Right At Home Again

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 15th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

In one of the most symbolic moments in recent years, Trey came out for the second set of Sunday night’s show at Merriweather wearing a t-shirt! In leaving his button down in the green room, Trey conveyed the comfort that he once again feels on stage at a Phish show. In the days of lore—days that may not remain as unmatched legend for much longer—Trey had a rotation of t-shirts, but ever since the comeback, it’s been collars and blazers for Big Red. The comfort Trey is feeling is clearly shared by his bandmates as well as they annihilated Merriweather Post Pavilion to close out the Northeast portion of their summer tour. Playing a ballistic show from start to finish, the band showcased why so many of our lives have changed for this band. The excitement that is swirling between the crowd and audience at shows these days is unprecedented for the modern era. For the past few years Phish has played shows using the sounds and jamming styles from their past, but starting in 2013, and exemplified by last night’s “Light” jam,” Phish has reinvented themselves and their sound once again—a hallmark of their career—while taking all their jams in new and innovative directions. I shudder to think what the Gorge and San Francisco will be like, let alone fall tour! Hide the women and children folks, this is getting serious.

7/14 Official (Doe Eyed)

7/14 Official (Doe Eyed)

Aside from “Light’s” monumental excursion, the greatest take away from last night’s show was the first set. Playing, hands down, their best opening frame of summer, the band threw down some unexpected twists taboot. After moving sharply through the first third of the set, the show elevated to another level when the guys dropped the most impressive “Stash” since post-hiatus. Taking the piece into blissful realms and then into a wah-laced segment a la Worcester ‘97, the band packed an incredible amount of action into the now-resurrected piece, and damn what a great development. “Stash” had been left for dead as nothing but first-set filler, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the song makes it into the second set before tour’s end.

Phish followed “Stash” with a “Scent of a Mule” in which the band actually used the Mule Duel to showcase their musicianship and create something different. One feature of this jam was Fishman on marimba, a new stage feature as of tonight, and—wow— it made some abstract sounds. My personal favorite surprise of the set, however, came next in “It’s Ice.” Launching from the ambient jam into a filthy dose of disco funk, this one came like a left hook from Sugar Ray Leonard as he distracted you with his rope-a-dope on the right. Check this piece out for a vivid illustration of just how damn nasty Phish is right now. Capping the opening half with scorching versions of “Tube” and “Antelope,” the band received an extended standing ovation after the first set! The addition of a throw down first set completely changes the contour of an evening with Phish, providing an incredible boost to any show.

7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

With an interesting move that I didn’t realize until later, the band kicked off the second frame of Sunday night’s set with the exact triumvirate as they started Bangor’s—“Golden Age > Twist” and “Number Line.” And in retrospect, the sequence had a very similar flow. “Golden Age” exploded into a furious groove jam that saw Trey favor his wah pedal once again, a move that causes every Phish fan to giggle with delight. Though “Golden’s” jam stayed within normal territory, it, nonetheless, enthralled any Phish groove junkie in the audience. Bleeding into “Twist,” the band once again seemed on the verge of popping out of  structure as they turned toward home. “Number Line” provided an unwelcome second-set interlude before Phish turned the pavilion upside down with the Merriweather “Light.”

7.13.13 (R.MacNeill)

7.13.13 (R.MacNeill)

When “Light” started up last night, one could only imagine the places it would take us after witnessing the SPAC and PNC versions. The opening chords of the song are now enough to make any psychonaut drool in a pavlovian response. Continuing to push the envelope with their modern launchpad, last night the band came up with music that verges on indescribable. Some amalgam of free jazz and hard groove sprinkled with calypso and topped with an avant-garde stop-start cadence is about the best I can do. But let me tell you—this shit brought the house down. There is something incredibly awe-inspiring about witnessing greatness and being completely cognizant of it while it is going down, and that was exactly the feeling I had last night. Phish was inventing music that only they could make right there on the spot, and people were freaking the fuck out—and that’s where this whole experiment got started thirty years ago. Segueing seamlessly into “Boogie On,” the band’s unstoppable momentum spilled into the cover and spiced up the version quite a bit.

As the band tore through a hot “Julius,” there was about 45 minutes left on the clock and everyone could see the “You Enjoy Myself” from a mile away. But what nobody could see was the infectious and active jam that would spring from yet another classic that had lost its luster. Sticking to the groove paradigm last night, I don’t think it will be long before we see the band take a “YEM” into open waters—the Gorge perhaps?

As tour follows the lines going South for two shows and then takes a quick right turn out to Chicago, the trajectory of this run is mind boggling. After the show tonight I thought of all the west coast friends who will see the band at The Gorge for the first time this year and what an awakening they are in for. 2013 is the moment we’ve been waiting for since 2009. 2013 is what I thought was possible when Trey stepped in stage in Brooklyn in 2008. Now it’s all happening right before our eyes.

