The First Six of Summer

Shoreline 7.24.15 (John Florek)

Shoreline 7.24.15 (John Florek)

Phish commenced their Summer Tour with two incredibly strong performances in their first three shows in the second night of Bend and Shoreline, both of which contained beautifully flowing, jam-filled second sets. But since then, the band has pumped the brakes a bit with a trifecta of spotty performances across the southern part of the country. Los Angeles had plenty of energy but carried little musical substance, while Austin and Dallas contained some high points but also long stretches of cruise control in their second sets that simply didn’t cut the mustard. As we take a look at the first segment of Summer Tour 2015, let’s first explore the positives.

Bend (Joe Iudice)

Bend (Joe Iudice)

Following a solid warm up gig on the first night of tour, the band came out blazing on the second night of Bend, unveiling several more new songs (jn addition to the three debuted on opening night), along with a seamless second set anchored by an awesome, groovy-turned-evil jam out of “Simple.” Trey played impeccable guitar all night long, perhaps most impressive during the standout “Bathtub Gin” encore. But more to the point, he slayed every single solo he took, including the slower ones on “Wingsuit” and “Farmhouse.” Some of his most inspired playing of the night came in the opening sequence of the second set in “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Waves,” a nautical pairing that absolutely smoked the entire way through. But beyond his personal musical marksmanship, the band played with incredible cohesion as a unit, crafting a non-stop set with undeniable flow. This show was quite the statement on only the second night of tour, only to be significantly topped on night three.

Shoreline Official (J.Santora)

Shoreline Official (J.Santora)

Phish absolutely exploded at Shoreline Amphitheatre, one of the former haunts of the Grateful Dead, with a set that stands up to any of this era and many beyond. Chock full of open-ended improvisation, the band locked into a flow and rode the wave through the entire second frame of the show. Beyond the music—and the music was incredible—there seemed to be a peace and contentment emanating from the guys that built on a similar feel during the previous night in Bend. It felt like they now know, especially after Trey’s starring role in Fare Thee Well, that they no longer have anything to prove—they were just out there doing what they do. The level of relaxation and togetherness was palpable as they navigated an awesome set-long sequence of jamming. Using one of their newest songs, “Blaze On,” to kick off the main event, the band expounded on its percussive, blues-rock theme, taking the jam for a ride before returning to its refrain—and then promptly exiting the through the back door into an abstract foray that wound its way into “Twist.” In the undeniable highlight of the night, Phish wove together a two part epic that touched on the both the dark side and the utter bliss of their craft. The first half showcased a grungy, snarling tone from Trey as the guys slipped into a slow methodical mind meld, transforming the passage into some murky, swamp-like psychedelia. When Trey began to lead the guys back towards the theme of the song, his mates coaxed him onward and the band soon coalesced into some of the most orchestral beauty we’ve heard in ages. Hitting a sacred stride, the band moved as one through a passage of utter musical triumph that continued for an extended period. Time stood still and the audience watched in wonder as Phish sculpted one of their most indelible moments in recent memory. This was fully realized musical improv of the highest degree; a time when one could hardly believe that four mere mortals were creating such a symphony. Emotionally wrenching and staggeringly beautiful, this segment elevated to the highest planes of reverie. Once they picked their jaws up off the floor, the crowd roared their approval as the band finally descended from the heavens and passed into “Light.”

Shoreline 7.24.15 (J.Florek)

Shoreline 7.24.15 (J.Florek)

Supporting two extended jams with one their most significant modern launchpads amounted to quite the statement of intent in the middle of this set, and the guys kept on rolling full steam ahead into a multi-thematic exploration of “Light.” Hitting on “Manteca,” “Roadrunner,” and “I Know Your Rider” in a clear homage to the Dead, this “Light” saw the band weave together diverse movements with seamless acumen. Just as great athletes enter a “zone” and everything slows down for them as their excellence emerges, so did Phish on this night as illustrated in the protean nature of this “Light” jam. Their playing felt effortless but simultaneously virtuosic, and that is what greatness is all about. As the band dripped into “Joy,” everything felt right in the world following over 45 minutes of stunning improvisation. The set’s magical energy carried through a particularly cathartic rendition of the 2009 ballad and upon its conclusion, right into “Harry Hood.”

Selecting one more jumping off point to conclude this set’s theatrics, Phish played yet another extended and amazing jam which saw them divert from “Hood’s” traditional major chord build into some earnest and darker exploration that followed the trend of 2014 versions. Though their reentry to the theme wasn’t immaculate and the song’s final peak saw more of a strumming rather than ballistic effort by Trey, the exclamation point on the set had certainly been made. With a fourth jam surpassing 15 minutes, the band had just dropped an utterly poignant frame of music and one of the defining stanzas since their return. Slamming the door with a raucous version of “Cavern” and a blistering “Character Zero” encore, Phish had bequeathed us with one of those timeless nights of music that we will remember forever.

