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. bearito Says:

    Speaking of E-cigs, two things:

    1. Some of the ecigs like square brand make excellent preroll vessels. I can usually get 4 in one tube which fit right into those secret spots in your pantalones.

    2. That dude from the Blu Cig commercials was at my restaurant a few months ago and came to the bar to ask me for a lighter. I was like, “Your Steven Dorfman. What about the Blu cig commercials brah? He’s like, “yeah…I know”. I then saw him outside a few minutes later smoking a joe.

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Good stuff Bearito.. Someone recommended the Blu system.. started with that one. It’s pretty good., Wish I did this a few months ago…

    Not a heavy smoker… Mostly when I’m driving to and from work, and my achilles heal…. shows… No more. No pinched nose gestures coming my way, I tell you!

  3. thedayman Says:

    Treys got his tone dialed in on the first chalkdust solo thus far $$$ sounds great!

  4. voopa Says:

    I quit smoking while driving. That may have the hardest part. Now the rest.

  5. bearito Says:

    Driving was definitely the hardest part about 86’n cigs

  6. xpun Says:

    well fuck palmer who am i going to smoke with? no congrats dude, keep it up

  7. xpun Says:

    map has the stage so we are facing SW back towards Manhattan. will make for a pretty nice backdrop.

    has phish ever played outside in nyc? i’m not sure of actual locations of jones beach or where they played in Brooklyn, but did they have views of the skyline?

    Randy’s Simple. We’ve got skyscrapers!

  8. voopa Says:

    Speaking of conceptions…I ran into an old girlfriend on Sunday the 6th…we stopped dating in ’96 and I hadn’t seen her in over 10 years until Sunday…she has a 6 year old daughter who’s a piano prodigy, but her parents never played.

    But I did…

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    killin me bro… gotta do it. I’ve quit for at least 6 months like 6 different times.. Was up to like 2 packs a week, which is a lot for me.. Tired of it.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Poppa Voops!

  11. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Should be some sort of view… Xpun. Few bridges right there also..

  12. bearito Says:

    While not the cleanest version, that McGrupp must have been a nice treat yesterday. Ive only caught a handful personally. That Gorge version from last summer may be my fav. Something clicked that night for me during that set and I remember the McGrupp being responsible. Rainbow’d

  13. xpun Says:

    i don’t think your sperm can live inside a vagina for 12 years before fertilizing an egg. but i’m not 100% on that one. let me ask my son what he’s learned at the back of the school bus

  14. RicksFork Says:

    I was trying to figure that out on my drive in the other day Xpun. Stage is definitely back to the city. Bridges for sure and some skyline I would bet. Could be pretty cool with the sun setting over the city.

  15. RicksFork Says:

    I’ve got a feeling everyone’s gonna get a randjob one night this weekend.

  16. xpun Says:

    i here ya palmer. nasty little things. i had quit for over 2 years, then off and on and now back up to half pack a day or so these days. hate them

  17. Dorn76 Says:

    The length of that gestation period would have me a wee bit concerned.

    Gordo went to 26 months I heard. You want your kid to be an alien?

  18. BingosBrother Says:


    I don’t even have a rating system for you people anymore. You guys, man. You guys are some fuckin aces.

  19. bearito Says:

    Taking the wife to the beach Sunday of Northerly run. Will I be able to beachcast that bad boy to her iPhone?

  20. xpun Says:

    plus that manhattan henge thing (i dont remember the trendy name theyve given it)

    im probably going to hit up some of those world cup viewing party things sat and sun if anyone is down for that

  21. bearito Says:

    Randjob def gets my “Gold Star of the Day” award

  22. RicksFork Says:

    Didn’t know if I was taking it too far with that one. Now I’m realizing that’s not really possible here is it?

  23. RoosterPizza Says:

    When it comes to the case of the six year old piano prodigy, voopa, you-are-the-father!

  24. BingosBrother Says:


    After I read this book, the day I stopped smoking I knew I’d never smoke again and still have no desire almost 2 years later. Take it from me and a bunch of other drug addicts and read the fucking book. It’s boring and seems stupid, but it works. Do it.

  25. Dorn76 Says:

    We get weird, we get serious. Kaya naps.

    Same as it ever was.

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