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. BingosBrother Says:

    Gonna need a Zambroni after Mike Ice-9s the dance floor all weekend. Ima pretend that 2001 encore was our opener.


  2. mitch Says:

    yo DF, how’d you take the graduation party shot? overlay one image on top of another while taking a time-lapse shot and moving?

  3. dorn76 Says:

    So just checked the news and came back here lickety split.

    Full body shudder type news day.

  4. mitch Says:

    makes sense to have multiple breweries around the country. save on shipping costs and environmental emissions for shipping. also fresher beer for custies. only trouble is getting the beer dialed in. different water sources depending on the locale. locALE

    waldo in bottle you say? gonna have to look for that.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    I posted that OGWT Frankenstein long before Klosterman ever did. Guy’s a fucking moron. He wrote the stupidest sports related paragraph I’ve seen in years today, which is really saying something, on Grantland as part of the “trade Wiggins for Love or not” debate:

    “The Cavs signed LeBron. He’s the best player in the world. Let him prove it. Enough of this pandering. No more roster additions. No more gaming the system to make things easier. This is the team. Play with this team. That letter James “wrote” to SI? Idiotic. It was totally idiotic. I’m not interested in constructed apologies or histrionic aphorisms. Just go do this.”

    There’s so much arrogant stupidity in that paragraph it’s pretty much the stupidity equivalent of “musical density” – approaching the Platonic ideal of a moronic but authoritative sounding Hot Take

  6. Darth Vaper Says:

    Gonna spin Star Lake Weekapaugh in honor of Edgar Winter.

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    it’s asymptotically approaching the limit of infinite stupidity in a way that’s almost beautiful

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    I will watch that great Frankenstein again in Edgar’s honor though. Sick jamz

  9. Stoney Case Says:

    RL icing his Tweezer Bluies.

  10. mitch Says:

    I haven’t found any info on waldo in bottles. Would be excited if its true tho.

  11. MrCompletely Says:

    er, Johnny Winter died not Edgar yo

  12. BooVT Says:

    I just bought a 4 pack of Victory Dirt Wolf. Haven’t tried it before. Should I be excited? I think I got it confused with Hop Ranch, which was exciting, if I recall correctly..

    Nice night for happy hour on my deck with a dirty wolf and some tunes. Maybe a wolfmans brother, to round it out..

  13. phlorida phan Says:


    ^Sharknado 2 trailer! Yeah, you know you wanna.

  14. mitch Says:

    +2 for asymptotically

    i thought you made up a word until i right clicked.

  15. Kaveh Says:

    Love what Phish is doing right now…

    …that said, here is a link to the Spring 90 box set that has been in mention around here over the last couple of days:


    Carry on and I hope everyone is having a rocking day!

  16. mitch Says:

    Dirt Wolf is great, but I’m sure you already figured that out by trying it.

  17. BingosBrother Says:


  18. MrCompletely Says:

    if you enter the right promo code on the dead.net website (OOO-WEE) you can get the next box set with all the versions of Picasso Moon omitted tho

    I fought hard for this feature

  19. phlorida phan Says:

    BooVT, you should be excite, Dirt Wolf is the dank. I’ll go and say, to me, it’s a top 5!

  20. Kaveh Says:

    I agree Chicago will be spaceCamp, as the weather is not going to be anywhere near as crappy as it was last year.


    PERFECT launch weather…all systems go!

  21. Kaveh Says:

    nice @mrC: that is a good one.

  22. BooVT Says:

    Have to finish my commute before cracking the Dirt Wolf. The fancy schmancy craft beer store is near my office. Happy hour is at my house. The Dirt Wolfs are stashed in my briefcase on the commuter train. Maybe now I’ll listen to Stash after Wolfmans. And then Dirt. And then BOTT. It’s all coming together… It was meant to be.

  23. mitch Says:

    Jersey transit and LIRR let you drink on the train.

    doing it the right way.

  24. BooVT Says:

    Train > Stash > Dirt > Wolf

    Proper sequence.

  25. BingosBrother Says:

    Weather Report Suite opener.

    Roll Call?

    BingosBrother (armed and ready sir)

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