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:

    i guess that’s not how you treat gemstones. something precious and smushable. you got the point.

  2. BooVT Says:

    Tomatoes with Gorgonzola and balsamic is also a huge fav of mine.
    And super simple.
    Randall’s Reba helping clean up the dishes tonight.

  3. gavinsdad Says:

    No Gorg for me….basically the cargo shorts of cheese for me.

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    more a true bleu guy but a nice gorgonzola has its place

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    Rogue Creamery not coming to my normal farmers market this year. Plenty of good cheesemakers but they’re world class. Hope I can find em at least once this summer

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    Trying to think about how this convo could get any yuppier

    Quick, someone mention a vintage or talk about Rory

  7. phishm Says:

    Sometimes I go to Krogers to get a salad and some soup. They have great soup.

  8. gavinsdad Says:

    I have a Yakima roof box on my Town & Country @C

    Lets go back to pen tech: the cap screws onto the base which contains the coil….then this outer sleeve (like a globe) slips over all that. The new thing seems to be knowing your battery milliamps….shit is really going over my head. Friend last nite was lamenting concentrates fucking up “the most perfect thing ever” (w33d) and I have also warned against what happens when everyone develops a tolerance against 70% thc wax etc….

  9. gavinsdad Says:

    Gorg > cargo shorts me joking obvs

  10. RoosterPizza Says:

    My six year old dog has lymphoma. The dog we bought when we had pretty much nothing, and now the one my daughter plays with nonstop. Didn’t see this one coming, and certainly imagined his life going differently.

    Close, close family friend who worked for my family’s business for 35 years was just diagnosed with leukemia.

    Bummin hard.

  11. phishm Says:

    Vibes Rooster. So sorry to hear that.

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    I do NOT want to have to learn device amperages. I get high as a means to an end, not to play with the gadgets, not that there’s anything wrong with that

    I also have some friends that say that. They are all old, even the ones that aren’t really that old. I get where they’re coming from but you can’t fight the tide. And plus wax is great

  13. mayhem Says:

    Vibes, thoughts, and prayers rooster. That’s tough stuff

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    ach rooster that’s fucking terrible man. Ugh. Much love

  15. ae Says:

    Gdad, and others, check this out:

    My close friend is the business partner (Steve) and I know Mike and Zahav quite well.

  16. gavinsdad Says:

    Ah life, making my silliness seem …. silly.

    Sorry to hear this news Rooster thinking of you pal

  17. bobby weird Says:

    testing ‘northbound train’. just in case. god forbid. call it a defense mechanism…

  18. George w. Kush Says:

    @C re: basil abundance. Below is a great ice cream idea with basil. Made it a few weeks back and it was delectable. Real summer treat with ripe peaches. Also, sundried tom and basil hummus is damn good. Put extra pesto in small ramekin cups and freeze for non-basil season. Easy portion size thawability.

    Creme de la cream receipt:

    Hold steady Rooster. Fuck cancer.

  19. bobby weird Says:

    shit news @rooster. vibes

  20. mayhem Says:

    I don’t always agree with Miner, but when I do…Hartford Tweezer yo!

  21. MiA Says:

    So sorry to hear that rooster. Vibes.

    I’m not into much with a torch except creme brûlée or bananas foster.

    I don’t like butane either.

    Congrats Rory. Well done.

  22. RoosterPizza Says:

    Sorry to unload. Unfortunately, those were back-to-back blows this weekend. That stuff definitely goes on the “some shit I don’t like” list.

  23. mayhem Says:

    Ha! Love that my iphone auto corrected, capitalizing Tweezer

  24. bobby weird Says:

    Lazy Lightnin-Supplication., etc…

  25. IrieWalton Says:

    So sorry to hear that, rooster! We just adopted a pup a month ago and can’t imagine getting that news.

    Just got back from a weekend exploring Olympic NP in WA. It was our first time there and it definitely lived up to the hype if you like snow-capped peaks, huge old growth forests, pristine high elevation lakes, etc. Took three separate five mile hikes and enjoyed being with the missus’ family visiting us from the Midwest. Definitely put it on the list.

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