TTFF: December Jams

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 6th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Fall 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

Fall 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

Tweezer” 12.16.99 II, Raleigh, NC

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Reba” 12.31.95 I, NYC, NY

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Ghost > Mike’s” 12.13.97 II, Albany, NY

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Simple” 12.6.96 II, Las Vegas, NV

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Weekapaug” 12.9.97 I, State College, PA

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Free” 12.15.99 II, Washington, DC

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Bathtub Gin > 2001” 12.2.99 Auburn Hills, MI

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You Enjoy Myself” 12.9.95 II, Albany, NY

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Revisiting Rochester

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on December 4th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Fall 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

Fall 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

What the heck happened in Rochester? On a tour where Phish could do no wrong, they stopped in western New York on a Tuesday night and threw an absolute clunker. Not only did the band display a noticeable lack of energy, they simply couldn’t hook up improvisationally. Only two days removed from a white hot weekend in Hampton, the site of several prolific jams, things—suddenly—had taken 180 degree turn. The band gave it their best effort for the opening of the second set, but before long, set things on cruise control—at around 45 mph—for the rest of the night. Since I haven’t as much mentioned this show since tour ended, I thought it was high tome to go back and see what the heck went down in Phish’s third show at War Memorial Auditorium.

Rochester Official (Fugscreens)

Rochester Official (Fugscreens)

Rochester was the first show that many Northeastern fans caught on fall tour, and with the buzz on Hampton’s final set still thick in the air, everyone laced up their dancing shoes for what felt like a no-brainer throwdown. But unlike most nights in their career, the band simply couldn’t get it going. A solid, if not slow, first set seemed par for the course after a monstrous three nights—an easy frame to work back into things. “Timber” provided a glimpse of jamming, though mostly standard songs filled out the set with nothing out of the ordinary. Things would clearly elevate after setbreak—or would they?

Both times the band had opened with “Crosseyed” this year, in Holmdel and at the Gorge, the jam blew up into a tour highlight. Thus, when the band brought out the Talking Heads’ cover for the third time of 2013, and the first time indoors, one suspected a monstrosity. But this time, the jam never got off the ground. What happened?

Reading (A.Nusinov)

Reading (A.Nusinov)

The guys had things on lock down through the structured part of the jam, but when they went to open things up, they were never able to connect. Just as they moved into free form territory, Fishman, inexplicably, dropped his rhythm out of the mix, abruptly shifting the feel of the excursion and throwing everyone off. The band members tried to adjust to this beatless canvas, but it took some time for anything to truly transpire. On listen back, Trey attempts to push things with a set of quickened chords, but nobody joins him, and at this juncture it sounds like Fish and Trey are on completely different pages and not united at all. Typically the axis of Phish, Trey and Fish struggled through this initial section, though finally reached some level of harmony allowing the jam to progress.

Phish gained some momentum through the next part of “Crosseyed’s” jam, but their playing remained disjointed and didn’t resemble the well-oiled machine we had witnessed in Virgina. The jam continues in very generic fashion, though nothing, whatsoever, develops. Following an uncharacteristically awkward meat of this jam, the band found a decent groove in the final, ethereal portion of this segmented set opener. Some nice, loose textures emerged, but the guys are merely wandering, and before long, Trey cut things off with the opening to “Light.”

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again—and this is what the move into “Light” was all about. Not willing to accept defeat, Trey led the band into, perhaps, their most wide open jam vehicle to see what they could come up with. But following a solid composed section, once the band dove into open waters, it was nothing but stinksville—the guys just couldn’t connect. Over a choppy groove, Trey began chording and then signing “Golden Age” in half-speed, executing a smooth segue and giving the crowd something unique to cheer about. The guys stuck with the slower tempo—one would think to foreshadow a dirty funk jam—but once “Golden Age’s” improvisational passage dropped, it sounded like all four band members were on different drugs. In short, it was a mess. Page tried to salvage things getting down on his clavinet, but it was all for naught. Before anything transpired musically, Trey counted off for “Birds of a Feather,” waving his white flag of surrender.

The rest of the set might as well have been a continuation of the first, featuring an eye-popping run of “Halley’s,” “Possum,” “Bug,” and “Heavy Things.” Trey tried to throw a setlist bone to the audience with an end-of-set “You Enjoy Myself,” but the band delivered a flat and lazy version. Oh well, ya’ can’t win em all! Thus we packed our bags and headed for Glens Falls.

What was fascinating about Rochester, however, was just how off course it was in relation to the rest of the tour. Phish are human beings after all, but this show was such an aberration from any other of fall (and even summer), it almost made no sense. On Sunday night they played their best set of tour in Hampton and on Tuesday they sounded like a JV jamband on dirty acid. Go figure. Such is the nature of live music I suppose. They say, you can’t have the highs without the lows, so I guess we needed one night to remind us just how special all the others were. It worked.

10.22.13 Rochester, NY (Jake Silco)

10.22.13 Rochester, NY (Jake Silco)

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Jams of the Day:

Winged-music-noteCrosseyed” 10.22 II, Rochester, NY

Listen to how different and disconnected this jam sounds compared to any other jam from fall.

