Hitting Stride

Ameris Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer via Phish]

Phish’s third show back from their pandemic-forced hiatus was filled with fiery improvisational highlights, notably anchored by the impeccable guitar playing of our favorite six-string assassin. Armed with his new “4.0 Guitar,” Trey’s tone and dexterity really stood out tonight as he took the helm on most all of the band’s excursions, guiding the music with clean, emotive soloing. Tonight’s shining example of this style of play came in the band’s marathon take of “Chalkdust” that opened the second set. Throughout the jam, Mike and Fish shaped an uptempo, chugging rhythmic course not unlike many “Chalk” jams of lore, while Trey’s inspired guitar narration pushed the plot of this jam into enchanting pastures—a golden thread woven through a captivating musical journey. And when he sometimes backed off into rhythm playing, Page was right there to carry the melodic path with an array of his new school sounds. Though the synergy of the band underlined the entirety of this piece, their one-minded play really popped in its second half where Phish navigated some authentically original textures and Trey’s inventive, melodic eruption reached its pinnacle.

While “Chalkdust” was the jewel of the show and of Trey’s individual showcase, the most boundary-pushing improv of the show came two songs later. After a swanky version of “Steam” came out of “Chalkdust,” the band started up what seemed to be a cool down interlude of “Prince Caspian.” But clearly feeling the flow, the band blew out the jam into a drone, collective sound sculpture that is right up my alley. Hearkening back to their millennial sound of ’99, Phish employed layers of distortion, feedback and blurred, shoegaze effects to craft a sonic exploration that drastically veered from the clean, melodic vibe that has characterized most of their improv of this young tour. Page unfurled more of his modern synth offerings that lent an almost prog-rock element to the tonal psych-art. I really dug this mid-set surprise and would absolutely love to hear further jaunts into this realm this summer.

Phish came out with guns blazing in Alpharetta, playing an improv-laden first set filled with choice bangers. Absent of filler material and stacked with classics and crowd favorites, the opening set illustrated the band’s burgeoning confidence while immediately gripping their audience. When Trey’s playing is really on point, it elevates the band’s structured jamming, creating engaging excursions that are otherwise susceptible to the generic. Examples of this came in the set’s final pairing of “Stash” and “Bathtub Gin,” the two brightest highlights of the first half for me. His playing in “Stash,” specifically shone. Trey, and the band as a whole, built momentum throughout this set, coming out of the gate strong with “Sand” and an extended run through “Everything’s Right,” but gaining cohesion and tightness as they progressed through the opening frame. Trey’s precision with the intricacies of “Foam” provided a signpost of what was to come from him throughout the rest of the show.

As expected, it has not taken long for Phish to find their way again. Possessing telepathy like few bands in history, the band has gotten right back to business and is excelling within days of hitting the stage. After playing together for over 30 years, what’s a year and a half?

I. Sand, Everything’s Right, Turtle in the Clouds, Maze, Destiny Unbound, Foam, Stash, Bathtub Gin

II. Chalk Dust Torture > Steam > Prince Caspian > Golgi Apparatus, AC/DC Bag , Shade, Mike’s Song > Silent in the Morning > Weekapaug Groove

E: A Life Beyond The Dream, Cavern

9 Responses to “Hitting Stride”

  1. kayatosh Says:

    Phish is back, Miner is back (nice review), all is well!

  2. Billy88 Says:

    Great to see you back!!! Stranded in canada, unable to drive to shows. Glad your here, with all the others, lovin’ on the band!!!!!

  3. Legs Diamond Says:

    yeah Miner, CDT/Caspian highlights that first set tho..!

  4. Snigglebeach Says:

    Well I guess it’s time to jump on tour. Holy smokes.

  5. Willowed Says:

    So far….


    Not a bad little play list.

  6. Billy88 Says:

    Well it was like you called it, again, WOW that TWEEZER!!!!!!!!

  7. Xpun Says:

    I wasn’t there for the Tahoe Tweezer. I know it came at a time when they hadn’t been jamming as confident or as deep as what they were capable of. MSG Tweezer was the first really big jam that my gf saw and she hung with it the whole way. I’m not taking away from that jam whatsoever, but it was Phish doing what they are capable of doing every night. Definitely a treat. But last night was something else. It was a year and half of pent up frustrations released. The plague, politics, racial, social, lockdown, isolated from friends and family…. All of that was lost to me for 34 minutes. It was the first show where we actually formed into a a fairly legitimate little patch of dancers on the concourse just outside the pav on Page side. It was the first show that felt kinda normal to me. That I wasn’t focused more on all my friends that weren’t there and rejoicing in those that were. And Phish just kept it coming. Definitely two points I thought they were ending it and they kept us going. Carini was excellent, Saturday night was solid show “bell to bell” as my friend said, but last night was the jam we had been waiting for. This tour will only grow from there. Hope to see some of you out there. Phish Rebuilds America

  8. MiA Says:

    Love these phishthoughts again miner.

    I do think Trey moving into the occasional rhythmic role has allowed page to really step forward and the cohesive listening is really there.

    I’d argue that this current sound is a far better extension of 1.0 then most of 2.0 or 3.0. Maybe even a 1.5 (historically)

    Great to see you on here xpun and that you got yours last night!

  9. kenny powers Says:

    “Hearkening back to their millennial sound of ’99, Phish employed layers of distortion, feedback and blurred, shoegaze effects to craft a sonic exploration that drastically veered from the clean, melodic vibe that has characterized most of their improv of this young tour.”

    mmmmm, blurred shoegaze effects…

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