Miner’s Dicks Picks

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on August 25th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

8.30.13 (Jake Silco)

Here are my selections for the top 10 jams in Dick’s history.

10. “Carini” 8.31.12 I

This surprise jam, early in the first frame, set the tone for the FYF show.

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9. “Runaway Jim” 8.31.12 II

A rare siting of an exploratory, second set “Runaway Jim” in the modern era. This one is kind of aimless for a while but comes together in the second half. Some might rank this higher, but it just doesn’t hit me very hard at all. It’s kind of messy and all over the place.

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8. “Sand” 8.30.13 II

This “Sand” opens up into a gorgeous passage of Phish. While not quite 2012′s version, this “Sand” is quite good in its own right.

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7. “Piper” 9.4.11 II

An airtight excursion that passes through several themes, one that Page laces with his magic Theremin.

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6. “Sand” 9.2.12 II

A far more fluid jam than I ever gave it credit for, and sick throughout.

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5. “Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.13 II

A defining moment of late-summer ’13, as the band set the course for Fall.

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4. ”Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31.12 II

An incredibly cohesive monster with some of Trey’s most inspired work of the year.

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3. ”Tweezer” 9.3.11 II

One of the bands most triumphant moments in 2011.

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2. “Undermind” 8.31.12 II

This set closer confirmed that something special was going at Dick’s in 2012.

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1. “Light” 9.1.12 II

The mac daddy highlight from Phish’s years at Dick’s. It’s just so good.

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A Brief History of Dick’s

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on August 21st, 2014 by Mr.Miner
9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

9.2.2012 (Graham Lucas)

Four years ago, the Phish community descended on Denver, Colorado for the Labor Day weekend. The band had booked a new venue—a soccer stadium just outside the city—for a summer-closing three-pack. Even before anyone stepped inside the venue, the idea seemed like a sound one—a free-for-all throwdown with a massive GA field where everyone could congregate in a hassle free environment. Tickets wouldn’t be a problem with such a large venue, and everyone could come out for the three-night run over Labor Day Weekend to enjoy the last shows of summer. And the stadium was named Dick’s. It didn’t matter that its moniker was taken from a nationwide sporting goods store, the community—and the band—ran with the inherent humor. Phish loves Dick’s. We love Dick’s. Everyone loves Dick’s.

In just a week, we will all head to the Rockies once again, for the fourth consecutive Labor Day fiesta. Like two of the three previous stands, this one will be a stand-alone trifecta that will seal the deal on another summer of Phish. But before we get there, let’s take a quick trip through the history of a venue that has become a modern legend.

2011

Dick's 2011 Official (LandLand!)

Dick’s 2011 Official (LandLand!)

Dick’s 2011 was the culmination of a huge summer of growth for Phish. They had played a two-legged tour beginning on May 27, with Superball in between. After trudging through 2009 and 2010 on a far slower learning curve than most anticipated, Phish made a huge leap forward during Summer 2011. High points came right out of the gate at Bethel and the “Rust Belt” run through Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati, in July at Superball, and later that summer at the Gorge and UIC Pavilion. The band took just under two weeks off before coming into their first Dick’s stand firing on all cylinders.

A tradition was born in Phish’s first show at Dick’s—the “S” Show. Throughout two sets and an encore, the band played twenty-six songs that began with the letter “S.” This stunt set a precedent of setlist trickery that now occurs on the first night of each end-of-summer weekend. Though fun, this show was somewhat light on jams, sprouting minor highlights in “Sneakin Sally -> Sparks” and “Seven Below.” Things changed over the following two nights, however, as Phish got down to business with jams aplenty.

Saturday and Sunday’s second sets were packed to the gills with improvisation, and an unforgettable “Tweezer” lead the charge. This jam departed from the darker grooves the song is known for and launched into the most heavenly jam of the year. But while “Tweezer” was most definitely the jam of the weekend, the set of the transpired on the stand’s final night, centered on a smoking sequence of “Twist -> Piper > Hood.” Needless to say, after three nights of top level Phish to close the season, folks couldn’t wait to return to the industrial park in Commerce City the following year

2012

2012 Official (Stout)

2012 Official (Stout)

Dicks 2012 was a whole different story. This three-night stand was a pivot point in the overall narrative of the 3.0 era, thus holding importance in the context of Phish’s career. In short, this stand was an absolute breakthrough.  The bad had rediscovered the art of long form jamming over leg two of summer tour in 2012. Before Long Beach, Phish’s improvisational passages had grown quite dense, but usually maxed out between 12 and 15 minutes, feeling more like appetizers than main courses. Though they had dropped a handful of extended jams in 2011, they had reeled things back over summer’s opening leg, one would suspect as a calculated move in order to make this jump over leg two. But when tour wound its way to Dick’s—he finale of summer’s second leg—things transformed once again.

A confluence of elements combined to make this weekend magic. The band was coming from six consecutive one-off shows through the South and Midwest and now had a chance to settle in for three nights in a familiar and well-loved environment. And Phish had—at long last—gained their sea legs again, playing with an enhanced sense of freedom over the previous fortnight. This was a recipe for the perfect storm, and as if that wasn’t enough, Phish helped out further by forcing their own hand on night one.

8.31.12 (G.Lucas)

8.31.12 (G.Lucas)

The band chose to spell “FUCK YOUR FACE” as their prank on this run’s opening night, a decision that allowed them to play only twelve songs over two sets. They had to jam their faces off to make this show happen, and that they did, setting fire to the soccer stadium with one of the modern era’s finest performances. Jams fell out of the sky on this night, including an all-timer in the first set in “Undermind” and an extended “Carini” to back it up. The second set is well known at this point, featuring a multi-tiered take on “Runaway Jim” and another all-timer in “Chalk Dust.” This was one of those nights where everyone walked out with eyes wide and sparkling.

