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. albert walker Says:

    I’m the biggest trey basher here

    that Bowie is the the best trey solo of any Bowie other than DTE

    pick up a guitar and study some of those lines. very hip modal fusion shit. stuff I’d actually want to cop from him

  2. plord Says:

    Energy sounded like a tune that was not good enough for Schoolhouse Rock and got relegated to the K-Tel $4.99 mail order bucket on late night PBS.

    “Sing Along for Peace Volume 9” or some shit.

  3. BrandonKayda Says:

    The Utica Antelope was fantastic. Love the dark modal stuff, almost reminiscent of a 94 ‘Lope

  4. sumodie Says:

    I see a jacuzzi in my future, followed by a couple hours of driving, topped off with a massive whale hunt tonight! Where art the mighty Queequeg?!?

  5. butter Says:

    I think the bb is a bit rusty and doesn’t know a hot show if it walloped them over their head

  6. Dr pronoia Says:

    That mike tune was embarrassingly bad. I was trying to explain it to my curious inlaws and was stumped. Bad vocals, lyrics, and music. Then that AA anthem Energy was even worse. Liked the light jam and the Bowie but to me trey seemed off most of the night, even dropping out of songs for bars at a time. Weird. Sure it was different there in person, and there were some high moments, but we’re far from complete set status yet IMO

    If I’d made the drive I’d be saying the cities bowie and the light mango were more than enough for me. Sitting on my couch for 4 hours I wanted tighter and more creative

  7. tela's_muff Says:

    Anybody with me here? Trey is dropping out on purpose. He’s laying way the fuck back and so far Page has been filling in nicely i.e. Golden Age, Light, Bowie. My mid tour this laid back style will produce some memorable jams

  8. Stoney Case Says:

    Spinning Drowned. Trey is fighting the electric axe. No other way to put it. He’s stuck in that acoustic sing along from YouTube.

  9. DavidSilver Says:

    Send me whatever you’re smokin butter.

  10. DavidSilver Says:

    I’m with that dp. Loved cities bowie. Also dug mfmf. Gin coulda been smokin sans moby dick.

  11. tela's_muff Says:

    I have yet to hear a bad word from those in attendance. Most calling it a good to great show.

  12. Foul_Domain Says:

    Laying back is one thing. Bailing on ideas is another. Phish is just a better band when Trey is the leader and driving the jams, imo. When Trey plays with confidence, engaging jams almost always ensue. Trey was not confident last night. He was working – I could feel that clear as day.

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    People there last nite were def loving it.

  14. plord Says:

    Tela’s I hear the patience in both shows this year. Laying back and letting things develop. But there have been missed opportunities.

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    @slick – kids asking me WHY u have an underdog on the back of your shirt.

    “Well, you see kids…..”

  16. tela's_muff Says:

    Agreed plord. That’s what I’m saying as far as your moves along, those holes will be filled. Excited for the prospects.

  17. vegas wolfmans Says:

    The move from 46 Days into Steam is nice.

  18. Foul_Domain Says:

    Just listen to Light from 5:00 to 7:30. Completely uninspired playing from Trey. Just stringing notes together aimlessly. Mike and Page come to the rescue and the last half of the jam is salvaged, but come on people…that was not a good Light jam at all.

  19. butter Says:

    i smoking life DS, and i dont want to miss it

    i was a Ghost hater and why are they playing so slow in 97,98 as i was a speed jazz and psych warfare kid from 94,95 school of Phish. i honestly missed a bunch of the beauty of the funk era because i was stuck in my head about what i wanted Phish to be

    what they are obviously doing is slowing down the tempo and playing a heady gooey sticky funk, drenched in subtle psychedelia, making tons of room for a jazz conversation….all with an intent to explore


    hang on to your shorts, cuz this is about to get real interesting

    have to go knockkk out a 1/2 day of work, have a ton of thoughts, will be back

  20. butter Says:

    will Trey get sharper? hell yes, Phish has played 2 shows in 6 months

    BUT WITH THIS BAND, ITS ALL ABOUT INTENT, and little puppy dog Trey and his quartet is willing to run you over this summer. mark it.

  21. 20 Minute Halleys Says:

    Tons of fun, energy taboot, Maybe it was my section, maybe it was Kuroda directly to my right (threw me and my gf a Justin Beiber guitar pick?!) but last night was able to sustain two pretty mediocre new songs, and still carry the load. Set one just wouldn’t end, i kinda wished it hadn’t!

  22. DavidSilver Says:

    Lol. Good for you butter. The ol straight and narrow. Maybe thats the key to whale love.

  23. tela's_muff Says:

    Well said Butter!

  24. Monsterpus Says:

    Apples in Stereo are the most saccharine of all the late 90’s E6 bands. Second tier bad Beach Boys pixie stick music that no one over 12 should listen to, and I like lots of twee fluff. I really wonder how Trey decides on these covers. I’m all for freshening up sets with new material, but…

  25. tela'smuff Says:

    wow. internets about to explode. Miner calling this best 3.0 show and better than most 1.0 or 2.0 shows….

    i love the passion, can’t fault that. for sure a great second set. really excited for tonight.

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