The State of the Game

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


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527 Responses to “The State of the Game”

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  1. bob dylan Says:

    i am #1

  2. Kaveh Says:

    Thanks for the review @Miner.

  3. sumodie Says:

    Miner, thanks!!!

  4. sumodie Says:

    Don’t have time to process the difference between Dick’s latest CDT and so called Storage jamming.

    Kinda thought Saturday’s CDT was closer to the storage style than most anything else from this past weekend

    Maybe storage jamming is more minimalist that CDT’s dense jam? Will have to circle back on that later…

  5. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “To be honest there are a few different couples now that we could have been better friends with if they weren’t into that stuff. My wife is 100% on board with this, if we are over chilling at your house and the soundtrack is a bunch of Cheese and Yonder and shit, things just aren’t going to work out…we can’t do it…much love and all…”

    Love this. Like me and dubstep or Mumford, etc (none of my friends are into jam music)

    Agree on storage jamming. Need more gorge RnR. Closest we got to storage was BGCA light outro jam

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    didn’t feel the storage vibe. felt futuristic phish vibe…

  7. stupendous Says:

    100% agreed!

    Loved the hell out of that show

  8. stupendous Says:

    futuristic music in that DUST oh yes sir!

  9. Cable Hogue Says:

    Spot on. With you on this Chalkdust as the jam of the tour…mind-boggling stuff. Just great. On relistening, it still sounds kinda like a Scarlet>Fire transition jam to me, which it did at the time to my addled brain.

    I think the version of Halfway to the Moon was noteworthy too. Slick entry from the Fee outro, and slayed. Officially my favorite “new” tune…

  10. stupendous Says:

    gonna re watch now!


  11. AC Says:

    Miner – You said in your prior review and on twitter that you consider the Tahoe Tweezer to be the greatest phish jam of all time. In this review, you said this CDT was the jam of the summer, edging out that Tweezer. Just in the interest of consistency, is this a better jam than the Tahoe Tweezer? If so, taking it to its logical conclusion, is it the best phish jam of all time? Both amazing jams, just interested to hear your take because I’m not sure how the greatest jam of all time can be eclipsed in such a short period of time.

    Love the blog, keep up the great work.

  12. sumodie Says:

    Yeah, whatever the musical style, I’m ready for more CDT like jamming

    Def a peak phish experience for me this year

  13. Whit Says:

    Perfection. my face still hurt yesterday from the permagrin I had the entire time at this show. you know its amazing when one minute you are in a perfect groove and the next you are at such a high peak in a jam you don’t know how you got there. How do they do that?!?!!? That happened alot on Saturday.

    Just awesome.

  14. albert walker Says:

    good stuff miner

    this entire show was amazing. I was feelin the tweezer earlier and def shocked me with the late set treatment

    Sumo most of the dust had a hard 2.0 DnB feel . page and trey way back just coloring fish and mikes rumblin

    storage is usually very page and trey heavy with trey usually using some backward guitar style effect. beats get tempo shifts and some glitch. abstract cymbal work.

    as soon as fish took the jam over at around 12 min was this is straight 04 DnB with 3.0 minimalist fusion touches.

    hands down hippest jam of return IMO

    and the tweezer just brilliant

  15. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    What is shaking, bb! phew- i made it through the first day back at work- not very productive, but i made it.

    magic, magic, magic, and more magic this weekend. without a doubt one of the greatest phish weekends of my life. love in my heart and soul- phish is light music. they are a band on fire right now- too much fun! the weekend seemed to go on incredibly long- my girl and i woke up monday and i looked over and said, i feel like we’ve been here for a week. truly magical. there are lots of stories to share- in due time- i am going home.

    it was wonderful seeing and meeting quite a few bb’ers this weekend. you are jewels and stars. thanks for listening to jerry and kicking it with me and my little family at the bus. i look forward to seeing you again.

    phish phish phish love love love!

  16. btb Says:

    Mike’s Hairdo whispered to me once

    “Surrender to the Fro”

  17. angryjoggerz Says:

    love your bus, Heady – seems like your family was having a blast. Glad we got to kick it a bit.

  18. kayatosh Says:

    miner: that review was really great. thank you. I concur.

    look at that old dude puff down.

  19. bob dylan Says:

    aaaaand I’m back to the caspian guitar work. what an awesome echoey sound.

  20. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    for the record: dick’s chalkdust- top-shelf phish; i kind of dug the wrong key start to light; late set tweezers are always welcome…

    my .02

    no doubt, aj, good meeting you too, bro.

  21. tela's_muff Says:

    good stuff Miner. spot on. that Gin may be worthy of some additional praise imo. tough when that CDT is out there hogging all the prose.

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    word, miner, I was just commenting at the end of last thread that my ONLY real critique of the band’s evolution over the end of summer was the lack of “storage” type jamming – and I really mean just a broader style of open ended, long form ambient soundscape improv that they’ve gone into and out of in a few different modes over the years

    if they weren’t feeling it this summer that’s fine, they’re blowing it up, I agree the band is en fuego for sure

    I’d just like to see them work some extended outer space avant formless sections back in. I think the shows take on a more interesting, varied and challenging contour when that stuff is part of the palette.

    def 100% on board with the overall take that they’re slaying it right now & I like the directions they seem to be headed in

  23. MrCompletely Says:


    that watery Caspian tone just floored me

    majestic, masterful stuff

    The Gin’s a baller. And I’m mostly off template driven 3.0 Gins. That thing pops.

  24. Floppy Says:

    Always enjoy reading your reviews. And while you tend to go over the top, I appreciate your unadulterated enthusiasm. Quite a shift from the ridiculous negativity and posturing on one Phish forum that springs to mind.

    Having said that, I didn’t go nuts over this Chalkdust. I just spun it again, and I didn’t find too much variety whereas the Tahoe Tweezer stretched you in many directions. Even while listening the first time, I thought it was a matter of length over substance. I’ve been wrong before, though. Will give it another listen later.


  25. MrCompletely Says:

    big list of songs that I don’t usually care for that I really dug this weekend

    Caspian and Divided topping the list

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