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. TreasureReprise Says:

    I’m with ya Miner on this review. I’m still digesting what happened last weekend. Truly a lovely time with the usual suspects and was great to meet a handful of BBers along the way. See y’all out there again soon this summer folks. This tour has become a huge priority this summer for me due to this new level of playing I just didn’t foresee coming.

  2. jdub Says:

    To get that Light jam in the middle of an amazing stretch of music is just… amazing. So a section of that Tweezer jam reminds me of an often hinted at Cannonball Adderley “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. Kind of like the BGCA ’12 comedown jam in Light, except a more subtle and full band embrace. Love how they bring closure to that segment. Am I hearing things?

  3. vapebraham Says:

    ^^^ agreed, tela’s. that Randystash was the best stash to date.

  4. Stoney Case Says:

    Tonight will feature the tours first Wilson and a mikes groove with extended jam on mikes

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Tela’s- Yes on the Stash…First one I was really taken aback by… Was fully immersed in the Stash-ness on that one..

    Too bad they don’t do the whole segment for a video.. Wading included of course…

    Coming under a christmas tree near you this winter… The Complete Randall’s Island Box Set w/ DvD’s….

  6. jdub Says:

    Mikes 2nd jam would probably decimate the community. Not sure people could handle it.

  7. tela's_muff Says:

    Trey needs to play Splits and Bowies like he does that Stash.

  8. vapebraham Says:

    phish so good right now, i’m looking for a gloryhole for tonight.

  9. vapebraham Says:

    speaking of tela’s, why not a Tela tonight?

  10. MrCompletely Says:

    If they hit us with another heavyweight session soon I may not have time to go back through that Sunday trio in detail like I want to. But suffice to say that there’s a real interesting contour to that series of jams. I forget who it was, but someone said they liked jams that were a little loose and searching and got their balls busted a bit for it. I don’t know that I prefer that but I do know what he meant and to the the Dust jam is exactly that. It’s conversational in the extreme and contains at least a few potential dead ends that were averted, though not narrowly – I wonder if someone got in Trey’s ear about the Tweezer > Ghost chop from last week, where he stepped so hard on Fishman, because this time around he allowed the momentum of the drums to carry him through the stretches where he got stuck or lost.

    Anyway my point is that the Dust jam has, by the end of it, an air of achievement – it wasn’t easy, but they stuck with it and got into a real high level sync in the latter half and never really hit a wall because Trey allowed the rhythm section to do its job. Then after the reset into Light the jams that follow have an entirely different feel to me, locked in and fluid from the drop. There’s a tremendous little blast of Trey/Fishman communication in the early stages of that Light jam and then Trey clearly just signals a peak and the band is able to execute the play-call on demand. Overall, where the Dust jam was conversational and developed with care and despite some missteps, I’d say the Light jam is highly intentional.

    Then the Tweezer jam is just natural flow. While the Light peak comes from a conscious decision, the Tweezer peak emerges organically out of the groove.

    Really an interesting segment of music with multiple distinct stages, and not just because they’re demarcated with songs. The jams build on each other in a coherent way. Good stuff.

  11. RoosterPizza Says:

    PB, I’ll take a look for you.

  12. garretcorncob Says:

    Can’t for the life of me remember the name of the standard Trey quotes in the Randy Light. Anybody know what I’m talking about? I’ll go back and find it at some point, it just needs to wait until I explain to two real estate agents why it is that a loan process that began 2 months ago is going down to the wire, in danger of falling apart…

    Hint: it’s not my fault.

  13. vapebraham Says:

    thinking about flying into detroit for wednesday’s show.

    SPAC piper — $$$. don’t forget about it amidst the glory of Mandalls. It is tops of tour.

  14. vapebraham Says:

    garretc: St. Thomas in the Light by sonny rollins

  15. phlorida phan Says:

    We already got the Mike’s 2nd jam, it just happened to be in the Randust. Thought that was a pretty funny joke.

    Also 2nd the love of Rohtos, or as I call em, Eye Sex. They sell em here PB, at least a yr ago they did. What’s your color, my fav is the green top.

  16. jdub Says:

    Piper is due …

    Piper, scents, Undermind tonight

  17. vapebraham Says:

    scents! give it the treatment

  18. jdub Says:

    Randust Mikes 2nd jam was hilarious. Have to believe band was conscious of it. If they go full Monty on Mikes Groove tonight , the fix is in.

  19. Mr. Palmer Says:


    Opener- ALumni Blues or CTB

    Seven Below

  20. gavinsdad Says:

    downloading now. but going to watch All-star game w the kids. will listen late nite.

    thanks Miner. thanks BB. good seeing many of you over the past 5 shows. you are all, literally, really kind people. sorry i couldn’t hang more but i needed to be in this one dancing spot @ Randalls to get in my zone.

    “dont let me get in maaah zone”

  21. garretcorncob Says:

    Of course it’s St. Thomas! Thank you Kaya, I’ve been racking my brain nonstop…

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Buried ALive open

  23. vapebraham Says:

    garretc: also listen for it in the RandyHood from night 2. I see phish.net has caught up w/ that brief tease. More St. thomas in the Light.

  24. jdub Says:

    Show start already?

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Buried Alive>Twist so far

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