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. Darth Vaper Says:

    I wish it was 1 minute Palmer. I didn’t want to make a mix tape if that’s what you are looking for?

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    nice piece Miner.
    how bout that Disease though!? oh yeah.

  3. little umbrellas Says:

    “That slower style of intricate playing has to be pretty tough? LilUmb?”

    @Case,
    Think it depends on your mindstate and what you think the crowd wants. Ive def had experiences in a jam at a show with a crowd where the music took this direction, and ive had the experience during this where I’ve been uncomfortable with not keeping the crowd dancing.

    But also Ive had experiences where the right intention is set about the spacecamp direction and found it a most easy, rewarding and voyaging experience to play.

    These guys are really good at it. correction, amazing at it.
    Pretty incredible that when an artist can take it space with such a big crowd. Need to respin the MannFuego, at the time I was still on my own horse of ‘I only want dark and intense, where is it?’, the RandyCarini helped ease that a bit. think i’m more ready to take that one in now.

    guess i’m saying I think the challenge here lies more in the mindstate then it does the technical difficulty of playing.

  4. vapebraham Says:

    ^^^ above post inspired by another incredible Tired Hands visit and take-home DIPA called Expert Analysis.

    Mannumberline is straight n’ tight.

  5. sumodie Says:

    Never wear denim to a phish show. Biggest fashion faux pas possible

    More srsly, my feet are beginning to tell me sandals are out for phish. Rocked my playa pumas at Randalls but need to find freshies

    Lol, have to go back and see where all this haute couture chatter started

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Oh, I don’t care.. I didn’t even listen.. I think it’s hysterical..

  7. Cable Hogue Says:

    New Englander and lifelong Sox fan here, that is classic stuff @jdub.

  8. jdub Says:

    Picked up a $19 pair of new balance sneaks on triple deal status for summer. Best. Purchase. Ever.

    They had me floating on air during MannFuego while everyone’s buzz mismanagement had them slumped in chairs.

  9. little umbrellas Says:

    ^actually if your in the right space and have are feeling good about providing spacecamp for the peeps… it’s actually a lot easier to listen and communicate in an improvisational nature when playing quiet and gentle.

    I always wear slacks and button ups. Bond would be proud, yet I post this much on a Phish board.

    #amIhip?
    ##whatIShip?

    @Sumo, Gdad must be a pretty enigmatic person in person. Peeps really notice his style.

  10. Darth Vaper Says:

    Still waiting for the Mike’s 5 footbell ring of approval.

  11. Darth Vaper Says:

    My rhymes flow like I’m covered head to toe In Costco

  12. Lycanthropist Says:

    I have to agree with @lilum

    It does take an enormous amount of control to be able to hit that awesome groove and keep it low to the ground, cause the initial urge is to start milking a jam that is hitting..

    but with experience, and as lilum said, the right mindset, you can dig deep in a slow, mellow, spacey, or light groove and achieve the same feeling of release that comes from hitting a good piece of improv in the live setting.

    and soooo sooo soo much of it comes from the connection between the musicians and the audience. The more attentive and into the music the audience is the easier it is to keep it quiet and gentle.

  13. jdub Says:

    Lol Mike from the AS,TX

  14. vapebraham Says:

    Mannsuit — best version to date? or was it the randysuit?

    still too much whale, see e.g., Randy halfway to the moon. come on man. you can play it clean.

  15. stapes Says:

    11:30 of Randall Ghost very Seven Below-ish. Could’ve slid right into it, but they hold on for some robo-funk.

    Hope we get a big -7 soon enough though.

  16. RoosterPizza Says:

    Last day in Japan…always a tough one.

  17. little umbrellas Says:

    Rock on Rooster. You got this. Vibes sent.

  18. vapebraham Says:

    it’s coming, stapes. probably tonight along with jibboo, farmhouse, waves, FEFY, undermind, YEM, bowie, gumbo, wombat, party time, and twist.

  19. vapebraham Says:

    Mansfield hood — $$$. magnificent.

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Go get rooster’d for us and come back with a good tale

  21. Mr. Palmer Says:

    If Phish does an official video from Sunday, I bet they go with Light.

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Rooster I will gladly pay you for whatever Rohto eye drops you can bring back.

    If you are running by a pharmacy on your way out.

    Love those!

  23. tela's_muff Says:

    yeah, tough call Palmer on the vid. funny thing is i absolutely love that Tweezer>Wading. not saying more than the CDT>Light but damn that Tweez is good, and other than Big Cypress Wading, that was a particularly perfect and favorite version.

  24. Aquaman Says:

    I still can’t believe that the first three songs of set 2 for Sunday is damn near 50+ minutes of jam-nasty.

    I still think I may have been dreaming it all.

  25. tela's_muff Says:

    Randall Stash easily my fav this era.

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