Randall’s Reprise

Randall's Island (Andrea Nusinov)

Randall’s Island (Andrea Nusinov)

Phish’s three-night stand at Randall’s Island was a perfect litmus test of where they are as a band right now in their 31st year of existence. While most bands their age are playing greatest hits on reunion tours, Phish is neck deep in one of their most creative phases of their career. Through Randall’s Island, Phish had nailed seven of its past second sets in full—and when is the last time that could be said of the aging superheroes of the 3.0 era? Playing tour’s two most impressive second sets on consecutive nights in front of a New York metro audience, Phish plunged depths in their improvisations that were informed by both patience and persistence. Phish has owned these qualities thus far this summer, allowing jams to develop far beyond a single theme, and often stretching into several. Very often it has been the later sections of jams that have gotten the most outlandish—see New York’s “Bathtub Gin,” “Disease” “Carini,” “Ghost,” “Chalk Dust,” and “Tweezer” as prime examples. The band has been patient in an individual sense, allowed all members to offer up ideas and guide improvisations, but they have also been very patient with the group as a whole, providing space for whole-band searching where necessary, and usually not giving up until something is found. And therein lied the biggest juxtaposition between Friday’s Randall’s show and the next two—how easily they bailed on jams.

On Friday night, Phish had several second-set selections teed up and ready for liftoff, only to turn the other way and keep the setlist moving. This is usually a tactic employed when the band isn’t feeling the flow, but on Friday night, they most certainly felt it in spots as they dropped elite versions of “Bathtub Gin” and “Down with Disease” and a smoking “Stash.” But when “Steam” opened the second set, primed to get the full treatment for the first time in its life, the band got a tad discombobulated as the jam was seeming to open up, and Trey reeled everything awkwardly back. Then in “Golden Age,” the guys seemed to be moving in an ambient direction when they decided to skirt a college try once again. The make or break moment for the show, however, came in a late set “Fuego.” On the heels of Philly’s epic, fans were salivating upon the opening piano chords. But instead of following up the song’s two seminal versions with a third, they decided that they would head into “David Bowie” instead. This show felt like one from years ago with two standout jams and a bunch of aborted attempts. But damn if those two jams weren’t astounding and a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Randall's Island (Andrea Nusinov)

Randall’s Island (Andrea Nusinov)

The next two nights told a very different story­, the type of story of that unfolds when Phish is focused and artistically concerned. Scripting two flawless second sets on Saturday and Sunday night, the band worked over every piece they touched with jams that were so unique. The music within the pairing of “Carini” and“Ghost” spanned the spectrum from psychedelic abstraction to wide open bliss, and covered all sorts of ground in between. So far this summer, “Carini” has been a vehicle to reach ethereal textures and soundscapes rather than the thematic, multi-staged epics that we heard last year. “Ghost” provided the central highlight of night two, as the band pushed beyond a quasi-conventional bliss peak into several more creative sections of interplay.

Two other macrocosmic takeaways from Saturday night’s affair were “Wingsuit” and “Harry Hood.” The former seemed to be settling into the repertoire as a cool down song, and that is the placement they gave it at Randall’s. But everything changed in the final section, as Fishman altered his backing rhythms and transformed the end jam into a whole-band, “Curtain With”-esque piece of improvisation. I didn’t love the first, guitar-solo based versions of the song, as they felt very static. But when “Wingsuit” drops from now on, it may in fact be still represent an exhale from a monstrous jam, but it now has improvisational intrigue all its own. Secondly, I’ve been waiting my whole life for “Harry Hood” to become an open jam, and this summer Phish has played three, deeply improvised versions in a row. This transformation of “Hood” into a cosmic springboard is the most profound development from the opening weeks of Summer Tour. And what an exclamation point the impeccable Randall’s version put on an airtight set of Phish. Composed too perfection, the frame had six songs, all in place and all performed with maximum gusto.

And then came Sunday. Played with a vigor through and through, we will be talking about Sunday at Randall’s for years to come. It was just that good—dense, top shelf jamming laced with nuance and innovative currents around every turn. Page and Fish stood out the most to me over the three-day weekend. Each altered the courses of several jams, while Trey’s biggest attribute this summer is his willingness to be one of four and take his place amidst a band that now has all but four musical leaders. The way they have fed off of each other’s ideas and made them into their own—a sort of quadruple helix—was the hallmark of the Randall’s jams and the thus far, the summer at large.

Randall's Island (Andrea Nusinov)

Randall’s Island (Andrea Nusinov)

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883 Responses to “Randall’s Reprise”

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  1. Jerome Garcia Says:

    1st!

    But I posted this on the wrong post…as in on Boy Mann…

    Jerome Garcia Says:
    July 16th, 2014 at 4:42 am
    Morning yall. Waaaaay behind on pg 86… How was the show last nt? Highlights? Quick perusal of LP App looks like 1st set Divided & 2nd set DWD…might not have been enough to make Df happy…

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ‘Macrocosmic takeaways’ = gold

  3. RicksFork Says:

    Miner is pumping them out now! Appreciate the thoughts Miner, thanks as always. I’m sure DF wont be happy, but a lackluster show with a 20 minute DWD is still a show with a 20 minute DWD and that’s a nice take away. Only listened once, but it was a good one.

