Letting Loose

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on July 31st, 2021 by Mr.Miner

Oak Mountain Amphitheatre [Greg Marcus]

The tentative band we saw in Arkansas was nowhere to be found on Friday night in Alabama, as Phish came out far more relaxed and played a really good show, taking a strong step forward towards regaining their groove. The change of vibe was palpable throughout the first several songs of the night, highlighted by “The Final Hurrah,” prompting Trey to call for “Ghost” in the middle of the first set. The late-’90s groove vehicle quickly transformed into a cohesive, melodic-ambient exploration that stood out from anything played on night one of tour for it’s single-minded purpose. Page—mixing his Rhodes and synths—and Trey hooked up to collectively paint an impressionistic top half of the jam as Fish—switching up the rhythm and sometimes eliminating the backbeat—teamed with Mike lending an amorphous feel to the excursion. I love this style of Phish.

The buzz of the show, however, will certainly be the longest-ever take on “Carini.” Pushing the piece to 25 minutes, the band unleashed a straight ahead groove escapade that must have had everyone at Oak Mountain buckwilin’. As the jam exited its structured framework, Trey surfed his bandmates’ collective rhythmic wave with extended blues-based soloing that just wouldn’t quit. But when Trey finally gave up the reins, the band entered more varied music textures that pushed the music into edgier, three-dimensional territory. After they briefly passed through these experimental waters, Trey cast in his line and hooked them out into a soaring, blissful peak for which modern Phish has become famous. It felt like this was the first time in the opening couple shows of tour that the band fully dropped their inhibitions and let the music flow through them without concern as to where they were heading, resulting in a catharsis of built up pandemic tension.

I gotta take a moment to comment on the “Martian Monster” that followed up “Carini.” Ever since it’s Halloween debut in 2014, I’ve been waiting for Phish to place this piece in the second set and really have at it. It’s potential is astronomical. Though they didn’t blow it open here—not by a long shot—they got loose and improvised more than usual. As Trey laid some thick ’97-esque rhythm chords into the groove, I thought shit was about to truly pop off. Nonetheless, it was great to see the band inject some playfulness into the all-too-static single, and hopefully there will be more second set versions to come this run.

“Golden Age” saw the band fully synced and the funk jam possessed some extra teeth tonight as Trey alternated between lead and rhythm playing. It seemed as though it might be moving into deeper territory just before it wound down into “Mist.” “Blaze On” and “Hood” rounded out the non-stop set that certainly bodes well for the upcoming weekend in Alpharetta. “Ghost” foreshadowed what I believe will be the next step in Phish’s quick return to improvisational virtuosity, moving out as opposed to straight ahead. The band began this re-development with Arkansas’ “Simple” and furthered the process with “Ghost.” Be on the lookout for Atlanta’s “Tweezer” and “Mercury” to further this arc.

Having been to so many of these shows over the years, its kinda funny and cool how I can more or less have the experience at home—totally sober and eating dinner and what not. And if even if I’m not actually having the experience, I can viscerally feel the experience I’d be having were I there. I can picture the people I’d be next to smiling and laughing, and feel the energetic contours of the show. Listening at the same time the show is happening, which I did tonight, helps facilitate this for sure. Over the past couple years, I have found that the mental buildup of missing shows is far worse than the actual experience. As it is happening, it is just not that big of a deal. That said, I’ve yet to miss a truly monstrous “Tweezer,” so talk to me after that happens. But in the end, the show unfolds and then it is over—c’est la vie. It is certainly easier knowing the shows are going on in hot spots of an ongoing pandemic, but nonetheless, like so much of life, it’s all in your mind.

Atlanta Phish rarely disappoints, and this weekend feels like it will deliver big time. Stay safe out there!

 

 

And We’re Off…

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on July 29th, 2021 by Mr.Miner

7.28.21—Walmart Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer via Phish]

Well, I was expecting something a bit more explosive than that. Though the band looked overjoyed to be onstage again and played a perfectly palatable opening set, they sounded less than cohesive after set break as they dipped their toes back into open improvisation. I suppose that was to be expected after such a long layoff, but I figured their preparation plus the magnitude of the moment would cause some sort of Phish magic to click and they would drop a comeback show that would have the community abuzz. Instead, the tour opener in Arkansas likened a welcome home party rather than a serious musical undertaking, likely super fun for those in attendance, but somewhat short of engaging from a distance. That said, I think the jamming will come around quite quickly, and I expect that the band will be far tighter come Atlanta.

