Miner’s Dicks Picks

Posted in Jams with the tags , , , , on August 25th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

Here are my selections for the top 10 jams in Dick’s history.

10. “Carini” 8.31.12 I

This surprise jam, early in the first frame, set the tone for the FYF show.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

9. “Runaway Jim” 8.31.12 II

A rare siting of an exploratory, second set “Runaway Jim” in the modern era. This one is kind of aimless for a while but comes together in the second half. Some might rank this higher, but it just doesn’t hit me very hard at all. It’s kind of messy and all over the place.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

8. “Sand” 8.30.13 II

This “Sand” opens up into a gorgeous passage of Phish. While not quite 2012’s version, this “Sand” is quite good in its own right.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

7. “Piper” 9.4.11 II

An airtight excursion that passes through several themes, one that Page laces with his magic Theremin.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

6. “Sand” 9.2.12 II

A far more fluid jam than I ever gave it credit for, and sick throughout.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

5. “Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.13 II

A defining moment of late-summer ’13, as the band set the course for Fall.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

4. “Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.12 II

An incredibly cohesive monster with some of Trey’s most inspired work of the year.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

3. “Tweezer” 9.3.11 II

One of the bands most triumphant moments in 2011.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

2. “Undermind” 8.31.12 II

This set closer confirmed that something special was going at Dick’s in 2012.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

***

1. “Light” 9.1.12 II

The mac daddy highlight from Phish’s years at Dick’s. It’s just so good.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Tags: , , , ,

A Brief History of Dick’s

Posted in History with the tags , , , on August 21st, 2014 by Mr.Miner
9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

Four years ago, the Phish community descended on Denver, Colorado for the Labor Day weekend. The band had booked a new venue—a soccer stadium just outside the city—for a summer-closing three-pack. Even before anyone stepped inside the venue, the idea seemed like a sound one—a free-for-all throwdown with a massive GA field where everyone could congregate in a hassle free environment. Tickets wouldn’t be a problem with such a large venue, and everyone could come out for the three-night run over Labor Day Weekend to enjoy the last shows of summer. And the stadium was named Dick’s. It didn’t matter that its moniker was taken from a nationwide sporting goods store, the community—and the band—ran with the inherent humor. Phish loves Dick’s. We love Dick’s. Everyone loves Dick’s.

In just a week, we will all head to the Rockies once again, for the fourth consecutive Labor Day fiesta. Like two of the three previous stands, this one will be a stand-alone trifecta that will seal the deal on another summer of Phish. But before we get there, let’s take a quick trip through the history of a venue that has become a modern legend.

2011

Dick's 2011 Official (LandLand!)

Dick’s 2011 Official (LandLand!)

Dick’s 2011 was the culmination of a huge summer of growth for Phish. They had played a two-legged tour beginning on May 27, with Superball in between. After trudging through 2009 and 2010 on a far slower learning curve than most anticipated, Phish made a huge leap forward during Summer 2011. High points came right out of the gate at Bethel and the “Rust Belt” run through Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati, in July at Superball, and later that summer at the Gorge and UIC Pavilion. The band took just under two weeks off before coming into their first Dick’s stand firing on all cylinders.

A tradition was born in Phish’s first show at Dick’s—the “S” Show. Throughout two sets and an encore, the band played twenty-six songs that began with the letter “S.” This stunt set a precedent of setlist trickery that now occurs on the first night of each end-of-summer weekend. Though fun, this show was somewhat light on jams, sprouting minor highlights in “Sneakin Sally -> Sparks” and “Seven Below.” Things changed over the following two nights, however, as Phish got down to business with jams aplenty.

Saturday and Sunday’s second sets were packed to the gills with improvisation, and an unforgettable “Tweezer” lead the charge. This jam departed from the darker grooves the song is known for and launched into the most heavenly jam of the year. But while “Tweezer” was most definitely the jam of the weekend, the set of the transpired on the stand’s final night, centered on a smoking sequence of “Twist -> Piper > Hood.” Needless to say, after three nights of top level Phish to close the season, folks couldn’t wait to return to the industrial park in Commerce City the following year

2012

2012 Official (Stout)

2012 Official (Stout)

Dicks 2012 was a whole different story. This three-night stand was a pivot point in the overall narrative of the 3.0 era, thus holding importance in the context of Phish’s career. In short, this stand was an absolute breakthrough.  The bad had rediscovered the art of long form jamming over leg two of summer tour in 2012. Before Long Beach, Phish’s improvisational passages had grown quite dense, but usually maxed out between 12 and 15 minutes, feeling more like appetizers than main courses. Though they had dropped a handful of extended jams in 2011, they had reeled things back over summer’s opening leg, one would suspect as a calculated move in order to make this jump over leg two. But when tour wound its way to Dick’s—he finale of summer’s second leg—things transformed once again.