Is the south ready for Hurricane Phish?

I: First Tube, The Moma Dance, NICU, Roses Are Free, Chalk Dust Torture, Stash, Scent of a Mule, It’s Ice, Tube*, Run Like an Antelope

II: Golden Age > Twist, Backwards Down the Number Line, Light -> Boogie On Reggae Woman, Julius, You Enjoy Myself

E: Loving Cup

* “Ice” tease

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In Touch With Their Roots

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 14th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

If Phish had played a show with the contour of Merriweather’s Saturday night’s song-based performance at any time over the past several years, it would fallen completely flat. But with the band’s revitalized interplay in their contained jamming—something glaringly missing from their modern arsenal until this tour—a show like last night’s was fantastic. Sticking to the program and breaking song structure only twice in “Disease” and “Simple,” the guys, nonetheless, threw down another high quality performance from top to bottom. The energy in the pavilion last night was both palpable and electric, and the band rode that wave all night long, dropping their second stellar “Split Open and Melt” in a row, a scorching “Birds of a Feather,” magnificent “Harry Hood” and a heavy-handed, 28-minute “Mike’s > Simple > Groove” to close things out. Filled with active jamming all night long Merriweather night one popped off in a different way than a Phish show has in quite a while.

7/13 Official (Doe Eyed)

7/13 Official (Doe Eyed)

The first set featured an array of tour debuts, including a bustout of “Destiny Unbound” for the first time since Super Ball, “Taste,” Page’s “Halfway of the Moon” and “Twenty Years Later.” The improvisational crest of the set, however, came in its final three-song segment featuring an absurdly intense and well-executed “Maze” and a version of “Split” that illustrated—to the delight of all—that song has truly returned as a juggernaut in the Phish catalog. A opening frame that contained no open improv still held everyone’s attention for the duration, and that is the mark of a band firing on all cylinders.

The highlights of the second set were all absolutely classic-sounding pieces of Phish in “Disease,” “Hood” and “Mike’s Groove.” All three pieces evoked the essence of the songs as they were employed in the hey day. Here’s how. Appearing in its hallmark slot as a second set opener, “Disease” kicked things off after setbreak for the second time this summer, and for the second consecutive time it became a creative peak of its of the show. Moving deep into a groovy space, the band swam into open waters for the first and only real time of the night and succeeded with flying colors. Resolving the exploration with a melodic coda, the band proceeded to sew the song together with its final verse in a move seldom seen in with a second set “Disease.”

7.13.13 (R.MacNeill)

7.13.13 (R.MacNeill)

Following a few-song interlude, including a “Birds of a Feather” that carried an urgency and full-band attack unseen since ’99, Phish dropped into the second mid-set “Hood” in three shows—and once again they absolutely slayed it. This time, however, the tone Trey used along with the way he built the jam to a larger peak than we’ve heard in modern “Hoods” all reeked of classic Phish. Soloing with passion and a purpose, Trey orchestrated a grandiose version that needs to be heard by any die-hard fan of the song. You might even question what year to which you’re listening. And the same might be true for the final highlight of the show—“Mike’s Groove.”

Having laid off their suite since Bangor’s opening set, this time Phish placed it as the closer of the night—and for the first time in this era, the band gave true love to each and every part of the triumvirate. “Mike’s” built to an outlandish peak with all sorts of dissonant guitar fury, but when the band transitioned to “Simple” the second open jam of the set unfolded. Moving out of song without slowing down into any sort of ethereal or noodly space, the band trucked into yet another classicly-shaped jam, hearkening back to the days when “Simple” was but an extension of the “Mike’s’ jam. And then came the glory, as Trey peaked the piece with subtle, slow and methodical reprise of the “Disease melody. While Trey never outright played the lick  note-for-note, he danced around it for long enough to make a clear nod to the set’s opening jam—a bit of Phishiness slipped into the fold. The guys blew out “Weekapaug” with creative, rhythmic calisthenics, caressing the jam like they haven’t in so damn long. This is the first 3.0 “Mike’s Groove” that deserves a place on any tour highlight reel, and it came at Merriweather Post, the same venue at which the band dropped a monumental “Mike’s > Twist > Weekapaug” in ’99 that Kevin Shapiro just dropped on Live Bait 9. Coincidence? Probably.

