Full Steam Ahead

10.19.2013 (Jake Silco)

10.19.2013 (Jake Silco)

Not slowing down for an instant after a stunning Friday night performance—in fact, placing their foot on the accelerator—Phish blew the roof off the Worcester Centrum on Saturday in a signature performance that evoked the spirit of the glory days. Wasting not an iota of time, the band was in full destruction mode from the moment they stepped on stage, playing a first set that was beefier and more artistic than many seconds we’ve seen in recent years. After the break, however, Phish played one of those sets we’ll remember forever; one of those sets without a single lull, not even for a second; one of those sets that leave one dripping with sweat and begging for more; one of those sets. And when Phish plays like it’s their last chance to do so for both sets, well, that’s when shows truly realize their potential. Saturday night in Worcester was one of these shows.

10/5-26 Official (J.Eads)

10/5-26 Official (J.Eads)

In recent tours, when Phish throws down a top shelf show, they usually take the first set the following night to exhale, taking things relatively slow. That is the opposite of what happened last night. To kick off the evening, Phish came out and crushed the most improvised version of “Party Time” they’ve ever played, stretching the piece out into the funk jam that everyone has imagined since it’s debut at Merriweather in ’09. This dance session harnessed Friday night’s lingering energy and channeled it directly into Saturday night’s show. We we cleared for take off.

Seizing the instant momentum they had created, the guys dropped into “Punch You in the Eye,” a move that kept the energy sky high and served as a second opener. And when Phish shows start with “Punch,” the band means business. Spirited renditions of “Back on the Train” and “My Soul” led into my favorite highlight of the opening set (and there were many), “Bathtub Gin.” Receiving far more creative treatment that so many of the stock versions of recent years, this jam set fire to the show in earnest and brought the room to, arguably, it’s highest single peak of the night with a dizzying, mid-set dance fiesta. Trey seamlessly wove the “Gin” lick back into the jam at it’s apex, toying with the melody as he led us to the promised land. This was a full throttle, first set “Gin” that saw the entire band lock into airtight interplay and set the bar for the rest of the night.

10.20.13 (Jake Silco)

10.20.13 (Jake Silco)

A bust out of “Ride Captain Ride” bridged the opening set to it’s most potent triumvirate—and out of character grouping of “Stash,” “Simple > Bowie.” The “Stash” blossomed into a menacing tension and release piece, infusing all sorts of grit and darkness into an otherwise upbeat set. Yet, it also included tangents and nuances that brought it far above the norm. “Simple’s” first appearance of tour came with slick setlist placement and kept the heavily improvisational vibe of the opening frame. A succinct, ethereal jam artistically bled into “David Bowie’s” intro, and, presumably, we had reached the last song of the set. But following a blistering rendition of their classic and complex jam vehicle, Phish closed with a bang, punctuating a prime-time opening half of music with “Character Zero.” And much like the night before, we knew we were in for a treat after setbreak.

10.18.13 (J.Silco)

10.18.13 (J.Silco)

Keeping things as fresh as ever, the band opened the second set with their seventh consecutive different song, this time choosing The Who’s “Drowned.” And out of it they would sculpt an exploratory odyssey that passed through several sonic stages. Once the band opened up the jam, it didn’t take long for them to move in an abstract direction, and it momentarily seemed like this would be direction they would explore. But over the mellow feel, Trey cut in with some rhythm chops and it didn’t take long for Fish to follow along. Together, they urged the band into fast-paced section of breakbeat-laced, percussive grooves. As this segment grew, it took on undertones of “Guy Forget,” but the band never fully committed to their rarity. This section illustrated how precise Phish’s communication is right now as they sliced and diced the music as a one-minded beast. And then came the arrival. The band moved moved into a bliss and bass laden pasture and before anyone knew what was developing, Trey offered the chords to Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.” His bandmates immediately picked up on his cue, seamlessly moved into a full-fledged jam on the song. It seemed as though at any moment Trey would step to the mic for the song’s first verse, but it was far classier move to keep things instrumental. And thus developed one of the most sublime moments in recent Phish history. Just as the band had expressed all their ideas, Trey strummed the opening to “Light.”

10.19.13 (J.Silco)

10.19.13 (J.Silco)

The guys completely annihilated the opening contained section of the jam, twisting and gyrating as a unit through hyperspace as Trey unleashed an incredibly expressive solo. But when they settled into the open section of the jam, the band entered an utterly virtuosic exchange. Moving into the rhythmic paradigm, the guys explored the complexities of groove, as each member offered a mind-bending contribution to “Light’s” musical whole. This “Light” jam is not like Phish grooves you’ve heard before, rather something far more esoteric. This was innovative jamming at its finest, as Phish pushed the envelope further with this jam than any other of the night. When “Light” trickled to a stop, Trey decided to keep the groove thing going and led the band into a third-song “Sand.”

