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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TTFF: Rollin’ 40 Deep

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on February 15th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.28.2012 - Chaifetz Arena (Jeremy Renda)

8.28.2012 – Chaifetz Arena (Jeremy Renda)

Rounding out 2012′s Top 40…

40. “Sneakin’ Sally > Ghost” 7/6 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

The meat of SPAC’s first night, one of the strongest two-setters of Leg One.

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***

39. “Piper” 9/2 II, Denver, CO

Dick’s “Piper” is short, sweet and to the point.

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***

37. “Golden Age” 6/25 II, Atlanta, GA

A dirty, underrated jam of Leg Two.

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 ***

36. ”Down With Disease” 6/22 II, Cincinnati, OH

Before this jam was inexplicably lopped for “Guelah Papyrus,” it was all glory.

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***

35. ”Seven Below” 6/23 II, Burgettstown, PA

Though an afterthought to Star Lake’s massive “Mike’s Groove,” this jam is quite unique and noteworthy.

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***

34. ”Twist” 7/4 II, Wantagh, NY

This mellow, ambient jam provided the improvisational centerpiece of July 4th.

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***

38. “Light” 6/16 II, Atlantic City, NJ

The band is totally hooked up in the first “Light” of the year, and it was laced with “Manteca.”

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***

33. “Light” 7/8 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

A spectacular version which, in retrospect, I think is better than the “Piper” later in the set.

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***

32. ”Golden Age > Prince Caspian” 9/1 II, Denver, CO

The beginning-of-the-set lead in to the Denver “Light” with smoking playing throughout.

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***

31. “Chalk Dust Torture > What’s the Use?” 8/25 II, Atlanta, GA

This outstanding “Chalk Dust” foreshadowed what would go down at Dick’s a week later. This jam certainly should have been in the previous ten jams if not higher.

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TTFM: The Third Ten of 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 11th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
12.28.12, MSG Graham Lucas)

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

These jams are getting increasingly hard to put in any logical order, but the bottom line is that here we are with ten more very strong pieces of improv from 2012—and Friday I’ll lay down ten more.

30.Sand -> Nellie Kane” 6/8 II, Worcester, MA

An experiment in fusing robo-funk with bluegrass results in some very melodic groove interplay that evokes the feeling of late-’70s Grateful Dead dance jams.

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***

29. “Carini” 8/31 I, Denver, CO

This was the first sign that IT was going down at Dick’s.

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***

28. ”Tweezer” 8/17 II, San Francisco, CA

The underrated “Tweezer” of the year moves from hard groove into filthy, storage-esque ambience.

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***

27. Ghost” 12/31 II, MSG, NY

Overshadowed by the golf gag, this “Ghost” is actually quite gorgeous.

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***

26. “Golden Age” 7/3 II, Wantagh, NY

Jones Beach’s “Golden Age” migrates into a final passage of downtempo, psych rock.

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***

25.  ”Simple” 8/18 II, San Francisco, CA

An abstract and melodic excursion in Bay Area psychedelia; a severely underrated jam.

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***

24. “Wolfman’s Brother > LDB > Wolfman’s” 12.28 I, MSG, NY

Unconventional dance grooves merge with “Little Drummer Boy” tightly woven into pocket.

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 ***

23. “Tweezer” 8.22 II, Kansas City, MO

A cathartic second set opener in the Heartland with quite the peak.

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***

22. “Piper” 7/8 II, Saratoga Springs, NY

This locked in version reprises the “Light” jam from earlier in the set.

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***

21. “Runaway Jim” 8/31 II, Denver, CO

Though not the most focused jam in the world, this “Jim” certainly hits some sweet spots along the way.

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The Top Ten Shows of 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 7th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

10. 8/28—Chaifetz Arena, St.Louis, MO

I: Punch You In the Eye, Runaway Jim, Ocelot, Reba, I Didn’t Know, The Curtain > Peaches en Regalia, Mound, Sample in a Jar, The Sloth, Camel Walk, Possum, Quinn the Eskimo

II: Chalk Dust Torture -> Frankie Says -> Undermind -> Sand -> Walk Away, Limb By Limb, Julius, Also Sprach Zarathustra > You Enjoy Myself

E: Shine a Light

St. Louis Official (Vastagh)

St. Louis Official (Vastagh)

Set I: The first set in St. Louis combined a host a rarities and some well-loved classics to form a very entertaining set of music. A powerful trifecta of “Punch You in the Eye,” “Runaway Jim” and “Reba” kicked things off in the Gateway to the West, and after “I Didn’t Know,” the rarities started to surface. Phish dropped the first “Curtain” of Leg Two, but when they were ready to drip into the “With” jam—as they had done every time in 3.0—they rolled directly into “Peaches En Regalia” to form a potent one-two punch. Backing up this pairing with “Mound,” the guys continued to drop non-rotation songs, also including “The Sloth” and “Camel Walk” before closing out the set with “Quinn the Eskimo.”

Set II: This is a darkhorse set from summer tour that has lived in the shadows of its surrounding shows. Splicing together several mini-jams with patient segues, the band unveiled a set-opening sequence of ‘Chalk Dust -> Frankie Says -> Undermind -> Sand -> Walk Away” that moved with a liquid flow. “Chalk Dust” and “Frankie Says” each contained unique, out of the box jams that fluidly migrated into the next song, and though “Undermind” possessed no adventure, the band peaked the sequence with a blistering “Sand” before capped things off with “Walk Away.” Just when one thought the band might cool down with “Limb by Limb,” the song exploded into the centerpiece of the night with a spectacular type-II fiesta that stands as the best version of the song the band has ever played. The “breather” of the set came in the form of “Julius” before the guys topped off a non-stop second half with the classy combo “2001 > YEM.” This set should have been included in my previous posts about the well-crafted sets of the year, because it was certainly one of them.

X Factor: Flow and More Flow—I walked out of this show with it in the highest regard, as it was an experiential masterpiece. The second set never relented for a second, and the entire night never flirted with a slow moment. Though the mini-jams of set two are a bit more concise than they felt in the live setting, there is no denying their quality. And that “Limb by Limb” served as the most out-of-left-field centerpiece of the year, likening a musical left hook that nobody saw coming. St. Louis was a quality two-setter thaty, admittedly, was more of a live experience than one with limitless playback value.

