2013 Year-End Awards

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 23rd, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

1st Team Type II Jam Vehicles of the Year: “Carini,” “Tweezer,” “Light,” “Down With Disease,” “Chalk Dust Torture,” “Golden Age”

2nd Team: “Ghost,” “Rock and Roll,” “Twist,” “Crosseyed and Painless,” “Piper”

1st Team Type I Jam Vehicles of the Year: “David Bowie,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Stash,” “Harry Hood,” “Wolfman’s Brother”

Jam Vehicle of Year: “Carini”

MVP: Jon Fishman

Best Music of the Year: “Down with Disease > Carini,” 12/29 MSG

Most Succesful Jam of the Year: “Down With Disease” 12/29, MSG

Most Sureal Jam of the Year: “Tweezer” 7/31, Stateline, NV

First Set Jam of Year: “Split Open and Melt” 7/6, SPAC

Most Sinister Jam of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG

Grooviest Jam of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG

Most Unique Jam of the Year: “Tweezer” 11/2, Atlantic City

Unexpected Jam of the Year: “Twenty Years Later” 10/29, Reading

Underrated Jam of the Year: “Carini” 7/5, SPAC

Best Under 10-Minute Jam of the Year: “Chalk Dust Torture” 7/16, Alpharetta

Comeback Jam of the Year:“Twist”

Best New Jam: “Energy”

Best New Original: “Fuego”

Deepest Pocket of the Year: “Carini” 12/29, MSG

Filthiest Funk of the Year: “Twenty Years Later” 10/29, Reading, PA

Most Adrenalized Moment of the Year: “Piper -> Taking Care of Business” 10/20, Hampton, VA

“Holy Shit!” Moment of the Year: “Woos!”  in Tahoe Tweezer—like it or not

Phishiest Moment of the Year: “Bush” funk jam in AC “Theme”

Best Guitar Solo: End of “Down With Disease” 10/29, Reading, PA

Most Fluid and Cohesive Second Set: 7/12 Jones Beach

Most Explosive Second Set: 10/20 Hampton Coliseum

Smoothest Segue: 7/6 “Carini -> Architect” SPAC

Worst Attempt at a Segue: “Sand > Light,” 7/10 PNC

Shreddiest Peak: “Ghost” 10/19, Hampton, VA

Blissiest Peak: “Down with Disease” 7/22, Toronto, ON

Best Song in Non-Traditional Spot: “Sneakin’ Sally” E, 11/1 AC

Best 3-Night Stand: 10/31-11/2 Atlantic City

Best 2-Night Stand: 7/26-27 The Gorge

Best 2-Set Show: 12/29, MSG, NY

Best 3-Set Show: 10/31, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City

Sleeper Show of the Year: 7/16 Alpharetta, GA

Outdoor Venue of the Year (Gorge not included): Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Alpharetta

Indoor Venue of the Year: Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY

Best / Most wide open GA Floor: Civic Center, Hartford, CT

Venue With Chillest Employees: Hampton Coliseum

Top “What Song Are They Playing” Moment: “Chalk Dust Torture,” 7/16 Alpharetta, GA

Most Underachieving Jam: “Backwards Down the Number Line”

Best Individual Performance at a Concert: Jon Fishman 8/31, Dick’s, Commerce City, CO

Best CK5 Moment: the “rain” effect at the drop of the Hartford “Tweezer” jam

Worst Show of the Year: 10/22 Rochester, NY

Most Absurd Moment of the Year: 7/19, Chicago—Canceled show mid “Caspian” with no rain

Hardest Rainstorm of the Year: 7/12 Jones Beach

Tags: ,

The Top 10 Shows of 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 21st, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

Honorable Mention: 7.12 Jones Beach, 7.26 The Gorge, 7.31 Lake Tahoe, 8.4 Bill Graham, 10.26 Worcester, 10.27 Hartford, CT

***

10. 7/5 SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

7/5 Official (Millward)

7/5 Official (Millward)

On the second night of summer, Phish threw down a huge statement at SPAC, foreshadowing what was to come in 2013 with one of the most fluid second sets of the year. Infusing creativity at every turn after setbreak, highlighted by one of the most inventive “Lights” ever played, the band was locked in on this night, and never looked back all year. And the first set ain’t too shabby either, particularly the closing couplet of “Cities -> Bowie.”

