Back to the Freezer

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on August 2nd, 2021 by Mr.Miner

Ameris Amphitheatre [Rene Huemer via Phish]

Anyone following Phish’s first week of tour could feel a Sunday night “Tweezer” coming from a mile away. And given the band’s current proclivity for extended jaunts through their second-set centerpieces, one could only imagine what might happen if these two things collided. When they did, the results were drool-worthy. The band set shifted into high gear and let it rip for over 30 minutes straight, crafting a full-throttle epic that has the Phish world buzzing.

Jams this long usually have an ebb and flow to them with distinct thematic sections and movements, but aside from one gorgeous synth-drenched, quasi-ambient passage early in the jam, this “Tweezer” became a relentless groove fiesta through and through. Fishman really pushed the pace and drove this jam, maintaining hard-hitting, punchy rhythms for a mind-numbing length of time. Coupled with Mike’s otherworldly bass work, the two of them maintained a dynamic pocket for far longer than we usually hear. This foundation of groove provided a playground for Page and Trey to play liquid lead lines and funk-laced dance patterns that kept the vibe at 11 for the entirety of the monstrosity.

Though there are subtle shifts within the jam, once the band is in the zone—which happens after a blatant tease of “Esther” in the 15th minute—they achieve a one-minded flow state for the duration in which they channel groove ambrosia directly from Mt. Olympus. During this second half of the jam, it sounds as if their minds shut off and they reach improvisational zen, allowing the music to move through them from the subconscious realm out into the world.

Much like this “Tweezer,” Phish’s three mega-jams thus far in tour, have been more straight forward and energetic rather than abstract and deep. One can hear the band’s enthusiasm and emotion dripping from each melody, beat and bass line. It feels as though they are trying to make up for time lost over the past year and a half, jamming more with instinct and inspiration rather than calculation or thought. Their impassioned improv is jumping off the stage and translating loud and clear, even through audio streams and webcasts far and wide. It almost sounds like the band members have just been released from captivity and are re-discovering what fun it is to jam together. Wait…

It will be interesting to see how second-sets develop moving forward. Will the band’s improv largely come in these larger-that-life packages or will it become more evenly dispersed throughout second sets to which we are accustomed? I’m not saying one is preferred but just observing a shift in contour. Though their have been secondary jams that have encompassed the improvisational fallout from these main events, aside from “Prince Caspian” these supporting excursions haven’t really reached original places. “Twist” kept the jamming going last night, and was certainly engaging if less than groundbreaking. “Piper,” however, did reached some inventive, collectively-built spaces by its ending. The main improvisation of each past three shows, however, has primarily come via the macro-jams of “Carini,” “Chalkdust,” and “Tweezer.”

Sunday night’s vibe was set early on with the one-two punch of “Set Your Soul Free” and “Reba.” “Set Your Soul Free” reached a blistering, feel-good peak that foreshadowed what would follow throughout the night. A particularly slow take on “Reba” and a creative version of “Jibboo” both featured very patient interplay between Trey and Page and carried the clean, emotive soloing that is quickly characterizing much of Trey’s post-pandemic work. Each also provided cathartic peaks that pointed to the more monumental ones that would come in “Tweezer” after setbreak.

That was quite the comeback weekend for the Phish from Vermont! With a full-slate of shows scheduled for this summer and fall, it feels like the sky is the limit for the band right now, as they are—in essence—just getting warmed up. And if crushing 30+ minute “Tweezers” is what they are doing on their first weekend back, what is to come at Deer Creek, Atlantic City and beyond? Time will tell. But first, a stop in Nashville.

I. Buried Alive > Set Your Soul Free, Reba, My Friend, My Friend, 555, Kill Devil Falls, Gotta Jibboo, Sparkle, Thread, Meat, Run Like an Antelope

II. More, Tweezer > Twist > Piper > Farmhouse, Waste, First Tube

E. Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

Hitting Stride

Posted in Summer '21, Uncategorized with the on August 1st, 2021 by Mr.Miner

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