*****

9. 12/30—Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY

I: Runaway Jim, Cities, Divided Sky, Back on the Train, Ride Captain Ride, Ocelot, Ya Mar, Horn, My Friend, My Friend, Run Like an Antelope

II: Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini > Backwards Down the Number Line > Julius > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Harry Hood > Show of Life

12/30 Sketch (Masthay)

12/30 Sketch (Masthay)

Set 1: Coming on the heels of a totally sterile performance on the 29th, the first set of this show felt like more of the same—well-played standard versions of common songs. A few quasi-rarities dotted the setlist in the form of “Ride, Captain Ride,” “Yamar” and “Horn,” but these selections didn’t do much of to enhance the vibe of the set. The energy turned up at the end of the frame with “My Friend” and “Antelope,” but like so many shows last year, the real action started after setbreak.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: The second set of December 30th provided the most musically impressive and conceptually crafted stanza of the New Year’s Run. This frame contained a darkness-into-light progression, though the entire vibe changed a bit to abruptly to necessarily label it artistic…

X Factor: Darkness—Rarely, if ever, in this era has Phish assembled such an extensive menacing adventure as they did on this night. The playing within “Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini” is very scarce in this era of good feelings, and when Phish let the cat out of the bag on this night, the results were astounding.

*****

8. 6/23—Star Lake, Burgettstown, PA

I: Funky Bitch, Backwards Down the Number Line, Gumbo, Maze, Torn and Frayed, The Moma Dance, Scent of a Mule, 46 Days, You Enjoy Myself

II: Gotta Jibboo, Mike’s Song > Simple > Light > Weekapaug Groove > Seven Below, Bouncing Around the Room, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: The Lizards

Star Lake (Millward)

Star Lake (Millward)

Set I: This set didn’t possess a heck of a lot of meat, causing Star Lake to drop to the bottom of the top ten. People love “Mule,” but I don’t dig on that song at all, thus this opening frame amounted to a set-closing “YEM,” and we all know how “YEMs” go these days—purely generic. But the second set was a different story.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: Phish’s second set at Star Lake stood out the minute it ended. With impeccable flow, clear structural intent, and plenty of improvisation, this one had it all. Firing collectively on this Saturday night, the band dropped a timeless frame of music in their Pittsburgh-area venue of lore…

X Factor: Cohesion—The most cohesive second set of Leg One, hands down. The songs not only flowed from one to another, but the improvisation within “Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below” was all cut from the same cloth.

*****

7. 6/28—Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN

I: The Birdwatcher, The Curtain With, Fuck Your Face, The Old Home Place, Pebbles and Marbles, Weigh, Chalk Dust Torture, Wolfman’s Brother, Cool It Down, Tweezer, Tela,  Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Mike’s Song > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Back on the Train -> Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up > Weekapaug Groove, Prince Caspian > Waves > Bug > David Bowie

E: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise

Deer Creek '12 (Masthay)

Deer Creek (Masthay)

Set I: Amidst 100-plus degree heat, Phish stepped onto the famed stage in the cornfields of Noblesville and dropped one of the most complete first sets of the year. Following an a cappella opener of “The Birdwatcher,” the band rolled out a series of rarities including “The Curtain With,” Fuck Your Face,” “Pebbles and Marbles,” and “Weigh.” After this run of songs, it felt as though the band hit the reset button and launched into the second half of the set comprised of more classic selections. “Chalk Dust” kicked this segment off and it led into funkified “Wolfman’s” which was followed up by the tongue-in-cheek combo of “Cool it Down” and “Tweezer,” as the band poked fun at the blistering heat while planted behind their stage fans. “Tela” emerged from an old-school ending in “Tweezer” and the setlist train kept rollin.’

Set II: This set kicked off with heavy-hitting “Mike’s Groove” sandwich that included the most improvised “McGrupp” to date and a version of “Back on the Train” that jumped way beyond convention into a dark, ambient fantasy before it seamlessly transitioned into “Hold Your Head Up.” “Bike” gave way to more antics in “Weekapaug,” as Fishman started the anthem on guitar while Trey still sat behind the kit. The two joined forces for a drum duet before Trey picked up his axe and slayed song’s feel-good jam. Phish didn’t allow the second half of this set to fizzle like so many others of the year, weaving together a gorgeous quartet of songs to close things out. This late run was centered on the first “Waves” of the year, a stunning rendition that covered a great deal of territory from quickened groove, through a cathartic passage and into deep space before subtly merging into “Bug.” “David Bowie” closed the door on a show that was quickly filed into history under the chapter of Deer Creek lore.

X Factor: Heat—The temperatures peaked in triple digits on this late-June day, making it—easily—the most tortuous show of summer tour. The band clearly understood this and treated the audience to a proper two-setter as they spared us from sitting through any filler in the ungodly heat.

*****

6. 6/15—Bader Field, Atlantic City, NJ

I: The Sloth, My Sweet One, 46 Days, Camel Walk, Tube, Cities > It’s Ice, Ginseng Sullivan, Stash, Simple > The Wedge, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Squirming Coil

II: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > David Bowie

E: First Tube

AC 6/15 (Masthay)

AC 6/15 (Masthay)

Set I: The first set of Atlantic City’s three-day weekend contained quality songs throughout and also carried a flow of its own. “The Sloth” provided a jolt of energy in the opening slot and the band backed it up with a rare “My Sweet One.” Following “46 Days,” Phish stepped into a groovy triumvirate of “Camel Walk,” “Tube,” and “Cities,” highlighted by the best “Tube” of the year. If you’ve forgotten about this version, check it out, it was my first jam of the morning for most of Leg One. The band included “It’s Ice,” “Stash,” “Simple,” “The Wedge” and “Squirming Coil” over back half of a set that fit congruently with the sunset vibe.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: This set from Atlantic City is one of the more glossed over stanzas of Summer Tour. Boasting a liquid-like flow and non-stop jamming, there is no doubting its rightful place among the year’s best frames of music.

X Factor: The Festival Feel—Bader Field provided a festival-like atmosphere for the weekend, and coming after Worcester, as most skipped Bonnaroo, this show was the transition to summer tour in earnest. Everyone could easily congregate around speaker towers with all their friends and enjoy the wide-open freedom a Phish festi for the only time in 2012. The nearby casinos graced the show with a visual backdrop and a quasi-circus feel as this Atlantic City became a destination spot for much of the Phish community on this weekend in mud-June.