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A Tour in (Moving) Pictures

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 2nd, 2013 by Mr.Miner

Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure to meet one of the community’s most stealth warriors, @LazyLightning55. Video taper extraordinaire and one of the nicest guys in the scene, @Lazy has spliced together HD footage of his favorite jams—and just the jams—from fall into one amazing compilation. Check out his outstanding work above. Below, I have included a little blurb about each segment of footage.

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1. “Carini” 10.18 II: Starting out this video is the jam with the most swagger of any played over Fall—Hampton’s “Carini.” Trey sets up the excursion’s bluesy, feel-good peak as the camera cuts in, and what transpires throughout the rest of this footage is some of the most hooked up playing we saw from the band all fall. The video then cuts to the laid back funk at the end of the jam, illustrating the amount of ground covered in this dynamic tour highlight.

2. “Weekapaug” 10.19 I: Next we have the meat of Hampton’s first set “Weekapaug”—super percussive and with plinko textures from Page. The whole band brings the jam on a tangent, documented here, before returning to “Weekapaug’s” theme.

3. “Ghost” 10.19 II: Hampton’s second-night “Ghost” carried an incredibly uplifting vibe and the band laid into it with a passion. In this video we see them on the way to the mountain top, and we stay with them through their glorious ascent. Trey unleashes some cascading sheets of notes as the rest of the band chugs away like a single-minded entity behind him. This footage includes the jam’s denouement—a sublime, break-beat laden soundscape that gradually becomes more and more ambient, setting up an oncoming “Disease.”

4. “Tweezer” 10.20 II: The dark and stormy Hampton “Tweezer” needs no introduction. This video comes in after the initial jam segment, as the band takes a left turn into the Netherworld. At this juncture, everyone in the building knew that fall tour was gonna be something special. This footage follows the band into the abyss, and fades out once the full descent has been made.

5. “Piper -> Taking Care of Business” 10.20 II: The next clip documents one of tour’s most memorable moments—“Piper -> Taking Care of Business.” In this footage, one can actually see the band discover the idea, communicate to each other and execute the segue. And the crowd goes wild!

6. “Twist” 10.23 II: Here we have the second segment of the Glens Fall’s “Twist,” as Trey is teasing “The Line” before anyone had heard the song. This jam signified a turning point of tour from which Phish never looked back, paving a path of gold for the duration.

7. “Waves” 10.25 II: Worcester’s “Waves” has been severely underrepresented in the post-tour chatter. A gorgeous piece of psychedelic Phish, the band moved from something far more upbeat into this dreamy ambient realm—the beginning of the footage we see here. The video tracks the jam as it moves into a heavier outro, one that sparked the idea for the move into “Carini.” This one is a gorgeous clip of Kuroda’s light work, taboot.

8. “Bathtub Gin” 10.26 I: The next clip documents the first set “Bathtub Gin” from Worcester’s second night—a version that I highlighted last week and one that has to be among the most dynamic of the year. The band locks into a swanky, airtight groove and lets it ride in a spectacular segment of musical catharsis. Even with all the jams in set two, this was the most energetic, collective peak of the entire show.

9. “Drowned” 10.26 II: Next up is the Worcester “Drowned,” a sprawling jam that the video picks up as after it had moved through a couple feels and has settled in an uptempo, “Guy Forget”-eqsue groove. We follow the band as they stop on a dime and drip into one of tour’s most sublime musical sequences—A soul-tugging, blissed out segment that eventually blends into an instrumental and chill-inducing nod to Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.”

10. “Tweezer” 10.27 II: The final jam before “Intermission” is the final segment of my pick for jam of tour, Hartford’s “Tweezer.” The band has navigated an extended segment of hooked up grooves, and have found their way—seamlessly—way into this melodic second part of the jam. The guys find a three chord progression that provides the melodic framework for the rest of the jam.

Setbreak: part of “Fuego”

11. “Golden Age” 10.27 II: The second part of the video picks up with Hartford’s “Golden Age,” by my estimation, the standout version of tour. We hear the band center this jam around Fishman’s rhythmic fireworks, as he consistently changes beats, adds fills and generally destroys his kit. The guys eventually blend into a more ambient soundscape towards the end of this footage, a jam that would eventually end with the onset of “Halley’s Comet.”

12. “Split Open and Melt” 10.29 I: Had the band nailed the ending of Reading’s “Split,” we’d all be talking about it as a highlight of tour, and this segment of footage shows you why—Phish got into some super-locked, menacing-as-fuck jamming. They seemed to have the piece by the jugular, but just as they were set to begin working their way back from this musical dementia, Trey pulled the string for an abrupt change into “Julius.”

13. “Down with Disease” 10.29 II: Reading’s second set was among the best of tour, and the spine-tingling peak to the set-opening “Down with Disease”—captured here—is one of the central reasons why. Trey’s magical guitar solo is among his most prolific of the past five years, and certainly one of his most original—pure transcendence on every level.