A confluence of elements combined to make this weekend magic. The band was coming from six consecutive one-off shows through the South and Midwest and now had a chance to settle in for three nights in a familiar and well-loved environment. And Phish had—at long last—gained their sea legs again, playing with an enhanced sense of freedom over the previous fortnight. This was a recipe for the perfect storm, and as if that wasn’t enough, Phish helped out further by forcing their own hand on night one.

8.31.12 (G.Lucas)

8.31.12 (G.Lucas)

The band chose to spell “FUCK YOUR FACE” as their prank on this run’s opening night, a decision that allowed them to play only twelve songs over two sets. They had to jam their faces off to make this show happen, and that they did, setting fire to the soccer stadium with one of the modern era’s finest performances. Jams fell out of the sky on this night, including an all-timer in the first set in “Undermind” and an extended “Carini” to back it up. The second set is well known at this point, featuring a multi-tiered take on “Runaway Jim” and another all-timer in “Chalk Dust.” This was one of those nights where everyone walked out with eyes wide and sparkling.

And the next night the magic kept flowing as the band dropped a monumental version of “Light. This excursion traversed copious musical ground, as the band seamlessly rolled through several themes and segments, complete with a blues rock coda that left everyone’s jaws on the floor. This jam hit so hard that it was mere weeks before fans made pins, stickers and t shirts to commemorate it’s occurrence. It was that big of a deal—a true heavy hitter in a time when they didn’t come around too often. But all of a sudden, these monster jams were rolling of the presses at Dick’s in 2012! And they were played with the sense of effortless that made Phish famous. They were in the zone all weekend long, and we have the tapes to prove it. The rest of Saturday’s show was rock solid as well, a but a few years removed with a more macro perspective, this show is truly about the “Light.”

644063_10151135714484798_1697060993_nJust as the year before, the tightest set of Dick’s 2012 three-night run was its last. This set was centered on monstrous version of “Sand” that Phish opened up like never before. The minutes of music that took place before the band headed out the other side and into a harder rock outro are among the best of the year. Seamless segues from “Sand” to “Ghost” and then into “Piper” provided a non-stop 50 minutes of improvisational fireworks. “Twenty Years Later” and “Lizards” provided a poignant juxtaposition before a powerful “Hood” brought things home. Dick’s 2012 was truly a portal through which Phish stepped and has never looked back. Their playing from 2009 had all led up to this, and their playing since has been more consistently creative and inspired. This stand transformed the band’s confidence, and it became apparent that things were just really now heating up for this third go-round. The long wait of 3.0 had paid off, and Dick’s was the new Promised Land.

2013

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

Phish had just under a month off between summer tour and Dick’s in 2013, and this time the band didn’t come in with such fire. Just as they had forced themselves to jam with a 12-letter setlist in 2012, this year they all but eliminated any possibility of large excursions in spelling out “Most Shows Spell Something” in reverse. “Sand” popped off to start the second set, but after that it was a pretty straightforward show, as the band crunched in 23 songs to pull off their setlist pun.

The second night, however, was an 180-degree turnaround. Phish played one of their best start-to-finish shows of the season on Saturday night, featuring one of summer’s most significant improvisations in “Chalk Dust Torture.” This “Chalk Dust” would immediately be added to the laundry list of filthy jams dropped throughout Dick’s history, as this end-of-summer piece featured a blissed out beginning, a dark drum and bass section, a sequence of groove laced with a calypso vibe, and some stop-start theatrics. Once again, the rest of the show was quite good, but with a macro view, this show was all about “Chalk Dust.”

Sunday night of 2013 didn’t follow the pattern of previous years and, quite honestly, fell rather flat. I’m not sure why this stand took a left where the others turned right, but sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.

2014?

This year is an interesting case. Phish is coming into Dick’s on the heels of a summer tour that peaked early and coasted to a finish, and with the same amount of downtime’s as last year. Trey has been uncharacteristically laid back this summer, with varying degrees of success, and it is hard to predict what guitarist will show up in Denver. The band, however, has been playing well as a unit, and in a comfortable environment away from the east coast, anything is certainly possible. Answers in one week!

