A Step Ahead

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 31st, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.6.13 (R. MacNeill)

7.6.13 (Ryan MacNeill)

Showing zero signs of a three-week layoff, Phish stepped onto one of the favorite stages in the land and delivered an awesome show from start to finish to open Denver’s end-of-summer trifecta. Knowing that many fans would be doing their best Encyclopedia Brown in trying to decode the setlist, the band used a bit of tongue in cheek humor in spelling out “Most shows spell something” backwards over the course of the show. Phish’s feat of the night, however, was crafting a flawlessly contoured performance with the given letters, including a fresh setlist and plenty of improvisational meat to go around. For a band that makes a living on doing the unexpected, chalk up night of Dick’s 2013 as another notch on their belt.

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

One could tell strange things were afoot immediately as the band opened the show with “Ghost” for the first time since The Fillmore in August 15, 1998. Last year’s “Fuck Your Face” show forced the band to jam, birthing four extended, timeless pieces of music, and three approaching the twenty minute mark. This year’s wordplay—on the contrary—made sure everything fit just so, therefore “Ghost” remained within orbit while providing a fiery start to the affair. The initial segment of the show felt a tad forced, as the band placed “Icculus” after a second-song “NICU” and following it up with “Heavy Things” and “Theme from the Bottom.” But the musical highlight of the set was just around the corner.

Let me start this paragraph by saying that I’ve grown to hate “Ocelot.” The standard blues rock build has done nothing out of the ordinary in memory, and has become but a stale place filler in the first set. That said, last night I found myself completely lost in the wide-open jam, having to remind myself more than a couple times what song we were in. This one got slinky and psychedelic in an instant and remained in a wholly creative space for the duration. And this was the point in which the show truly took off.

Rolling the improvisational zest right into “Stash,” the band absolutely slayed their classic vehicle in the no brainer highlight of the opening frame. Adopting a similar wide open feel as the preceding “Ocelot,” this jam navigated some twist and turns before arriving in some of the more hooked up, melodic playing we’ve heard from “Stash” since Merriweather’s outing. A graceful end of the set was highlighted by the debut of “Easy to Slip,” a Little Feat cover previously played by the Mike Gordon Band. The setlist prank remained in limbo, though many fans had long since caught onto the fact that they were spelling something backwards. I’m pretty sure that theories—and perhaps confirmation—of the setlist joke had made their way through the crowd, but how it would play out would be anyone’s guess.

A potent combination of “Punch > Sand” injected the main event with a primal tone, and as soon as the band dove into “Sand’s” jam, things got staight buck wild. From its first lick, this jam had “All-Star” written all over it, and by the end of some of the most exhilarating groove-based interplay of the year, it was a first ballot hall of famer. Veering out of structure into a scintillating passage of soul candy, the guys scripted a keeper that sits among the upper echelon of the year’s offerings—awe-inspiring music by a band that can do no wrong.

Phish brought back Mike’s “Say Something” and placed in squarely in the middle of the second set last night—and just like that the new vehicle started to deliver. Taking the gritty blues rocker off course, the band built into an atmospheric segment that eventually dissolved into “Walls of the Cave.” “Oh Kee Pah Ceremony” provided a mid-set surprise, but not the level of surprise as when the band rolled out of the ragtime staple into “Harry Hood.” Having only segued into “Suzy” and “AC/DC Bag” with any sort of regularity out of “Oh Kee Pah, the band added another song to an exclusive list last night with the first ever “Oh Kee Pah > Hood.” And the surprises just kept coming.

The final quarter of the set was carefully crafted and flowed like water from “Hood” through the end of the set, but midway through the “Hood” jam, the jam got very quiet, and out of nowhere the band slid into “Silent in the Morning.” Once again “Silent” appeared sans “Horse,” making it a clean sweep of the summer for “Horseless” versions. The opening notes of “Twist” continued the impeccable flow of this segment, and the jam quickly grew more interesting than the many hackneyed renditions that have dotted summer tour. And in a pairing that evoked the ending of classic sets such as 11.14.97 and 7.4.2000, the band put the cherry on top of the second set in the form of “Slave to the Traffic Light.” A wonderfully emotive version capped this beautiful portion of the set, and marked it complete.

The guys finished off their setlist tom foolery with a double encore of “Oh! Sweet Nothing” and “Meatstick”—and just like that another first night of Dick’s was in the books. Laying off all their major jam vehicles, the band has set up two filthy, action-packed shows for the next two nights, and something tells me one of them will be the show of the year. In only hours, perhaps that tale will be told.