14. “Twenty Years Later” 10.29 II: But while many have focused on “Disease,” I find the true improvisational gem of Reading to lie in this “Twenty Years Later.” Patiently working their way into a pre-historic dancehall groove, the band evoked the feeling of ’97 amidst a truly sinister milieu. The entire fan base had been waiting for this moment ever since the guys debuted the song back in ’09, and boy was it worth the wait! Eventually, they pull off a back door transition into another Americana outro, this one likening “I Know You Rider.”

15. “Ghost” 10.31 III: After the band introduced us to the songs of Wingsuit, they came out and did something far more familiar—jam their faces off. This set-opening “Ghost” provided a jolt of adrenaline to a crowd half comprised of those disappointed in the Halloween set. Nonetheless, the band put a smile on everyone’s faces with this ripping rendition of a crowd favorite.

16. “Twist” 11.1 II: This sequence from the AC “Twist” is why we go. ‘Nuff said.

17. “Sneakin Sally” 11.1 E: This surprise encore of “Sneakin Sally” put the cherry on top of one of Fall’s most complete shows on the second night in Atlantic City. This night had it all, including the most hard-hitting encore of the tour.

18. “Theme from the Bottom” 11.2 II: We end this video tour through fall tour with the first set funk throwdown that emerged out of “Theme” in Atlantic City’s penultimate set. This one felt like the olden days as the band hadn’t unleashed grooves of this nature in quite some time. A truly electric moment in a tour filled with them.

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Thinking Out Loud: The Flow of Ideas

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 27th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
10.29.13 Reading, PA (Andrea Nusinov)

10.29.13 Reading, PA (Andrea Nusinov)

After years of listening to Phish improvise, I wanted to document some patterns. While all band members—clearly—listen to everyone else in the band in a circular flow, I have found that each member has tendencies and patterns in the general flow of ideas onstage. Here’s what I have to posit about the general flow of ideas during a Phish jam:

Page to Trey:

The flow of ides from Page to Trey is perhaps the most easy to hear  live and on tape. Very often—and more than ever these days—Trey picks up on subtle melodies and lines that Page plays and turns them into prominent parts of his own line, and often the entire jam. One of the most significant and easy to hear examples of this pattern from ’13 is the Tahoe “Tweezer’s” “Woo” section. As the band headed into a change, Page blocked out a five chord melody on piano two times. Trey echoed that melody on his guitar, and—immediately—that subtle piano melody had transformed into the main vamp of the oncoming “Woo” section of the jam; the melody that you recognize as that part of the “Tweezer.” But in the mix of each and every jam, Trey picks up on what Page is doing, often mimicking parts of his phrases or his exact line as part of the developing exchange. Even a casual listen to recent jams—such as the wide open part of Dick’s ’13 “Sand’—will provide plenty of examples of this interplay.

Trey to Fish:

10.18.13 (J. Silco)

10.18.13 (Jake Silco)

Trey and Fish are, historically, the backbone of Phish, and it is their uncharacteristic dynamic that often makes Phish music sound unique. Very rarely in bands is the drummer keyed in on what the guitarist is doing, as they are most often concerned with the bass player. However in Phish, beyond forming a pocket with Mike, Fish gets many of his ideas by following Trey’s lead. Fish will actually echo guitar patterns on the drums, dropping his beats in a sing-songy way, in a very unique use of the drum kit. This directional flow of ideas from guitarist to drummer is a dynamic that most bands don’t have, and provides an extra layer of connection within the music. Fish is a rare breed, one who can be deep in the pocket, echo a rhythm lick from Trey, all while telling a joke about his favorite beer, but very often, a jam’s directionality comes from Fish following Trey, and consequently Trey being pushed even further.

Trey to Mike:

Beyond being locked with The Greasy Troll at all times and offering his eclectic Gordeaux bass lines, Mike is often very focused on Trey’s playing. Mike is known to echo Trey, though he more often plays counter-melodies and fills around Trey’s playing. The close connection between Trey and Mike is also not the most common in bands, where guitar and piano generally take care of the top while bass and drums provide the bottom. But the way Mike incorporates Trey’s ideas into his own offerings instantaneously, makes the most hooked up jams pop with a whole ‘nother level of adhesive. And when Trey’s ideas are woven into Mike’s unique bass lines their effect is not just connection, but enhancement.

Mike to Page ?:

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

This would complete the pattern as I would like, but I’m not sure that I can back it up like the others. Page most often converses with Trey, often exchanging ideas like a game of ping pong, but does Page get ideas right from Mike? Hmmm. Page often blocks out chords to fill out the empty spaces in Trey’s grooves, giving his offering some relationship to Mike’s bass lines. By helping define the patterns of grooves, Page is most definitely sculpting in collaboration with Mike, but I’m not sure Page is responding directly to Mike’s notes regularly enough for me to complete this neat and tidy pattern. Do you guys notice a flow of ideas from Mike to Page? Other than Trey, who do you guys hear Page getting ideas from?

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Twist” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA

One of very few unposted jams from fall tour. This one showed us that this tour was gonna be different. Trey continuously hits a signature lick from “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” in the depth of this one.