Tags: , , ,

Thinking Back to Coventry

Posted in Commentary, History with the tags , , on August 14th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
Coventry (Boston Globe)

Coventry (Boston Globe)

Coventry. The mere mention of the word makes any Phish fan cringe. But here we are, ten years later, on the heels of Phish’s sixth summer tour since their return and on the brink of their fourth fall tour in six years. One can say we’ve come a long way from the mud ridden disaster that was Coventry in 2004. Sometimes the universe just provides the exact combination of elements to match a particular mood, and between the traffic debocle, the mud-soaked concert field, and fans being turned away from the site in cars while others hiked in, everything about this weekend was an absolute fucking trainwreck. And then we had the band. In what was supposed to be their swan song, the came out in arguably the worst form of their career—in every way. Despite a few highlights over two days, the music, overall, matched the vibe of the festival as well—an utter fucking mess. Calling Coventry a travesty would be the understatement of the century. It was really that bad. If you need any memory of just how bad it got, watch some footage of the final night. Viewer discretion is advised. There wasn’t much takeaway from that weekend in Vermont, other than Phish was gone, and this time it was for good.

And somehow, I was ok with it all. I was devastated when Trey announced that they were done, but at Coventry, everything was already a foregone conclusion for me and I wasn’t all that traumatized by the events. I just knew things couldn’t be right with the band, because they just played their farewell festival without dropping “Tweezer.” And that’s not a joke, but a funny truth. There was no stepping into anything that weekend except mud, and lots of it. I remember walking back to our RV after the final show and just seeing abandoned shoes stuck in the mud, and somehow it felt like an apt analogy for the entire weekend. You had to just let go to enjoy yourself at all, even if it meant leaving your shoes behind. Phish was done and this was one last hurrah. But the irony was that there was very little joy at Coventry, and it was hardly a hurrah.

Coventry (sensiblereason.com)

Coventry (sensiblereason.com)

When they say the crowd went the way of the band in this era, its no joke. I didn’t have to look further than my own RV and my closest tour friends to see the effect that oxycontin and other hard drugs had taken on our scene. I was always someone who kept it lighthearted, I got spun and smoked weed all night, but I never saw the point in the “post-show” drugs. At some point, things shifted for some of my friends, as I’m sure they did for the band, and the entire tour experience became intertwined with hard drug use that went far beyond any recreational habit. Band members, my friends and way to many people in our community were in the grips of the same drug that had its grips on the nation, the semi-synthetic opiate named oxycontin that had become easily attainable in America during this time. It is a drug that chips away at one’s character and zest for life as quickly as it does their health, and in retrospect, it’s amazing Phish cranked out the music they did that summer. Leg one was solid the whole way through, and they had even played a fairly strong two-night stand at Great Woods just before Coventry. Through all the substances and internal issues, the band could still jam. Their composed playing had gone the way of the wind, but those guys could jam up until the end. Just about.

Many people say that they knew Phish would be back. I wasn’t one of those people. I took it at face value. Phish was done. I had to in order to put it all behind me and move on. After a little bit, it almost became easier to live a normal life without Phish, because I didn’t want to leave town every couple months for weeks on end. I didn’t have to make excuses to families, employers, schools and beyond in order to sneak off onto the astral plane with Phish. But throughout the band’s five year absence, I never found something that spoke to me as personally as Phish had, thus when I heard they were coming back, this entire blog began as a place to simply process my thoughts. I guess those people were right, because Phish came back, and they came back in a big way. Though it took a couple years to shake off the rust, Phish had climbed back to prominence, adding chapters upon chapters to their legacy that few dreamed possible. Thinking back to Coventry now is like remembering a bad dream from long ago. I can still relate to the emotions of the weekend, but they don’t sting any more because we are six years into a new era. Now we can all legitimately say, imagine what our lives would be if Phish hadn’t come back? And that, my friends, is pretty damn sweet.

Coventry (fredshead.org)

Coventry (fredshead.org)

Tags: , ,

The Top 10 Shows of Tour

Posted in Shows with the tags , , on August 12th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
7.16.14 (Jesse Herzog)

7.16.14 (Jesse Herzog)

I must admit, in ranking shows, I am essentially ranking second sets. There were a couple first sets that stood out over others this tour, but at the end of the day, when thinking back and spinning these shows, it’s all about the second sets. There were no first sets that were strong enough to sway my decision making process, so there’s my disclaimer. And therein lies the reason for a couple of rather tight calls on this list of shows. As always, thanks for reading!

Honorable Mention:  7/3 SPAC, 7/5 SPAC, 7/18 Chicago, 7/19 Chicago

10) 7/8 The Mann Music Center, Philadelphia, PA

This show breaks into the top ten on the strength of its “Fuego,” the second best jam of tour, and its late-set sequence of “Ghost > 2001 > Harry Hood.” Though Trey shanked the “Tweezer” jam, there is more than enough meat to carry this one. The story here, however, is the monumental “Fuego” jam that still stands as the song’s most developed and prolific outing.

