New York News Day

Posted in Uncategorized with the on September 24th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
PhishNYE2013Header

MSG NYE 2013

This week, Phish dropped two noteworthy pieces of news centered around the state of New York. First and foremost, the band announced that they will return to Madison Square Garden for the fourth consecutive year for their Holiday Run. Though this comes as no surprise, it’s always nice to see more Phish shows on the docket. Phish also announced their next remastered release—a straight heater from Niagara Falls, New York on December 7, 1995. In my opinion, this is one of the very best shows from—arguably—the very best month in Phish history. A shrewd selection from Kevin Shapiro, this drop highlights the band at their absolute career peak (up until that point) as they worked their way to MSG at the end of the month. United in their Empire State of mind, each of these pieces of news deserve a tad more inspection.

12/7/95 Cover

12/7/95 Cover

Madison Square Garden, Phish, and New Years Run have become a 3.0 tradition. Starting in 2010, the band has returned to the hallowed round room each and every year for their Holiday bash, and each time we’ve witnessed a subsequent phase of renovation that has decreased the fun and all-out free for all that once existed in the late ‘90s. Now, the venue is extremely segmented, causing fans to scurry for GA West tickets only to discover the section packed like sardines and being forced to go small on the dance floor. Let’s face it, MSG ain’t what she once was and it’s time for a change. Hopefully the band will switch things up sooner than later, but for now it looks like we are heading back to the Big Apple to brave the cold weather for the holidays. With the band peaking again and returning to one of their favorite rooms, however, these shows carry a boat load of potential. Good luck in the ticket lottery!

Niagara Falls is the best release by Phish in quite some time. This highlights one of the peak shows of a peak era—December ’95. Within this show, the band throws down a fantastic first set “Slave” that sets up Hall of Fame versions versions of “Split Open and Melt,” “Reba,” “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug” in set two, not to mention an early, scorching version of “Taste.” This is an absolute can’t miss purchase, as Fred Kevorkian’s remastering has been dialed in on recent releases like Ventura and Hampton-Winston Salem. Bring that oh-so-crisp sound to the fast, frenetic and layered jamming of December ’95, and this drop is bound for glory. Here’s a 2008 piece I wrote on four shows that should be remastered—including Niagara Falls. Hey, two out of four ain’t bad!

***

Winged-music-noteJams of the Day: Niagara Falls 12/7/95

Split Open

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Reba

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“Slave to the Traffic Light” SBD sample < Click

Dick’s Picks 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on September 12th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

*****

Tweezer” 8.31 II

This late-set surprise completely blew up as Trey prominently featured his Camden ’09 “Tweezer” lick plucked from Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.”

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***

Sand” 8.30 II

This jam provided the centerpiece of night one; the best version in a light summer for “Sand.”

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***

Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31 II

The jam of the weekend at Dick’s—a multi-thematic monster anchored by the morphing rhythms of Jon Fishman.

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***

Stash” 8.30 I

Though not quite on the level of Merriweather’s gem, this version elevates beyond the norm.

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***

Carini” 9.1 II

A feel-good jam to cap a feel-good summer.

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***

Caspian > Piper” 9.1 II

The second consecutive, out-of-character Denver “Caspian” segued, unfinished into a hot “Piper.”

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***

Ocelot” 8.30 I

This was the jam with which the weekend began to elevate; my favorite version of the three thousand played this year.

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***

Bathtub Gin” 8.31 I

A straightforward, though peaked-out and inspirational “Gin.”

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***

Say Something > Walls of the Cave” 8.30 II

It didn’t take long for the band to place “Say Something” in the second set. Look for big things from this jam come fall tour.

