Paradise Waits

Miami 2014-15 (Andrea Nusinov)

Following Trey’s outstanding performance at the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well shows, there has been an anticipatory buzz around Phish’s forthcoming summer tour. With many questions on the horizon and a full slate of shows in which they will be answered, it’s once again an exciting time in the world of Phish. With Bend just around the corner, here’s what’s been on my mind about Summer 2015.

Trey @ FTW (Jay Blakesberg)

Trey @ FTW (Jay Blakesberg)

It wouldn’t be a stretch to posit that Trey’s preparation for Fare Thee Well represents the most focused guitar practice that he has undertaken since returning to the Phish stage in ’09. He has mentioned in interviews that he isolated himself for up to over five hours per day to study Garcia’s playing, to learn Grateful Dead songs, and to practice. When asked in a Rolling Stone what he’s taken away from his work, he said “One is just guitar stuff. I’ve made a conscious effort to learn everything I could about Jerry’s incredible style. I’m playing in different positions on the neck. It’s opened up a whole world of people I’d never listened to before.” While I wouldn’t bet on any stylistic crossover into his own band, there is no doubt that this preparation will affect his sharpness and readiness to tear things apart on the with Phish. During much of 2014, Trey lacked the powerful leads that traditionally have directed Phish jams. He often laid back with quasi-aimless rhythm playing while his band mates stepped up to varying degrees of success. During the Fare Thee Well shows, especially come Chicago, Trey’s lead playing was the undeniable force driving the band and holding jams on course. He took magnificently passionate solos all over the place, often flooring the stadium-sized audience with his six string prowess. If there is one thing that I feel that will certainly carry over from his Grateful Dead project, it will be his assertiveness. I surmise that Trey, the lead guitar player we know and love, will be back in full force this summer, and that alone is enough to make the any fan giddy with excitement. Phish is the best when Trey takes the lead, not necessarily dominating jams, but directing them. And with his chops as polished as they have been in years, things bode well for his musical leadership this summer. It remains to be seen if the overhauling of his tone for Fare Thee Well will spill over into his Phish articulation. While I doubt he’ll bring his full-fledged “Jerry sound” into the mix, he could integrate some new phrasings and effects that he picked up in such a diligent case study of Garcia.

10/31/14 II. Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

10/31/14 II Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

While many people in the community have been hypothesizing about Phish covering Dead songs this summer, I think the more pertinent question is what will come of the Halloween material? In Miami, we saw a slight integration of some of the band’s universally loved Halloween set, but will they commit to the material in full this tour? Will we see some of these jams reworked into actual songs? Inquiring minds want to know. Using “Martian Monster” as a set closer over the Holiday Run seemed to imply that it would become a legitimate part of the band’s rotation. I would imagine we see this infectious funk number fully integrated into the live show this tour. But what about everything else? The band used the “The Birds” as a jam motif during the New Year’s “Theme From the Bottom,” and it is more in this fashion that I think we could see these Halloween passages come to life. Most all of the vignettes from the Haunted House set weren’t fully fleshed out pieces of music, and if they stay that way, it would be really innovative for the band to use them as instrumental themes to jam in and out of within larger improvisations in the vein of “”Tweezer -> Shipwreck -> Tweezer,” “Bathtub Gin -> The Very Long Fuse -> Bathtub Gin,” or “Tube -> Your Pet Cat -> Tube.” They could also use them as bridges between pieces like “Tweezer -> Shipwreck -> Carini” or “Chalk Dust -> The Dogs -> Light.” In fact, we already saw this latter use on 11.1.14 in “Light -> Dogs -> Lengthwise.” While there is a possibility that we see a couple of them reworked into legitimate songs, I almost feel that it would be cooler to see them kept as improvisational devices. If any, I think “The Birds” has the best possibility of becoming a formal song. In terms of any real integration of Grateful Dead material? I seriously doubt it.