I: Ghost, NICU, Icculus, Heavy Things, Theme From the Bottom > Esther, The Moma Dance> Ocelot, Stash, Lawn Boy, Limb By Limb, Easy To Slip*

II: Punch You In the Eye > Sand, Say Something > Walls of the Cave, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Harry Hood -> Silent in the Morning > Twist > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Meatstick

*debut

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A Mile High

Posted in Uncategorized with the on August 30th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

This time around, Denver’s summer farewell feels more like a party than a pronouncement. Although we’ve yet to hear a note, this stand-alone weekend already serves as a punctuation mark on a triumphant season of music. This summer, Phish began to carve new sonic pathways again, jamming with intent and efficiency and birthing original music with a magical consistency. Finally adding fluidity and set craftsmanship to their modern repertoire, entire shows—well, mostly entire second sets—elevated like never before in this era. Adding some new songs to the rotation—”Energy” and “Yarmouth Road”—and reviving some old ones—”Steam,” “David Bowie,” and “Split Open and Melt”—the band played their best start to finish tour of 3.0. Now, as we step into our favorite soccer stadium for three shows that will, undoubtedly, contain plenty of action, the only question that remains to be answered is, “Will this weekend top it all?”

In each of the past two years, Phish showcased fireworks in their Rockies swan song. After setlist trickery on both opening nights, one can expect some sort of prank as we approach tonight’s performance. Musically, in 2011, the band played one of their finest jams of the year in 9.3’s “Tweezer,” while dotting the weekend with a stellar second set sequence of “Twist > Piper > Hood” and a rocking “Ghost” taboot. Last year, however, Dick’s opened the gateway to the improvisational glory we have witnessed since that star-crossed weekend. A couple all-star jams over New Year’s bridged the community to this summer tour, when creativity and Phish met at the crossroads of destiny. So many jams, so many sets, so many shows this summer surpassed most of what we have seen over the past few years; a true renaissance of the highest degree. And it all started back at this soccer stadium one year ago with antics and musical triumphs that few saw coming.

First the band came out jamming with a “Fuck You” opening set that featured one of 3.0’s finest moments in “Undermind.” The second half contained another jam of the year in “Chalk Dust” not to mention a long-form “Runaway Jim.” Then came “Light.” Setting a new precedent for modern jamming, Phish unleashed a masterpiece on the second night of Labor Day weekend 2012. Spanning emotive feels, heavy groove and a cathartic blues rock crescendo, Dick’s “Light” immediately stood head to head with the Gorge’s “Rock and Roll” of 2011 for the magnum opus of the modern era, immediately upping the legend of the corporate-named stadium on the outskirts of Denver. A cosmically connected version of “Sand,” yet another timeless gem, cemented the weekend of legend  the final night of summer tour.

So what will happen this time around? What jams will we be talking about for the six-week offseason as we get ready for Fall? Though it really matters not what goes down this weekend—for the band has nothing to prove—something tells me it will be one of great memories. What they will be made of we will soon find out… 

More Summer Jams

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 26th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8-2-13 BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

8.2.13 BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

Golden Age” 7.3 II, Bangor, ME

The first jam of the band’s 30th Anniversary year appropriately stemmed from “Golden Age.”

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***

Rock and Roll” 7.12 II, Wantagh, NY

The twenty-minute kickoff to one of the sets of the summer.

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***

Light Sally 2001” 7.27 II George, WA

The high-octane, middle portion of the band’s seamless second night offering at the Gorge.

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***

Run Like an Antelope” 7.3 II, Bangor, ME

The best “Antelope” of the modern era closed a solid, though unspectacular, tour opener.

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***

Stash” 7.14 I, Columbia, MD

The first incredible “Stash” in memory.

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***

Carini > Piper” 7.30 II, Stateline, NV

A wide-open, west-coast jam sequence that has been lost in the shadows of Tahoe’s “Tweezer.”

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***

Mike’s > Simple Weekapaug” 7.13 II, Columbia MD

This revitalized “Mike’s Groove” sent a shockwave through Merriweather Post. Check out the subtle rehash of “Disease” in the “Simple” jam.

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***

Tweezer > Cities > Wedge” 7.12 II, Wantagh, NY

Smooth like butter…including some of my favorite minutes of summer music out of “Cities.”

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***

Golden Age > 46 Days” 7.30 II, Stateline, NV

Another stellar chunk of Tahoe jamming that hasn’t gotten its due.

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***

Light > Boogie On” 7.14 II, Columbia, MD

The east coast portion of tour saw the band focus on “Light” as an improvisational launchpad. This Merriweather version culminated this run, and the band dialed their modern jam back out west. after Chicago,

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***

Split Open and Melt” 7.6 I, Saratoga Springs, NY

The best first set jam of summer. An abstract tale of whale-drenched dementia.

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***

David Bowie” 7.22 II, Toronto, ON

Summer ’13 saw a resurrection of “David Bowie,” none more impressive than Toronto’s set two closer.

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Summer Jams

Posted in Uncategorized with the on August 20th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.5.13 (E.Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

Tweezer” 7.31.13 Stateline, NV

The Tahoe “Tweezer” simply does not get old. So many hall of fame sections are woven together with a stunning fluidity and patient sense of adventure. My opinion still stands—considering the level of improvisation and the transcendent crowd-band interplay, this jam is the finest accomplishment of the band’s career.

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***

Harry Hood” 8.5.13 II, Los Angeles, CA

One of the most creative versions of “Harry Hood” ever played came as the signature of an unforgettable tour. Thrilling until the last drop in Summer 2013, the band opened up the jam half way through and never looked back, sculpting in an instant classic.