And the next night the magic kept flowing as the band dropped a monumental version of “Light. This excursion traversed copious musical ground, as the band seamlessly rolled through several themes and segments, complete with a blues rock coda that left everyone’s jaws on the floor. This jam hit so hard that it was mere weeks before fans made pins, stickers and t shirts to commemorate it’s occurrence. It was that big of a deal—a true heavy hitter in a time when they didn’t come around too often. But all of a sudden, these monster jams were rolling of the presses at Dick’s in 2012! And they were played with the sense of effortless that made Phish famous. They were in the zone all weekend long, and we have the tapes to prove it. The rest of Saturday’s show was rock solid as well, a but a few years removed with a more macro perspective, this show is truly about the “Light.”

644063_10151135714484798_1697060993_nJust as the year before, the tightest set of Dick’s 2012 three-night run was its last. This set was centered on monstrous version of “Sand” that Phish opened up like never before. The minutes of music that took place before the band headed out the other side and into a harder rock outro are among the best of the year. Seamless segues from “Sand” to “Ghost” and then into “Piper” provided a non-stop 50 minutes of improvisational fireworks. “Twenty Years Later” and “Lizards” provided a poignant juxtaposition before a powerful “Hood” brought things home. Dick’s 2012 was truly a portal through which Phish stepped and has never looked back. Their playing from 2009 had all led up to this, and their playing since has been more consistently creative and inspired. This stand transformed the band’s confidence, and it became apparent that things were just really now heating up for this third go-round. The long wait of 3.0 had paid off, and Dick’s was the new Promised Land.

2013

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

8.30.13 Official (K.Taylor)

Phish had just under a month off between summer tour and Dick’s in 2013, and this time the band didn’t come in with such fire. Just as they had forced themselves to jam with a 12-letter setlist in 2012, this year they all but eliminated any possibility of large excursions in spelling out “Most Shows Spell Something” in reverse. “Sand” popped off to start the second set, but after that it was a pretty straightforward show, as the band crunched in 23 songs to pull off their setlist pun.

The second night, however, was an 180-degree turnaround. Phish played one of their best start-to-finish shows of the season on Saturday night, featuring one of summer’s most significant improvisations in “Chalk Dust Torture.” This “Chalk Dust” would immediately be added to the laundry list of filthy jams dropped throughout Dick’s history, as this end-of-summer piece featured a blissed out beginning, a dark drum and bass section, a sequence of groove laced with a calypso vibe, and some stop-start theatrics. Once again, the rest of the show was quite good, but with a macro view, this show was all about “Chalk Dust.”

Sunday night of 2013 didn’t follow the pattern of previous years and, quite honestly, fell rather flat. I’m not sure why this stand took a left where the others turned right, but sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.

2014?

This year is an interesting case. Phish is coming into Dick’s on the heels of a summer tour that peaked early and coasted to a finish, and with the same amount of downtime’s as last year. Trey has been uncharacteristically laid back this summer, with varying degrees of success, and it is hard to predict what guitarist will show up in Denver. The band, however, has been playing well as a unit, and in a comfortable environment away from the east coast, anything is certainly possible. Answers in one week!

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Four Crappy Phish Runs

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on October 18th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

As readers know, I’ve spent most of my time on this site highlighting the best and the brightest moments, jams and shows of Phish’s career. But let’s be honest, sometimes the band just doesn’t get it done. One needn’t look any further back than Bill Graham’s second night or 2011’s craptacular New Year’s Run to find shining examples of these less than stellar performances. Today, instead of pointing out gems from the past, let’s take a look at four of the least inspired runs in the band’s career.

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New Year’s Run 2002-2003

NYE 2002 (S.Campbell)

Though everyone was through-the-roof excited for Phish to be back after a 2 ½ year absence, once they hit the stage, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to write home about. Their 2002 New Year’s performance contained very little impressive jamming, and got by on the community’s adrenaline alone. The only musically memorable part of this night came in the third set with “Runaway Jim -> Time Loves a Hero,” and even this jam was nothing too special. Phish’s highly-anticipated comeback show easily took the cake for the worst New Year’s Eve show of all time. And once the band got down to Hampton—the fucking Mothership—things just got worse.

Strewn by sloppy and uninspired play, the band slogged through three shows with zero listen back value whatsoever. The first night in Hampton provided the strongest effort of the three, highlighted by the jam of the run in “46 Days.” The second night fell totally flat despite a first set that looks great on paper. The “Wolfman’s” from set two provided a decent jam that got the Coliseum rocking, but outside of the live experience it’s not worth remebering. The third night was highlighted by—well—nothing that I can remember. The band had more or less lost me by the fourth show in the run, and I was just rooting for some serious practice time before they came out for winter tour. “Weekapaug > What’s the Use?” would have to be considered the jam of the show, but it was not memorable. When the band returned at the Forum in LA and then Las Vegas in mid February, they announced their return with their instruments, not just their presence on stage, and the 2.0 era got rolling in earnest

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Turkey Run 2003

20th Anniversary Print (Pollock)

After a phenomenal and exploratory Summer Tour in 2003, the band took a few months off before hitting Nassau, Philly and Boston for their 20th Anniversary Run in November. Everyone was expecting some very special shows over this weekend, and most everyone was let down. Over these four nights, there were only a handful of highlights with “Twist -> Simple” from 11.29 at The Spectrum leading the way by far. The first show in Nassau Coliseum featured two engaging first set sequences in “Ghost -> What’s the Use” and “Bathtub > Free,” but the second set was completely innocuous, featuring a string of unjammed singles. Philly, outside of “Twist -> Simple,” really need not be discussed at all. I know a lot of people enjoyed the third night in Albany, but I found it to be a totally setlist driven affair. If there could be any less action in a sequence labeled “Tweezer > 2001 > YEM,” show me too it; it doesn’t exist. The “Wolfman’s Brother” that came towards the end of the first set pumped the crowd up and provided the one true highlight of the night. Halfway through the second set,however, the band invited their original fourth member, Jeff Holdsworth, to the stage to perform his songs “Camel Walk” and “Possum.” Holdsworth stuck around for to play the first song ever performed live by the band, “Long Cool Woman With a Black Dress,” and their old-school single “Run Like an Antelope.” It all sucked. Steeped in Phishy nostalgia, this set contained nothing worth listening to again.