I: Axilla, Gumbo, Taste, 555, Tube, Halfway to the Moon, Camel Walk, Sparkle, Halley’s Comet > It’s Ice, Ocelot, Walls of the Cave

II: 46 Days, Fuego > The Line, Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer > Ghost > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood > Tweezer Reprise

E: Possum

***

9) 7/25 PNC Amphitheatre, Charlotte. NC

Charlotte Official (J.Santora)

Charlotte Official (J.Santora)

Living in the shadows of the Merriweather stand since the weekend they both happened, Charlotte’s performance actually has quite a bit to offer. This show’s centerpiece is a long form “Chalk Dust” that stands second only to Randall’s in summer’s top versions. The seamless sequence of “Fuego -> Twist -> Circus” boasts tour’s most impressive segue between the latter two songs, and summer’s most intricate and variant  “Reba” popped up late in the second set.  Trey’s “riftcord” in the “Piper” jam was the only blemish in this set, and Charlotte has  one has one of my favorite first sets taboot.

I: Mike’s Song > Back on the Train > Weekapaug Groove, Wingsuit, Possum, Tube, My Friend, My Friend, Winterqueen, Beauty of a Broken Heart, David Bowie, Golgi Apparatus

II: 555, Chalk Dust Torture > Fuego -> Twist -> When the Circus Comes, Piper > Rift, Waiting All Night > Reba > Character Zero

E: Loving Cup

*** 

8) 8/1 Amphitheatre at the Wharf, Orange Beach, AL

Phish’s first visit to the Gulf Coast resulted in a smoking second set that featured the jam of the south in “Down with Disease” and an original “Tweezer” that reached a gorgeous musical space. Pairing “Fuego” and “Slave” in the middle of the set and then closing things out with a seamless mashup of “Boogie On” and “Antelope,” Phish brought their best Southern effort on the three-night run’s opening night. A rock solid set of music gave the Phish-starved deep South something to write home about.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance, Heavy Things, 555, Rift, 46 Days, Tube, Devotion To a Dream, Wolfman’s Brother, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Free, Character Zero

II: Down with Disease > Theme From the Bottom > Tweezer > Prince Caspian, Waiting All Night, Fuego > Slave to the Traffic Light, 2001 > Boogie On Reggae Woman -> Run Like an Antelope

E: Bouncing Around the Room > Tweezer Reprise

***

7) 7/26 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

This second set flowed like water from start to finish and boasts plenty of high quality improvisation throughout. The jam of the show is a toss up between the ‘70s-rock infused “Ghost” jam and the avant-garde fusion that went down in “Light.” Each of these jams is quite good and of completely divergent feels. The opening run of “Carini -> Ghost -> Steam” came off without a hitch and a contained but blistering “Harry Hood” capped things off. A true powerhouse Phish set.

I: Sample in a Jar, The Moma Dance, Wombat, Backwards Down the Number Line, Roggae, The Wedge, Wolfman’s Brother, Nellie Kane, Lawn Boy, The Line, Stash, Suzy Greenberg

II: Carini -> Ghost > Steam -> The Mango Song, Monica, Light -> Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood

E: Julius

***

6) 7/30 nTelos Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA

Portsmouth Official (Kelly)

Portsmouth Official (Kelly)

Portsmouth’s second performance was far and away the best show Phish has ever played in the intimate nTelos Amphitheatre. It was always a treat to see Phish in such a small outdoor venue, but the shows there have always been medicore. That changed this year in a big way on night two, as Phish dropped only the third “Fuego” jam of tour (and first since Philadelphia almost three weeks earlier) and it was a keeper. The band was locked on this night and it showed in “Fuego’s” deep groove throwdown, a vibe that continued with the second-ever “Meatstick” jam (and first since 7.15.99), a funktastic piece that eventually bled into one of tour’s “Pipers.” This set boasted flow, bust-outs, surprise jams and just about everything you’d want in a Phish set (except a powerful closer).

I: Bathtub Gin, Devotion To a Dream, Yarmouth Road, Guelah Papyrus, Alaska, It’s Ice, Poor Heart, Mountains in the Mist, Meat, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, David Bowie

II: Fuego > Gotta Jibboo, Meatstick > Piper > Billy Breathes, Seven Below, Waste, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

E: The Lizards

***

5) 7/20 Northerly Island, Chicago, IL

I’ve totally come around on this show, as I was in a poor headspace that night, and the back half of this set completely smokes! This is a “Mike’s Groove” to be reckoned with, as the band not only split open “The Wedge” like never before, crafting one of tour’s best jams out in the unlikeliest of places, but they followed it up with an incredibly unique “Ghost” jam that was as dark as “The Wedge” was light. A smoking “Weekapaug” this closed the “Groove” emphatically and an above average “Disease” kicked things off in a set that flows from start to finish, despite an unneeded “Theme.”

