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:

    Hints of Pink Floyd in Randall’s Disease? What is that I’m hearing?

  2. dusty Says:

    waldo is out on stock label as of this year I’m told. I liked it better than sucks but it was some years ago. Sierra hoptimums lately which are bitter swaggy water.

  3. Jerome Garcia Says:

    BooVT Says:
    July 17th, 2014 at 2:22 pm
    Train > Stash > Dirt > Wolf
    Proper sequence.

    ^+3.5 boo

  4. jtran Says:

    nice link @bd re: beer pricing, if it was you that linked it.

    when you make it down this way for the SD show ;) we’ll swing by BLAH or tiger tiger before the show. Just a couple miles down the road.

  5. vapebraham Says:

    BooVt: i drink the dirt (dire) wolf all the time. solid double. mosaic hop is my jam.

    train song>stash>dirt>wolfman’s

    ^^ bring it. Would love to see some tour bustouts in chitown.

  6. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Oh snap. Totally read it wrong and thought it was Edgar who we lost. Still, Johnny is a big loss in the blues world. Cancel those Frankenstein calls but pour one out for a master anyway.

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Also, maybe covered (heh) already but who is taking odds on some kind of nod to the fact that Billy Joel is playing Wrigley Friday night? Surely there is a phish bookie somewhere that will take my parlay on that with, say, a harpua?

  8. mitch Says:

    I wanna go to Alpine when I make it to SD. Dunno if I’ll be hitting SD if they play there tho. Unless I can catch a ride from/to LA with a w00k and leave my lady to visit her extended fam. I see that going over like a lead zeppelin but who knows.

  9. Gavinsdad Says:

    Sea Por(n)

  10. mitch Says:

    billy joel cover in said harpua. stop 16 bars in and say “nah, we dont cover no talent bar piano men”

  11. RedRedWorm Says:

    Chicago pavillion re re right now. Just scored the elusive Saturday.

  12. Jerome Garcia Says:

    YES PLEASE! re Alpine Beer Co. Buddy saved a bomber of Pure Hoppiness (only allowed 2 per person) & it is just straight hop nectar. One of best DIPAs I’ve had. Must hit spot in my book mitch.

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    “Jimmy took his cat Poster (the nut bag) for a walk through town and they sauntered past the saddest singles bar in gamehendge. Trickling out of the partially open door they could hear the sounds of the sorriest tune being sung by the seediest of piano men…”

    ::page plays a few bars of Billy Joel standards::

    “Suddenly, Poster (nut bag) climbed up on Jimmy’s back and began digging his claws into Jimmy’s shoulders, which Jimmy knew was the sign to get the he’ll out of there because Poster (nut bag) was about to lose his shit due to the horribly crappy music being played…”

  14. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^saved bomber for us to have upon my arrival in SD for CRB Cali Roadshow wknd rather. & it was GOODER.

  15. Darth Vaper Says:

    Johnny, Edgar, 220, 221 whatever it takes.

    I wanted to hear those “Free Ride” chords either way.

  16. jtran Says:

    take the amtrak yo! super easy. even drops you right off at a station you can catch the SD trolley, which takes you right to SDSU where Viejas is.

    #wishfulthinking

  17. jtran Says:

    Alpine was cool though. We went a couple weeks ago after a hike. They two little spots, one that’s a brewpub and the other that’s strictly for purchasing to go beer. They wouldn’t fill my port brewing growler (ABC regulations I guess) and I didn’t want to buy a new growler so just bought a couple bombers. Very cool spot. So close to the city but feels like a mix between Mammoth and Victorville or something. Kinda weird.

  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Ed Zachery jtran. You know wtf’s up.

  19. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    My phone apparently prefers possessives to debatably existent places of residence for not nice people

  20. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I thought by now California would have that fast tube thing up and running. What’s keeping you guys?

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @selector, nah, i find the models on model mayhem, i find girls on tinder for other purposes ;)

    @mitch, nope, used a flash with a long exposure. the flash freezes the action and then once it fires i rotate the camera to get the light lines. there was a guy on the left side who i removed by copying the right side and flipping it, and cloning some stuff out, and playing with the colours.

  22. revise your despise Says:

    @redredworm I owe you a beer. Thanks brother!

  23. Joe Says:

    I saw johhny winter play 20 years ago and he was on his last legs then.

  24. dorn76 Says:

    “Catch Fuego” and keep it rollin’ with Phish not just every night, but in every song!

    (Lookin’ at you, Page during 46 Days.)

  25. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Df said colours

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