And We’re Off…

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!

18 Responses to “And We’re Off…”

  1. Mike R. Says:

    You seem like you’re a really fun guy to hang out with!

  2. Arcimboldo Says:

    That said—how dope is the new light rig?!

  3. jtran Says:

    first time here, Mike R.?

  4. Jack Says:

    Hot take, Mr Miner. I watched the webcast and very much enjoyed it.

    This certainly wasn’t a technically excellent show, by any means. But from my perspective, they played through the flubs with a ton of energy. There were some special moments, like the segue into Fuego, and the Weekapaug Jim — which whilst brief, were nonetheless promising.

    Fish was certainly sloppy last night, but it didn’t feel awkward when he messed up, unlike at other shows I’ve seen. I’m personally very optimistic for the rest of the tour — this was a promising, flawed, fun start.

    The upgraded lighting rig is a huge treat too. You’re missing out by not looking at it 😉

  5. vegas Says:

    Miner! Nice to see you back in the saddle. I’m more of an eyes closed at the show guy, too. For me, video is more of a deterrent than a benefit to the couch experience. Prefer audio only. Just listened to this Ark show and thought it was perfectly adequate as an opener after 1.5 year layoff.

  6. vtspeedy Says:

    Great to have your commentary again Mr Miner, I’ve missed it!

  7. Sergia Says:

    I was there & I completely agree with your assessment of the event.
    It was extremely boggy heat, Fuego was very appropriate. The crowd seemed elated to be back, but wanting in other areas. There was very little mask wearing. The staff and venue was fantastic. I hope that the tour isn’t cut short so we can see the band fully in synch.

  8. More Says:

    Tap tap tap……this thing still on?

    Good to have u back mr. miner

  9. kayatosh Says:

    Thanks, Miner. Appreciate the honesty and the take. Peace

    Anyone need a Hershey GA field for 8.11? Lmk

  10. kayatosh Says:

    took in the set I of Arkansas and enjoyed. Tonally pleasant and competent renderings of the tunes. was in and out of consciousness for set II from the couch. lights low, laid back. heavy lids. rewatched/listened the next day. OK, the Phish machine (Voltron) is up and running, even if all the Limbs aren’t fully synced-up. quite amazing just to see them take the stage in these strange times. do they really need us like never before? perhaps. we need them for sure to help us get Free from living in this Tube so that we can enjoy the Simple things in life like Bouncin around the Room or riding a Bike (not played) past Traffic Lights and Fuego Plasma.

    Here’s some great Phish heard today:
    8.30.19 Mercury (long form masterpiece)
    10.31.98 NICU (slides in from Tweezer. meditative jam post tune)
    7.23.99 PYITE (this thing cooks. sirens, long intro, uptempo’d)

  11. Cheard Says:

    audience stream anywhere?

  12. Cheard Says:

    ^ email to cheardheard a google mail if willin’

  13. brother Says:

    Loved the show. I had very low expectations however. Understand the sloppiness but I though first part of set one and two were pretty damn good considering.

  14. phishm Says:

    How about that Ghost?

  15. Cheard Says:

    or that Carini? mixlr / cshoka

  16. Cheard Says:

    cshonka rather

  17. Cheard Says:

    btw thank you Mr. Miner for your Phish thoughts!

  18. Sanchothehutt Says:

    Missed you Miner! Agree Simple was the star of night one. Can’t wait to read what you thought of that Carini….

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