*****

5. 6/7—DCU Center, Worcester, MA

I: Buried Alive > Runaway Jim, Torn and Frayed, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, Rift, Nothing, Ocelot, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Possum, Rocky Top

II: Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On Reggae Woman > If I Could, Quinn the Eskimo, Harry Hood, Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

E: Loving Cup

Worcester 2012 (Masthay)

Worcester 2012 (Masthay)

Set I: The first set of the year kicked off in high-style with “Buried Alive” and continued with “Runaway Jim” and “Torn and Frayed.” Just like that we were underway; the highly anticipated indoor shows to kick off the summer were off and running. The band sounded polished and ready for tour, adding the rarities of “Nothing” and “Beauty of a Broken Heart” in the opening frame. Though the setlist was far from eye-popping, the music was spot on and everything seemed primed for take off in set two.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s summary of this set, excerpted here: Since 2010, Phish has most often come out on the first night of tours and dropped a monster show. Last summer’s opener in Worcester followed this pattern congruently. The second set of 2012 holds up as one of the year’s best, containing several standout, stylistically diverse jams.

X Factor: First Show After MehSG—Outstanding first shows of tour have become a tradition over the past couple of years, but this one carried a little extra weight as the first show of the yearn and considering it was the first performance since 2011’s lackluster New Year’s Run. This night in Worcester, specifically the second set, likened a soul cleansing for all involved after the band had slogged through their year-end party. The course had been corrected, illustrating that the MSG was a clear aberration and the band was ready to launch into 2012.

*****

4. 8/15—Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA

I: Suzy Greenberg, Cities > Kill Devil Falls, Guelah Papyrus, Cool It Down, Rift, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Bathtub Gin, Quinn the Eskimo

II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times

E: Julius

288753_10150966771891290_416359656_o

Long Beach Official (MMM)

Set I: So much focus has been placed on the amazing second set of this show that the first set has been largely forgotten. But as first sets go in 2012, this one wasn’t too shabby. “Cities” appeared in beefier form than usual in the second slot of the show and Velvet Underground’s “Cool It Down” came two songs later. The two most significant pieces of this frame, however, came in “Stash” and “Bathtub Gin,” the latter being one of the strongest and most overlooked versions of the year.

Set II: Check out yesterday’s description of this set, excerpted here: When Phish hit the west coast to start Leg Two, everyone had Long Beach circled as a potential blowout. A tour opener in an old-school area before a high key, three-night weekend in San Francisco had all the ingredients of a must-see show. And when the dust settled, Phish had dropped another spectacular tour opening bomb that contained, arguably, the set of the year.

X Factor: The Advent of Long Form Improv—Leg Two represented a crucial juncture in Phish’s modern era development. The band had grown quite proficient at nailing 10-15 minute jams, but the question remained as to when the band would stretch things out into the long form passages so many of us love. The band came out on the first night of Leg Two and immediately spoke to that question with a devastating combo of “Rock and Roll > Ghost” that spanned 40 minutes. We had our answer. They were ready to dig deeper than ever before in this era, and over the course of this tour they would add quite a few more monstrous jams to their 2012 resume, all sparked on this gorgeous night in Southern California.

*****

3. 9/1—Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, Commerce City, CO

I: Run Like an Antelope, Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer > Fluffhead, Roses Are Free, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, When the Circus Comes, Theme From the Bottom, Golgi Apparatus, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Golden Age > Prince Caspian > Light, Boogie On Reggae Woman, The Wedge, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Mike’s Song > No Quarter > Weekapaug Groove

E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Repriise

Denver Official (Stout)

Denver Official (Stout)

Set I: Most of the audience that filled Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium on 9/1 was still riding high from 8/31’s throwdown, and when the band opened up this show with “Antelope,” the first such occurrence since 1990, everything picked right back up where it left off. Extraordinary song choices dotted the front of this frame, as “Tweezer > Fluffhead” backed up a second-song “Number Line.” Lost in all the highlights of Dick’s, this “Tweezer” is actually quite good, capping off a proficient second leg for the song with a slick, groove-based incarnation. The rest of the set had a more conventional contour, but the juices were flowing and the band was ready to dig far deeper after setbreak.

Set II: The 50-minutes that kicked off set two—“Golden Age > Prince Caspian > Light”—dominated the landscape of this show. Though the movement between songs wasn’t fluid as in Bill Graham’s sequence, the playing within was just as mind-melting. This segment, anchored by a version of “Light” that stands as the most incredible jam of the 3.0 years, stood out immediately and has matured like a fine wine over the five months since it took place. The focus of this night has so squarely been on the multi-thematic, other-worldly “Light” that the first two jams in the set have been (rightfully) overshadowed. “Golden Age” is one of the strongest versions of the year, while Trey took “Prince Caspian” off course into darker territory, crafting one of most unique renditions of all time. Following the centerpiece of the weekend in “Light,” the band exhaled via “Boogie On,” “The Wedge” and “Horse > Silent,” before ramping things up with an adrenaline-fueled “Mike’s > No Quarter > Weekapaug” to close out the set. Despite a slight pause in the action to recoup, this set is absolute fire.

X Factor: The Best Jam of 3.0—When you hear the best improvisation the band has played in four years, the stakes of the set—and show—are immediately raised. Spanning so much of their musical spectrum within a single jam, Phish had everyone’s jaw firmly planted on the ground by the end of this treasure. Building on each version of summer and far outdoing them all, Dick’s “Light” will be the eternal takeaway from Summer 2012. If Phish played nothing else to support the stunning take on “Light,” it would have been fine by me, but they added quite a but more, putting this night right up there with the best of the year.

*****

2. 8/19—Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA

I: Crowd Control, Party Time, Axilla, Reba, Free, Mound, Walk Away, NICU, Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo, Roggae, David Bowie

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> Crosseyed and Painless > Theme From the Bottom, Rocky Top, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Meatstick, Bug, You Enjoy Myself

E: Ride Captain Ride > Tweezer Reprise

BCGA 8/19 (Taylor)

Set I: This set picked up with the mid-set run of “Reba,” “Free,” “Mound” and “Walk Away,” but it’s peak came at the end with the threesome of “Jibboo,” “Roggae,” and “David Bowie.” All in all, this was a solid first set, but nothing out of the ordinary. At setbreak, I said that if the band didn’t play a massive second set that the Bill Graham run would be seen as a disappointment. And we all know what happened next.

Set II: Sometimes an out-of-this-world sequence of jamming can elevate an entire show, and this set’s “Crosseyed > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally > Crosseyed” did exactly that. Totaling 50 minutes of unbridled adventure, this run of songs takes the cake for the improvisational segment of the year. Combining “Crosseyed’s” open-ended exploration with tight, thematic jamming in “Light,” and capping things off with a funk-filled victory lap in a bravado-laced “Sally,” Phish threw down the gauntlet at the top of this set. This three-song leviathan knocked the socks off anything played in 2012 up to that point, and still stands strong as the most focused hour of jamming in this era. The back side of this set left a little bit to be desired, but it was all gravy at that point as the entire venue was on cloud nine. The band brought things home with “YEM” to skillfully close one of the most exhilarating sets of the year.