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The Top 5 Shows of Summer

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on September 9th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

5) 7.5.13, SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

7/5 Official (Millward)

7/5 Official (Millward)

Lo and behold, the band’s July 5 performance at SPAC holds up at the end of the summer in the top five. The story of this night truly starts with the combo of “Cities > Bowie” at the end of set one. A fresh take on “Cities” blends into one of the forgotten “Bowies” of tour—a version that is among the season’s top few. But the second set was elevated to a whole ‘nother level. In the second show of tour, after a 2012 summer in which the band grew a tad predictable, they threw us one of the freshest sets in years. A palpable excitement filled the air as Phish kicked things off with the debut of “Energy,” a new cover and jam vehicle at a time when the band desperately needed one. The band’s enthusiasm bled right into “Light,” a version that remains the most engaging and refined of the summer—a profound statement for the beginning of tour. The greatest part of this set is that the band got creative with every single piece less “Mango Song.” One such moment took place in a filthy, slowed down wah-funk segment out of “46 Days,” a jam that coyly slipped into “Steam.” Everyone had been hoping for a jam from “Steam” since its 2011 debut, and albeit a whale-drenched one, we finally got it at SPAC. Changing the course of the song’s career, this version paved the way for a handful of second setters over tour.

Just when it felt like the guys might fall back into convention, they dropped a late-set “Drowned” that veered from its usual rock textures into delicate groove excursion, maintaining the newness of the set’s feel. Closing things out with an astounding “Slave” built with patience and reverence, Phish had dropped one of their sets of summer in just their second outing.

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

***

4) 7.12.13 Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY

7/12 Official (DDL)

7/12 Official (DDL)

Amidst a monsoon on the edge of Long Island Sound, Phish threw down one of their sets of the season. Jones Beach’s main event was flawless in execution from start to finish with zero hiccups to note. Featuring a wide-open, twenty-minute “Rock and Roll” to start, this set never slowed down as the band segued into “2001” and then into an infectious take on “Tweezer.” The mid-set sequence of “Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge” flowed like a single piece of music, while the band’s interplay in both “Tweezer” and “Cities” was especially enticing. Placing “Velvet Sea” exactly where it fits, the band then followed with their favorite set-closer of 2013, “Character Zero.” It’s rare that the guys come out—on any night—and pitch a perfect game, but after set break—as the clouds momentarily parted—Phish threw an absolute gem.

The inclement weather made the first set of this show a rough scene until the band flipped their script with the closing combination of “Reba” and “Bowie.” Though their playing was tight from the jump, it felt as though the guys were oblivious to the vigorous downpour as they slogged their way through a standard set of songs.  But once “Reba” started, the rest was history.

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

***

3) 7.31.13 Harvey’s, Stateline, NV

7/31 Official (J.Soto)

7/31 Official (J.Soto)

It was tough to not put this show higher for the “Tweezer” alone, but I am trying to be quasi-objective here. The Tahoe “Tweezer” is—without question—the jam of the summer, and the most magical moment I’ve ever experienced at a Phish show. The way the crowd seamlessly integrated themselves into the most epic jam of the modern era pushes this one over the top of every other contender. But when it comes right down to it, there was little else in the show of note.

To be honest, the first set was straight up abysmal. The guys picked up zero momentum in the opening frame set until a standard, set-closing “Stash” felt like a gift from heaven. Then, after “Tweezer,” the band played out a standard string of songs before a fiery “Antelope” closed shop. Nothing mattered after “Tweezer”—it was clearly all gravy—but with no supporting meat less a gorgeous “Architect,” I can’t place this show any higher than third.

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

***

2) 8.31.13 Dick’s, Commerce City, CO

8/31 Official (K.Taylor)

8/31 Official (K.Taylor)

Providing stiff competition for the show of the year, the second night at Dick’s, however, lands in second. Bottom line, the second set isn’t perfect, and I’ve got to give the nod to perfection. But there is a hell of a lot to discuss here, starting with “Chalk Dust.” The most innovative and original jam of the year anchored this performance, and was supported by a gargantuan, late-set “Tweezer.” But in between, though they were minor, the set had a few flaws. Firstly, “Light” had reached a crazy, original plane that was steeped in the creativity of “Chalk Dust” when Trey decided to chop it for a standard run through “46 Days.” Honestly, I didn’t notice the abruptness of this change in the live setting because the show was staggering up to that point, but on listen back, it’s just not smooth. “Steam” and “Free,” though great live, provide little playback value and a “Number Line” closer is nobody’s friend. However, despite these minor bumps in the road, the band’s playing was incredible all night long, earning this night the second slot of summer.

