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. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Lakewood Ghost is just fucking unfair

    #AÜ’ed

  2. Joe Says:

    I’ll be the Guy who has to be at wedding shower instead of phish on Sunday. Yeah!

  3. Darth Vaper Says:

    Stoney is right. There is whale at 11:50. I didn’t notice it because I was doing deep knee bends alternating with high roundhouse kicks and breathing heavy.

    I am still at work. This blows

  4. Dr pro Says:

    Sumo – my train gets in to 125th around 4:45, and then I’ll be shooting for the 11:58 after the show. If we’re in the BB stack area for the 2nd set we can brave the Harlem wilds together over to the station (jk, that part of Harlem is easy peasy these days)

  5. aj Says:

    Lots of talk in Chicago about the weather next week, unseasonably cool, with daytime lows of mid 70s and down to low 60s at night… I will take it! Give me cool and breezy over balls hot and downpouring any day, amirite?

  6. little umbrellas Says:

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

    Nice! When I arrived for my first BB meet up, I had brought J’s and Spliffs. I enjoy a 90% flowers/10% Tobac mix. But knew that others don’t and was looking forward to passing out prerolls to the BB brethren.

    Think I did pretty good, but by the time it got to the moment, my stuff got mixed up and I wasn’t sure which were which.

    Color coded is key!

  7. gavinsdad Says:

    hot over cool no dizoubt.

    took the Gold Bond spray on test run at both Mann shows. legit.

  8. Darth Vaper Says:

    I was at that meetup LU. It was splendid

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    page in that lower register for the start of C&P and with the other hand hitting those diamond-y asterisk punches (24 secs). so tasty. so fresh. these are the little subtleties i like that just shift their whole style. lotsa folks like the jams…i like these little stylistic shifts just as much.

    and i was only w33dmind but i lived in fishmans snare during this one.

  10. little umbrellas Says:

    @Gdad, once again, your the only other BB’er and with some Mammatus knowledge. I’m gonna record their show tonight, will send you a boot if you want.

  11. ren2.0 Says:

    My Randys preroll game is tight. Started yesterday. Remember those BTW??? Randys…the gimmicky papers with built in roach clip LOL!

  12. ren2.0 Says:

    Wish we had another stream ta’night

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    Word MiA. Respect. Splendid indeed. Yours made it back to Austin right?

  14. Dorn76 Says:

    Was there a debate about whether the Crosseyedcwas good?

    Musical density, yo.

    Timer’d.

  15. phishm Says:

    Totally agree ren. So bored right now. I just cut the grass to kill time. Sure it needed to be done and all, but that’s for Sunday’s. 98 UIC Bag it is.

  16. aj Says:

    Damn, anyone who shows up at Randalls with days of pre rolls all up in Randy’s is deeply dialed in and bringing some super A game.

    http://www.theweedstreetjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/papers-et-al-65_1.jpg

    Too funny. Just imagine being at the show and being handed a roach clipped out bad boy.

  17. Dorn76 Says:

    My 2 prerolls were kinda wet from being in my sweaty pocket.

    Rethinking my Saturday preroll game.

  18. Plord Says:

    Home safe, bounced kids on the trampoline until they were exhausted, just finished unpacking.

    Calpain is a superb host, excellent dude, and rolls with a fine crew. Preshow kebabs on lot? Yes please.

    Rage out this weekend. Enjoy your Saturday night RnR opener 🙂

    See some of you at CMAC.

  19. Gavinsdad Says:

    Word Lumb I’d enjoy that. Check Carlton Melton too if they play a geodesic dome near u anytime soon. My heavy music picks up again in Aug w Earthless and Sleep.

  20. aj Says:

    Been very into Parquet Courts lately, heavy VU sound. Not sure if they have been discussed here before or not, but I think people would enjoy. On the total flip of that, the other album I have been loving this summer is Estara by Teebs, very washed out and spacey, great background vibe music.

    Phish.

  21. RoosterPizza Says:

    That Mike’s is some shit I like.

  22. gavinsdad Says:

    Interpretive Dancesuit

  23. bearito Says:

    After a gym spin of last nights 2nd set I am finally realizing that my own expectations at the onset of a song/jam are beyond futile, and now I’m on a mission to squash any future preconceived notions of what I think this band will do. Fuckin expectations man…

    Last night listening via Mannhole I felt like they missed opportunities at times. Listening back, I now think last night is a huge success, and those “missed opportunities” are merely projections. Band sounded tight as fawk and breathed new life into multiple sections of the music, wilderness’d or not.

    That CDT is GOLD. Can’t wait to hear what Randalls will bring. Enjoy folks!

  24. gavinsdad Says:

    right @bearito? it’s the flourishes….check the climbing phrase triz hits at 3:58 of the Twist and what that builds into. these aren’t jams, but very interesting little styley sections…they keep things fresh and in this case, swanktastic. i could have impregnated the barren during twist.

  25. Dorn76 Says:

    Things got pretty low to the ground during that Mike’s.

    Joints were a-poppin’.

    #dadrock’d

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