” provided a seething centerpiece to the first night in the Rockies.

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Sneakin Sally” 6.4.11, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

This funk jam goes buckwild, transcending normal territory into dissonant, robo-grooves.

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Bathtub Gin” 8.7.09 II, George, WA

This “Gin” anchored a non-stop second set of this ’09 show that is still among the best of the modern era.

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Twist” 6.22.12 II, Cincinatti, OH

I recently wrote an entire piece on this jam.

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Waves” 6.28.12 II, Noblesville, CA

This late-set gem was the only “Waves” jam the band played last summer.

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Harry Hood” 6.2.09 II, Wantagh, NY

This was the first jam in 3.0 that I legitimately bugged on. An amazingly original take on a classic tale.

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Guess Work and Predictions

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 26th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
The Gorge (Rogell)

The Gorge ’09 (Wendy Rogell)

Shows of the Summer: The Gorge and Bill Graham

Every time Phish goes to the Gorge something special happens. From 1997 through 2011, every visit deep into Washington state has harvested one of the best shows of the summer. One could make a Gorge highlight tape that would go on for hours upon hours upon hours. The band’s history at this venue—especially percentage wise—is outlandish. Their playing slows down and takes on the majesty of the surroundings. They play differently at the Gorge—and who wouldn’t? I predict that this special venue will play host to one of Summer 2013’s most outstanding shows. It’s as much of a guarantee that comes in the Phish world these days.

Additionally, I’m feeling another of this summer’s absolute peaks will take place at Bill Graham. Last year, they had the venue booked at the front of the tour and this year, it represents the final three-night extravaganza before a Monday night, LA afterthought. Things, traditionally, come to a head for Phish at the end of tours—as one can see at Dick’s last year—and I think this venue holds as much magic as any. The polar opposite of the Gorge, a dingy and tiny auditorium that seems almost unfit for Phish were it not for its legacy and legend. But the history of the Bay Area mecca is undeniable and the energy in the room is palpable from every seat in the house. Look for at least one of these three shows to be one of the band’s top efforts of summer.

Breakout Jam Vehicles of the Summer: Hopefully Phish comes out with some new launchpads this summer, but even if they do, it’s time to revitalize some of the latent giants they have in their catalog. Here are my picks.

“Undermind”—First off, someone should bring a sign on the first night of tour that say “Get Undermind in rotation stat!” The couple times they’ve jammed on this song—UIC ’11 and Dick’s ’12—they’ve come up with two of their most successful modern experiments. With the relative stagnancy of their current jam vehicles, the band should get this one into the second set every four shows—the results would speak for themselves.

“A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing”—Enough is enough with this one. Someone close to Trey needs to have a sit down with him and explain that this could be the next massive jam in the Phish universe. The all-time version from SPAC ’04 has sat there teasing us for almost a decade now, with only Superball’s ambient first setter to show for it. If the band went free form on this song every four nights, forget about it. But the burning question is why won’t they? (Or better put, “What the fuck?!”) Shapiro did his part by dropping the SPAC epic on this summer’s Live Bait, who’s next?

“Seven Below”—The cliche pick would be “Scents and Subtle Sounds” here, but fuck it, let’s be realistic, that jam won’t go the places that “Oceans” will, so I’m gonna hedge my bets and not ask for both. I’m asking for a song that was a central jam vehicle of the post hiatus period—”Seven Below.” Some of the jams out of this song were the band’s most impressive of 2.0, and they seem to have no problem playing it, unlike some of the aforementioned post-hiatus songs. So let’s bring it back and expand on it! This one hasn’t seen the light of day since the very avant-garde take at Star Lake ’12. The delicacy of this jam would fuse well with the band’s current playing style.

“Wolfman’s Brother”—Finally, bring back the second set “Wolfman’s Brother.” The band has played this song as a first set rotation song for the past four years, and it’s grown a bit stale. But my call is that MSG’s creative version is a harbinger of things to come this summer. “Wolfman’s” was once more than a pathway to funk, starring as a open jam for many years. I think it could be the perfect piece to showcase whatever sound the band is focusing on this summer. Can you say plinko -> storage jam? It would be perfect.

Bustouts of the Year: “New Age” @ Merriweather & “Whipping Post” (Trey singing) @ Tahoe

Best 3-Night Stands: 1) Bill Graham 2) Dick’s 3) Chicago

Best 2-Night Stands: 1) The Gorge 2) Merriweather 3) Tahoe

Dick’s Friday Night Setlist Prank: The band will spell out “Leave With Us Now” with their setlist, and upon the ending of “Waves”—while layers of loops still emanate from the stage—a space ship will descend and beam us all into another reality, leaving this one behind forever. There is no encore. Dick’s Saturday and Sunday shows will not take place.

I. Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Esther, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Vultures, Emotional Rescue, Waste, Icculus*, Tube

II. Halfway to the Moon -> Undermind -> Simple -> New Age, Once In a Lifetime, Waves

*w/ “soul cluster migration” narration

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Rock and Roll > Lizards” 8.24.12 II, Pelham

My favorite jam of the Southern run last year.

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SPAC EXHIBITION FROM THE MOTHERSHIP ART COLLECTIVE

summerinsaratoga_logo

Final Lineup of Artists: 

AJ Masthay, Nate Duval, Erin Cadigan, Isadora Bullock, Ryan Kerrigan, John Warner, Branden Otto, Bruce Horan, Ed Wilson, TRiPP, Lauren Domsky, Noah Phence, Dave Calarco aka Mr. Miner, Drew Suto, Bill Pompeii, 10 Minute Tube Designs, Party Time Pins, Page Side High, stuPINdous Creations, MYFE. Designs, Ant Pharm Pins, PerPINdicular Pins

When/Where: Saturday July 6 from 10am-3pm at the Saratoga Hilton

Admission: Free

Featuring the best Phish inspired art, including limited edition art made specifically for the show. 

From The Mothership Art Collective: Rock Art exhibitions have been held since 2003 with great success, as unique posters are made for Phish shows during the poster show weekend, making for a must-attend event during Phish tour, featuring some of the most unique concert art being produced today. ‘Summer in Saratoga: A Rock Art Exhibition” is the first event for 2013 produced by the Mothership Art Collective, a group within the Phish community comprised of artists and organizations who promote the art inspired by the band Phish.

In addition to the artists, non-profits included are The Mockingbird Foundation, which has given grants for music education totaling more than $700,000 over the past 15 years; Screens ‘n’ Suds, which combines craft beers and art to benefit the National MS Society and charities in Richmond, VA and Chicago, IL, raising over $75,000 since 2009; and PhanArt, a book and website created as a way to showcase the art made by Phish fans, raising money for The Mockingbird Foundation through donations from artists and fans, totaling over $10,000 since 2009.

From Miner: The past few events put on The Mothership Collective have been outstanding. I highly reccomend making it down to the show whether you intend on purchasing anything or not. I’ll be down there signing and selling books for most of the time as well, so come by and say hello!

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First Night Fiestas

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 26th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

With Bangor fast approaching, and everyone anticipating quite the banger in Maine, I figured it would be a good time to take a look back at the other tour-opening throwdowns of this era. For the past couple years, the band has come out practiced and polished to kick off tours, and—very often—these tour openers have blossomed into one of the most memorable nights of the season. Putting all these shows side to side, it’s quite eye opening to see all the amazing music that has come in 3.0 tour openers. Let’s look back at the making of a 3.0 tradition.