I: Gumbo, Runaway Jim, Tela, The Line, Scent of a Mule, Bathtub Gin, Silent in the Morning, Maze, Ocelot, Walls of the Cave

II: Down with Disease > Winterqueen, Theme From the Bottom, Mike’s Song > The Wedge, Ghost -> Weekapaug Groove, First Tube

E: Character Zero

***

4) 7/12 Randall’s Island, New York City, NY

When this second set ended I called in perfect. With everything it its right place, Phish played an airtight frame of music with highlight jams all over. “Ghost” is the true centerpiece of the set, a patient journey through rock and downtempo realms. A stunning “Harry Hood” closes things out, and an intricate and ambient “Carini” started things off. Tour’s only “Punch” opened the set and tour’s only “Rock and Roll” came as a blistering contained rendition. Throw in a strong “Wingsuit” in the middle of the set, and you’ve got—well—a perfect frame of Phish.

I: AC/DC Bag, 46 Days, Yarmouth Road, Devotion To a Dream, Free, My Sweet One,  Back on the Train, Halfway to the Moon , Sparkle, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, The Line, Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Punch You In the Eye, Carini > Ghost > Wingsuit, Rock and Roll, Harry Hood

E: Tube, Joy, First Tube

***

3) 7/4 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

7/4 Official (Mumford)

7/4 Official (Mumford)

Rarely does Phish open a second set with an hour of top-shelf improvisation but on July 4th that is exactly what happened. And they did it in grand style, debuting “Fuego’s” jam with an exploratory, twenty-minute excursion that peaked in tour’s most sublime moment. From the new to the classic, the band slid into a run of “Disease > Twist > Light” before ever looking up for air. They coasted to the finish with “Theme,” “Number Line” and “First Tube,” but the damage had most definitely been done. This one was a holiday show to remember, and—easily—the best July 4th show in since 7.4.00.

I: The Star Spangled Banner, 555, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Reba,Waiting All Night, Runaway Jim, 46 Days, Rift, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

II: Fuego > Down with Disease > Twist > Light > Theme From the Bottom, Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

E: Character Zero

***

2) 7/27 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

MPP Official (J.Callos)

MPP Official (J.Callos)

Night two of Merriweather was a different kind of Phish show. Though breakthrough jams took place in “Tweezer” and “NICU,” the take away from this night was about energy. But not the balls to the wall energy one would associate with a rock show, but the wacky, Phishy energy that was necessary to pull off such a second set at all. This type of setlist trickery and antic/comedy driven show was part of the band’s repertoire in the early-Ninties, and here we were in 2014 witnessing a performance every bit as musically inspired and energetic. Watching the band perform this show was like watching them rediscover their youth. As if shot into some alternate zone by Fishman’s abrupt change of direction in “Tweezer’s” jam, the guys became possessed with a spirit of old—but a spirit that clearly still burns brightly in their hearts today, driving the modern version of Phish. We’ve all seen a lot of shows, and we’ve all seen the guys have a great time on countless occasions, but something was different on this night, they were having a whole ‘nother level of fun as they wove in and out of songs, stopped to jam where the spirit moved, and generally carried on with a zaniness that has lied just below the surface for the most of the modern era. This night was special for us, no doubt, but far more significantly, this night was special for them.

I: Fee, The Curtain With, 46 Days, 555, My Sweet One, Sand, Bouncing Around the Room, Saw It Again, Fuego, You Enjoy Myself

II: Wilson > Tweezer -> Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Back on the Train -> Tweezer > Waiting All Night, Free -> Tweezer -> Simple -> Tweezer -> Free, Catapult -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Down with Disease -> NICU -> Hold Your Head Up > Jennifer Dances > Hold Your Head Up, I Been Around

E: Boogie On Reggae Woman > Tweezer Reprise

***

1) 7/13 Randall’s Island, New York City, NY

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

7.13 Official (J.Flames)

No antics in this one, just the best improvisation of the entire tour in a Hall of Fame hour of music that went “Chalk Dust > Light > Tweezer.” “Chalk Dust” is up there with Phish’s all time jams, easily cracking the upper echelon of that discussion. A true masterpiece that soars out of the gates and then settles into the most intuitive and connected jamming of the summer, this one has replay value for days as it continues to wow with every spin. Showing ultimate composure and exhibiting patience rarely seen in this day and age, the band navigated a near half-hour piece of music that is ridiculously dense and rich, featuring countless feels and soundscapes. But that’s just the first half of the coin. On the backside Phish dropped “Light > Tweezer,” each a standout highlight of its own. The band dripped into a surreal “Mind Left Body” jam in “Light,” and packed the tour’s best “Tweezer” with totally inventive playing, building to a group-wide peak that saw brains explode across Randall’s Island. This first hour of the second set was real-deal Holyfield, sashimi grade Phish that will stand up to anything. Finishing the set with “Velvet Sea,” “Monica” and “Slave,” this one was airtight through the end. Randall’s final performance also boasts my pick for best first set of tour, featuring several juicy selections.

