Vintage Phish

7.3.13 (Parker Harrington)

7.3.13 (Parker Harrington via LiveMusicBlog)

A night after piecing together a patchwork setlist, Phish rebounded in every facet of their game on Sunday night at SPAC, scripting the most complete overall show of the tour thus far with a second set filled with adventurous improv. By scripting a second seamless main event in three nights with no filler whatsoever, the band has proven an intent to answer all modern fan base gripes while fully returning to form on their 30th Anniversary summer tour. Playing a show that invoked the spirit and contour of so many classics of lore, Phish penned a signature performance to cap an outstanding three nights in Saratoga Springs.

7/7 Official (Millward)

7/7 Official (Millward)

One of the things I have missed most in the modern era of Phish has been their hallowed set-crafting ability. In their glory days, the band sculpted sets with defined contours that took the listener on a flowing aural journey from beginning to end. Most often this era, the highlights of shows have come in jams or sequences, but seldom—if ever—has the band put together the type of musical narrative that has a distinct beginning, middle and an end with everything perfectly in place. Well last night, they did exactly that, weaving a stunning tapestry of music that cut to the core of the band’s artistry. Over their tour-opening run at SPAC, Phish (read: Trey) has rediscovered the lost art of set-crafting in one of the most welcome shifts in the Phish universe since the band started jamming again. Like MJ honed his fadeaway and LeBron polished his jumper, Phish, like in a wily veteran, has transformed their glaring weakness into one of their strengths. With this final step, the crafty quartet from Vermont has fully recaptured their magic of old while carving new sonic pathways at every turn.

The improvisational meat of the second set came in the inseparable sequence of “Disease > Ghost > Piper.” Beyond weaving these songs together with impeccable flow, Phish unified the three jams in musical concept, each picking up exactly where the last left off, while forming one, continuous musical whole. The set kicked off with the summer’s first “Down With Disease,” a jam that began in a mellow, melodic milieu before migrating into eerie groove with Trey playing seductive rhythm licks over a darkening soundscape. Before the band progressed beyond this section of sound, however, they transitioned into “Ghost.” Now here is where things get really cool. As the band launched into the “Ghost” jam, they picked it up in the same improvisational space that they had just left “Disease.” Re-launching into a sultry groove, the guys sounded like they could have still been in the same jam of which they had just segued out. The third stage of jamming in the three-song sequence came as the Page hopped to his clav and the band transformed the amphitheatre into a digital-plinko wonderland. Embarking on an intricate rhythmic exchange, the band flexed their creative muscle while progressing the overall narrative into another musical feel.

7.3.13 (P. Harrington)

7.3.13 (P. Harrington)

Phish fluidly transformed “Ghost’s” innovative conversation into a beautiful, melody anchored section that flowed perfectly into “Piper.” The third song of the set provided the fourth and final stage to this improvisational tale—the triumphant arrival. The band had passed us through darkness during the first 36 minutes of the set, and would now deliver us into the light via a stunning “Piper.” Spouting heart-tugging, joyous lead melodies, Trey brought the audience to a state of exultation in a conjoined celebration of the spirit of Phish. Passion leaped from all four band members in a staggering, near ten-minute peak to one of the more cohesive treks Phish has guided us on in quite some time.

The band even took the time to craft an emotional comedown out of the “Piper’s” jam that moved into “Velvet Sea” without missing a beat. Placed flawlessly, the ballad felt right at home in it’s late-set slot, bringing us into the end-of-set-classic-song-pairing part of the show. “Velvet Sea” has traditionally precluded “Antelope” in setlists, while “Meatstick” has also been paired with “Antelope throughout the band’s career. Substituting the word “Meatstick” for “Antelope” in the song’s final chorus, Trey added a touch of Phishy humor to this signature night while simultaneously revealing the next song. Additionally, “Meatstick” has often been placed right before a set-closing “You Enjoy Myself,” an occurrence that any fan could see coming a mile away. And there is no better way to close a massive Phish set—or a weekend stand—than with “You Enjoy Myself.”