 *****

Toyota Park—6.11.2010

Toyota Park

Toyota Park

Phish sparked Summer Tour 2010 with their first mega-opener of 3.0. During 2009, opening shows were a clear warm up, but starting in Chicago on this brutally hot day, the band laid the groundwork for future tour-opening blowouts. This show featured two sets chock full of improv and full-tilt playing. One can tell from the setlist alone, that the band meant business—but the setlist was just part of the story. Six months after playing their best modern shows to date in Miami, the band hit the stage in The Windy City with a similar fire and cohesion, and what resulted after setbreak was a thing of beauty. Framing the set around the centerpiece jams of “Light” and “Ghost,” the latter of which remained a highlight of tour well after tour’s final show, Phish sculpted a flowing stanza of music that never once hit a road bump. The “Limb” was spectacular, “Caspian” was placed perfectly, and “Antelope” was more shredding than usual, all before they closed the set with the debut of “Show of Life.” I can still remember the glow of everyone faces when the lights came on after this one—this night was a keeper.

I: Down with Disease, Wolfman’s Brother, Possum, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Reba, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Divided Sky, Golgi Apparatus > David Bowie

II: Light -> Maze, Ghost -> Limb By Limb > Prince Caspian > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Run Like an Antelope, Show of Life

E: Cavern > Julius

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*****

Bethel Woods—5.27.11

Official Bethel Print (Stout)

Official Bethel Print (Stout)

The Bethel run, or at least the first two nights of the Bethel run, is the stuff of modern era legend. Bursting out of the gates with far more improvisational bravado than we had heard from the band in 2010, Phish set their community afire with these two shows. This leg of summer tour would be a game-changer for the band, as they dropped far more complex jams than we had heard in the previous two years—and it all started here in Bethel. The opening show has lived in the shadow of the brilliant performance on night two, but has almost just as much to offer. To begin with, the band dropped “Tweezer” to open the show and jump-start the summer. The opening half also saw high points in “Wolfman’s -> Walk Away” and the best “Kill Devil Falls” outside of Bonnaroo ’09. The meat of the second set, however, would remain one of the elite jam sequences of the year. “Boogie > Waves > Prince Caspian > Crosseyed” contained some of the most dynamic playing of the era to that point, but more improtantly, it showcased Phish’s intent to bring things deeper. A transcendent “Waves” jam saw the band sculpt abstract soundscapes with staggering, leader-less interplay—a revelation at the time, and quite the blast off for the opening night of the year. Not to mention that the guys had just masterfully deconstructed and dissolved a “Boogie” jam to segue into “Waves.” “Caspian” provided an anthemic comedown before they took “Crosseyed” right back out into a deep improvisational space. A murky, evil groove emerged from the hard-rock playing, absolutely slaying the audience while tallying the the third open jam of the sequence! I think we spun this  chunk of the set ten times through before coming to Bethel the next day. Phish had taken five months off and had come back way better!

I: Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend, Poor Heart, Roses Are Free > Funky Bitch,Wolfman’s Brother -> Walk Away, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Kill Devil Falls, Bold As Love

II: Carini > Back on the Train, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Waves > Prince Caspian > Crosseyed and Painless > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Possum, The Squirming Coil

E: Julius

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*****

The Gorge—8.5.11

Gorge Print (Klaussen)

Gorge Print (Klaussen)

Few other things need to be said about this show than “Rock and Roll > Meatstick.” Playing—arguably—the greatest jam of this era, rivaled only by Dick’s “Light,” the story of this show began and ended with this unforgettable sequence. Spanning so many different feels within one jam, the band flowed through distinct sections of melody driven improv, the dirtiest funk you’ll ever hear, and evil, storage-laced abstraction. This “Rock and Roll” in the context of The Gorge created an experience that tapes can never translate. This is the type of jam that steals a show—in fact, it stole the entire weekend as the second night was a fun, though straightforward, show. To illustrate the magnitude of this jam, people debate it versus Big Cypress’ monstrous “Rock and Roll” for the best version ever! I’m not picking a winner, but I think that tells you the level of jam we are dealing with here. Then, the final bass-led jihad into “Meatstick”—an all-time Phish moment—to bring us into the heavily funkified segment of “Meatstick > Boogie On.” That three-song run is what everyone remembers about the show—and rightfully so—but there are a couple other points of note. First and formost, a sunset version of “Roggae” that transformed into a wide-open daydream, easily the most impressive version ever played. And the delicate “Farmhouse” placed after the second set theatrics is as good of a rendition as you’ll ever come across.

I: Kill Devil Falls, The Wedge, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane > My Friend, My Friend,Cavern > Taste > Roggae > Walk Away, Funky Bitch, Roses Are Free > David Bowie

II: Backwards Down the Number Line > Rock and Roll -> Meatstick ->Boogie On Reggae Woman > Farmhouse, Show of Life, Julius, Character Zero

E: Loving Cup

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*****

MSG—12.28.11

NYE 2011 Logo

NYE 2011 Logo

Although Phish’s Summer ’11 tour was their best modern jaunt to date, many were not sure how the extended layoff between Labor Day and New Year’s Run would treat the band. If the first night of the run was any indicator, however, they hadn’t missed a beat. And then the next three nights happened. But the first night was legitimately awesome. First set standouts included a third-song “Cities” that stopped abruptly deep into open waters, the promising first set sign posts of “Stash” and “Bathub Gin,” and a rare “Ballad of Curtis Loew.” The second set was straight fire start to finish, and one of the better Holiday Run sets of this era. “Carini” flipped into major key territory, taking the show on an uplifting journey before Trey seamlessly wove in the opening lick to “Tweezer.” This prime-time combo exploded the arena and before long, the band was ripping off a plinko highlight reel amidst the “Tweezer” jam. One crack lick led into another in this swampy, urban dance monster which smoothly rolled into a mid-set “My Friend.” The darkhorse jam of this show, however, is the “Rock and Roll.” Overshadowed by “Carini -> Tweezer,” this jam puts a magnifying glass on the dark, glitchy, abstract, plinko-esque jamming style that was prevalent during 2011. “Harry Hood” rounded out the night, a version in which Trey led with notable passion, evoking his “Hood” playing of old, if even for a little bit. Walking out of MSG after this one, I thougvht we might be looking at one of the elite New Year’s Runs of all time. We weren’t.

I: Free, Glide > Possum, Cities, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Stash, Contact >Sample in a Jar, Kill Devil Falls > Bathtub Gin

II: Birds of a Feather, Carini -> Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend -> Rock and Roll -> NICU, Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood > Bug

E: Tube > Rocky Top > Tweezer Reprise

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*****

Worcester—6.7.12

The band opened last year’s touring schedule with one of their strongest shows of 2012. A complete show—bookended by “Buried Alive”—possessed a retro feel and intensity that was certainly welcome after MSG’s anticlimax. This night has been discussed so much that I feel I don’t need to go into it here. It was outstanding on every level.

