Vibes that Rise Like Fireflies

7.3.2013 (R MacNeill)

7.3.2013 – Bangor (Ryan MacNeill)

Trey mentioned to Rolling Stone, in an article published only hours before Bangor’s tour opener, that the band’s extended layoff had him feeling “bottled up.” If I might speak for the entire Phish fan base, allow me to say the feeling was mutual. But in one fell swoop, we all kicked off this long-awaited 30th Anniversary celebration together in Bangor, Maine on the eve of the nation’s birthday. Beginning with an idyllic afternoon in which the band’s jaw dropping, free form soundcheck could booming through town and wrapping up with an incredibly appropriate centerpiece of “Golden Age,” Phish provided a stellar “Welcome to Summer” experience to everyone in their community.

Bangor Official (J. Rothman)

Bangor Official (J. Rothman)

The opening—and more complete—set of the show carried a distinctly retro song list with nary a lull. Solid performances of “Possum” and “Runaway Jim” set the table for the seemingly-always-first-jam of tour, “Stash.” Set against the backdrop of dusk on the river, this piece got everyone’s juices flowing for the spunky “Wolfman’s” that lurked just around the corner. Notably unbotched versions of “Rift” and “Theme” paved the way for the unquestionable highlight of the frame—”Mike’s Song.” And damn it feels good to write that! Opening up the hackneyed guitar-solo anchored jam, Trey began plucking staccato leads over a minimalist, though menacing, backdrop, and I thought my head might explode. Just hearing creativity infused into the “Mike’s” was like the best Christmas morning ever. Did the jam grow out of structure? Not for a minute, but the band’s approach was diametrically opposed to the cookie-cutter versions sprinkled throughout modern shows. And when they closed the set with “Weekapaug,” one couldn’t help but think, “It’s all happening.”

To properly christen 2013, the thirtieth year since their birth, the band threw down the defining version of “Golden Age” to date. A wide-open, jazz drenched conversation showcased the intellects of the four onstage marksman as it veered far from the half-realized funk patterns of yesteryear into a full-blown freak scene. Think of a late-’70s Grateful Dead funk jam inspected through the lens of modern Phish and you might get a sense of the sonic palette on display in this excursion. The space within the music was astounding, leaving seemigly cavernous gaps for band members to insert their ideas and respond to each other. The virtuoso collaboration between Trey and Page was worth the price of admission, alone. Interestingly, after discussing with a buddy only days ago how little Trey uses his wah-pedal anymore, he put the effect on center stage during this “Golden Age” painting the textures with one subtly wah’ed out note after another. In the same Rolling Stone article, Trey swore, “bands are chemistry. They are nothing but chemistry.” Well, that sound byte resonated across Bangor’s waterfront field as the four alchemists from Burlington, Vermont concocted a stunning tale to open up a summer of dreams.

7.3.13 (R.MacNeill)

7.3.13 (R.MacNeill)

But the set took a downturn at this point. After landing the opening jaunt in contained “Twist,” the band placed two Joy songs—”Number Line” and “Ocelot”—in the wheel house of the second set and did nothing with them. I was sure that when the band inserted “Ocelot” where “Tweezer” usually goes that it would finally get some creative loving. But it wasn’t to be and the band seemed to have hit a cruise control right when the show should have been getting juicier. “Rock and Roll” seemed like it might bolster the cause, but the jam was cut, almost awkwardly, to initiate a couple-minute build up into “2001.” Though “Zarathustra” contained some choice licks amidst a laid-back groovescape, the band’s arrival at the tune was less than climactic and it’s placement felt a bit pre-calculated. And just when you thought “Cavern” was ending the show, the band tacked on an “Antelope” and came up with the most profound version of 3.0—by far.

“Antelope” had all but lost it’s place in the modern Pantheon of Phish songs, but on this date—exactly 19 years from its ’94 fireworks-punctuated outing at Old Orchard Beach, Maine—the song was resurrected. I had no thoughts of this jam being anything more than a feel-good rocker to close the night, but mid-build, Trey just opened it up and glory ensued. Bringing to mind thoughts of the Spring ’94 Wiltern version, the band coyly slid out of raging structure for far blissier territory, quickly creating the second-in-command highlight of the night and—essentially—salvaging the set. Seamlessly re-merging with the song’s theme, people’s minds had to be shattered as the band headed for home on notably high gear.

7.3.2013 (R. MacNeill)

7.3.2013 (R. MacNeill)

And what better way to encore a classics-based setlist than with “Harry Hood.” Laying way back in this jam, Trey took his time building it into something far  more than an afterthought. Blossoming a melodic tangent, this extended take on their cathartic opus felt like the perfect way to end the opening night of this month-long celebration. And without experiencing the true throwdown that so many recent tour-openers have entailed, the possibilities are even more limitless than they would be heading into a holiday-weekend three-pack in Saratoga Springs.

Happy 4th of July!

