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:

    Group mind meld complete dorn. I had that written next and took it back. Also just turned on The Black Box show premier while simultaneously reading that plane shit. Fway Geaux.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

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

    ^ they didn’t mean to be impolite but they just couldn’t wait.

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Phish- Randall’s Mind Left Body…. Enjoy…


  4. MP Says:

    Anyone happen to see the Paul McCartney comment in Rolling Stone:

    Last night, you switched up your usual set a little – you played “On My Way to Work,” from your most recent album, without even warning your band. Do you ever feel like doing more of that, just tearing up the set list and playing whatever you like?

    Yeah, we occasionally do that, just for the fun of it. But it’s not like I’m Phish, you know.


    He goes on in the article and gets at a central theme I think is especially relevant to the live music experience. When a band becomes too compliant with the demands of their fans they stop experimenting and they start pandering. Paul plays the same set every night to a different group of fans because he knows that is what they want. While that is a terribly selfless thing to do it doesn’t make for very interesting live music experience. So those of you that complain about “Halfway to the Bathroom” or “Velvet Cheese” or “Joy” becareful, because getting what you want might mean getting the same thing night after night after night.

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    I feel like I should be at 2nd City right now. Patrolling the area for a certain red headed prankster. Friends don’t do it to friends Trey.

  6. dorn76 Says:

    Without JG or MiA this place uses alot less blackboard.

    Hold me, Bingos.

  7. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeh bingos

    break that shit up

  8. aj Says:

    Tired. Gotta get my family to the airport for a send off tomorrow am and then I am on to part 2 of this adventure.

    If anyone here has both my and BTB’s contact info can you loop us in together? Many thanks.

    Hope to see some you in the soup.

  9. bobby weird Says:

    Had to miss GD date nite movie and its killing me. “No plans to reair, release audio or otherwise share this (somewhat strange) but rare relic.” They played The Other One twice???

    Hoping beyond hope some wook shoots a bootleg and shares the riteous goods for us poor schmucks tht couldnt make it. Help a loyal brother out man.

    Shit, when did GD start caring what happened to their performances and music after it hit the air and became history? DONT answer that!

  10. fat bastard Says:

    they rereleased some tickets for chicago. i was able to get some pavs for sunday. still unable on saturday looking for 3

  11. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Hope all you kids hitting the Chicago this weekend get a taste of what us snowcones got during the Spac, Mann, Randall’s runs…

    You deserve it after the weather and Harpua last year…

  12. jdub Says:

    @MP, I see your point and think it is so true. But when did Halfway to the Moon become a piss break song? I love that tune. Wish they would extend it a little more but great song. Page gets no respek I tell ya.

  13. aj Says:

    I hope so, too, Palmer. Weather looking great, so if nothing else it bound to be a super fun weekend.

    And, Phish, if you are reading and need some guidance, how about Sat night second set: Cities>Simple>Fuego, Slave, YEM E:Wombat*

    *w/Second City Harpua Wombat Dancers

  14. jdub Says:

    @aj, great looking show. Hope you get it. Simple and Cities are so due.

  15. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Randalls- Fuego>Bowie


  16. RoosterPizza Says:

    27 hours door-to-door. Little rooster was awesome. Airports and their bullshit…definitely not deeply dialed in.

  17. dorn76 Says:

    What gets the Mann Fuego/Randy Dust treatment next?

    N. Island Fuego Saturday/Chi Town Tweez Sunday

    Odds on favorites I would say.

  18. dorn76 Says:

    Welcome home RP clan!

    Teach me some japonais.

  19. RoosterPizza Says:

    French Japanese…nice touch, er, touché.

  20. bob dylan Says:

    testing again.

  21. bob dylan Says:


  22. dorn76 Says:

    In the absence of dignity, my wife, Phishm, JG and MiA, I keep it rollin’.

  23. Gavinsdad Says:

    Rooster Peezy – enjoy some south dood. Think u hangin w Calpain? Dudes a champ.

  24. Joe Says:

    2nd city skit to open the weekend would be way too funny.

  25. bob dylan Says:

    So I knew Freddie Hubbard was from Indy and moved to NYC. What I didn’t know is that he lived in the town next to mine in Cali. Vonnegut also moved from Indy to NYC.

    Synchronicities fascinate me. Interesting to me to find my fav artists navigated the same course I did.

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