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***

Rock and Roll” 8.3.13 II, San Francisco, CA

The peak of this jam is enough to make anyone’s soul giggle with delight.

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***

Crosseyed and Painless > Hood” 7.10.13 Holmdel, NJ

The best jam of tour before the band hit the west coast, this one has staying a power and drops into a glorious version of “Harry Hood.”

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 ***

Light” 7.5.13 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

The SPAC “Light”—the very first version of the year—remains the most impressive.

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***

Disease -> Undermind” 7.27.13 II, George, WA

The unforgettable opening combo from the set of the year.

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***

Crosseyed and Painless” 7.26.13 I, George, WA

A wide-open odyssey from the greatest venue in the land.

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***

Energy > Runaway Jim” 8.4.13 II San Francisco, CA

This was the first true preview of what “Energy” has in store for us come Dick’s and Fall—a wide open palette for dance groove improvisation. And the “Jim,” though not exactly a fully realized jams of 2013, contains some of the most unique music of tour.

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***

Disease 2001” 7.22.13 II, Toronto, ON

Thought other “Disease’s” may contain more creative playing over the first part of the jam, once this one turns the corner, it reaches a height attained by few passages this year.

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***

Chalk Dust Torture” 7.16.13 II, Alpharetta, GA

This is one jam I keep going back to–a thesis in musical density and improvisational efficiency.

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***

Carini > Architect” 7.6.13 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

One of the first signs of summer that things would be different this time around.

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Wow!

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 9th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
BCGA (Dave Canny)

BCGA (Dave Canny)

What the hell just happened? In a five-week whirlwind, Phish just tore apart the nation like they haven’t in at least a decade. When the band came back in ’09 few expected them to reach any level of skill beyond nostalgia. And even when they crushed 2012—a year that has firmly been filed under “Yesterday’s News”—few expected the band to redefine itself one year later. In retrospect, the years of ’09 through ’12 were all related to their past, a sort of getting up to speed on what they had accomplished in their career while showing flashes of innovation and brilliance. This past tour, however, Phish opened the floodgates of creativity, presenting us with a forward-looking tour that was plucked from our wildest fantasies. This summer, Phish started to forge a new path again with jams that sound different from any other time in their career and an energy purer than ever. Don’t look now, but with Dick’s as a stepping stone, Fall Tour is just around the corner! 2013 is shaping up to be a year musically on par with any in Phish history.

BGCA (G.Lucas)

BGCA (Graham Lucas)

When I listened to several of my ’97 and ’98 favorites since tour ended, the jams sound far less dynamic than they do right now. I love that shit to death—trust me—but Phish is absolutely reached another level this summer. The efficiency and proficiency of their jamming is unparalleled to any point in history. The band needs exactly zero searching to find where they are going these days—as soon as they entered a jam this summer, with few exceptions, they were locked in directional, purposeful, whole-band improv. The quickness in which ideas were exchanged and built upon set a new standard for Phish, and consequently, the band was able to get far more out of their jams. This musical density had been building since Miami ’09, and has now reached a mind-boggling level. For example, go listen to the Alpharetta “Chalk Dust,” one of the best east coast jams of summer, and then try to wrap your head around the fact that it is under ten minutes long! Phish of 2013 is another beast all together. Their entire thirty-year career has led them to this point—a place where they draw on their illustrious past to create music that moves beyond their previous accomplishments.

BGCA (Graham Lucas)

BGCA (Graham Lucas)

The number of highlights from Summer Tour is nothing short of staggering. Trying to sum up this tour in writing is a task unseen in this era. Very little 3.0 Phish compares to what just went down over the past month. With only a slight dip in Chicago due to non-stop weather delays, the band launched off the “Harpua”-laced third night of the stand and never looked back, crafting two of the most memorable weeks in Phish history. Toronto’s majestic “Down With Disease” gave us a glimpse of the holy realms that we would frolic in we hit the west coast. Tour—undoubtedly—peaked at the Gorge and Lake Tahoe with several elite sets of Phish including the Tahoe “Tweezer”—in my opinion, the best jam of all-time. Finishing things with an outstanding four night run in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the guys dropped jams on the level with the previous weekend, but only sculpted one monster show in Bill Graham’s finale. At last, the band played a legit west coast run, and—go figure—it produced the best Phish we’ve seen in over a decade.

I’ll get down to analysis, but right now I’m still in awe of what we just experienced. I still have yet to spin three of the west coast shows—it was just different this time. As in the days of lore, we knew that after setbreak things would absolutely get crazy—a feeling that just hasn’t been prevalent over the past four years. But now, it’s full steam ahead! The entire community is more mature and everyone can appreciate what is transpiring quite a bit more, and I reckon the band feels the same. Nobody expected to be where we are right now, making this year of 2013 all the more magical. Hot damn, it’s good to be alive.

BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

Tags: ,

A Final Bow

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 6th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.5.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.5.13 (Graham Lucas)

Phish wrote the final chapter of their 2013 summer tour in the picture-perfect setting of the Hollywood Bowl on Monday night in Los Angeles. Tailoring their performance to the Hollywood audience, the guys covered four different bands, tightened up their jams and played a more straightforward show than we’ve grown accustomed to in the past week. But just when one thought the guys might pack it in early, leaving their final show with no timeless music, they dropped one of summer’s most profound statements in a 22 minute, free-form version of “Harry Hood.” In sculpting a unique flow to the second set and switching the improvisational focus from the beginning of the frame to the end, Phish threw us a curveball in their final outing of the season.

8/5 Official (J.Flames)

8/5 Official (J.Flames)

Before delving into the concert, let’s discuss the Hollywood Bowl for a moment. On my last visit, I sat far too close to the stage and totally missed Chris Kuroda’s lighting theatrics. This time, I had a perfect view in a lower box and—Holy Shit! That was the most hallucinatory Phish experience of all time. Upon realizing this during the “AC/ DC Bag” opener, and then again after dark, I made a point to keep my eyes open far more than usual  last night in order to bask in the psychedelic eye candy. I have no idea how Kuroda set up his lights to do what they did last night, but god bless the man, because that was absolutely fucking outrageous!

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

OK—the show. A solid first set favored rotation songs throughout, though the place really seemed to perk up when the guys dropped “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to close the half. The unquestionable highlight of the set, however, took place in “Scent of a Mule.” For the Mule Duel, all four members moved to the drum kit—and things got weird. Extremely weird. Mike held his bass above his head for Fishman to play with mallets, while he adjusted the fingering on his strings—an incredible collaboration. Trey and Page employed different elements of the drum kit to add to this abstract collage. Essentially, the band was playing “Drums” and “Space” simultaneously! And then my buddy hatched a theory. The Grateful Dead played from 1965 to 1995—exactly thirty years. To commemorate the 30th year of their own career in which they are surpassing their forefathers, Phish will cover a Dead album for Halloween. And it will blow everyone’s fucking mind. Don’t miss it.

8.5.13 (E.Battuello)

8.5.13 (E.Battuello)

After San Francisco’s monstrous third show, someone asked me how Phish could top Bill Graham in LA. I suggested that they wouldn’t even attempt to do so, but rather play a tasteful show with one incredible jam, a prediction that—eventually—proved to be spot on. Just when it looked like they would leave the idyllic Southern California evening without any long-form risk taking, out rolled “Harry Hood.” Phish had only opened up “Hood” twice before and the versions were separated by just a week in the Summer of 2003—Charlotte (7/25) and Camden (7/31). Charlotte has long been hailed as the most successful exploratory “Hood,” but after last night’s spiritual rite, the it now has competition. For the first half of last night’s “Hood,” it felt like we were on course for a solid—though standard version. And then, in a single moment, the course of the jam changed in full. Taking the always linear jam completely sideways, Trey led the band into uncharted waters and on to unparalleled glory. “Harry Hood” carries an inherently cathartic vibe, thus when the band puts a magnifying glass on the jam and blows it wide open, things necessarily get sublime. Kuroda painted this instant Hall of Fame version with an array of patterns against the band shell, creating a surreal visual field to compliment the holy music.

8.5.13 (E.Battuello)

8.5.13 (E.Battuello)

On this west coast run, Phish has been feeding our souls nightly with musical ambrosia; infusing our beings with a magic from the dawn of time. When it felt like we might go into the night with a show far to fluffy to conclude such a special tour, the band dropped a jam that stands up to any of summer—and it came out of “Harry Hood,” making it so much more special than if sprung from a conventional jam vehicle. The band—via Page—has made no bones about recognizing the what has gone down during these west coast shows. It is not every day that the stars align for a week of music like we witnessed from The Gorge to Hollywood Bowl. And to punctuate one of the most special weeks in the their career, the band dropped a sacred improvisation that absolutely matched the majesty of the moment.

8.5.13 (E.Battuello)

8.5.13 (E.Battuello)

The bulk of the second set was filled with a largely, flowless mélange of jukebox mini-jams—a quasi-appropriate concept for the metro audience. The band seemed primed to bookend the tour with stellar versions of “Golden Age,” when Trey stepped into a minimalist, wah-based texture. What felt like the foundation to a much larger jam, however, wound up aborted for an unspectacular “Birds of a Feather.” Each time the band started up a song, one thought it would be the single jam of the night. Would they open up “Sand” for the first time since Dick’s? Nope, they played a smoking version that remained anchored in groove. Would they blow out a mid-set “Disease” to cap a tour filled with outstanding renditions? Nope, but they did showcase intense creativity in a compact type II wonderland that still had plenty of legs when Trey bailed for “My Friend.” And that brings us back around to Mr. Hood…

What an incredible summer it has been! From Bangor to Los Angeles, Phish has taken the country by storm with new music in a way that they haven’t since 2003—and some would say even longer. Happy, healthy and on top of their game like no time in their past, Phish is now. Be grateful for any shows you caught in the past, but don’t let your connection to those memories skew what is happening today, because it’s nothing short of breathtaking. Thirty years into an illustrious career, Phish has stayed true to their ethos and has recommitted themselves to creating the most groundbreaking improvisational music this world has ever seen. And the best part about 2013 is that Phish will build on this momentum at Dick’s and then—Fall Tour! Things are only getting better, folks. Things are only getting better.