The first set of this performance certainly helped land this show over Tahoe. A 90-minute affair filled with choice, high-energy selections set the table for the massive second half. Throw in a couple rarities in “Buried Alive” and Fee,” and everyone was all smiles at setbreak.

I: Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag > Wolfman’s Brother, Yarmouth Road, Fee > Halfway to the Moon, The Wedge, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Bouncing Around the Room, Mound, Gumbo > Run Like an Antelope

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Light > 46 Days > Steam -> Free, Joy > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer > Backwards Down the Number Line

E: On the Road Again > Tweezer Reprise

***

1) 7.27.13 The Gorge, George, Washington

7/27 Official (DKNG)

7/27 Official (DKNG)

Phish’s second performance at the Gorge earns the top slot of summer due to its impeccable flow and perfect second set. Seldom does Phish offer a set of music with zero stumbles, hesitations or miscommunications, however at the Gorge, they attained perfection. From the opening note of “Disease” through the final note of “Antelope,” this set moved with a criminal smoothness and—literally—never hit a bump in the road. Featuring seamless segues between “Disease” and “Undermind,” “Light” and “Sally,” and “Sally” and “2001,” this set contained non-stop action, flow galore and great setlist calls throughout. The band spent almost the entire set in an improvisational space and threw down tour highlights of “Disease > Undermind” and “Sally > 2001,” including one of the jams of tour in “Undermind.” It felt like the band started this set, and then it ended, as there was no break in the action and never a moment to lose focus of the stage. We hung out in the pavilion for as long as permitted after this one ended—it was one of those special nights at the Columbia River Gorge.

The band eased into their second show at the outdoor mecca with a mellow, afternoon vibe in the trifecta of “Architect,” “Golgi,” and the only “Curtain With” of tour. The band worked in some standard rotation songs before debuting Gordon’s “Say Something” and capping the set with the Americana pairing of “Ocelot” and “After Midnight.” The first set was above average for this summer, and paired with a flawless second, the band’s July 27th show at the Gorge takes home the season’s top billing.

I: Architect, Golgi Apparatus, The Curtain With, Kill Devil Falls > The Moma Dance > Maze, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Roses Are Free, Say Something, Ocelot, After Midnight

II: Down with Disease -> Undermind > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Walls of the Cave > Fluffhead, Run Like an Antelope

E: Show of Life > Good Times Bad Times

 

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Summer ’13: A Capsule Summary

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on September 5th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

The 30th Anniversary Summer Tour—the run that Phish came out bursting with new ideas again. Starting at Bangor and SPAC, and carrying right through Denver’s three night stand, Phish played with an intent to bring their music to new places. No longer did the band adhere to template jam structures, rather they developed sonic tangents that brought their jams onto fresh ground. The band also reinvigorated their contained improv, resurrecting classics like “Split Open and Melt,” “David Bowie,” “Run Like an Antelope” and “Mike’s Groove.” But above all else, the band’s open jamming was incredibly efficient, reaching sublime planes with little searching or indecision. In this their 30th year, Phish has come as close to mastering the art of improvisational music any as group that has ever stepped on a stage. And now—as they prepare to take this monstrosity indoors to Hampton Coliseum and beyond—Phish is primed to launch into one of their most anticipated tours of the modern era—Fall 2013.

8.31.13 (J.Silco)

8.31.13 (J.Silco)

Early-Summer jams such as Bangor’s “Antelope,” SPAC’s “Light,” “Drowned,” and “Piper,” and PNC’s “Crosseyed” sent the community an early message that things would be different this year. In each of these passages, the band took things in new directions—“Antelope” opened up into a blissful, out-of-character interlude; “Light” fused the textures and control of ’95 with the rolling, thematic style of today; “Drowned” shied from rock for a delicate, groove session, while “Crosseyed” opened the floodgates of creativity in one of the most original and impeccable jams of the summer. We were only a week into tour, and things felt like the heyday again. Every night held an incredible sense of adventure. There was no longer a question if Phish would go huge after setbreak, the only mystery was how they would melt our minds each night. Every show ended with excitement and adrenaline for the musical happenings—Phish tour truly felt like Phish tour again; 2013 was the new 1997. The styles were different, but the push for original territory each and every night was the stuff of reverie. And once again, we were living the dream.