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The Envelope, Please…

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 25th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)Fall Tour Awards:

FALL TOUR AWARDS

MVP: “Tweezer”

Barely edging out “Carini” on the strength of its third version, “Tweezer” takes away the most coveted individual award of Fall. “Tweezer” not only produced my jam of the tour in Hartford, it also produced two other jams that I have heard ranked number one of tour by others, and that speaks to the incredible nature of them all. Three all-star versions, all with a unique vibe and direction vault “Tweezer” to the top of this fall’s pedestal. Had Worcester’s “Carini” gone a bit longer and developed more, we might just have co-MVPS, but Trey elected for a pre-mature “Caspian,” a move that—in retrospect—sealed the deal for the big dog. “Tweezer,” here’s another trophy for your mantle. “Carini,” close, but no cigar.

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Comeback Player of Tour: “Twist”

This recipient comes as no surprise, as Phish resurrected “Twist” from the dead over Fall Tour. When the band opened the second set of the season with “Twist,” it felt like a bizarre and foreign move, yet when they opened up tour’s second-to-last main event with “Twist,” it felt just right. Over the course of two weeks, Phish sculpted three magnificent jams out of their once-prolific platform, and just like that, “Twist” was a major player in the Phish scene again. First, an ambient, Pink Floyd laced excursion in Hampton, then, a delicate, ethereal outing in Glens Falls, that featured a sneak preview of “The Line,” and finally a signature masterpiece in Atlantic City with one of the jams of the year. Welcome back, “Twist!” We’ve surely missed you and had grown tired of your pseudo “Oye Como Va” scene.

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Debut of Tour: “Fuego”

It was hard to not sport an ear-to-ear smile during the debut of “Fuego,” the undeniable gem of the Wingsuit set. A multi-staged composition that leaves room for two improvisational passages, all packaged with catchy hooks, overlapped lyrics, and group chanting, “Fuego” has all the components of a Phishy show-stopper. I bet we see this one during the Holiday Run at MSG.

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Second Set of Tour: 10/20 Hampton 

Hampton 2013 (A. Nusnov)

Hampton 2013 (A. Nusnov)

The vibe after this show reeked of the late ’90s, when Phish left most of their audience speechless and in dismay on a nightly basis. This was one of those shows for which the ushers had to eventually ask fans to leave, because nobody wanted to go anywhere. We had just experienced a full-throttle assault like none in recent years. The second entire set was strewn with big-time jam vehicles, and the band never stopped taking care of business. After two nights at Hampton, many Northeastern fans who had elected to skip the run were feeling pretty good about their decision. After night three’s course-correcting ritual, they weren’t.

Paul and Silas, Tweezer > Golden Age > Piper -> Takin’ Care of Business > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sand, Slave to the Traffic Light

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First Set of Tour: 10/26 Worcester 

This first set runs away with this award, though there were several other high-quality opening frames during Fall 2013. This one however, featured highlight jams in “Bathtub Gin” and “David Bowie,” not to mention solid versions of “Stash” and”Simple.” An extended version of “Party Time” opened things up before “Punch” really got things going. A couple rarities of “Ride Captain Ride” and “My Soul” as well a spirited version of “Back on the Train” rounded things out less a gratuitous “Character Zero.”

Party Time, Punch You In the Eye, Back on the Train, My Soul, Bathtub Gin, Ride Captain Ride, Stash, Simple > David Bowie, Character Zero

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Show of Tour: 10/31 Atlantic City, NJ

10/31 Official (D.Mumford)

10/31 (D.Mumford)

There is no denying the incredible significance of this year’s Halloween show. Never before has Phish presented an entire set of new material, and never have they presented so much new material that has been as instantly well-received. Touching on so many disparate genres and feels, the songs of the Wingsuit set were all crafted with a distinctly Phishy vibe, and most seem to be ready for rotation. The infusion of this much new material totally revolutionizes the Phish experience and paves the way for a glorious future—all in their 30th year! And after setbreak, the guys came out and tore apart a third frame for the first time in ages. Unloading two top ten jams of tour in a prolific one-two Halloween punch of “Ghost” and “Carini,” the band provided plenty of improv for those who didn’t get off on Wingsuit’s revelation. Those jams were supported by solid versions of “Hood” and “Antelope,” and when you combine all of these elements, you’ve got your show of fall tour.

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Two Set Show of Tour: 10/26 Worcester, MA

Rarely is a Phish show presented over two flowing sets without a single lull or dull moment, but that is exactly what happened on Saturday night in Worcester. One need only look above to see the quality of this show’s first set, and most are familiar with the monster sequence of “Drowned > Light” that opened the second. Follow that up with “Sand” and “Mike’s > No Quarter > Weekapaug,” with only a “Theme” interlude, and one has the most complete Phish show of tour.