10.18.13 (J.Silco)

10.18.13 (J.Silco)

When Phish gets moving with such a head of steam, they just wanna keep lining ’em up and knocking ’em down, and so they did with their third consecutive heavy-hitter. A dramatic version of “Sand” built to a major league peak, and served as the final chunk of the set’s opening 45 minutes. Phish used “Theme” as a break from jamming and to set up a show-closing “Mike’s Groove” that would bring the audience to its knees. Trey employed a wah-plus-delay pattern to bounce the arena like a basketball during a very different “Mike’s” jam in which he never took a solo. When the guys slid into the atmospheric intro to “No Quarter”—Zeppelin’s master stroke on Houses of Holy—the audience responded with a roar. Slaying the classic cover, they moved into a spunky and dynamic “Weekapaug” to close the set. No lulls, no ballads, no filler—just high octane Phish from start to finish—and that is how we like ‘em!

I can’t quite express my gratitude to the band for these Worcester shows. I can’t recall four more powerful sets packaged over two nights strewn with so much creative improvisation. Quite literally, every jam they touched became a show highlight. These Worcester shows touched the very essence of why most of us fell in love with this band to begin with—unparalleled musical wizardry. When Phish is at the top of their game, there’s not a band in the history of music that can keep up. And right now, in the midst of their 30th Anniversary celebration, everyone is in the rear view mirror.

I: Party Time, Punch You In the Eye, Back on the Train, My Soul, Bathtub Gin, Ride Captain Ride, Stash, Simple > David Bowie, Character Zero

II: Drowned > Light, Sand, Theme From the Bottom, Mike’s Song > No Quarter >Weekapaug Groove

E: Boogie On Reggae Woman*, Possum*

* w/ guest drummer Kenwood Dennard on drums instead of Fishman


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341 Responses to “Full Steam Ahead”

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  1. Hashbrown Says:

    Great review miner. Zep on Halloween?

  2. MiA Says:

    Great writeup Miner! Thanks for all you do!

  3. SuperREVERB Says:

    Been a fan since mid nineties. The Worcester gigs marked my 50th shows… Honestly it was one of the most fun I’ve ever had at a run. Also some of the best I’ve ever heard phish play. They are having so much fun and so am I. They are playing phenominal

  4. Blooby Says:

    I would just like to take this opportunity to say I’m not wearing any underwear.

  5. MiA Says:

    Starting with Party Time. Trey isn’t afraid to step on the Wah Pedal anytime now. Loops are back. They are (IMO) listening to older jams and taking inspiration.

  6. JerZ Says:

    I luv me sum loopy phish

  7. Joe Says:

    That was sitting here in limbo. Glad my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me (this year Halloween does not fall on a weekend, but me and the bb will still be trick or treatin).

    Now I’m all about harder they come being the album. Pretty please.

    Up early to go celebrate grandmothers 97th birthday. She still lives alone and takes care of herself.

  8. Joe Says:

    Oh and great reviews of what went down the last few nights. Thanks as always to mr miner

  9. MiA Says:

    What a proper Weekapaug! Slow claps…

  10. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Smells like…. Victory.

  11. Ghostface Says:

    You know it was a good show when a Kenwood Dennard sit in doesn’t even get a mention. Woostah!!!

  12. MattyMatte Says:

    Did anyone here the “Hey” call and response during the light, I think it was light, anyway. Did anyone here Phish leave a smoking crater where the Centrum used to be?

  13. ren Says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!! I fuckin love this band! What an amazing run. Woosta keeps its reputation. Can’t wait to see what AC has in store.

  14. ren Says:

    Only thing they forgot to do was play MOUND in honor of all the smokin little bitties running around everywhere. What I wouldnt give to have been a young free buck! Saw lots of youngins…but most were too faced to even step to all the fine fillies….and so it goes. Eventually they grow up and bring a hot wife to the show 😉

  15. aj Says:

    Awesome. Haven’t heard a note of this weekend, can’t wait. Hope everyone had an amazing time!

  16. ren Says:

    Hope Stoney stopped huffing that grey mold long enough to fill up some tube socks.

    Unfortunately didn’t get to connect with any BB breden in Woosta but had a great time showing my friend around his first 2 shows. Spoiled he is. He’s a natural…totally gets it. Even had him dancing!… despite his preference to go pretty deep.

  17. ren Says:

    Winky Winky lol!

  18. vapebraham Says:

    this is exciting. Great writeup, miner. I haven’t heard a note, but I am stoked. That second set looks sublime.

    what was the deal w/ the guest drummer during the encore? where was Fish?

  19. ren Says:

    Youre in for a real treat at Reading Vape!!! Nice choice on that one.

  20. ren Says:

    Interested to see what they drop tonight. Blissy cuddle fest? That Rebas gonna be scha-weet!

  21. Kenny Powers Says:


  22. Dorn76 Says:

    The Drowned is a thing of beauty. Brought me to tears in the room, again on the drive home and just now lying in bed.

    Thank you Phish, thank you Miner.

  23. JB Says:

    kenwood sat in with moe at moedown this year
    i can only wonder what is coming thursday

    seen alot of shows ( 100+ ) but last night was sooo off the chain
    for putting it into words? thank you Mr. M.

  24. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    Just a raging good time weekend. It is strange to have to go home and miss a Sunday show (watch for the Tweezer tonight), but I have to be an adult in trade for heading back to AC in just a few days. I don’t think it is going to be Zep, although one rumor I heard in the lot yesterday from someone supposedly “in the know” was In Through The Out Door. I don’t buy it.

  25. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Spare code par chance?

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