7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

7.13.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

When Phish dropped a pinner-sized “Free” and “Bouncin” as the second and third songs in the second set, it was hard to imagine everyone in the venue would walk out ecstatic, but that is exactly what happened last night. In show that got in touch with the Phish’s musical roots of the mid-Nineties, the band delivered a memorable feel-good performance with all sorts of replay value. 2013—the summer it all came back together again.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Destiny Unbound, Taste, Halfway to the Moon, Twenty Years Later, Maze, Yarmouth Road, Split Open and Melt

II: Down with Disease > Free, Bouncing Around the Room, Birds of a Feather, Harry Hood*, Architect, Mike’s Song* > Simple > Weekapaug Groove

E: Waste, Good Times Bad Times

*Birds teases

 

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Unforgettable

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 13th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.5.13 (Jake Silco)

7.5.13 (Jake Silco)

On a night nobody in attendance will ever forget, Phish played through one of the heaviest rainstorms of their career while matching mother nature’s theatrics with plenty of their own. The use of superlatives has become useless in this torrid Phish climate of Summer 2013, as the band is on a mission to thrown down the gauntlet on a nightly basis. The amount of tremendous music they have showered us with in the first week-plus of tour just saw another sharp spike with a monstrous second set that remained in a deeply improvisational space for the duration. Opening up the groove refinery in the main event, the band cranked out a filthy centerpiece of “Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge” in the middle of the second set—and all of that happened after a twenty minute exploratory “Rock an Roll” wound its way into “2001!” Yeah, it was a special night of Phish.

7/12 Official (DDL)

7/12 Official (DDL)

Historically, the band has responded to mammoth deluges with memorable shows—the most famous of which is the iconic date of 7.22.97 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Etched along side Antioch ’99, Columbus ’00, Darien Lake ’00 and Deer Creek ’09, history now has Jones Beach 2013. Things started out quickly as the band took the stage amidst a raging storm and punched out spirited takes of “Chalk Dust” and “Cars, Trucks, Buses.” But then Trey made some interesting song choices. “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” matched the fury of the moment, but songs like “Ocelot,” “My Sweet One,” “Sugar Shack” and “Number Line” seemed to suck the energy out of a crowd that may have as well have just jumped into a swimming pool.  When they started up “Number Line,” the vibe was so far off what was actually going on I looked up and realized that the band was bone dry on stage and playing a below average first set—with plenty of flubs—like it was a sunny afternoon at Great Woods. But then something clicked. Maybe Trey looked beyond the front few rows of dry fans to the thousands of others who were braving a biblical deluge to be there. When the band started “Reba,” the entire night turned around as quickly as the Dukes of Hazzard pulling a U-Turn to escape from Roscoe P Coltrane.

The rain had not let up one iota, but when the “Reba” jam dropped, it no longer mattered. The band launched into a stunning, multi-tiered rendition of their classic that saw Trey effortlessly tear off gorgeous arpeggios while bringing the jam to a monstrous peak. One had the thought that they might end the set with such a triumphant version, but instead they followed “Reba” with the most ferocious “David Bowie” we have heard in a quite some time. This 25-minute combo completely flipped the script on the evening and left the drenched amphitheater abuzz at setbreak as everyone fled for cover.

7.5.13 (Jake Silco)

7.5.13 (Jake Silco)

When the lights dropped after a welcome interlude, Phish wove yet another seamless set of non-stop action—all doused with original ideas while avoiding any cliché jamming whatsoever. This was the real deal Holyfield, Phish-meets-mother-nature, full-blown gauntlet. As soon as the main event kicked off with “Rock and Roll” everyone knew we were in for a treat, but little did we know we would totally forget about the inclement conditions for most of a 50-minute sequence that we will be listening to forever. “Rock and Roll’s” jam provided an interesting stylistic juxtaposition with PNC’s “Crosseyed.” While Holmdel’s centerpiece featured several staggering peaks with heart wrenching melodic work from Trey, “Rock and Roll” was more exploratory and expansive—like a freight train in your living room—without the monstrous peaks. Both jams are amazing and illustrate just how diverse and masterful the band’s jamming is right now.

7.5.13 (J.Silco)

7.5.13 (J.Silco)

The band’s relentless attack continued with a version of “2001” that served as both a landing pad for “Rock and Roll’s” voyage and a springboard into “Tweezer.” And when the “Tweezer” jam hit, the rain and wetness fell one stage deeper into our collective memory as the band threw down a groove session of monumental proportions in “Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge.” The band has returned to sculpting super-thick, gooey soundscapes this summer as Mike and Page are using more sounds than ever while dictating the course and the sound of jams as much as Trey. Fully locked, the band served up musical crack for the duration of “Tweezer -> Cities;” the type of music that offers salvation on the dance floor. This was the stuff the band had left behind in recent years; this was the candy-grooving of lore filtered through a modern lens; this was the type of rhythmic escapade hat leaves traces on your soul forever. This was utter bliss.

