Catching Fire

7.12.14, NYC (Chris LaJaunie)

7.12.14, NYC (Chris LaJaunie)

Phish returned to Summer Tour with a monster weekend comprised of two standout shows and one for the record books in the mid-Atlantic last weekend. Following a four-day break, the band has made a concerted effort to deliver the whole package each night to each audience and were successful on three consecutive nights to begin the second half of Summer Tour 2014. Phish certainly hit a stride with these performances and their fluidity has stepped to the forefront of their shows to compliment their already present jamming. Everything has now fallen into place and the guys are in the zone as they approach the final week of a tremendously successful run.

7.16.14, Detroit (J.Herzog)

7.16.14, Detroit (J.Herzog)

It became quickly apparent this past weekend in Charlotte and Merriweather, that Phish is serious about their segues again. I’m not sure what, if anything, transpired during the four day break, but the band came back firing off seamless transitions at almost every juncture. Beginning in Charlotte’s second set, the guys wove “Fuego” “Twist” and “When the Circus Comes to Town “ into a seamless suite of music. Even with all of the segues that transpired at Merriwether, the slyest of them all happened when the guys unsuspectingly transformed the “Twist” jam into the tour debut of Los Lobos’ “Circus.” A definitive musical segue with not a momentary glitch, this shift actually deserves consideration beyond just its all-tour status. The transitions continued to fly on the first night in Columbia as the band slithered through a second-set sequence of “Carini -> Ghost > Steam -> Mango” with notable flow. But this second-“leg” trend, though only three days old, came to an immediate head in Sunday’s retro segue-fest, the likes of which hasn’t showed its face in oh, about two decades! Bobbing and weaving in and out of songs with spontaneity and precision, the band treated the audience to an old-school affair in which the excitement generated was as much about what would happen next as it was about the music. Totally in the moment and having a blast, the band tore off countless segues, but the most seamless movement of the night came in the musical palindrome of “Free -> Tweezer -> Simple -> Tweezer -> Free.” Delivering three songs a single piece of music, the guys took the early-set mashup theme to a whole new level with this clever vignette. The entire vibe of a set changes when the band makes smooth transitions between songs, and one would expect this trend to continue through the south.

7.20.14 (G.Lucas)

7.20.14 (G.Lucas)

These artistic transitions helped contribute to the second Mid-Atlantic take away—Phish’s delivery of complete second sets. Though Summer Tour started out strong in this regard, the band’s set craftsmanship took a small dip after Randall’s Island. Phish began to bounce back in Chicago, specifically with their third-night performance, and continued this upward swing with these past three shows. With only one blemish in three main events (Charlotte’s harshly “Rift”-corded “Piper” jam), Phish’s second sets have not only been proficiently smooth, but exceptionally so. This arc was highlighted by Merriweather’s Saturday night performance in which the band threw down a bulletproof second frame. Each segue was considered and artistic, virtually every song contained a legitimate jam, and the entire set went off without hitch. Even Sunday’s wild ride was notably smooth as the band worked through countless shifts between songs and schticks. Phish’s sense of the moment—one of their defining characteristics throughout their career—has returned in full this summer, and no performance illustrates this more than Sunday’s unforgettable affair. The best versions of Phish instinctually know when to pull back and when to push things far over the edge, surfing the energy of the crowd and the moment as well as any performers in history. Sunday night’s show at Merriweather showed us that, even while pushing age 50, the guys can still blend their musical acumen with their sense of the absurd to craft a wacky though virtuoso ride through a unique universe called Phish.

7.16.14 (J.Herzog)

7.16.14 (J.Herzog)

And don’t look now, but two of the weekend’s three first sets were great too! Both Charlotte’s and Sunday night Merriweather’s opening frames popped with energy and musicality. Friday’s first set featured powerful versions of crowd favorites including “Mike’s Song,” “Back on the Train,” “Weekapaug,” “Possum,” “Tube” and “David Bowie,” as well as a quality version of “Wingsuit” and the most improvised “Winterqueen” to date. This amounted to a virtual non-stop barrage of serious Type I jamming throughout Charlotte’s opening set. Sunday’s first frame contained legitimate improvisational highlights in “Curtain (With),” “Sand” and “You Enjoy Myself” and also derived energy through the rarities of “Fee,” “My Sweet One” and “Saw It Again.” On each night, as the setbreak lights came on, one felt like he had already been through a legitimate musical experience, and in the modern era of Phish shows, that makes all the difference.

