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”

  1. 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.

  2. Darth Vaper Says:

    Fwiw, the buried alive is really well done.


  3. tela's_muff Says:


    ^great interview shared from Letterman. page & trey. talks about Dicks/CO and Wingsuit decision on Halloween.

    also, I’m digging the girl in green with the brown boots in above pic. i’m a creeper.

  4. verno329 Says:

    Thanks for the video link tela’s. Watching now. Interesting to hear Page say how hard they worked during the two weeks of Fall Tour preparing for Halloween, hardest they’ve worked in years.

  5. Darth Vaper Says:

    Thanks Tela’s. At one point Page looks annoyed at Trey’s David Lynch explanation response, like “Jeezus, this like talking next to Fishman in 1991.”

  6. verno329 Says:

    Nice to hear Trey acknowledge that there was some grousing in the crowd from people who didn’t like the way the new album was presented, but that he was very thankful that it was received positively for the most part. Good interview

  7. Fly Says:

    I must confess to feeling let down last night by the post-DWD jukebox, but, as many have said, this indicates the high-water mark of Summer ’14. I’m sure dance companion @plord sensed my dejection via increasingly muted kinetics as Trey dropped quarters in the machine.

    SPAC>CMAC was an indelible run I will forever cherish, colored more poignant by several of the BB’s resplendent denizens, namely @plord, @jdub, @butter, @Dr Pro, and @TreasureReprise. How sublime to share in the resurgent groove of the finest band in the land! Here’s to a scintillating finish to the tour, and safe travels to all!!

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Andrea dropping some beauties. Have gotten used to her effects and quite enjoy how her doctoring brings back clearer memory of those “enhanced” moments.

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Sunday Randall’s CDT video released by The Phish… So much for my Light prediction…

    Vape- That whole set from Sat is the goods. Add WingSlut RnR( staright forward version) into a beauty of a Hood to close her up… Masterful, complete set of Phish… Unrelenting, pulse pounding, musical experience..

  10. Darth Vaper Says:

    I’m disappointed Trey felt like Halloween was a “have to do thing” and not a way of mimicking some great musicians and adding things stylistically to their repertoire and a growing process. Oh well.

    I think I would love to talk to Page. Fishman too. Maybe Mike, although that would be weird. I think if I stood next to him, I’d say “Hi” and go get some food off the Buffett.

  11. verno329 Says:

    Official Chalkdust release


  12. Frankie Says:

    RanDust video is up!


    Thank you Phish!

  13. Darth Vaper Says:

    Him = Trey.

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    oops.. link here…


  15. verno329 Says:

    Agreed @Darth. If Halloween albums feel like an obligation more than something they enjoy then don’t play a Halloween show, imo. It’s not like they haven’t done Fall Tours without Halloween before.

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Damn , less than $400 R/T to fly into SEA and then home from PDX… :finger Tents:

  17. marcoesq Says:

    Great piece, Miner..kicking myself for missing my bday show Sun at Randall’s. And the rest of the weekend for that matter.

    Anyone seen this Jerry Symphonic Celebration with Warren Haynes? Might check it out.


  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    3 official RanDust drops in < 3 min = BB en Fuego. Gonna get Randy'd on the hifi HDTV. Just as soon as I finish CMAC DWD 😉

  19. btb Says:

    Listening to all these MP3’s got be couch tour bummin’….I can’t wait to hear the band live and catch that ‘sound coming of the stage’.

    hard to twirl at the desk.

  20. vapebraham Says:

    yep, palmer. staggering how exceptionally great those two randys were. heck, i thought friday was pretty frickin great.

  21. revise your despise Says:

    Looks like it’s going to be cold with patches of rain tonight. Welcome to Michigan!

  22. btb Says:

    Agreed, if they don’t want to cover albums then fuck it.

  23. Frankie Says:

    I really love the Randall Carini, might be my favorite jam of summer… It’s like the yang to Gorge 10 Rock and Roll’s yin…

    I love that slow, spacious, minimalist sound… Reminds me of Fukuoka…

  24. Joe Says:

    Why did I read back and then click on that essay? I hope that’s the poet taking poetic license and not some dude that just went completely off the deep end. I made it 70% of the way through before I couldn’t take any more. It’s a tough burden for the band to be carrying so many of us who feel like that from town to town.

  25. Frankie Says:

    What a monster that song has become!

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