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.

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31,929 Responses to “The First Six of Summer”

  1. MrCompletely Says:

    netflix and YT work perfectly with the chromecast, those 2 amount to 90% of what we use it for

  2. sumodie Says:

    12/29 – 1/3 John Zorn & friends improv shows in NYC

    http://www.jambands.com/news/2015/12/25/cyro-baptista-marc-ribot-yeah-yeah-yeah-s-brian-chase-and-more-to-play-end-of-the-year-improv-with-john-zorn/

    I think only 12/29 evening & 1/3 afternoon shows are possible for msg attendees

  3. sumodie Says:

    I’m aching to see Zakir Hussain again. One of the most incredible performers I’ve ever seen

    (He’s got a Boston date in march. Likely other US shows too)

    http://www.jambands.com/news/2015/12/29/zakir-hussain-joins-dead-company-in-san-francisco/

  4. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    C u soon

  5. dorn76 Says:

    Anyone have a set meet up tomorrow as of yet? I’m planning on being in NYC around 3 and ahead of my crew by a couple hours probably.

    Many and dazzling options for preshow libations.

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    that Zakir set I posted yesterday is really great, Sumo, with lots of wonderful closeups of his playing

  7. sumodie Says:

    C, I don’t disagree with your Force Awakens thoughts. I suspect most critics and movie goers likely view the film as I’ve described here.

    30T Dancing > Franklin’s stuck on happy repeat in my car. Off to shovel white sludge…

  8. Guyute711 Says:

    Has anyone streamed any of the concerts using the web browser on a smart tv yet? Just got one and wondering if it’s going to be compatible. I would guess that it is but I’m not a techy.

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    G7, people have had really mixed results

    does your LP “Stash” contain any video you can replay now? Something from your history? If so you should maybe test it and see if it works

  10. dorn76 Says:

    Running through TAB 10/31 after a day of ’95 Phish.in…

    #expectationsreset

  11. MrCompletely Says:

    I frankly think a lot of critics are intimidated by the positive swell of public love for FA and don’t want to deal with the negative backlash they’d get if they actually critiqued it by normal film standards, though there is a slow groundswell of articles like this one

    http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-star-wars-the-force-awakens-stinks-20151226-column.html

    …which I actually think is a rather poorly constructed and overly negative argument in its own right, but whatever

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    BTW I read a fascinating if at times absurdly vitriolic debate about the award-season merits of Mad Max recently. There were voting members of the Academy weighing in on both sides, quite heatedly at times, staking out opinions ranging from “clearly a classic, Oscar quality film on many levels” to the total opposite

    The most interesting part of the debate focused on the implied “larger world.” Most people whole like or love the film agree that there is a tremendous amount of world-building happening in the nuanced background details, and if you pay attention you can extrapolate a lot of context from those hints. However some people made a pretty thoughtful argument that this is simply the function of ambiguity, and all of that “world-building” is actually only happening in the imagination of the viewer – that is, the filmmakers didn’t work out any of that stuff in advance, they just put in a lot of arbitrary, unexplained detail and let the viewers project their own interpretations onto it.

    Of course, that raises the point that most films don’t use ambiguity that artfully, and that even if it’s true (I have no idea) it amounts to a pretty clever bit of movie making anyway!

  12. bearito Says:

    My tried and true Couch Terr method is as follows:

    Video:
    LivePhish website>Macbook>mini dvi>dvi>hdmi>HDTV

    Audio: (when neighbors are home)
    Headphone Jack>20 ft aux cable>headphone amp>headphone splitter>Audio Technica ATH-M50 x 2

    Audio: (when neighbors are away)
    Laptop>Aux cable>Stereo Receiver>vintage bose speakers/surround sound speakers cranked to max volume

    Lighting:
    Disco Ball (various colors depending on mood), battery powered flickering faux candles x 8, Blue LED string lights x 2

    Safe travels to all attending, & glitch-free streaming to all on the couch! Fum to all y’all!!!

  13. gavinsdad Says:

    Thank you USPS for doing your job. Tics in hand w time to spare.

