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. Stoney Case Says:

    Bowie installing a bit of hope here. Thanks AW.

    The Bangor Antelope did not.

  2. [Not Tom] Says:

    @ cow – agreed but there are certainly parts of tours where there is almost complete agreement – see Dick’s the last 2 years. While conceding that a tour finale shouldn’t be compared to an opening, I’m only comparing comments.

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    Good stuff. Best Bowie since DTE? You cats are on fluff.

  4. joe Says:

    he’s just searching for the sound that the Pittsburgh symphony makes.

    (I haven’t listened to the show yet, so it’s just a joke based on comments)

  5. [Not Tom] Says:

    I just hope the green guitar stays in its proper place – in it’s case.

  6. kenny powers Says:

    Stoney you just pinpointed why i have not been able to enjoy the actual song part of Golden Age: Trey has trouble hitting those notes with his voice and it comes off strained. It would almost be better if he dropped it an octave and used a more mellow approach. But damn i love the into groove and jam!

  7. kenny powers Says:

    sweet, only 20% chance of a t-storm tonight. Me no are no soggy tent fan.

  8. [Not Tom] Says:

    I think an early first-set Curtain With would right the ship.

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    Think that “horn phrasing” comment is excellent and really nails his Steam phrasing. It was extra moody and abstract on stream. Really interesting to me as opposed to face-melting. Worth a couple re-views.

    Nobody talking about set flow either…set 2 had real decent flow.

    ::waits for Stoney’s comment about how we are reducing our convo about the band from heat to set flow hahah::

    It’s early yet gents. Wait for the ripper at pnc!! Zoinks.

  10. mayhem Says:

    DTE is the only 3.0 Bowie I relisten to

  11. tela's_muff Says:

    Stoney – can you name another Bowie that’s better in that period? That’s of course with the understanding that most Bowies have been average at best so we ain’t claiming its an epic Bowie.

    Maybe the MSG Bowie. That was pretty fiery.

    It’s interesting how differently this show has been heard by people. That whale seems to be the issues for some. My complaint if I had one was nobody wants to take the reins and lead jams so they would deflate rapidly. Maybe that new album session with all the shared writing isn’t a great thing?

    That new Mike tune was painful.

  12. Foul_Domain Says:

    Yeah, I thought the 2nd set was structured beautifully. Energy, however, should never be played again. Ever.

  13. Foul_Domain Says:

    SBIX Bowie

  14. tela's_muff Says:

    Agreed on Energy. I was shocked to learn it wasn’t a Trey original.

    Energy would have fit right in with Bike, Summet of 89, Light, joy, #Line, etc. a string of cheese.

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    I listen to the AC 10 Bowie but its not a monstermonster just darn good.

  16. Stoney Case Says:


    Tela, any Bowie from last year at least as good. Listen again. Some of Treys better playing in the middle of last nights. Just not even close to a ‘stand out version’. Come on. Spin Dix or Bill Graham or the one from the rust belt three pack.

  17. Snow Says:

    Good convo homies. There have been good points and bad points. Steam was swanky and engaging and ROUGH. I thought slave was killer. The drowned jam was nice but not $$$.

    Someone set up the bat signal… Maybe Troy will join the band on tour.

  18. gavinsdad Says:

    Energy = total puffy handholding cheese no doubt.

  19. Stoney Case Says:

    Energy is straight off of ‘Kids Songs Volume 3.0’

    Anyone with kids will know what I mean. That should be sung by hippie creapers around a campfire with no one else around.

  20. c0wfunk Says:

    Yeah tom, understood. Of course last night won’t be on any all time lists but I found it a good experience from here. Really nice flow and original set list, all night just seemed to flow. Trey didn’t step up much, but page did so it worked for me.

    It’s always a funny thing too me, though, as I recall amidst the Halley’s at Hampton in 97 two super heady dudes standing behind me talking loudly complaining about treys choice of tone and effects when he was leaning on the picolo filter in those days.

    Another constant of phish to me is trey making an effort to find new ways to play his guitar and new tones to do it with. A great joy to me is experiencing watching him work through this process.. And its an up and down process. Good? Bad? Whatever. It’s art and process..

  21. gavinsdad Says:

    side note: thought Page was playing with zest, vim & vigor, what have you, last nite.

  22. kenny powers Says:

    The reactions of the fans is schizophrenic, just like the band and the band’s music 🙂

  23. gavinsdad Says:

    trey strikes a balance at the chitown shows i betcha.

    gotta get back to family long weekend stuff…another pool/bbq event on deck today…not mad at that!

    see yallz

  24. tela's_muff Says:

    Yeah. I’m certainly not going to debate 3.0 versions of Bowie. That’s a lose lose for everybody. Ha. DTE is the shiz though.

    Page and Fish sound the best to me through first two shows.

  25. sumodie Says:

    Now I know where Ive heard ‘Energy’ before…..PEPSI ads

    The Apples in Stereo licensed their tune for a global Pepsi ad campaign, 2009

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