A Speechless Sunday

Randall's Island (Andrea Nusinov)

Randall’s Island (Andrea Nusinov)

Well that escalated quickly! Amidst one of the best tours of their career, Phish absolutely annihilated Randall’s Island in New York City this last weekend. Weighted heavily towards the second two shows, the three-night stand shattered even the loftiest musical expectations and set the bar inconceivably high for the rest of Summer Tour. The band is improvising with a level of patience an audacity unseen in this era, and the results have been staggering. Not only is Phish weaving individual excursions into the infinite, but they are finally crafting flowing, contoured second sets on a consistent basis. Their willingness to take long form risks and to push through sections where, in recent years they would have moved on, has paid off in droves. Jams are reaching depths we haven’t seen in this era and covering ludicrous amounts of musical ground. Though enjoyable as it was to watch Phish recreate themselves over their first five years back, there always seemed to be a sense of nostalgia involved. To many, this era seemed to be a way to relive the glory days. But now more than ever, any thoughts of the past have been wiped away by a Summer onslaught on original and innovative music. It’s 2014 and Phish is peaking again.

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

But let’s cut through the chase—Sunday’s show was something special. The weekend built upon itself, one night after another, and peaked with the best two-set Phish show in quite some time. Each frame featured shrewd song selections, impeccable flow, and absolute lock-step jamming from “Sand” to “Slave.” And in between we heard some of the most complex improvisation the band has churned out in a hot minute, and most often the catalyst was Jon Fishman. With a stripped down kit this summer, Fish has been an absolute maestro on the skins, and there is no better illustration that Sunday’s second set. Listen to the morphing feels of “Chalk Dust” as he guides the band through a far out excursion in astral jazz. Playing with a cymbal-heavy feel, and a sense of light, airy syncopation, Fish pushed the music into a jazz-like abstraction. Though his work shone throughout the jam (and set), things get really interesting in the piece’s final section which moves into a festival, middle-of-the-night type ambiance. The journey to get to this place, however, is nothing short of mind numbing. After a glorious, early peak to this jam, the band just continued moving outwards, section by section, but contrary to the Mann’s version, the ideas in Randall’s “Chalk Dust” jams were fully explored and themes were developed rather than touched upon. This was a magnificent Phish jam of the most virtuoso degree—almost a half-hour of dense, original improvisation. This was the absolute business. And when Phish is feeling IT like this, you knew there was more magic just around the corner.

Taking this momentum and diving into “Light,” the band was clearly enjoying the wide-open musical space and chose another springboard from which to get there. And once again, the guys spun a wove an original tale that landed in an intricate Mind Left Body jam. The astounding thing about Phish right now is just how diverse their jamming is. In eras past, they have been stylistically focused by tour, but in right now their jams differ so much from one to another that its incredible the same band is playing them. But they are, and Phish concerts are now reaching places we’ve dreamt they’d get to since the band’s return.

When Phish is locked in a zone like Sunday, they can do no wrong, so following a unique peak to “Light,” Trey swung for the fences with a mid-set “Tweezer” and the band hit it straight out of sight. Once again favoring variation, the band deviated from the norm in this jam and came up with a profound take on their classic that follows the song’s improvisational boon of 2013. Trey progressed the jam out of the dance realm and brought it, the set and the show to a monumentally cathartic peak, completing the most powerful trifecta we’ve heard from the band in years—“Chalk Light Tweeze.”

The guys capped the night with a patient version of “Slave to the Traffic Light,” but the story of this show was hardly limited to the second set. Phish came out firing on Sunday night, riding undeniable momentum from a stellar Saturday performance. How ‘bout “Sand,” “Winterqueen,” and a “Reba” with extra mustard to start the show, a grinding “Runaway Jim” and a totally bent “Split” all before setbreak? It all happened and was surrounded by tight, punchy renditions of other Phish classics. This was an exquisite two-set performance that never relented for a moment and reminded us that, in fact, the best is yet to come.

I: Sand, Winterqueen, Reba, Birds of a Feather, Water in the Sky, Possum, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Split Open and Melt

II: Chalk Dust Torture > Light > Tweezer, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Sing Monica, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer Reprise

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320 Responses to “A Speechless Sunday”

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  1. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Thanks for the write-up.. Hope to hear more thoughts on Randall’s from you shortly.. Know you were pressed for time on this one..