I:Sand, Winterqueen, Reba, Birds of a Feather, Water in the Sky, Possum, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Split Open and Melt

II: Chalk Dust Torture > Light > Tweezer, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Monica, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer Reprise

Tags: , ,

Fitting In Fuego

Posted in Commentary with the tags , , , on August 10th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
'Fuego'

‘Fuego’

This summer tour felt very much about integrating the band’s new material into their live show. Having debuted all but one of the songs in a single set lasst Halloween, Phish played seven of their new pieces over the New Year’s Run, but their roles were totally unknown going into this summer. And after twenty-two shows, the guys have sorted most things out, with only a couple selections whose placement remain elusive. Let’s look at a track-by-track analysis of how Phish has worked their newest batch of songs into their summer performances.

“Fuego”—After much speculation, “Fuego” was the only true jam vehicle that developed from Phish’s newest album. Though the song spawned three of tour’s most significant highlights with its SPAC, Mann and Portsmouth outings, “Fuego,” was still hard to pin down, as it was played far more times without a jam than with one. Perhaps this was due to the band’s “Everyone Gets a ‘Fuego’ (Except Pelham)” policy,  and they decided that it would be overkill to improvise from the song at every tour stop. Perhaps they didn’t even think this deeply about the issue at all. But when the promotional dust settles on Fall Tour and “Fuego” slides back into regular rotation, I bet we see it extend into a jam more regularly. The band has already proven how prolific a springboard it can be, as they crafted three twenty-minute excursions from the title track, all plunging different musical depths. One commonality between all three jams, however, was the group-wide patience that allowed the guys to collectively explore and discover some awesome spaces. Between SPAC’s unforgettable peak, the Mann’s bliss-turned-funk theatrics and Portsmouth’s clav-laced groove workout, “Fuego” has certainly proved its value quickly this summer. And we have only begun to see what this piece has in store. (Check out Philly’s version here.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Chicago (G.Lucas)

Chicago (Graham Lucas)

“The Line”—Despite placing “The Line” just about everywhere in their show this summer, Phish still hasn’t found a routine use for this song. The two most common placements have been in the middle of the second set as an interlude between lager improvisations, and as a standard first set song. I can’t say it has totally failed in its second set role, but its natural place in a show seems to lean towards the first. “The Line” appeared nine times this summer, trailing only “555” and “Fuego.”

“Devotion to a Dream”—This upbeat tune was used solely as a first set song this summer and that seems just right. Phish paired “Devotion” with “Wolfman’s Brother” on three of its last four outings of summer, using the two songs as a stylistic juxtaposition within the opening half of shows. I foresee more of the same for “Devotion,” as its structure and vibe don’t lend themselves to the second set.

“Halfway to the Moon”—Unfortunately, I have nothing of interest to report on “Halfway to the Moon.” The band has kept the song harnessed to the first set and has showed no interest in opening up what could be a promising jam vehicle. As previously noted before tour, Mike’s and Page’s songs don’t usually get jams in this era, and the trend continues with this number.

“Winterqueen”—Phish seamlessly integrated “Winterqueen” into their repertoire during SPAC’s opening show as a second set landing pad for the sequence of “Bathtub Gin > Limb by Limb.” “Winterqueen” was also used in this vein following Chicago’s “Down with Disease,” as it appeared in set two on three of five occasions this summer. Its most improvised version, however, came in Charlotte’s first set when Phish pushed the piece beyond its traditional contour for the only time of tour. This song translated incredibly well this summer and brought us “Fuego’s” most pleasant surprise. (Check out Charlotte’s version here.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

7.16/14 (J.Herzog)

7.16/14 (J.Herzog)

“Sing Monica”—Another one of summer’s surprise developments was the emergence of “Monica” as a late-second set rock breather in smoking stanzas of music. Trey called for the song in both Randall’s iconic final set and Merriweather’s opening, jam-heavy performance. “Monica” also appeared in a SPAC encore before “Tweeprise” in much the same vein. But after Merriweather the song disappeared—perhaps because Trey didn’t feel another set of tour was hot enough to warrant the kickdown? Maybe that’s where this song has settled, and who’d have thunk it?

“555”—When Mike’s newest song opened up Charlotte’s second set, the potential of a jam loomed momentarily in the air. But it wasn’t to be, as the song simply kicked off the set before a long-form “Chalk Dust.” Every other appearance of “555” came in the opening set of shows, and that certainly seems to be where Trey likes the song the most. This one could get dirty if they opened it up, but as predicted before tour, it doesn’t seem like that will happen. “555” was performed 11 times in 22 shows, trailing only “Fuego” (12).