I: AC/DC Bag, The Moma Dance, Sparkle, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Lawn Boy, Wolfman’s Brother, Roses Are Free > Scent of a Mule, Ocelot, Cavern, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Golden Age > Birds of a Feather, Sand > Down with Disease > My Friend, My Friend, Harry Hood > Character Zero

E: Loving Cup

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.5.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Batuello)

8.5.13 (Eric Battuello)

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Boom! Pow!

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 5th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.4.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.4.13 (Eric Battuello)

On the penultimate night of a revolutionary summer tour, Phish threw down an absolute classic. A colossal Sunday night performance at Bill Graham is quickly becoming a modern tradition, much like Friday night at Dick’s in Colorado. And on their second such evening in the Bay, the band torched the intimate arena with a stellar second set that will forever be remembered for the improvisational odyssey of “Energy > Runaway Jim.” While bands, traditionally, use anniversary tours to celebrate their past, Phish’s 30th celebration has very much been centered on celebrating their future. Once again crafting groundbreaking music on a nightly basis and introducing new songs into rotation, Phish has evoked the spirit of their heyday while forging a new path—and that is exactly how to honor the legacy of the greatest band the planet has ever seen.

8/4 Official (T.Stout)

8/4 Official (T.Stout)

Breaking down the walls of their newest jam vehicle, Phish cracked open a universe of possibilities last night with a wide-open jam out of “Energy.” Beginning to realize the potential we heard when the song debuted at SPAC almost a month ago, the sky is the limit for his one. Sprouting a jam in Alpharetta, and expanding on structure in Chicago, “Energy” is now, officially—after San Francisco—the new-school jump off. Breaking from structure almost immediately—differently than previous versions—the band wasted no time launching the audience into a vast dancescape. My memory, without listening, is somewhat compromised, but I recall seriously demented music within the context of heavy, textured groove; super infectious and incredibly danceable while remaining as wide open as “Piper.” This jam will absolutely light up the general admission dance floors throughout the northeast come fall tour. Welcome to the future…

Though “Energy” was incredible, “Runaway Jim” was a straight up masterpiece that will be drooled upon for eternity. Fading into the jam with a series of loops, Trey set up an ominous excursion that was very clearly moving in a direction other than the norm. And before we knew what had hit us, we were amidst the most sinister prophecy of tour. This is not your everyday Phish. Not much is these days, but this was a whole ‘nother beast—completely original music plucked out of a personal fantasy. Without having respun the show, I am wholeheartedly still in awe of this master work, a feeling with which I often like to sit and enjoy without running to the tapes. But even in real time— captivated by the onstage sorcery—most everyone knew we were witnessing greatness of the highest degree. I can’t wait to relisten to this one after tour is over, but if you weren’t there, go listen now. Do it now!

8.4.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.4.13 (Eric Battuello)

At this juncture in the set, the music had been so dense and adventurous for so long, one had to wager that a cool down song would be next. And then the band started “Carini!” Imploding Bill Graham with the opening chords of their rock anthem, the band had control of the room’s energy as if it were a tangible substance like silly putty—manipulating the form and pulse of the collective consciousness with every musical dart and dash. Quoting “Fluffhead” through the onset of the jam made for a bizarre aberration—presumably referencing the song’s legend in which Pete Carini got LSD squirted in his face. The piece, uncharacteristically, moved into an almost jazzy, minimalist passage before smoothly melting into “The Wedge” in a out-of-the-ordinary song combo.

When the band started up “Light,” it almost didn’t even make sense. After a virtually all-improv set, the band was now starting up their most prolific jam vehicle deep into the set? Well, sort of. While “Light” was the unanimous MVP of this summer’s east coast run, out west the band has reigned in their new age epic, playing two quasi-type I jams at the Gorge and Bill Graham. This one however, far outdid the Gorge version, moving into incredibly creative interplay anchored by some inhuman work by one of my tour co-MVPs, Jon Fishman. It felt as though the jam would pop from structure at any moment, but interestingly enough, the guys remained close to the song’s feel for almost its entirety. The mind-expanding portion of “Light,” however, came as a surprise tacked onto the end of the song. Dropping into Page’s house of clav, the band brought us into a crunchy come down that grew more ambient and abstract by the second, smoothly constructing a psychedelic bridge into “David Bowie.

8.4.13 (E.Battuello)

8.4.13 (E.Battuello)

After a tour filled with outstanding “Bowies” of all shapes and sizes, Phish punctuated this seemingly set-long run with a classicly contoured rendition. Intricate, intense and totally on point could define the band’s interplay in what certainly felt like the set closer to me. But, apparently, the band still had a chunk of time left. A few feel good songs led us to “You Enjoy Myself”—one final dance session of an unforgettable weekend.

Capping the run with a double encore of “Sanity” and “Bold As Love,” Phish continued to keep things fresh out west, dropping two more tunes we had yet to hear this summer. Every single one of my friends I spoke to after the show in three different locales were absolutely beaming about the state of Phish right now. Here we are, all grown up, and things are better than ever. What a community. What a band. Phish for life—for real.

