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. Vapebraham Says:

    Game of thrones inspired by the song Dire Wolf.

  2. btb Says:

    lol. Dirty PH fans don’t get laid.

  3. jtran Says:

    sorry to hear that ren and xpun. vibes to both.

    soak in the dad rock!

  4. little umbrellas Says:

    Summer Tour- Fun in the sun happiness..
    Fall Tour- darkness …..

    =Happy Umbrellas! Bill Graham Thrill Ride.

  5. the Baker Says:

    Poor Bob Ueker sounds like he’s been bumpin K in the booth after the Phillies scored a touch-down in the 8th& tacked on a safety in the 9th…phish-karma osmosis!

  6. ren2.0 Says:

    On one hand I feel guilty bringing my issues here….but on the other the payoff of all the good vibes, thought and sentiment makes it all worth it.

    It really is for the best! Bummed for my comrades I’ve left behind. Did just find a cold EB at my local beer spot.

    Commence “dialing” so I bring my best to Randy’s!!!

  7. sumodie Says:

    ” the whale did return in wingsuit. tune didn’t do much for me until the ending when i believe mike dropped asuper sonic bomb. not sure this comes through on the tape or if it even happened there at all. but he ice nine’d the crap out of that shed a few times. involuntary orgasm type of vibrations.”

    YES on Mike’s super sick ice nines at Wingsuit’s end! Had same experience from the GW pit. Whole pit blown back from stacks. Pit does cure most all ;0>

    Then from the center last row of SPAC balcony, barely discerned any ice nineeffect at Wingsuit’s end. Wasnt sure if Mike reigned it in or if I was too far back (in most every othwr way I love spac balc)

  8. sumodie Says:

    Ren, sounds like a direct sign to get outta metro nyc based on your previous comments expression dissatisfaction with your ‘hood. Strap on yer wingsuit & go for it!

  9. phlorida phan Says:


    ^a must watch, chica on some spice.

  10. BooVT Says:

    Listening to Mango Song Jam from LB 10. There’s some darkness in there. Yikes…

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    That Mango gets deep Boo.

  12. little umbrellas Says:

    “Those are my satellites.”

  13. sumodie Says:

    Metro North commuter rail looking like a great option from CT/MA

    New Haven line (eg Stamford CT or Port Chester NY) has plenty of trains that stop at Harlem / 125 St (39-56 min ride)

    Two choices post show ~11:30/11:45pm

    (Dont know where along 125th St the train stops. May or may not be same as closest subway stop to Randy’s…will find out)

    Assuming I can leave western MA by 3/3:15

    Gears a turnin’, maybe I’ll get my wingsuit on this weekend….

    MetroNorth Rail link for all you New Englanders on the fence:
    You’ll have to google it. Not able to post link apparently

  14. Gavinsdad Says:

    Hot show
    Energy show
    Hot energy show

  15. bob dylan Says:

    gdad, have you spun the 8.10.04 birds in a minute? today might be the day if you have a spare 21 mins

  16. nogoodpah Says:

    I dig White IPAs brewed with that pale wheat malt and that good stuff, citra, galaxy and centennial hops. Yum.

  17. BooVT Says:

    Yeah, that’s not right. Cute little innocent Mango Song in her flowery sundress and pigtails, kisses your cheek and blows in your ear and leads you by the hand behind the middle school. Then her three older brothers jump out from behind the dumpster, punch you in the face and steal your sneakers and lunch money.

  18. Dorn76 Says:

    Strap on your wingsuit.

    Sailor’s girl.

  19. Darth Vaper Says:

    Mango > Digicrap

  20. sumodie Says:

    Metro North Rail stops at 125th St & Park Ave

    One avenue block west of 125th St subway stop

    1.7 miles from concert site

    Will strap on my wingshoes

  21. Darth Vaper Says:

    At 16:05 in UIC ’98 Bag … Trey has about 4 loops all floating arouvd the arena. Maybe more… Maybe 7 or 8. Mike throws down bass lazers to shoot them down. But they continue to multiply… They’re floating everywhere.

    The only way to coral them is the Jimi Hendrix meets Zappa anthemic guitar wizardy.

    I love digicrap > hendrixy anthems.

  22. Darth Vaper Says:

    Here is the track…


  23. little umbrellas Says:

    Hey guys, you know what, to Trey’s credit, I just listened back to last nights Xeyed, and it’s Fish who brings the vocals back first. Often this is usually the cue that the jam is over. So there it is. Really Fish seems to be the one responsible for bringing that one to a close.

  24. little umbrellas Says:

    UIC 98 Bag 4 lyfe yo.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Fish is also the Reba killer, generally

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