    Have a great show

  2. Kaveh Says:

    @miner: nice writeUp and thanks.

  3. Cable Hogue Says:

    Have a great show, Miner!

    Good time to be a fan. If they start dropping 1st set jams like the Randall’s Gin and Stash consistently, we’ll really need to look out.

  4. Dorn76 Says:

    Now we’ll have to shelve the wardrobe talk. Freakin Miner.

  5. sumodie Says:

    You know it, Miner! What a fantastic night. Thanks for the write-up

    Hope you and everyone else at CMAC and beyond get some more top shelf PH this summer

  6. tela's_muff Says:

    well done Miner. The power of the Sunday second set ripped my non-pocketed shorts right off my body.

  7. poopgoblin Says:

    30 corncob . you have some time.

    when you’re 40 like me it’s just silly.

  8. aj Says:

    Amazing night and weekend if music, hope there is more lined up for the Midwest. Safe travels all.

  9. Stoney Case Says:

    Hell yeah Miner! Been a hot minute for an excursion like Sundays RanDust Lightweezer.

    Gonna show off the skinkles (skinny ankles) in my carhartt shorts. Who doesn’t work outdoors on a farm?

  10. lumpyhead Says:

    Maybe my favorite run yet.

  11. jtran Says:

    SW been dropping really cheap fares for this fall. Really wish they’d announce fall tour so I can book my air.

  12. jdub Says:

    No one does hyperbole like Miner. No one. But I love it. Fish is killing it and all is well with the world.

    I am the uncoolest, non hip motherfucker around. I just wear whatever my wife buys me at old navy once a year. Shorts when it’s hot, pants when it’s cool. Keep it simple stupid is my motto.

  13. jdub Says:

    The one designer pant/short combo I sport is carhart. I require them for work, nothing else would last. But for my casual dress it is whatever the misus puts in the closet.

  14. Darth Vaper Says:

    Nice writeup Miner. Safe travels all! Have a great show tonight!

    A little of the Jim from Sunday. I guess I missed the first set.

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5880191/1-07%20Runaway%20Jim.mp3

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    Glad you’re enjoying the shows, miner. That last set at Randall’s was pretty special, particularly if you dig the drummer led sound.

    Lol judging people’s clothes is something teenage girls, grumpy old men and trolls do. Too funny! Although I must admit I troll the bankers, lawyers and other status conscious antiques in my building with how I dress, so fair’s fair.

  16. Cable Hogue Says:

    I’m with jdub and stoney as the shorts-sporting contingent. But I’m a blue collar guy.

  17. Gcno Says:

    Solid write up – although I’m pretty sure I’ve read that first paragraph, and versions of it, on this page before. But I am indeed curious about the rest of the weekend.

  18. Cable Hogue Says:

    lol at that Runaway Jim clip. Just painful.

  19. Cable Hogue Says:

    lol at that Runaway Jim clip. Just painful.

  20. Cable Hogue Says:

    sorry. seems doubly negative when it posts twice.

    Phish rules!

  21. tela's_muff Says:

    wait, i hadn’t heard the Jim yet. is that for real???

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Wait…. you really pulled a 1 minute clip of something bad out of a 3 hour concert?

    Tough Crowd… LOL!

  23. bobby weird Says:

    RL’s Fashion Lwas:

    No shorts (over 40)
    No flip flops
    No Birks
    No non-flat brims
    No frat boy attire (esp ND gear)
    No hemp
    No crystals
    Only approved kicks

    I pay attention because I wear Jorts!

  24. vapebraham Says:

    Inspiring piece, Miner. 100% agree. No hyperbole – this is IT!

    I love this tour!

  25. jdub Says:

    @cable, your blue collar guy comment made me think of two quotes from a Boston sports radio station caller that have my brother and I chuckling for years. Spoken with a heavy Boston accent “Trot Nixon is a blue collar hitter” – after a game winning hit. And “I’ve seen his high school transcript, Many Ramirez is borderline retarded” after a typical bonehead play in left field.

    Totally way off subject and probably only funny to those from New England. Just thought I’d share.

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