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Buried Alive opener sounds pretty crisp to these ears. Typically a good sign when the boys open w/ an instrumental.

    Overall consensus is Lackluster in Canandaigua?

  5. RicksFork Says:

    That seemed to be the sentiment JG. I was not on the glory hole admittedly and have only heard the Disease though.

  6. Shred Says:

    For me the Mind Light Body Peak will go down as one of the best jams I have seen. I would have to go back to Miami 03 or Cypress.

    I haven’t seen them phish MLB since 6/14/95. And this was fully realized with a huge peak. Even more so then the UIC (94?)(wasn’t there but known as the best phish MLB) Think I saw it 10-30-98 without realizing it.

    With my journey starting with Jerry in 89. MLB is the greatest notes that can be played. It puts a clear connection between the two bands.

    Then to play tweezer, my fav phish tune, like that. I don’t care if they play miami for NY run and I don’t go until summer 15. I’m good.

    2 songs I have seen Phish and the Grateful dead play are.
    Quinn the Eskimo
    MLB

  7. Al Says:

    After having spent so much listening time with older GD, the past UM spring tour and the WSP summer tour I feel the need and feel relieved to finally want to listen to Phish shows again. This start of the tour, from Mansfield to Randall’s has revitalized my love for Phish. Somehow I lost it in 2013. The whale, trey’s guitar sound, and jams that simply didn’t do it for me made me want to listen to other stuff. But now with this tour, these jams and Trey’s sound I feel like falling in love again with my ex. Trey uses more of those octaver and phaser sounds he used in ’99. I love that. My best of Randall’s DoCD will definitely get more spinning time than my best of 2013, thats for sure.

  8. roberto luongo Says:

    anyone have a DTE Pav? hook a brother up yo

  9. roberto luongo Says:

    and great stuff Miner. stoked as fuck to catch a little run here.

  10. btb Says:

    RL – there was a DTE re-re yesterday, but no luck this morning. Hope you find one.

    If anyone is stuck with an extra for FRI or SAT hit me up

    btbuckEYE at gmail

  11. Darth Vaper Says:

    I have someone AW. Sent via PM.

  12. RicksFork Says:

    BTB _ you hitting DTE and Northerly?

  13. btb Says:

    Just Northerly #1 and #2.

    Had to scrap DTE

  14. Darth Vaper Says:

    Love last nights Disease. Had GBOTT gone bigger it would have changed the flow considerably.

    At least there is no way to be meatstick’d at the knob

  15. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I know we are knee deep in a great run here but happy 20YL to 07.16.94, a tour ending classic from VT in the time before big fests and all of that. quite simply, just one of those shows you had to have in your collection bitd. top shelf shreddy speed psych jazzy phish. if you are into that sort of thing.

  16. btb Says:

    sugarbush was one of my first tapes. spun it all the time.

  17. dorn76 Says:

    Sugarbush?! You talkin’ bout Sugarbush?

    Onion Belt Weds?

    4th show. Childhood glee of a Summer night on a mountainside.

  18. RicksFork Says:

    Sugarbush 94 is the greatest miss of my Phish career. My family lives in the Valley at the base of the mountain and I was there that weekend, but alas Moms wouldn’t let 14 year old me out of the house to go up there. I ski there almost every weekend still and think about that whiff often. I will spin today with a heavy heart.

  19. George W. Kush Says:

    Gracias Miner for churning ‘em out!

    CMAC Disease nice on replay. During the post-lyrics rawk, Trey slays his parts. Listen closely for echoplex mastery. He will throw a plex loop out for two to three seconds in perfect placement and then stomp the “cancel” pedal whilst continuing his solo onslaught. Trey dialing in nicely on effects this summer. Playing like a man possessed.

  20. George W. Kush Says:

    LivePhish should release a Sugarbush box. 94 & 95 all quality shows. I listen to LP 2 when I ski that mountain

  21. George W. Kush Says:

    well I guess it would just be a ’95 box since 7.16.94 is out.

  22. dorn76 Says:

    Band gave a solid 3.0 performance last night it seems, no? Couple bustouts, big jam in DwD, then a fizzle…

    Bar is raised so there’s bound to be some folks with tears in their chai.

    Miner putting in work. Nice pieces.

  23. Luther T. Justice Says:

    I concur Kush. Please release the 95 Sugarbushes. I don’t remember the first night but I think I had a good time. Need to confirm through repeated listenings.

  24. Jerome Garcia Says:

    1st sounds pretty sharp to these ears. Exercise interlude’d & fixin to spin CMAC II after properly Bluecheese’d. If MiA likes the Disease I’m sure I will too #DarthSide

  25. vapebraham Says:

    randall’s carini>ghost — $$$+. carini is gooey and chock full of effects. ghost is a seamless, effortless romp through a diverse jam landscape.

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