7.7.13 (J.Silco)

7.7.13 (J.Silco)

The tour rolled on to Jones Beach where the band performed a flawless second set—one of their best of the summer—with slithery segues dotting the setlist at every turn. Merriweather provided the summation of the east coast portion of the tour with two rock solid performances, weighted towards the second night. The band’s outstanding run of “Lights” came to a head with Columbia’s avant-garde excursion, the unquestionable highlight of a non-stop evening. Alpharetta seem to be the forgotten shows of summer, though each was quite good. The first night’s second set, in my opinion, in the dark horse stanza of tour. Stocked with surreal jamming, this set never relented featuring stellar versions of “Rock and Roll” and “Chalk Dust,” not to mention a quality “Tweezer.”

Following a rain-soaked weekend in Chicago in which things never truly got going until night three, the band hit Toronto, site of the most sublime versions of “Disease” and “David Bowie” of the year, then took a couple days off before landing at the Gorge for the stand of the summer. Phish dropped two phenomenal shows—including strong first sets—at the venue of legend. The first featured a twenty-minute “Crosseyed” that sits among the jams of the season, and the second set of the second night gets my vote for the set of tour. There was not a single misstep as the guys navigated a diverse musical statement that spanned “Disease -> Undermind,” “Sally -> 2001” and compositions such as “Walls of the Cave” and “Fluffhead.” Though nobody commands perfection from the band, sometimes they deliver, and on this night they could do no wrong.

7.13.13 (R.MacNeill)

7.13.13 (R.MacNeill)

When people bounced down to Tahoe, few believed they’d leave the mountain town in a greater state of bliss than they left the Gorge, but after Tahoe’s monumental “Tweezer”—one of Phish’s finest moments—that is exactly what happened. Obviously confident in their playing and the new musical ideas that had began to bubble up on the west coast, Phish put their best foot forward in fulfilling a personal fantasy—one I’m sure is shared by many others—and dropped a colossal long form “Tweezer” of the likes that hadn’t seen the light of day since the mid-90s. This was heaven. On a warm summer night in the Nevada, Phish delivered a dream—a dream that would come to define Summer 2013 as a whole and recalibrate what is actually possible in live music. It was just that good.

Finishing their west coast run of legend, the band annihilated Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco for three nights, dropping several top jams of tour including “Down with Disease,” “Seven Below,” “Rock and Roll” and “Energy > Runaway Jim.” The third and final show was an instant classic and capped the run with a memorable performance. A fairly tame show at the Hollywood Bowl turned interesting in an instant when the band opened up a late-set “Harry Hood,” blossoming one of the most creative improvisations of tour and ending their month-long jaunt with a discernible bang.

8.2.13 (G.Lucas)

8.2.13 (G.Lucas)

And then came Dick’s. A year after redefining themselves in the Rocky mountain paradise, Phish headed back to the soccer stadium in Commerce City to complete another summer docket. Filled with anticipation, the community descended on the well-loved venue for another unforgettable Labor Day weekend. The first night—highlighted by “Ocelot,” “Stash” and “Sand”—felt a bit musically tight due to the constraints of spelling out “Most shows spell something.” Nonetheless, the show translated quite well and carried a definite flow. The next night, however, was a totally different story.

On Saturday, the band played one of their strongest two-set outings of the year, jam packed with top-notch improvisation. The opening frame carried a medium tempo dance groove the whole way through, as Trey shrewdly selected a delectable setlist. The musical theatrics bulged during “Wolfman’s” “Bathtub” and “Antelope,” though the band’s playing was particularly sharp from the jump. In each of the last two years, the jam of the weekend came on the Saturday night at Dick’s. In 2011 it was “Tweezer,” in 2012 it was “Light,” and this year it was “Chalk Dust Torture.” Taking their rock anthem on, perhaps, the ride of its life, the band stretched this version over 23 minutes, weaving at least four separate themes and/or jams together in fluid, 3.0 fashion. Trey and Fishman were locked up throughout this “Chalk Dust,” and Trey often mimicked Fish’s beats, using his guitar as a rhythmic vehicle rather than a lead instrument for much of this piece. This maneuver added a textured and dancy quality to this breakbeat driven episode, and things were able to progress along an unconventional trajectory. This jam underlines the fresh, stylistic directions that emerged in the band’s late summer improvisations, while also highlighting Trey’s willingness, all summer long, to allow his band mates to lead jams. Innovative Phish at its finest, one could tell—as it was happening—that “Chalk Dust” would be the defining jam of this year’s stand.