Runners Up: 10/27 Hartford, 11/1 Atlantic City

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 All-Stars, 1st Team: 

 “Tweezer,” “Carini,” “Twist,” “Ghost,” “Disease,” “Golden Age” 

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Mimi Fishman Auction:

Mimi_Fishman_Foundation-353x-353xFive Phish New Years ticket packages were just added to the Mimi Fishman Foundation online charity auction. All proceeds from the ticket packages to benefit Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation.  The auction also features Phish Summer Tour posters signed by all band members. Of special note is the multiple night runs include matching numbered posters auctioned off as single sets. Additionally, the auction includes New Years packages donated from The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Umphrey’s McGee with the proceeds to benefit Colorado Flood Relief efforts.

To access the auction please visit www.mimifishman.org

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TTFF: The Structured Stuff

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 22nd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
10.22.13 (Jake Silco)

10.22.13, War Memorial, Rochester, NY (Jake Silco)

As everyone well knows,  I almost exclusively comprise my playlists of Phish’s open jams. Not today. The band’s playing was so strong across the board this past tour, that I’d like to highlight some of my favorite contained jams for this Friday’s playlist. As I wrote about as recently as this year, the band’s structured—or type I—playing, was the last part of their repertoire to ripen in this era. Sure, they could get through all the changes without the obvious flubs of post-hiatus, but for the first years of this era, they infused little to no creativity into their structured jams, causing parts of shows—particularly first sets—to drag. This year, however, starting in summer, Phish made a point to resuscitate classic pieces that has lost their luster; pieces like “Bathtub Gin,” “David Bowie,” “Stash,” and “Harry Hood.” During 2013, these jams—and more—have regained their proper place in the Pantheon of Phish. Here are some of my favorites from fall presented to you in a thought out playlist that bring some flow to your Friday.

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2001” 10.26 II, Hartford, CT

Though “Also Sprach” had been gaining creative steam all year, this this tour is first time the guys gave the piece a decent amount of time to breathe, as both versions clocked in at must over eight minutes. Hartford’s tour highlight came at the tail end of a groovalicious set that featured massive versions of both “Tweezer” and “Golden Age,” and kept the vibe alive with a nasty rhythmic throwdown.

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Harry Hood” 10.23 II, Glens Falls, NY

Perhaps the retro environs of Glens Falls seeped into Trey’s consciousness, because he took this set-closing version of “Harry Hood” with the fury of old. The jam begins with some distinctly modern textures and ends with a scorching peak the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time—all in all, a stellar version.

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***

Bathtub Gin” 10.26 I, Worcester, MA

This “Gin” provided the highlight of perhaps the best first set of the tour on the second night of Worcester. Almost breaking form, the band remains anchored in groove and brings this version to a colossal peak—the largest single peak of the entire show.

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Sand” 11.1 I, Atlantic City, NJ

This third-song “Sand” beat out any second setter of this tour, as Phish’s relaxed and confident demeanor showed immediately on night two in Boardwalk Hall. They had just turned in their first “Shaft” jam of the weekend in “Runaway Jim,” when they flexed their muscles on their groove anthem—an incredibly fiery start to one of tour’s strongest performances.

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***

Roggae” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA

I recently respun Hampton’s tour opener and found it to be an incredibly well played show, if not a touch mellow. This mid-second set “Roggae” stood out immediately and paced the set between “Twist” and before “Carini.” This second set is a dark horse of tour.

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Sneakin Sally Through the Alley” 11.1. E, Atlantic, City

After a spectacular performance, Phish went right ahead and blew up a “Sally” encore, eventually reprising the “Shaft” jam from “Runaway Jim.” Whew!

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***

Split Open and Melt” 10.29 I, Reading, PA

The band seemed to have this “Split” jam by the horns as they had progressed the piece into ominous abstraction. Then, without even attempting to bring it back, Trey bailed out of the jam abruptly for “Julius.” Not sure what that was about, but this jam is nasty.

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Gotta Jibboo” 11.1.13 II, Atlantic City, NJ

After a monumental “Twist” jam, the guys applied their focus to the groove in this smoking “Jibboo.”

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David Bowie” 10.26 I, Worcester, MA

This intricate “Bowie” closed out Worcester’s big-time first set on the 26th, coming at the tail end of a powerful, set-closing trifecta that started with “Stash” and “Simple.”

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***

Slave to the Traffic Light” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA

This gentle, understated “Slave” served as a perfect juxtaposition to the fire-filled set it closed, the set of the fall tour.

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***

You Enojy Myself” 10.29 II, Reading, PA

A real live “YEM” jam?! Lordy, lordy where have you been? Refreshing to say the least!

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Moments In A Box: Magic

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 21st, 2013 by Mr.Miner
11.1.13, Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

11.1.13, Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

Woven into the fabric of Phish shows alongside compositions and jams are moments—those instances where time stands still, everything goes into slow motion and the world explodes. Fall tour had many of these indelible occurrences that everyone in attendance will always remember. Here are a few of such moments from Fall—presented chronologically—that still give me goosebumps to think about.