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

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*****

Long Beach—8.15.12

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Long Beach Official

Leg One of 2012 was unquestionably the band’s most impressive tour to date when it ended. Exploding through their staple sheds on the East Coast and in the Midwest, Phish had themselves at a crossroads. Despite their clear musical proficiency, none of the jams had surpassed 15 minutes (or so). Obviously, time is not the central factor in jam quality, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Phish fan who’s favorite jam is under twenty minutes. The band often finds musical gold mines 17 minutes into a piece or deeper, places they just weren’t going in this era. But on this night in Long Beach, everything changed. Taking the next logical improvisational step, the band opened the second set with 40 minutes of jamming, including 25 in “Rock and Roll” alone.” And it was awesome, exploratory improv, the type of stuff fans had been yearning for. This show sparked the modern trend of long form jamming that would culminate at Dick’s two weeks later—and we all know what happened there. That road to glory—however, at least in the short term‚ started at Long Beach. Oh, and the “Hood” that ends set two is the best of the year.

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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*****

MSG—12.28.12

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12.28.12 (G.Lucas)

A year later when Phish was heading to MSG after a long layoff, people were confident Phish wouldn’t tank again—and they were right. The magic of Dick’s carried over to MSG’s jams, and the most dynamic and far reaching of them came bursting out of the gates on the first night in the form of “Tweezer.” Taking their classic vehicle on a multi-staged odyssey with their new-school musical sensibilities, the guys gave us a message that Dick’s wasn’t just a Rocky Mountain high. And when the dust settled on the New Year’s Run of 2012, an argument could be made for the 28th as the most complete show of the four. A hot “Stash” and a “Little Drummer Boy” infused “Wolfman’s” set the improvisational stage for “Tweezer,” while the band filled out the second set with solid playing and selections all the way through.

I: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Moma Dance, Funky Bitch, Army of One, Tube > Stash, Nellie Kane, Kill Devil Falls, Free, Wolfman’s Brother

II: Tweezer > Maze, Twist > Theme From the Bottom -> Fluffhead, David Bowie

E: Bouncing Around the Room, Good Times Bad Times

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Masthay’s Summer Madness

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 24th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

As we all finalize our preparation for Summer Tour this week, printmaker and fan, AJ Masthay, is hard at work putting the finishing touches on his Summer 2013 run. Last week I caught up with AJ to discuss his this summer’s prints and some new twists and turns at Masthay Studios. Below each of his Summer 2013 images is the paragraph from his website describing each work and a few questions and answers about each. Head over to AJ’s website to pick up any of the prints you see below!

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Bangor, ME

“Rise of the Cephalopods” – Bangor

Cephalopods are widely regarded as the most intelligent of all the invertebrates. Naturally they will rise up and take their revenge on the human race, it’s only a matter of time. I imagine they will start their land domination in Maine since so many of their brethren have been harvested out of the waters there. Donning their “above water” rocket propelled mechanical exoskeletons, they first entrance – then ensnare. Watch yourselves and stay safe!

MM: Pretty far-out sci-fi concept here! Did you study biology in school or simply know this about cephalopods and Maine.

AJM: Yeah, it’s out there, but I absolutely love this image. No biology classes, just a passion for animal documentaries and a warped mind.

MM: This print has a distinctly, retro vibe—almost Scooby Doo esque with the mariner—mashed up w/ a futuristic concept. Was this intentional? How did you go about designing this one?

AJM: You’re not the first to liken it to Scooby Doo, and god knows I spent hours of my childhood staring at the Mystery Machine and Scooby snacks. It honestly wasn’t something I was consciously shooting for, but I wouldn’t argue about that one bubbling up from the subconscious. I knew I wanted a spaced out fisherman, your classic “Gorton Fisherman” kind of thing, and it just spiraled from there.

 *****

SPAC Triptych

SPAC Triptych

“Duke of Lizards” – SPAC

This summers triptych is a scene straight out of the heyday of Saratoga Springs when men wore top hats and monkey bellhops took your bags to your room. This piece celebrates the Victorian opulence of the town along with the idea of “curiosities” that evolved from that era, I mean what’s more curious than literal lounge lizards getting down?

MM: This one takes on an obviously Phishy feeling with the Lizards jamming. Have you used Lizards on Phish work before?

AJM: I did a series of chameleon prints years ago, one of them for the hiatus, but I’m not sure if those count.

MM: This triptych feels like in takes place inside that Gideon-Putnam hotel right next to SPAC. Any accuracy to that interpretation?

AJM: I’ve never hidden the fact that I love SPAC and Saratoga in general. I’m lucky to have family there and spend quite a bit of time in town. I knew I wanted to avoid horses, nothing against the track, but I did the whole hippo on the track thing last year so time for something new, hence the Victorian theme. It wasn’t the Gideon I was thinking of, rather The Adelphi Hotel which is down on Broadway, but same deal—old Victorian opulence and curiosities.

 *****

Jones Beach

Jones Beach

“Finally Free” – Jones Beach

Do you feel bad for him? Really? Don’t forget what he did to get himself in this situation. I mean a sliced nipple, while painful, is no problem—but all it takes is one drop of blood to draw in our jagged toothed friends. RIP brother, can’t blame a monkey for chasing the girl.

MM: This scene also takes on a clearly Phishy feel with an illustration of the song “Fee.” What inspired you to get so Phishy this run?

AJM: What I love the most about doing these summer prints is that I can do them for myself, no submission process, no feedback, no revisions, just what I want to do. It’s incredibly liberating to have that kind of freedom on piece. I’ve had this image in my head for a long long time, last year’s Jones Beach print was all about beauty with the mermaid, this year’s is certainly about something else. (laughing)

MM: This image really pulls you in with reference points from Floyd’s hand al the way back to the ship. I’ve always noticed that your pieces deal a lot with depth and perspective. Can you talk a bit more how you use techniques to achieve this effect?

AJM: I love creating a huge space out of what is essentially a 12″x20″ rectangle. An artist has some basic tools at their disposable to carve out that space, perspective being particularly effective. Overlapping borders is also a great way to bring the space towards you versus back. You’ll have a hard time finding a piece of mine that has straight lines around the perimeter. What I think is more important is allowing the viewer to enter that space and interact with the image, thats where the real magic happens.

 *****

Merriweather

Merriweather

“Barn Burner” – Merriweather Post

The time has come to release the blue crabs from their barn door prison and fire up the cocktails! Nothing like a little propaganda piece to get the crowd worked up into a rabid frenzy—either that or a sick “Walfredo” opener.

MM: This print immediately struck me as my favorite of this run. The colors combined with the detail is just over the top. With this one as an example, did you focus a bit more on creating borders for your images this time around?

AJM: Thanks man, I loved this concept from the get go. This is actually going to be my first year going down to Merriweather, but I’ve been told that its a bit of a police state in the lot there. Thats what initially got me going on the whole “revolution propaganda” theme with the molotov cocktail. The fish in the bottle is just another in a long line of fish I’ve put on the chopping block, whether it be a guillotine, firecrackers or a molotov.

I’ve been playing around with borders and frames a lot this year, not just on the summer prints, but on many of my official pieces also. There’s something about a border that brings resolution to the image, it makes it “feel right” if you know what I mean. I’ve also made some advances in the registration of my prints which enables me to get the fine fines required in many borders. I’m looking forward to where this will lead in the future, it could get interesting.

MM: This is one of your prints offered in variants. This is something new for you within the past year or so. Can you talk a little about the motivation behind offering variants and how you feel they effect your imagery?

