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. Darth Vaper Says:

    I think Randall’s is gonna get the big second set kickdown Bag.

    I seriously love this CDT. Favorite jam of the year. I love that when it’s often the jam they played last night.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    Respin of last nights Dust commencing.

  3. jtran Says:

    Mann Fuego has me by the viking horns (or animal horns or whatever that line is).


  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    My favorite jams so far are the Spac Limb, Mann Fuego, and Mansfield Hood… In no particular order…

    Would love a set II Bag… Has there been on in 3.0? How about a Bag>Melt to open set II tomorrow? Something a little different..

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Crosseyed last night…


  6. Stoney Case Says:

    Lots of highlights from SpaceCamp! Loved what I’ve heard for the most part. Dank Jams. Jambrosia.

  7. Darth Vaper Says:


    Crosseye’d from Rochester ’13 jam. Right up there with CDT jam. Kissing cousins.

    So damn damn good. Fav of fall. Listen to Philly Dust > that. You’ll love it.

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Can’t wait for that big GA field in …NYC? Hell yeah!

  9. Gavinsdad Says:

    Quibble: devotion and Monica shouldn’t be played in same set or show. Spread those 2 out.

  10. Darth Vaper Says:

    There is zero whaling in this CDT.

  11. sumodie Says:

    Getting randy for Randall’s

    Must believe that I can make this happen

    O Wookie Jesus, keep my weekend highways clear! And I shall toe The Line if necessary

    Rolling rolling rolling…..

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Do it Sumo…. Nothing can stop you.

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    Wookie Jesus Loves You Sumo!

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I must commend Luther and his exquisite pre-roll game.. Up their with the greats from the BB..

    5 varieties, color coded for identification… A giant in the pre-roll game.

    The ” Blue Dream” night cap was indeed like “floating on a cloud of titties” before sleep..

  15. tela's_muff Says:

    Mia – right with u on this CDT. Best jam to my ears. Several segments of wow. As we’re driving to Salida we had it fully engaged. Stapes said there was some whale in there that bugged him for a minute I didn’t hear it.

  16. snow Says:

    Time to put you 24bit Mann Fartsuit on… via my orange.

  17. Gavinsdad Says:

    Putting my feet up = prerollin’

    Jello I didn’t get to try that White Russian, or see Luther inside the actual show. Another reason ga field/floor so much…you can get a mess of people together.

    See you at randoz @Sumo

  18. snow Says:

    time to put your fartsuit on…

  19. Gavinsdad Says:

    ^reason I like

    All out of state work related mtgs done for the week. Half day tmrw and more shows. Bring it.

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    This tour could use a razor to the throat

  21. sumodie Says:

    Official Phish Randall’s map


    (Didn’t see non twit link)

  22. Joe Says:

    Sumo. If I could, I would (gladly be your copilot). Do it for me! Don’t be selfish, we need you

  23. Stoney Case Says:

    Eggselent call T3! Potatoes to the throat!

    There’s a little bit of pretty darn tasty whale in the CDT. MiA needs to spin it sans conference call with India in one ear.

    Limb, Disease, Mann CDT, SPAC Fuego and Light my faves.

  24. sumodie Says:

    Phish map is where we expected concert grounds to be, just west of Ichan stadium:


    Kinda sorta AMPED!

  25. sumodie Says:

    Joe, Sun is very likely but doubtful I can leave Amherst MA before 3pm. Current plan is to bomb down to Stamford CT metro north train & ride rail to 125 St & Park Ave

    (See my posts above)

    But just noticed that Sunday parking passes are still available. Afraid of getting stuck in car traffic near Triborough bridge…..hhmmmm

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