“Waiting All Night”—This was another song that slid into rotation with ease, as the band used it effectively as both a second set cool down and a first set single. Interestingly, the band paired “Waiting All Night” with “Reba” on three occasions this Summer, twice being placed poignantly after the revitalized classic. Mike’s bass lines give this one a smooth and groove-based feel in the live setting, and Trey seems to like playing the song quite a bit, as he called for it eight times this summer.

7.16.14 (J.Herzog)

7.16.14 (J.Herzog)

“Wombat”—“Wombat” was just getting loose when Phish shelved it for the tour. In Canandaigua’s first set, the band stretched out the funk number into its most significant incarnation to that point in tour. And then days later they blew it wide open on the first night of Chicago, taking the jam out of the groove realm and into the spiritual and wide open. Phish fully broke through with Chicago’s “Wombat” jam, and then we never heard from the song again. As we left it, however, the jam was just growing legs—and that is an excellent sign for the future. (Check out Chicago’s version here.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Wingsuit”—“Wingsuit” found a couple effective slots in shows this summer, most significantly used as a landing pad for improvised, second set passages. Beginning in Randall’s middle performance, the band opened up the end of the song into a “Curtain With”-esque jam, and it became all the more worthy of its second set employment. “Wingsuit” truly came into its own this summer, featuring massive, emotionally-laced crescendos and serving as a powerful infusion of psych rock into the live show. Phish also used “Wingsuit” as a first set closer a couple times this summer, a slot that also felt fitting for the dramatic piece. One place it didn’t work so great, however, was as a mid-first set song, as it seemed a bit too slow as shows were building momentum. (Check out Randall’s version here.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Alpharetta (Chris LaJaunie)

Alpharetta (Chris LaJaunie)

Tags: , , ,

Working It Out: A Conversation with Myself

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 6th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
Portsmouth (Andrea Nusinov)

Portsmouth (Andrea Nusinov)

Mr. Miner 1: Let’s call a spade a spade—that Summer Tour just wasn’t up to snuff. The band came out of the gates like a well-oiled machine, exhibiting patience and crafting thoughtful, developed jams, but their improvisation peaked at Randall’s Island. It’s kind of tough to call a tour a success when the best jams occured with three weeks left. and they never again reached that level. Trey’s patience—something praise-worthy over tour’s first two weeks—waned considerably and he got back to impatiently axing jams. I give him credit for laying back in the mix, but there is a point of diminishing returns. He is still the lead guitar player who’s leadership is crucial in the both the development and the realization of jams, and there was a serious lack of both in the second half of summer. After letting jams progress while sitting back, he rarely stepped up with strong ideas or leads in the back half of things to bring things to the top, often content to play rhythm for the duration. There were several stellar sets this shows this tour, especially towards the beginning, but the improvisation in the post-Randall’s segment of tour wasn’t on the same level, let alone the level of last summer or fall. This tour just didn’t feel like a progression to me.

Mr. Miner 2: This summer, they fully integrated their new material into their live show, found a place for most of it, while developing a new jam vehicle in “Fuego.” How could you not call that a progression? You always want new material and this summer Phish dropped a slew of it into place. In terms of improvisation, the band’s jams were more diverse than ever, and Trey’s willingness to lay back in the mix contributed to the many different sounds that were explored by the band this summer. It felt like a sort of a transitional tour to me, not just with the new material, but with an even more group-based, lead-less focus to the jams. Perhaps the lack of peaks or true jam development over the second part of tour was part of this approach, and once integrated, I have no doubt that the band will continue to play fully realized jams come Fall.

MM1: I hear that. This summer definitely felt like a transition, but looking at this summer alone, Trey’s willingness to sit back and not play lead for entire jams contributed to an unfinished and unrealized feel to many potentially huge summer excursions—even some of the tour’s better jams. Without Trey’s ideas bringing jams to a head, there was often a notable absence of leadership and many jams ended without truly having an ending. Perhaps the focus on the new material took away from a focus on improvisation, because I just don’t feel that the band was fully dialed in on too many nights after Randall’s Island. You had Chicago night three, the Charlotte/Merriweather weekend, Portsmouth night two and Orange Beach. That’s about it. That’s a lot of relatively average nights for Phish these days.

