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


Tags: , ,

341 Responses to “Full Steam Ahead”

  1. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Made it to Hartford. Beautiful fall day in the NE.

    Just cracked an American Beauty.

    Tonight is going to be special.

  2. MiA Says:

    Lou Reed got a liver because he was Lou Reed I’m sure.

  3. Oldskool Says:

    I originally told myself Hampton, Worcester and AC. Then I added Roc, then how could I not return to Glens Falls, now after this weekend how can I not go to Hartford? Now it looks like Reading is the only one I will miss…oops

    Reading will likely slay… 😉

  4. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Pretty sure livers are pretty easy to come by outside the us. Not so sure being white has much to do w it . It all comes down to money really

  5. Slicksasquatch Says:

    That pic at the top of the page is quite nice btw.

  6. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Agreed with LU.

    Different leaves on the branches of modern music feel differentially inspired by various roots/forefathers of their particular branch.

  7. MiA Says:

    Kuroda’s lights are fantastic. Even more impressive indoors.

  8. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    And now for something completely different.


  9. Snow Says:

    Velvet underground loaded is biblical to me. No comment beyond that.

    The end of the Detroit – Dallas game was sweet. Go lions!

    Oh. The. Pain. Of missing DCU. About a month ago I could see I was doubling down on the wrong hand. I’ll take the push of course as Hampton was what was In the cards. But fuck. Man.

    Waves> Carini needed three more minutes. I ended finishing my beverage during caspian. Sub-optimal.

  10. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Not sure about the official rules but my good friend’s dad is in charge of the transplant list for all the livers in the US

    So I’m pretty sure I can get a BBer a liver if need be

    Meaning: party tonight like you’ve got a hetty liver hook up!!

  11. kayatosh Says:

    Strolling park w last night in ear buds. Stash is old school. Tone, execution, dynamics, and patience -‘ all right out of 1995 but better. Yes better. This is the best stash I’ve heard from them in 3.0. Or msybe too many paxinations were had.

  12. kayatosh Says:

    And then the whale steals the show. Woozy

  13. Berkeley Head Says:

    Yeah I stayed up all night listening to last night last night… And I did so relatively sober. I truly lost track of time getting lost in that music just letting it play (repeat)

    Miner- I hope it goes without saying from me, as I’ve said it here many times before, that reading your reviews (and the BB) means so much to my experience. You’re like a cell phone: how did I ever live without you.

    Phish is so dope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    VU (Reed) never really did it for me either. I see them as an event like a space in time that occurred before my lifetime so ia have no direct connect. But…I think it’s been said about VU that only 10,000 people bought that album but all those people started a band so i feel like we benefit from Lou Reed in profound ways….

    It all makes good sense to me though because every time I hear Reed I always think to myself, “Shit, maybe a could be a musician!?!” when sadly I know the answer “no!”

    If any one needs a liver I can score you one no problem, just tell me what kind you need. (I’m kidding government officials)

  14. chris Says:

    what it be off base to say that there are comparison’s between VU and the Rolling Stones, especially in their grunge references/influence. Singing about drugs too. Seems to me like Keith Richards or whoever wrote some of those songs on Exile was in a similar situation in England to Lou Reed in America.

    I don’t know much about the history of each band.

    A ‘music know it all type’ introduced me to VU’s “andy warhol” and I thought it was really different and cool at the time but it didn’t stick around. Definitey impacted me at the time

  15. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    tour has really picked up steam- hopefully it continues! fall phish! have fun tonight, kiddos!

    playing with my daughter, fall mountain biking, and hot springs soaking (with a very irie buzz- a golden year for ark valley crops) are making missing fall tour very bearable. in fact, i’m not bummed i am missing it, but stoked for those who are seeing it.

    blessings! love! phish!

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    “only 10,000 people bought that album but all those people started a band ”

    and most of them were terrible – but so are most of the bands inspired to exist by Garcia and the Dead – so that’s cool

  17. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    @chris- i see what you are saying. i grew up listening to a lot of stones and a whole lot of vu. i think the vu changed/influenced rock and roll in an equally important, but more unique way. both bands really helped shape the sound and vibe of r&r. lots of great music.

  18. MiA Says:

    You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon… with nail polish. Fucking amateurs…

  19. Slicksasquatch Says:

    I will remember to tell the wife I’ve got a liver hook next time I get a lecture. That should shut her up ..

    I got a feeling it could be an all time rock n roll to open set 2

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    whos got my h3tty pancreas

  21. MiA Says:

    Totally jealous and happy for everyone in the rooms through Atlantic City. Phish is killing it.

  22. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:


    Nice read

  23. Slicksasquatch Says:

    Phish is killing it . I know they can continue to one up the previous show/ track . So here is to :
    doing IT and doing It well.
    Repettez class

  24. Slicksasquatch Says:

    That link about kenwood Dennard was mighty insightful.
    Much respect to that gentleman

  25. LukasChuck Says:

    Calmer than you are dude.

Leave a Reply