AJM: I view each and every variant as an experiment, some work out with spectacular results—others, not so much. As much as I like to push myself as an artist or illustrator, I also like to push myself as a printmaker and the variants are a great way to do so. I’m quite lucky to have a great local art store that stocks hundreds of different decorative papers from around the world, everything from Egyptian papyrus to Japanese rice papers. When I am preparing to bring a print to press I’ll usually go in there to pick out 10-15 sheets of whatever I think they will look good on. Now whether the paper agrees with the press & inks is a different story. Many of the papers were never really meant to be run through a press with thousands of pounds of pressure. So Im slowly working my way through, testing different sheets, keeping notes, etc.  It’s actually a really fun and interesting process, I never really know what the results will be until that last color is pulled.

*****

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Chicago Run

“Skyballz aka The Overflow Tank” – Chicago

So a good buddy of mine stopped by the studio the other day. Upon seeing this print he says, “AJ, you’ve reached the 4th dimension!”
Welcome to the 4th dimension folks. Watch your head, there’s low flying Skyballz…

MM: Really intriguing image here; very different. Did you start out to depict “sky balls” or did you think of the connection later?

AJM: This whole scene was inspired by the Adler Planetarium which is at the tip of Northerly Island, although whats actually depicted is an orrery. Again, I wanted to create some serious depth and a sense of space in this one, with the planets pushing and pulling into the picture plane. The skyballs certainly came after, but was too suiting for the piece not to use it.

MM: Did you intentionally use a similar color palette to the UIC ’11 triptych? Coincidence?

AJM: The color palette certainly does make it a nice companion piece for the UIC triptych doesn’t it? Theres something about that mix of mauve, yellow, burnt and raw sienna that I just love.

*****

13Gorge72dpi

The Gorge

“The Gorge” – George, Washington

Peaceful and tranquil, antelope frolic and graze in the scenic beauty of an epic venue. Look closer and realize that something is amiss in this otherwise Garden of Eden, we are not the only ones watching this scene unfold.

MM: An idyllic scene turned dark. Was the periscope a last minute addition or planned all along?

The periscope was planned from the beginning, in fact it was the catalyst for the entire piece. Anyone familiar with my work knows I lean towards the dark side, what I love about this one is the dark side is completely implied, the dark side only exists in the viewers mind. The periscope, itself, is fairly bright and unassuming, but whats is the periscope attached to? What’s lurking under that water? It’s my job to set the scene and the cast of characters, but its the viewers job to create the plot.

AJM: Ok, so it was part of the plan. How often do your prints change mid-process, let’s say, as you get a new idea? Or do you always go with the originally finalized image?

Determining the theme/image is honestly what I consider the most difficult part of the entire process. I’ll typically go through five to ten different concepts, sometimes all over the board, before something sticks for good. I have more half finished sketches than I care to admit, but that’s part of what the sketch process is for, working out the “kinks” before the carving tools ever touch the linoleum. If you look at my original sketches you can see the evidence of this creative process, linework that’s been reworked over and over until perfect, guidelines laid out only to be erased and moved a fraction of an inch. It’s not uncommon to have an entire image worked out in pencil one day and the next morning it just doesn’t feel right so Ill erase the whole thing. By the time the image actually makes it onto the plate and carving commences, it’s been put through the ringer and is fairly settled. I’ll occasionally make very minor changes to the plate mid-printing, but overall nothing that would probably be noticed by the casual viewer.

*****

PNC - Sketch

(Sketch)

Untitled/Unfinished – PNC

MM: Wow, this one blends Indian culture with Northern Jersey! How’d you come up with this relationship / imagery?

AJM: I wasn’t thinking so much about the blending of Indian culture but rather the state of mind I find myself falling into during a particularly good jam at a show, you know that almost trance-like state where all that matters is the music. Hence the snake charmer image with PNC’s shed as the basket holding all the goodies!

MM: That’s cool. I certainly know that state. How often do you actually try to evoke the feeling of Phish through your art? Or is that a silly question? All the time?

AJM: Not a silly question at all. I dont know that I’m necessarily trying to evoke a feeling of the band, rather I think the emotions and experiences I take away from seeing the band are acting as inspiration for images. Does that even make any sense? I’ve been huffing ink fumes all day so I dont even know what I’m saying anymore!

MM: Most definitely! Thanks so much for your time AJ! Safe travels and I’ll see you next week.

=====

Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Undermind” 8.31.12 I, Commerce City, CO

Who could forget this?

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Are You Ready for Summer?!

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 24th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
12.28.12, MSG (G.Lucas)

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

With only a little over a week left before Bangor’s opener, the anticipation of the band’s 30th Anniversary Summer Tour is beginning to reach a fever pitch. It will have been been the longest off season in the band’s history—outlasting ’99’s drought by four days—when the band takes the stage in Maine, and fans are feeling the excitement across the country. In only nine days, the long and winding road of Summer 2013 will begin, and this week we start with a series of Summer Tour-based articles. Today I present my five wishes (in no particular order) for Phish’s upcoming month on the road.

1. New MaterialTrey has confirmed that the band is collaboratively writing a new album, though it doesn’t sound like it will be done before tour. Phish, very often, have debuted new songs in the live setting before they have come out on an album, so if any tracks have been completed, we might be hearing them come next week. Regardless of what new songs they feature, be them originals, side project contributions, or covers, I can’t remember a time in the band’s career when they were so glaringly in need of new material. Hopefully we’ll see some debuts in Bangor and SPAC, as the guys tend to drop fresh music at the front end of tour.

8.15.12 (Sam Heller)

8.15.12 (Sam Heller)

2. Continued Improvisational TrajectoryAnyone who has been paying attention to Phish for the past few years has to be on the edge of their seat with anticipation of what this Summer Tour will hold. The last seven shows—Dick’s and MSG—have produced the most astounding music of 3.0. Many fans were a tad apprehensive heading into MSG, concerned that Dick’s would be an outlier in the band’s improvisational course. The jams in Colorado were both emotionally powerful and technically complex; a retro run with a distinctly new-school vibe. Any doubts about this were erased, however, with 12/28’s “Tweezer”—another instant classic. All of a sudden, Phish was reliably excellent again! Though 3.0 has been an amazing ride, consistency hasn’t exactly been their strong suit. But after witnessing the level of jamming we heard in Colorado during the first show in New York, we realized the paradigm was shifting. Despite a throwaway on the 29th, the band followed up with a couple more of the year’s most impressive jams in 12/30’s “Disease” and “Carini,” and sealed the deal with an underrated “Ghost” on New Year’s Eve. If my calculations are correct, Phish should come out in Bangor ready to let things loose with more wide open, multi-tiered adventures. The band has improved considerably with each and every tour of this era, and assuming that trend continues, things are gonna get really, really interesting on Phish tour next month!

The Ocedoc (Phish FB)

The Ocedoc (Phish FB)

3. The Ocedoc—During this winter’s TAB tour, Trey primarily played his old Languedoc (the Ocedoc was nowhere to be seen). Just the other day, Phish tweeted a picture of his guitar tech setting up his rig with Trey’s old guitar in the shot. This combination has gotten some folks wondering if Trey will be using his former axe for Phish this summer as well. In all probability he will travel with both, but I—for one—hope he doesn’t leave his new six-string wonder child sitting at the back of the stage. As soon a Trey debuted the Ocedoc at the Greek in 2010, the enhanced sound and dynamic of his new instrument was obvious. He confirmed what everyone was hearing at the end of the first show when he introduced his “magic guitar.” The tone and clarity of the Ocedoc is unparalleled, and, in my opinion, was a huge improvement over anything he’s played before. Let’s hope Trey hasn’t changed his mind about his new axe, and the Ocedoc remains his central guitar this tour.