7.3.13 (P. Harrington)

7.3.13 (P. Harrington)

The band brought “Tweezer’s jam to an emotional, “Theme”-infused arrival, and as they slid out of this section, Fishman started up beat to “The Wedge.” It sure sounded like the band would merge these two songs, but instead, Trey started a rhythmic vamp and steered the band into “Cities.” Blowing out the “Cities” jam like no time since Atlantic City 2010, the band played one of the most infectious pieces of the night. And all the while, Fishman never give up. Continuing to lay down the “Wedge’s” beat in between verses of “Cities,” and then all over the song’s uber-infectious jam, he finally got the other guys to come along and they wound down their set-long chunk of sashimi grade Phish into the Rift era piece.

All of a sudden, Summer 2013 has taken on a very retro contour. And by that I mean that the band is serving up the goods night after night after night after night. Not since the late-90’s has Phish thrown down a week of shows soaked in the quality of improvisation than the one that has just transpired. And as many fans like to note, we are have only cracked the second week of tour!

See you in a few hours!

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Cars Trucks Buses, Ocelot, My Sweet One, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Water in the Sky, The Sloth, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Sugar Shack, 46 Days, Backwards Down the Number Line, Reba, David Bowie

II: Rock and Roll > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer -> Cities -> The Wedge, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Character Zero

E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

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The Phish We Grew Up With

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 11th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.7.13 (Jake Silco)

7.7.13 (Jake Silco)

Another night, another phenomenal show from to start to finish—Phish tour hasn’t been this good in ages. The band stepped onto their home turf in central New Jersey and played the show of the summer on Wednesday night at PNC. Sculpting another masterpiece of a second set—their third in four shows—the band spent almost all of the time after the break in an improvisational space. Centered around a staggering “Crosseyed and Painless”—far and away the jam of the summer—the second half of the show was chock full of audacious jamming spread over two central sequences of “Crosseyed > Harry Hood” and “Sand > Light.” Though the second segue could have been a tad more patient, five-star improv was present throughout all four jams, lighting up the mud-thick Jersey air with musical fireworks all night long.

PNC Official (M.Davis)

PNC Official (M.Davis)

It is quite apparent that Phish is making a deliberate decision to bring their jams into fresh places at every opportunity. No longer are they falling back on the improvisational clichés that grew prevalent in the years since ‘09—’12. Two-thousand-thirteen Phish simply sounds different than ever before. Absolutely at the top of their game and peaking like they haven’t since the late-‘90s, the band is not only back to churning out innovative music, on a nightly basis, but they are once again, piecing their sets—and shows—together like no time since their glory years. I have thrown the term “Golden Age” a bit too loosely in the past couple years—I just didn’t realize the arc that we were on. But it’s safe to say that 2013—with Dick’s 2012 as the gateway—represents the bona fide “Golden Age” of the Phish from Vermont.

Not since Dick’s “Light” have we heard Phish develop a jam so throughly and thematically as they did with the “Crosseyed” that opened PNC’s second set. Fresh musical sounds and ideas rained down on Holmdel’s legendary pavilion in a jam that absolutely stole the show despite plenty of other highlights. Talking to a friend last night, we were trying to remember the last time the band had played five shows in a row with the quality of jamming that they have displayed thus far this summer. We couldn’t remember. Once again, as in the times of lore, the band is besting themselves nightly and willingly diving into the abyss each and every show, and this “Crosseyed” is but the current mantle holder. I would wager zero dollars that it will be in the same top slot after Jones Beach. This is the Phish we grew up with, the band committed to bringing us to new galaxies every.single.night. Deep into this “Crosseyed” jam, listen for echoes of the Vegas ’03 “Piper” in the rhythmic chord progression that Trey develops, it’s unmistakable. The PNC “Crosseyed” is the type of protean jam that absolutely elevates a show to another level immediately and brings every ounce of your soul right along. Pure Phish magic of the highest degree, and one of the most awe inspiring conversation I’ve heard the band have in memory, I present exhibit A for the argument that Phish is playing better than at any point in their career.

7.7.13 (J.Silco)

7.7.13 (J.Silco)

Capping this heroic journey, the band dropped into “Harry Hood”—another move that bucks setlist convention—and placed their spiritual piece in the spotlight of the second set. And damn did they deliver. Constructing an incredibly well-phrased solo with non-stop licks of glory, Trey continually brought back a gorgeous phrase that came to define the jam. Giving “Hood” the full treatment in a must-hear version, the band capped a thirty-minute song pairing that provided a microcosm of the psychedelic experience.

Taking a heavy-handed breather in “Axilla,” the guys dropped right back into action with the second “Sand” of summer. This version was night and day from the lackluster SPAC version, as Trey leapt into action immediately, slicing and dicing the night with slinky rhythm chops that coaxed the rest of the band into active participation. This jam totally exploded, bringing a sweltering dance session into an equally sweltering evening. Unlike the guitar solo wankery that Trey can easily fall into, he kept it super fresh in this version focusing on rhythm licks for the duration. And just when it seemed like they might blow “Sand” out of structure, instead Trey elected for “Light.”

