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. BingosBrother Says:

    One thing is for sure. Someone gonna say it. Wish I was there to compare.

  2. dorn76 Says:

    LU thought Wax Banks was a venue.

    Sometimes I forget how fucking geeky we old dudes are for Phish. Then Tela’s reminds me. Or a guy with deep music knowledge like LU has no clue who Wax Banks is.

  3. snow Says:

    Thanks garret! Great work excluding YEMs and fluffs. Did you effort that shit by going through each show?

    The stats don’t lie. Just the people interpreting them…

    I took your compilation and looked at it slightly different. I was curious about 13min+ jams per show. Here are the results:

    Summer ’14 – 1.63
    Fall ’13 – 2.0!
    Sum ’13 – 1.375
    Sum ’12 – 1.303
    Sum ’11 – 0.88

    So in fall ’13 there were 2 13min+ jams per show. That is the high water mark. By that metric, Summer ’14 is the jammiest summer tour by 0.261 jams per show.

    These are not perfect stats even even just for length… ideally we would note where a song ends and sum to find total minutes of jam time per show. And says nothing of quality. that said, it fits my perception that there were more jams this summer.

    I also like @chris’s observation- many of these middling jams felt like they were axed even though they covered a lot of ground. It’s one of those can’t win things – the more they jam, the more it seems like every song could have jammed longer.

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

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

    ^can you send me some of that?

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    WOW Hall in Eugene. My stomping ground for many years.

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Lol @ Dorn- I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what he was talking about referring to 7/30/03 as the Wb show… Shit..all i did was refer him to his review of the show… I’m cracking up over here…

    Good work Snow…. More meaningless phish data to debate… Although it is nice to know that our initial impressions were indeed, correct.

  7. DryIceFactory Says:

    Happy to see Northerly1 getting its due. The crew around us in the pit was going absolutely bonkers the whole 2nd set. DrOOgs helped but I think I enjoy the Golden Age a lot more than most, loved the Piper (thought we were going back into Sand at one point) and cheesed out with Tory during the ->Halley’s moment. Wombat needs no introduction.

  8. DryIceFactory Says:

    Also, the improv’d out ending to Mango was pretty awesome too.

  9. snow Says:

    Now on NFL network… Congrats you made the Hall of Fame! for your punishment, you have to watch preseason football… but Hell yes! Football!

  10. MrCompletely Says:

    Strength in Numbers and early DGQ albums notwithstanding, Tony Rice Unit “Backwaters” is the album I know of for chilled out but brilliant virtuosic jazzgrass, it manages to avoid the dreaded Pitfall of Cheesiness on its way to the sublime…

    Anyway last Fall was when the wife was at her sickest and everything was nuts, I literally have no memory of a single note of that tour even though I listened to most of it as it happened

  11. butter Says:

    Anytime a band tours to support an album it changes the dynamic

    They came out for Summer 14 as the great explorers and Fuego pushers

  12. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Thanks scoop! Playing locally @ Continental Club which is practically in my hood. Gonna need a post work nap though.

    Fixin to tap a bomber of Stone Unapologetic IPA a collab w/ Heretic Brewing @ owner of Beachwood BBQ. 8.8% ABV & 90 IBUs.

    That jam sesh sounds awesome lu!

  13. butter Says:

    Where’s Arty at?

  14. DryIceFactory Says:


    Nailed it.

  15. sumodie Says:

    dorn76 Says:
    August 6th, 2014 at 6:12 pm
    The bottom of the page is still the page.

    I purposely don’t read the last three posts on every page just to keep it interesting. Plus I love counting to 22!

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    Thanks C. I do the same thing when shit gets bad. Get through it and forget it. Fine by me.

  17. butter Says:

    Robear on his way down to SF to visit

    Let’s see, he said 9pm but that’s Humboldt so 10:30 I’m thinkin

  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Just queued up OB II. Gonna back porch this set. Unapologetic does not apologize for its utter dankness.

    ‘When you get three hopheads together to collaborate on a beer, it’s only natural to expect some hopped up liquid incarnation of their lupulin lust to spring forth from such a session. Maybe it seems passé to some—three masters of hoppy beer once again exploring the familiar territory of the India pale ale. After all, who needs yet another IPA, double or otherwise, right? It’s all been done. To those who feel this way, this trio’s reply is: “so what?” In birthing a double IPA made bitter and fruity care of a mélange of new and experimental hops (Azacca, Belma, and yet-to-be-named varieties from Washington’s Yakima Valley), they aren’t staying in a comfort zone—they’re hitting a sweet spot in the name of all that is good, delicious, hoppy and forward-thinking to create an IPA that’s both like and unlike anything they, or you, have ever tasted. Rife with essence of pine, resin, and fruits both citrus and tropical, there’s no need for apologies with this beer. All that’s necessary is a yearning for hops, a sturdy constitution and an empty glass.’

  19. snow Says:

    bonus for you C! You have the best tour of 3.0 to enjoy agin for the first time!

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Charlotte set 2- Sleeper set of tour?

  21. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Wow this Jazz Odyssey Disease!

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^1st spin. Back porch always makes jams better.

  23. bob dylan Says:

    still on page 140.

    palmer, i remember people not digging the secret smile. i loved that show. first time ever for me being a mahltard so its pretty vivid for me. show felt super short. also led to me watching set 2 from the lawn since the pavilion was so hot. if i annoyed any of you that night, my apologies.

    lilum, when people talk winter 03, they mean the spring tour that started 03.


  24. butter Says:

    U liked Hampton Tweez @C

    Dark and knarly industial feel > siket disc dreamy ending

  25. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Pretty smooth transition into Theme

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