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. bobby weird Says:

    Ricks, i’m sure you know, but if Yanks don’t make playoffs Jeter’s last game is at Fenway. talk about pressure on Sox to deliver a proper sendoff……

  2. jdub Says:

    There are 3 modern day Yankees that Sox fans respek. Jeter, Rivera, and Williams. Maybe Petite as well. But Jeter and Rivera are gold. Respek

  3. vapebraham Says:

    wombat — perfect song for them right now. plays to their strengths. this is the version to spin for your grandkids someday.

  4. vapebraham Says:

    fight bells (3)

    yes! womjam

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Decided against glory hole stream… rather listen to flacs of previous shows..

  6. vapebraham Says:

    madigan’s awesome tonight, plams.

  7. Dorn76 Says:

    I’ll give you Pedroia, Papi, Manny and Pedro.

    In return I ask you to consider Paulie O, Tino or Posada.

    (I know you’ll say screw Jorge)

  8. bobby weird Says:

    cant decide between Madigan tin can and Mohawk1 much fuller sound but mostly in right ear…

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    maybe I’ll pop on set II…

    Stash, Steam>Disease

    Then Carini>Ghost>Wingsuit for the 10th time.

  10. bobby weird Says:

    had longstanding man crush on him. another “get it done quietly and effectively” Yankee…

  11. vapebraham Says:

    palmer: sounds like u have a thing for phish. me too.

    classy bowie.

  12. Dorn76 Says:


  13. Dorn76 Says:


  14. RicksFork Says:

    Gotta respect Paulie O. Dude was all passion. Loved that guy. As a Yanks fan I respect Papi and Lester a lot. Had a run in with Pedroia in Boston one day and he was a dick, so I can’t get on board with him. I love the way he plays though. BB (baseball talk).

  15. bobby weird Says:

    like the way Pedroia plays the game but he will always be 3′ 11″

  16. Cable Hogue Says:

    Great first set, loved Wombat, very nice clean Dsky with a creative solo, swanky Twist, solid Gin and Bowie, not as much whale.

    who is still going to be hating on Wombat after a couple more performances like that?

    setbreak music for me: Super Furry Animals “Rings Around The World”. nice.

    Sox fan here with huge respect for Jeter. It’s undeniable he became the greatest player from the once upon a time young SS triumverate of A Rod, Nomar and DJ…I wouldn’t have predicted that. Guy is just a consummate ballplayer.

  17. Cable Hogue Says:

    Pedroia’s “Laser Show” quote was one of my favorite things an athelete has said in a long time. Cocky little bstrd.

    “A lot of people said I didn’t belong in the majors, my swing was too big…what happened next? Laser show.”

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    If it wasn’t for the shorts thing earlier I’d start trolling baseball about now but I don’t have the heart

    Pretty sick NBA off-season so far though

  19. jdub Says:

    screw Paulie, whiney bastard. I’ll take Georgie

  20. TreasureReprise Says:

    Double in an exhibition game notwithstanding, Jeter is incredibly overrated. You don’t get the nickname “Captain Intangibles” by putting up heavy offensive stats consistently throughout your career. Rivera on the other hand, best ever at his position but I am totally put off by the retirement gift giving by all the other organizations. Let Hank Steinbrenner get these guys a gold watch.

  21. jdub Says:

    Wombat has a sick break down. Jekyl and hyde type shit. Song itself is so so lame, but the jam is so so dirty. Curious where it goes.

  22. jdub Says:

    here we go

  23. Dorn76 Says:

    I can’t get personal. Maybe he was constipated.

    Met Brady and Giselle out once in Boston. We had beers at a table at that place that used to be at corner of Faneuil Hall looking toward N. End….My buddy acted in awe and went on about connecting with his Dad over Pat’s wins. (Really. It was rough. I stared at Giselle). She was a doll, telling is about how the wives get together on the road and party. Asked for an autograph and a pic, Giselle said in a perfect German accent, “Tom does not like the photos”…Tommy barely said 3 words.

    That line has legs with my buddies in a big way.

  24. RicksFork Says:

    Incredibly overrated? Career .311 hitter with 3400 hits?

  25. Dorn76 Says:

    Haha overrated.

    What’s his postseason avg?

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