8.2.13 (Brian Thomas)

8.2.13 (Brian Thomas)

The final night of the Colorado weekend started off quite well, though hit some bumps after setbreak. The band wasn’t flowing as easily as they were on the previous two nights, and it was pretty evident in the calculated risks they took during the fairly contained set. The opening “Carini,” however, remains a standout of the run with its melody-anchored, atmospheric excursion. And “Caspian > Piper” emerged as the other piece of highlight reel Phish on their final night of summer. As I walked away from the stage for a final time this season, a flood of memories washed over me, reminding me of the stellar moments, people, and music that comprised this summer. And I was just so grateful for the life we live.

When this thing started back up in 2009, opinions varied on how far Phish would progress in this era. Would they remain a vestige of the past steeped in nostalgia? Would they build back their proficiency to the point where they were churning original jams again? Or somewhere in between? Everyone seemed to have an answer when this circus got rolling again, but I think its safe to say we can now agree that Phish is playing some of the best music of their career. We have reached that elusive Golden Age that had been foreshadowed for years, and we tasted at the end of 2012. In their 30th anniversary—a celebration usually reserved for box set rereleases of band’s classic albums—Phish is at it full force, peaking once again in a career renaissance. And as we look forward a mere six weeks to Fall Tour, nothing in the universe could be finer.

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

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Summer’s Swan Song

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

8.30.13 (Graham Lucas)

Phish finalized their summer season on Sunday night in the Rockies with a well-played show, though the second set lacked coherency and flow. The highs of “Carini” and “Prince Caspian > Piper” were quite high, but the main event didn’t fully elevate as a whole. Although the band was on top of their game musically, the weekend’s final set didn’t have the punch we’ve come to expect from performances at Dick’s Sporting Goods pavilion. With some out of place singles breaking up the fluidity, the second set had a patchwork makeup. But coming at the end of a revolutionary summer tour, this show felt just fine.

9/1 Official (K.Taylor)

9/1 Official (K.Taylor)

The first set translated quite well as the band showcased their on point musicianship by tackling several of their most technical songs. Tearing through “Rift,” and then “It’s Ice,” “Guelah Papyrus” and a smoking “Divided Sky” in succession, the band was challenging itself and they passing with flying colors. Closing the first half with a classicly-shaped “David Bowie,” the band finalized their virtuoso display. The rarities, “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” and “Meat,” the former of which opened the show for the first time since it’s Brooklyn debut in 2004, rounded out a solid opening frame, and when setbreak came, Phish seemed primed to tear apart their final set at Dick’s. But when the dust settled, the second set contained more of an up and down flow than we are used to in the Rockies of Colorado.

Most everyone I spoke to expected the band to open their final set with “Down with Disease” or “Energy,” but they threw a curveball in the form of “Carini.” And as soon as it started, everyone knew “Carini” was going huge. Spending only a brief time in darkness, the band moved into an uplifting, atmospheric jam that shied from an outright groove for quite some time. The jam carried a feeling of ascension—a communal floating into the heavens above after a summer tour that far surpassed everyone’s expectations. Trey tickled spiritual melodies and Fish backed the piece with delicate, complex rhythms as the cerebral music enveloped the audience. The band reached a cathartic plateau and remained their for a while, allowing their fans to revel in the blissed out music. Then—finally—deep into the excursion, the guys hit a change and Fish moved into a mid-tempo groove that spoke to the soul. This was one of those moments that resonated through your entire being—an arrival of the collective consciousness. The energies of the band and audience united in truly spiritual event, leaving souls purged and jaws on the floor. The coolest part of “Carini”—the outright highlight of Sunday night—was how different it was from Saturday’s “Chalk Dust” and Friday’s “Sand.” Show me another band on earth that can play three such diverse pieces of virtuoso improvisation and I’ll show you a liar.