4. A Shift/Diversification in Jam VehiclesI realize that beggars can’t be choosers,  but this is a wish list, so here’s my wish. Throughout this era, Phish has grown more predictable than ever. That takes nothing away from the quality of their playing, but for anyone paying attention to their patterns, few things come as surprises in the live show anymore. Inevitably, the biggest jam of any given night will stem from “Disease,” “Light,” “Piper,” “Rock and Roll” “Sand,” “Tweezer” or “Ghost.” “Carini” and “Sally” provide wild card platforms, and occasionally the band will expand a cover like “Crosseyed” or “Drowned.” But what gives at some point? What about everything else? Just as the band adopted big staple jams from their former Halloween albums, why haven’t they brought one aboard from Exile and Waiting for Columbus—that’s a whopping 4 records to choose from! Wouldn’t it be fun for them to jams songs they have never jammed—or haven’t jammed often (or at all) this era? I gotta believe it would be. Think of “Yamar,” “Cities,” “The Wedge,” “Waves,” “Pebbles and Marbles,” “Seven Below,” “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” “Halley’s Comet,” “Free,” “2001,” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Gumbo,” “Mike’s Song.” Let’s get songs like “Bathtub Gin,” “Simple,” “Reba, and ‘Wolfman’s” back into creative space. I’m not sure what’s holding the band back from jamming most of their catalog. Perhaps they don’t think people care that much any more? Someone should let them know that we do.

6/20/04 Setlist (Coventry Blog)

6/20/04 (Coventry Blog)

5. Complete ShowsThroughout the modern era, Phish’s musical high points mostly exist as jams, jam sequences, or segments of shows. Occasionally, the band will keep things focused and on point for an entire set and even less often, for an entire show. I’m sure this is a facet of their age and stamina as much as anything else, but it sure would be great to see them put a bit more forethought into their setlists and play start-to-finish performances. They don’t have to spell something with their song titles to make a great show, but a basic road map could greatly assist the cause, as Trey’s ability to call shows from the hip has flown by the wayside. On the rare occasion that Phish does play two smoking sets (see 8/31/12) we react as if the heavens parted and we were bestowed with a miracle. It didn’t used to take divine intervention for the band to put together two tight frames of music, and I honestly don’t think it takes much more than a bit of planning and focus. Hopefully, to celebrate their 30th year together, the guys will come to ready to play from note one through the end of each night this summer, and we will be left with a bunch of shows we can throw on the system years from now and just let roll without having to fast-forward the lulls.

What are your wishes for this Summer? Respond to @mrminer on Twitter with the hashtag #SummerWishes so everyone can follow the responses. And, of course, share your ideas in the comments section below!

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Light > Ghost” 7.1.12 II, Alpine Valley, IN

One of the high points of Leg One 2012.

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Reader’s Picks: Chris “Topher” Mont

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 20th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Junta Promo

Junta Promo

All selections and text by Chris “Topher” Mont

The 80’s Like Totally Didn’t Suck…

Hello. I feel I should preface this by saying that in no way am I actually qualified to speak facts about Phish in the 80’s. While I was alive and well during that decade, I did not even discover Phish until ’97. I don’t want to give anybody the wrong idea. That being said, I do love to study up and do lots of research on the band. So, I hope this can help to expose people to an era of the band that I feel is very underappreciated. I tried to choose songs based more on historical interest as opposed to “best versions.” Hopefully it will be enjoyable regardless. A quick shout out to all the ATLiens. I look forward to another great summer this year. Be excellent to each other, and party on dude!

***

Whipping Post” 5.3.85 II, UVM, Burlington, VT

No better place to start than the beginning, and for me this show is it. This was Page’s first time playing live with the boys…boys being the operative word there. It is very interesting to listen to the band at such an early stage. It is quite unpolished, but you get to hear the potential that was eventually fully realized. Plus, it’s interesting to hear two guitars.

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***

Run Like An Antelope” 10.15.86 III, Hunt’s, Burlington, VT

In the next year, Phish made some changes and entered a new phase. Jeff Holdsworth left the band in the summer, and they added Paul Languedoc into the mix. This was his first show as the band’s sound engineer. Perhaps he was partially responsible for bringing some new effects to Trey, which help to put some fire on this otherwise very humorous, early version.

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***

Peaches En Regalia > David Bowie” 10.31.86 II, Goddard, Plainfield, VT

It seemed like a tradition for a while to play “Bowie” on Halloween, which I would assume is because this concert was its official debut. I wish they actually would play some Bowie for a musical costume, or in my wildest dreams some Zappa. But, I guess this is as close as it gets.  There is some different treatment in the composed section that makes it especially fun to hear. Also, “Peaches” was played a little differently, albeit not really as good as the later versions in my opinion.

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***

Punch Me In The Eye” 4.24.87 UVM, Burlington, VT

That’s right! It’s not a typo. No, not those few times Trey called “PYITE” by this name. There was one time when Phish had an entirely different version of this song. Can you call this the same song? It definitely somehow brought about “PYITE,” and also some sections from other future Phish classics. It was just too interesting to resist putting on this playlist.

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***

 “Melt the Guns -> Dave’s Energy Guide” 4.29.87 II, Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

First off, this entire show from Nectar’s is quite enjoyable. It is simply an awesome setlist, plus there are pretty decent recordings as far as audio is concerned. I chose “Melt the Guns” because it is absolutely my number one, single most desired bustout. I friggin love this song! Speaking of bustouts, I felt very lucky to be at the Charlotte show for the bustout of “Fuck Your Face,” which debuted at this show. Shout out to the Queen City.

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***

Skin It Back -> Low Rider -> Back Porch Boogie Blues -> The Sloth” 8.21.87 II, Ian’s Farm, Hebron, NY

One, two, buckle my shoe…Rock on Marley, and rock on Ian, wherever you are!

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***

Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” 2.24.88 II, Gallagher’s, Wattsfield, VT

This certainly is not the best version of this song, but, I thought it was interesting to hear since some other dude named John Carlton sat in on the drums allowing Fishman to really let loose on the trombone!

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***

The Curtain (With)“5.24.88 I, Nectar’s, Burlington, VT

This is another one of those old school classic shows, and this song opened up the first set of three. This is probably my favorite version of “The Curtain.”

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***

Jesus Just Left Chicago” 5.24.88 II, Burlington, VT

This song opened up the second set, which was a rare example of a three-song set from concerts pre-97. Don’t think Phish didn’t jam back in the day. Much thanks to Fish and Mike for playing along with the drunk dude in the audience who was yelling “slower…”

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***

Reba” 10.26.89 II, Wetlands, NYC, NY

I went in chronological order for this playlist since I figured it is worth noting how much growth the band made in the three years from May ’85 to May ’88. But, as far as saving the best for last goes, I’m so glad that this works out to have the final spot because this is really what I was most excited about. This is what really started my idea for an all old school playlist. I really wish they kept in the “Don’t Get Me Wrong” segment. I absolutely love it! For those of you who have not heard how Reba once was…

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Tags: ,

Reader’s Picks: Mathias Loertscher

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on June 18th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.19.12, BGCA (Ken Scelfo)

8.19.12, BGCA (Ken Scelfo)

It is my pleasure to introduce the Reader’s Picks from one of the first reader-commenters on PhishThoughts back in 2008—@Matso! Welcome back buddy.