Meanwhile, the jams have continued to roll. This weekend’s improvisational Dean’s List has two tiers. The first is headed up by Charlotte’s “Chalk  Dust Torture” and Merriweather’s “Tweezer” while also featuring Saturday’s “Ghost” “Light” and Sunday’s “NICU.” The second tier includes Merriweather’s “Carini,” “Harry Hood,” and Charlotte’s late-set “Reba.”

As we turn to the final five shows of tour, Phish has their feet solidly under them and the creative faucet locked in the on position. They certainly seem like a band that is primed to slaughter the south in a victory lap of a successful summer tour. Crushing it night after night creatively and consistently, and having the time of their lives, this is Phish live without a net and in their prime once again. Or simply put—this is Phish en fuego.

7.12.14 (Chris LaJaunie)

7.12.14 (Chris LaJaunie)

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3,704 Responses to “Catching Fire”

  1. little umbrellas Says:

    -Twist just started. only Secret Smile was last years Gorge.

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Some more ‘Shit’ gold

  3. snow Says:

    Pro hotel booking tips

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    “I thought this tour was sickity sick”

    Then you must think 2011-2012 is the best shit ever, since you rate that higher than ’14…

  5. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    I think Randall’s 3 is the second best show of 3.0 though

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Which is fine….just busting chops..

    I feel like going to shows in ’11 and ’12 were much more hit or miss than hitting anything these last couple of years (13/14)… IMO only.

    If you were going to shows in 13-14, very good chance you saw a hot one with some nice, deep centerpiece jamming..

  7. sumodie Says:

    Brownout hits the east coast at last this September (including Nectars)

    Bombino, White Denim, Brownout, Seun Kuti, King Crimson all in one week in MA, nutz

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    YES!.. just got word I scored EuG floors…. see ya’ll by the sbd!

  9. snow Says:

    enough of this ranking, we need more baseless speculation in the mix.

    What will the Phish do for Halloween???
    As far as I know, they have done nothing to tip their hand…

  10. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath esp if a 2 set affair where 1st is Brownout & 2nd is Brown Sabbath is NOT to be missed. Rec taking psychs. Incredible experience on 6/27 in the ATX. One of the most psychedelic concert experiences of my life. & twas a bday show well not officially but at midnight.

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    min 13 of Twist. Now this I would call searching. Def dissonant, but they are just pushing themselves here. Not yet hitting together or having some found groove. Straight up dissonant meander search. Fish attempting to Forge direction with the straight train beat….

  12. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “If you were going to shows in 13-14, very good chance you saw a hot one with some nice, deep centerpiece jamming..”

    Toronto, 3 Chicago shows last year, CMAC, DTE… LOL

    I have no complaints about 7/8 fall shows I saw last year though.

  13. little umbrellas Says:

    “Bombino, White Denim, Brownout, Seun Kuti, King Crimson all in one week in MA, nutz”

    minute 16, Found something, Sky opens. Fish moves to the ride. Trey still chunking it out but the syncopation is locked in and Page has moved to the synths.

    mintute 17.5.. Trey is able to lay off the chug and the movement is still there…Washes creeping in. Fish still swingin.

  14. tela's_muff Says:

    just in a quick rundown of Winter ’03 up through 2/20 Chicago, i can lay 2 distinct styles of jamming, with another 2 jamming forms that maybe aren’t a huge separation, but enough to qualify in my book. either way, all of these jams are exceptional in my book, in any era.

    Darkness/Oxy jams – Trey dominated guitar growl. almost overbearing. crunchy, dark, usually ending in a wash of sound.

    2/14 – WOTC>Carini
    2/14 – LxL
    2/18 – Moma Dance
    2/18 – LXL
    2/20 – Simple
    2/20 – Tweezer
    2/20 – Pebbles & Marbles

    Funk/Groove jams – basically the same type of jamming TAB was doing in ’02. still some darkness mixed in. Fishman clinic.

    2/14 – Gin
    2/15 – Wolfmans
    2/15 – Ghost
    2/16 – Piper
    2/20 – Jibboo
    2/20 – Seven Below

    Standard ’03 Rock – these are more traditional as far ’03 can be considered traditional. still, these versions are attacked. heavy snarling guitar w/o dissipating too much into Oxy territory.