First Set Notes: A composition-heavy first set contained virtually zero jamming, though the band did play some specialties quite well in “Foam,” “Taste” and “Pebbles and Marbles.” Usually we get a portion of meat in the first set to satiate our appetites, but last night Phish had us gnawing at the bones of “Taste” and “Pebbles and Marbles” for the improvisational nourishment to tide us over to set two. Always heaping it on after setbreak, the one thing the band needs to consider for fall tour in the lost art of the first set.

I: Crowd Control, Divided Sky > Wilson, Foam, Halley’s Comet > My Soul, Ya Mar, Army of One, Taste, Gumbo > Train Song, Pebbles and Marbles

II: Energy > Runaway Jim > Carini > The Wedge, Light -> David Bowie, Silent in the Morning, Meatstick, Quinn the Eskimo, You Enjoy Myself

E: Sanity, Bold As Love

8.4.13 (Eric Battuello)

8.4.13 (Eric Battuello)

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A Bundle of Joy

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 4th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

Centered on a holy excursion in “Rock and Roll,” Saturday night’s show in San Francisco was otherwise comprised of feel-good songs with a straight forward flow. But when the band annihilates an all-timer to kick off the second set, the rest of the night truly becomes gravy. After the opening sequence of set two, however, the band dropped “Number Line” and never looked back, riding through the desert on a horse with no jams. The guys did, though, close the night with a bang, unleashing a monster “Slave to the Traffic Light” to cap a summer of spectacular versions. All in all, however, Phish made me eat words of yesterday, as Saturday night’s two-setter paled in comparison to Friday night’s lights.

8/3 Official (T. Stout)

8/3 Official (T. Stout)

But holy crow that “Rock and Roll!” Taking a back seat to only Tahoe’s “Tweezer,” Bill Graham’s “Rock and Roll” now stands as my second best jam of summer, and—easily—the best jam played in five BGCA shows. Scaling ludicrous spiritual heights via sublime whole-band voyaging, Phish scripted a cosmic rite that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. This was one of those jams that is hard to believe in real-time and sounds even better on listen back; “an instant classic of magnificent proportions. Purposeful, transcendent, and completely realized, fire up this second set opener as soon as possible and bask in the glory of Phish 2013.

When the band segued into “Steam,” it felt like the beginnings of a prime-time set of Phish, and when they tacked on a gooey funk jam on the back end of the song, things seemed primed to get wild. But then came the dreaded second-set “Number Line,” killing the flow of the set as if the band were clubbing baby seals on stage. This brutal vibe crusher took the psychedelia right out of the night and set show on course for a Saturday Night Special. Having bucked their trend of straight forward Saturday nighters with their best set of tour at the Gorge last week, Phish came back to earth last night, delivering a back two thirds of the set that really went nowhere. As much fun as I had all night long, once the band switched into jukebox mode, the music lacked any grit or direction.

8.2.13 (G.Lucas)

8.2.13 (G.Lucas)

Placing a classic “Mike’s > Hydrogren > Weekapaug” square in the middle of the set was a sign of how things would unfold last night, despite a standout “Mike’s Song.” Trey took a back seat to Mike’s lead as the jam dropped—a move he would mimic in “Slave”—creating a sinister groove that built a head of steam before Red swooped in to sculpt a scorching solo. “Weekapaug” didn’t pop as usual and the there was a lot of fluff before “Slave.” Honestly, though, this “Slave” was drenched in creativity from the get go and is a must-hear version.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to report on the improvisational front. Despite bustouts of “Alumni Blues” and “Lengthwise,” the first set dragged—especially through the impossibly slow segment of “Sample,” “NICU,” “Mound,” “Jesus Left Chicago” and “Driver.” Only to follow up songs later with “Bug” and “Possum.” Oy.

It now looks like Sunday night will be the keeper of this run much like last year’s Bill Graham extravaganza. Toning things down a notch from the monster sets of The Gorge and Tahoe, Phish has put on some tasteful shows in the Bay, but far from the seamless, exploratory beasts that some were expecting. With all sorts of launch pads still on the table for tonight, however, the second set could look like—“Crosseyed -> Light -> Piper -> Velvet Sea, David Bowie.” We shall see. Two more nights of this wild ride until a few weeks off. Enjoy every moment. And god damn, play that “Rock and Roll” loud and proud!

I: Grind, Weigh, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Lengthwise -> Maze, Sample in a Jar, NICU, Mound, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Driver, Timber (Jerry), Axilla, Bug, Possum, First Tube

II: Rock and Roll > Steam > Backwards Down the Number Line, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Joy, Fluffhead, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Waste, Suzy Greenberg

8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

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Where Dreams Can Take Flight

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 3rd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

Improvising with a liquid fluidity while crafting a totally unique setlist, Phish dropped a high-quality, first-set heavy performance at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Friday Night to kick off tour’s final four-night run. Two outstanding excursions in “Down With Disease” and “Seven Below” anchored the second set, though the first set possessed a more fluid contour and better start to finish consistency in song choice. The band has reached a level of playing where everything seems effortless, and their level of communication is at a level we’ve never seen before. Since the Gorge, their reaction time has been negligible whereas someone need only suggest an idea and the other three members are on it immediately—inhuman skills that only come after thirty years of jamming together. Whether amidst a 37 minute “Tweezer” or second-set “Farmhouse,” the band’s attention to detail and intent to bring new ideas to the table is undeniable, and the result is nothing but the best Phish we’ve ever heard.