X Factor: Intangibles—It’s hard to describe the feeling in the intimate Bill Graham Civic Auditorium that night, as the vibe was intense and infectious. This show defined the energetic exchange between band and audience that makes the Phish experience so sacred. There was no show in 2012 that contained a more unified feel between every person in the room; it felt like each of the 7,004 participants was locked into the moment. It is even harder to describe the metaphysical explosion that took place during the segue of the year, when a “Tweezer Reprise”-laden build at the end of “Light” spilled seamlessly into “Sneakin Sally.” A communal eruption like none in memory provided the experiential moment of 2012—one of those magical occurrences that nobody in the room will ever forget. This special night in the city by the Bay can’t be recreated or relived by tapes alone, there was something more at hand. And that’s why we go.

*****

1. 8/31 —Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium, Commerce City, CO

I: First Tube, Uncle Pen, Carini > Kill Devil Falls, You Enjoy Myself, Ocelot, Undermind

II: Runaway Jim > Farmhouse > Alaska, Chalk Dust Torture > Emotional Rescue > Fuck Your Face

E: Grind, Meatstick

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Denver Official (Stout)

Set I: Phish dropped two bombs in this first set in the form of “Carini” and “Undermind,” the latter being a top five jam of the year. It is rare to see any long form improv in opening frames, let alone jams of this magnitude, thus this set jumped forth as the most significant opening frame of 2012. An extended, third-song “Carini” signified something strange was afoot at the Circle K, and a mid-set “YEM” confirmed this. By the time “Undermind”—the most astounding first set closer in memory—ended, it was clear this would be the show of the year.

Set II: Though many figured out the setlist gag by setbreak, the band came with one surprise after another in the second half, furthering the face-fucking theme of the night. The guys added two more outstanding jams to this show’s resume with the first exploratory “Runaway Jim” of this era and, arguably, the greatest “Chalk Dust” ever played. The best show of 3.o included “Farmhouse” and “Alaska” smack dab in the middle of the second set, as well as an intentional “Also Sprach” fake-out, illustrating the well-planned nature of the show-long trickery. The first “Emotional Rescue” since 2000 and an absurd “Meatstick,” “Grind” encore capped the night that everybody has been talking about since it ended.

X Factor: FUCK YOUR FACE—Forcing their own hand with a limited number of songs to spell out “Fuck Your Face,” the band extended jams all night long. Despite the setlist games, however, this show—unquestionably—contained Phish’s most impressive playing of the year. With four astounding jams, including two that are easily among the best of this era (“Undermind” and Chalk Dust”), Phish left a wake of fire in the Rockies on the final night of August. Aside from the top-shelf improv, their outlandishly tight playing shone through all night in selections such as “First Tube,” “Uncle Pen,” “Farmhouse” and “Ocelot.” This show was not just a standout performance, but a conceptual masterpiece as well.

*****

Honorable Mention: (in chronological order) 6/16 Atlantic City, 6/22 Cincinnati, 6/30 Alpine Valley, 7/1 Alpine Valley, 7/3 Jones Beach, 7/6 SPAC, 8/22 Kansas City, 9/2 Denver, 12/28 MSG

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The Sets of the Year

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 5th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

Despite Phish’s modern renaissance, set craftsmanship hasn’t exactly been one of their strong points since their ’09 return. Their days of meticulous attention to setlist flow have gone by the wayside and, most often, their highlights come as improvisational passages within less than tenacious frames of music. Many times, the band has had a powerful second set in the making only to have its cohesion disintegrate with a haphazard second half. (See 7/18/19, or 9/1 for prime examples.) In their heyday, each song played had a purposeful role in the contour of a set, whether it was an opener, a launchpad, an interlude or a closer, but in the modern era, things have been a bit more piecemeal. Occasionally, however, Phish harnesses their artistry of old and sculpts a set that amounts to more than the sum of its parts, evoking the type of setlist continuity that was once second nature. Today, I present a handful of 2012 sets that fit such criteria. Below the capsule summaries is a poll to see which set you like the most. Enjoy!

6/7 Worcester II: Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On Reggae Woman > If I Could, Quinn the Eskimo, Harry Hood > Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

Worcester 2012 (Vogl)

Worcester 2012 (Vogl)

Since 2010, Phish has most often come out on the first night of tours and dropped a monster show. Last summer’s opener in Worcester followed this pattern congruently. The second set of 2012 holds up as one of the year’s best, containing several standout, stylistically diverse jams. One of the hallmarks of strong sets throughout history has been a significant jam right off the bat, and in Worcester, “Carini” provided just that. Migrating from its dark feel into atypically melodic and ambient interplay, this jam stands up as one of the year’s most impressive and overlooked pieces. Spilling into “Taste,” in an unconventional pairing that worked quite well, the band then wasted no time getting back into the thick of things with a sinfully smooth sequence of “Ghost > Boogie On.” By melding “Ghost’s” creative, open jamming with a rousing, guitar-led shred-fest in “Boogie On,” Phish touched on several aspects of their skill set within this non-stop run. After using a gorgeous rendition of “If I Could” as a come down from their improvisational theatrics, the band plugged in “Quinn the Eskimo” as an interlude before closing things out with the classic combo of “Harry Hood > Cavern.” The band brought the night full circle while adding some Phishy spice to its ending by busting into a “Buried Alive Reprise,” revisiting the song that had opened the show.

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6/15 Atlantic City II: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > David Bowie

AC 6/15 (DKNG)

AC 6/15 (DKNG)

This set from Atlantic City is one of the more glossed over stanzas of Summer Tour. Boasting a liquid-like flow and non-stop jamming, there is no doubting its rightful place among the year’s best frames of music. Phish has long used punchy set openers to get things moving before getting their hands dirty, and in this case they employed “My Soul” in this fashion before diving into a long-form “Birds of a Feather.” “Birds” traveled far outside its conventions into an engaging, high-speed ride that eventually morphed into transcendence, serving a hearty dose of improv at the front of this set. Crafting an unlikely and seamless segue into “Back On the Train,” Phish maintained drill bit focus as they moved into a beefier-than-usual version of their Farmhouse era staple. When they came to the end of “Back on the Train,” Trey used his looping pedal to hint at “Heavy Things” and the band hopped aboard a smooth change into the song, continuing the turn-of-the-millennium era vibe to the set. The action continued with the classic song pairing of “Twist > Piper,” replete with a band-audience exchange of “Woooos” right through “Piper’s” introduction. “Twist” received some extra love, foreshadowing Cincinatti’s break-out version a week later, and AC’s “Piper” exists as one of the year’s most underrated renditions, featuring airtight and melody-based interplay throughout. The rare ballad “Billy Breathes” served as a poignant cool down and immediately following the breather, the guys dropped a fierce set-closing combo of “Sneakin’ Sally > David Bowie.” I have been perplexed why this set hasn’t gotten more attention in the overall discussion of 2012 as it was far and away the band’s strongest Atlantic City offering. Combining high-quality jamming and out of the ordinary song choices, everything came together on the first night down the Jersey Shore.