Shoreline (John Florek)

Shoreline (John Florek)

Coming off two consecutive second sets laced with artistry and deep improvisation, one could only imagine what would transpire when Phish stepped indoors at the LA Forum with “Disease,” “Carini” and “Tweezer” hanging in the balance. But when the dust settled on their southern California stop, it was an “energy” show that favored sudden segues and antics rather than any fully realized jamming. While it seems that many fans liked this performance, after the previous two nights it felt to me like a serious letdown. The band kept “No Man in No Man’s Land” (a song that sounds more suited for TAB than Phish) in a linear groove, passed through a truncated “Carini” highlighted by one very brief peak, and aborted “Tweezer” before it really got going, all amounting to a serious case of musical blue balls. Once this “meat” of the set transpired, the guys commenced jukebox mode favoring an innocuous string of songs that couldn’t hold up the set after they had bailed out of their potential heavy hitters. “Roggae” and “Slave” were nice enough but hardly seemed to fit after nothing significant had went down during the first half of the frame. Then Trey all but killed a potentially special “YEM” encore by dry humping Mike while they played each other’s instruments, replacing any chance of musical interplay with its physical counterpart. I can see this set being “fun” on some level, but after two profound musical statements in Bend and Mountain View, this show fell pretty flat for me despite a quality first set. The under-the-radar highlight of the show came in the opening half’s “Limb by Limb” which saw stellar soloing by Trey and a strong collective effort from the entire band.

Austin Official C.Nolan)

Austin Official C.Nolan)

The last couple shows in Texas took place in very divergent atmospheres—Austin’s in a brutally hot outdoor amphitheatre and Dallas’ in a tiny, air-conditioned theatre. (I will give the disclaimer that I only attended Dallas, but will discuss both shows.) The first sets of these shows differed greatly, as Austin’s was a run of mill, pedestrian affair while Dallas’ featured a very fresh song list and all sorts of energy. The high point of the latter was a version of “Steam” that Trey inexplicably stopped once the band had reached a thick, improvisational groove. It felt as though they were on the brink of a legitimate first set jam for the first time in ages, but it wasn’t to be. Nonetheless, the band seemed excited and engaged despite several noticeable flubs by Trey during composed sections, and felt primed to explode in set two. As the band went into set break in Austin, many fans were hoping that someone had a defibrillator to get things going for the second half.

Dallas Official (K.Taylor)

Dallas Official (K.Taylor)

Each of the Texas second sets had jam-anchored moments, but in neither did the band weave together a coherent frame of music. Austin kicked off with “46 Days -> Dogs -> 46 Days,” with the latter segment of “46” exploring some menacing, bass led textures that felt like it could have kept going having reached a very interesting space. Dallas’ second set kicked off with one of the jams of tour thus far in a fiery and exploratory “Chalk Dust” that saw Phish migrate from an atmospheric start into more full on, energetic jamming before dropping into “Simple.” Austin’s opening segment was supported by an in-the-box “Piper” and an above average “Ghost” whose melodic peak stood out as perhaps the show’s highest moment. Dallas’ set took a veritable nosedive after the opening blowout, as Trey made a string of questionable calls with “Silent in the Morning,” “Birds of a Feather,” “Fuego” and “Julius.” “Birds” did pop with more intense playing than usual, but nothing of serious note took place between the “Chalk Dust” and the set-closing version of “Harry Hood.” The band pulled things together for “Hood’s” jam after Trey botched most of the composed section of the song, salvaging an energetic if not intricately awesome rendition. Austin’s second half of the set also also featured a string of cruise control songs only highlighted by a “Jibboo” that saw Trey rip off several clean runs of notes amidst its groovy canvas.

The Texas shows, in total, were two average nights of Phish that featured a couple highlights each—pretty much to be expected in their modern mid-week, one-off performances in random markets. But after dangling the carrot in Bend and Shoreline, it felt like something bigger might have been on the horizon. But that horizon now falls to Atlanta, where Phish pulls in tonight for a two-night stand at their old stomping grounds of Lakewood Amphitheatre with all their big jam vehicles on the table. I suspect that this weekend we will see more complete efforts from the band with more developed jams and more cohesive sets than we received in LA, Austin and Dallas. The first stretch of tour has concluded and Lakewood now starts the middle segment through the South and Midwest before Alpine commences the home stretch next Saturday. With six shows under their belt on this summer tour, I think it’s fair to say that things are just getting started.


31,930 Responses to “The First Six of Summer”

  1. little umbrellas Says:

    ((Reba> Mike’s> Ghost> No Quarter> Weekapaug 1stTube))

    ^that’s good Phish fun.
    •that Mike’s is dope, but too bad the 2nd jam didn’t stay? what happened?? sounded like Page came in with the ending que before Trey was Ready.

    •weird Ghost intro to.. Fish and Trey take a second to find each other. The jam gets pretty damn weird pretty quick, like modern Split not making much sense level. Trey blues’s them back into a normal jam fashion. Wurli outro vibes set up the Quarter.

    •haven’t caught a No Quarter yet, I wish Fishman would play the actual beat from the song though. I think that one might fade away. was so powerful when it first happened. maybe my fav Zep tune. Page singing through the phaser was such a good idea in the first place.

    •Weepaug First Tube a high energy ending for the crowd.