  14. bearito Says:

    Tried to stream through the LP website through my samsung Smart TV before and always had trouble fwiw. All depends on how the TV is wired and how strong the connection is I guess. I have a wired cable direct from modem in addition to the wireless and both have struggled in the past on the smarty pants tv.

  15. dorn76 Says:

    Nice linkage, @BWeird.

    The marking of the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one is so arbitrary, but exerts a powerful pull on my emotions nonetheless.

    I have almost no trace of Vulcan blood in me, it seems.

  16. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    getting my rig set in the new house tonight in advance of tomorrow’s first ‘cast. similar setup to bearito with the LP>macbook>dvi>hdmi>tv not to mention the audio straight to the old bosers

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    12.29

    so many great choices, it is difficult to pick favorites

    what a day in phishtory…

    1989 is an incomplete one so we’ll just move along
    1990 gives us the early form of Destiny and a ‘Setting Sail’ tinged YEM VJ
    1992 has that Tweezer and the jazzy Wilson
    1993 is solid all over with a big Lope and the quite unique TV Stash
    1994 is all about that DDLJ->Bowie but don’t skip the Melt or the Jim->Foam
    1995 gives us The Real Gin on its 20YL day and a jam out of BBFCFM to La Grange
    1996 brings us the Rotation Jam’d YEM, a fun Harpua, a big time Bowie and the last Caravan
    1997 is nice if you like peaky Themes, funky Lopes, and five song sets that go Disease->Bowie>Possum, Tube, YEM. possibly my favorite set from that unbelievable run
    1998 has a great Melt and another top notch five song set with Free>LxL>2001>Boogie>YEM. superstar 2001 that one
    2003 is a solid affair with a nice Piper opener, multi-peaked LxL, lots of segues in the 2nd set, and a fun Free jam not to mention a double encore
    2009 has that wonderful Tweezer, the Jibboo->Wilson->Jibboo, and a pretty darn okay Heavy Things out of that
    2011 umm… the CDT->H2>Paug is good?
    2012 yeah, so they aren’t really holding form here in 3.0. fun show?
    2013 where Ice goes big but it is all about that Disease>Carini section

    really hard to pick whether 12.29 or 12.30 is the better day throughout band history…

  18. bearito Says:

    Really hope the neighbors head out of town for the run. I love testing the durability of the 100 year old frame of my shotgun house with Mike’s bass bombs, and watching the resident cats on my street come out of the woodwork to peak inside the front door window. Its fricking hilarious seeing them all bright-eyed & curious. Cats love the Phish.

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    http://www.psychedelicdeathanddyingsurvey.org/home.html

    “Have you ever taken a psychedelic and had an experience that fundamentally altered your beliefs or understanding about death and dying?”

  20. dorn76 Says:

    Have I ever not?

  21. dorn76 Says:

    Wow that is an involved survey. Very interesting, but a little disturbing to contemplate as I went through first few pages…

    Back to my spreadsheets and contact list!

    #yikes

  22. tela's_muff Says:

    what’s up BB. 20 years later, the Real Gin. one of the greatest musical feats i’ve ever witnessed. also, 20 years later I’m heading back to MSG for the 1/1 and 1/2 show. wife surprised me with the plan with the help of ricksFork. first time back to NYC/MSG since the ’95 NYE show. crazy.

    in movie news, very excited to see what they do with Dr. Strange. this recent interview sounds promising. they hinted at what they could do when Ant-Man went into the quantum realm…

    “When this comic appeared in the early ’60s, it really informed, in a way that is pretty amazing, a lot of the psychedelic ’60s as we know it. Stan Lee and, in particular, Steve Ditko, had an amazing psychedelic style. I don’t know that they were doing anything weird in the bullpen in Marvel, but certainly the stuff they were doing inspired all those people who were doing mind-expansion experiments at the time. So, that’s inherent to the property. And that’s our mission statement for the visual effects on this movie.”

  23. dorn76 Says:

    Disturbing as in, “here I am plugging away at my desk, a cog in the machine, and you want me to think deeply on those times when all I wanted to do wa throw it aside and cackle at the sky.”

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah I don’t have 30 minutes of deep, serious thinking time for it right now either

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    looking forward to seeing you in the round room @smuff
    twenty years is too long between visits there!

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