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. garretcorncob Says:

    Woah woah woah

    Nobody every told me about any family environment

  2. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    The prince of music on guitar
    Neglects to play a single bar
    But music trapped inside his head
    Resounds and fills the space instead

  3. snow Says:

    My first show was in 97, so I meant to say 12 years.
    The important thing is really how awesome I am.

    Yeah, Phishm, you are always going to get shit for that. so it goes…

  4. jtran Says:

    who remembers the portsmouth 11 couch tour cell phone stream where the guy went an got a cheeseburger in the middle of slave?

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    big reveal, my real name is Smapdi

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    really, you too?

  7. joe Says:

    Miner got me excited for light, backwards down the numberline and alaska

  8. phishm Says:

    No worries snow. I don’t mind getting shit. Seems there is really only one person that gives me shit anymore and I could care less what that individual thinks at all.

  9. jdub Says:

    That cheeseburger hit the spot.

    Who here is weirded out daily about having Phish friends from the Internet and a daily visit to a website that is crack like in its’ pull. Shit, my kids talk about Paul and Jeff and Andrew, Internet friends that have been to my house and met my family. Weird and I love it.

  10. Rob Ford Says:

    Who?

  11. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    I remember that jtran!

    Almost beats Yasu singing along.

  12. snow Says:

    @Jdub- it’s when lil miss snow references “the blackboard” that I get a little weirded out. Reminding myself that I have friends in addition to my internet friends restores calm. (no, I have no proof of these friends.)

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Gotta agree with Jdub– Phishm definitely gets the comeback poster of the year..

    Rebounded nicely from one of the rougher starts we have seen..

  14. vapebraham Says:

    love “waiting all night.” an honest, beautiful tune lyrically and musically.

    here’s a poem inspired by that tune:

    The sad and honest man
    with IPA and vape in hand
    rolls time into piles while
    some get loose and vile
    quick trips to the phone booth
    pantomiming to mimic truth
    a castaway on familiar turf
    backyard catch with the nerf
    nothing matters but perception
    time for another cool refelction

  15. vapebraham Says:

    you never know

  16. phishm Says:

    Thanks guys. I like it vape.

  17. vapebraham Says:

    cheers, phishm. cheers, BB. all hail the phish!

  18. MiA Says:

    ::Phishm puts on his tiara and curtseys::

  19. vapebraham Says:

    put your herbsuit on.

  20. George W. Kush Says:

    vape nice poetry. thats some oval office jam right there.

  21. vapebraham Says:

    and gliding away, you fly where you choose
    there’s nothing to say and nothing to lose.

  22. bob dylan Says:

    im not tripping billy. but not a bad guess given the past and all.

  23. MiA Says:

    Speaking of oval offices… It’s business time

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Ackbar is Kaveh.. I don’t care how many times he denies it!!! 🙂

  25. MiA Says:

    Jammin in the Oval Office…

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