7.7.13 (Jake SIlco)

7.7.13 (Jake SIlco)

When Phish plays “Light” right now, it’s like being launched out of a cannon into a original musical universe, and last’s night’s version was but our latest ride. Again, Trey sculpted an sharp and dialed solo in “Light” before the band even began to take it out.  And when they did, they once again tread on sacred ground. Providing a late-set stunner that balanced the second half of the show, the band locked into each other in yet another gospel according to Phish. And this time Trey used his wah pedal to proselytize, leading the band into staggering ground and absolutely owning it. And before we knew it, the guys had led us to the mountaintop, providing the show with a astonishing late-set peak. In the denouement, Trey extensively quotes “Maria” from “West Side Story” before bringing the piece through a seamless transition into “Good Times, Bad Times.” And the audience roared with approval. The band brought the set home with the second “Slave” of summer—a beautiful rendition that punctuated the evening with dramatic resolution.

7.7.13 (J.Silco)

7.7.13 (J.Silco)

Honestly, with Phish playing at the level they are right now, there are no lulls in the their show. At set break, a friend who was streaming at home texted me that he thought the set was kind of lame. But I had the opposite experience at the show. He asked why, and my answer was simply—“They are crushing it.” Only treading on jams with “Wolfman’s” and a ferocious “Bathtub Gin” that evoked the spirit of the all-time version in the same shed 13 years ago, the band’s playing was, nonetheless, enjoyable and entertaining from the jump. “Llama” provided a kick start to the night while “Julius” served as an injection of blues-rock shreddery. Trey finally took a solo in “Yamar” after leaving it hanging the past few times, and “Stealing Time” felt crunchier than usual. Even “Theme” seemed to have a bit more mustard than average. This is the Phish we grew up with—even a set of contained songs popped with energy and creativity.

2013 is becoming a whole ‘nother ball game, and at this rate, there is no telling how far IT will go. Once again, anything is possible on any given night and the band seems determined to remain a step ahead of the game, showering us with lightness every step of the way. It is now quite evident—whether they knew it or not—that the band’s comeback has all led up to 2013, the celebration of their 30th year together and a rejoicing of the hallowed spirit of the band. They have come out of the gates this tour as a revitalized force of nature, and when things are clicking like this in the Phish universe, there’s no place on Earth that I’d rather be.

I: Llama, Wolfman’s Brother, Sample in a Jar, Julius, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Lawn Boy, Ya Mar, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Theme From the Bottom > Suzy Greenberg

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood, Axilla > Sand > Light* > Good Times Bad Times, Slave to the Traffic Light, Rocky Top, Cavern*

E: Possum*

*teases of “Maria” from “West Side Story”

========

PHISH YOGA CLASSES ON TOUR 

Surrender to the Flow Yoga: The Music of Phish, The Practice of Yoga.

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Perhaps you’ve heard about my brother Chris’ Phish Yoga project. In 2010 he began teaching Phish themed yoga classes that connect the philosophy of the band to the teachings of yoga. After packed classes and lots of enthusiasm on and off tour throughout 2010 and 2011, Phish Yoga has expanded. Chris brought in five other huge Phish fans that are also certified yoga teachers and this past May held the first Phish Yoga Teacher Training in New York City. Check out the brand new website created by Michael Levin, here to learn more about this unique project, the teachers, events, and a lot more.

Phish Yoga is a 90 minute asana class set to immersive experience of live Phish. Each class is thematically constructed to draw parallells between Phish and yoga, describing how these practices are similar ways of accessing higher consciousness and transcending our rational, limited understanding of existence. All proceeds of Phish Yoga are donated to The Mockingbird Foundation and Street Yoga

merriweatherSummer 2013 will include pre-show classes in Chicago, New Jersey, and Washington, DC (as well as a class last weekend for the SPAC shows in Malta, NY.) This Saturday 7/13, for the Merriweather shows, STTFY will be hosting a class at Synergy Yoga and Pilates in Columbia Maryland. Kerry Contini and Michael Levin will be teaching. You can pre-register here.

Next Saturday 7/20, at Village Yoga Lincoln Park in Chicago. Class with Tracy Stonaker. Pre register here using the Pay Pal donation button. Later in tour, Chris will be teaching in San Francisco and in Denver. Check the website or like them on Facebook for up to date information.

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Vintage Phish

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 8th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
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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Windows to the Soul

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 7th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.5.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

7.5.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

Phish continued their musical tour de force in Saratoga Springs last night with two incredibly innovative jams—“Split” and “Carini—that stand up to anything they ever produced from either song. Though unable to construct a single set as magical as Friday night’s second frame—or really a single set at all—both Saturday’s first and second contained all-time improvisations. It seems like we have stumbled upon an embarrassment of riches in the Phish community in the summer of 2013, as even on a night, when the band played two sets that amounted to no more than one extended first, they still managed to drop two Herculean doses of transcendence.