Piper -> Taking Care of Business“—10.20 II, Hampton, VA

Though there are several frozen moments from Hampton’s third show, none brought a more thunderous response than this one. As if an exuberant “Piper” to punctuate an outrageous jam sequence of “Tweezer > Golden Age” wasn’t enough, this impromptu move into “Taking Care of Business” was nothing short of genius. As soon as everyone in the crowd recognized the song they were playing, Hampton’s roof nearly blew off. People freaked out, and rightfully so, because Phish hadn’t only just executed a shrewd and seamless segue, they had laid down their mission statement for the next two weeks! They were as excited as we were to be on tour. If everyone didn’t already know that shit was on like donkey kong this fall, after this moment they certainly did.

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Drowned‘s” “Sitting in Limbo” jam—10.26 II, Worcester, MA

This one still blows my mind. The band was neck deep in an uptempo groove of the likes of “Guy Forget” when they—collectively—stopped on a dime and converged on one of the most surreal segments of music of the entire tour. As if they had this change preconceived, the guys were immediately on the same page as they bled into the infinite. Mike dropped some enveloped filtered notes that provided an aural cushion for this ethereal music. The band sat into a delicate, to-die-for groove for a minute or or so before Page (I believe) hinted at the chords of “Sitting in Limbo.” Trey picked up on the Chairman’s idea—as he so often does—and he, himself, offered the chord progression of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic. Trey had played “Sitting in Limbo” with TAB once, and I was sure he was about to step to the mic to sing the first line. Apparently, (from someone who actually watches the show) he almost did, but deferred, keeping the poignant nod instrumental. But damn if that change and subsequent jam isn’t one of the most sublime moments of 2013.

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Trey’s final solo in “Disease“—10.29 II, Reading PA

The 'Doc (Andrea Nusinov)

The ‘Doc (Andrea Nusinov)

There are moments and then there are moments. Ask anyone who was in the intimate Santander Arena on that Tuesday night about the end of Reading’s “Disease” and they may just turn away and blush. Yeah, it was like that. Following the meat of a solid, though unspectacular, “Disease” jam, Phish found their way into one of their now-classic, blues-like codas. This southern-laced jam was particularly significant on the brink of Halloween with all of the Allman Brothers talk in the air. The band actually worked their way into a jam around Eat a Peach‘s famed live track, “Mountain Jam,” and it was within this feel good context that Trey would make history. The guys had the room in the palm of their hands and were bringing the jam to a full-band peak when Trey reached back and unleashed the most spiritual, spine-tingling, and downright spectacular guitar solo of the past five years. Channelling his inner Duane Allman and harnessing every bit of his own soul, Trey opened his heart and out burst rainbows and Klondike gold. And this wasn’t just a short statement, he let it all hang out in a blissed out guitar solo for the ages. This is one we’ll be telling our grandkids about. (nb: I had continuous chills just recounting this tale without the music on.)

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Twist“ middle peak section—11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

One could sense during the first set of Halloween that Phish was more focused on the second. They had clearly practiced the Winsguit set and had a lot riding on the success of its songs. Thus, the first frame of Halloween didn’t amount to much, but with the pressure lifted in the third set, the band was clearly able to let loose and jam. Well, when they came back to Boardwalk Hall the next day after nailing their Halloween show, the guys were visibly looser and more comfortable on stage from the jump, tearing apart the show’s opening half. And that brings us to “Twist.” The band had played two versions thus far on tour, Hampton and Glens Falls—both bigger than any since Cincy 2012—and the second had built substantially from the first. Thus, when Phish opened the second set in Atlantic City with “Twist,” everyone knew we were in store for a treat. But midway through this jam, things got straight silly, and we stumbled upon another magical moment.

I’m not exactly sure just what transpired during this segment, but it was one of those instances where the energy of the moment continued building upon itself and informing the actual music onstage. Page and Trey had locked into an exchange that the other guys quickly latched onto, collectively forming a sort of anthemic vamp. This drew in the audience’s energies and this sequence gained series momentum before the band broke from this vamp into a high-speed, cathartic peak. Then, this moment truly crystalized as they continued switching between these two feels, creating a monumentally triumphant passage, both musically and energetically. This was one of those bigger-than-music metaphysical explosions that happen from time to time at Phish shows, and quite honestly, this was the most collective, in-show peak since Tahoe.

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Three of a Different Kind

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 19th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Atlantic City (Andrea Nusinov)

Atlantic City 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

In a fall tour where so many facets of Phish’s game stood out, perhaps the most significant was their improvisational diversity. Phish is known for never playing the same show twice, and—more specifically—never playing a jam the same way twice. But on this tour they took this concept to a new level. Most often through history, Phish has focused—more or less—on one style of play at a time. Therefore, within a tour—say Fall ’97—most “Ghosts” will bare a sonic similarity, as the band was honing in on one sound, in this case, James Brown-esque groove. In the 3.0 era, however, focused pattern has not been their modus operandi. Instead of magnifying one style of jamming at a time, the modern era has been all about improvisational diversity, as Phish routinely and proficiently plucks jamming styles from the entirety of their 30 year history. Before coming back in 2009, the band had done all their pre-requisite course work: the fundamentals of the late ’80s, the intricate compositions of the early-’90s, the lightning quick “speed jazz” of ’93, the advent of free-form jamming in ’94, the psychedelic sorcery of ’95, the groove reinvention in late ’96, multiple stages of funk in ’97, the advent of ambient jamming in ’98, the ambient-layered sound sculpting of ’99-’00; the grungy, dissonant exploration of post-hiatus. Phish had learned it all. In this era, however, they have access to all of these learned styles and more as they their jams no longer liken case-studies, but referenced, master works. And on fall tour, this methodology worked wonders as the band’s jams—even within a single song—varied greatly, providing the ultimate smorgasbord of Phish delicacies.

