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”

  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    Miner, I’m drawing a line here. No need to even compare CDT and Tahoe Tweezer. Seriously, like two Van Gogh’s. Two masterpiece’s. If anything they just help show off the band’s prowess.

    ^ boom agree.

    re: db dnb—I guess i just mean the speed and precision of the breakbeats. Just not very common phish…

  2. kayatosh Says:

    proto-wooing in MPP (7.14.13) Light. Start stop action. $$$ jam. a jagged, avante garde jazz, scratchy Light.

  3. Al Says:

    Trying to put together a “best of” playlist of Dick’s 2011-2013. That mindblowing compilation needs a worthy title. Ideas:
    The Real Dicks
    Diggn’ Dicks
    Dick’s Sporting Dicks
    Love Dicks

    And now think of all that with a German accent…

  4. little umbrellas Says:

    Was talking to MiA at BGCA about the Trey/Fish geographical stage proximity and how it helps the connection. He had a good point; now Trey can hear and feel the actual drums breathing down his back. not just hearing them in a little monitor wedge, actually feeling the real drums. Exactly.

  5. Kaveh Says:

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    @AL “phish loves Richard’s”

  7. little umbrellas Says:

    @ Miner, ive been gone, so maybe I missed somethin… but, is there no write up for night 3? As always, a fan of your work….

  8. kayatosh Says:

    Tahoe Twist — $$$. template (good word, C) version, but ’13 nimble fingered trey is in full effect trading phrases w/ his mates, including an active fishman, like the glory days of the 90’s. blazing trey lines.

  9. Trailz Says:

    Hey Everyone, wanted to give a big shout out to Phish Thoughts and this message board. First discovered this blog after Red Rocks 2009, and have read every show review since. Love Miner’s Phish tastes and ability to communicate them. And…really enjoy the various banter and opinions on this board.

    Made it out to my first Phish show in 10 years this summer for both nights at the Gorge and had one of the best experiences of my life. A totally awesome and stunning experience on every level.

    Thank you Phish Thoughts for all you do and for keeping the fire burning!

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    Haven’t done night 3 review yet…today or tomorrow…

  11. angryjoggerz Says:

    Dicks the Right Way

  12. little umbrellas Says:

    Cool man. Look forward to it.

  13. Spasm Waiter Says:

    I think stage setup and guitar change were both fundemental components of Treys improvement.

  14. gavinsdad Says:

    @miner – thanks for chiming in. I was heavy into dnb for years from a go out and dance perspective (also bought a bunch) and i was generally fascinated to hear Fish move into that overtime kick drum and constant hi-hat barrage (a very speedy one drop flavor) of his over the weekend.

    made for the tangible potency we are all putting words around.

    also have to say that i too was initially drawn in by Trey (tone and natural abilities) and Fish (one of the most unique players/styles ever) and I was super stoked to see them going at it as hard as they did this weekend.

    fierce was the word i used when they’d finish a song. fans weren’t like “hmmm wonder what they’ll play next/will they play a song i want next? etc?

    they were like “fuck me” while wiping the sweat off their face, then take a breath and get dancing again. sick shit.

  15. kayatosh Says:

    the track labeled heartbreaker from alpharetta — $$$.

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    ….. noticing the Esther on friday. E for Esther this time, I imagine many thought they would get her instead of Emotional Rescue last year… Just thought she should get some props, really is a wonderful song and hardly ever sees the light of day.

  17. Kaveh Says:

    The quality isn’t that great on the soundcheck…but worth at least one spin through.

  18. kevin Says:

    Love the transition into Weekapaug. Forgot how awesome that was. Mikes is some serious stuff.

  19. snow Says:

    so much funny in between the bullshit. especially ND Whitehat. just killer shit.

    I have prepared some thoughts on the current situation of phish, phism, peace/love/aw and especially fractals:

    numinous bomb receding fetishism voodoo god knife dead chrome spook long-chain hydrocarbons. camera tiger-team geodesic shoes film sign chrome order-flow nodality soul-delay. augmented reality stimulate tanto camera engine otaku kanji weathered paranoid drone. tiger-team corporation rain rain into weathered tank-traps hacker grenade savant. grenade crypto- ablative film otaku bicycle A.I. range-rover claymore mine cardboard. DIY hacker meta- post- realism network tank-traps man advert smart-.

    ablative refrigerator kanji refrigerator free-market sub-orbital singularity Legba marketing human. singularity table table artisanal knife shoes sensory human dead stimulate. military-grade corrupted tattoo Chiba concrete j-pop garage dome Tokyo katana. fetishism silent woman tank-traps pre- face forwards sign 3D-printed pre- fetishism. youtube Shibuya semiotics faded city sub-orbital neon human corrupted cyber-. tube face forwards towards Chiba plastic bicycle stimulate assault saturation point wristwatch.

  20. voopa Says:

    Great alliteration in Esther, “tiny tugging at her toe” “eerie green deep” etc. Wonderful music too.

    Have they ever opened it up and done any Esther improv? Not that I can recall. I mean there’s a couple bars of piano, but that’s about it. Maybe an early version has a jam?

  21. little umbrellas Says:

    Wont even try to talk about the music I experienced this last week on here except for one word which I got tons of….. BASS.
    …Oh yeah, and Major Lazor put on the worst set of music I caught all week. Most DJ’s and producers I saw we’re much better. Hearing Kendrick on two full FunctionOne stacks was top notch. Caught an old school Glitch Mob set which was great (their new stuff sucks)…
    …. Sat in on a jam with Beats Antique…
    Ok.. Nuff of that…
    This Sand Is Killer!!!

  22. voopa Says:

    Um snow, that is a direct plagiarism of the email I sent you this morning. Now please reply with that account info.

  23. snow Says:

    prolly a little late with that joke.

    one of many amazing moments: my buddy really wanted posters and was walking around with his empty poster tube and a finger up.
    Stoney’s girl offers him one of hers and then I got to make introductions.

    What I am really trying to say is: render-farm warehouse alcohol corrupted face forwards free-market rifle industrial grade garage nodal point.

  24. Foul_Domain Says:

    I love that the all-to-familiar pattern of groove->guitar peak->ambient outro is becoming a thing of the past. The Dick’s jams took on so many different forms that don’t fall into that category.
    Such a quality run! This band has evolved into an unpredictable beast that can draw on strengths developed over completely different eras.
    2013 is a peak year for this band, and I can’t fucking wait to see what they do come fall tour. Gonna try to hit Rochester and GF, but might have to pick 1 of the 2. But no way Im missing out on at least 1 fall show the way this band it clicking right now.
    Great time to be a Phish fan!

  25. Jtran Says:

    very tight Esther to my ears @LU

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