When the band made their way up to Boston for their 20th Anniversary show, everyone expected musical fireworks and something extra special. But the band didn’t even address the crowd or acknowledge the event but for a stellar video retrospective that aired on stage during setbreak—easily the highlight of the show. The beginning of the second set provided the a small musical takeaway in the unconventional combination of “Rock and Roll -> Weekapaug -> Tweezer Reprise.” The guys dropped a solid “Maze” late in the set, but “Maze” can’t do much to save a show. All in all this “celebratory” run was pretty piss poor. Antelope Greg maintains that these shows didn’t cut the mustard because he wasn’t there. Well, Greg or no Greg, these shows simply blew. (But check that “Twist -> Simple” below as the jam of the day.)

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Vegas 2004

Vegas ’04 (Pollock)

The three night run in Las Vegas in the spring of 2004 marked the beginning of the end. After this weekend, Trey would post his notorious message on Phish.com proclaiming—“We’re done.” The news came as a stake through many a fan’s heart, but based on the guys’ haggard musical output over the weekend, few could argue with his reasoning. Sandwiched in the middle of a lot of very messy playing, however, there were some really solid jams, led by “Halley’s > Tweezer” that opened up night three and a manic “Twist” from night two. The other Vegas notables include a near twenty-minute “Pebbles and Marbles” from the final set of the run and an opening night sequence of “Drowned > 2001 > Disease.” But relative to what we recognize as quality Phish today, these shows really stunk up Sin City.

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 New Years Run 2011

MSG 2011 (DKNG)

It’s no secret that last year’s New Year’s Run at MSG blew goats. After a stellar summer that concluded with an outlandish run at Dick’s, the community was incredibly excited to “Occupy YEMSG” for the holiday celebration. But after Phish came out and raised hopes with a high quality opening show, everything went down hill. Getting progressively worse by the night the band stumbled to the finish line in a run for which they didn’t hold rehearsals. The 29th featured little to no improvisation, with a single segue between “Chalk Dust” and “Hydrogen” making the only buzz of the night. The 30th was a trainwreck, less the jam of the run in the second set’s “Piper,” and New Year’s Eve immediately challenged the 2002 show in the same building for the worst ever. On one of Phish’s high holidays, a bunch of first set singles gave way to the “main event” in the second. The only jam of note in the set, however, was “Light” which saw Page make token use of his Theramin. Though the band jammed “Light,” I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to this version after my once through after the show. Remember the third set? Probably not. Three words—“Velvet Sea,” “Alaska.” Nuff said.

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Jam of the Day:

Twist -> Simple” 11.29.03 II, Philly, PA

The one gem of 2003′s Turkey Run.

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A Live One: 3.0

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on May 8th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

A Live One - 1995

On Twitter yesterday, while groveling for post ideas, @KevinMSpence and @david_artis each suggested “remaking” studio albums with live selections; forming a playlist that would look like the album, but contained all live music. For today, I took that exercise and twisted it a bit. When Phish dropped A Live One in 1995, it was their first-ever official live release. The double-album was filled with cuts from 1994, and released to give mainstream audiences a taste of what the band’s heralded concerts sounded like. Since 1995, the band and technology have come a long way, and now every live show is released within hours, making the concept of a “live album” totally obsolete. But what would A Live One look like if it were re-conceived today in order to showcase the past two years? Maybe a little something like this…

DISC ONE

Bouncing Around the Room” 6.17.11, Charlotte, NC

This was a “pick ‘em.”

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Stash” 10.31.10 I, Atlantic City, NJ

My favorite “Stash from this era.

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Gumbo” 5.28.11 I, Bethel, NY

Packed in the middle of a monster set.

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Nevada

A Live One had “Montana,” a 2 minute and 4 second excerpt from an exploratory “Tweezer” played in Bozeman, MT. Well, this is 3.0, and “Tweezer” ain’t what she used to be, so I took a 2 minute and 4 second excerpt from one of Phish’s most exploratory jaunts this era. Can you tell what it is?

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You Enjoy Myself” 6.13.10 II, Hershey, PA

The Hershey “YEM”—it’s whaley, but it’s good.

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Chalk Dust Torture” 8.16.11 I, Chicago, IL

A furious first set version.

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Slave to the Traffic Light” 6.19.11 II, Portsmouth, VA

A gorgeous, mid-set masterpiece.

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DISC TWO

Wilson” 7.3.11 I, Watkins Glen, NY

One of the top performances of this song ever.

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Tweezer” 9.3.11 II, Denver, CO

One of the defining jams of this go-round.

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Simple” 8.6.10 II, Berkeley, CA

An all-time version of “Simple” from The Greek.

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Harry Hood” 12.28.10 II, Worcester, MA

One of everyone’s favorite tracks on the original album was “Harry Hood,” and this time it’s back with a vengeance.

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The Squirming Coil” 8.19.11 E, Lake Tahoe, CA

The first and only “Coil” that came to mind when making this list.

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A Live One - Back Cover

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The All-Star Songs of 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on January 17th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

12.30.2011 (Joe Iudice)

All “Type II” First Team

“Rock and Roll”—With several top-shelf versions last year, “Rock and Roll” is the unquestionable choice for MVP of 2011. When the band wasn’t crafting timeless pieces of music out of the jam—a la Gorge, Mansfield, or Charlotte—they were usually pushing the envelope with experimental playing—a la Merriweather and MSG. Hands down, the launchpad of the year.

“Light”—For the duration of its short life as a Phish song, “Light” has been a vehicle for cosmic improvisation. First the jam brought mostly ambient experiments, and then in Fall 2010, the band began to take the piece into the realm of quickened groove. This year, the band used their modern era jam to explore futuristic soundscapes that often showcased Mike’s lead bass playing. Phish focused more on this song as the year progressed, coming to life in Portsmouth and Super Ball before breaking sonic barriers in Lake Tahoe and UIC. Capping its year with Denver’s “Light -> Disease” Reprise” and a New Year’s Eve Theremin jam, “Light” remained in the upper echelon of jam vehicles.

“Down With Disease”—Between Clarkston’s “A Disease Supreme,” UIC’s extended jaunt, and many other versions in between, “Disease” has become “Old Reliable” for modern day Phish. Almost always moving into original ground and pushing the band far outside the box, “Disease” had yet another standout year in 2011.