    2/15 – Reba
    2/15 – Hood
    2/16 – Bowie>Catapult>Bowie
    2/18 – Stash

    Unexpected/Outlier jams – these are just a little different than anything else played this tour.

    2/14 – AC/DC Bag
    2/16 – Round Room

    I think the best example of varying styles in one show is the 2/20 show. Some absolute nasty shit happening throughout, heavy on the Oxy jams. But it also has one of the best groove jams of tour in the Seven Below. anyway, i could go on. the highlights keep coming, and getting better. Trey cleans shit up a little.

  15. stapes Says:

    12/28/03 Suzy Jam goes pretty dark.

    2/20/03 is a great, great show IMO.

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    very interesting outline @telas. I guess I’m more familiar with that tour than I thought I was because I found myself nodding as I read along

  17. Stoney Case Says:

    many good phishthoughts fellas. yep. way to go. dudes. heading to outside lands, how’s that for irony? Greenskybluegrass tomorrow will be my solace. They need a drummer though.

    Looking back on 3.0 I will be thankful to have caught Greek, ’11 Rust Belt, SBIX, Gorge 11, Dicks 12 and Tahoe 13. The rest I will likely question whether I could have spent the time or money a bit more wisely…..

    Trey’s either a slouch or in a weird headspace / personal issue(s). The mojo took a nose dive after they blew their wad at Randall’s. While they def got it up pretty good for MPP and Portsmouth, I honestly feel those should be the baseline at a minimum. The Whale is killing so many great, classic songs (Reba, Split, With) , and new ones before they get off the ground, to me. Love the first half of Winterqueen, the second half makes me nauseous. I can’t stand that it’s like two songs. Same with Fuego, the first solo sucks the life out of me, then it’s a 30% we get a jam off the outro.

    Caveat: “Trey used the whale often, especially first sets”

    ^This is a fact. We can argue whether we ‘like it’ or think it ‘sounds better’, those are opinions. But his frequent use, is a fact, not an opinion.

    Yet, I really enjoyed most all this tour. Some new sounds, lots of great jams, cool segues and teases. Pretty much let go of the chase that I held as a youth. Calibrated my ears, and can get off on the recorded music almost as well as the live.

    I hope the band finds a balance and a goal going forward. The old fans are tapped out, and the new fans are not tuning in en mass.

  18. Stoney Case Says:

    I think Randall’s 2 & 3, MPP 1 and 2, Portsmouth 1 and 2 make for really great front to back listens. Not something we often find in any era.

    I also still hold Dicks12 as the high water mark of their return. Something about Trey’s dexterity and tone control at those shows really resonates with me. I can’t find many guitar runs from the last two years that tickle my soul as much as the Caspian from the second night, with not 1 but 2 Trey led Sith jams.

  19. little umbrellas Says:

    Dig the break down Telas. will def be using this list for listening direction. thanks.


    minute 21 Twist(had to pause for a phone call)
    Floaty Ocean jam. Major but still grit’y. This brings up an interesting point. Does different searching ideas happening simultaneously without a total lock imply darkness? sometimes i guess..

    Meandering Dissonance can have its joys… though often because its IF they can get out of it and find something…
    Just mentioning as Ive been vocal about my tastes, and would like to include that Dissonance with Groove and Direction feel like the real culmination and highlight feeling of ‘finding’ something to me.

    and to Telas point of different jams styles being present in this era, it sounds like, as always, Groove Darkness occurs in 2.0.. but i imagine that the detracting points for the non 2.0 jam fans is the ones where they are just out there searching and being cool with not all nailing something together.

  20. little umbrellas Says:

    “As far as I know, they have done nothing to tip their hand…”

    ..i don’t know, I’m feeling if they do a Halloween cover, there’s signs pointing towards Genesis.. Phil Collins Genesis.

  21. tela's_muff Says:

    some other quick notes as i go through the rest of the tour.

    every LxL is unique and awesome in Winter ’03.

    if Phish played a first set like they did in the first 4 songs before the much maligned BB King sit-in, we’d shit our pants.

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Just fired up the Randy Triplet. That should hold me until I pack it up & GTFO for the day.

    What up Stonerific. Good thoughts. Thanks.

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Great stuff Tela’s…

  24. little umbrellas Says:

    Dissonance with Groove
    -that 12/29/13 Carini must have been devilgrin fun inhouse.

  25. jtran Says:

    telas recs are cached here:

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