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. snow Says:

    Joy dropped when I was all spun on satuday night, it totally sucked the life out of me. It just sounded turrible. Like nails on the chalkboard. (I think it was a personal thing, prolly played well).

    Then trey gets to the solo and started to sound awesome. by the end I was loving it so much, I was sing/yelling “Fuck you Trey” because I was so pissed that he had me enjoying that crappy song.

  2. Stupendous Says:

    Sharp, sharp, sharp
    I too welcome more ambient jams with open hand, but only when
    called for, not forced melt down segues ala 09-10

  3. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @mr. c- i agree with you in that i would love to see more open ended, ambient spacescapes. i am a space cadet and love open ended improv- i saw the bulk of my shows from ’97-2000.

    however, this summer tour, and this weekend, in particular, was packed with so much musical density and slick risk taking, my appetite for the weird was satiated. i don’t have a bad word to say about the state of the music. my mind is blown. as long as they crush every song with consistency and make 7 minute lights feel like 15 minutes, my psychedelic appetite is fed.

    fishman, mvp
    trey, most improved- dude sounds nimble.

  4. Stupendous Says:

    Aw man, joy made it all clear for me,
    Yes it’s a corny song, but a damn good one to the likes of waste and horn.
    Funny, me and my girl had a vibration of joy moment almost cried…

    If ur hungry for hummus then eat hummus

  5. tela's_muff Says:

    @heady – great meeting you man. the JGB was perfect kick off to the evening Sunday. see around CO hopefully.

  6. MiA Says:

    Lots of typing today huh.

  7. Jtran Says:

    spinning some bgca highlights

    7 Below definite dicks CDT precursor IMO

  8. snow Says:

    High thought: Numberline is an ode to Jerry. The peak feels like Jerry-rific shredding. yeah or no?

    Funny thought: I had to go get air sunday night and take a break from the floor. 2nd set started before I could back. so I floated around hoping to run into BB crew. Prince Caspian dropped so I decide it’s a valid time to head back in.

    Working through the crowd was priceless. People were so fucking pissed that I was interrupting their groove and I could do was laugh.

    Really, can’t spare some dance floor for 3 secs during caspian? Just goes to show…

    Oh shit, I wonder if the one really nasty group was Bieber’s entourage. we were in that general area.

  9. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @telas- without a doubt. i will see you around- beers, bikes, or boards- give a buzz if you make it to the hills.

    enjoy your evening, kiddos.

  10. phishm Says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of conversation about Dicks. Some good stuff.
    I do have a question for Michelle – Which member of Phish do you communicate with? Are they one soul all the time?
    Glad to see so much love for these shows. Sure I wasn’t there, but I felt the connection each night in the music esp night 3. Loved all 3 nights, but had my kids for night 3 which made things so much different. My own mind stuff. Anyway, great shows and a lot to look forward to. Can’t wait to make a show. Until then have a good one. Fun shows for sure.
    And Stoney – Some funny shit on page 49 of the previous post. Well said. I like seeing the flow of the conversation change when someone drops some knowledge. Funny stuff.

  11. angryjoggerz Says:

    Snow, were they a bunch of 6’5 black dudes? Hard to miss, the only non-sport playing black people in the state, lol.

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Love treys tone on back on the train. That organ sound. Wow.

  13. Michael Kang Says:

    My ears are burning.

    No, my ears are really burning. I wanted to see inside so I lit a Q-Tip.

  14. punkmug Says:

    Great review Miner!

    Just getting into full on re-spin mode. Loving how the things I loved at the show are just as great on playback if not even better. So many highlights on night 2 for me. Easily my top experience of the weekend but the bookends of night 1 and night 3 are so chalk full of magic I’m still having a hard time processing it all. So glad I made all 3 nights this year.

    Heading out of town for work tomorrow morning bright and early. I look forward to heading down the road again..sun coming up, coffee in the cup, a little herb, open highways and a heady CDT blasting on the stereo at 6am. Sounds like perfection to me. (as far as driving to work goes) Might even get me a celebratory pastry for the ride when munchies kick in.

    Love what Mr. C says that even Divided is sounding extra nice. So true.

    And damn do those last 2 minutes of Tweezer feel like 10 min. I was shocked on the song length for that when reading the set list after the show, same with Light. I love when that happens.

    Also, count me in on the camp of Fish destroying. He blew me away all weekend. I often found myself shaking my head and just smiling.

    Moved to tears several times over the weekend too. I left it all out on the table this weekend. Feels so good to be re-charged. Such a better overall feeling then the way I felt driving home from the Chicago weekend.

    I MUST find out a way to squeeze some fall shows into my finances and busy fall work schedule.

  15. MiA Says:

    I left with Rooster to meet up at WW. Was gonna give AW something. Got halfway across the whole thing at Setbreak and it felt like it took 20 minutes. So I said, “do we really really want to do this?”

    “that looks like Mt. Everest to get there” Rooster
    “Yeah it’s like swimming halfway across a river and deciding to turn around” – Rainbow Pony
    “Fuck it. Lets go back” – Rooster
    “Ok” – Rainbow

    10 minutes later

    “We could have just gone up this side and walked the top” – Rooster
    “I am terrible at high decisions” – Rainbow

  16. MiA Says:

    You’re down in Dicks Bowl and it looks like its gonna take 40 minutes to move.

    Also to anyone I gave bhang bar too…

    In the future, don’t believe me when I break “just a little off” and tell you it’s not too much. I am high. I probably have no idea how much is too much anymore.

    It’s like asking a drunk guy to pour you a drink.

  17. joe Says:

    funny what gets stuck in the head after 3 nights of music. for me, it’s Yarmouth Road that won’t get out.

    so, my lady busted out some hippy’sh purple pants for work this morning that she hasn’t worn in about 10 years she said. her reason was that she recently dropped a few sizes and they fit again but I totally think it’s cuz she enjoyed the Phish show with me the other night. (she was a show goer even before we met 7 years ago but more for the party and hasn’t really been in on 3.0 except when tolerating my obsession or making fun of the message board)

  18. punkmug Says:

    Sunday: 126414004139744

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    Bouncin wit me

    Can I get a woo woo?

  20. snow Says:

    some 6’5″ dudes. don’t remember if they were black.

    Isn’t there another african band similar too Bombino that was all the rage a couple years back?

    I can’t find any of that awesome african music everybody was pimping a couple years ago. I.e., when stoney found Fela.

  21. BingosBrother Says:

    Funny joe. Been singin On the Road Again since saturday.

  22. bob dylan Says:

    legalize it is stuck in my head

  23. BingosBrother Says:

    Maybe Blk Jks?

  24. snow Says:

    and c’mon…

    BathTub Gin > Bouncing > Mound

    BB Snowbank!? No one noticed that and thought it was funny?

  25. bob dylan Says:

    tarwinien? sp?

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