“Piper”—A staple jam vehicle of post-hiatus and the modern era, “Piper” starred, once again, in 2011, taking the band into uncharted territory time and time again. Highlighted by Denver and MSG’s versions, “Piper” also had strong outings at the Hollywood Bowl, Super Ball, Raleigh and Merriweather, as the band created a diverse spectrum of jams.

“Waves”—A song that was a staple of the post-hiatus era came back in 2011 with a vengeance. After being played only three times in 2009, the song skipped 2010 altogether, and came back with strong last year. Although the band only played the song four times, three of them were incredibly memorable. Between its outings at Bethel, Super Ball, and UIC—all summer highlights—“Waves” got back on the train with some profound renditions in 2011.

*****

All “Type I” First Team

“Sand”—Just about ever time Phish played “Sand” last year, it ballooned into a show highlight. Having transformed into a whole-band jam during the fall of 2010, the song exemplified this paradigm shift last summer with intricate four-part conversations. If there was a Type I MVP, “Sand” would no doubt take home the trophy. Every time one heard those opening chords, a furious dance session was sure to follow

“Harry Hood”—The final “Harry Hood” of 2010—Worcester’s instant classic—set the bar high for the band’s classic song in 2011. And while the guys didn’t replicate such a monumental version in 2011, they played more than a few above-average versions. Trey began to integrate the stacatto stylings of Worcester’s version into several “Hoods” this year, including a standout renditions at UIC and the version of the year in Denver. But every time played, “Hood” seemed to carry a little something extra in 2011, beginning with its very first performance of the year in Bethel, NY.

“Chalk Dust Torture”—From Clarkston’s first-set-ending version to Tahoe’s mid-second-set shredder and from UIC’s aggressive jam to MSG’s surreal dissolve into “Hydrogen,” Phish actually used “Chalk Dust” creatively last year rather than treating it as a straightforward single. This old-school staple produced more than a few well-played surprises throughout the year, earning a place on this list.

“Crosseyed and Painless”—Though Phish hasn’t taken “Crosseyed” off the map since Red Rock’s in ’09, Phish has consistently crushed the Taking Heads’ cover. Annihilating the song’s infectious composed jam on many occasions this year, “Crosseyed” became a regular part of the bands’ rotation and a reliable piece of high octane rock and roll every time out of the gate.

“Bathtub Gin”—Including highlight versions to start the year in Bethel and to end the year in Denver, “Bathtub Gin” brought plenty of fire throughout 2011. Consistently cathartic jams stemmed from “Bathtub,” and though most stayed within structure, almost every version provided a jolt of energy to its show. Often coming at the beginning shows in 2011, “Gin” never failed to get things started and feet moving during first sets last year. Other standout versions include Super Ball’s, from the festivals opening set, and The Gorge’s, which sparked the second leg of summer.

MVP: “Rock and Roll”

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: “Waves”

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: “Steam”

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Jams of the Day:

Chalk Dust Torture” 8.16.11 I, UIC

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Sand” 6.11.11 I, MPP

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Weekend Nuggets: MSG Highlights

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

“Tweezer” 12.28 II (HarpuaFSB)

*****

“Piper -> Twist” 12.30.11  (mkdevo)

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Jam of the Weekend:

Down With Disease > Free” 6.10.11 II

Another monster “Disease” from last year, this one from Camden, New Jersey.

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TTFF: More Type II From 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Watkins Glen (Brian Ferguson)

This week, I figured I’d highlight some of the outstanding jams that didn’t make my personal “Top Ten” last week. This Friday’s playlist comes from the many Honorable Mentions from last Friday’s post. But as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so any “ranking” is purely opinion-based. Enjoy these ten gems—in no particular order—from the last year, while the 2012 rumor mill is already churning.

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Down With Disease > No Quarter” 7/3, Watkins Glen, NY

There were so many great “Diseases” last year that Super Ball’s version, which is quite impressive, doesn’t often get mentioned. Powerful whole-band interplay laces this festival outing before the guys gradually moved into “No Quarter.”

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Roggae” 8/5, The Gorge, Quincy, WA

This best-ever version of “Roggae” graced The Gorge at sunset before the band came out at night and dropped the defining music of this era.

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Sneakin’ Sally” 6/4, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

The band builds from robofunk into some out-of-character psychedelia in one of the year’s most satisfying groove-based excursions.

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Seven Below” 9/2, Denver, CO

This part of the “S” show was, perhaps, the most innovative jam from the summer’s final run.

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Boogie -> Waves > Caspian” 5/27, Bethel, NY

The sequence that started 2011′s improvisational focus on the very first night of summer.

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Simple” 1/1, NYC, NY

This blissful piece of improv moves into an ending so good that it could have been composed.

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***

Drowned > Maze” 5/31, Holmdel, NJ

Phish gets into some dark and abstract music in “Drowned” that foreshadowed the Storage Jam at Super Ball.

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Carini -> Tweezer” 12/28, NYC, NY

A dark-to-light “Carini” blended seamlessly into a funked-out “Tweezer—a high point of the New Year’s Run.

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***

Light -> Dirt” 8/15, Chicago, IL

Another bass-led adventure through a musical wormhole.

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***

After Midnight” 5/31, Holmdel, NJ

This surprise opener of PNC’s second set of four, went deeper than any version since Big Cypress.

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Three Of A Kind

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 11th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Throughout the Summer, Phish performed no less than four three-nights stands: to start the summer in Bethel, to end the Summer Tour in Denver, a mid-season festival in Watkins Glen, and a return to the intimate environs of UIC Pavilion in Chicago to cap Leg Two. Within these three-night affairs, the band was able to showcase the full spectrum of their playing styles, and got a chance to settle into one room (or one stage) and really let things loose. Without the pressure of only two sets and onto the next city, three nights allowed Phish to musically move any direction they so desired, while giving fans a three-day break from the road. Inevitably, as the band relaxed into these four stands, some of the best shows and jams of the summer resulted. Let’s take a look at last summer’s three-nighters in chronological order.