7.3.13 (P.Harrington)

7.3.13 (P.Harrington via LiveMusicBlog)

Usually, this is where I’d write a conclusion and note the few songs in the first set that stood out. But the reason that last night’s performance was so damn special in this day and age was that the band’s contained, or type I, jamming was absolutely off the charts. Firing as one and never getting complacent for a moment, the guys were laser focused and hooked up from note one and it made all the difference. Just listen to the incredibly active takes on “Back on the Train,” “Maze,” and “Limb By Limb” in the first set and the absolute scorcher of an “Antelope” in the second. One version after opening up their classic set closer, the band absolutely destroyed a contained “Antelope” jam and it felt like a revelation. Restoring meaning to the song its second, consecutive superb version, Phish kept the action coursing. Following “Meatstick,” the band closed with an spunky “YEM” that saw Trey play high-pitched, staccato leads throughout the jam, a welcome diversion from his cliché guitar solo and providing the jam with a fresh sound of its own.

When on a roll and at their best, Phish seems to one up themselves one show after another, and thus far on this tour, but for a slight misstep, that is exactly what is happening. Building upon each previous night, the band has reached a level of proficiency in their live show that we haven’t seen in this era. First, they tore off a airtight second set on Friday, now they have notched a complete, quintessential two-setter. What’s next? Come to Toronto and find out.

I: AC/DC Bag, Back on the Train, Divided Sky, Free, It’s Ice, Mound, Maze, Limb By Limb, Walls of the Cave

II: Down with Disease > Ghost > Piper > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Run Like an Antelope, Meatstick, You Enjoy Myself

E: Loving Cup

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1,578 Responses to “Vintage Phish”

  1. plord Says:

    Love the Walls. Still a weird tune stitched together from found parts but they built it up big.

  2. Stoney Case Says:

    Hey all. Watch your phone use age in Canada. Especially data. Verizon told me 0.89 cents per minute! Data is $$$$. Use texts and wifi. Got my Skype updated.

  3. neemor Says:

    Yeah, thanks guys.
    I try not to hate on any aspect of live music, especially with Phish because they take such chances and that fruit has given me so much.
    But the whale….
    I was listening to the Light and if I’m being honest, I find myself completely honing in on that sound and it gave me the thought that Trey is playing that almost like a crutch. Like AutoTuning his notes to give him some flexibility.
    I’m sure that musicians can probably tell me that it’s actually harder to play with that tone but to me, it sounds weak.
    The irony is that I was listening to a ’95 Reba today and realized that, for me, it’s when Treyzor plays fewer notes that the music thrives. More specifically, the musical conversation between members is allowed to breathe.
    Hoping that he settles in and lets the music breathe.
    Like Mike jokingly (?) said in Bittersweet Motel (?), “you’re playing too many notes”.

    Then they nailed Antelope and who cares?
    All good.

  4. Kaveh Says:

    Any extra codes for the SPAC weekend out there? Just wondering; thanks.

  5. neemor Says:

    Anyone else seeing the backdrop washes as a throwback to the Minkin backdrops?
    Love, love, love what Chris is doing.
    On to the Melt.

  6. Kaveh Says:


    The new backdrop gives the stage a huge theatre feel; and I love the lighting of them as siloulettes. Reminds me of the storage jam lighting. Best light system to date….Chris is the 5th member of the band.

  7. neemor Says:

    “Reminds me of the storage jam lighting. ”
    Also saw this.^ (Sure we’re not alone)

    Steam was cool as shit, also.

    That PNC Tweezer>Lifeboy is going to eff ess up.

  8. neemor Says:

    Safe travels, Robear.

  9. MiA Says:


  10. angryjoggerz Says:

    Storage Jam meets Hollywood Squares (ask MiA) meets the jaded wook muppets in the balcony giving critiques ala Muppet Show with the new lights. Not sure how it looks in the venue, but the solid color backgrounds look great on the stream.

  11. MiA Says:

    I am becoming Statler. Quickly. Dammit.


  12. neemor Says:

    ^ pft. Yes!

