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. Gavinsdad Says:

    I usually back off of this nite post divisive show discussion anyway. Too contentious round here year after year. Most I’ve played the game for a show I haven’t attended in a long while.

    May be back in time for S2 tonite. Looking forward to it. Enjoy the day guys and lets not lop each others heads off we are way to early in the tour for that.

    Appreciate ur focused viewpoint @foul_d et al.

  2. Gavinsdad Says:

    I usually back off of this nite post divisive show discussion anyway. Too contentious round here year after year. Most I’ve played the game for a show I haven’t attended in a long while.

    May be back in time for S2 tonite. Looking forward to it. Enjoy the day guys and lets not lop each others heads off we are way to early in the tour for that.

    Appreciate ur focused viewpoint @foul_d et al.

  3. fat bastard Says:

    mango song was cool. and on the webcast i love watching fish on his drums. he is totally locked in. looks like a kid in a candystore.

  4. stapes Says:

    Was he on the older guitar for the whole show last night?

  5. stapes Says:

    Fish is definitely playing very well.

  6. Dr_Braun_Schitzmir Says:

    I think there are great things in store for the band’s playing this year. I’m truly excited, and I absolutely loved a lot of the playing in the first set. Cities, MFMF, Bowie, and I thought the slow Moma crushed. Fantastic!

    However, it seemed to me that the band realized that Energy wasn’t really working out, and I felt that it sucked the confidence out of the band for the rest of the 2nd set.

    I really appreciate that Trey is willing to let things develop these days. Nothing got horsed last night, but there were some serious struggles in the 2nd frame. That’s totally fine, I can still dig it, but it was uncomfortable to watch them at times in that set.

    Poor Trey tried to get Meatstick going, it didn’t grab hold, and was forced into Steam completely unprepared. Did nobody else notice that he had to use the teleprompter for every single lyric in Steam? Mike couldn’t remember the words so he couldn’t do the harmonies. That was somewhat painful.

    At any rate, this band is now willing to take risks, and for that I am grateful. This summer is going to elevate. But wait til you see what Fall brings!

  7. kayatosh Says:

    ^^^ quality assessment, dr. braun. agree w/ your observations. i can’t speak for steam cuz I slept through it.

  8. Dr_Braun_Schitzmir Says:

    No doubt, I shouldn’t overlook Fish. That guy is killing it right now. He’s the reason that I started showing up in the first place!

    Psych warfare on the kit!

  9. Dr_Braun_Schitzmir Says:

    Thanks Kaya!

  10. albert walker Says:

    09 tour hat back out

  11. DavidSilver Says:

    Just look at yourselves.

  12. fat bastard Says:

    yeah mike didn’t know the words at all. kinda funny.

  13. Dr_Braun_Schitzmir Says:

    Just went back to the setlist for a refresher course… forgot a few things.

    I loved Birds last night, and I so wish that would hit the 2nd set again. I could’ve used about 30 more minutes of that one. 😉 AC Birds was a high point for me last year.

    Not sure why I like it so much, but Page’s tune Army Of One gets me every time. Love that tune.

  14. DavidSilver Says:

    Seems fair. He can’t be bothered to learn mikes songs.

  15. DavidSilver Says:

    Army of One makes me feel like a dosed Viking. And I love it.

  16. voopa Says:

    Psych warfare. Power skronk. Love it.

    So we want new material. But we hate it. And they can’t remember it.
    Energy is here to stay. Terribly cheesy, and emblematic of why people hate Phish. Get used to it, again.

    I love this band. Hope Trey is on time tonight.

  17. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Yeah, it is easy to tell that it is hard to tell how far the tongue is pressed into the cheek.

  18. Dr_Braun_Schitzmir Says:

    Like a dosed Viking…. that’s it!

  19. kayatosh Says:

    berzerker: no hard feelings, man. i’m just a little off today. life shit.

  20. [Not Tom] Says:

    Not a criticism just an observation — as I’m listening to last nights sound load via the livephish app I feel that 75% of what I’m hearing is Trey’s vocals – way to forward in the mix IMO. I can’t really hear the band. I know it’s just an app but I’ve had better experiences with it than with this show.

  21. [Not Tom] Says:

    So Fishman definitely has some kind of keyboard looking thing behind his kit and no one has any idea whether he played it or not???

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    No worries, Kaya. I see that coming a mile away. Hell, I’d be bent too if I had been through your recent jaunt and slept through parts of a webcast I paid for. 😉

    My point was veiled and nebulous and boils down to this: It is easy to get hung up on the minutia, I practice not doing so.

    Do I succeed? not even close, still grateful for this shit and the discussions around it.

  23. gavinsdad Says:

    Ntm – I am pulled over on the side of the road, no cops, we are at a bakery, to say that I stared at Fishmans new Mickey Hart rig and didn’t see him touch it.


  24. Dr_Braun_Schitzmir Says:

    NT, I’m pretty sure that’s a MalletKat (or similar device):

    I don’t think he’s used it yet, but it will probably come out when the psych warfare power skronk goes deep.

  25. DavidSilver Says:

    Fishs new toy is part of the imaginary orchestra. It’s part of the new sound that only some of us can hear.

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