Atlantic City (A.Nusinov)

Atlantic City (A.Nusinov)

This fall, the band played three versions of just about every major jam vehicle, and by comparing the three, the incredible diversity of Phish’s current jamming will leap off the table. My favorite reference point in the Phish universe is “Tweezer,” and so let’s start there. The band’s first “Tweezer” of fall came as part of Hampton’s instantly legendary third night performance. Once the guys pushed through a set of whammy-laced grooves, they took a sharp left turn for the dark side. Phish favored a loose, grungy and highly-effected sonic palette, as the music likened a descent into Hades. This ominous march became more and more intense—a harrowing segment of musical mania that pushed further and further into abstraction. Sounding as if they had been burrowing through the earth, the band—finally—popped through the darkness into the tranquil, deep sea where they floated hundreds of feet below the surface. And thus began the majestic final segment of the jam—a truly holy exchange. Needless to say, in Hampton, Phish put the lens of the exploratory and psychedelic side of their game, and came out with quite the result.

The next “Tweezer” came exactly one week later, on Sunday night in Hartford, Connecticut, and it was a totally different story. Whereas Hampton’s was loose, Hartford’s was tight. Whereas Hampton’s was quintessential “evil” Phish, Hartford’s was uplifting. Whereas Hampton’s was distorted and dissonant, Hartford’s was silky smooth and melodic. And whereas Hampton’s got abstract, Hartford’s grooved ’til dawn. You catch my drift? These two “Tweezer” jams couldn’t really be more opposite. Such utter diversity between versions makes any comparison a matter of apples and oranges. Hampton’s version felt perfect in the old, shoddy Coliseum, while Hartford’s uplifting groove exercise fit congruently with the most wide open dance floor of tour. As Mom used to say, “There’s a time and a place for everything.” And she’s never been more right than in Fall 2013.

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

“Tweezer’s” final outing came in Atlantic City’s fall tour finalé, and it was, perhaps, the most unique of them all. This version focused exclusively on rhythm, as each member used their instrument in percussive fashion rather than offering any melodic leads. Many times this is how Phish jams start before moving into a second section of more conventional playing. But Atlantic City’s never made that jump, instead undulating between varying rhythmic textures. This made for an extremely danceable version that entered some decidedly unique late-jam grooves. While this “Tweezer” developed in concept throughout, never did anyone look to build the jam vertically or melodically, as Phish remained a growling, mechanical dance factory for the duration of tour’s final jaunt. This excursion, truly, bears no resemblance to either Hampton’s or Hartford’s, making the trifecta of fall “Tweezers” about as different as three Phish jams can get.

If we were to draw roots of these “Tweezers” into Phish history, they would certainly touch several different eras. Hampton’s version references the growling abstraction of ’03 and ’04, Hartford’s nods to the funk era of ’97 and ’98, while Atlantic City’s is a bit tougher to trace—some combination of the intricacy and innovation of ’94 with a sonic palette of ’99-’00 and beyond. While musical genealogy is hardly a precise science, the overall takeaway is that Fall 2013 was comprised of a hybrid of improvisational styles from throughout the band’s illustrious career. And what makes Phish such a special band is that they are still creating at this stage of the game, forging new pathways nightly, all while referencing tricks learned over a Hall of Fame career. The result of this is a Phish tour that is more dynamic than ever before, as nobody knows what style of jam will spring from what song on any given night. In past eras, as unpredictable as Phish has been, one could know—more or less—what style of jamming they would witness when they walked through the arena doors. These days, however, with’s the band’s ever-diversifying improvisational tendencies, it’s just not that simple. When extrapolating this trend to every jam vehicle in the catalog, the possibilities contained within any current Phish show become limitless. Through the years, the band has taught us to expect the unexpected, but in this, their thirtieth, year, Phish has once again redefined the meaning of “unexpected.”

11.1.13, Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

Hampton Coliseum (Jake Silco)

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The Next Ten

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 18th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

11. “Tweezer” 11.2 II, Atlantic City, NJ

This jam is incredibly unique as all band members anchor themselves in rhythmic playing. Nobody offers melodic leads, and the result is some super crunchy, locked in dance music. One of the more underrated jams of the fall.

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12. “Carini” 10.25 II, Worcester, MA

The only thing holding this “Carini” out of the top ten is its brevity. Talk about Phish crack, this jam has it in droves.

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13. “Theme from the Bottom” 11.2 I, Atlantic City, NJ

You youngsters wanna’ get a feel for the ’97 and ’98 era when any jam could plunge into gooey, danceable funk textures at any given moment? Well, it was kinda like this! This “Theme” evoked the quintessential sound of the era. Think Island “Cavern.”