All selections and text by Mathias Loertscher aka @Matso

Maze” 12.9.95 I, Albany, NY

A ferocious set one opener. Listen carefully for the subtle, eerie industrial drone effect that Trey uses to set the scene. I would love to see the band take such a careful approach to show openers more often.

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***

Yamar -> Runaway Jim” 8.2.03 II, Limestone, ME

A moment when it all came together: My first post-hiatus show and my younger brother’s first show; one of my favourite songs seguing into my favourite song; and a serious left turn into Type II, which moves through many different ideas deftly and assuredly, with some fantastic use of the uncompressed tone. I had tears in my eyes.

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***

 Stash” 12.28.98 I, MSG, NY

1998 is the year when Phish arguably peaked in terms of popularity and intensity. The energy at MSG for the first night of the first four-night NYE run at MSG was therefore off the charts and, after a quick “Axilla” to get the blood pumping, Phish detonated the Garden with this “Stash.” Although musically I prefer the 1997 MSG version, the straight-forward, dark intensity here made for a more memorable experience. Listen to the audience roar at the end of it. Fierce.

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***

Tweezer -> Have Mercy” 7.17.99 I, Volney, NY

Another one where I basically cried. Most of my crew were stuck in the traffic on the way in and it was during this stunning “Tweezer” that they found their way through the crowd and miraculously found me. This was also a summer when Phish’s music provided on-going comfort from some tough personal circumstances. So when they moved into “Have Mercy,” I got a bit emotional.

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***

Down with Disease” 11.13.98 II, Cleveland, OH

Both sets this night in Cleveland started and finished off strong, but had some of the worst, most prolonged mid-set lulls I’ve experienced. Miner has highlighted the “Wolfman’s” from set one for its clear Mind Left Body jam a few times, but this “Disease” is worth hearing as well. Very tight Trey-shredding for a good while, which stays in the box but is otherwise unreproachable, followed by a wonderful section of chord-led jamming (sounding almost Dead-like at times), which leads back nicely to the “Disease” theme.

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***

Farmhouse 8.5.11 II, George, WA

How do you follow up perhaps the greatest jam of 3.0? With not one, but two amazing segues. Then what do you do? You play this. Trey’s solos on Farmhouse throughout 3.0 have been a treat and this version is as good as any (check out Miami ’09 and Woosta ’10 too).

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***

Ghost” 8.13.97 II, Burgettstown, PA

My second “Ghost” of the summer and first one state-side. The band’s sound was developing so fast this summer that this version didn’t sound anything like the first one I’d heard (7/1/97). This one gets so thick and funky that I thought the band had turned into robots at one point.

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 ***

Makisupa -> Night Nurse -> Makisupa” 10.26.10 II, Manchester, NH

Not much to say about this one other than that the band NAILED the “Night Nurse.” One of my favourite moments of 3.0. More reggae please.

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***

2001” 8.11.04 II, Mansfield, MA

A controversial version from the final, dark days of 2.0. Some vocal commentators think that Trey’s playing on this version lacks direction and drive, but I hear the jam section before the first “ASZ” theme as a moment of lucidity, with some fantastic slow, considered playing from Trey. Afterwards, he’s clearly out of ideas, but that first solo is very unusual for a “2001” and noteworthy.

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***

David Bowie” 7.19.91 I, Somerville, MA

“Bowie” with horns. How the song was always meant to be played.

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Tags:

Reader’s Picks: Phamily Bezerker

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on June 14th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

Boogie On” 9.18.99 II, Chula Vista, CA

The “Boogie ON”!  Transcendent trajectory on this one. Know it.

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***

Mike’s > H2 > Groove” 3.13.93 II, Boulder, CO

This is a worthy second jam “Mike’s,” but the “‘Paug” is not to be missed.  Mike lets you know this is his song right up front, no questions there. Kenny Powers remastered this show if you’d like a copy of some old school Phish.  Get some!

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 ***

Gin > Makisupa > Bag” 7.25.97 II, Dallas, TX

This one gets overlooked by many who bailed straight to Cali and prefer the version a few days earlier due to greater availability/attendance. Nice little first set sequence.

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***

Antelope” 7.29.97 II, Phoenix, AZ

The Arizona “Antelope.” Check out this in Boone and Crockett!

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***

Piper > Twist > Slave” 11.14.97 II, West Valley, UT

Seemed good at the time.  Still holds a special spot—’97’d!

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***

Lengthwise” 11.19.92 II, Colchester, VT

It’s the debut and a nice change up from what we get these days (or even anything since this one). First time I heard this version was Summer ’95. Good for a laugh. Skip it if you’ve heard it or you can’t handle your dairy even in small doses, whiner!

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*** 

Limb by Limb” 7.26.97 I, Austin, TX

Bob Gullotti on a second drum kit helped lift this one right out of the gates for a show opener. I like Fish’s vocal reprise to close.

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***

It’s Ice” 5.13.94 I, Hayden, AZ

Back when Ice was fire!

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*** 

Split -> Catapult” 12.31.99 I, Big Cypress, FL

Such a nice memory this one ushers in.

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***

Tweezer” 9.3.11 II, Commerce City, CO

Do you remember where you were when this dropped? That we have this on Vimeo ain’t a bad kick down to those that like this kind of stuff.

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VENTURA BOX SET HAIKU WINNERS!

The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

First off, thanks to everyone who participted! I received 24 sets of haikus, so needless to say that picking three winners—with two strong haikus—was quite difficult. But here we go… Winners please contact me with shipping address. Thanks!

WINNER #1: Edward Smith

7/30/97

Palm trees and sea breeze

European funk returns

Stateside to blow minds

7/20/98

Mid-July Monday

The faithful bear witness to

Riverport Gin’s kin

***

Winner #2: Ted Rubenstein

7/30/97

Sonic skull massage

Counter-cultural cow funk

Played to perfection

07/20/98

By the Sea and Sand

Nearly Drowned in the Bathtub

Seeing my first show

Winner #3: Bingo’s Brother

7/30/97

I just mowed my lawn

And the neighbors got done too

Ventura Bowie

7/20/98

Spun Ventura Gin

Swimming through molasses deep

Aural soft core porn

***

HONORABLE MENTION:

Jason Mass

7/30/97

California

Sound and light get hotter ‘til

It ends in fire

7/20/98

And begins again

With all us taking a bath

Ending out in space

***

Marc Tosh

7/30/97

four-headed pimp groove

cotton candy tornado

free bowie city

7/20/98

coastal summer tub

diving down for skunky pearls

Buenaventura

***

Matt Tiscornia

7/30/97

Summer Winds Blowing

A Segue That Still Dominates

Blind Side At The Went

7/20/98

Where Is The Joker

Let Me Get Back To The Sea

Central Part Of Town

***

Mark Lecuyer

7/30/97

Tortured song fills sky;

Fun chords signal summer chant

D’oh – said creator.

7/20/98

Sea’s Healing provides

inspiration and focus.

Drummer sings new song.

