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. little umbrellas Says:

    Maybe TAB…

  2. BooVT Says:

    Bummer about the cancellations. I also was planning to see CRB at the waterfront in Boston on Thurs night… Too bad all around.

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I saw nothing in that video that would lead me to believe Stewart intentionally did any to cause that.. Also saw nothing that he tried to avoid the accident. A terrible tragedy, that unfortunately, the victim’s actions played the most prominent role.

  4. little umbrellas Says:

    Can’t remember if this was ever shared here. Tis the Daptone crew doing instrumental versions of old school Wu Tang.
    El Michaels Affair: -Duel of the Iron Mics -Bring da Ruckus
    Dig the whole album, Enter the 37th Chamber

  5. dorn76 Says:

    Stewart’s pattern of dickish behavior doesn’t prove anything about the incident last night.


  6. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Put me in the camp that has had some fun at Bobby’s expense over the years, but is now truly concerned for his well-being. Vibes, you handsome devil.

    Newer albums getting lots of summer spins at the casa de wolf:

    -Amen Dunes: Love
    -Peter Matthew Bauer: Liberation!
    -Watter: This World
    -Sturgill: Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
    -Shovels and Rope: O’ Be Joyful
    -Ryley Walker: All Kinds Of You
    -Heavy Blanket: Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket In A Dutch Haze
    -CSNY: 1974
    -GOAT: Commune
    -Little Feat: Live In Holland 1976

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    VW – I think I am the only guy on the planet who still continues to push csnys song “dark star” off that 1974 album. It’s one of my favorite songs of theirs.

  8. Gavinsdad Says:

    I’ve been in the cozy womb of Lightships…it’s from last year but its the side dude Gerard Love from Teenage Fanclub. If you don’t know TF please refer to “bandwagonesque”

  9. vegas wolfmans Says:

    I dig that song too, Gdiddy. Sadly, it is not included on the ’74 box they just dropped. This is a live 40 track compilation pulled from their controversial reunion tour. I’m no CSNY historian, but this release is solid and makes for great summer listening. Maybe not 4 Way Street level, but good shit nonetheless.

  10. Stoney Case Says:

    VW! Thanks for those gnu muzik recs. Spotify here I come!

  11. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Watching ‘Slacker’ for my first time, been on a Linklater kick since seeing ‘Boyhood.’

    ^back when Austin actually was weird

  12. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Hey all,
    Looks like I missed a lot of frenzy in the ticket boogie this weekend. Glad to see the bb continuing to do as it does in that way.

    Sorry to hear about Mr. Weir. I know he takes a lot of guff but my wife loves his schtick and it is always another fun night out. I have some friends wondering what will happen with that CRB date at harbor lights next Thursday. Hope whatever is going on he can get taken care of soon and right.

    Also, I will be hitting Gov’t Mule the night before that 8/13 and have a pair of extras if anyone is interested. Section 1, row P, seats 6-7. Face+fees, naturally. Let me know! typeiiijpd g mailarino

  13. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Hopefully the show will go on w/ a full 2 setter from CRB at those joint dates w/ refunds for those who want ’em.

  14. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Final round of PGA pretty entertaining. That was a lot of rain earlier; amazing how they sequeegee the water off the course.

  15. Fly Says:

    Lovin this PGA. Major golf at its finest today. Here’s hoping they get it in. I’m rootin for Lefty

  16. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Lefty! 3 way tie.

  17. phlorida phan Says:

    You’ll never win a major only shooting par, Rory. Put that wingsuit on.
    I’m pulling for Johnny Depp today, but lefty would be cool also.

  18. Fly Says:

    Henrik is due as well. Will be happy to see any of these guys win

  19. phlorida phan Says:

    Damn, this is some good shiz, everyone wingsuitin.

  20. Fly Says:

    Yeah, reminds me of 2011 masters

  21. MiA Says:

    Finally caught up on the DVR. Great to watch.

  22. Fly Says:

    Yeah it’s gonna be gettin dark. Playoff will be tomorrow if there is one, I’d guess

  23. phlorida phan Says:

    Hoping they at least finish tonight. Rory awakening.

  24. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    i am sad about bob weir. i hope he gets better soon. grateful dead forever.

    i saw an amazing jerry tribute down the valley from me last night. free show, right next to the river. my jar of ganja just stayed on a table with the pipe- out in the open. puffed freely. the dudes and girl could really play. a great crowd and positive vibes.

  25. bobby weird Says:

    Weir’s management confirms “Bobby is immediately and indefinitely off the road. Bobby understands and accepts this is necessarily the case.”

    ^ Gary Lambert

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