I: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Roses Are Free, Birds of a Feather, Yarmouth Road, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane, Army of One, My Friend, My Friend, Cities -> David Bowie

II: Energy > Light -> The Mango Song > 46 Days -> Steam > Drowned > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Character Zero

***

9. 7/10 PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ

Phish’s return to Northern Jersey came on the heels of Toronto’s last-minute cancellation, hence it was primed to explode. An it explode it did, as the band greeted PNC with Leg One’s strongest show. This second set is chock full of improv, featuring a popular pick for the jam of early-Summer in “Crosseyed > Hood,” and an underrated, late-set “Light.”

I. Llama, Wolfman’s Brother, Sample in a Jar, Julius, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Lawn Boy, Ya Mar, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Theme From the Bottom, Suzy Greenberg

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood, Axilla, Sand > Light > Good Times Bad Times, Slave to the Traffic Light, Rocky Top, Cavern

E: Possum

***

8. 10/29 Santander Arena, Reading, PA

10/29 Official (D. Welker)

10/29 Official (D. Welker)

Reading contained one of the best start-to-finish second sets of Fall Tour. With fluidity, multiple tour-highlight jams and a potent, retro-take on on “You Enjoy Myself,” this show did far more than set the table for Atlantic City. What is keeping Reading’s ranking this low is its pedestrian first set; one of the least inspired of the fall, salvaged only by a ferocious “Split Open and Melt.”

I: Cars Trucks Buses, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Ginseng Sullivan, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle > Walk Away, Divided Sky, Split Open and Melt > Julius

II: Down with Disease > Taste, Twenty Years Later > Piper > Backwards Down the Number Line, You Enjoy Myself, Grind

E: Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Good Times Bad Times

***

7. 8/31 Dick’s, Commerce City, CO

Saturday night’s throwdown in Commerce City boasts two energetic sets, with a top jam of the year in the now-famous “Chalk Dust Torture.” Don’t forget the late-show, hard-hitting “Tweezer,” the subsequent version to Tahoe’s epic. The rest of the show was filled with rock solid playing and quality song selection throughout.

I: Buried Alive, AC/DC Bag, Wolfman’s Brother, Yarmouth Road, Fee > Halfway to the Moon, The Wedge, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Bouncing Around the Room, Mound, Gumbo, Run Like an Antelope

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Light -> 46 Days > Steam -> Free, Joy, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer > Backwards Down the Number Line

E: On the Road Again > Tweezer Reprise

***

6. 12/31 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY

NYE '13 (Masthay)

NYE ’13 (Masthay)

This was Phish’s 30th Anniversary show and it contained a vibe like none other. Centered on the sonic recreation of the early ’90s during the truck top JEMP Set, this New Year’s show was a celebration of Phish past, present and future. The band brought their A-game for the entire night, including another fierce third set. And check our every Trey solo in the first set, they are all fresh, inventive and well-phrased. A gentle-turned-biting “Light” blossomed into the improvisational highlight of three-set show.

I: AC/DC Bag, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Wilson, Divided Sky, Ocelot, Sugar Shack, Halfway to the Moon, Fluffhead

II: Glide, Llama, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Fuck Your Face, Reba, Icculus, The Lizards, Split Open and Melt

III: Character Zero > Auld Lang Syne > Fuego > Light > Twenty Years Later, Bouncing Around the Room, You Enjoy Myself

E: Grind, Show of Life

***

5. 10/31 Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ

Halloween 2013 was a one-of-a-kind evening. Never before had Phish played us a set of unheard music, a move that leveled the playing field by eliminating any possible expectations of what was to come. The anti-Wingsuit sentiment voiced by a faction of the fan base, in my opinion, spoke far more about the listeners and what they were bringing to the show, rather than anything he band  did. Owing us nothing but continuing to give, Phish allowed all of us into the creative process, playing us a set’s worth of new material. And what a set it was! Paving the way for the next several years, Phish debuted more than a handful of keepers on Old Hallow’s Eve. And then they absolutely crushed the third set, something they hadn’t done, in any holiday show since 1998.