Summer '15

Summer ’15

Summer tour’s routing sees the band play nine one-off shows, with five of them coming in rarely visited markets. While small market, out-of-the-way shows were not to be missed in the Phish’s earlier eras, they have more or less become greatest hit sampler platters that lack truly adventurous jamming in 3.0. The overnight travel segueing into soundcheck and a one-night performance hasn’t always treated the guys well over recent tours, and from experience, I would be wary before chasing them through their stretch of the Southern and Midwestern single night shows. They represent a serious grind with potentially small payoffs. Or perhaps I’m just getting old. The band’s wheelhouse in this era has clearly been multi-night stands, and if I had to predict where the strongest shows of summer will materialize, it would be within the two and three night affairs—Bend, Lakewood, Alpine, Philly, Merriweather, Magnaball and Dick’s.

Magnaball

Magnaball

Finally, for the first time since IT in 2003 (excluding Coventry), Phish’s summer tour will culminate in a festival. This format of their earlier years always provided a larger than life showcase for the band’s musical achievements of their current tour. They traditionally used their festivals to show what they had learned through their month-long journey, and put their improvisational foci and successes on full display at their August fiestas. This was arguably the best aspect of placing festivals at the end of their tours. Instead of having to gear up for a massive event in isolation, the band was fully in the flow of playing and jamming as they will be this year, and I think Magnaball is primed to explode far more significantly than Festival 8 or Superball, both which were played in detachment. And at Magnaball, we will—in all likelihood—get to experience one more of the band’s hallowed “secret sets.” I find it fruitless to speculate on what will transpire in this year’s installment, because Phish is always one step ahead of their fans and come up with something that we could never have guessed. That said, following their avant-garde Storage Jam, folks will be anticipating this set as much as any other of the three-night festival.

Only a few days separate us from the beginning of another summer tour. When Phish came back in ’09, nobody knew exactly what to expect from them, how long they’d stick around or to what level they’d perform. Now, six years later, the band is going strong, surpassed most expectations for this era and the guys seem committed for the long haul. They have struck a balance in their personal lives and have no signs of slowing down. Having fully righted their ship and restored their legacy, it’s full steam ahead into 2015.

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6,610 Responses to “Paradise Waits”

  1. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    There must be some genuine anger amongst the other three that Trey keeps falling back on the top-cord-for-ballad thing. I’m just kicking it in the crowd and it pisses me off. I imagine it sucks worse if you’re trying to propel the music in good directions.

    Gonna try to spin last night’s show tonight.

  2. Max Says:

    @xpun same here, suddenly had a new fav after that show and the boys seem to agree. Trey loves making magic on Roggae. A while back someone on the BB said “Roggae has quietly become a tier 1 staple” and I totally agree.

  3. MiA Says:

    I respun and it was better on playback Wilson.

    The guy next to me last night said his first show was Raleigh ’00. I said I know that show. He’s surprised. “You do?” Right after Lakewood right?

    It gets a bad rap but I like the Melt and Jibboo.

    The worst part of ’00 was that if you were not a farmhouse fan or droney loops, there wasn’t a ton left.

    There are great Gins though.

  4. ColonelJoy Says:

    MIA out himself as summer 00′ appologist…

  5. Frankie Says:

    @xpun they played Rocket In My Pocket too at Blossom ’11…

  6. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    after raleigh, i was kinda down on ’em. felt like it was unraveling.
    went to Columbus in hopes of feeling better about things.
    Got the storm show. So that was pretty monumental.

  7. ColonelJoy Says:

    I only saw Alpine summer 00′, aka least worthy official release…

  8. MiA Says:

    Every era sucks if you have a bad attitude or can’t find the good Col.

  9. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    ’99/’00 – some of my favorite and least favorite shows.

  10. MiA Says:

    But ’00 has shows with at least one great jam. Which was my point. The Alpine has that great Piper. The Raleigh has a great Melt.

