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. Stoney Case Says:

    walked into a friends shop yesterday, and tweezer was playing. pretty much figured it was the Mann tweezer because I could tell it was 3.0, and that I hadn’t heard it yet. Really a fantastic groove they were in. Unique sounding Tweezer up to the…..change into Ghost.

  2. Stoney Case Says:

    anyone have connections with Outside Lands fest? Need 4 tickets each for friday and saturday…. Little Umb? AquaMan?

  3. Darth Vaper Says:

    I like it when Trey plays Horn without making mistakes. It’s like playing squirming Coil well. Great track

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    who did what?

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Chicago webcast…


  6. marcoesq Says:

    All things considered, there are many (Really, any) songs you could go into that are worse than Ghost. Can’t actually think of 1 song I would rather get ripcorded for.

    And Treyba actually completed his little solo phrasing before petering out. Oh well

  7. Joe Says:

    He’s been echoplexing for sure spasm. Really interesting use during Worcester Paug (or hood ?) that reminded me of how mike uses his bomb.

  8. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Yep sumo, that line runs thru 125th

  9. Darth Vaper Says:

    The Waste solo is $$$+

    I think Crosseye’d wasn’t really aborted/ripchorded. Just harshly changed.

  10. Dr Pronoia Says:

    I’ll be walking from there. Read it’s about a mile to the venue

  11. btb Says:

    CHI webcasts no surprise. Solid backup plan. Would still like to make it out there to see some friends, but early FRI departure still in jeopardy.

  12. dusty Says:

    Darkness will never return. Don’t get caught up in that, was my downfall into becoming uber anti awhile ago. Trogue’s new toy really bothered me at times the past two nights.

  13. ren2.0 Says:

    I am officially no longer shackled to the corporate grind fellas.

    Got some severance and am eligible for unemployment…and so it goes. Time to start lifes next adventure for me.

    Bring on Randalls YO!!!!….maybe I’ll just hop the bus after its over 😉

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    ” Trogue”– Lol… That’s a new one.

  15. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Bummer Ren… Sorry to hear that… been there..

  16. dorn76 Says:

    That’s puts this weekend in a whole new light bub.

    Sorry to hear, and happy to hear given your often mentioned employment malaise.

  17. dorn76 Says:

    That’s going to put this weekend in a whole new light, Bub.

    Sentences is hard.

  18. Stoney Case Says:

    ::clears out the guest spot for Ren +1::

    Palmer! You may have tone deafness. Congenital form of ‘amusia’. Seems to actually be helping! Instead of Jamnausea, the whale gives you Jamusia!

  19. vapebraham Says:

    spac Heavy Things is a beast. very great version. page and fish breakdown.

  20. ren2.0 Says:

    Thanks Palms. I know the BB has my back. Not trying to bring down the mood here…more just showing that there has been some closure to the drama that has been plaguing my life recently.

    Looking forward to sharing some good times with you guys this weekend fo sho!!!!

  21. ren2.0 Says:

    Same dorn…you already knew where I was going next apparently.

  22. xpun Says:

    Happy and catchy songs about divorce is why I’m excited for another sessions of pish show therapy. Randy, post and port should carry me through. Hopefully by Vegas this will all be behind me.

    So enough of this summer tour talk. What are the fall rumors again?

  23. Stoney Case Says:

    Seattle around 10/15ish
    (maybe Bend or Eugene seems doubtful but exciting)
    Bay Area
    LA area
    VEgas 10/31-11/2

  24. xpun Says:

    Some great posters this tour as well.

  25. xpun Says:

    Thanks stoney. Need to put in for some fall vacation it seems

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