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. MrCompletely Says:

    AFAIK Bob’s ongoing issue is mostly alcohol and the reason it’s escalated recently is the addition of the painkillers (which were originally and may still be for his back)

    “Like a fool I mixed them, and it strangled up my mind….”

  2. bobby weird Says:

    8/9/95 = worst day ever.

    8/10/14 = bad news at least.

    funny how that works.

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    @Vegas I read the new CSNY box contains a large number of edits and dubs in order to make it presentable, basically creating hybrid or composite tracks based on the cleanest take and then patching the rough spots from other versions, or something like that. The folks I know who have heard it are impressed with the result, but it’s not supposed to be a realistic representation of the music (which is probably a good thing)

  4. Gavinsdad Says:

    Word C I don’t have a report from the Inside yet but I did for the best buy theater antics. That he had a bottle of clear alcohol in his hotel room (which is sposed to be dry) and management (his) didn’t pay enuff attention and he got into it hard.

    My friend of friend text said: “it’s been really bad of late”

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    Bob’s been cycling in and out of full functionality for ages (which is super obvious really) so I’m glad it’s finally being dealt with somewhat openly, though it’ll be disappointing if they try to play it off as just being his back – unless of course that is actually the issue, which is possible

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    Oh sure the last few cancellations and onstage incidents have def been him getting hammered on alcohol/pill combo

  7. phishm Says:

    What a great week it was with the kids. Loved it. Gotta be honest that I’m looking forward to a week with little to no responsibilities however. Disney kicked my ass. Time to get down to some good music and just relax for a few.

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Vibes for Bobby. Hope he can pull it together. Guy his age deserves some inner peace.

  9. phishm Says:

    “It’s only you, be you, cuz you’re the only one”. Great lyrics.

  10. dorn76 Says:

    Discussed the new material with Team Rainbow last night, big 2.0 kids. Reggae Fest was underwhelming and we were spun up thinking on music we wanted to hear. They aren’t sold on Fuego, dislike most everything but Fuego, 555…. I told them Phans always go through this, when new songs come out they can sound weird, bad even. Hard to spot the gems at first. Fuego for example, weirdo lyrics and operatic type feel were pretty off putting at first blush for me. There’s some comfort in having listened to a tune hundreds of times, lyrics, arrangements, etc become a comfy old pair of shoes.

    I hated beer the first few times I tried it. Wine too.

    Weed made me sleepy.


  11. phishm Says:

    Not sure if anyone has seen this site, but if you want flac’s for the whole Summer tour it’s right here. Including DTE.

  12. phishm Says:

    I really dug Butter’s interpretation of fuego as F U ego.

  13. dorn76 Says:

    Caught in this procession of unchanging days….Work hard to keep that from happening. This weekend was a gas.

    Fish tacos tonight, w/a tomato salad from our garden (yellow/red/green, mozzarella, fresh basil, good balsamic, good oil, salt/pepper). Mix and tey key is to let it sit in a bowl for an hour or so, get to room temp and mingle all deliciously.

  14. bobby weird Says:

    yea Phism, i wondered re FU EGO theory , especially b/c Trey seems so less ego-centric this tour (wife thinks result of meaningful therapy). then add the Di[e] Ego refrain…

    f ego … di ego. gotta wonder.

    see, e.g., long history of Ph songs/plays on words. (and songs about Trey.)

  15. phishm Says:

    Now that’s the lawyer speak that I like to read. Agree bw.

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    Hunter once said something to the effect of that one reason he doesn’t like to talk about what his lyrics are about is because the interpretations that fans come up with are not just interesting but in some cases he actually likes them better than what he was originally thinking…

    so if you want to take Fuego deep that’s a legit route it seems. Why not

  17. phishm Says:

    dorn got me all hungry now. All I have are doritos. Bummer.

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    we need to do a caprese type salad soon dorn. our tomatoes aren’t ready yet though. PacNW lags behind. Should hit the farmers market this week

    fresh caught wild salmon tonight though. wife cooking up some different prep than usual

  19. bobby weird Says:

    C = on point. per usual.

    newest song twistory or fanner projection?

    50%-50% probably.

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    red curry paste is involved. shit just got super real

  21. gavinsdad Says:

    Not sure there is a better “2 ingredient” pairing than a caprese situation.

    As a kid: pb&j
    As a grown ass man: t&m

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah I’m not saying that wasn’t the intent, I just mean not only will we never know, it truly doesn’t matter

    if it makes you think about interesting things then it’s working

  23. bobby weird Says:

    C, east coast heirlooms are at early peak. I have too many; some rot.


  24. MrCompletely Says:

    our toms might be behind but our basil is expanding exponentially. can only eat so much pesto no matter how great it is, so gotta have other ways to use it…

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah the real farmers have theirs in full swing. we were late as usual. there’s a market tomorrow in Pioneer Square with a grumpy old Russian lady who treats her toms like gemstones (DO NOT TOUCH OR SMELL IF NOT BUYING signs and stuff) but she’s not wrong to do it

    ours still 2 weeks out

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