***

6/23 Star Lake II: Gotta Jibboo, Mike’s Song > Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below, Bouncing Around the Room, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light

Star Lake (Millward)

Star Lake (Millward)

Phish’s second set at Star Lake stood out the minute it ended. With impeccable flow, clear structural intent, and plenty of improvisation, this one had it all. Firing collectively on this Saturday night, the band dropped a timeless frame of music in their Pittsburgh-area venue of lore. “Jibboo” got the party started as the band doled out some candy grooves before the scintillating meat of the show. The following 50 minutes—“Mike’s > Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below”—contained a unified suite that could be argued as the band’s most outstanding playing of the month. Though “Mike’s Groove” dictates a certain structure, Phish hadn’t exactly given the sequence much attention in the 3.0 era. But on his night that all changed. A fiery “Mike’s” gave way to a “Simple” that dripped into ethereal textures, moving things into a more cerebral realm. As the band dissolved into a sparse canvas, Trey came in with the onset of “Light,” and in this selection Phish delivered one of the indelible jams Leg One. Migrating from atonal loops into outright grooves and then into a now-famous calypso paradise, this version set the improvisational bar quite high for the song of the year. Phish closed out the “Groove” with a retro ’97 style take on “Weekapaug” that immediately popped as the most dynamic modern version. One expected the band to insert a breather after this focused four-song run, but instead Trey initiated “Seven Below,” tacking yet another jam onto this mid-set smorgasbord. “Light > Weekapaug” has overshadowed “Seven Below” ever since the show, but “Seven Below” has plenty to offer with its cathartic, full-band exchange. Punctuating the suite with this refined jam, the band concluded the centerpiece of the set. “Bouncing” is often reserved as a classy cool down from a particularly hot sequence and it absolutely fit perfectly in this slot. It appeared that the band would close the night with a serving of blues-rock in “Julius,” but upon its ending, they moved directly into a set-closing “Slave,” thus cementing the artistic contour of the frame.

 ***

8/15 Long Beach II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times

Long Beach Unofficial (Masthay)

Long Beach Unofficial (Masthay)

When Phish hit the west coast to start Leg Two, everyone had Long Beach circled as a potential blowout. A tour opener in an old-school area before a high key, three-night weekend in San Francisco had all the ingredients of a must-see show. And when the dust settled, Phish had dropped another spectacular tour opening bomb that contained, arguably, the set of the year. Many of the most successful sets in Phish’s career have started out with an improvisational monstrosity, and “Rock and Roll” kicked off Long Beach’s second half with exactly that. After a stellar opening leg of summer tour, fans looked for the band to stretch things out during Leg Two, and with a twenty-five minute exploratory epic in their first show, the guys got right to business. Spanning so many musical feels, all connected with notable fluidity, this “Rock and Roll” made a massive impact on the fan community. The band was loose, yet so connected, and they allowed this jam to take an organic course. Not focused on a single theme, but rather rolling through many, “Rock and Roll” represented the style of open-ended jamming that the band had been building towards over Leg One. This colossal foray into both darkness and bliss was just what the doctor ordered on a hot August night Southern California. Resolving this madness with a “Ghost” that peaked with ferocious and unrelenting catharsis, the band had crafted one of the year’s most spectacular sequences—and it didn’t take a re-listen to know that. Often overlooked in this frame’s opening run is the seamless move into “Limb by Limb,” a high-flying version that carried all the energy of the previous pairing. “Guyute” served as a well-placed composition after all the wide open jamming, and the band absolutely nailed it. “Dirt” slid in seamlessly as the emotional breather of the set before the most intricate and dynamic “Hood” of the year brought the crowd to its knees. Phish offered a ration of classic rock with “Good Times, Bad Times” to stamp this flawless set complete.

 ***

9/2 Denver II: Sand -> Ghost -> Piper > Twenty Years Later > Lizards, Harry Hood

Commerce City, CO (Stout)

Commerce City, CO (Stout)

Though Denver’s best music came during the weekend’s first two shows, Phish’s final set of summer was the tightest of the weekend. Only six songs long with no questionable calls, this stanza can make a strong argument for tops of the year. The now-revered Dick’s “Sand” kicked off this fiesta with an extended, three-tiered jam that moved from straightforward groove into a to-die-for middle section of ambient laced rhythms and concluded with a scorching rock peak. Instead of ending the song, however, the band made a silky smooth, calculated segue into “Ghost.” Though this version of “Ghost” didn’t stand out, especially in comparison to the other versions of the year, it served as a solid second-song jam that bridged to “Piper” via another seamless segue. “Piper” launched into the stratosphere quickly, as Trey fired off high-paced licks one after another. The level of interplay in this jam may, in fact, be the most locked in the band was all night as they crushed the compact piece. Phish descended from 50 minutes of non-stop action into a meditative cool down of “Twenty Years Later,” a modern song that was powerfully juxtaposed with “Lizards,” the classic Gamehendge composition that followed. These two songs symbolized the bookends of the band’s career on the final night of a transformative summer tour. And to close out the last set of the season, there was no better choice than “Harry Hood.” This thematic set-ending triumvirate closed an impeccably constructed frame whose craftsmanship hearkened back to a former era.

 ***

12/30 MSG II: Down with Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini > Backwards Down the Number Line, Julius, Slave to the Traffic Light

12/30 Official (J.Flames)

12/30 Official (J.Flames)

The second set of December 30th provided the most musically impressive and conceptually crafted stanza of the New Year’s Run. This frame contained a darkness-into-light progression, though the entire vibe changed a bit to abruptly to necessarily label it artistic. The initial sequence of “Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini” delivered a potent juggernaut of Sith-like sorcery whose menacing pathways were the stuff of dreams. The wide-open improv in “Disease” hit on several different themes while “Carini” got into the most abstract psych rock we’ve heard in this era. Bridged by “Twenty Years Later,” a dark single in its own right, this three-song run is a true anomaly in modern era Phish—the type of sinister music that has been absent from their current repertoire. However, the moment Trey decided that they were done with “Carini,” leaving a blissful tangent hanging in midair, likened someone scratching the record to a stop at a dance party, as he started the awkward intro to “Backwards Down the Number Line.” An iota of forethought could have made this move far smoother, and the jarring transition created the only speed bump in the set’s flow. This change of vibe ushered in the second half of the set, which continued with “Julius” and ended with a staggering “Slave” that immediately put its hat the ring for the top version of 3.0. To compare six-song stanzas, this one contained more impressive jamming than Dick’s, though it lacked the seamless segues that wove together the band’s summer swansong. Which is more important? Well…that is up to you.