8.30.13 (G.Lucas)

8.30.13 (G.Lucas)

As “Carini” floated in the stratosphere, steeped in reverie, Trey decided it was time for “Birds of a Feather.” Ouch. And there happened the first strike against the flow of this set. Trey seemed to be only stopping off in a rocking interlude when he started up “Golden Age,” one of this summer’s signature jams. But this time, the band decided not to jam it at all, carrying out the composed vibe of the song before dissolving into “Prince Caspian”—another bumpy migration. But the band absolutely slayed “Caspian” as Trey developed a three-chord theme that transformed into the focus of the whole-group improv. A tasteful exploration of the song evoked memories of 2012’s Denver “Caspian” before the band segued nicely into “Piper.”

The combination of “Caspian” and “Piper” became the second highlight of the show, as the band constructed an uptemo canvas that Fishman painted with lightening-quick breakbeats. This full-throttle version hinted, momentarily, at “Guy Forget” as the band sprinted towards the finish line of their last open jam of the summer. And as Trey would have it, this “Piper” wouldn’t be complete without a final set of “Woos.” As the audience responded to his stops and starts, he seemed quite happy with the late summer development, but will he bring the “Woos” to fall? We shall see.

8.30 (G.Lucas)

8.30 (G.Lucas)

An awkward combination of “Boogie On” and” Saw It Again” preceded a quick run through a “Mike’s Groove,” that filled the closing spot of the set—a five-song sequence that flowed like a pile of bricks. Summer’s closing “Groove” did, however, feature a comical nod to Colorado’s recent marijuana tolerance with the debut of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It.” After a stadium-wide smoke session, Trey dropped a final version of “Character Zero” and the summer came to a close. This year, however, the feeling wasn’t so bittersweet with fall tour sitting but six weeks away! For the first time, Dick’s will not be the last we see of Phish until the holidays at MSG. Nope, this year we’re on the road again.

I: A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Kill Devil Falls, Back on the Train, Rift, Meat, It’s Ice, Guelah Papyrus, Divided Sky, Funky Bitch, Cavern, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, David Bowie

II: Carini > Birds of a Feather, Golden Age > Prince Caspian > Piper, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Saw It Again, Mike’s Song > Legalize It* > Weekapaug Groove, Show of Life, Suzy Greenberg

E: Character Zero

*debut

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The State of the Game

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on September 3rd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

Phish came out on Saturday night at Dick’s and played their most impressive show of 2013. Rivaled only by the Gorge’s second night, Saturday featured the most innovative, forward looking music of the season as the band tore part the second set with jaw dropping improvisation. Anchored by Jon Fishman—the unquestionable star of the show and the weekend—and his inhuman breakbeats Phish carved brand new sonic pathways in the year’s most creative jam—a 23-minute odyssey out of “Chalk Dust Torture.” And then the train just kept chugging along. Blasting into “Light” and, later, a surprise, late-set “Tweezer” that popped with aural ambrosia, Phish never relented throughout the second set, leaving a wake of fire in their trail. I had the feeling one of Dick’s s performances would wind up in the top slot of summer, and Saturday night was most definitely that show.

8/31 Official (K.Taylor)

8/31 Official (K.Taylor)

Before getting to the otherworldly second half, the first deserves some discussion. Relatively thin on jamming, Saturday’s opening frame was, nonetheless, high on energy, favoring uptempo selections throughout. Songs that shined included “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Bathtub Gin” and “Antelope,” while the rarities of “Buried Alive” and “Fee” surfaced as well, together forming a very solid 90-minute opening set. The band must have been feeling good, because after setbreak, they would throw down their defining jam of the year.

