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. sumodie Says:

    Gdad, I’ve got Sleep with opener Earthless/J Mascis (aka Heavy Blanket) on my Aug calendar

    Have you heard the one hour Earthless/Heavy Blanket jam from Roadburn 2011? Just released 7/8 as ‘In a Dutch Haze’:

    http://heavyblanket.bandcamp.com/album/earthless-meets-heavy-blanket-in-a-dutch-haze

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Mann McGrupp

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lm806FFBQY

  3. RoosterPizza Says:

    CDT got my attention with the CDT>WTU at Lakewood 12. Been pretty damn consistent in the second set since then.

  4. voopa Says:

    Home solo. Can finally catch up on what I’ve missed in the Phish, TV, Sports, etc. worlds. Over pet loss. It does get easier as one ages (and deals with it multiple times), but at the time it doesn’t seem any easier.

    So apparently I have some Fuegos and a Xeyed to spin…what else?

  5. sumodie Says:

    Spun the Mann Fuego Dust jams & SPAC YEM, mmmmm good

    Mood is elevated now that I’ve got a workable Randy plan for at least Sunday

    Train has got to be a safer option than dealing with summer traffic on CT I-95 & Triborough bridge region. Patsy’s pizza at 116th st def off the table tho

    Sleep can wait till next week

  6. voopa Says:

    I’m already well-versed in the Great Hood. Been studying that off and on for the last week (you know, during all of my spare time).

  7. little umbrellas Says:

    The Dust from last night. The Limb by Limb from SPAC, last nights Mike’s are some more to add to the mix Voopa.

  8. Baileys Vomit Says:

    Longtime lurker, first time poster. Anyone know if Randall’s is going to be webcast?

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Voops- from Mann1- Fuego, Ghost>2001>Hood>Reprise

    Mann 2- CDT, Twist Crosseyed, Mikes Sally

  10. little umbrellas Says:

    Oh yeah, Piper was good.

  11. voopa Says:

    Sweet, thanks! Playlist for the evening is set. Time to scare up some dinner.

  12. bearito Says:

    Second most important thing next to prerolls is the receptacle in which they are stowed.

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    i need real help as i have so many thoughts on the matter.

    pill jar obvs the best, fits many. but round. i like flatter. to that end i have a “tight vac” but it only fits 3 and i generally have 4/5. @calpain gave me a nice larger lab specimen container but it’s a bit too bit. eclipse mints tin leave a hint of mint. i want to design one that’s got rounded edges/ends and fits five, even if you have to flip flop em (in the case you roll semi conical like YT)

    wife time before a few days away. nite dudes

  14. voopa Says:

    Tapes. Bring a Walkman and some hollowed tapes (as canisters). They won’t know what to think.

  15. voopa Says:

    ..and and eyeglass screwdriver (to reopen the cassettes).

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Done with cigs.. Had my last one yesterday.. Bought one of those E-cig thingys. Gotta work this time….

  17. BingosBrother Says:

    “Impregnate the barren.”

    +Infinity

  18. garretcorncob Says:

    The key to stashing pre-rolls:

    Have a wallet that zips shut. Remove from pocket during pat down, wave pre-rolls in security’s faces, unzip and remove as needed.

  19. RicksFork Says:

    Evening team. In NYC early for work and it was a beautiful day. This city really is amazing, but I’m glad I get to go home when I get tired of it. Not sure I could live it every day.

    Shout out to Vape for making it even more enjoyable by supplying me with a DL code from last night. Spent the whole day riding the subway and walking from meeting to meeting and got to enjoy last nights highlights over and over again while I did it. Always makes me smile to think what other people are listening to during their day vs. the greatness that I’m taking in.

    CDT and Mikes really stood out for me, but I thought the whole show was a rocker and it made me wish it was tomorrow already. Hoping to possibly meet a few of you guys this weekend at Randy’s house.

  20. Dorn76 Says:

    GD’s Immaculate Conception.

    It sure as shit did twist around that way.

  21. bearito Says:

    Congrats Palmer! Quit almost 8 years ago after getting up to 2 packs a day in my early 20’s. Almost relapsed a couple years back and got into vaping as an alternative. It works and you get to try all these delicious flavors. My current favorite flavor is Churro.

  22. Vapebraham Says:

    Right on, ricks, get some.

    I’m hoping for a randyhole.

  23. RicksFork Says:

    3 Randy codes coming your way this weekend Vape.

  24. RoosterPizza Says:

    Bobandy Island

  25. BingosBrother Says:

    Rickey gon git Friday`d. Shake n bake.

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