I: Heavy Things, The Moma Dance, Poor Heart, Back on the Train, Silent in the Morning,Kill Devil Falls, Mound, Free, Camel Walk, Stash, Golgi Apparatus, Bathtub Gin

II: Wingsuit > Fuego, The Line, Monica, Waiting All Night, Wombat, Snow, Devotion To A Dream, 555 > Winterqueen, Amidst the Peals of Laughter, You Never Know

III: Ghost > Carini, Birds of a Feather, Harry Hood, Bug, Run Like an Antelope

E: Quinn the Eskimo

***

4. 7/27 The Gorge, George, Washington

7/27 Official (DKNG)

7/27 Official (DKNG)

The second night of The Gorge was Phish’s finest night of summer tour, as they dropped a seamless second set laced with artistry, forethought and patience. Every time Phish gets to the Gorge, everything slows down and Phish’s music garners a spaciousness that is congruent with the venue’s natural surroundings. After an outstanding effort on night one, the band came back and topped themselves with this show. “Disease -> Undermind” and “2001 > Sneaking Sally” anchored—for all intents and purposes—a perfect set.

I: Architect, Golgi Apparatus, The Curtain With, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Maze, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Roses Are Free, Say Something, Ocelot, After Midnight

II: Down with Disease -> Undermind > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Walls of the Cave > Fluffhead, Run Like an Antelope

E: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times

***

3. 10/20 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA

The second set of this show was absolutely relentless and left the entire audience in a state of blithering state of bliss. It had been quite some time since Phish had thrown down that hard for the duration of an entire set. Deep dives in “Tweezer” and “Golden Age” anchored the exploration, while the band kept the dance music spinning all night long. One of the moments of the year came in the surprise segue out of a celebratory”Piper” into ” “Taking Care of Business.” And the show ended with “2001 > Sand,” “Slave to the Traffic Light.” I mean—really? This set was pure Phish fire.

I: Julius, Funky Bitch, Back on the Train, Roses Are Free > Sample in a Jar, Ginseng Sullivan, 46 Days, Divided Sky, Bold As Love

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

E: A Day in the Life > Tweezer Reprise

***

2. 11/1 Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ

11/1 Official (D.Mumford)

11/1 Official (D.Mumford)

This show makes the number two spot over Hampton on its balance and the strength of its first set. Additionally, the centerpiece of this show,an absolutely transcendent version of “Twist,” bests any improvisational segment of Hampton’s monster set. AC’s second set also remained quite strong after “Twist,” highlighted by a comically-laced “Makisupa” and a very underrated “Light.” Remember the encore of this one? A jammed-out “Sneaking Sallly” with a full-blown “Shaft” jam. Yeah, they were feeling it on this night.

I: Cavern, Runaway Jim, Sand, Halfway to the Moon, Halley’s Comet > Tube, Possum, When the Circus Comes, Sugar Shack, Jesus Just Left Chicago, David Bowie

II: Twist > Gotta Jibboo > Makisupa Policeman, Light > Chalk Dust Torture, Meatstick, Boogie On Reggae Woman, The Wedge, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley

***

1. 12/29 Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY

This start-to-finish barn-burner featured the band’s best playing of the year—and in memory—in the all-time sequence, “Down with Disease” > “Carini.” I’d put this chunk of music up against any from the guys’ 31 shows at MSG, and that speaks volumes. After this gargantuan opening of the second set, the guys kept things moving in the right direction with a comedown of “Waves” and a sexy version of  Twist.” The band sealed the deal with an intricate, rock-solid “Bowie” to close. Don’t sleep on the first set either, an energetic frame of Phish that featured depth-in-brevity within “Gumbo” and “It’s Ice,” not to mention scorching versions of “Stash” and “Walls of the Cave.”