7/6 Official (Millward)

7/6 Official (Millward)

First, let’s look at the “Split.” Let’s be honest, 3.0 “Splits” have absolutely sucked. Not only has the band been technically unable to manage the song, but any sort of improvisational creativity has been absent from it since post-hiatus, less Utica’s broken up version. But god damn, did that change last night as they took “Split” right off the deep end. The initial part of the jam saw Trey shredding with extraordinary phrasing and precision—unlike any other recent version. But then, the band started to stray from structure! They were using “Split” as a launch pad into open waters! Not since Deer Creek ’03 had the band showcased such audacity, and this time they created a whole ‘nother monster altogether. An excursion that was as soulful as it was demented, put a spotlight on the band’s superior creative flow of the current moment. Words fail me to covey the sort of spiritual event that that took place in the first set’s final twenty minutes. This jam absolutely needs to be heard with your undivided attention to be believed. Phish, honestly, dropped a piece of music of the likes we haven’t heard in ages, resulting in—easily—the most outrageous “Split Open and Melt” since Big Cypress. Embodying supreme confidence by taking one of their most difficult songs into open waters, the band came back with a tale of jaw-dropping magnificence. And then there was the “Carini.”

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7.5.13 (R.MacNeill)

In, yet, another of their most pristine escapades in a hot minute, the band continued to rewrite the record book for “Carini.” Juxtaposed against the sinister abstraction of it’s last outing at MSG on 12/30, SPAC’s “Carini” traveled in the absolute opposite direction into a soaring piece of melodic triumph. Intricate ideas spewed forth in an Olympic exposé of musical communication, as it took only about a minute for the band to flip the switch and head for the stratosphere. Locked and loaded and moving a mile a minute, this jam is nothing short of the soundtrack to paradise. Though “Carini” has been a consistent 3.0 spring board, none of the jams come close to resembling this jaunt which broke from structure and never looked back. The efficiency of this tale is absolutely mind-bogglingly, as it clocks in at twelve minutes! The amount of themes and ideas built, developed and realized within such a short amount of time takes nothing short of divine intervention. But these days, that is exactly the power that Phish possesses. And they continue to put forth music that is on par with or surpasses anything in their 30-year career, a feat unparalleled by any live music act alive or deceased.

And what about the rest of the show? Well, it was solid but uninteresting less the first “Tube” jam of the modern era and another new song! It seems at just about every corner, Phish had pressed the “reset” button this summer, and the result is our delight. The feeling of really letting loose to “Tube” for the first time in nine years (Deer Creek 6/24/04) was an undeniable sensation that lit the crowd’s collective consciousness afire. A speed groove in which all three members crushed with authority set the table for “Split’s” journey to the outer reaches of the universe two songs later. Secondly, out of “Carini,” the band seamlessly debuted their third song in three shows, “Architect” off of Trey’s most recent solo album Traveler. Though the song is lyrically over the top and cheeseball, I dig it musically (though I’m not gonna’ hold my breath to see what everyone else thinks about it.) It will be quite interesting to watch the fan base reception of this one.

7.3.13 (R.MacNeill)

7.3.13 (R.MacNeill)

On a slightly more critical note, set two never really elevated other than “Carini.” A standard “Number Line” opener gave way to the most laymen versions of “Tweezer” and “Sand” one will ever hear. In neither jam did the band develop anything original or of note, and the combo came up absolutely zero once taken off of paper. “Wilson,” “Boogie > Possum” to end the set? Shoot me in the face. But it was all fun and games after hearing two of the most magnificent excursions we’ve heard in years.

Depending on Sunday night’s affair, SPAC 2013 is quickly becoming the new birthplace of modern jams. But somehow, I don’t think it’s gonna be a regional thing this time around, as Phish has dropped “lifers” (jams you’ll listen to for the rest of your life) in the first three shows of tour. Wait ‘til we compile a Best of Summer 2013 playlist at the end of August—good Lord, have mercy! The only burning question going into any show right now is, “How many Hall of Fame jams Phish induct tonight?” Damn, it’s a good time to be a Phish fan.

I: Crowd Control, Chalk Dust Torture, The Wedge, Funky Bitch, Heavy Things, Bug, Bouncing, Tube, Julius, Split Open and Melt

II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer > Sand > Carini -> Architect*, Wilson > Boogie On Reggae Woman > Possum

E: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise

*debut

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Umm…

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on July 6th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
DSC_7554

7.6.13—SPAC (Richard Lawless)

Phish has raised the bar again. On only the second night of Summer Tour, the band threw down a mind-boggling second labyrinth that blew anything they’ve played in this era straight out of the water. In fact, with a more macroscopic lens, the second set of SPAC was one of the finest musical statements that Phish has ever performed. Period. Playing with as much bravado and confidence as their mid-90s selves, while pulling sonic elements from all of their staple eras, the band wove the an incredibly fresh and unconventional musical odyssey that belongs in the loftiest of conversations.  This 30th Anniversary tour is a testament to Phish’s longevity, but the fact that they are playing music that is on par and /or surpasses just about anything in their career is a statement on who they are and how they’ve grown. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what Dick’s was foreshadowing—we are smack dab in the band’s newest peak era.

