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. kayatosh Says:

    pro-last night’s Light. it helped that wife wasn’t in the room at that time.

  2. Dr pronoia Says:

    That happened to me too, kaya

    Inlaws wanted to watch what the fuss was about and it was hard to watch some of the tunes and jamming through incredulous 60-somethings’ eyes

  3. sumodie Says:

    The future is now and some still crave the past

  4. DocGanz Says:

    I also really dug that second set after feeling the first was kinda meh. Agree with Butter’s assessment. Thought the jamming was patient, good use of space, had a nice flow (although not much of a Mango fan these days). Light jam, 46 days jam nicely into a great Steam, enjoyed Drowned, and thought that Slave and even Zero were better than average. Anyone hating can feel free to email me their dl code… docganz at hm

  5. Dr pronoia Says:

    So what exactly is this new-hole style? Trey sitting back, page and mike contributing equally, selective whale, drift melodic?? Or is there something else I’m not attentive to?

  6. kayatosh Says:

    pissed at myself for conking out mid mango last night.

  7. RedRedWorm Says:

    If anyone is staying at the Saratoga Holiday Inn, check out your window….there is a wook on rollerblades putting on a dazzling show in the parking lot.

  8. kayatosh Says:

    spinning the Bangor CDT now. That’s some shit I like. Our man red sounds good. channeling Jimmy Page. $$.

  9. Stoney Case Says:

    Dr P, it’s Trey trying to catch up to the other three. Being labeled as a new style to keep positive. Lmao at ‘the new style starting in Bangor’

  10. Gavinsdad Says:

    Power skronk obviously.

  11. Gavinsdad Says:

    Stoney’s gonna be the last to let go. It’s ok.

  12. P.S.H.S Says:

    I really enjoyed how they sounded in Bangor, it was def different than last time I saw them, which is why I go. Their ability to change how they sound from tour to tour, year to year, is amazing. Not many other acts try to reinvent the wheel every year.

  13. P.S.H.S Says:

    ^reinvent the wheel might be a bit strong, but they try new stuff to sound different and not be that nostalgia act

  14. Gavinsdad Says:

    I can’t define it. It was sitting there in front of your face last nite. It’s not the phish you are used to hearing and to some that becomes sub par phish.

    I said earlier it was very good. I’m not here saying anything related to epic or best of or any of that shit. Was clearly different tho. I think the difference was evidenced in the steam performance. Watch the vid when they put it on Vimeo. It’s ok that I disagree w @foul_d on all these points. I’m sure we will clink a glass come The Gorge or whatever.

  15. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Did not webcast, have not listened back, but last night? Come on?!?!

    Last night’s show blew those January, February, March, April, May, and June shows out of the water!

    My favorite part about the phish community is how absolutely entitled everyone feels about their opinion of the music whether they were there or streaming or playing rummy tile listening to Fela Kuti or Eno and Byrne with their family in a mountain thunderstorm. A lot of us, myself included, at times, sound like douchenozzles when waxing about the music. Go on and shut the fuck up and show some fucking gratitude when we still have a shot at IT every time the band steps on stage.

    Tonight is another shot at IT.

    Get some!

  16. kayatosh Says:

    I’m w/ stoney. red’s playing catch up. He needs some herbs and some practice time.

    just spun bangor mike’s now. slow, somewhat enjoyable, straight forward version. were people geeking out about this one?

  17. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Kaya, Kaya’d FTW!

  18. Lycanthropist Says:


    I agree with most of what you are saying.

    But careful not to suggest that those with critical ears are stuck in the past.

    I thought the show was pretty damn good, but not perfect.

    I have been craving new material for 2 years now, but didn’t particularly like either of the new debuts they played. That doesn’t mean I dont want them to play them again (ok will maybe not Energy) just means I didn’t jive with it.

    I loved that they are changing their game up. That much is very clear.

    I think it will only yield new and exciting results.

    But, still gonna call out the things that I didn’t think worked.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    bezerker: it’s called a discussion. we all love phish. just trying to break down what we heard. if analyzing phish isn’t your bag, then this is perhaps the wrong forum for you.

  20. kayatosh Says:

    i have nothing but gratitude for phish. watch who you’re calling a douche and who you’re telling to shut the f up. doesn’t sound right man. what’s wrong w/ hearing some differing views?

  21. DocGanz Says:

    phish net review up. Unimpressed with first set, really liked second.
    “In the end, it seems to me that the SPAC audience got to hear two bands for the price of one tonight. Granted, the first band had an off gig.
    But the second band breathed fire and took names.”

  22. Foul_Domain Says:

    My one and only issue with that show was Trey’s guitar playing. I thought everything else was great -incredible setlist and flow (2nd set, anyway), intent to jam, great great moments in Bowie and a very good Slave.

    I’m not worried about this tour – In fact I’m excited about the potential from what Ive seen so far. But no matter how you slice it, Trey played a bad (literally) guitar last night.

    Lots of tour left. I’m not concerned

  23. stapes Says:

    A lot of truth to Pham B’s thoughts.

    Mkdevo Light:

  24. Gavinsdad Says:

    100% Lycan – I’m trying to put into words the strange morphing of the band and the synching up of fans to get on the level of what is as yet undefined. So that’s tough snuff as is. Def respect all the musician ears here and also happy to note that there was also significant fizzle last nite. Funny thing is there were so many areas of success that weren’t specifically full band one mind peak jams. Lots of great individual playing/offerings that were getting me stoked last nite.

    And to be fair: 2 tugs on a oney and one beer were influencing my control set.

  25. fat bastard Says:

    i’m not a technical listener. but there were times in the show last night where there just was no sound coming from trey. did you recognize the moment second set, i think in 46 days, when gordon looked at trey and was like “are you going to do something?” the creativity isn’t flying off his guitar right now that’s for sure.

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