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. btb Says:

    Hey now, Canes hate is pretty justified.

  2. voopa Says:

    Tweezer Reprise tease by Trey in the 13 minute mark of Dick’s Sand, before the ASZ (2001) tease.

    Perfect time for the 2001 tease too, nodding to the 2012 FYF show and after already “spelling” Spell Something. Humorous.

  3. Mr. Bull Twinkle Says:

    The Chalkdust gets better with every listen. Great stuff going on. And like all weekend, Fishman is really playing well.

    Can I also mention, I would take Ghost, Buried Alive, and ASIHTOS as openers any old day. All leading to first sets that I thoroughly enjoyed every night.

  4. sumodie Says:


    Newport News Park/campground

    Not far by car from the Muthaship

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    Bdylan. Not live Kendrick. I was out in the desert, BRC. Feel free to camp with us next year.

  6. little umbrellas Says:

    Reading back from earlier today (had a nice ride, CDT was bad ass). Enjoying reading descriptions of the music. Pumpin me up to listen. On with the textural parts and with the In shred. Both Worlds……

  7. bob dylan Says:

    littleumbrellas, blind pig at toronado this weekend?

  8. little umbrellas Says:

    Sounds bomb. Got a wedding gig (motown band) out of town, so not sure of my sched yet. but id be down.
    Also, Lucky 13 in Alameda almost always has Pliny or Blind Pig on tap. dank ass burgers taboot.

  9. bob dylan Says:

    buddy and i are planning a russian river trip next weekend. gotta figure out if public transit gets us anywhere close or if were better off zipcar’ing

  10. little umbrellas Says:

    … Go to Bev Mo yet? (jack London square) … EB 9/13 boxes last I checked

  11. Fly Says:

    Oh shit is there a BB FF league this year?

  12. bob dylan Says:

    went to bev mo on van ness last week. buddy keeps breaking his sierra nevada ipa glasses.

    they are nice, have the etching like a sam adams glass but a better shape imo

  13. bob dylan Says:

    looked for EB 9/13 but didn’t see it. got some at the bar tho. delicious.

  14. little umbrellas Says:

    Golden Gate Transit gets close, but you’ll have such a better time with a car. Get a growler full and jump in the river with it. $$$$$
    If you take the bus the 101 is the express, thats what you want. dont take the 70,71,80.
    Also, email me when your going, I might be working right by there and could hook a ride.

  15. little umbrellas Says:

    They got it though, not in the fridge, center of the back in a stack of boxes….

  16. bob dylan Says:

    dope. will investigate rivers nearby.

    i’ll email you a few days before. wanna go with fresh paychecks before we venture. i can see myself stocking our fridge with blind pig since its in bottles up there.

  17. Jtran Says:

    as a freshman year hokie I too hate the canes

  18. BooVT Says:

    BDylan, I love that Black Crowes cover of Oh Sweet Nuthin’ that you linked on p 17. I saw them play it in Boston in August, and I couldn’t stop humming it for days. IMO, they do it better than Phish and better than VU. I’ve watched that video many times since. It’s a goodun.

  19. bob dylan Says:

    today is pliny day at the bodega. life is good.

    also, dab rig should be in the mail today if all is right in the world.

  20. sumodie Says:

    stream the new 14min single off Earthless’ forthcoming new album here:

  21. realtilli Says:

    back in Scotland, straight to work from airport and now finally chillin and starting to listen back to DICK’S

    it was nice to meet Stoney and Berkeley Head and i fully intended to come over to where the BB was apparently congregated and meet more of you folks, but i ended up hanging with my camping neighbors (thanks Gareth, Aaron, Derek, Joe and all you guys for making me so welcome!) – pushing through the field during setbreak just seemed such a hassle 😉

    jetlag pretty much left me like a limp puppet after each show, but I was fully engaged for all the music.

    Ghost opener, Icculus, Esther, Ocelot (best yet?), Sand, Say Smthg, Oh Sweet Nothing, Halfway, Gin, CDT, Tweezer, ASIHTOS, Meat, Ice, Carini, Caspian>Piper, Boogie On>Saw It Again, Legalize It>Paug,
    just. WOW!!!

    back when the jams were more ‘searching’, it felt like band and audience arrived somewhere together. This Calkdust was so dialled in it was all hold on to your heads and try not to get left behind for me! Many re-spins required.

    what a chilled out scene, what a band, what a run/tour. it has been good charging at the source again after 4 years!

  22. phlorida phan Says:

    Bb ff draft was yesterday @fly. Damn, forgot about dem hokies, not enough bad blood to get to the ND, OSU, GATOR hate. Decent rivalry though.

  23. sumodie Says:

    Fresh PH on the pod, went with Dick’s3 & BGCA2. Arboreal endorphin rush awaits….

  24. PigSong Says:

    Finally getting a first respin here. CDT obv pwns the weekend, but imagine if Troy didn’t force the woo’s and then laid off the #line? (Although this was possibly least painful ‘line I’ve caught)

    How y’all? Wook throat here. Chilliest weekend for extracurriculars evah and full of naps still leaves me wook-fluish

  25. PigSong Says:

    Got my two highlights mixed up, Tweez > #line, was waiting for line outta CDT – nothing to see here…

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