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…

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2.04-Piper.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2.05-Takin-Care-of-Business.mp3] Tags: , ,

556 Responses to “A Course Correction”

  1. MrCompletely Says:

    def worth a respin of both Gorge set 2s and bgca 3s2 @JG. there’s also some quality playing in the bgca set 1s esp. the absolutely crushing Vultures, Roggae, Sand segment from night 1.

    the rest of Tahoe has never stuck with me yet but that could well be b/c I’m always worn out & skullfucked after the tweezer

  2. garretcorncob Says:

    Speaking of disagreements with Miner, did everyone think DCU 1 II was that sick?

    I ended that set thinking “Well, that was meh,” only to come read Miner’s review.

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    anyone here know how to light a fire under United Airlines’ ass? Got a friend in the biz or anything?

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Thx MrC

  5. bob dylan Says:

    i thought woosta shows were epic. those were a high point of my listening this tour.

  6. snow Says:

    @Jdub- well, for 3.0 maybe. In the late 90’s several tours go into late november and some into december.
    @JG – I thought the whole Tahoe run was smoking. Really tight playing but not the most adventurous.
    Early summer – PNC, Alpharetta, Toronto, Chicago 2 come to mind.

  7. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    Gorge night 2 is solid all the way through.

  8. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Muchas gracias snow. Which of the MPP shows elevated or was it both of ’em?

  9. Jerome Garcia Says:

    That’s what I thought I remembered Gorge 2 deserving of top to bottom treatment.

  10. Mr.Miner Says:

    Wish the Tweezer “moved” a bit more… Stays in one central space the whole time… that was my only critique.

    ^ kind of hear this, but they find a super cool and very unique place deep in the jam and stick with it. More of a rhythmic version than any sort of melody leads.

    sometimes at a show when you await transcendence, you miss “super fucking good” (and by “you” I mean “me”)…i got super elevated this final night after the AC 1 and 2 jams, thinking this AC would be the motherlode, and I was waiting for the second coming or something. I enjoyed it throughouly in the moment, but psyched myself out after the show, thinking it wasn’t all that.

    It wasn’t better than either of the previous two shows imo, but still pretty f’n great

  11. lumpyhead Says:

    re: AC tweezer

    guilty pleasure jam of the entire year so far. can’t stop spinning it.

  12. garretcorncob Says:

    Yeah BD? I figure I’ll give it a respin soon, but just didn’t pop for me first time through. I don’t think I was paying full attention, on that one, so maybe that’s why.

    And I tend to prefer one big jam over several smaller ones, so maybe that too.

    As for West Coast summer, both Gorges were fantastic, and yes, BGCC 3 II, but I thought first night set II was super on point. Somehow Farmhouse > Caspian was totally okay by me.

  13. garretcorncob Says:

    Oh yeah, there’s that gritty plinko jam in the AC Tweezer, huh? I was listening to that on the stereo and pointed it out to the SLF as being the shit. She said it was “weird”.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    “More of a rhythmic version than any sort of melody leads.”

    100% – crunchy groove throwdown

    I was watching couchtour while playing with my boy, I told this story already but Miner will like it, we were doing some random thing and grooving to Waves, then the Tweezer lick drops and before I can say a word he jumps up and says “okay dad, time to dance now” yeah buddy you know it!!!

    “sometimes at a show when you await transcendence, you miss “super fucking good” (and by “you” I mean “me””

    super fucking crucial insight and (fortunately) actually more of a “problem”/pitfall now that the best nights are so epic!!!

  15. garretcorncob Says:

    Hampton Ghost for me now. Hot out of the gate this one. Mike in particular was pretty locked in for a few minutes there. Just got a little search-y though at 6 minutes, but the Mike/Page/Fish synched up hit thing at 6:30ish is fucking nifty

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    @garret, one takeaway on Woosta the other day was that 1 is more even, with lots of good stuff, while 2 has that hard high peak, like you I favor the alpha dog peak jams over everything so I’m more into Woosta 2 than 1

  17. bob dylan Says:

    my takeaway from this tour is the woosta light tho. without digging much deeper that one is what i keep remembering. could be why I’m biased.

  18. bob dylan Says:

    i need to dig in deep to this tour but I’ve gathered a bunch of awesome dead that i can’t get away from right now.

  19. hoedown Says:

    Some extra codes for any BB faithful in need that act quick before the lurkers:

    AC 1 – 284688786227

    AC 3 – 848009105952

  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    I was watching couchtour while playing with my boy, I told this story already but Miner will like it, we were doing some random thing and grooving to Waves, then the Tweezer lick drops and before I can say a word he jumps up and says “okay dad, time to dance now” yeah buddy you know it!!!

    ^ boom! A dream come true for this guy!

  21. garretcorncob Says:

    Damn, Hampton Ghost flies real real high here, dunnit?

    Speaking of Alpha dogs

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    its really just a facet of being in my mind a tiny bit on that third night knowing that a tour-closing Tweezer could drop at any moment…And the to be honest, 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…downward spiral of me thinking the show was just alright…

  23. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    Hampton Ghost paints the sky

  24. garretcorncob Says:

    Yeah, Woo’s didn’t help that Piper, which otherwise hit the kind of nasty dance metal that makes me think about how no one else plays that kinda thing

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    With you on the AcTweezer thoughts. Had become accustomed or just assumed that they would go through a few different themes in the jam. Still a fun version..

    Hartford crushes it for me personally.

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