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:

    Butter you’re referring to a change in style from 95 to 97. Totally get that.

    This is a band leader that is not tour ready. Not playing well, regardless of style or effects he’s tryin to incorporate. Not sharp or in synch. Clear as day on the sbds to me.

  2. Lycanthropist Says:

    I think its fair to say that last night’s show is a huge sign of things to come. They are definitely pushing their boundaries and looking for the next infusion of jam style. I noticed all throughout the night that they were pushing past points where they normally would have horsed.

    However, there WERE moments of disconnect and fizzle outs that keep this show from elevating to “flawless” territory.

    I do not think that the whale was the problem, and I don’t think that Trey’s intent was the problem. I don’t even think there was a problem.

    They are just taking risks in a big way, and the more they do this the more successful they will be. Once all four lock in to each other….

    Christ its gonna be a good summer.

  3. albert walker Says:

    wow good show with flow and intent and I a few of the jams but trey just not locked in enough for best of 3.0 convos

    not even top 10 IMO . possibly 20 though I don’t spin much phish

    but nothin in ballpark of

    xeyed ) light ) Sally

    dcu #1


    come on miner. he has to be trollin

  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    I mean yeah not sure how this show is in any “best of” talk.

  5. verno329 Says:


    Couldn’t agree more butter. I loved the Light but I think what I loved the most was that they had multiple times to bail during the jam but they kept pushing and reached some great heights, imo.

    I definitely get the dislike of the whale but I like the way they are heading. I loved the whole 2nd set (minus Energy, which hopefully is a one-off) and thought that the Light, the segue out of 46 Days>Steam, and the Drowned were all high points.

  6. Stoney Case Says:

    Miner off the res. may have to try and avoid next thread. Wish me luck.

  7. verno329 Says:

    @aw Add the Gorge RnR and the DTE Disease to that list too. I loved last night but I don’t think its that high on any best of lists.

  8. vegas wolfmans Says:

    From my couch, I thought the Bowie and second set were great, but this show doesn’t belong in any “best of” conversation. Unless that conversation is “best of 2013”.

  9. Stoney Case Says:

    Or Greek or SBIX or Midwest runs or UIC or….Gorge or….

  10. Moby Dick Says:

    or Amherst 2010

    bwah haha

  11. Stoney Case Says:

    It’s up there with Amherst for sure.

  12. Moby Dick Says:

    Thought you might think so

  13. m00nshake Says:

    I think butter is on target. More than a few of my friends did not fully enjoy stuff they were doing in 1997 until years later because they were still in the mindset that Phish should be doing this and not that. I say we try to lay back, relax, and see how this new style unfolds. It could mean great things if we let evolve. Hell, at least in 1997, they had some time to figure it out in Europe before dropping the funk in the United States.

  14. m00nshake Says:

    And yes… I still lurk here. 🙂

  15. kayatosh Says:

    BK knows what he’s talking about. I like his take.

    no one’s mentioned Ch.Zero. i woke up for that one and thought it was one of the better versions of the tune.

    I’m still on board w/ this band and looking fwd. to PNC live b/c they’re not just going through the motions, although that thought crossed my mind at times last night. they are striving for greatness (e.g., trying new tunes); it’s just not fully clicking yet. I blame the whale crutch. they’re trying to get their groove back and they will.

    need to spin that bowie asap. talked to my wife through it. I really don’t like experiencing phish w/ my wife. I get embarrassed when trey’s wanking and whaling away.

  16. kayatosh Says:

    I’m thrilled for trey to lay back that’s when phish works. not enough of that in the first two nights.

    let it breath, big red. let it breath!

  17. Lycanthropist Says:

    That character zero was def smokin!

  18. btb Says:

    “psych warfare” is one of the best PH style adjectives I’ve ever heard

  19. phishm Says:

    I’m with Butter. I thought the show smoked. Loved it.

  20. RedRedWorm Says:

    Haven’t posted in forever, but folks are really whining about last night?? Wow.

  21. Lycanthropist Says:

    I am giving this one about a B-

  22. bearito Says:

    Put me in the SPAC 1 “enjoyed” camp.

    Took a while for the first set to get going (nothing unusual there), but once that Gin peaked, I noticed a shift in momentum. That Cities could have gone a little bit deeper, as it seemed to just get to swanky-town when Fishman came in with the Bowie intro. Bowie had a noticeably fresh melodic/major key section which sounded tits to my ears.

    From the couch that Light sounded adventurous and chock full of new ideas. Trey was digging deep, bad notes or not, and the results were a beautiful full band communication those last 5 minutes or so.

    I also really dug the placement of 46 days after that Mango.

    Steam continues to intrigue me especially in the middle section when Trey goes all Shreddy Krueger.

    Slave was nothing short of gorgeous.

    2013 will smoke 2012. Mark it 8 dude.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    I say we try to lay back, relax, and see how this new style unfolds.

    ^^ sounds more like the old pre-ocedoc whale style from 2009/early 2010.

  24. sumodie Says:

    I have such a craving for Pepsi today, weird…

  25. Gavinsdad Says:

    The only constant in life is change. I just mentioned to Lycan/aw that they are once again changing in front of our faces in real time and we are once again trying to fit the new peg in the old hole. I mean this literally. I can see that folks don’t want to let go of what they think this band IS. They aren’t anything. They are Phish.

    Time to make a new hole guys.

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