***

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Off the Shelves in 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 29th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

Jones Beach 2012 (Shelly Siegel)

Bustouts—some live for em, others are apathetic, but they always make for entertaining talking points in the fan community. Here are my top bustouts of the year that just past.

6) “Buried Alive” 6/7, Worcester, MA— More significant than the fact that Phish played “Buried Alive” for the first time in a year was the fashion in which they played it. By opening Worceter’s first show—and the entire year—with the old-school instrumental, the band gave an implicit message to fasten our seat belts for the oncoming ride. Not only was the show that followed one of the year’s best, but 2012 was the most impressive year of the modern era. Evoking the days of old school musical antics, the guys wrapped this show’s smoking second set with a “Buried Alive” reprise out of “Cavern,” the perfect finale to the opening night of 2012.

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Loaded

5) “Sweet Jane” 6/29 Noblesville, IN—One of everybody’s favorite songs from Halloween ’98′s Loaded set, “Sweet Jane” hadn’t been played  since that amazing night in Vegas. Instigated by a sign in the front section of Deer Creek, the band took the Velvet Underground cover off the shelf for only first time in 352 shows and played it for only the third time in their career. This feel-good anthem got the second night in the cornfields underway in stellar fashion and spurned a set filled with rarer selections.

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4) “Shaggy Dog” 6/22, Cincinnati, OH—Riverbend’s 2012 installment featured the most impressive first set of Leg One, including the bustout of “Shaggy Dog” for the first time since Fall ’95 (574 shows) and the second time since since 1988! A relic of Phish’s earliest era, this was a song most of us first heard on the Ian’s Farm tape of 8/21/87 and certainly a piece that most in attendance in Cincinnati had never heard live. This bustout was an early sign that this would be an awesome night by the Ohio River.

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The White Album

3) “Happiness is A Warm Gun” 7/3, Wantagh, NY—In the middle of Jones Beach’s first set of the weekend, the band plucked this Beatles classic out of thin air. Having performed the song only once during “The White Album” set on Halloween ’94, the gap between versions clocked in at 658 shows! Needless to say, this was a first for most of the crowd on Long Island that night. I’ve always loved this song, making this bustout especially meaningful for yours truly. You gotta’ love the Phab Four playing the Fab Four in any format.

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2) “Roses Are Free Jam” 6/8, Worcester, MA—If I was being shamefully subjective, I’d put this moment at number one. After April 3, 1998 in Nassau I jonesed for another “Roses” jam very badly. Salvation finally came in the swamps of Florida as Phish dropped a monumental version to bring up the sun of the new millennium, but since that timeless passage brought the darkness into light, the band had strictly used the Ween cover as a straight forward cover sans improvisation despite the launch pad it presented. Pretty much every time it dropped over the next decade, friends and I would exchange looks of sarcastic anticipation in jest of the routinely ignored possibility. Needless to say, when the band didn’t stop the song and swam into open waters during the first set of Worcseter’s second show, my head nearly exploded. This was the moment for which I’d been waiting for so many years, and the subsequent jam was one of my favorite parts Leg One.

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Little Feat

1) “Skin it Back” 7/3 Wantagh, NY—I remember looking at old-school setlists in The Pharmer’s Almanac back in the day and seeing a song called “Skin It Back.” Upon looking it up, I learned it was a Little Feat song. Hmm, Little Feat, that band of “Waiting For Columbus,” that album my buddy rocked so often in high school. That’s about as far as I ever got with the song until this summer. As Phish began the song to kick off the Jones Beach stand last summer, I and many others were sure we were finally getting the return of “Spanish Moon” for the first time since Halloween 2010, but the band was digging much deeper. Within a verse or so, it was clear what was going on, Phish had exhumed that song I read about so many years ago—”Skin it Back!” This performance represented the biggest bustout of all time—literally—with a gap lof 1,417 shows between appearances, and when the band jammed out the song to commemorate its return they left little doubt that it would be an occasion that every fan would remember.

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Miner’s Top 10 of 2012

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on January 25th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

It took a ton of deliberation, crossing out and remaking lists to come up with my favorite jams of 2012. I pondered not even trying to pare down Phish’s prolific year to a “Top 10″ because there are plenty more jams that are outstanding, but when it comes down to it, these are my favorite pieces of music from 2012. Don’t read too much into the rankings, as deciding on an order was quite the ordeal and I flip-flopped places many times before settling on this one. Enjoy the music and come back next Friday to check out the ten jams that I would put just behind these. A great weekend to all.

10. “Down With Disease” 12.30 II, MSG

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9. “Rock and Roll > Ghost” 8.15 II, Long Beach, CA

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8. “Twist” 6.22 II, Cincinnati

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7. “Light > Ghost” 7.1 II, East Troy, WI

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6. “Carini” 12.30 II, MSG

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5. “Crosseyed > Light” 8.19 II, San Francisco, CA

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4. “Chalk Dust Torture” 8.31 II, Denver, CO

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3. “Undermind” 8.31 II, Denver, CO

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2. “Tweezer” 12.28 II, MSG

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1. “Light” 9.1 II, Denver, CO

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2012′s Type II All-Stars

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 23rd, 2013 by Mr.Miner

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

And here are 2012′s all-star jams. The ballots please…

FIRST TEAM

“Light”—Overflowing with creativity virtually every time out, “Light” takes home the 2012 MVP trophy in a runaway contest. Beginning with AC’s “Lighteca” and ending with the Dick’s now-household version, “Light’s” improvisational campaign went unmatched by any other jam. Each rendition seemed to build on the one before until the song’s outing in Denver leaped into the conversation of all-time jams. “Light’s” 2012 season was the best by any song in the modern era.

