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. sumodie Says:

    Mr C’s better half wants her first Esther

  2. phishm Says:

    I’m with the colonel. Jam my brain to mush. Hope an Esther is part of it.

  3. ColonelJoy Says:

    Actually, I just choked myself…cause I typed Let Me Lie

  4. Frankie Says:

    Golden Age opener

  5. ColonelJoy Says:

    Energy Opener here

  6. ColonelJoy Says:

    Or what Frankie said, but tired of Gold Age, frankly energy is cheesy, too

  7. phishm Says:

    Well, anyway. Enjoy the 2nd set. Hope you get the jam that prevents you from bitching about it tomorrow.

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    no more golden ages until they decide to jam it please!!

  9. ColonelJoy Says:

    Due for some sort of Lesh sit in…sure that’s been discussed here too

  10. sumodie Says:

    7 tour bustouts, avg song vintage 1992, nice!

    I still pine for an all 2.0+ set, if not entire show, someday

  11. Frankie Says:

    20 minute Golden Age is what I meant

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Cross eyed> Light. Mark it

  13. Frankie Says:

    Then Lifeboy

  14. ColonelJoy Says:

    My dumb ass dear friend (her 150 show tonight) is holding up a fucking Estimated Prophet sign…she oblivious to the lameness of it

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i like palmer’s call

  16. sumodie Says:

    Hot lathered jam attached to whatevz please

  17. ColonelJoy Says:

    Lifeboy would be nice and not out of blue considering set I

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    Energy is cheese but hooky at least

    Even if they don’t play Esther, what a set. She’s def blown away, a lot of those rarities are among her very favorites. She called Weigh. So fun

    17 songs, wat?

    Lot of rock energy in that one

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    I heard Phil’s gonna sit in for It’s Ice and they’re gonna bust out the Slip-n-Slides for him

  20. sumodie Says:

    Yemblog is congratulating ck5 for 1400 shows with the band. LopeG will never catch him!

  21. ColonelJoy Says:

    She called weigh? impressive

  22. ColonelJoy Says:

    Anybody want to here my “best call ever” story?

  23. ColonelJoy Says:

    Phil on vacuum

  24. phishm Says:

    Not really. Just being honest. If you asked me tomorrow I’d say yes, but right before this I’d say no. anyway, hope you get what you need out of Phish during this set of music. If you don’t then that sucks.

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    Yeah heady call right?

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