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.



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.


6,610 Responses to “Paradise Waits”

  1. little umbrellas Says:

    Around @13:00 the Bend Simple. Trey’s guitar screaming. Separate full yells. Love that .

  2. GWKush Says:

    (long overdue) donation sent. Thanks for keeping the lights on, Miner!

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    that long-form thought process across a whole solo or jam described so well by Max just now is pretty much the positive takeaway for so far

  4. The Flesh Says:

    @gwk I will keep you in the loop. I am local and have friends coming in from out of town. Still need to coordinate a plan

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    for me*

  6. vapebraham Says:

    Starting tomorrow w Austin set ii and hopefully dallas. L&L

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    fantastic, Todd. how about

    “I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close order drill, or exercise or yodeling or
    something, not music.”
    -Billie Holiday

  8. tela's_muff Says:

    i aint sweating it. just jumping in the debate to avoid cleaning out guest bathroom toilet.

    think i’m gonna grab tickets for that Kamasi show in Boulder. thx for heads up.

  9. ToddV Says:

    Good one Mr. C. Love the quote and love Billie Holiday. Read the Donald Clarke biography last year.

    Also recommend the Stanley Crouch first installment on Charlie Parker – even though I don’t love Crouch’s writing style. But an essential read IMHO.

  10. The Flesh Says:

    So what’s the vibe like around here after last nights show?

  11. Max Says:

    If music be the food of love, eat on.

  12. little umbrellas Says:

    Great screaming melody there. In the webcast you see LopeGreg leaning way back, and right after that long note, Treys doing these string bends where you grab a second string. Great chord movement melody that is at rage dynamics.

  13. phishm Says:

    What do the bending of strings have to do with AG leaning way back?

  14. Berkeley Head Says:

    Nice one Todd. I’ve been convinced forever that Bill would have been all over this band.

    Tonight I met the percussionist from the Atlanta orchestra that played with Trey. (Evidently the term “philharmonic orchestra” is redundant) He said Trey gave them all some inspirational speech, and he’s been tracking Trey since, and he’s always been a Copeland fan, and now he’s a Fishman fan, yada yada and he’s moving to Cleveland because the ATL allocated no money to the arts whilst Cleveland is off the charts but Cali’s taxes are too high but the first violin red-dressed Asian gal in Cali is legit etc….

    that’s all I got

  15. little umbrellas Says:

    Just a cew so could know just what part I was thought’ing on.

    Phishm, watch the Bend Simple footage, and watch at that minute mark, you’ll see what I’m talking about. They just caught Greg in full tilt while Trey has that one note sustaining. The moment after that, great guitar improvisation.

  16. Max Says:

    Birds and Hood both shredfests. Haven’t had a good Hood peak since last summer. Trey with the ultra-fluent shreds is so great.

  17. ColonelJoy Says:

    @Tela, I’m sure had I been there I would have dug Moby Dick Creek in the moment,, but on tape it doesn’t have appeal for me. I find Phish is extremely tape sensitive, to my ear at least…

  18. ColonelJoy Says:

    What do people make of Fishman this tour?…no rhetorical judgement implied

  19. ToddV Says:

    Thanks Berkeley. Funny story on the ATL Trey “fan”.

  20. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    just got around to the Forum Slave. Sounded great.

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    phish shows are definitely very “tape sensitive” for me, good term, but a lot of times (like the moby dick) you can tell which ones are the shows that would’ve been fun to be at

  22. sumodie Says:

    Neither of the 3.0 east coast festivals that aren’t festivals have been webcast (Bader Field and Randall’s)

    SBIX and F8 were both streamed on Sirius (and Sirius just announced some Magna Ball contest or promotion or sth)

    I’ve been a huge Roggae fan since 1.0. No memo needed.

    I wish Trey would get the memo about several underrated phish songs. And who sent him the memo about The Line?

  23. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    coming out of Bender and Shoreline I honestly thought we might see a tour packed with 6-song 2nd sets, cool expansive stuff over the course of the run. It was a nice feeling at the time. Still hope it happens.

  24. tela's_muff Says:

    When speaking of Roggae, the Gorge ’11 version is triumphant. I need to do a head to head with that against Forum. Two diff beasts, both amazing.

  25. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    Gorge ’11 Rojet was huge.

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