Best Version: 9/1 Dick’s

Most Underrated Version: Alpine Valley 7/1

Other Versions of Note: 6/16 A. City, 6/23 Star Lake, 7/8 SPAC, 8/17 SF

“Tweezer”—Phish’s classic launchpad finally returned to prominence last year, stepping up its game over leg two and finishing with a bang at MSG with the defining version of 3.0. Steeped in feel-good, bliss-laden jams over the second half of summer (aside from Bill Graham’s foray into abstraction) every time “Tweezer” dropped during Leg Two, a treat ensued.

Best Version: 12/28 MSG

Most Underrated : 8/17 Bill Graham

Other Versions of Note:  6/10 Bonnaroo, 6/24 Blossom, 8/22 Kansas City, 8/26 Charlotte, 9/1 Dick’s

“Ghost”—“Ghost” came to play in 2012 and easily lands a spot on the year’s starting five. Following a breakout season debut at Worcester, “Ghost” continued to perform at a high level all year long with its two of its most profound and uplifting performances coming in Long Beach and MSG.

Best Version: 6/7 Worcester

Most Underrated : 8/15 Long Beach

Other Versions of Note:  7/1 Alpine Valley, 7/6 SPAC, 9/2 Dick’s, 12/31 MSG

“Carini”—Phish dropped three monstrous versions of “Carini” last year—Worcester, Dick’s and MSG—that all traveled in different directions illustrating the diversity of the jam. Spanning blissful ambient textures, groove based improv and dark, mindfuck abstraction, “Carini” featured some of the year’s best jamming.

Best Version: 12/30 MSG

Most Underrated: 8/31 Dick’s

Other Versions of Note: 6/7 Worcester, 6/10 Bonnaroo, 6/30 Alpine Valley

“Golden Age”—This new era cover finally broke last year after a largely contained 2011 campaign. Bursting at the seams from early in the year, the band expounded on “Golden Age” throughout both legs of summer tour. Often dipping into hard funk grooves and sometimes moving beyond, there was no shortage of highlight versions for a song that has been begging for this treatment since its Albany debut. Hopefully the band has settled on this type of improvisational role for the appropriately titled 3.0 anthem.

Best Version: 7/3 Jones Beach

Most Underrated: 8/25 Lakewood

Other Versions of Note: 6/24 Blossom, 6/30 Alpine Valley, 9/1 Dick’s

*****          *****          *****          *****

SECOND TEAM

This year’s second team of jam vehicles is quite a formidable squad in its own right, illustrating the increased diversity of launchpads last year. Each of these boast definite consistency and at least one amazing version.

“Down With Disease”—Though “Disease” didn’t hold the same place of prominence as in other recent years, the song still sprouted some quality jams. Two underappreciated versions came in Cincinatti and San Francisco, and the best versions of the year—by far—kicked off the second set of 12/30 at MSG.

Best Version: 12/30 MSG

Most Underrated: 6/22 Cincinnati

Other Versions of Note: 6/29 Deer Creek, 7/7 SPAC, 8/17 SF

“Piper”—“Piper” maintained its rock solid position in the regular rotation, always containing the possibility of a significant jam and most of the time delivering.

Best Version: 6/8 SPAC

Most Underrated Version: 6/30 Alpine Valley

Other Versions of Note: 6/15 Atlantic City, 8/22 KC, 9/2 Dick’s, 12/31 MSG

“Twist”—Phish expounded on “Twist” more in 2012 than in recent years when they primarily used it as a contained jam. This song produced one of the year’s top jams with Cincinatti ominous excursion while the other standouts traveled in a more melodic and ambient directions.

Best Version: 6/22 Cincinnati

Most Underrated : 7/4 Jones Beach

Other Versions of Note: 6/15 Atlantic City, 8/29 OKC, 12/28 MSG

“Rock and Roll”—Though “Rock and Roll” remained in significant rotation, most often producing some sort of exploration, only two versions jumped off the stage—Long Beach and Pelham. Other’s provided solid chunks of jamming though probably won’t make any tour highlight reels.

Best Version: 8/15 Long Beach

Most Underrated : 8/24 Pelham

Other Versions of Note: 6/20 Portsmouth, 6/30 Alpine Valley

“Chalk Dust Torture”—”Chalk Dust” snags the fifth spot on the second team on the strength of its final three outings of summer. Building the jam in magnitude over these three versions, the band crafted one of 2012 indelible jams at Dick’s during the Fuck Your Face show.

Best Version: 8/31 Dick’s

Most Underrated Version: 8/25 Lakewood

Other Versions of Note: 8/28 St. Louis

*****

One-Off Type II Gems:

“Roses Are Free” 6/8 Worcester,” “Birds of a Feather” 6/15 AC, “Back on the Train” 6/28 Deer Creek, “Waves” 6/28, “Fee” 7/1 Alpine Valley, ”Sneakin Sally” 7/6 SPAC, “Simple” 8/18 SF, “Crosseyed” 8/19 SF, ”Limb by Limb” 8/28 St.Louis, ”Undermind” 8/31 Dick’s, “Runaway Jim” 8/31 Dick’s, ”Sand” 9/2 Dick’s

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Jam of the Day:

Crosseyed > Light -> Sally -> Crosseyed” 8.19

The signature jam sequence of 2012.

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TTFF: The Gems of MSG

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 18th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

12.28.12 (Graham Lucas)

The highlights of the Holiday Run make quite a formidable playlist, boasting many versions of the year and some jams that move beyond 2012 into the creme de la creme of the era. Enjoy!

Tweezer > Maze” 12.28 II

This refined, multi-faceted and fully-realized “Tweezer”—my pick for best of the era—leapt onto the top shelf of 2012 offerings on the very first night of the run.

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Ghost > Piper” 12.31 II

Another gorgeous New Year’s Eve “Ghost” highlighted the 31st and paired up perfectly with this relentless “Piper.”

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Harry Hood” 12.30 E

Trey remains incredibly active throughout this “Hood” and the rest of the band responded beautifully, vaulting it into the elite versions of 3.0.

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Wolfman’s Brother > LDB > Wolfman’s” 12.28 I

Swanky funk interplay mixed with holiday cheer resulted in a surprisingly original take on “Wolfman’s.”

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Disease > 20 Years Later > Carini” 12.30 II

This exploratory sequence stunned the MSG audience with its patience and sinister tone. “Disease” broke through the sterile playing of the previous three sets with a ever-darkening adventure while “Carini”—the most unique jam of the run—challenged any version ever played with its abstract and menacing path.

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David Bowie” 12.28 II

The band dropped the most impressive “David Bowie” of the year to closing out the first night.

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Slave to the Traffic Light” 12.30 II

It’s been a while since we heard a “Slave” that packed such an emotional wallop. At risk of sounding repetitive, I’d definitely give this version the nod for the best of the year.