    ((not a bad show for an off night for Phish, but probably won’t get any more respins from me though))

  2. phishm Says:

    If you all feel like getting dark on some music that’s oh so fun to go deep to this is a great selection.

  3. vapebraham Says:

    Alberta, what’s on your mind?

  4. dorn76 Says:

    Don’t leave the second jam home alone.

  5. Xpun Says:

    Raleigh was a tough show for me to connect to. Wedge is a strange opener. Golden Age has that split type jam if I remember correctly (haven’t listened back) but our little dance area was just getting overrun by drunks. Reba started up and I said fuck it and went down to the pit which is usually the worst for me. Small pit, well guarded so it was easy to get about 20 feet from trey and I just stood there fixated on him as he built that jam. Very nice memory. No Quarter was amazing and the couple behind me were just beside themselves openly weeping during that tune. Very surreal. Was there a 1st Tube? Something high energy to close and just feeling the full force of the crowd sending their energy towards the stage. So very atypical experience for me but really got me into the back end of that show.

  6. Xpun Says:

    Haha. Obviously missed a few posts before typing mine. LU had already filled in a couple of my faded memories

  7. phishm Says:

    So you’re saying a lot of the crowd was lame and chatty? I’m thinking there’s a relation between this crappy crowd you speak of and the end result of the music. I doubt they decided to lay an egg from the jump. That came from the crowd and their lack of interaction with the band I’m guessing. Just a hunch of course as I have no way of verifying.

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Gawk blesh youse errry wun.

    Annnnd uz drunks tooo.

  9. phishm Says:

    They being Trey like to look out on the crowd and see folks getting off. He likes to do it to them until they holler for more. He’ll play what he thinks will get folks off in the room. Based on his senses I suppose. Another hunch. Full of them tonight. Seems that I have a strong notion that they play what they feel their crowd will enjoy based on what they’ve gathered vibe wise after doing it for 30 some odd years. I’d wager a bet that they can feel it even before they hit the stage. To a point of course. It’s what they do. Seems they got some good feelings this past tour. MSG will rage. I mean absolutely rage. Mark my words. Yet again another hunch I seem to have. Just not that one night. That one will be a head scratcher. We all know which one that is of course. Not. And yet that one will be the most loved by those in house in the now on a head full of that which unites us through doorways that were previously left shut. I bet I’ll dig it too, but I’m a fluffer. I can’t not dig it unless it truly sucks. Hasn’t been the case in a bit.

  10. phishm Says:

    Dead n CO on tonight. Show just started. Cold Rain and Snow currently.

    Also video here if that’s your thing.

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    Xpun. Cheers! Resonating thoughts.

  12. dorn76 Says:

    The water in Ye Olde BB Resonator (The YOBBR) is getting a little stale, and smells a bit like the inside of a diaper, but you can still get a solid rip off it.

  13. dorn76 Says:

    “The Ye Olde”?… No.

    Back under my rock of ages I go.

  14. little umbrellas Says:
    STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY (1941) – Charlie Christian live

    OG Guitar

  15. little umbrellas Says:

    Watching Mr Robot episode 1.

    Phishm might relate? Break through the cube.

    I never watch TV Dramas.. but have been compelled so far over here.

  16. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Loved Mr Robot. Think you’ll dig it too teeny b.

  17. Jerome Garcia Says:

    T minus 60 hrs…

  18. Snigglebeach Says:

    After record northeast temps, looks like it will be chilly when phish gets to town. Maybe we can get some snow on the mountains so I can pull out the skis. Either way I’ll be at phish in 4 days.

  19. dorn76 Says:

    Just looking forward to being back amongst the seaweed and the slime.

    Temps look to be staying above freezing, even during late night walk-about/freak outs. Good for keeping Hippythermia away.

  20. gavinsdad Says:

    Nice little pints and repartee session w mr heady bro last nite at a former punk venue turned pub. Got me excited for some music.

  21. sumodie Says:

    I like JJ Abrams’ work but he doesn’t exactly work outside the box on his high profile projects. Would any director be allowed to stretch much if given Star Wars The Force Awakens? I think not

    George Miller created Mad Max, so he had a lot more free reign to do what he wanted on Fury Road, a much lower profile project than Star Wars

    Christopher Nolan is one of the few high profile big budget sci fi directors who has been bringing original material to the screen (Interstellar and Inception). Thus far he’s been very successful so he can continue to do as he wants.

    and then there’s Ridley Scott and James Cameron

    I’m not sure I ever expected any new Star Wars to be original. To me the biggest surprise about The Force Awakens is that it’s good enough to rekindle the old magic.

    NYC planning looks all set. Celebrating a friend’s 92nd birthday today, boarding the bus to NYC on the morning of the 30th

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    I hope Phish will play good enough to rekindle the old magic. Fingers crossed.

  23. little umbrellas Says:

    Sumo= The Right Way

  24. little umbrellas Says:

    ^Jerome, me thinks you are in for a treat.

  25. sumodie Says:

    Well, the suits placed a $5B bet on Abrams

    And we thought Trey had pressure on him for FTW

    MSG…? Do we get fake jerry Trey? Or Broadway Trey?

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