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

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REMINDER: SPAC Art Show on Saturday!

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876 Responses to “Vibes that Rise Like Fireflies”

  1. kayatosh Says:

    pretty please

  2. kayatosh Says:

    feel free to email it to me at swamikripalu@gmail.com

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    Kaya, for now:

    http://crunchygroove.com/

  4. Foul_Domain Says:

    That ‘Slave’ was a definite keeper. Such a patient build.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    i miss you, stoney.

  6. [Not Tom] Says:

    The one definite right now is the Phan base is not in any sort of agreement right now about whether the playing is up to snuff. I think with thus much criticism occurring, it must be a true indication that IT has yet to find its way out of the bottle.

    In the same way we saw Kuroda’s ditch the ovals last year, maybe the band needs to go back to four across.

    Or they can stick with their guts, give us the finger, and then melt some faces anyway.

  7. Foul_Domain Says:

    Trey just isn’t following through with any real engaging ideas in his solos. Last night was a seriously sloppy Trey performance – sour notes all over the place, but more than that, he just wasn’t hooking up at all. Most of Light and Steam were painful to listen to for me. It just felt like a struggle all night.

    I was listening to IT Ghost yesterday and what I love about Trey is how he is a master of crafting themes in his solos and its those themes that are a big part of giving a jam its identity. That Ghost is a perfect example of that, and I think that aspect of Trey’s playing just wasn’t there last night. It just felt like work to me. The first few minutes of that Light jam might be some of the worst guitar playing I’ve seen from Trey.

    Having said all that, its 2 shows into tour after a huge break – Trey will pull up his socks and get back to what he does best.

  8. [Not Tom] Says:

    Can anyone who was there or who watched the full stream tell me what that keyboard looking thing is behind Fishman? Did he play it ever? Is it some kind of Midi-controller?

  9. kenny powers Says:

    Dammit i was hoping at least one AUD would be up on Etree by now, I really want to listen to the show for my drive to SPAC in a couple hours!

    Guess i could buy the SBD but i like my first listen to be an AUD if possible.

  10. BrandonKayda Says:

    The Light last night was pretty damn good, esp. the last 4-5mins.

    One thing that’s really stuck out to me from these past two shows is Trey’s excessive use of the whale. I really do not like that sound – some find it innovative but I just feel like it makes his playing sound sloppy and unpolished. Honestly, it takes from my enjoyment of tunes like Gin/Bowie/Reba etc because I think it stops Trey from developing lines and phrases during a jam. To some extent, I think he’s using it as a crutch, and it shows. That isn’t to say that there are never times where that sound is appropriate, but they are few and far between, and certainly NOT on tunes like Gin/Bowie/Antelope, or any of the really guitar-led jams.

    So far there have certainly been a few good jams in these shows. I think our expectations might have gotten the best of us in some regards. I’m excited to see what these next two nights hold.

  11. phoammhead Says:

    get some, kp . . . hope it rages for you!

  12. gavinsdad Says:

    It’s very early on. I am in the camp that is calling this S2 “very good”. The webcast helped me focus and get a way better vibe on the playing than just audio (or perhaps on the lawn?). So I got a sense of who was synching up or not…so I guess I’m trying to say that I thought that there was a bit more “thoughtfulness” last nite. Nothing epic but the playing itself was inspired. There were moments that the basic playing was straight up hot and that was sprinkled over the entire set.

    From my end I had written an entire outro jam out of Mango that would have been sick and I watched Fish decide to wrap it up cause it would have taken great psychic effort for all 4 guys to play what I wanted them to.

    Steam as I mentioned was a great “application” of the whale. Use that as an example of a “good” whale workout. 46 and Drowned both had those intense, nod to ’12, robo funk sections.

    Like I said, not epic, but fiery and at least they seemed somewhat present as players. My takeaway vibe was that it was a perfect start to a 3 pack and hope they build on it.

    Regarding the whale hope he finds a balance. I wasn’t into it in 09 as I felt it distracted from the solos (that many loved back then). But it was very easy to see during last nites Slave the exact point where Trey knew it wasn’t Appropriate for the peaks….I think he will figure out what he’s trying to “say”.

  13. [Not Tom] Says:

    On a different subject this is not the same Lisicki who beat Serena. #nerves

  14. albert walker Says:

    go spin bethel

    just as much whale if not more. used to great effect on halleys kdf and waves jam

    trey isn’t tour ready . has nothin to do with the pedal. hot trey can use that pedal effectively . check out Miami Bott gorge RnR or Dicks Light

    when treys off the pedal gets the blame. blame the player. IMO

  15. BrandonKayda Says:

    @Foul_Domain

    I agree completely – Trey’s playing can be very inconsistent. Honestly, most of the time I listen to a 3.0 Tweezer/Disease/Light, or any jam vehicle, I skip the first 10mins or so (provided it goes that long), because I know that the “structured” part of the jam (ie, “Type I”) will be filled with Trey’s use of the whale/whammy bar. I wish I didn’t have to do that, but the whale makes some solos nearly un-listenable sometimes.

  16. gavinsdad Says:

    Bk – u just summed up my ’09 take on the whale. Thanks.

    And my expectations are quite low actually. I am just letting these guys do their thing. Take some time to just listen to the playing itself not the outcome or success of the jams. I think they are getting warm for sure.

  17. Stoney Case Says:

    On the bright side, crunchy groove rules! Keeps playing even when I navigate away from the browser on my phone.

    Spinning Bowie, trying to muster some positivity.

  18. BrandonKayda Says:

    Good point @aw. I guess to a certain extent its a matter of intent and moderation. I still think some of the Gorge 09 jams hold up as well as anything in 3.0 and he certainly used it well there.

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    “The one definite right now is the Phan base is not in any sort of agreement right now about whether the playing is up to snuff. ”

    There has never, ever been a tour since I’ve been paying attention in 96 where this was not the case exactly. Read some reviews from fall 97 and you’ll see complaints about loops and endless jams. In 95 the gripe was about the drum kit, etc.

    The one constant in the phish conversation is that fans don’t ever agree unilaterally about the relative merits of a show or tour or jam style.

  20. tela's_muff Says:

    I love the differing views and appreciate the comments in regards to not feeling the show or Treys playing.

    NTM – you might be onto to something.

    I was able to really open up and listen during the webcast last night and liked most of what I heard. Steam was the highlight for me. Trey tapped into the evil a little there from what I recall.

  21. gavinsdad Says:

    Exactly. Trey isn’t there yet. I like what AW said…dude needs more “heady coffee”. Hah.

  22. Stoney Case Says:

    BK with some musician talk. I dig. Whale in open jam can work. Whale where a solo needs to be clean sharp and driving, no fucking way. The first whale drenched Reba may end me tonight.

    I don’t think I’m being influenced by expectations. I think I have a really sharp ear for Phish and Trey is not tour ready. Or has carpal tunnel.

  23. Angryjoggerz Says:

    I enjoyed last night in stream a lot, didn’t have a problem with Trey at all but I thought Mikes vocals were super off, maybe he has a cold or something

  24. albert walker Says:

    he’s obviously tryin to develop a more horn / vocal style of phrasing with the ability to slide through pitches and micro tonalities

    seems he’s into it and since he switched back to the guitar he seems to like to lean heavy on it with. safe to say. it’s here to stay this tour

    laterz peeps
    vapes and run on the beach

  25. Stoney Case Says:

    Listen to Trey sing Golden Age in Bangor on the SBD. Off vocals defined.

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