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7/6 Official (Millward)

In only two shows, we’ve seen the band flip the script once again. They have opened up different jams, refreshed their setlist structure, debuted an original and a cover, executed several slinky segues and dropped the best jam and set of the modern era. Dick’s 2012 can take a back seat to SPAC 2013, and before long a hell of lot more. Phish has quite clearly come out this summer with something to prove, and I believe their goal is to drop the most monumental music of their career. Because if last night is any indication, we are in for quite a wild ride this summer—a ride like no fan has ever seen before.

So what the hell happened last night? I’m still asking myself that question over and over again. I have not relistened to the second set before writing this, but I’m not sure that I have to. The power and intricacy of the band’s playing from the first note of the set through the last was unprecedented, showcasing a mastery of their craft in full. Plunging a ludicrous musical depth in “Light’s” jam, alone, the band put on a display unlike any in memory, far outshining 9/1/12’s . This jam spanned mind-numbing amounts of musical territory in a piece that touched the very essence of who we are and why we are here. This was creation in its purest form; four men at the mountain top having the time of their lives while taking 20,000 of us along for the ride; a dream unfolding in real time. The SPAC “Light” is Phish’s newest magnum opus.

And in any standard modern era show, the story would have began and ended with “Light,” but this was no standard modern era show.  In fact, the band opened the second set with a new song! Well, a cover—but it sure seems that Apples In Stereo’s “Energy” is here to stay as a new jam vehicle—just what the motherfuckin’ docta’ ordered! A catchy song, that most all assumed was an original, immediately showed promise like no other debut in of this era. “Energy’s” jam segued into “Light,” which eventually segued seamlessly into “Mango Song.” Upon ending this triumvirate, the band started up “46 Days” which transformed from an arena rocker into a filthy groove session before seamlessly moving into “Steam.” Ressurected from the dead, the band brought their 2011 debut back in the swankiest of style—and this time it had the jam we had all envisioned from the get go!  So at this point, aside from the best jam of the era and beyond, the band had delivered us two fresh jam vehicles on a silver platter.

7.6.13 (R. MacNeill)

7.6.13 (R. MacNeill)

And just when nobody had any clue what was next, the band revved up “Drowned” in an unconventional late-set slot—and boy did it deliver. Deconstructing The Who’s anthem into a delicate groove refinery, the band—once again—created magic out of thin air. Quite clearly tapped into the source, the band could do no wrong on a night that will live forever, and once the guys concluded “Drowned’s” theatrics, they moved seamlessly into the most magnificent “Slave” they have played since some point in the ‘90s.

Yup—it was that good. All of it. Every. Single. Note. If I had to make an educated guess, Summer 2013 will go down as one of the best tours of the band’s prestigious career—and we are just at the beginning. Hop on for the ride of a lifetime!

First Set Notes: It was quite evident the band was on from the get go last night, filling the opening set with sharp playing a deft improvisation throughout. The band absolutely tore “Birds of a Feather” to shreds, while offering a upbeat, groovy take on “Bathtub Gin” just two songs later. In between these two selections, the band debuted “Yarmouth Road,” Mike’s song that was sound-checked in Bangor. A reggae vibe permeates this tune that comes to a head with overlapping lyrics and some gorgeous guitar work. The final couplet of the set—“Cities > Bowie” absolutely popped off. “Cities” moved into an infectious groove before ending a bit prematurely for “Bowie’s” intro. Building off of MSG’s above average version, this one showcased the band’s razor sharp chops while moving into some melodic jamming for an interlude.  All of this set the stage for what has to be considered the band’s best set since their return.

I: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Roses Are Free, Birds of a Feather,Yarmouth Road*, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane, Army of One, My Friend, My Friend > Cities -> David Bowie

II: Energy* > Light -> The Mango Song > 46 Days -> Steam > Drowned > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Character Zero

7.6.13 - SPAC (R. Lawless)

7.6.13 – SPAC (R. Lawless)

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Vibes that Rise Like Fireflies

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 4th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
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!

summerinsaratoga_logo

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Why We Come Back

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 2nd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.19.2012 - Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (Ken Scelfo)

8.19.2012 – BGCA (Ken Scelfo)

This essay was written in collaboration with Zachary Cohen and Andy Greenberg, the guys from Please Me Have No Regrets.com. These guys have been waxing philosophic on all things Phish in long form over on their site for about a year now. This is cross-posted on their site as well.