Tags:

Ventura: A Glimpse Into the Glory Years—Pt. II

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on June 10th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Ventura County Fairgrounds

Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura, CA

Today we take a closer look at the Ventura shows from ’97 and ’98.

7/30/97: I: NICU > Wolfman’s Brother > Chalk Dust Torture, Water in the Sky, Stash, Weigh, Piper, Cars Trucks Buses, Character Zero

II: Punch You In the Eye, Free > David Bowie -> Cities -> David Bowie, Bouncing Around the Room, Uncle Pen, Prince Caspian > Fire

E: My Soul

First a little context. Ventura’s ’97 edition unfolded in the first half of the band’s US Summer Tour in about a week’s proximity to their experimental funk tour of Europe. The band was loose and honing in on a new sound they had developed since the previous Halloween. Eager to stretch almost any song into a syncopated groove session, the band had been throwing down spectacular shows in their first week stateside. Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Lakewood, Dallas, Austin, and Phoenix—all monster shows in their own right. And now it was onto Ventura.

7.30.97This Ventura show—an incredible portrait of Phish in the Summer of ‘97—has never circulated in great quality due to the coastal winds that swirled around the venue, thus this remastered soundboard comes as nothing short of a revelation. The first disc of the set brings us back to an era when first sets meant something. Right away in the second song “Wolfman’s” we hear the loose wah-funk that the band had been exploring all season. After Trey takes a solo over the bands extremely slowed patterns, the band locks into each other’s ideas in a thick dance jam that has nothing to do with the song, foreshadowing the methodical wah-grooves that would come to define the summer. The band surfs this wave without finishing the song with a brief jam on “Take Me to the River” that leads them directly into a “Chalk Dust” that grabbed me on first listen. The utter intensity and creative mini-tangents throughout this jam illustrate Phish taking no prisoners in their live show—even during a first set in Southern California.

The “Stash” that follows contains glorious jamming that smoothly moves in and out of a major key , providing a beautiful middle section to an intense tale. The band closed out the set with a four pack of songs, including a short, old-school “Piper” and a wah-infused “Cars, Trucks, Busses.” Despite the on point playing throughout the first set, this show has—rightfully—always been synonymous with the meat of the second.

Ventura Sleeve Art

Ventura Sleeve Art

Simply put, 7/30’s “Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie” is one of Phish’s finest jams from one of their finest improvisational years. Having warmed up for a month in Europe, the band hit US turf running, dropping monstrous jam after monstrous jam. But this one was special. Phish hadn’t played “Cities” in the United States since 1989, and the way the band builds into the song is nothing short of masterful. Blending their new-found groove with their intricate, prog-psychedelic roots, the guys dropped a piece of music that set the Phish world afire. Confident, daring, and without hesitation, they collectively tear apart the “David Bowie” jam as a band possessed, each contributing stunning pieces to the puzzle. But deep into the jam, the guys break down the seething music into something far more percussive. On comes Trey’s wah-pedal, and the band begins to migrate from darkness into quickened groove. The following few minutes are the most engaging of the jam as the band dives head first into some very unique funk patterns with Gordon going ape shit. The band is in destruction mode here as the music seems to be playing them as much as they are playing the music. Trey begins working in the rhythm licks of “Cities” and a James Brown concert breaks out! Straight Krush Groove here as the guys liken superhuman robots oozing with soul. “Cities” stays at its original pace throughout, far from the exaggeratedly slow versions that would follow. As the lyrics end, the band takes little time to seamlessly mesh back with “Bowie” in what seemed like an aural hallucination. And the band doesn’t just rush to finish the song, they dive back into the jam for seven minutes—longer than most current “Bowies” altogether—and annihilate the peak of the jam. Just as this sequence stole the show that summer night sixteen years ago, so does it steal the spotlight on this release, despite its mp3 soundboard having surfaced a few years ago. This sounds superior in every way.

After “Punch” kicks off the second set Free” gets the treatment in a version that serves as a signpost for the jam. The band had recently ditched the piano led direction and changed motifs with “Free,” transforming into the bass and guitar driven juggernaut of the late ‘90s. In this Ventura version, we hear the band acclimating to the new milieu, but without really building anything of significance. This would start to change over the summer and more earnestly in the Fall when the song truly started to expand. After such monumental jamming in the middle of the set, the band rode into the sunset with a quartet of diverse, well-played songs that end the show.

7/20/98: I: Bathtub Gin, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds of a Feather, Theme From the Bottom, Water in the Sky, The Moma Dance, Split Open and Melt

II: Drowned -> Makisupa Policeman > Maze, Sea and Sand, Prince Caspian >Harry Hood

E: Sexual Healing > Hold Your Head Up, Halley’s Comet

Ventura '98 Promo

Ventura ’98 Promo

While Ventura ’97 stood out amidst its tour, Ventura ’98 most definitely did not. It was a solid show, but coming right after Europe, Portland, the Gorge and Shoreline, the SoCal Monday nighter felt like the West Coast afterthought before it started. But when the band greeted the crowd with a colossal “Bathtub Gin” to open the show, the possibilities opened wide. The Riverport “Gin” that came nine days later is often hailed as the top version of all time. This Ventura “Gin,” placed in a similar show-opening slot, paved the road for the all-timer with a jam that progresses through many similar stages. Check ‘em out back to back. Interestingly, this show all but excludes the chunky, rhythmic style of Summer ‘98, and the “Drowned” opener of set two illustrates this alternate path. Taking the arena rock cover in a direction that The Who might have if they jammed, this excursion was underlined by white-hot rock and roll. Loud, fast and boisterous, this jam is a musical depiction of a hyena going for the jugular of its prey. Once he has conquered and killed, the music shifts to a more down tempo feel as the hyena salivates over his family’s still-warm dinner. As he begins to drag it back to his clan, Trey hits his wah grooves and the music becomes decidedly chilled out in a gorgeous, sinister final few minutes.

Aside from these two prime-time jams, however, this show features unbelievable intensity throughout, allowing the performance to come off totally fine. The second set features the classic pairing of a hearty “Makisupa” and a full-throttle “Maze,” and a big-time bust out in “Sea and Sand” (the set’s second Quadrophenia track about water) paying homage to Ventura’s surroundings. Closing with strong versions of “Caspian” and “Hood,” this show set is carried by the band’s type I creativity and is a very smooth listen the entire way through. A quality “Split” punctuates the first set, while a looped-out “Halley’s Comet” provides the second selection of a double encore (after Fish had debuted “Sexual Healing) and sees the band exit the stage one by one leaving a series of delay loops behind them. The “Bathtub Gin” is the only lasting jam of significance from this night, but the strength of this show illustrates how effective Phish was at doing everything in their repertoire in the summer of ’98—not just open jamming.

Ventura Liner Notes

Ventura Liner Art

The final details to add about this Ventura release are the two soundcheck jams. Each feature extended, instrumental takes on “Makisupa,” with ’97 ‘s carrying a bit more musical depth. The ’98 soundcheck features” jokingly layered lyics from “Venus,” (“I’m your “Venus, I’m your fire…”). Though both are fun listens a couple times through, these aren’t like those crack soundcheck jams we get every now and then—just Phish having fun.