Bethel Woods, 5/27-5/29

Official Bethel Print (Stout)

Phish came blasting out of the gates at Bethel Woods last summer, kicking off June’s tour—and 2011—in mind-bending fashion. Though the band had gained considerable momentum during the second half of Fall 2010, and played a legit New Year’s Run, nobody expected to experience what went down in Bethel over Memorial Day weekend. When the band came out blazing after an almost six month layoff, many fans expected a warm up show for the first show of tour. But May 27th proved to be anything but a warm up, starting a trend of very significant tour-opening shows 2011.

Bethel Woods (Chris Klein)

The first night at Bethel Woods, though featuring an above average first set, was all about the second. Centered on the psychedelic joyride of “Boogie On > Waves > Caspian > Crosseyed,” the band played with far more confidence and audacity than we had observed at MSG. And the second night of the stand shook the Phish universe to the core. Putting together the most impressive two set show of the modern era up to that point, the band absolutely destroyed the northern New York venue with two sets of barn burning Phish. Highlights of this second night include, “Cities,” “Halley’s Comet,” “Runaway Jim,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Disease > Free,” “Number Line,” and “Harry Hood.” Everything Phish touched turned to gold on this night, and it was this show on May 28th that caused many fans to begin rearranging their summer plans—3.0 Phish had never been like this before.

On the third night in Bethel, the band ran out of creative gas, as they played a straightforward rock and roll show to their salivating crowd. And while this show has likely gotten little play on anyone’s iPod, the safe Sunday night affair seemed just fine on the heels of the improvisational exploits of the first two shows.

Super Ball 7/1-7/3

Super Ball (G.Lucas)

Though Indio provided an idyllic backdrop for Festival 8, it just didn’t feel the same. But when fans began to populate Watkins Glen International on June 30th, the entire infrastructure of the festival felt far more like the dreamlike weekends of lore. With themed art installations and notably smaller grounds, Super Ball was the user-friendliest Northeast festival to date. And boy did Phish respond. The first day with filled with fiery playing throughout both sets, with the improvisational highlight coming with an ethereal and ambient take on “Simple.” The second day of the festival began to heat up in earnest towards the end of the second set, setting up a monstrous nightcap. The third set of the day was one flowing highlight whose centerpiece sequence read “Golden Age > Piper > Caspian > Tweezer.” The bonus here was the only jammed out “Golden Age” to date, less a small funk jam at Darien. The exploratory spirit applied to this festival version would vanish during second leg of summer, as the TV On the Radio cover became an anthem rather than a vehicle for jamming. “Twist > 2001 > Harry Hood” provided the other highlight segment of the set before the band continued to play random singles, compromising the cohesion of the frame as a whole. But when this set ended, the true highlight of the festival began.

The Storage Jam (B.Ferguson)

The Ball Square Jam. The Storage Jam. Call it what you will, Phish’s late-night surprise set—a rite missing from Indio—returned with smashing success at Super Ball. Guised within an artistic rendition of a self-storage shed and immersed in an hour-long rotation jam, the band explored  some of the most experimental music of their career. This jam saw the return of Page’s Theremin, a gimmick he had used in 1996, that he brought back with a whole new skill set. This instrument would make its way into some of the most engaging Phish jams during the second leg of summer—The Gorge’s “Rock and Roll” UIC’s “Undermind,” and Denver’s “Piper. This dark and wholly abstract style of play that was broadcast to fans in surround sound, would establish a new style of improv for the second leg of Summer—“Storage Jamming.” And it would only take hours before this style began seeping into their live show.

On the final day of Super Ball, Phish came out and played, arguably, their strongest two-set show of the year. The band tore every piece to shreds, whether it was the first set’s “Destiny Unbound,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” or “Reba,” or the second set’s “Disease -> No Quarter, “Light,” or “Waves -> What’s the Use?.” Phish had IT on July 3rd, and played a memorable show laced with full-band interplay that is among the best of the entire year.

UIC Pavilion 8/15-8/17

Unofficial UIC (Ortiz)

Phish had a rich legacy at UIC Pavilion before stepping foot in the venue last summer. With two standout ’94 shows and a legendary three-night run in the fall of ’98, the band returned to a venue where they had exclusively spat fire. And for the first two nights, that is exactly what they did. “The Elements Set” needs no introduction, as the second set of 8/15 has become fan favorite from the moment it happened. The quintessential frame of  “all killer, no filler,” Phish barely stopped for air while cranking through “Sand -> Light > Dirt, Waves > Undermind > Steam > Fire.” Not to mention a stellar first set that puts this show squarely in the running for the two-setter of the year

On the second night in the Chicago, the band came back with just as much gusto and creativity, applying their skills most furiously in the first set during standout versions of “Chalk Dust” and “Limb by Limb.” But the massive version of “Down With Disease” that opened the second set stole the show, moving through countless interesting realms before the band calmly migrated into “Twist.” Trey anchored the middle of the set with strong solos in “Number Line” and “Theme,” before the band got back at it with an increasingly rare “YEM” to close the night.

The third night opened in promising fashion with the old-school Gamehednge staple “Colonel Forbin’s > Mockingbird,” but considerably fizzled thereafter. The highlight sequence of this show was the pairing of “Crosseyed” and “No Quarter” to jump start the second set, but after that, though great songs kept coming, no musical excitement accompanied them. Thus when “Tweezer” and “Ghost” passed with virtually no jamming, the energy of the set deflated considerably. The band kept the fun high by continuing to work in vocal teases of “Still Waiting” in just about every song of the set, and after two nights of serious musicianship, though this show felt a little empty at the time, it suited the last night of tour just fine—kinda.

Denver, Colorado 9/2-9/4

Official Denver Print (LandLand!)

Simply put, Phish’s Labor Day weekend run at Dick’s soccer stadium was their strongest and most consistent three-night stand of the year. Punctuating their touring season with three of its strongest shows—all including smoking first sets—this run represented 2011 Phish at its finest. Beginning with the “S” show, Phish threw down jams with airtight communication, highlighted by the forward-looking experiment that grew out of “Seven Below.” But beyond jamming, the band was playing inspired music all night long in a show that also featured “Sneakin’ Sally > Sparks,” and “Scents and Subtle Sounds > Slave.”