A “Chalk Dust” second set opener can go it two ways: a short rocker to kick things off or a monumental open jam. This version was the latter. Steeped in virtuoso improv, “Chalk Dust” flowed through at least four different mini-jams with notable fluidity, crafting an unparalleled modern epic. Moving from a blissful, melody-based opening to the darkest, fastest drum and bass music we’ve heard since the post-hiatus era, Phish showcased the full spectrum of their abilities—and that was just the first half of the jam! The communication between the band members was shockingly tight and precise given the jam’s breakneck tempo, and—boy—did Jon Fishman shine throughout. Giving his best performance in a year where he has routinely stood out, Fish upped the level of the entire band within this jam and throughout this entire show. After exploring a futuristic, quasi-electronic realm, the band migrated into a chord progression that strongly suggested a segue into “Light.” However, after dancing around the song’s chords for a period of time, they, instead, slipped into a mini-“Manteca” jam before ending “Chalk Dust” with some intentional stops and starts that induced some enthusiastic crowd “Woos.” Honestly, I think this is the jam of the year. While Tahoe’s “Tweezer” was far longer, this jam contains the most original and innovative music dropped by Phish this season. Tahoe’s “Tweezer” consists of many themes pieced together, all which sound like Phish. Denver’s “Chalk Dust” contains a more vicious flow from start to finish while containing groundbreaking music that pushes the boundaries of Phish universe. In the end, there is no need to compare the two, but I felt I needed to if I was claiming “Chalk Dust” to be the jam of the year. In the end, this “Chalk Dust” raised the state of the game to an entirely new level, foreshadowing mind-bending possibilities for fall tour.

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

One might think after such an extended exercise, the band would follow with a breather. But on this night, they moved directly into their most prolific modern jam vehicle, “Light.” The intense, laser-focused interplay of “Chalk Dust” spilled right into “Light” as the band crafted a short, but densely packed piece. Fishman stayed behind the wheel as the band followed his lead en route to a fast paced, immensely creative passage.

All summer Trey has used “46 Days” as a landing point for profound voyages, and he made the same decision on Saturday by settling the set’s initial 30 minutes of jamming into the blues rock anthem. Shying from a funked out ending like the other versions of summer, Trey, instead, elected to use both “Steam” and “Free” as a slow funk release valve for the raucous intensity that defined the opening half of the set. “Steam” entered some slithery textures before the band moved into “Free,” which got a little extra loving of its own. These two songs paired to form a mid-set groove session before the final third of the frame unfolded.

8.30.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.30.13 (Graham Lucas)

When Phish revved up “2001” late in the set, I felt a “You Enjoy Myself” coming out of it to end the set on a celebratory note. But much to my surprise, Trey kept his delay loop going at the peak of the jam and he laid down the opening lick to “Tweezer!”  Hello!! With a move that took most everyone by surprise, this set was about to get a hell of a lot better—and boy did it! Once again following the infectious rhythms of the Greasy Troll, the band threw down a cathartic version of “Tweezer” that absolutely brought the house down. Moving with an urgency through several different feels from the uplifting to the thick groove, the band absolutely slayed the song’s first rendition since Tahoe, peaking the show with absolute ferocity. When I re-spun this “Tweezer,” it was even more impressive than I remembered live—a certain keeper and the perfect way to cap this set.

The band ended with a relatively conventional run through “Number Line,” allowing everyone a moment to catch their breaths and find their marbles after quite the night of music. When Trey came out for his encore, he spoke of how much fun they had this summer and how much they are looking forward to their first fall tour in three years. The band then played Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” a move that conveyed ultimate enthusiasm for their current endeavors. And when they ended with “Tweezer Reprise” everything felt perfect in the world. Apparently Phish loves the last day of August, as each of the last two shows on that date have elevated in full. When this night ended, one got the sense that this performance was what we came for. Sunday would undoubtedly be great, but Saturday was IT. And damn, was it good.

I: Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag, Wolfman’s Brother, Yarmouth Road, Fee, Halfway to the Moon, The Wedge, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Bouncing Around the Room, Mound, Gumbo, Run Like an Antelope

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Light -> 46 Days > Steam -> Free, Joy, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer > Backwards Down the Number Line

E: On the Road Again* > Tweezer Reprise

*debut

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