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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3,699 Responses to “Catching Fire”

  1. vapebraham Says:

    “how anyone can say trey was playing better this summer than last I have no idea. that is absolutely proposterous to me” – miner

    ^^^ reconsider this. preposterous? debatable, maybe. preposterous, no.

  2. butter Says:

    By ’17 Trey will just be dancing during jams like he does in YEM instead of soloing

    Home boy does have a solid hippie dance

  3. DryIceFactory Says:

    Oh boy. I knew this was coming. The whole “let’s compare this tour to prior 3.0 tours” argument is ON. I’ve been saving my thoughts for this one.

    Back a few months ago, Calarco and I stood alongside ’13 over ’11 and ’12 because the jamming was more consistent and “fresh”. Most others involved rushed to claim the big jams of ’11 and more so, ’12, outdid the big jams from 2013. I somewhat agree, especially if you exclude Fall.

    One thing to remember is that at the end of the day, Phish shows are concerts. Summer 2014 was, hands down, the best summer to catch a Phish concert since probably Big Cypress. You had a near 100% chance of catching a deep improvisational jam every single night (sorry, Detroit) and sometimes, it was 2 or even 3+ (what up, Randalls Split, Dust, Light and Tweez!?). You always caught new songs. You always saw the band play incredibly clean and hot even if the show’s improve fizzled into a jukebox (TORY!!!) affair. For these reason, I think it’s negligible to not consider this our finest tour of 3.0. Every night had SOMETHING.

    Despite the fact that Summer 2014 is our best tour of 3.0, I still think the same argument can be made from prior years. We lacked in total blowout jams. 2012 had Woosta Boogie, BGCA Light, Dick’s Light, Dick’s Sand, MSG Tweez – all of those contained MASSIVE “this is IT!!!!” moments. The jamming of 2014 was consistent and insanely technical most of time, but part of me misses those huge swinging peaks we become somewhat accustomed to in the end of ’12.

    Part of me wonders what could have happened if after Chicago, the band took a few weeks off and did a leg 2. As discussed, the leg I, leg II thing really helped these guys hone in on what they were doing musically during leg I and find creative ways to expand on it for leg II.

    Then again, Dick’s and Fall Tour could come off as some of the best shows of all-time, totally smash any arguments and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

    Later.

  4. DryIceFactory Says:

    ^A little scattered in my thoughts, but you get the idea.

  5. DryIceFactory Says:

    @Chris

    I’ve been on record here several times claiming that Northerly1 is the most underrated show of tour. So I’m with you buddy. The Golden Age is just filthy. A little disconnected at times but Page’s House of Horrors just carries it.

  6. DryIceFactory Says:

    My opinion does come with bias though, because I was beyond spun and only about 7 people back from Page. He absolutely owned that set.

  7. BingosBrother Says:

    I had more fun nights 2 and 3, but that Friday night set 2 was like running from the boulder in Indiana Jones. Phish at its finest IMO.

  8. butter Says:

    My lil bro liked night 1 Chi the best too

    he said there were lasers shooting out of Lake Michigan for him

    All part of the experience right

  9. dorn76 Says:

    The bottom of the page is still the page.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Most fun I’ve had seeing Phish has been the last 2 years, probably since ’98 for me.. A lot has to do with seeing most of the shows with people from here…

    #NotTappingOut

  11. dorn76 Says:

    No one looks at wedding photos.

  12. vapebraham Says:

    WQ is a choice new ballad. Like Dirt on performance enhancing drugs. Appropriate vehicle for trey’s cathartic whale bends. dig it. see char 7.25 WQ for a taste of the kind.

  13. vapebraham Says:

    That Chi night 1 (7.18) GA is a tasty, subtle affair. $$$. I was groking that one early today.

  14. butter Says:

    Oh so it was the drOOgs huh dry ice?

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    orange beach sick set 2

    agree this summer has been more consistent than past summers, even if there was still a big fall off after randall’s. but yeah also a different structure to this summer.

  16. butter Says:

    Gotta the line where my covers should be

    I feel the no covers thing is stupid

    There

  17. dorn76 Says:

    I’ve got reserves to tap.

    Oh yes.

    On the idea of a tired Trey saving his fingers for later, the Alph ‘cast featured a ton of very nimble looking Trey up until the end of the show. Fluffhead, anybody? Last show of tour, 3rd night in a row, 3 hours in…

  18. BingosBrother Says:

    Drugs or no, that place is like a video game. Very psychedelic. That set was very full of mindfuckery. Wombat.

  19. butter Says:

    But whatever gets their rocks off. Gotta stay baby deer birth inspired somehow

  20. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^#toomanysongs
    -cute. Weddings get less improve. and we play for a Really long time. keep those dancers moving. all night.

    ^yeah I know but I stand by my earlier hashtag ;-)

  21. butter Says:

    Dry ice your right about 1 thing for sure

    Phish shows are concerts

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    theres no way anyone can say this is a better tour than fall 13.

    you could argue summer, but fall is A+, man.

  23. BingosBrother Says:

    Will this be their first Eugene show? Curious to visit regardless, but would add special sauce.

  24. butter Says:

    Miner, I think Trey won’t (try) and peak a jam (mostly in second sets) without something original or dank to add

    Fuck he peaks this Randall’s Tweez!!

  25. sumodie Says:

    JG, I caught the Relatives at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival last summer. They were a most unexpected surprise with their psychedelic gospel funk.

    Not an original sounding band like Brownout but they are great at what they do. Would def recommend catching them if playing locally. Fun band mining a retro sound that no other band around is playing (that I know of)

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