“Simple” provided the most engaging and ambitious music of the night for me, as the band dug through some dark and abstract terrain en route to a pretty unique jam. Though the band members explored the same sonic wormhole throughout this passage, they didn’t always sound fully connected while navigating it, sometimes presenting individual ideas that didn’t completely mesh. I really dug the melodic motif Trey laid down at the beginning of the jam and continued to reference throughout in various tones and contexts. I liked the direction of this jam quite a bit and hope to hear more improv that covers similar musical ground.

“Disease” was fine but nothing out of the ordinary. This jam didn’t progress much in any narrative sense, though it seemed to be finally getting somewhere in the minute or so before they moved into “Simple.” Page employed some synth-heavy sounds towards the beginning of the piece that could lend some nice textures to the mix this summer. It was great to see the band attempt two full-on, quasi-patient segues, from “Disease” into “Simple” and even more interestingly, from “Simple” into “Fuego.” I liked the go-get-em attitude right out of the gate, and it bodes well for an adventurous spirit this summer. Beyond the opening two-song sequence, the second set didn’t really offer much to write home about.

Phish did seem totally proficient in their structured jamming in pieces such as “Tube,” “46 Days,” “Wolfman’s” and “Plasma,” all which provided smooth and satisfying groove-based excursions. So their somewhat clunky open jamming wasn’t a matter of chops, but communication which makes perfect sense after they were all sequestered alone for the better part of a year and a half. I really don’t see this as an issue at all though, as they should easily kick this rust off within another show or two.

The question of what song the band would open the post-Covid era with circulated amongst fans for the better part of the past year. I had moved through several stages of predictions, and at one point long ago, when i first heard it, I figured they’d open with “I Never Needed You Like this Before.” It just made too much sense from a lyrical perspective. I had since moved on from that thought and posited they’d go with a well-known favorite to get the crowd instantly amped, but as it turned out, they decided to send a musical message of dedication to their fan base with Trey’s pandemic-scribed rocker. It seemed to work well, especially as they followed it up with the adrenalized injection of “Tube.” The show got underway quickly and the band’s new era was off and running.

In terms of my own experience, I used the webcast audio to listen to most of the show without the video, only watching the very beginning of set one and the very end of set two. The video really throws everything off for me, bringing in a visual element that has never been a part of my Phish experience in the live setting. I have never really looked at the stage during shows, and watching the close up video feed is really jarring for my senses, causing me not to hear the music in the same way at all. Subsequently, I’ve never gotten into Phish videos of any kind—official or Team Hood DVDs, webcasts, Dinner and a Movie archival videos—they don’t do anything for me and detract from my listening experience. I’d much rather just listen to a show as a means of revisiting it. Moving forward in this experiment, I won’t be watching webcasts to experience the music. If I am able to tune in live, it will be through an audio-only feed, though due to my paternal responsibilities, I will be listening to the shows after the fact more often than not.

I will say that I thought I’d be seriously thinking of changing my mind about Atlanta after tonight’s show, but after seeing the crowd, I do not think I’d be comfortable around that many people in such tight quarters right now. It didn’t look fun to me in the present climate. So I will move forward with listening from afar for the time being. I hope all who were there had a blast!

Hello Again

Posted in Uncategorized with the on July 28th, 2021 by Mr.Miner

This is a new era of Phish. Call it what you will, but there is no doubt that we are entering the next phase of the band’s sprawling and illustrious career. After 19 months off due to the pandemic, the band will step on stage tonight—in Arkansas of all places—to rev up the engine once again. And I won’t be there. I am not feeling fully comfortable with pandemic Phish at the moment. I feel there are too many distractions and peripheral stressors for me to close my eyes, let go and immerse myself in the expansive, boundary-less experience that I have come to know and love over the course of 26 years. I was planning on going to Atlanta, Nashville, Deer Creek and Atlantic City this run, and for now, it seems that I am going to be skipping until Deer Creek at the earliest. I have traditionally distanced myself from the shows while I am not there, because after seeing every show from for so long, missing them was always a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t webcast the shows and sometimes I don’t even listen to them right away. But it feels different this time since I am opting out rather than not going because I am unable, and so I am thinking perhaps that I will try to engage with the music differently while being home.

Subsequently, I am thinking I may write some thoughts on this site for the first time in a long time. I won’t try to review the shows—that would make no sense without being there, as Phish is a live experience. But perhaps some stream of consciousness thoughts about the music, the jams, the new songs as I digest them from afar. I am not sure what form this might take, and I might start and feel like it isn’t going anywhere and bail right away, but maybe it will help me metabolize this new experience as it unfolds. We will see what happens. Stay tuned.