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14. “Down with Disease” 11.2 II, Atlantic City, NJ

During this tour, Phish featured several jams with monstrous peaks and many sick jams without big-time peaks. This is one of the latter. Locked in from the jump, this version passes through several stages of music with total fluidity, arriving at a gorgeous final segment.

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15.  ”Tweezer” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA

The most exploratory jam of fall tour came via Hampton’s third-night “Tweezer.” This loose, grungy and ever-darkening take on the classic vehicle gets quite abstract before the band finds salvation in the jam’s final sequence—some of the most special moments of tour. The reason I haven’t ranked it higher is because I don’t find it to be very cohesive in concept or execution, but a great piece of Phish nonetheless.

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16. ”Waves” 11.25 II, Worcester, MA

A soft-spoken psychedelic vignette. I’m not sure why this one hasn’t gotten more speak in the online community, but I absolutely love it.

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17. “Drowned” 11.26 II, Worcester, MA

The only “Drowned” of fall popped off in a big way, focusing mostly on hard rock and uptempo groove. But the big payoff came when the band dripped into a surreal final segment centered around Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.” The reason I didn’t rank this higher is because I don’t find most of the jam to be very original, despite the quality of play.

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18. “Golden Age” 10.20 II, Hampton, VA

This locked in dance jam switched up the vibe from the previous “Tweezer,” and is—arguably—the more hooked up jam. Phish set the stage for Hartford’s tour-highlight version of “Golden Age” at Hampton, as the jam traveled an almost identical course. This one, however, take a more extensive glimpse into the storage shed.

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19. ”Ghost” 11.19 II, Hampton, VA

The triumphant scorcher from Hampton at number 19? What a tour!

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20. ”Light” 11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ

This is an underrated jam that has lived in the shadows of the larger pieces of Atlantic City. The band gets into quite a unique—and very tight—conversation in this piece, a sort of avant-garde, jazz-laced groove. This “Light” ends with an abstract foray into an almost Dead-esque, free-form space—quite cool and experimental.

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The Top Ten Jams of Fall

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on November 15th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

Boardwalk Hall (Andrea Nusinov)

I’ve spent the past week spinning the hell out of Fall and I have come up with my top ten jams of tour. These are—by my ear—the most hooked up, flowing pieces of improvisation from an all-too-short fall run. As always, ranking these was an incredibly difficult task, but that said, I’m quite happy with how this top ten turned out. always, Enjoy the playlist!

10. “Ghost” 10.31 III, Atlantic City, NJ

This locked and driving jam opened the third of set of Halloween with a bang.

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9. “Down with Disease” 10.29 II, Reading, PA

After steering through a couple different moods, the band found the end of the rainbow in a southern-style pot of gold.  This Allmans-sque passage and earth-shattering peak cement Reading’s “Disease” as a keeper.

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8. “Golden Age” 10.27 II, Hartford, CT

Fishman absolutely destroys this rhythmic jam, as the band dances around his inhuman beats for much of its duration. The band truly sits into this jam, something they are becoming more and more comfortable doing with “Golden Age.”

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7. “Twenty Years Later” 10.29 II, Reading, PA

Methodical, growling, and funky as James Brown’s band on their worst night, this mid-set surprise obliterated the dance floor and left people picking up pieces of their brains off the walls of Santander Arena. Sliding into a rootsy, Americana outro, this jam hit the feel-good spot as well.

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6. ”Twist” 10.23 II, Glens Falls, NY

This jam provided the pivot point of tour; from here on out, everything the band touched turned to gold.

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5. “Carini” 10.31 III, Atlantic City, NJ

A free-form, third-set joyride that reached profound planes following some early-jam hiccups. The improvisational centerpiece of the Halloween show.

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4. ”Light” 10.26 II, Worcester, MA

The most slamming “Light” of Fall has so much to offer, including a searing guitar solo, a passionate composed jam and the the most sophisticated groove exposé of the entire tour. Hey!

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3. “Twist” 11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ

The central part of this jam provided the most cathartic group moment of the year aside from Tahoe’s “Tweezer.” Very powerful music; very powerful energy. The band came down from the mountaintop and retained cohesion through a mini-”Under Pressure” jam, continued into a full-blown, psychedelic third segment of music, and finally came down via a dreamy denouement.

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2. “Carini” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA

This multi-staged, super-dynamic jam is the only piece of Fall—other than my number one pick—that flows with a completely effortless nature from beginning to end. And that’s quite impressive considering the amount of ground it covers, including a scintillating mid-jam, peak and a funked up final section. Despite Sunday’s scorching final set, this “Carini” is the everlasting gem of Hampton 2013.

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1.Tweezer” 10.27 II, Hartford, CT

The guys clicked from this jam’s first note, locking into a sacred stride and never missing a beat. No jam from Fall flowed more effortlessly that this—four-minded, egoless, soulful music from start to finish. As if God pressed play and the band simply allowed the music to flow through them—this is what it’s all about.

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Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

Hampton Coliseum (Andrea Nusinov)

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