I: The Moma Dance > Rift, Roggae, Sparkle, The Line, Stash, 555, It’s Ice,Gumbo, Walls of the Cave

II: Down with Disease > Carini > Waves > Twist > Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie

E: Possum

12.29.13 (Jake Silco)

12.29.13 — MSG (Jake Silco)

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A Portrait of the Past

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on January 12th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.31.13 II (Scott Harris)

12.31.13 II (Scott Harris)

If there has been one constant throughout their 30-year career, it has been Phish’s ability to keep their audience on its toes, expecting the unexpected. And on New Year’s Eve, they band flipped the script once again, ditching their tradition of an elaborate midnight gag in favor of a stripped down set of old material to pay homage to their 30th Anniversary. From the stage last year, Trey and Page mentioned the significance of their thirtieth year only in passing. But on the last night of 2013, the band gave the ultimate nod to their past, performing a retro second in a very special setting.

A video that started as the first set ended was integral in setting up the entrance of the band’s first equipment truck, labeled “JEMP.” And to make room for the truck, the crew began rearranging the floor at the Garden! Always seeking to shrink the gap between themselves and their audience, for their thirtieth birthday, Phish was going to perform—literally—amidst their adoring fans, in the round at Madison Square Garden! The GA East became the front section; the rail monkeys watched from afar, and Phish performed an momentous set of music.

Not only did the guys play atop their JEMP truck, they replicated the exact setup of their very first show at the Harris-Millis cafeteria at the University of Vermont in 1983. Not only were the details in the staging, such as the hockey stick mic stands and Kuroda’s miniature, four-can lighting rigs, but they were also in the music. Fish and Page played on bare bones kits, while Mike and Trey used their original Languedoc guitars. In this era of larger-than-life Phish experiences, the simplicity of the JEMP set became its spectacle. Gone were the sprawling improvisations and gargantuan effects we had witnessed over the past three nights; all that was left was Phish in their purest form—exposed and vulnerable. And it was a sight to behold.

12.31.13 II (Scott Harris)

12.31.13 II (Scott Harris)

Despite having played the song two other times since Coventry (interestingly, both at MSG), as soon as “Glide’s” signature drumbeat broke the silence of setbreak, my mind raced back to 2004’s mud-laced apocalypse. The message of the moment was both literal and powerful as the guys looked at each other and sang, “We’re glad, glad, glad that you’re alive.” Back when this song fell apart during that fateful Vermont weekend so many years ago, as band members were enmeshed in mortal struggles, few could have predicted that we’d gather nine years later to celebrate life, love and Phish at Madison Square Garden. But here we were—and the band’s musical acknowledgement in “Glide” dripped with this poignancy.

Tearing into “Llama,” Phish was off and running into a frame of music that nobody would soon forget. Comprised completely of old-school staples, the most recent of which was 1991’s “Glide,” the guys worked through a setlist of elusive crowd favorites that pointed to a simpler time. The dramatic drop into the first performance of Gamehendge’s “Cololnel Forbin’s Ascent” since UIC 2011, brought a roar from the enraptured crowd. But it was the nearly note-perfect rendition of the notoriously difficult, “Fly Famous Mockingbird” that left fans’ jaws on the cement floor in New York City. It’s been a hot minute since Phish navigated this composition as deftly as they did on New Year’s Eve, and to see them nail it on the year’s biggest stage infused my heart with awe and gratitude.