*****

Why do we return, like moths to the flame, to Phish? What is it about the Phish experience that so attracts us, that underpins our fascination, our obsession, dare we say our addiction to this band? Do we even know why we keep coming back?

Fans are always primed to cite their most obvious, though not incorrect, reasons: for the music and adventure, to see friends and for the sense of belonging, for the community. But beyond these recreational pursuits, something larger looms, something more purposeful.

The common thread that binds all Phish fans together is a desire for the transcendence of self and a communion with the collective unconscious. For when we attend Phish concerts, our own sense of importance shrinks as we join a force far greater than ourselves. And though people may scoff at the word “religion,” if understood to mean simply the spiritual journey that like-minded brethren seek, our devotion to Phish approaches that of the pilgrim.

In their live concerts, Phish offers the promise that at any moment, anything can happen. And when they are at their best, “anything” often does. We come back to Phish because of this Freedom. Enmeshed in their live experience, this feeling returns us to a child-like state where our world is fresh and new and we are freed from the worries, obligations, responsibilities and ethical / moral compromises of our day to day selves. And like Peter Pan refusing to grow up, we crave to experience this “not knowing,” so that we may be able see the world anew, with fresh eyes and ears.

The energy manifested at Phish shows, both internal and conjoined, is unlike any secular experience. And this is never more true than during a free-form improvisational excursion. When Phish breaks free of their own constraints, casting aside rhythm, tempo and the harmonic structures of their songs, they untether both themselves and the audience from terra firma. It is then, when venturing into unchartered waters, that we are able to perceive the universal magic of pure ideation. During these moments, we are reminded that raw creation is the single most powerful force in the universe. Seeing, feeling, hearing, experiencing and most importantly, being a part of that process provides us with a net energy gain. This energy buffets us, providing ballast to our bodies and souls.

Shamanism and Spectacle

The four members of Phish—Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish—are modern-day Shamans who guide us on this spiritual journey. They function as vessels able to tap into and share sacred information that remains unavailable to all of us in the quotidian rhythms of our day to day lives. Our very purpose as human beings can be divined through Phish, whether we know it or not.

And this is why we keep coming back.

Though it may seem foreign to us to envision dancing, music, light, sound, even intoxicants, as tools for the elevation of the spirit, countless cultures throughout the ages have depended on these very practices; To strengthen themselves, connect with deities and promote the overall health of their communities.

The Phish show is a spectacle that serves as a breeding ground for the creation and sustaining of this energy we’ve described. We attend a show, and like Alice down the rabbit hole, or Neo opting for the blue pill, we enter a world unaccountable to the natural laws of time and space. We become frozen, arrested. We are beholden to nothing but the music, ourselves, and those around us. Phish concerts heighten our senses, attuning us to foreign, though strangely familiar, wavelengths. We hear music that has never existed and that is also strangely ancient and true.

Upon leaving a Phish concert, we are often flabbergasted to realize that the rest of the world has continued to spin, blissfully unaware of what we just experienced. And just as a deep-sea diver surfaces and has to adjust to a new pressure environment, we too must normalize after a Phish concert. Often enough it is in this between time, this interstitial, that we are most lucid and receptive to the lessons that have been bestowed upon us. This is also true after individual improvisations. All of sudden, lyrics that we long ago memorized and melodies that serve as the soundtrack of our lives take on new import and meaning. They are somehow truer and more real.

The Dissolution of the Self

The most difficult task for any musician is to play without thinking. When Phish achieves this and transcends their egos they kick open the door to a world of mammoth insights. As listeners experiencing this, we instinctually respond by sublimating our own egos so that we may fully appreciate the band’s illustrations of “What We Are;” Of what an authentic experience truly is. As the energy rises, the listener taps into harmonic, atomic truths, transcending the self in the process. It is in this moment that we feel part of something bigger than the mechanized social behemoth, with its impositions of order and bureaucracy, unnatural restrictions on our freedom. Unmoored by these limitations we are free to commune with the cosmos.

The promise of any Phish concert is that any moment anything is possible, a clear symbol and parallel with the true freedoms and fundamental nature of the universe. We are here after all, and there is nothing more marvelous to behold than existence. Music imitates G-d and / or the creation of the Universe; The relative stability of harmonic intervals mimics that of the electron orbiting the nucleus of an atom. Phish has become so familiar with their harmonic terrain that in their purest creations they function like G-d or whatever force initiated our world.

Our purest fantasies are those where we are free to create purely, like a child at play; So as we watch and participate in Phish’s creation acts we play out this fantasy of creation alongside them, alongside one another. At their best Phish are able to explain the deepest secrets of the universe by transmitting a signal that we spontaneously comprehend down through to our pores, to our very particles, the basis of our existence.

This is why we come back.

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