MM2: While many of this tour’s jams may not traditionally peak or resolve, perhaps that wasn’t the band’s focus this tour. Perhaps they were looking to explore as many sounds and directions as possible to see if they discovered something special. One can not argue against the incredible diversity of improvisation this tour, the band was devoted to exploration and on most nights came up with at least one gem if not two. Taking the tour at face value, its hard to say its not a success when the guys were able to cover so much ground while still integrating an album’s worth of new material into rotation. Perhaps it wasn’t their best tour musically speaking through and through, but I see this run as a step forward for Phish, even if they experienced some growing pains this summer.

Chicago (G.Lucas)

Chicago (Graham Lucas)

MM1: Sure, when stepping back now that the tour is over and looking at it with a macro view, its easy to say that it could be a stepping stone to bigger things, both stylistically and improvisationally, but musically, I just don’t feel this tour holds as much weight as last summer or fall. The most impressive jams of tour are still the “Fuegos” and “Chalk Dusts” from early on, while there were certainly highlights along the way, there only a handful of jams that truly felt complete. I’m not saying the band wasn’t playing well—for the most part they were—but there were very few “IT” shows. There was a ton of B+ playing, but the A/A+ playing was few and far between. It was a good tour, it was an interesting tour, but not necessarily the band’s most powerful, if that makes sense.

MM2: But the first couple weeks were damn powerful and you can’t discount those shows just because they happened at the beginning of tour. Mansfield through Randall’s Island were amazing Phish shows with only a couple glitches among them in total. Those were special shows. Every tour has its own trajectory, and this one front-loaded the heat, there is no doubt about that. But there was a certain revitalization over Charlotte, Merriweather, Portsmouth night two and Orange Beach. So really, the lulls were only CMAC through the beginning of Chicago and the very end of tour. Really not all that bad, man.

MM1: I guess that is true, I just felt that those two lulls combined with such a drastic stylistic shift by Trey that left many jams feeling as “teasers” or “tasters,” combined to make the entire tour a bit of a disappointment. I have seen each tour as a musical progression throughout the modern era, and this one just didn’t feel like a significant step forward to me jam-wise. Though if looking at the first two weeks alone, I guess that’s not totally true. It was just the lack of ability to sustain that level of patience and playing that left a bad taste in my mouth. I do buy into the theory that Summer Tour could be part of a larger shift that will be realized during Fall Tour, but going through the shows night to night, the tour just felt a little thin to me,  a bit underwhelming. And Phish is not usually underwhelming.

MM2: While the tour doesn’t necessarily have an abundance of standalone timeless gems, Phish still threw down a fair amount of them and generally played stronger start-to-finish sets with better flow than we’ve come accustomed to in recent years. That, in itself, is a huge step forward. Did Trey cut off jams? Sure. It seems that will be a part of what happens as they try to keep things fresh this era, but the overall focus on flow kind of negated the ripcord effect, ya’ know?

Detroit (J.Herzog)

Detroit (Jesse Herzog)

MM1: I guess I’d rather have fully completed jams and a bit less flow than sacrificing musical realization for flow. I get it when they use two jams as one, such as the “Carini > Ghost” from Oak Mountain, but I’d rather hear one amazing jam and one less so, with less flow than two pretty good ones that flow. It’s all about those trasndendent moments to me, and there were notably few of those after Randall’s Island this summer, regardless of what else was happening in the show, flow or no flow, ya dig? For example, you don’t think of Toronto ’13 as a choppy second set, you remember the insane “Disease” jam that froze time and space. When we think to Merriweather night one, we will remember the impeccable flow, but at no point in that second set did the band absolutely break through. You know what I’m saying? The “Ghost” is awesome and the “Light” is the jam of the show, but we can’t pull a truly timeless gem from this set. I guess it’s a matter of what you prefer at some point. I’m in it for transcendence—the times when the band hooks up with their effortless flow and weaves magic out of thin air—and quite honestly, that didn’t happen all that often over tour’s final three weeks. And the band’s last two tours were drenched it IT.

MM2: Well, Chicago night three had timeless moments and Merriweather night two was pure magic. It certainly did seem that extra-special aura lacked a bit after Merriweather, however, with high-level outings only coming at Portsmouth night two and Orange Beach, and I’m not so sure those shows or jams reached the timeless plane, possibly Portsmouth’s “Fuego” or “Meatstick” and the Beach’s “Disease” though. But did you really expect much from the Southern run?

MM1: Right, I mean last summer ended up on the west coast and this one in Alabama. Set and setting certainly makes a difference. I am on board with Summer ’14 being a very good Phish tour and potentially part of a larger transition, but it just didn’t feel like the band reached the next level too many times, those types of jams where they hook up and never look back. At some point it is what it is, but when the band reinserts well developed and peaked jams into their beefier, more well-balanced sets, then things will feel just right again. Fall, here we come!

Merriweather (Andrea Nusonov)

Merriweather (Andrea Nusonov)

Tags: ,