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. BrandonKayda Says:

    Thanks Stoney.

    I told her – I didn’t really know what else to do. Her and my friend are really close and I felt like she deserved to know. Plus she was asking me what was going on.

    I’m gonna call him tomorrow and see how he’s doing.

    This blows.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    Terrible situation man. Nothing you can do but just try to do the right thing. And that can be pretty hard to figure out. For this kind of thing using your head doesn’t help as much as following your heart I think. Just remember that sometimes you can help and sometimes you can’t. Much love.

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    Your a compassionate kid. Id say u did the right thing. Better to have an angry friend than an overdosed one.

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    The kid is fucking 17 for Christ’s sake. And he’s already been through this shit before. Fuck that.

    I’m going to try and play it safe these next few days and just see how he is and check up on him…the girl agreed that she wouldn’t let him know I told her what was going on. I don’t want him to panic or feel like he can’t trust me you know what I mean?

    I think he’s just depressed, but it’s really hard to figure out. I’m glad that he told me what was going on though – that alone lets me know that he wants to let me in on some stuff which is good.

    Thanks for the kind words everyone.

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    The Awakening
    Ahamad Jamal Trio

  6. dorn76 Says:

    Some Fuego lines in the CLT Reba.

    Had an interesting time last night. Maybe Reggae and Newport shouldn’t be allowed to coexist in the same sentence.

    Started out the afternoon by eating infused pez at the polo match. My buddy met a cute gynecologist. He mentioned his interest in recreational gynecology and they hit it off.

    Such a chill venue on the waterfront, but poor old Freddy McGregor had to play a Marley medley to get the crowd jazzed up. That’s gotta sting to some degree.

  7. MiA Says:

    17 is a tough time for some. They want the whole world to pay attention to them but they want to be anonymous too as they learn their voice.

    Internet to the rescue!

  8. Gavinsdad Says:

    Warren and symphony last nite. It remains one of the classiest and most graceful interpretations of JGs music that I will ever have seen. Two noobs in our group truly enjoyed. Sold my 3 extras for 20/per. Was looking for some young kids to miracle but the show wasn’t sold out so couldn’t even find any!

    Vegas ticket networking time for me. I had to start driving for last nites bachelor events at 3pm est. glad to see there were a few pickups out there

  9. MiA Says:

    Hopefully you put the tickets in a tree Gdad.

    Nobody was looking for miracles because tour rats generally don’t go to see symphonic Warren Haynes?

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Prints, BGCA, NYE tickets, cash for your Halloween extra!

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    DaNcInG fOoL Says:
    August 10th, 2014 at 7:03 am
    Prints, BGCA, NYE tickets, cash for your Santa Barbara extra!

  12. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “Vegas ticket networking time for me. I had to start driving for last nites bachelor events at 3pm est. glad to see there were a few pickups out there”

    I was on the phone with ticketmaster stalling while trying to direct a bridal party of 20 people. Was pretty ridiculous. And then got kicked off ticketmaster for stalling the guy.

  13. dorn76 Says:

    Snagged a single Halloween on the app while sitting in traffic on I-95 yesterday.

    Need to get at Kaveh and Voop.

    Dorn77bb at gee male if you all are kickin ’round here today.

  14. dorn76 Says:

    dorn76bb… ^

  15. xpun Says:

    You did the right thing BK. If he wanted to go back out he would have without reaching out to anyone. Asking for help is hard. I think he reached out to you because he wanted help. Bringing in someone else who may be able to provide that help better than you thought you could was a smart move. Way to go man!

  16. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @dorn, for sale or trade or for you?

  17. voopa Says:

    Yeah, I’m officially out for Vegas. Thought I could make it work, but at least my tickets are going to some good people.

    So my coworkers will get to enjoy my Jim Harbaugh costume. I was already drafting a document that I was going to laminate that was going to look like his play card, except with Summer and Fall tour stats, 3.0 stats, Halloween stats, Nevada fish stats, Reel Big Fish stats, etc. Now it will just be crap from work. Oh well.

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    BB provides!! Love you guys. Voopa and Dorn restoring my faith!!

  19. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    ^and Jtran too!

  20. [an unrelated] wilson Says:

    Still a lot if Chula Vista tickets left. Kind of the exception.
    All I need is a Tuesday SB and a Halloween and I’m on board for the whole ride.

  21. butter Says:

    ISO: Vegas 10/31 x2, 11/2 x2

    FT: have 1: SF 1 & 2

  22. phishm Says:

    ISO meaning to this futile existence. JK. Have a good day all. Tis going to be a fun one. Off to the puppy park.

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    ‘Started out the afternoon by eating infused pez at the polo match. My buddy met a cute gynecologist.’

    ^these two sentences.

  24. bobby weird Says:

    “I grew up in Palo Alto (member my mom went on a date with Pigpen 😉 )”

    ^ lil um, did you tell the story once on Tales (GD Channel)? something about your mom on a date heading in a van to a bar show and the owner refusing to let them play b/c they were not all wearing matching suits?

    come to think of it, that guy’s mom might have been on a date with Phil. or Pig. Guy Forgets.

  25. tela's_muff Says:

    damn, Bobby/Ratdog cancelled all shows/tour. that’s can’t be good.

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