The interlude of “Fuck Your Face” set the table for the improvisational highlight of the JEMP set, a soaring and passionate “Reba.” One could only imagine the thoughts—or lack thereof—going through Trey’s mind as he gazed into the rafters of the Garden while emoting one of his most heart-tugging solos of a weekend that was filled with them. As Trey drifted off to his happy place, weaving magic out of thin air, we closed our eyes and joined him in that familiar Eden that has fed our souls for the past three decades.

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

And then that familiar vamp of “Icculus” arose from the center of the World’s Most Famous Arena. One could feel a shift in the energy in the building as people attuned their senses to what was transpiring. It was only proper that during Phish’s 30th Anniversary set, that we’d get a visit from Gamehendge’s higher power. Thirty years later—while Billy Joel played second fiddle at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center— Trey screamed at his audience, every bit as exuberant as in the ‘80s, imploring us to “Read the fucking book!”  It was 2013—almost 2014—and the sun was shining in the Land of Lizards.

Pairing “Lizards” with a concise, retro take on “Split Open and Melt,” Phish concluded their intimate main event. The juxtaposition Colonel Forbin’s entrance into Gamehendge with one of the Phish’s earliest entries into atypical, cerebral jamming provided a glimpse into both ends of the band’s earliest musical spectrum. In this carefully selected setlist, every piece had a meaning and every song had a purpose. The message was lost on no one.

Within the context of a single set, Phish had brought us on a joy ride through their formative years. For a band that is always moving forward, to take a momentary step back and perform the JEMP set was nothing short of sacred. What better way to showcase their reverence for their own past, than to recreate it right before our eyes. For about 65 minutes on New Year’s Eve, time stood still and we witnessed a portrait of a time long gone by. And when the lights came up, thirty years later, we were still upside down.

12.31.13 II (Andrea Nusinov)

12.31.13 II (Andrea Nusinov)

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The Best Is Yet to Come

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 8th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

This past run at Madison Square Garden completed a modern maturation process of long form jamming that started in Long Beach 2012 and crystalized at Dick’s two weeks later. Until their Long Beach tour opener of August ’12, Phish had spent the three-plus years of their comeback getting their improvisational skill sets back up to speed. During this period, the band focused their improvisation in small stints, contained mostly in jams of 10-12 minutes. Upon completion of Summer Leg One in 2012, Phish was ready for the next step—a step that their fan base had been drooling for since their return. It was time to stretch things out into the adventure-filled excursions that had made them famous. This past weekend at MSG, Phish culminated this contemporary re-evolution, leaving themselves in a place of utter musical glory from which to turn the next page on their career.

12.28.13 (J.Silco)

12.28.13 (J.Silco)

When Phish came back in ‘09, many saw the band’s move as nothing more than nostalgia on the coattails of a hall of fame career. Very few fans foresaw this type of improvisational evolution; very few fans believed that the band would return to place of musical dominance. Well—those people were sorely mistaken, as Phish has now ascended through their initial five-year burst—from their reunion to their anniversary—and are now armed with new sounds, new effects and a slew of new material in preparation for the Wingsuit era.

Comparing the runs of Dick’s 2012 to MSG 2013 would seem like a legitimate debate, but such an argument would be blind to the continuum that Phish has been traveling for the duration of this time span. If Long Beach cracked the door and Bill Graham’s third night of ‘12 wedged it open, Dick’s Rocky Mountain revelation provided the gateway for the band to pass through, embarking on a musical journey of growth that has brought to the here and now. The jamming of New Year’s ’12 flowed directly from the style of Dick’s, while Summer ’13 built upon all of that with an infusion of new approaches. In Fall ’13, the band continued to polish their jamming as Trey stepped to the role of rhythm we all love so much, boasting their best modern tour to date. And all of that led up to last week’s stand at MSG that capped this process of redevelopment with the most prolific four-night affair we have seen in ages.

12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

Were it not for each and every step of this evolutionary path, Phish wouldn’t be where they are now. While fans will always argue for their favorite shows and favorite jams, it’s high time we all took a step back to see the forest from the trees—Phish has not only reclaimed their past virtuosity, they are pushing forward and forging new musical paths, all while on the brink of the next chapter of their storied career.

