A Quick Start to Summer

SPAC 14 (Andrea Nusinov)

SPAC 14 (Andrea Nusinov)

Showcasing new songs, original jams and a clear exuberance to be onstage again, Phish kicked off Summer Tour 2014 in style with four shows last week. Polished, practiced and ready to roll, the guys hit the ground running, requiring exactly zero time to warm up and dropping timeless jams from night one. Armed with a new material and playing with unbridled creativity and confidence, Phish seems poised to play a tour for the record books.

Following a sharp show in Mansfield that heated up in its final sequence of “Ghost” -> “Weekapaug, “Harry Hood,” the band unleashed three flowing second sets in Saratoga Springs that illustrate their continued re-commitment to show craftsmanship that we saw blossom last fall. Frustrating trends that have plagued the modern era—aborted jams, random song calls and fizzling second sets—have all but vanished, and the artistic Phish of old has re-emerged. Crafting contoured frames of music, the band has brought narrative arcs back to their second sets—the journey of a Phish show has fully returned. Wide open jams, smooth transitions, and shrewd song placement colored all three of SPAC’s main events. Highlight segments that illustrated these themes include “Bathtub Gin > Limb by Limb > Winterqueen,” “Fuego > Disease > Twist > Light” and “Carini > Waves > Wingsuit > Piper.” Each second set adopted a unique vibe—7/3 was explosive and energetic, 7/4 took on a far more cerebral feel, and 7/5 possessed lighter, dreamy strand throughout. When three consecutive shows provide three unique and completely different musical experiences, it is a surefire sign that Phish is in a very special place.

Reading '13 (A.Nusinov)

10.29.13 (A.Nusinov)

The band flipped an improvisational switch during Mansfield’s “Ghost” and has not looked back. Offering totally fresh takes on their jams nightly, Phish seems to be consciously improvising in new and different directions. Examples of this include the masterful and unforced exploration of “Harry Hood in Mansfield, the spacious dance grooves of “Bathtub Gin, the swinging rhythmic filth of “Limb By Limb,” an intricate, deconstructivist “Disease” jam, the meditative jazz fusion of “Twist > Light,” an ethereal “Carini,” “You Enjoy Myself” featuring a Mike and Trey prompted funk jam, and of course the first free-form “Fuego.” (Though “Piper” had a stellar Trey peak, I can’t say that it was a totally original rendition.) Throughout all of their jams of week one, however, Phish’s communication has been notably tight and responsive, having seemingly reached mid-tour form rather quickly this go round. And there are eighteen shows to go.

Setlists have seen an expected infiltration of Fuego material, and most often with positive results. First and foremost, “Fuego” has ascended to the center of the Phish universe with the monumental debut of its jam. There’s nothing quite like it when Phish premieres a brand new jam, and “Fuego’s” introduction was as grand an entry as any ever. A dramatic, 20-minute trek that peaked into the heavens with a stunning crescendo sent a clear message to their fan base of Phish’s intent with their new title track—”Set the controls for the heart of the sun.” This is clearly the new school jump off. Aside from “Fuego,” however, the only other new song that seamlessly wove itself way into the live show was “Winterqueen.” Employed as a landing pad for the other-worldly sequence of “Bathtub Gin > Limb by Limb,” “Winterqueen” sounded like Phish had been playing it for years. The unexpected twist was the opening of its final solo, a hint of what could possibly come from the song. All other Fuego tunes, though sounding quite good in the live setting, are still searching for their comfortable place in the setlist.

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

From a macro perspective, the band sounds incredibly comfortable on stage together. Their improv has been characterized by a looseness that allows for all sorts of exploration, but, at the same time, a tightness of purpose that allows the band to explode into jams and reach experimental planes without several minutes of meandering. The way they are stringing together these jams and crafting larger segments of music, and ultimately sets and shows, however, is what is setting the band apart from their recent former selves. This comfort level will only increase as the tour moves on, and one should expect to see more well-crafted sets as we look towards Philadelphia.

And from a more micro perspective, how about that July 4th show? Hot damn! Talk about a fresh sounding set of music in which the faucet was turned on for the duration! As majestic as “Fuego” was, the most complex music of the night was yet to come in the next three selections of “Disease,” “Twist,” and “Light.” All in all, this four-song sequence totaled 55 minutes of creative, top-shelf interplay that left just about every jaw on the ground. Each jam was unconventional and each jam was unique. This was the type of innovative set of which we dream, and had the band finished strong with a significant closer instead of moving into “Theme,” “Number Line” and “First Tube,” we’d be looking at a legitimate all-time set of Phish. Even so, 7/4 was a signature performance that deserves recognition among the band’s best in years. And 7/3 wasn’t far behind, containing the most accomplished sequence of the weekend in “Bathtub Gin > Limb By Limb > Winterqueen,” and a thick, groovy “Tweezer.”