BGCA (AJ Masthay)

BGCA (AJ Masthay)

Bursting out of the gates in their first San Francisco set, Phish stoked an early fire with a rare “Free” opener and then with “Meat,” they started rolling out the rarities—but unlike in the past few years, the guys really got into things in each and every piece. “Vultures” popped with energy and precise interplay; Trey evoked the spirit of Jerry Garcia, one day after his birthday, in a cerebral, standout “Roggae;” the first “Sand” since Holmdel got into a jazz-fusion groove; “Mike’s rarity “Babylon Baby” added spice to an already kicked up scene; and the band finally slayed “Halfway the Moon” with improvisational beef. Basically, any guitar solo Trey takes these days—in any song—seems to have a thoughtful roadmap, adding infinite amounts of artistry to shows where wankery recently dominated.

The gem of the opening frame, however, was “Reba,” whose jam possessed a driving tempo, kicked up a notch by Jon Fishman. In this era, “Reba” jams have been lackluster, while generally characterizable as noodly, mellow and uninspired, but throw any jam into 2013 and things get serious! It felt like heaven to dance to a fast, purposeful “Reba” jam last night. This version sounds like a throwback to an earlier year but with a modern smoothness. If you’re reading this in the morning, start your Saturday with this “Reba”—you’ll be glad you did.

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

The centerpieces of the second set—“Disease and Seven Below”—possessed vastly different jamscapes, but each popped original ideas and liquid fluidity. “Disease’s” jam contained thematic fallout from the Tahoe “Tweezer,” especially from Page who suggested a main piano melody from the epic piece. The band’s jamming was just as wide open and smooth as well, illustrating a comfort and confidence that could only come with three decades of playing. The level the band has reached at this point—in my opinion—is untouchable. They are simply better than ever. One may prefer a different style or era, but the band is peaking. Not for 3.0—for their career.

In fact, Phish is playing so well that they can control the entire room with “Prince Caspian” and “Farmhouse” in the two and thee slots of the second set. Though less than 1% of fans would have written this setlist, 99% of the audience was focused and engaged throughout the mellow, entrancing segment. Both versions stood out immediately, as Trey held a near minute-long note in tour’s first “Caspian,” while the entire band gave “Farmhouse” the patient, royal treatment.

The second main dish of the set—and the jam of the show—came unexpectedly in “Seven Below.” Migrating from the song’s thematic jam into a robotic, quasi-plinko realm, Phish then swam into segment of percussion-laced improv that carried over the deliberate breaks of Tahoe’s “Tweezer, ”though this time, the crowd’s “Woos”—a forced recurrence throughout the night—felt a bit contrived. When the guys dove back into the fray, however, the music took on a heavy, groovier feel, remaining that way for the duration. Another standout in a mind-bending list of Summer ’13 jams.

8.2.13 (Brian Thomas)

8.2.13 (Brian Thomas)

The show kind of took a setlist nosedive from here. An inspired “Harry Hood” weighted the final quarter of the show, but despite a loose, jammy version of “Stealing Time,” the set undeniably fizzled. The unique setlist construction of last night’s show, however, continued through the “Walls of a Cave” encore, and for the second consecutive version, the jam showed hints of being cut loose.

I’d imagine that we’ll look back at Friday’s show as the “weakest” of the Bill Graham run, and it was by no means a weak show. On the contrary, it was quite good. But due the second set’s choppiness and lack of flow, the evening didn’t truly elevate in full. It felt like we were primed for a scorching second set after a ballistic first, but the band choose the mellow route while still kicking down plenty of Grade-A improvisational meat. What a joy to be indoors for three of Summer’s final four nights, and this run is just heating up.

I: Free, Meat, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > AC/DC Bag, Vultures, Roggae, Sand, When the Circus Comes, Babylon Baby, Reba, Halfway to the Moon, Golgi Apparatus

II: Punch You In the Eye > Down with Disease > Prince Caspian, Farmhouse, Seven Below, Theme From the Bottom, Harry Hood > Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Squirming Coil

E: Walls of the Cave

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Phish, Almighty

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on August 1st, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

Dreams do come true. On so many levels. Last night Phish redefined what is possible in live music with their finest accomplishment of their career—the Tahoe “Tweezer.” But really it was the finest accomplishment in all of our careers, because the audience—the Phish community— was as much a part of this feat as any. Even the people that weren’t in attendance. I just respun the jam for the first time and Holy.Fucking.Shit! Tears streamed down my face as I listened back to the night of my life. That is the best thing that has ever happened on planet earth.