Madison Square Garden was, simultaneously, a sentimental celebration of all that has been and an anticipatory explosion of all that is yet to come. For those of us that have kept the faith and believed in this band through all the bumps in the road, we have reached the promised land. 2013 delivered us to Gamehendge, that special place in our minds and hearts where all is right with the world and we share common bonds of bliss and redemption. Where will 2014 will bring us? Nobody can tell. But with our hearts firmly in the right place and thirty-year smiles plastered on our faces, the sky is the limit.

12.30.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.30.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

Tags: , ,

The Garden of Eden

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on January 6th, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

12.28.13 (Jake Silco)

The level and diversity of improvisation over the four nights at Madison Square Garden to end the year were absolutely mind-bending. I spent my afternoon listening to all the major jams from the run for the first time through, and now I am as jacked as I was walking out of the shows each night! Amidst a celebration of all that was and will be, the thing most deservedly touted is the state of Phish right now. To put a final stamp on their thirtieth year, the guys unfurled jams of all shapes and sizes in a holiday run that lived up to its potential and surpassed it, in one of the finest year-end displays of all-time.

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

Phish revved up its improvisational gears midway through the first set of the 28th, using some loose and gooey “Wolfman’s” funk to indoctrinate the crowd to the four-night party. Though “Sand > Piper” formed a smoking couplet to kick off the second set, the true gem of the show came via “Steam.” Finally exploding like we all sensed it could, “Steam’s” jam got deep, demonic, and excessively dirty. Harnessing a thick, larger-than-life, mechanical vibe, the guys brought the show to its highest peak through heavy, effected grooves in “Steam’s” most prolific version to date.

The next central, open jam sequence came on the 29th, and it stole my heart the moment it happened—“Down With Disease,” “Carini.” This one-two punch for the ages provided untouchably magical moments to which this entire year has built toward. Each jam was note perfect and both reached the highest planes of creativity, veering down alternate paths of sinister ideation. “Disease” took us on a psychedelic journey of staggering beauty, traveling into the void and back again, in an undeniable musical triumph. “Carini” harnessed the grit and urban glamour that defined Madison Square Garden Phish jams of the mid to late ‘90s, with filthy, monstrous grooves that made time stand still while engulfing and uniting the consciousness of the entire audience. Both jams exploded with fresh sounds and even fresher ideas as they, collectively, covered a ridiculous amount of sacred territory. The smoothness in which the band morphed back into the end of “Disease;” the heights to which Trey rocked the Garden back and forth with his Echoplex in “Carini” like MJ crossed over John Starks and the rest of the Knicks before tomahawk dunking on Patrick Ewing; the fluidity of both jams which were seen to ultimate completion; this was 12.29 the right way. This was a fucking dream.

12.29.2013 (Jake Silco)

12.29.2013 (Jake Silco)

Many New Year’s Runs over the years have featured one night in which the band took less risks and didn’t go for it quite as hard as the other three, but 2013 was not one of those Holiday Runs. The band just kept on trucking, knocking down the doors of the 30th’s second set with a hugely exploratory and very cohesive “Chalk Dust Torture.” Bursting through the composition, Trey took the helm and brought the jam to an initial peak of catharsis with one of his most emotional solos of the weekend. When the jam reached a mellow juncture where it sounded as though it might move into “Taste,” things were just getting going. Phish went on to weave together a delicately driving adventure that touched on many feels without totally settling into any of them. The band never lost their connection throughout, however, crafting a totally different type of centerpiece than we heard the night before in “Disease” and “Carini.”

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

12.29.13 (J.Silco)

Later in the set, after completing a relatively contained “Mike’s Groove,” Phish tore into the usual “Groove” connector “Simple,” and this is where our next highlight jam blossomed. Bleeding out of Trey’s guitar solo, the band entered into a slow, wide-open conversation that evoked the feel of a loose, late night, festival jam. Entrancing the audience with this ethereal passage, the band would soon segue into “Harry Hood,” forming an extremely tender final portion of the set.