I: Possum, Runaway Jim, Stash, NICU, Wolfman’s Brother, Rift, Theme From the Bottom, Chalk Dust Torture, Mike’s Song > Silent in the Morning > Weekapaug Groove

II: Golden Age > Twist, Backwards Down the Number Line, Ocelot, Rock and Roll > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Cavern, Run Like an Antelope

E: Harry Hood


REMINDER: SPAC Art Show on Saturday!


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876 Responses to “Vibes that Rise Like Fireflies”

  1. Moby Dick Says:

    Did someone say “thar she blows”. That steam was kinky with its whale calling

  2. kayatosh Says:

    not a fan of the whale

  3. punkmug Says:

  4. Moby Dick Says:


    Well then come catch me and put a harpoon through my eyes if you got the mettle

  5. Foul_Domain Says:

    Tonight was weak. The first part of the light jam was almost unbearable to my ears. Steam was a flop, and the entire 2nd set was completely disjointed. Trey was way off his game all night. No creative ideas and no full band connection. Not a good Phish show by any stretch. Tomorrow will be better.

  6. kayatosh Says:

    grrrr, moby. someday.

  7. tela'smuff Says:

    i utterly and completely do not comprehend if that was considered a flop, or if the whale was so overwhelming it made the show sleep worthy. there must be outer influences shaping a persons vibe thus closing the receptors. that was a fluid, jammy, fun filled, exploratory set. all the way through.

  8. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Interesting take, Foul Domain. I disagree completely. First set was a throwaway, but I thought the 2nd delivered despite heavy whale. Not a dull moment. Different strokes.

  9. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Yeah, what tela’s said and stuff.

  10. Stoney Case Says:

    Just a personal preference here. My opinion. Not bitching about song choices or timings or jammyness.

    Some tasteful whale once in awhile is one thing. What I’ve heard of Bangor and tonight is like playing a round of golf with only a belly putter. Everytime my stream cleared enough it was Trey working that little pedal constantly. KDF, Birds, Gin, Bowie, Steam.

    I did not dig the BangALope for the same reason. Really curious to see where this goes. Glad I don’t have any solid plans beyond TorontOKC and Friday Chicago.

  11. voopa Says:

    For me, tonight clicked during Gin. It was all that after that. And I mean ALL that. We have a tour, folks.

    L’âge d’or de la baleine

  12. Stoney Case Says:

    There’s a bunch of guitarists on here. I am willing to bet that none of you have or would ever use that whale pedal in your rig. Amirite?

  13. kayatosh Says:

    don’t let my sleeping suggest set II was weak. i’m just prone to snooze on the webcasts. sleepy time.

  14. tela'smuff Says:

    ya’ll just need to stick to Daft Punk apparently….

    for real… tonight was real good. classic phish.

    the whale works for me most of the time in 2013. and we’re just starting. SPAC1?! i felt this after Cincy last year. how can they top this? and they equaled it or topped it for the next 6 shows.

  15. phishm Says:

    The only person making sense is voopa. Great show.

  16. vegas wolfmans Says:

    I remember touch.

  17. Foul_Domain Says:

    It wasn’t even the whale. That wasn’t a factor for me. I felt like Trey just couldn’t put any fluid ideas together.

    Trey did not play well tonight.

  18. tela'smuff Says:

    that wasn’t Dicks 1 or 2, or 3 really, but that was a huge improvement. thats the vibe i’m feeling. the band took off a bit tonight. that’s all. just drunk a feeling that show. no insults or anything.

  19. phishm Says:

    You’re all nuts. that show was insane. Not sure what you all heard. It’s all good, and to each their own. I just really enjoyed that show.

  20. Stoney Case Says:

    Apparently Foul Domain and I are nuts. We both laid out specific reasons for our opinions. Some of y’all sound drunk and unable to comprehend a different view.

  21. kayatosh Says:

    “there must be outer influences shaping a persons vibe thus closing the receptors”

    ^^^ outer influence = indica + feet up + low on sleep

  22. kayatosh Says:

    i’m in the camp that questions red’s tone choice.

  23. ElJefe Says:

    Liked most of the show…some excellent stuff and some very mediocre Trey at times… Less Whammy is more… But whatever 2 more nights…

  24. punkmug Says:

    I would not say set 2 was a flop either, but Foul D I hear you on the front part of that Light jam. Trey’s disjointed jazz rock licks don’t do much for me. It reminded me a lot of fall 2010 Sand and Light jazz rock jams. At some point that light really took a turn for the good though..i mean really good vibes for my tastes. That connector jam out of 46 Days into Steam was money. Drowned had some really nice ideas too. Lots for me to love in that set 2. AW mentioned intent earlier and while I don’t feel like it was all pure magic tonight they were certainly attacking and succeeding on many points. Whale sounds don’t get me down though either. SPAC 2!? Yes Please!

  25. tela'smuff Says:

    stoney – i dint’ call anybody crazy or anything, although freely admitted being IPA’d and idica’d. wouldn’t be the first time listening to Phish that was the case and i still feel like i know what i’m talking about after 20 years.

    @kaya – yeah. i hear that. again, no judgements. just excited for what i felt to be a really good set of music.

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