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. If this is what Phish had to offer in their first week of Summer shows, one can only imagine what is to come over the next three. Inspired, loaded with new material and dropping awe-inspiring jams left and right, Phish has their fan base on the edge of their seats once again, salivating to live the next chapter of the band’s storied history.

Week One Picks:

Best Show: 7/4

Best Set: 7/4 II

Best Jams: Mansfield “Harry Hood” and SPAC “Limb by Limb”

Best Moment: “Fuego” peak

SPAC '14 (Andrea Nusinov)

SPAC ’14 (Andrea Nusinov)

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2,446 Responses to “A Quick Start to Summer”

  1. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    See you at DTE breh

  2. marcoesq Says:

    No Sand still, right? For sure thought that’s show up.

    Monster Tweez for my bday this Sun? Too bad I won’t be there

  3. Berkeley Head Says:

    Good call xpun, instead of telling a skippy how lame he is and proliferating lameness, just distract a skippy to get him out of his “I’m going to fucking belt this one for all the world to hear” zone… just like nudging somebody when they’re snoring.

  4. marcoesq Says:

    Am I reading this right, not a single segue from last night’s 2nd set?

  5. btb Says:

    On relisten, Xeyed was short and had a really nice landing pad for a second jam, but alas…..Twezzer>Ghost was way more harsh.

    Not being at the shows, tough to gauge the legacy of this weekday 2 night stand from my view point. Hope all of you who made it rocked out and had a blast!

    Also, referencing Randall’s as “Randy’s” has me so dialed for this weekend.

  6. marcoesq Says:

    Who is this skippy?

  7. marcoesq Says:

    “On relisten, Xeyed was short and had a really nice landing pad for a second jam, but alas…..Twezzer>Ghost was way more harsh. ”

    But at least the former had the Ghost afterwards. Fun times, a tad better than Waster

  8. Guyute711 Says:

    The only thing I can think of when I hear the name Randy is a great man from Canada named Mr Lahey.

    Well, I guess I think of a big shirtless belly full of cheeseburgers too.

  9. marcoesq Says:

    Haven’t respun more than once but Mann Fuego kind of has a late 90’s vibe to it which I love

  10. btb Says:

    Mr. Lahey is one of my favorite show characters of all time

    Randy……..I AM THE LIQUOR

  11. xpun Says:

    G$!

    I think of the Macho Man

  12. Guyute711 Says:

    You don’t understand
    The liquor is calling the shots now Randy

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    ” Thirty seconds or so of actual tension in Antelope! I’ll take it.”

    @Cal, agreed!

  14. btb Says:

    yeah but that Ghost was just Toby wankery and noodle notes 😉

    Rest of band killed it. Overall, a dollar short of serious $$ signs. I’ll relisten though. Just my jaded vet opinion. Still a decent jam for sure.

  15. btb Says:

    A few of my favorite Trailer Park Boy quotes. Countdown to Liquor day is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

    “The only difference between you and me Julian is a coupla drinks” – Lahey

    “We don’t have time for underwear contracts now Lahey” – Ricky

    “Tic Toc, shit clocks tickin’ Rick” – Lahey

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    Seems Trey’s all blissed out and has no more hunger to get dark and take the people on a thrill ride. I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong at Randalls. You can do it Trey.

    Spinning the JempTruck Split and 12/29/13 Carini as a rebolster of confidence.

  17. Stoney Case Says:

    heading to bean town sept. 4th for the weekend. party up north at Mayhems house!

  18. little umbrellas Says:

    Also gonna pull up the crunchygroove and relisten to the Mike’s>Sally, XEyed, Dust and Lope with some decent sound.

    Gloryholes great and all. SBD’s!

  19. marcoesq Says:

    This is a LOT of Dead

    http://www.jambase.com/Articles/122153/Grateful-Dead-Spring-1990-The-Other-One-Box-Due-In-September

  20. Guyute711 Says:

    That is a fantastic movie but it’s hard to limit the quotes to just one film.
    Watch out for the shit hawks my friend.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eASOI_4-ww

  21. marcoesq Says:

    LU, want the d/l link?

  22. btb Says:

    Love the shit hawks

    One of the best episodes highlights for anybody whose interested.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp1e505TBHI

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    Sure Marco, gratzie.

  24. cal Says:

    Nice df, Waterwheel at halftime still the drill? Feels like I haven’t seen any nonlocal BBers in ages, except running into df & aw randomly twice last year outside Northerly.

  25. marcoesq Says:

    Email?

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