After a fiery opening set on the second night in which even song sprung to life with vitality, the band played one of the most on point second sets of summer. Kicking off with “Disease -> Tweezer,” the “Tweezer” jam immediately transformed into one of the IT moments of this era, as the band came together in a life-affirming musical masterpiece. After splicing a spirited version of “Golden Age” and a shredtastic “Kill Devil Falls” into the mix, Phish arrived at the second profound moment of the set—“2001 > Light -> Disease Reprise.” Taking risks and succeeding like champions, the band had the switch locked in the “On” position all night long, including the standout “Antelope” with “Disease” teases that ended the set.

9.4.11 (M.Stein)

And unlike any other three-night stand during the year, Phish came out and played their third, consecutive standout show in Denver. Opening with “Maze” and continuing with first set highpoints of “Tube” “Timber,” and “Bathtub Gin,” the band certainly meant business on their final night of summer. Centering the final set of Colorado around a sublime triumvirate of “Twist – > Piper > Harry Hood,” the band’s playing was at top level at this point in the year, as they flew through jams with immense creativity and immaculate proficiency. Add a surreal second-set “Roggae” and “Ghost -> the second “Guy Forget” of all time -> Ghost,” and we’ve got yet a third contender for show of the summer—all from Dick’s alone! A raucous “Walls of the Cave” closer slammed the door shut on Summer Tour 2011—by far and away—the most magnificent tour since Phish’s 2009 return.

These three-night stands provided benchmarks along the road of Summer Tour. When looking at the consistency of music throughout these four stands, one can easily observe the transformative nature of Phish music last year. Building off of 2009 and 2010, during 2011, the band began to forge new improvisational pathways for their music, craft timeless jams that stand up to any era of Phish, and rewrite the record books for what is possible in this era. It took a couple of years to get there, but in 2011, the band exploded with the type of consistently creative playing that I—and many others—had faith would return. From Bethel to Super Ball to UIC to Denver, the three-night stands in 2011 centralized the band and community for some of the most enthralling experiences of the year. We’ll see what 2012 brings, but if I had to guess, I bet we see a couple more of these musical trifectas.

7.3.11 - Super Ball (Graham Lucas)

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2011′s “Type I” Highlight Reel

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 9th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.6.11 - The Gorge (Graham.Lucas)

Phish’s current creativity is far-reaching, seeping into all parts of their show and certainly extends beyond their exploratory jamming highlighted on Friday. I was going to wait until this coming Friday to highlight the band’s best contained, or “type I,” jamming of  2011, but instead, let’s get right to it! This following is how these picks are organized. First, I listed—in no particular order—the band’s strongest “type I” vehicles of the year, and highlighted my favorite version of each. I also noted one or two other standout versions as well. The tracks are simply ordered for playlist listenability. Then, I have a series of “One Timers,” or songs that only blew up once during the year—but that version deserves mention. Enjoy the many tunes, our the continuing look back at the year that was 2011.

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Bathtub Gin” 5/28 I, Bethel, NY

“Bathtub Gin,” though never making into the second set last year, still produced a couple of standout versions and was always reliable for a solid piece of improvisation. My favorite version of the year came in Phish’s second show in Bethel, New York. Closing a spectacular first set, this jam moves into a serious funk jam, eventually blending with “Manteca” and back into “Gin.” One can hear the electricity in the air during this version, as Phish began their conquest of 2011. Honorable Mention: 9/4 Denver—a guitar clinic in groove.

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Reba > David Bowie” 7/3 I, Watkins Glen, NY

The Gorge 2011 (G. Lucas)

Phish played some standout versions of both of these classic jams throughout 2011, and wound up pairing them to finish the first set of Super Ball on July 3rd. Each of these Super Ball versions represent my pick for the top “Reba” and “Bowie” of the year. You can hear the fluidity of the band as they were in top form for their mid-summer festival, specifically, this final show of the weekend. Page and Trey flirt with “Dave’s Energy Guide” as the “Reba” builds into an out-of-character section. The two songs are joined by an ambient, storage-laced bridge. Honorable Mention: “Reba” 6/17 Charlotte—a second set version where the band swims in IT, “Bowie” 6/3 Clarkston, MI—the conclusion of “Disease -> Fluffhead > Bowie”

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 ***

Sand” 6/19 II, Portsmouth, VA

“Sand” absolutely blew up in 2011. Every single version, less 12/30’s, was a legitimate highlight of its show. Featuring full-band interplay in every version since its reinvention last Fall, this became one of the anthems of summer. My favorite version came in June’s final show at Portsmouth, Virginia. Getting into a retro-futuristic stop/start funk jam, as well as a “Sand Reprise,” the band’s dynamic, rhythmically-focused imporv truly popped off in this summer highlight. A “Sand” and then some.  Honorable Mention: 8/6 The Gorge—Trey infuses a slight whale call into the groove while the band crushes within the venue’s open air anvirons; segues back into “Tweezer!”

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Run Like an Antelope” 8/6  II, The Gorge, WA

6.5.11 — Cincy (M.Stein)

Though “Antelope” has remained fairly standard throughout 2011, a couple versions expanded beyond the norm. In the Gorge’s version of 8/6, not only did Trey provide a summation of the second set within the song’s intro, the band locked into a slammin,’ yet laid back, jam that oozed with both patience and ferocity. Passing through a “Golden Age” segment of the jam, teasing the final song from the set, Phish came together in this “Antelope” in far more engaging fashion that any other time last year. Honorable Mention: 6/4 Blossom—a quality first set closing rendition.

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Wolfman’s Brother” 8/15 I, Chicago, IL

It seems like “Wolfman’s” has permanently settled into a role as a first set song in 3.0. After taking some of its jams out in 2010, Phish brought the song, largely, back to form but for one or two occasions when it segued into another. My selection for the most engaging “Wolfman’s” of the year is an easy one—UIC’s version from 8/15. After moving through a legitimate funk session, Phish moved into a second jam where Trey initially laid way back in the mix filling in the space of his band mates groove. Gradually he integrated his lines into the music, finishing in victorious fashion. Honorable Mention: 7/2 Super Ball—a fury of funk grooves to get the festival going during its first set.

