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. mitch Says:

    jtran, the growler rules in cali are the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of. never had to deal with that in any other state i lived. “you wanna support our brewery by buying our beer? sure! use whatever growler you like”

    that rule has since changed in the past few months but some breweries still fill only their growlers because of the filling stations they have are designed for a specific kind of growlwer. see:russian river. however, russian river only charges like 8 bucks for a fancy swing top nice growler. i’ve paid 15 for the same one elsewhere so they are trying to help out a bit.

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Have toy dog. Will jam.

  3. BooVT Says:

    Dirt Wolf is yummy. And I gave blood today, so it’s also kicking my ass.

    Dirt from 8/15/11 UIC is nice accessory with it…

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Jerome Garcia Says:
    July 17th, 2014 at 2:25 pm
    Hints of Pink Floyd in Randall’s Disease? What is that I’m hearing?

    ^just listened to this again & can’t find it…maybe it’s in GA. God damnit. I blame the Stoney Case walk w/ el perro & LP App & their no time displayin punk ass. Bc I don’t take personal responsibility for anything. Ever.

  5. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Nope starts around 16:40 in the Randall’s Disease. More nuanced in the phones then on the hifi. Weird.

  6. dorn76 Says:

    Waiting All Night

    Poop Luongo

    Won’t you please come home.

  7. Darth Vaper Says:

    Were you high when “in the phones?”

  8. Jerome Garcia Says:

    That’s rhetorical right? Stoney Case’d while in the phones. Yes.

  9. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Who’s meeting up for the GD tonight? Batting .750 in the ATX; missing Dr Mon but otherwise full attendance. BB sanctioned event. Hitting theater out by MiA. Elihu called earlier…they sold 24/200 as of 4PMish. Bunch ‘o squares out by Darth. Ha!

  10. MrCompletely Says:

    this mingus show I dropped a link to earlier is nuts. prime mingus. the 20+ minute version of So Long Eric in the 2nd set is so good

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    Saved the Mingus and the Monk and meeting at the movies.

  12. dorn76 Says:

    Kid wants to get out of the bath, but I’m still in other room watching Randy Ghost official vid.

    Not the longest but it’s the best jam of 2014.


  13. dorn76 Says:

    Closely followed by the Mann Fuego.

    Caught both so I am well qualified to spout bs here.

    Maine Peeper Ale is awfully good. Delicate like a flower though. Feel like I’m violating it by taking a sip.

  14. BooVT Says:

    I’m so high, I even touch the sky
    Above the falling rain
    I feel so good in my neighbourhood, so
    Here I come again

    Got to have kaya now

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Randall’s Ghost pretty pretty pretty good lil d. RanDust still in lead for IT jam of tour & perhaps 3.0. So…

  16. Jerome Garcia Says:

    RandyHood again bc I was trying to find that elusive Floyd quote in Disease. Just gonna let it roll. Tincture at the ready upon Elihu’s arrival. Giddy up.

  17. dorn76 Says:

    Ghost is a fully formed beauty with a begining, middle and end.

    Chalkdust is an opus.

    And we don’t have to choose! Huzzah!

  18. dorn76 Says:

    Enjoy your GD movies, hippies.

    I’ve gotta get this kid to bed so I can porch a mofo.

  19. Selector J Says:

    @df – model mayhem, huh? TIL. Snoop and outdoor boobies… you’re pretty much the man as far as I’m concerned.

  20. Selector J Says:

    @dorn – same deal over here. that’s why I’m not with those hippies.

  21. BingosBrother Says:

    I’m getting Porch Life tattooed across my stomach.

  22. Darth Vaper Says:

    Just going in Dorn. Woo hoo!

  23. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    some nice vids from the Stringdusters ramble with Phil

  24. dorn76 Says:

    DAD ROCK 4 LYPHE tramp stamp.

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Commencing CMAC Disease… First spin

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