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)

Tags: ,

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

  1. bobby weird Says:

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

    ^ saw 65 Dead shows beginning in Hartford Oct 1983. the number of times i saw “I Need a Miracle” cardboard signs is probably 500. slightly fewer were those shouting out the same refrain w/o a sign. cannot possibly imagine anyone, ever, saying the quote re-posted above. that’s just crazy talk.

  2. little umbrellas Says:

    @Bobby, nope, that was someone else.
    My mom only went on one date with him and I believe it was in 66 though not sure. She lived at Warter House(probably spelled that wrong, but some place where they lived) before the Dead moved in there. Worked at St Michael’s Alley (mentioned in Searching for the Sound) and in general remembers when Palo Alto was all orchard fields.

    But the suit thing musta been someone else.

    …also she dated Greg Rollie for a bit before Santana band took off. She said she dumped him cause he was ‘too into his music for a relationship’.

  3. little umbrellas Says:

    Funny too cause my mom never really got the Dead. She liked James Brown and the Beatles and especially Hendrix, but not really the Dead. Said she saw em a bunch in the late sixties at the Fillmore, Avalon and Winterland but didn’t really get it.

    ‘Bobby was cute, but I liked Quicksilver, Country Joe and Big Brother a lot more.”- Umbrellas mom… Pretty funny stuff.

  4. little umbrellas Says:

    Yikes dudes. Hope he’s ok. They even cancelled their Jamaica 2015 event.

  5. bobby weird Says:

    yea saw that. gotta be either serious medical issue, prolonged rehab stint, or both. hopefully neither. Mr C, can you find out any deets on this?

    vibes old boy, @Bob Weir…

  6. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Whoa. Any word on this? Some comments on the article said an intervention was recently had & that Bob may never tour again. Grain of salt of course… Get well Bob.

  7. phishm Says:

    Short stint at the puppy park. Looks like rain. Bummer about Bobby. Hope the dude is OK.
    If anyone is out walking today hope that Tony Stewart isn’t driving a car. He may run you over. What a joke. Hope they lock his ass up.

  8. George w. Kush Says:

    Sucks about Ratdog. Hope ole Bob is ok. Had some CRB/Ratdog on the docket in two Saturdays. Bummed it won’t happen now. Wonder what CRB is gonna do.

    On a similar note, saw brother Rich Robinson at favorite local venue this weekend touring off new album. Pleasantly got what I expected. Tiny crowd < 100 people. Heavy rock riffing with interesting offbeat drum and bass, some chill flowy breakdown songs/segments. Very BC-esque but without Chris vocals. Never realized exactly how much of the heavy full volume BC sound is derivitave of Rich's playing. Also treated to a Neil Young suite last night which included a really nice heavy (compared to Phish) version of Albuquerque. Sound guy needed to turn up Pedal Steel player more in the mix.

    Overall, nothing earth shattering but a nice night of loud guitar heavy rock and foot stompin. Just what the doc ordered in these Phishless days between.

    Dicks awaiteth. Be ye prepared.

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    “saw 65 Dead shows beginning in Hartford Oct 1983”

    Trey’s first Dead shows too (or show, the Scarlet Fire one is the one he mentioned)

    I assume the Bobby thing is rehab

  10. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Rehab for prescription opiates? Or is he a boozer or both?

  11. bobby weird Says:

    C, yes correct! same show: Dick’s Picks 6!

    Story is that Trey saw a Deadhead at that show who was presumably in cancer treatment and had pasted cotton balls on his bald head, which supposedly inspired Fluffhead! Quite the energy in the Civic Center that night! (I taped in from my seat with an old RCA tape recorder.” Still have the incredibly crappy “master” Maxell!

    was going to see Ratdog next Thurs night on the waterfront. bummer.

    Phishm, did you watch the video of the incident? looks like the dead guy kind of put himself squarely in harms way and got hit when Stewart was swerving to avoid him (to me at least). HATE Nascar, but love current events.

  12. bobby weird Says:

    both i believe.

  13. bobby weird Says:

    as well as crack i am told

  14. Jerome Garcia Says:

    This could also be plausible:

    ‘A friend of the Weir family has stated that problems with Bobby’s worsening back have necessitated surgery that will require close to a year of rehabilitation.’

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Crack is whack.

  16. bobby weird Says:

    if it were truly back surgery one would think they would have disclosed the reason for cancelling. who knows.

  17. bobby weird Says:

    “Cocaine is a hell of a drug”

    ^Oil Can Boyd

  18. phishm Says:

    I did watch it bw. It appears to me that he revved the engine when he spotted the kid to try and spray him with dirt and his back tire slid in his direction and clipped him. I call that manslaughter in my book (I’m no lawyer however). Even if he was just trying to scare the kid, he hit him. He’ll never be locked up because he’s rich as hell, but get him off the track. This is not an isolated incident. Stewart is known for this type of thing. The guy is a joke IMO. Sure the kid should of never ran onto the track, but it does not appear that Stewart did everything he could to avoid him, rather tried to send him a message and made a mistake. Poorly lit track. Dirt track etc. The truth will never be told and lawyers will word everything to make it look like Stewart is some kind of good person.

  19. bobby weird Says:

    i don’t know a thing about Stewart or his reputation as a driver. so there is that. however, as you say, this is a dirt track, poorly lit, with essentially go carts at extremely high speeds. a very very dangerous, high risk environment. this idiot kid chooses to stand ON the track and actually approach Stewart’s speeding car in these conditions? the previous driver barely missed hitting the kid after quickly swerving. whereafter the kid approached even closer to Stewart’s car. he swerved and the back end skidded out, clipped the kid right in harm’s way. no way he get’s charged in those circumstances. no matter the quality of any lawyer. kid assumed the risk of a dangerous pursuit then was impossibly stupid in doing what he did to risk injury or death. impossible to show Stewart did anything to contribute to that accident in those circumstances.

  20. bobby weird Says:

    besides (and then i will stop), Stewart’s driving reputation is legally inadmissible unless he has a demonstrated prior pattern of swerving in an effort to hit persons standing on a race track. barring 2-3 such prior incidents, his reputation on the track is inadmissible and cannot be considered in deciding whether to charge him criminally (or responsibly civilly).

  21. gavinsdad Says:

    Ill try to get some dirt re bobby @BW. Actually just reached outro someone as I was curious too

  22. phishm Says:

    Thanks for proving my point on the lawyer speak yo.

  23. bobby weird Says:

    thx GD.

  24. little umbrellas Says:

    I can see your future, oh looks what’s in your hand.

  25. DocGanz Says:

    First off, hope Bobby gets well and get the help he needs, whether its rehab, surgery, whatever.

    Second, what are the chances Phish agrees to fill in for the two missing Ratdog shows at Lockn?

Leave a Reply