A Course Correction

Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

10.20.13, Hampton (Andrea Nusinov)

The opening Hampton shows provided an incredible homecoming to an arena that holds such a special place in the Phish universe. But after the first two nights—two very solid performances—one had to wonder if the Mothership would ever truly gain liftoff again. After the band’s instantly legendary two-night stand of November 21 and 22, 1997—a weekend on which the building garnered its outer-space moniker—and one popping performance the following year, Phish had never played a huge show in the building again. They hadn’t even really come close.

In 1999, the band closed out their December “Millennial Prep” Run with a two-night stand in Hampton, but the tour had, unquestionably, peaked the night before in Raleigh. The closer was a hot two-set show, though the performance produced no timeless jams and, honestly, no real memorable ones either. After ’99, The Mothership became the scene of some notably not-so-sexy Phish shows. First came the inverted New Year’s Run in ’03 which featured a solid opening night followed by two relative duds. Then came August 2004’s one-off performance that the band and their audience would just assume forget. After a five year break, however, and not so long ago, Hampton was the site of salvation. “Fluffhead” rang out through the hills on March 6th of 2009, as the Phish breathed life into a dormant tribe. But—all in all—as we set our sights on Hampton, Virginia, this fall, the question hanging in the air was—“Is the Mothership going to explode this time?” On Sunday night, October 20th, we got our answer.

10.18.13 (A.Nusonov)

10.18.13 (A.Nusonov)

Though the first set was a tad slow, there was nothing objectively wrong with it, as Phish often plays standard first sets on the final night of three-night stands. But after the break, Phish laced up their game shoes and locked into beast mode like we haven’t seen in some time. After their nod to a crew of fans by playing “Paul and Silas,” Trey carried on with his regularly scheduled programming and dripped into “Tweezer.” This was the first jam to illustrate what Fall Tour would be about—patient, long-form, full-band jamming. In previous years—or even tours—Trey would have bailed out of this “Tweezer” jam on two or three separate occasions, but with the confidence built this summer, the band became mere vessels on this night—allowing the music to take its course. And its course was quite ominous.

The most transcendent part of this piece, however, came after Phish had navigated the underworld and found a pristine ambient lair, the likes of which are few and far between in this era. This wasn’t a typical “we-need-to-end-this-jam-so let’s-go-ambient” type of scene, the band had, rather, worked though an extensive, exploratory improvisation and found nirvana. The ending segment of this “Tweezer” is musical ground on which Phish rarely treads these days—a reflective collaboration that likens cosmic fallout of a spiritual explosion. This moment-by-moment endeavor saw the band play with utmost delicacy and respect for what was transpiring. This was special Phish. This was Hampton Phish.

Tastefully wrapping up the jam, the band trucked into “Golden Age.” Stretching things out once again, this time into an airtight groove session, the guys were clearly letting things hang out in what might possibly be their final show in Hampton’s storied round room. The band faked left into “2001” before cutting right into “Piper,” a move that kept the energy sky high and kept the jam vehicles rolling in a set that was building momentum like a snowball rolling down Everest.

10.20.13 (Jake Silco)

10.20.13 (Jake Silco)

Amidst a full-throttle, exclamatory “Piper,” Phish pulled off—perhaps—the move of the tour in only it’s third night. Trey started up a classic rock vamp that sounded as if he was directing his bandmates in a new direction. Always a step ahead of the game—and before anyone could call what was coming—the band spontaneously slithered into the Seventies’ classic, “Taking Care of Business!” On a night that they were doing just that, the masterminds from Vermont conjured up the perfect musical gesture without exchanging a word and The Mothership nearly burst. Chills, shivers, the whole nine yards—this was a moment that nobody in the building would ever forget; collective catharsis and then some—a communal bolt of lightning.

And just as it felt like Phish might exhale for a minute, they threw down a ludicrous set-closing trifecta of “2001,” “Sand” and “Slave,” each song given the full treatment.  “2001” appeared in beefier-than-usual form, paving the way for Hartford’s tour highlight a week later, but also nodding to the outer-space motif of the building that they were currently destroying. Though the band’s improv would progress to more prolific heights over the next two weeks, no performance matched the energy and face-melting intent of Hampton’s finale. But there was also something more poignant at play.

As “Tweezer Reprise” punctuated the night, I couldn’t help but feel the book closing on a chapter of Phish history. The prodigal band had returned to its Mothership and treated it to a proper throwdown, a ritual that will resonate for eternity. This was the show that the Coliseum had been aching for fifteen years, and damn did it feel good. Perhaps Phish will make their way back to Hampton and perhaps they won’t. But if they never do, their mission is now complete and The Mothership’s place in history has been forever restored.

"Tweezer" 10.20.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

“Tweezer” 10.20.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Piper -> Taking Care of Business” 10.20 II

Here, Phish laid out their plan for Fall Tour…

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556 Responses to “A Course Correction”

  1. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    Drat, upload to MF failed. Trying again.

  2. chris Says:

    just curious, why does Miner say that phish’s show on the 20th of hampton might be their final performance in the arena?

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    just not sure when they’ll be playing a fall tour again. no facts, just a feeling. hope not.

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    @garrett—why do you consider Waves and Carini two good but not great jams instead of one great jam sequence? The Carini mos def flowed right out of the heavy rock ending of Waves, and went together with the previous jam. Then the Carini, itself, went buckwild. Awesome playing throughout as well…anyhow.

    expectations possibly? They hadn’t gone that huge yet in tour.

  5. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    OK, here’s that TAB.
    http://www.mediafire.com/?vxj98gsi99t9d63

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    “that Dwd felt like it was one modulation (or what have you) away from going through the roof in a monster peak section, and when it didn’t I was left a bit left down in the moment….and then the piper woo’s killed the jam, and then no waves jam…etc etc…”

    ^^^^ agree with all that, I felt all that too, the DWD is really kinda odd, Trey has like 8 or 10 pretty legit ideas and just ditches them all, but doesn’t chop the jam, like he wants to deliver the goods but just can’t settle on anything

    @bob d “but I’ve gathered a bunch of awesome dead that i can’t get away from right now.” whatcha into?

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