Working It Out: A Conversation with Myself

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)

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1,231 Responses to “Working It Out: A Conversation with Myself”

  1. bob dylan Says:

    HOLY CRAP! MY BUDDY FOUND A HIPPIE SPEEDBALL MUG!

    http://imgur.com/NyC3OWX

  2. bob dylan Says:

    that is most def top of page worthy

  3. bob dylan Says:

    only show I ever paid over face was hampton 04. that was a tough ticket at the time and we had 2 already and needed a 3rd so the 3 of us all paid a little extra to get the 3rd ticket. teamwork makes the dream work.

  4. bob dylan Says:

    cept that show wasn’t really a dream. kinda a letdown after the hype. least I got to see the famous hampton before they called it quits.

  5. bob dylan Says:

    hey wait a minute. that was 10 years ago TODAY

    shit has been very funny like that the past few days for me.

  6. bob dylan Says:

    see if i can own this whole page. met a dude yesterday at work that knows a friend of gdad and me back in nyc. i met her and gdad 5 years ago yesterday. weird stuff.

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    i’m all for market value. the fact that people think phish tix are worth only 75 bucks is part of the problem.

  8. MiA Says:

    Were “miracle” grovlers part of the mid/early 70’s dead or a phenomena of later era? Never saw a single one on the phish lots until Jerry died and the lot rat/panhandlers arrived that had plagued the GD scene.

    Then (it was explained to me) all the vendors who never really were into the band but showed up at all the shows they could bend at suddenly wanted free tickets, cause why not?

    Have had many “senior” GD people tell me no respectful deadhead ever asked for a miracle. Wasn’t a culture they believed in.

  9. MiA Says:

    Were “miracle” grovlers part of the mid/early 70’s dead or a phenomena of later era? Never saw a single one on the phish lots until Jerry died and the lot rat/panhandlers arrived that had plagued the GD scene.

    Then (it was explained to me) all the vendors who never really were into the band but showed up at all the shows they could bend at suddenly wanted free tickets, cause why not?

    Have had many “senior” GD people tell me no respectful deadhead ever asked for a miracle. Wasn’t a culture they believed in.

  10. MiA Says:

    Vend at …

  11. phishm Says:

    I don’t know about you all, but I need a miracle everyday. OK, lame I know. Working until 5am on disaster recovery testing. Should not be fun. I keep being told that I should just appreciate being employed. I guess it’s like getting in the building vs getting the right seat. I would very much enjoy being paid to not work on a Saturday all night, but I guess I can’t complain. Digging ditches is not for me.

  12. voopa Says:

    Cool. An old spacecraft and the largest perigee full moon of the year, both on our 12th wedding anniversary. Now if I can find a free stream of tonight’s Drum Corps IInternational Finals, then everything will be perfect. Well, except for the whole ticket/show rollercoaster earlier…

  13. jtran Says:

    interested in the answer to @mias question. hope someone’s got it.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    let me know if you find that stream @voopa! the wife would dig that

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    demand did not regularly exceed ticket supply until the “Touch head” era post 1987, really Fall ’87 escalating into ’88 and ’89.

    There were always sold out, tough ticket shows though. And the idea that no serious deadhead in the old days would ever ask for a miracle or whatever seems pretty unlikely to me. I don’t know when they first were called “miracles” though…but yes certainly when I first came on tour I learned that you pay your way one way or another for the most part. I showed up without a ticket many times but my mentality was to always have something to give for it (cash even if not face, kind trade, ticket to a later show, shirt/art stuff, anything so you’re not empty handed) and I was always thinking I’d ask people I knew first, rarely random passerby strangers…

    But I remember plenty of stories from older heads of them broke and desperate to get into whatever the tough show of the tour was, Radio City or Red Rocks or the Greek or whatever.

    As soon as it became normal for there to be very large numbers of people outside during the show, in my opinion that was really the key thing that started lot culture collapsing under its own weight. That led directly to the crews @MiA is talking about jumping to Phish tour after the Garcia gravy train left the tracks for good

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    I mean I remember people outside the Fox Theater in ATL in ’85 without tickets trying to get in, most of them had something to trade but not all, resulting in a gate rush…but Hampton, a much bigger place, in ’85 and ’86 there were tickets to go round…then in ’87 Hampton was sold out and a real tough ask (first post coma east coast shows) and there was the first Hampton gate rush anyone could remember

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    funked out take on Space is the Place

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJWng3c3jRM

  18. verno329 Says:

    Killer update to the PhishOD app. You can now stream everything in your LivePhish account, direct access to Cash or Trade, playlists, ability to read text files for most shows and your phish.net show info. Get it now

  19. the Baker Says:

    Mr.C,
    Thanx for the tales & deets!

    Cheers BB,
    It’s been a long, wonderful & fun MOVE-my-friends-day down here in Swealtering-Sauna’d HotLanta…geesh, I dunno HOW people “live down here”…

    …besides, besides

    I’ve got inter-browser/social-media “chores” to catch-up on, gnite!

  20. the Baker Says:

    @bobdylan,

    Amazin mug!

    #freerefills?!?

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    basically, look, from Day 1 there were people on tour who were young, dumb, high and broke – the difference was just the proportion of them to the ones that knew what was up, and then later the growth of the vampire/parasite ecosystem, but that couldn’t happen until after the basic tour ecology got out of whack

  22. Stoney Case Says:

    Tom Petty – Friend of the Devil

    Rest in love Jerry

  23. Stoney Case Says:

    For your Sunday listening pleasure

    https://twitter.com/campgreensky/status/498332635228151808

    Met the guy today that helped develop FLAC. He agrees that Apples ALAC set them back a bit.

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    Fuck.

    One of my friends might relapse. Have no idea what to do. Trying to figure out whether or not to tell one of our mutual close friends (she knows something’s going on but doesn’t know what).

    Sorry to bum you out but this shit is literally making me sick to think about. God fucking dammit.

  25. Stoney Case Says:

    Damn BK. Much love. There are people here better qualified than I to answer.

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