In summation, the Ventura box set is a fantastic release, easily the strongest since Hampton / Winston Salem. (Though 12/6/97 was in there too!) As time moves forward into this Golden Age of Phish, more and more re-mastered releases from their glory years continue to hit the shelves—a welcome trend that is sure to continue. Providing us crisp memories of magical nights gone by, sometimes all we need in a moment and a CD to take us back. And Ventura certainly does that.

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie 7.30.97 II, Ventura

Here is the mp3 SBD that has been out. This is NOT the release.

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VENTURA GIVEAWAY!

The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

I have three Ventura Box Sets to give away for free! If you’d like to be eligible for this contest, please write two haikus—one that captures the essence of eachshow. Email these haikus to mrminer@phishthoughts.com by Wednesday at 8pm Pacific and I will post the three winning entries on Thursday or Friday! Make sure you adhere to proper haiku format or your entry will be disqualified. UPDATE: I’ m getting some really good entries and it will be tough to choose the three winners! Get yours in!

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Ventura: An Glimpse Into the Glory Years—Pt. I

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 9th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

Since about 1999 or 2000, I’ve been a jams-only listener. The immense amount of full-shows I’d spun previous to that combined with the transition from analog tapes to CD-R’s (and eventually digital files) resulted in me excerpting shows’ highlights more and more for my listening pleasure. Through these mix tapes and simply pressing skip the in the car, my habits of listening to Phish gradually changed. I no longer needed to spin entire shows time and time again. Most often I had been there and witnessed the start-to-finish flow, but even if I hadn’t, I no longer needed to hear the straight compositions. When spinning shows, I wanted to hear the meat, the tracks with significant jamming. When I got my advance copy of the upcoming Ventura release, however, I decided to listen to both shows start to finish, and in doing so, I was able to put a finger on the central difference between the Phish of then and now—non-stop intensity no matter what. Within the Ventura shows of 1997 and 1998, the band is focused and fully dedicated to each and every song, not just the highlights, and it makes all the difference.

Many people who only know my Internet persona think that I exclusively value Phish’s type II jams, and that I—for all intents and purposes—sit down and twiddle my thumbs for the rest of the show until they happen. Though such improvisation is unquestionably my favorite part of Phish—especially modern Phish—while listening to both Ventura shows, I realized why my take on 3.0 Phish can, at times, sound so type II centric—the band’s type I vigor is gone. Listening to Ventura ‘97’s “Chalk Dust,” I was blown away by the intensity and creativity contained in this piece of music that was bursting at the seams. Listening to Ventura ‘98’s “Makisupa,” I remembered that the song once had immense musical value beyond it’s current use as comic relief. The band is knee deep in dub grooves while Trey paints gorgeous melodies atop the irie textures. Listening to ‘98’s “Prince Caspian,” I was taken by how Trey annihilated his solo like it was a matter of life or death. And as I continued to listen to the type I jamming that dominates the ’98 show, I realized how glaringly the modern incarnation of Phish is missing this type of playing from their arsenal, causing shows—and particularly first sets—to drag when they aren’t engaged in type II jamming.

Ventura Liner Notes

Ventura Liner Notes

Phish can still weave freeform (type II) adventures as well as ever. They are master improvisers of the highest degree and have honed their craft over the course of 30 years. Anyone who doubts their improvisational acumen is fooling himself and needn’t look any further than the jams of Dick’s and MSG for proof. I fully see the band’s virtuoso jamming of the second half of 2012, to continue on an upward curve in 2013, but will the band pick up the slack from rest of their show? With members pushing 50 years old now, Phish reminds me of the crafty NBA veteran, think Kobe Bryant, who can play an awesome game at 75 percent and then go balls out in the fourth quarter and win the game. Phish now plays their contained (type I) jams with precision, but with very little intensity and creativity. Then they beast out in their open improv to save the show. To illustrate this type I fall off, think of songs like “Stash,” “Bathtub Gin,” “David Bowie,” “Reba,” “Mike’s,” “Weekapaug,” “YEM,” “Wolfman’s” and “Antelope”—ya’ know, the (former) goods! In the landscape of modern Phish, these songs are mere placeholders, reminding us of what used to be. No longer does the band even play quasi-memorable versions of any of these songs—only once in a blue moon. But with their improvisational skills at an all-time high, they drop pieces that steal the show and completely legitimize it. Think 12/28’s “Tweezer,” BGCA’s “Crosseyed > Light > Sally,” or 9/1’s “Golden > Caspian > Light,” or 9/2’s “Sand > Ghost > Piper.” Other than these segments, these shows, (with a 12/28 “Wolfman’s” exception) are pretty straightforward with little replay value. And this is why I most often focus on their creative jamming in my show reviews.

Ventura '98 Promo

Ventura ’98 Promo

If they played a “Chalk Dust” like Ventura ’97, I’d write about it! If they played a “Halley’s” like Ventura ’98 (which was run of the mill at the time), I’d write about it! Shit, if they played a “Cars, Trucks, Busses” with the zest of Ventura ‘97s, I’d write about it! But they don’t. Rarely is anything from a show worth chronicling other than type II jams and bustouts. As I’ve mentioned before, set crafting has gone the way of the wind, and without type I action, what else is there? To be clear, I absolutely believe Phish’s sublime improvisational passages make their shows worthy in full, but how great would it be if they could carry the rest of the show too?

To further my point, aside from the monstrous “Bathtub Gin” that opened the ’98 show and a “Drowned” jam that opened the second set, this show is dominated by type I jamming the whole way through—and it’s a great show! The band can’t pull that off any more (see 12/29/12). Their sustained intensity and type I creativity just isn’t there anymore (and setlists cannot carry shows no matter how outlandish). Worth mentioning, in a summer when laid-back funk ruled the scene, Ventura ’98 is a show that skirts the style all together—a complete and utter anomaly in a groove-dominated tour. “Gin” gets into a wee bit of danceable jamming, but after that, there is no funk, barely any open jamming’—and it’s a great show because Phish is utterly relentless, killing every single moment. They don’t cool down, they don’t lay back, they attack each piece as if it was the last they’d play, and the difference is as clear as night and day.

Quite obviously, my biggest take away from listening to these Ventura shows is their start-to-finish intensity; they pose such a stark juxtaposition to modern performances. Fans get so worked up about the amount of jamming that Phish does nowadays, many citing that they’d like to see more. Except in extreme cases, however, I don’t think that’s the main factor bringing some shows down. Unless we are comparing the band to the jammiest periods in their history, they are improvising at about the same rate as ever. But it’s what they are not doing in the rest of the show that cause modern Phish performances drag at times and make fans jones for the oncoming adventure. Maybe this summer, the year of their 30th anniversary, the guys will put it all together and play complete shows like the ones gracing their new box set? Their jamming will certainly be there, but what about everything else?

Tune in tomorrow for some more specific thoughts about the Ventura shows, themselves!

Ventura Liner Art

Ventura Liner Art

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Bathtub Gin” 7.20.98 I, Ventura, CA SBD

Here is a sneak preview of the release! This “Gin” paved the way for Riverport’s classic a week later, as the jam morphs through many of the same stages.

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VENTURA GIVEAWAY!

The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

I have three Ventura Box Sets to give away for free! If you’d like to be eligible for this contest, please write two haikus—one that captures the essence of each show. Email these haikus to mrminer@phishthoughts.com by Wednesday at 8pm Pacific and I will post the three winning entries on Thursday or Friday! Make sure you adhere to proper haiku format or your entry will be disqualified.

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