    Definitely there are a lot better shows than Alpine ’00 as a representative of the era. Go figure. They also did Townsend Park etc. the Portsmouth ’94 was basically so they could release the Bowie.

  11. MiA Says:

    ’99 – ’00 has great jams, and some pretty good shows.

  12. vapebraham Says:

    Thnx, sumo. Will try your alternate prairie link tomorrow. Tried everything u said on first link – fail dl everytine. No worries. Bb fo lyphe

  13. ColonelJoy Says:

    I acknowledge the merits of any era…what’s with the “bad” attitude accusation, MIA? This forum should be more open to accepting the diverse ways in which passionate fans take in the band. I pass no judgement on BBers if they love stuff that I say meh. Saying something sucks isn’t saying the BBer who sanctifies that sucky thing sucks. People shouldn’t be offended when someone isn’t impressed by what impresses them. I enjoy the band no less, just differently and more curmudgeonly.

    It’s called Phish Thoughts, Not Phish Sycophants…

  14. ColonelJoy Says:

    99′ is amazeballz….00′ on decline with highlights

  15. sumodie Says:

    Joy, not sure how big Kamasi’s touring band is

    ***
    I doubt Magna will be webcast. Streamed on Sirius, yes

  16. xpun Says:

    I’ll be in blossom. Phishm. Jtran I think (also think he’s rolling with BB from there to alpine although I can’t remember with who)

    Or did you mean billy breathes? Because the answer to that is no 😉

  17. ToddV Says:

    Miner – I made donation. Thanks.

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    he’s just debating with you, Joy

    he gave specific counterexamples even

  19. Max Says:

    Re: phrasing – if you track Trey’s average line length – that is the sense that he is playing one continuous thought across his riffs for long stretches, it is way up this year compared to the rest of 3.0.

    Classic example off the top of my head is Reba from IT which is just one long continuous line. Good example from this year is Divided Sky from last night. His phrasing as has been mentioned is crazy good this run.

  20. tela's_muff Says:

    first off, Dicks ’14 blew away ’13. it’s not even a contest. there is no debating that (because I said). Only takeaway from Dicks ’13 was the CDT (and maybe Sand), at least as far as highlight jams go.

    second, ’00, while maybe a little hit and miss by Fall, has some exceptional shows and more than two handfuls of great highlights. there was a narrative started here about how loops suck and ’00 was tired grooves, and that’s frankly a little lazy for a critique because it’s not a true representation of that summer tour. as MiA says, hard pressed not to find a high quality jam throughout that summer.

    lastly, Moby Dick show sucked?? that’s one of those statements/attitudes (not totally pickin on ya Col J) i’ve heard thrown out, and i guess it’s too gimmicky and that’s the rub? i don’t know, i can’t imagine being so uptight to not be able to have a ball at that one. def one of my fav shows to have attended. The Drowned btw has excellent replay value. just need a good recording.

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    This is Kamasi’s first national tour as a bandleader if I understood the article Umbrellas linked earlier correctly

  22. vapebraham Says:

    Thought cdt was best thing from dallas, but could have used more. Simple was doing me right too, but it got silenced. Cool segue into silent but show died there. Of course, need a proper listen on proper speakers.

    Tour is a B, at best. Trey tone and phrasing much improved. Lovin the jerry licks. Page shining often as well. New tunes add some interest by virtue of being new. Slower, ballad tunes sounding very good. However, shows need more wildcards and improv. Still a lot of tour left, but it feels a lil stingy to date.

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    “he is playing one continuous thought across his riffs for long stretches”

    hm

  24. phishm Says:

    Don’t sweat it tela’s. Dicks 14 was #oversomeheads
    I was there. I got it. I dug it. We’ll do it again. I wonder how many heads will be looking up again?

  25. ToddV Says:

    A Shakespeare music quote for the BB’s enjoyment:

    A man that hath no music in himself,
    Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
    is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
    The motives of his spirit are dark as night
    And his affections dark as Erebus;
    Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
    – Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene One, Line 83-88.

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