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Holiday Wish List—Revisited

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 10th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

12.28.12, MSG (Graham Lucas)

Now that we have experienced the New Year’s run and spun the tapes several times, let’s go back to my wish list and see how Santa treated me…

1. “Waves”: This majestic song debuted at MSG on 12/31/02 and hasn’t returned to the The Garden since. Given that we’ve only heard one version this year (Deer Creek) and it was magnificent, I’m pulling for a big time “Waves” over the Holiday Run.

GRANTED—When the band dropped into “Waves” as the second song of the second set on the 29th, I thought we were bound for glory, But after a stellar guitar solo, the band pulled up into an ambient washout and moved into “Caspian.” Nonetheless, the played the song, albeit with severe case of blue balls coming hand in hand.

2. The “Tweezer” of the Year: Though there were many quality “Tweezers” this year, especially on the second leg of summer, Phish has yet to throw down a colossal 2012 version. Here’s hoping we get a mega-”Tweezer” filled with the funkified urban grit of New York City.

GRANTED—Phish dropped far and away the best “Tweezer” of 2012 on the 28th. Taking the jam far into the unknown and on a psychedelic joyride, the band granted my most sought after wish with the best “Tweezer” of 3.0. I’ve been spinning this one non-stop since the run ended. What a treat!

3. Unexpected Jams: We all know the band will jam “Rock and Roll,” “Disease,” “Light,” and “Piper,” and I can’t wait for each. But I also wish to be blindsided by one or two jams from unexpected vehicles a la Worcester’s “Roses” or Atlantic City’s “Birds.” The songs that these jams stem from are irrelevant, it’s all about the element of surprise.

DENIED—No surprises jams popped up over the run, as all chunks of improv stemmed from familiar places. Interestingly, the band didn’t jam two of the shoe-ins mentioned above, leaving “Rock and Roll and “Light” out of the spotlight in New York City.

4. New Material: Just yesterday Mike posted a picture of himself playing bass in The Barn. What if, in addition to routine practice, the band was polishing off a couple new songs? It’s high time for some fresh setlist material, and though it’s doubtful we’ll see any during a year-end run, a kid can dream, right?

DENIED—No surprise here, as Phish stuck to their catalog less three surprise New Year’s Eve covers. Last year, Trey spoke about an impending album for which now they band now has six months to record before tour begins. With Trey’s Broadway musical about to open and a TAB tour rumored for the spring, let’s hope this still comes to fruition. Joy is now four years old and the band needs a new album to refresh their rotation—badly.

5. A Fully Realized “Twist”: After working this jam during Leg One, including one of the standout excursions of 2012 in Cincy’s “Twist,” the band shied away from exploring the song during Leg Two. Carrying such profound improvisational potential, it would be a shame to see another standard version of “Twist” over the Holiday Run.

DENIED—When the band inserted “Twist” into a prime spot on the 28th, right after “Tweezer > Maze,” I had grandiose visions. Phish proceeded to played a solid but contained “Twist,” bookending the song with “Little Drummer Boy” teases to the delight of all. An intense, connected jam fit into the contour of the night, but it won’t make any holiday highlight reel.

6. Smooth Segues: This year featured a host of silky segues, from “Sand -> Nellie Kane” to “Light -> Sally” and “Lighteca” to Sand -> Ghost.” Hopefully the guys will take their time between songs and merge some with stunning fluidity—an element that always ups the ante of any song pairing.

DENIED—The MSG shows featured a few smooth song pairings in “Tweezer > Maze,” “Ghost > Piper” and “Theme > Fluffhead,” but the guys never executed a legitimate segue, let alone a silky smooth one. It seems that segues come out when the band is more in the groove of a tour and playing together more often.

7. A Jammed Out “Crosseyed”: Phish has featured this Talking Heads cover as part of their rotation for the duration of this era, but seldom have they used it as a jam vehicle. The band has been more inclined to springboard into high-energy rock and roll from “Crosseyed” than into any sort of adventure. Bill Graham’s version, however, reminded us of the profound depths the guys can plunge with this song, and hopefully over the Holiday Run we see another such rendition.

DENIED—Surprisingly, “Crosseyed” didn’t make an appearance at the Garden, and to be honest, I’m glad they left in on the shelf rather than playing a standard rock version.

8. A “David Bowie” With Teeth: It would be great to see a revitalized version of this once-prolific jam that has turned rather stale in the 3.0 era. Chances of this, however, feel like they are slim to none.

GRANTED—Out of the blue, Phish threw down one of the better “David Bowies” we’ve heard in this era to close the second set on the 28th. Capping the night with a gritty and intricate run through of their early classic, the band infused notably energetic interplay into the jam. While no modern “Bowie” has evoked the ethos of its mid-90′s heyday, the version on the 28th was just what the doctor ordered—and it holds up quite well on playback.

9. “Wolfman’s” or “Bathtub Gin” In Set Two: Both of these songs have turned into tame, unidirectional first-set jams. I hope to see the band place one or both of these under the spotlight during the main event, as each song has been begging for some love for quite a while now.

HALF-GRANTED—Although neither song made a second set, they were both placed in slots of prominence as first set closers. “Wolfman’s” grew wildly creative as they left the song’s generic groove for more dynamic funk jamming. Then, of course, they seamlessly folded “Little Drummer Boy” deep within the jam and came out of it with an unconventional blues build before hitting the top—an awesome version all around. “Bathtub Gin” was the half of the wish that wasn’t granted. Many fans dug the energetic, guitar shred-fest on the 29th, but this version was far to similar to all the other ones from this era to get me too excited. Enjoyable? Sure. But extraordinary? Far from it.

10. Passion: Whatever happens at MSG and whatever songs are played, let’s hope the band comes with a serious intent to blow the room apart. Madison Square Garden is a venue of great legend in Phish history, though the band hasn’t treated the round room to a full-on musical assault in this era. Let’s hope this run contains that elusive MSG show we’ve been dreaming about since the band’s ’09 return.

GRANTED—If one thing is for sure, the band delivered all four shows with passion. Even the contained rocker on the 29th was delivered with zest and energy, especially after setbreak. The guys were having a blast on stage for the duration of the run and their happiness and energy oozed through every selection, from  ”Tweezer” to “Character Zero.” My football coach used to say, “Whatever you do, do it full speed,” and there’s no doubt Phish adhered to that philosophy. This wish was largely in reference to the 2011 run in which the band seemed go through the motions, and they couldn’t have been more different in their delivery this time around.

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