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. phlorida phan Says:

    https://twitter.com/hashtag/Worldcupgirls?src=hash

    ^Giving the Oregon cheerleaders a run for their money!!! This is what the world cup is all about. Scroll down and find the US lady with the painted on jersery, probably NSFW, but who cares, fuck work!

  2. marcoesq Says:

    I think it’s safe to say that Germany hat the best looking talent in the stands rooting for them

  3. Calpain Says:

    Chalkdust had a nice portal and the vibe with Crosseyed was bombastic–went down into the pav for the jam portion and was raging w the freaks.

    McGrupp was a treat but the lawn was confused and chatty.

    Happy to have met and hosted Plord. A super guy

    Cheers to Dorn for the ride back to center city, glad you made it down for the run.

    See you folks in Randy’s field tomorrow and probably Saturday. Hoping for a tasty back speaker stack.

  4. Darth Vaper Says:

    The antelope was fun. Sounded a lot shreddier on the glory hole.

    Trey was stretching his fingers

  5. marcoesq Says:

    I will say the balcony at the Mann gets hot as balls! We actually ventured out into the rain pre show to cool down. Not a great spot for getting down to get beer and such

  6. Joe Says:

    Pick me up on way to the party Stoney

  7. Stoney Case Says:

    Overall tour thoughts:

    Love the sounds and new tunes for the most part

    Trey leaning on the digitech a little more each night, instead of a little less. Not my favorite development. Trying to organize a seek and destroy mission on that pedal.

    Several trips to #SpaceCamp. Only one Ocelot ride to Alaska. #Winning

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    D’oh!

    http://www.tmz.com/2014/07/10/fired-security-guard-washington-new-job-pot-shop-first-person-legal-weed/

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I haven’t notice the whale much at all, except for WhaleCelot….but, well, you know

  10. little umbrellas Says:

    Oh right, sorry..

    mr.j.toews at gee mallll

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    Awesome. Thanks.

  12. Stoney Case Says:

    Palmy that’s awesome. In this case, ignorance literally is bliss. In most cases, ignorance is just, ignorance.

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Yup… it would suck to be under constant threat of whaling…

  14. Stoney Case Says:

    it’s the worst! well, not as bad as being in the middle east. but pretty bad!

    DWD*

    *down with digitech

  15. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    i have not relistened to anything from mann one or two- still in post show bliss. i came to eat l and dance- mission accomplished. last night was one of the biggest, funkiest dance throwdowns i have been a part of in 3.0

    i am looking for an out and back ride from philly to randalls friday evening. need to be back in philly after the show. if anyone is doing a cannonball run from phila, let me know. enjoy yourselves out there. shit is so fun.

  16. vapebraham Says:

    hint of it’s ice in lope build.

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    stoney, you ever read any Melville?

  18. dorn76 Says:

    The darkness will return when they stop writing happy and ridiculously catchy songs about divorce.

    Wingsuited.

    Really starting to dig that dreamy fucker. Got a vibration of life when I heard those licks in Mike’s.

  19. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Has there been use of the echoplex this tour? I hear some solid delay work at times but not necessarily the plex. I like to see Trza flex the plex.

  20. jtran Says:

    tweezebortion no worse than other jambortions, plus it goes into ghost. after song portion of ghost is done i’d be like whatevz

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Webcasted shows > non webcasted shows

  22. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Jtran most horse abortions are much faster, as opposed to a minute long of 3/4 of the band still trying to play a sick jam while trey is already singing another song

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Yes! The webcast curse has been inverted….

    One of the funniest moments of this boards history… When people actually thought Phish played differently for the webcasts….. oh, the pressure..

  24. Stoney Case Says:

    Palmer, they did. At Indio.

    T3, no, haven’t.

  25. sumodie Says:

    Does commuter rail from Port Chester NY stop at 125th st aka Randalls stop?

    Weighing options for fastest way to show frm CT / Westchester County

    Will work the google magic later but thought I’d ask the BBorg

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