Where Dreams Can Take Flight

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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565 Responses to “Where Dreams Can Take Flight”

  1. phishm Says:

    what are they doing ae? Just looking for other perspectives.

  2. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    def not my kind of set. looking forward to set deux

  3. negev79 Says:

    I preferred last night’s first set to tonights – but I’m not complaining, lots of good stuff in this set. That First Tube tops the “pro” column. Lengthwise. Some heat in Maze. Well played Mound…

  4. sumodie Says:

    Crazy looking setlist, just tuning in for round 2

  5. angryjoggerz Says:

    Men and women of the bb, it is time to rally on into second set. Who’s still with us?

  6. jdub Says:

    Fell asleep as Timber got going. Determined to push on through.

  7. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i always get lost in the second set. either to the jams or sleep. always pray for the former.

  8. gavinsdad Says:

    Kept the woos quiet tho right?

    The other intent.

    Timber was excellent.

  9. Selector J Says:

    i’m in it for the long haul, @aj.

  10. ColonelJoy Says:

    I only caught tail end of Pussum and First Tube, but you can tell a set was hot by how cocky the bow is at end of the set…very cocky bow

  11. phishm Says:

    Let’s do this aj. Are you ready?

  12. ColonelJoy Says:

    I want to sleep, but I will have to stay and see if they keep me interested…can’t imagine it won’t be nasty

  13. sumodie Says:

    Def all in for set 2 here

    Yes, always best to give in to the marsupial, esp when it’s set one

    Esther encore

  14. jdub Says:

    Second frame is bound for glory.

  15. sumodie Says:

    No set one woos? WTF!?! Tonight already blows…

  16. jdub Says:

    Esther encore would be nutso.

  17. jdub Says:

    Weigh had woos,

  18. ColonelJoy Says:

    Thanks Selector!

  19. ColonelJoy Says:

    Folks on the Esther horse tonight

  20. phishm Says:

    Like you said last night jdub. The fix would be in if that happened. Just don’t see it tonight. Hope I’m wrong however.

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    you guys have awful memories lol. there was lots of wooing in weigh

  22. sumodie Says:

    Phew….Weigh woos means Ill stick around for what’s on deck next

  23. negev79 Says:

    I’m still here AJ!

  24. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    you’ll def wanna hear this light, sumo

  25. ColonelJoy Says:

    I just want jamming…jam out Let Me Lie for all I care

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