7/31Official (J.Soto)

7/31 Official (J.Soto)

The reason I see Phish is in pursuit of what happened last night. Not only was it the best jam of the band’s career, it was “Tweezer”—my favorite jam by—oh—about infinity miles. “Tweezer” is Phish. The Freezer is our home. And home has never felt as special as right now. Anyone who has ever doubted that Phish would be back and better than before—put that in your pipe and smoke it. Sculpting a piece of music  far beyond anything they’ve ever done, the band wielded powers greater than we’ve ever dreamed last night. It was simply incomparable. And where the heck do we go from here?

Just the sheer numbers on the Tahoe “Tweezer” are ludicrous. Thirty-seven minutes and not even close to one single dull moment. The seventh longest jam of Phish’s career, and the longest since IT’s “46 Days” in 2003. But 37 minutes of 2013 Phish is unlike 37 minutes of music from any other era. There was no vamping, searching, or meandering—just straight musical genius encompassing Harvey’s like a fucking sharknado. ‘Nuff said. Staggering to the core would be the understatement of the century.

7.30 (E.Battuello)

7.30.13 (E.Battuello)

The thing is, beyond “Tweezer” and beyond Tahoe—the new apex of Summer ’13—the Phish universe is in a place of unparalleled glory right now. Things have never been this great. The band’s level of improvisation is off the charts and more proficient than at any time in their past—and they just keep getting better. Trey has not been shy about saying that right now is his favorite time in Phish history, and I whole heartedly agree. 2013 has brought us to a point in this arc few of us saw coming. Everything that has come before this—the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s—have been stepping stones to now—2013, the year that dreams come true.

After the first half of “Tweezer”—one of the more evil jams I have ever heard—wrapped up somewhere around the half way point, I took a bow, thanking the band for what they had given us, and thanking powers that be for allowing me to have been present for such a ceremony. But little did I know, things were just getting turnt up! Sitting in a sort of musical purgatory between the Hades-laced soundtrack we had just heard and the heavenly passages that awaited, the guys chilled out with no sense of unease or urgency to get anywhere at all. And that is the sign of a band that believes in itself and trusts that the music will take it where it needs to go. That is a band that has let go of their egos and bought into each other hook, line and sinker—forever. Pun intended.

7.30 (E.Battuello)

7.30 (E.Battuello)

When the band—on a dime and all at once—made a change for the skies above, nothing in the universe could hold them back. Playing the most inspiring music that we have ever heard, soon the crowd got involved, elevating the experience to a whole ‘nother level. As the band hit a break in the mind-bending jam, the crowd let out a “Wooooo!” The guys immediately picked up on this, altering the jam in order to create breaks for the crowd to respond—and the rest is history. The interplay between the band and audience reached a level unseen before, driving each other higher and higher into a cosmic and communal bliss. After a set of “Woos!” the band would tear into music so cathartic and inspirational that it will make you cry. This is IT like IT has never manifested ITself at a Phish show before. This was a whole new level for this psychedelic mind game called Phish. This was life like we’ve never experienced it before. Or was it a dream?

7.30 (E.Battuello)

7.30 (E.Battuello)

And then the band moved beyond this monumental and never-ending peak, capping “Tweezer’s” apex by jamming on Traffic’s “Dear, Mr. Fantasy,” a genius move considering the opening lyric of the song—“Dear Mister Fantasy play us a tune/Something to make us all happy.” Finally, in a move that obliterated whatever pieces of anyone’s brain they still had left, Trey coyly slid in the “Tweezer” lick back into the mix, bringing everything full circle with a stop/start cadence to facilitate a final set of  “Woos!” Forget about it.

At this point, the band melted into “Tela” and everyone exchanged hugs, looks of disbelief, and generally celebrated life before refocusing on the elusive bustout. At this point, it was all gravy. Nothing else mattered. But of course, Phish finished their set. In fact, it all flowed quite perfectly, as “Twist” emerged out of “Tela,” and the most impressive “Architect” to date shone brightly deep into the set. A beautifully placed “Bouncing”—a song that always surfaces when things really go down—set the table for a colossal, wide open “Antelope” to close things out. And then the “Woos!” returned! In “Antelope’s” post-jam segment, and then again in “Tweezer Reprise,” the band created breaks for audience participation, reminding us of the peak experience that just went down.

Sacred Space

Sacred Space

After the show, I took a photo of the asphalt on which I was dancing last night, for that was a place of unforgettable power—a few square feet I will never forget. And when every one has their own square feet of space, everyone can get down together. It’s simply the best when all your friends are together with enough room to openly take in the divine goods with a reckless abandon. The west coast is the best coast for this very reason, and Phish is showing how much they love the region’s wide open GA environs. But lo and behold, we are about to take this indoors! Are you serious? Bringing this larger than life music into the confines of Bill Graham is going to make for quite the intense experience. Are you ready? Because the band certainly is. Rest up folks, because who knows what’s next?

First Set Notes: Meh. But who cares.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Camel Walk, Sparkle, Back on the Train, It’s Ice, Brian and Robert, Yarmouth Road, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Ocelot, Stash

II: Tweezer, Tela > Twist > Architect, Bouncing Around the Room, Run Like an Antelope

E: Julius > Tweezer Reprise

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