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Stash” 7/2 II, Watkins Glen, NY

Though “Stash” more often than not provides the first jam of its show, and hasn’t made it into the second set since the band’s return—the noted shows was a three-setter, and set II was essentially set I—Super Ball’s version carried a bit more rhythmic complexity than usual. This “Stash” represented the point where the band began to build momentum for the rest of the show and their late-night Storage Shed extravaganza. A quality moment that is often forgotten about from the last year’s festival. Honorable Mention: 6/10 Camden—a classic, modal take on the jam with quality tension and release.

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Tweezer” 6/5 II, Cincinnati, OH

Though I highlighted the phenomenal Denver “Tweezer” on Friday, most often, the song was a vehicle for “type I” jamming rather than open exploration. In this Cincy version, the band sits into a vicious funk exchange for much of the piece before Trey peaks it with foreshadowing “Crosseyed” licks. Far dirtier and groovier than Denver’s melodic mind-meld, this is the other side of “Tweezer. Honorable Mention: 7/2 Super Ball—a crunchy, mechanical, larger-than-life version dripped from the speaker towers before ending abruptly for “Julius.”

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Harry Hood > Roggae” 9/4, II, Denver, CO

9.2.11 - Denver (G.Lucas / webcast)

“Harry Hood” continued to offer energetic and passionate playing throughout 2011, often finishing sets with cathartic exclamation points. But each of my two picks are versions that were more centrally located in their second sets. Denver’s 9/4 version melds the jam’s modern staccato soundscapes with the airtight, thematic playing of lore to create a new-school masterpiece. A truly triumphant piece of music, no version approached the Denver “Hood” this year. And the “Roggae” that followed harnessed the same vibe as the “Hood” jam, standing out in its own right. Honorable Mention: 5/28 Bethel—more exploratory than given credit for, 8/15 UIC—ended the night on a huge high.

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 ***

Slave to the Traffic Light” 6/19 II, Portsmouth, VA

Several times this era, Phish has centered “Slave” in the second set rather than leaving it as the shows denouement. And my pick for “Slave” of 2011 comes from Portsmouth, Virginia, in this exact context. Capping an opening run of “Crosseyed > Walls,” this version was incredibly patient and reached divine levels of interplay. Complete and utter bliss, this rendition is what this song is all about. Honorable Mention: 8/9 Lake Tahoe—another mid-set monster, 9/2 Denver—the conclusion of the “S” show, Trey holds a sacred note for quite some time.

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 ***

Chalk Dust Torture” 8/16 I, Chicago, IL

8.15.11 - UIC (M.Stein)

The usually straightforward Phish anthem veered into more than a couple memorable jams in 2011, and my pick for the “Chalk Dust” of the year comes from the first set of UIC’s second show. Roaring to life like few versions have this era, Phish attacked this jam with uncharacteristic aggression, reaching intricate points that were more reminiscent of “David Bowie.” Sparking the show as the third song, this one provided a golden memory. Honorable Mention: 6/3 I Clarkston—a laid-back and patient take on the song to close the first set, 8/9 Lake Tahoe—intense version laced with teases and breaks down beautifully into “Slave,” 12/29 MSG—a fantastic transition into “Hyrogen” amidst a “Mike’s Groove.”

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 ***

Backwards Down the Number Line” 5/28 II, Bethel, NY

On a night when the band could do no wrong, they shredded this second set “Number Line” with atypically active interplay for this song. Focused on a whole band conversation rather than Trey’s noodling, this jam gets intricate and quite engaging, easily qualifying as version of the year. Honorable Mention: 6/19 Portsmouth—Trey gets into some Allman—esque soloing while the rest of the band is playing gently accompanying him.

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***

Crosseyed and Painless” 7/1 II, Watkins Glen, NY

7.1.11 (G.Lucas)

Though it pains me that Phish has decided to use this once prolific jam vehicle as a means to high-speed and aggressive rock playing, they, nonetheless, routinely shred the composed jam to bits. Two versions standout above all others in my memory from 2011, and its no surprise that each contained a little bit extra. My highlight version comes from Super Ball, as an ambient jam led into the song and out of it before a Trey emerged with a cool transition into “Chalk Dust.” Honorable Mention: 8/17, UIC—featured a tripped out interlude between “Crosseyed” and “No Quarter.”

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 ***

Weekapaug Groove” 6/8 II, Darien, NY, and 12/29 II, NYC, NY

“Weekapaug” has consistently proven to be more interesting than “Mike’s” in this era, a trend which certainly held true last year. Two versions stand out to me from 2011, the plinko-laced rendition from Darien Lake and the more commanding percussive-funk of December 29th’s version. Since we are all familiar with the recent one, I’ll play Darien.”

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ONE TIMERS:

2001” 6/8 II, Darien Center, NY

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Light Up or Leave Me Alone” 6/14 I, Alph., GA

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Destiny Unbound” 7/3 I, Watkins Glen, NY

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The Curtain With” 6.10 I, Camden, NJ

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 —

Limb by Limb” 8/16 I, Chicago, IL

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Wilson” 7/3 I, Watkins Glen, NY

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Mound” 7/3 I, Super Ball

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Scents and Subtle Sounds” 9/2 II, Denver, CO

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TTFF: The Top Ten of ’11

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 6th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

8.5.11 - "Rock and Roll" (Graham Lucas)

For this week’s installment of Ten Tunes For Friday, let’s review the band’s open, or type II, jamming of 2011. This week’s playlist is comprised of my ten favorite jams or jam sequences from this standout year of Phish (that didn’t take place in a storage shed). I am not claiming this to be any sort of definitive list that anyone else should agree with, rather, my personal picks for the year’s top jams. This list was quite hard to “rank” after numbers one and two, but for the sake of fun, I worked it out. The many honorable mentions are below the playlist in italics, listed chronologically.

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10. “Piper” 12/30, NYC, NY

The standout piece of improv from the recently-completed New Year’s Run breaks the top ten with an exploratory yet coherent jaunt that came out of nowhere amidst a relatively sloppy show. The band shook off the jitters for a heavy dose of confident, exploratory, and psychedelic playing. Comprised of several modern textures, this jam served as a stellar cap to the many quality versions of “Piper” in 2011, ending with a segment as stunning as any.

