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”

  1. Frankie Says:

    Also heard at the start of the jam the guitar lick that ends the Gorge 09 Gin and surfaces in other places (Ghost NYE ’12)… Check it out!

  2. mayhem Says:

    Oh shit now I mind to check that Frankie. But will have to wait a bit because I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but… This chalkdust!

  3. Frankie Says:

    One last thing tonight, the Andrea Nusinov picture at the top of this post is really beautiful! Great work!

    The end of this Disease is echoplexed goodness! Another homerun!

  4. Darth Vaper Says:

    I just spun the Cmac disease. Very nice.

  5. mayhem Says:

    @bk nonsense should be a PSA to not do L every show, or at least have a base of experience before first

  6. Frankie Says:

    Oh wait, it wasn’t the end…

    This jam has many different sections… Really cool!

    Felt like Gordo wanted to keep it going to another chapter but Trey pulled the plug with the BOTT chords… Bass continued a bit in revolt…

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    First baby’s mouth thing I’ve read in a long time. Cry for help. Borderline mental health crisis. Agree with @mayhem, kid needs a year off tour and away from psychedelics. Not even funny anymore.

  8. plord Says:

    Oh well, we were due.

    Decent first set, a hot Buried Alive went down with hundreds of people still trying to get in through the stage right gate. Oops. Twist in the second spot, nice, if contained. The Wombat seemed pretty meaty, they can do that to it every time as far as I am concerned and I will boogie down. Typical 3.0 Gin and Bowie.

    The DWD felt like srs bsns, in line with recent highlights, and then…speaking of the ebbs and tides of BB discussion, sure as fuck, as soon as Miner writes about the band “finally crafting flowing, contoured second sets on a consistent basis” they drop an orange/mint flavored chartreuse paisley Derpicorn of a second set. Christ in a sidecar with a lobster bib and chocolate jimmies…that was almost painful. #meatsticked

  9. Darth Vaper Says:

    Gotta admit I read/scanned that. Wow.

    IMO, Too much acid can lead to an overinflated sense of ego and then into sociopathic tendencies.

    Ymmv.

  10. MrCompletely Says:

    Ok the part about being unable to create art to compete with a band that you have utterly dedicated yourself to obsessing about was a little funny.

  11. Darth Vaper Says:

    That was an awesome writeup right there though plord!

  12. alexj Says:

    sunday was definitely something special.

    the whole weekend was great, but sunday felt like the hoopla/limelight/pressure of the weekend had subsided, and the band had a chance to relax and let loose with a crowd half the size from the night before, and let loose they did. like you said, mr. miner, from the first note to the last, they were into it, and it felt like a show for the band, and their fans.

    fishman was out of control, i know its almost an absurd statement, but seriously, listen to “water in the sky” if you want a quick glimpse of how on he was, the woodblock man, the woodblock. page also destroyed that song.

    you forgot to mention how perfect the venue and scenery was. it’s not uncommon for mid july weekends in ny to be 95+ degrees, 90% humidity, and full of mid afternoon thunderstorms, which would’ve turned that field to a mud pit by the first set on friday. perfect weather, and perfect views of the skyline, bridges, and river wherever you were in the venue added so much to my experience.

    the band and kuroda made it seem as though a spaceship had landed in nyc during that chalkdust -> light-> tweezer thing, and i’ll never forget it. i almost wish there were no recordings of this show, just so it could be a perfectly encapsulated memory for those of us who were there to hold onto forever, but at the same point, i thank whatever gods y’all pray to, that the music made this night is available to those not lucky enough to have been there.

    never miss a sunday show folks.

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    Indeed @Darth. Takes a grounded type to absorb a heavy barrage of psychedelics a and not fall into those traps. The comedown off the Illusion of Infinite Significance can be brutal, too.

    Don’t mean to pile on criticism. Doesn’t seem helpful. But it is a literal reality check/cautionary tale.

  14. Darth Vaper Says:

    I art with Phish. I make with them. I take what they give me and draw anew. This is the transmission of one artist to another. This is the anxiety of influence. This is why I am lost before shows, and only find myself again once I am home. Deep in the second set is where I am most myself. I am the artist and the critic in one

    Well maybe not that second set on particular but often in second sets. I wish it was first sets. Or even an encore… I digress…

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    I’d read a plord phishblog if it was written in that style

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    My brain just wrote like five jokes and three cutting observations about that paragraph but it’s unsporting at this point

  17. mayhem Says:

    then this light and molasses tweezer, I’m not a ranker but right now this is the best shit ever

  18. plord Says:

    I’d run out of metaphors real quick, would be the problem. I have no idea how Miner kept going every show for so long.

    Forgot about the DSky, which had a longer outro jam than usual.

    I am totally projecting on this, no truth to it whatsoever, BUT: in my tiny brain, Trey was fighting that Gin, Sky, and Bowie, and to his and the band’s credit, they pushed and pushed until they got back on the road to a natural peak. Indicative of the focus and intent of this tour.

    Hey, the DWD WAS actually 20 minutes. Def worth a spin.

  19. mayhem Says:

    Fuck yeah. Bring it home Trey! Sorry, thats so good

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    The end of the tweezer you mean mayhem? That’s a real nice moment after the long journey

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    The DWD felt like srs bsns, in line with recent highlights, and then…speaking of the ebbs and tides of BB discussion, sure as fuck, as soon as Miner writes about the band “finally crafting flowing, contoured second sets on a consistent basis” they drop an orange/mint flavored chartreuse paisley Derpicorn of a second set. Christ in a sidecar with a lobster bib and chocolate jimmies…that was almost painful. #meatsticked

    ^ yup. that about sums it up.

  22. plord Says:

    I’ve been fooled twice by midweek skip shows at CMAC. Nice venue, love the Finger lakes region deeply (family history in Conesus/Geneseo), but…unless the next CMAC is on a Sunday, I might pass.

  23. mayhem Says:

    Yeah, exactly @mr. C. I love it. Such a good feeling for me when trey has that swagger. Could be just me, but I can feel his confidence

  24. mayhem Says:

    Plord, dont do it! They have files on all of us. The one you skip will be the one

  25. Selector J Says:

    lol @plord. Brilliant!

    To the tune of Wombat:
    Derpicorn… LOBSTER BIB!

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