    I don’t recall the last time a Melt came subtly back with the theme at the end like that…
    Maybe I just haven’t been listening, but when they’ve gotten to that ambient place and they bring back the structure with silence in between?
    Nod to ’94.

  13. voopa Says:

    Last night someone tweeted that WOTC sounds like music for marching off to war. I remember thinking just that when the band released it as their first single after 9/11. Fortunately back then all I had to do was imagine it (was already too old to serve, though not sure I would have anyway). That was a weird time.

    I would have preferred a different 2.0 selection last night, but that’s OK.

  14. ren Says:

    Glad you caught las night @plord! Looks like I need to spin this 3rd night ASAP.

  15. ren Says:

    …still haven’t had a 1st re-spin of Bangor yet!!! It was a great adventure to kick of my holiday weekend.

    Had a great time exploring Bangor with @plord. Hope to meet some more of you cats at JB this Friday….who’s gonna be there?

  16. kayatosh Says:

    any spare dl codes for spac 3 lying around? need it. want it. the precious.

  17. c0wfunk Says:

    Really enjoyed last night… A couple of things I noticed and enjoyed: back on the train slipped into a great little space, heralding what was to come. Divided skys outdo jam started in the most delicate gorgeousness. Blissful and free. Speaking of free, that song was subtely rearranged yet again with a notable lack of filter from trey and mike in the hard rhythm motive in the middle. This to me gave it a more rock feel overall again especially when it modulated into the bridge. Ice once again lacked a jam entirely, moving straight into the piano climb after the slowdown. I’ve gotta wonder if that change is to stay at this point. The whole set was on point and thick!

    Second set jam sequence was the stuff of dreams. What a flow and diverse palette was achieved! Ghost was about double time.. Perhaps that’s the way to get around missing the break every time? Alas, still missed it 😉 ..

    What a couch tour weekend! Taken as a whole this fits right into the canon of 3 night tour openers we’ve seen in the past few years (albeit with a warmup before). It’ll be interesting to see how a run of 1 nighters affects the intent and feel. Still hoping for a light and golden age next week in alpharetta. Counting the days!

  18. c0wfunk Says:

    One more note: that wind down jam from page before velvet sea sounded a lot like his coil outro solo..

  19. punkmug Says:

    cOw..I heard that Squirming diddy too.

  20. jerseyjim Says:

    just realized that since i webcasted last night’s show – the audio shows up for streaming in My Stash. So I got that going for me.

  21. roberto luongo Says:

    hard to post this without reading anything. been off twitter and blogs since Saturday night.

    but after greatly enjoying the first two nights of couch tour decided to go radio silence old school style till I see the Chicago run

    gonna be like 1994. gonna have to get the word of mouth on what they’ve played and how they sound. gonna be blind to the current jams and what they’ve played.

    think it will help me get the most out of the music this summer. avoid all the internet hype style nonsense. just go catch some phish.

    so anyway. see ya kinds in Chicago.
    anyone that needs some local help with anything hit me up.
    others see ya in BGCA or Dick’s!
    Laterz Comrades and of course.

  22. ElJefe Says:

    Wait RL you didn’t do last night? Trey takes his foot off the pedal while yer not watching? Interesting….

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Great weekend. Most fun I’ve had since the return.

  24. tela'smuff Says:

    i haven’t heard last night, did he back off the slide whistle? or are the unrefined ears catching up to the future?

  25. sumodie Says:

    The new backdrop gives the stage a huge theatre feel; and I love the lighting of them as siloulettes. Reminds me of the storage jam lighting. Best light system to date….Chris is the 5th member of the band.

    Agreed! Lights looked fantastic from balcony last night. CK5 made a good call in reworking the light rigging this year.

    Sound was great too in the balcony. I def prefer to be up there than down in the orchestra pav at SPAC – more room to breath & dance

    What a tease to see so many great folks from the BB and then not be able to hang out. (And sludging thru those crowds at setbreak to the WW was not happening, what madness). Hope the custy crib was a blast! I know Phish was, nothing like a two hour post show drive to meditate on the evening’s adventures

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