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9. “Halley’s Comet” 5/28, Bethel, NY

This is, straight up, one of my go-to jams of 2011. So tasteful, smooth and groovy, the band builds out of “Halley’s” into one of the more original jams of June that always leaves me wondering what I’m listening to. The centerpiece of an outstanding first set in Bethel’s second show, this “Halley’s” sparked and foreshadowed one of the strongest two-set shows of the year.

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8.  ”Rock and Roll” 6/7, Mansfield, MA

I can’t believe I let this jam drop so low in the “top ten,” but that is a testament to the unbelievably high quality of music we heard from Phish last year. This “Rock and Roll” has it all, first moving from rock grooves into a soulful and uplifting middle section with composed-sounding melodies rolling off Trey’s guitar with speed and confidence. After fully exploring this melodic enterprise, the band moved into darker, scathing and more abstract playing. Transforming into a psychedelic monstrosity, this jam provided the centerpiece of an otherwise clean but uneventful set, but this is one of those jams that can carry a frame of music all by itself. Read More…

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7. ”Twist -> Piper” 9/4, Denver, CO

This classing song pairing absolutely popped off in the band’s final show of summer, as each piece was laced with high-level musicianship. “Twist” weaves in and out of “Low Rider” before a perfect segue into “Piper.” And this “Piper” absolutely smokes, showcasing Phish at the end of a long summer of playing. Hitting a notable groove, the band added an indiscernible chant (around a jam of the Modern Lovers’ classic “Roadrunner”) into the mix, before bringing the piece down for the most impressive use of the Theremin all year. With Page on his magic instrument, the band engaged in a futuristic, Mind-Left-Body-laced chase through a high-speed, musical wormhole.

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6. “Waves -> Undermind” 8/15, Chicago, IL

In the meat of UIC’s “Elements Set,” Trey gets into some dirty, uncompressed playing amidst a stellar “Waves” jam before the band surprised most everyone in the arena with a segue into “Undermind” that transpired under our noses with hardly anyone noticing. “Undermind’s” jam moves cohesively, blending into the final Theremin jam of Leg Two—a majestic passage of music.

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5. “Down With Disease -> Fluffhead” 6/3, Clarkston, MI

This gorgeous one-minded collaboration brought a jolt to tour as the band let loose in a multi-faceted adventure. Moving through several cohesive and engaging segments of jamming, the band landed in the theme of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”—the starting point of the piece’s final movement which blended seamlessly into “Fluffhead.” Read More…

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4. “Rock and Roll -> Ghost” 6/17, Charlotte, NC

This “Rock and Roll” gets very deep, unique and complex with outstanding interplay between all band members. An exploratory and spiritual jam in its own right, “Rock and Roll” blends smoothly into—easily—the “Ghost” (and one of the jams) of the year. The entire band was locked in and on point for throughout this heavy-hitting sequence that took place at the tail end of June’s tour. And the guys brought “Ghost” to hugely emotive heights, as Trey digs into some his most inspired playing of the year in what was, perhaps, the strongest night of Leg I.

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3. “Light” 8/9, Stateline, NV

Experimental, extended, and absolutely otherwordly, this jam is some of the most original music made by Phish all year long. Coming on the heels of The Gorge, Mike forged a path for the band as they flirted with outer realms of the galaxy in a dark odyssey that goes very underrated when it comes right down to it. The relatively abrupt ending does little to tarnish the monumental ground covered. This is Phish without a net. Some love it. Some don’t. I most certainly do.

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2. “Tweezer” 9/3, Denver, CO

The most cathartic jam of the year, this “Tweezer” is a melodic masterpiece. Peaking with some of the most soul-cleasing grooves of the year, Trey spirals off the mountaintop and begins to layer and loop two different phrases before he lays down a timeless lead melody that takes the jam through a final stage before an ambient denouement. Fishman holds it down with infectious beats throughout this “Tweezer,” perhaps the smoothest and well executed jam of the year. This piece of music touched the heart of everyone I spoke to in that Colorado soccer stadium, and that is saying something.

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1. “Rock and Roll -> Meatstick -> Boogie On” 8/5, The Gorge, WA

This sublime sequence opened up the second leg of summer at The Gorge with the most mind-bending jam of this year in “Rock and Roll.” Integrating their full musical spectrum into this piece, the band also infused the theremin and “storage jamming” into their live show for the first time, and succeeded with flying colors. From the uplifting to the Theremin funk to the evil “Gorgae” segment, the band were like musical superheroes on this night. The Gorge always brings out the best in Phish, and in the most magical sequence of 2011, Phish sculpted the defining piece of 3.0, along with a segue into “Meatstick” that still produces a rush of adrenaline every time I hear it. The band’s momentum spilled right into a stellar “Boogie On” to complete the standout sequence of 2011 by leaps and bounds. Read a memoir…

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Honorable Mentions (in chronological order): “Simple” 1/1, “Waves > Caspian” 5/27, “After Midnight” 5/31, “Drowned” 5/31, “Sneakin’ Sally” 6/4*, “Down With Disease > Free” 6/10, “Down With Disease -> Maze” 6/14, “Simple” 7/1, “Golden Age” 7/2, “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” 7/3, “Down With Disease > No Quarter” 7/3, “Light” 7/3, Waves -> What’s the Use?” 7/3, “Roggae” 8/5, “Light” 8/15, “Down With Disease -> Twist” 8/16, “Seven Below” 9/2, “Ghost -> Guy Forget -> Ghost” 9/4, “Carini” 9/14, “Carini -> Tweezer” 12/28

* This “Sally” would have been number 11.

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Type II Cast

TYPE II CAST: MSG REVIEW PODCAST

A couple nights ago, I sat down with Type II Cast‘s host, Stephen Olker, YEMBlog curator and the editor-in-chief of Hidden Track, Scott Bernstein,and Phish.net veteran, Charlie Dirksen, to discuss the recent Holiday Run. The 90-minute conversation flowed really well, and the podcast—with jam-only audio clips—should be a fun listen for fans of all ages. Click on over to Type II’s page and give the show a listen! Thanks to Stephen and Type II cast for having me on the show!

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