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. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Austin has one of those lil d. Brew Exchange. Check it: http://brewexchangeaustin.com/

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Yep re potential festi. Locale advantageous to Jabronis & Snowcones.

  3. mitch Says:

    yes bob dylan posts are being eaten. so now my real identity is on the line.

    miner is aware of the situation and will resolve it shortly but he’s driving.

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Let’s see if this 7:51 Piper has the coveted ‘musical density’

  5. dorn76 Says:

    Cool photo, DF.


  6. mitch Says:

    I dont really agree with the supply and demand setting the price of beer.


    ^read that yesterday and realized how it all works.

    the fact that pliny the elder is $5 a bottle makes me believe there is good in the world and that greed is not EVERYWHERE.

  7. btb Says:

    It does. That piper was raging…albeit for 7 mins.

  8. mitch Says:

    pricing your beers based on popularity prob helps the hipsters who are drinking. but they only drink bourbon now anyway… well that and PBR obv.

    smart move from the bar standpoint of pricing your big sellers higher.

    Ren dropped knowledge of a fest? I missed that.

  9. Darth Vaper Says:

    Let’s them tap new kegs, get new freshies out.

  10. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Concur btb. Chi-town Island run due to have these big hitters stretched out a bit.

  11. Lumpyhead Says:

    Sunday night getting off the ferry from Randall’s

    He who hath the rain coat and blue tooth speakers is king of balloon hill

  12. Jerome Garcia Says:

    MannHood up ahora… In what order do you cats stack rank the early Hoods?


    Think I’m gonna spin ’em all. Next up GW followed by Randy.

  13. btb Says:

    Jamz bro! I thoguht last night was a rocker. High energy, blah blah blah. Those shows are fun, but don’t quench the PH nerd jam hunger exactly.

  14. mitch Says:

    darth, i like it in that instance, like putting older kegs on sale. but would want there to be a cap to the price. otherwise pliny and heady would be 15 a pint.

  15. dorn76 Says:

    Snowbroni Fest 10

  16. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Bronicon Fest X

  17. BingosBrother Says:

    Gonna Jambroni all over you fools.

  18. Darth Vaper Says:

    There are caps. Talked to the brew exchange manager for a while one night. His estimate on beers was funny. Since more and more are becoming “seasonal” or small release beers they have to deal with the excitement factor.

    First time I walked into Gingerman (1995) they had 18 “Christmas” beers that came in the previous week. Generally they could sell 1/2 the keg to enthusiasts, but were under obligation to keep the prices up. But they want to move the beer out to make up for new releases.

  19. RicksFork Says:

    Got bottom paged before. Johnny Winter died. Anyone think Frankenstein opens Chicago? Haven’t read back to see if this was discussed.

  20. Jerome Garcia Says:

    MannHood > Tweeprise makes one’s balls swell w/ primal desire. Fact.

  21. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Twas Ricks. T3 says it’s essentially a lock.

    Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:
    July 17th, 2014 at 8:53 am
    ah, bummer, lil’um
    good reason to link this klosterman post though
    that means you can bank on frankenstein for friday, I suppose

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Klosterman post embedded in T3’s post http://grantland.com/features/frankenstein-monster/

  23. vapebraham Says:

    Don’t know what you CMAC naysayers are smoking, but set I is very solid w/ plus versions of 555, Gin, wingsuit, and DS), and capped by a frenetic, letter perfect Bowie.

  24. btb Says:

    Forgot Lagunitas opened a Chicago Brewery

  25. RicksFork Says:

    My bad. Carry on jambronis. This snowcone is off to Maine for the weekend. Hope Chicago is great for everyone attending and that the jams go deep and come often. Be safe kids.

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