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. George W. Kush Says:

    Peaches opener for Chicago. Sunday night perhaps. Lest Trey hath forgotten the power of this tune to kick things off. OR simply hath forgotten where the fingers go.

  2. dorn76 Says:

    Hey Ed. You doing a Shore week in Aug?

    Youtoob set: RandDust>MannFuego>WoodsHood>?

  3. bobby weird Says:

    Try navigating the same crooked streets of paul revere, th adams bros, j hancock, b franklin (before philly), etc etc. Even drinking in the very structures they did whilst plotti. Rhetoric and propaganda, and ariving at deep philosophical principles well beyond their eras (see, e.g, Warren Tavern, Green Dragon (replica), Bell in Hand (replica). Also cool places to imbibe as they did and ponder. Ok im done if im spewing out this obvious crap.

  4. dorn76 Says:

    Snowcone Benefits include historical sights under your feet.

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    And yet tomorrow, I shall blaze mine own path, and shit where no man hath shit before. There shalt be no tent large enough to hide it from the gingers eyes. Henceforth, the jams shall flow.

  6. RoosterPizza Says:

    Yup, picking up calpain on the way down to CLT. Whew…gotta get some rest before that.

    For now, peter tosh and arizer 5. Longtime no see…ひさしぶりです!

  7. bob dylan Says:

    hasashiburi desu

  8. ae Says:

    there is DEFINITELY floyd in some of the sunday randalls magic. i think it most closely resembles something from Animals. haven’t studied yet, but i heard it while there and again on a relisten.

  9. George W. Kush Says:

    Fun night at the movies with European GD. coupla comedic restarts of Playin and Sugaree. Bobby describes Donna Jean as 600 watts of pure treason between takes of Playin.

    Great to see some good Pig video. Mr. Charlie was a nice treat. Also interesting to have Pig, Keith, and Donna all on stage. Moment where Pig gives Donna a good look-over from behind the piano as she dances near.

    Phil looking and acting like a total goofball. Thunderous playing thru out.

    Jerry on the wooden strat (not the Alligator one but the other one). Looking Euro slick in a tight black leather jacket. Loud and sharp in the mix. Commands the hell out of Other One and basically most of the set. Pretty damn glorious in stereo with large screen visual. Hoots and hollers and spinners in the well undersold theatre.

    Seemed like because Jerry restarted Sugaree (“someone played the wrong changes”) Bobby had to be the spittin ass youngster rockstar that he is and draw some attention to himself by restarting Playin. Then yet another Playin later in the set.

    Best Dead is one-drummer Dead. Hands down. The Puncher of Dicks just swings so well in that era. Dances on the kit.

    Pollock tie-dye overload. Green-screen’d tie dye background (ala cheesy background to Sabbath Ironman music video) plus Pollock amp covers provided a lot of visual entertainment for the duration.

    Nice GD trivia intro with W/O A Net “Eyes” playing and Very cool AV plug (about 5min) for the new Other One ’90 box. Interviews with Marsalis and Weir w/ Jeff Norman in-studio. Nice photo montages as well.

    Another solid (but slightly short) big screen GD experience. Really dug the old footage despite eye fry tie-dye. plenty of amusing banter, awkward faces from Phil and Keith, sharp playing, squealing Donna (for a short time), and just a downright awesome Europe ’72 Dead visual treat

    tl:dr? Dead flick was cool. Fun occasion. Look forward to next year.

  10. RoosterPizza Says:

    Bd knows what’s up. I’m deeply dialed in. Fuckkkkk.

  11. vapebraham Says:

    chillin w/ my neighbor outdoors on a crisp, clear night; threw back a few IPA’s {carton brewing (NJ), neshaminy brewing (PA), dayglo (elysian brewing WA} and a saison from lost abbey (CA) while spinning some ’14 highlights on the jambox.

    takeaway: 15 mins -> the end of RanDust is some of the finest phish ever made. improvisational nirvana. RanDust = favorite jam of tour. MannFuego second.

  12. George W. Kush Says:

    Welcome back to the Land of the Free, RP. Arizer like seeing an old friend. Elevate and jellificate.

  13. George W. Kush Says:

    *Pig behind organs, Keith on ivories, of course.

  14. bob dylan Says:

    i get it bobby, history is everywhere. i’ve lived outside baltimore and indy, in nyc and cali. there are many people who likely moved the way i did. just felt like i found small patterns in the chaos i guess. the fact that people I’ve admired may have had similar pulls to take them where they went might explain why i dig their work. perhaps cut from the same raw denim.

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    How many photos of trey is too many photos of trey?

  16. Stoney Case Says:

    Imagine skipping both Randall’s and Chicago’s 3-packs for the two stand alone midweek stops. That’s #losing at Phish. No one here did that right?

  17. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    I’m in Chicago now

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    I haven’t seen a good summer show since 2012

  19. vapebraham Says:

    DF: spent some time today purusing your photos. you good, man. loved a lot of those pieces. nice work.

  20. vapebraham Says:

    make that: perusing.

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Thanks vape!

  22. RoosterPizza Says:

    @stoney case

    That would be a humungous bummer to only hit those two shows.

    I am driving to Charlotte next week for CLT>MPP. If they kill in Chicago, I will be really interested to see what happens after that. It’ll be their 4th straight crack at the weekend run, and it will be the first weekend run with time split between two venues. It also comes on the heels of the longest break of tour thus far (5 days). Pretty excited.

  23. George W. Kush Says:

    @V.Braham, as soon as Red hits that mutated tone at 13:00 after his chop sesh, its on like Michelle Kwan.

    What does the BB and Michelle Kwan have in common? They both love sashimi grade

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Trolly Case

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    ….he keeps it trollin’

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