The central jam sequence of New Year’s Eve, uncharacteristically, came during the third set in the post “Auld Lang Syne” paring of “Fuego > Light.” If one thing can be told by the dramatic placement of their new song and it’s mini, outro segment, it is that “Fuego” will be the next big jam in this Phish universe. The only Halloween song delivered with any improvisational flair, look for “Fuego” to jump into second sets all over tour this summer. And then they dropped into “Light,” introducing the improvisational main event of New Year’s Eve.

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

12.28.12 (J.Silco)

Shortening his guitar solo at the onset of the jam, Trey led the band into the fray more quickly than usual as they formed a light, percussive canvas with a distinctly celebratory vibe. The guys were fully locked together as they navigated this unique musical ground, and the feel of the jam remained this way for some time. And then it turned straight nasty. Lending a hard edge to “Light’s” final segment, they guys fully dug in during this third-set gem, and the final monster Phish jam of the weekend.

It’s quite clear that for a New Year’s Run, Fall Tour makes all the difference. This year, the band’s short fall run propelled them to incredible musical heights over this holiday run as opposed to past years where they have scrambled, after an extensive offseason, to put together four shows. This year at Madison Square Garden, everything came together in a perfect storm. Riding the momentum of fall, the excitement of a new album, and the outpouring of love and devotion of their community on their 30th Anniversary, Phish threw down a run packed with jams for the annals of time, making us fall in love with them all over again thirty years later.

12.28.12 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.28.12 (Andrea Nusinov)

Tags: , , ,

Thirty Years Later

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on January 2nd, 2014 by Mr.Miner
12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

What a finale! Capping a year of shows that were etched into our collective memory one by one, Phish destroyed Madison Square Garden over the course of four nights in a style unseen since the late-Nineties. Dropping a bevy of timeless jams, sought after bustouts and an array of new material, the guys showcased all the reasons that they are now—after their thirtieth year of existence—riding a wave like never before in their career. In a calculated move, Phish filled their Holiday Run with nine sets of exclusively original material, showcasing their eclectic musical virtuosity that won over all of our hearts in the first place.

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

Over the past couple years, the band had fallen prey to their extensive autumnal offseason, rolling into Madison Square Garden with little momentum and dropping spotty performances. This year, however, following a fall tour and the recording of a new album, that was not an issue. Finely oiled and playing with precision from the first set of the first night, the guys made no bones about their single minded holiday mission—to take care of business. Through the course of four nights, Phish nodded to their roots, the three “eras” of their career and a bright future, bringing the audience on a musical tour de force that cut to the core of this grand experiment. I said before this run that it had all the ingredients to become the most prolific stand of the modern era, and lo and behold, that is exactly what happened.

On each night the band dropped top-level improvisation, the likes of which we dream. “Steam,” “Disease,” “Carini,” “Chalk Dust,” and “Light” led the way with outlandish, mind-bending excursions that we will be listening to until the end of time. “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Sand > Piper” and “Simple” played supporting roles in the open jam category, while “Stash,” “Twist,” “David Bowie,” “Harry Hood” and “You Enjoy Myself” anchored the band’s structured improv—all pieces with ample playback value.

12.31.13 (A.Nusinov)

12.30.13 (A.Nusinov)

But this holiday run was about so much more than jams. This run was a celebration of our four musical super heroes from Vermont, and their illustrious thirty-year history. The band’s own nod to their earliest days culminated in an unforgettable second set of New Year’s Eve atop a faux tour truck in the center of the Garden. Ever lessening the gap between themselves and their audience, Phish replicated the stage set up of their first-ever show at the University of Vermont and played a set’s worth of über-old school material, the most recent of which was “Glide” debuted in 1991. Along side a divine “Reba” and a closing “Split Open and Melt,” the set featured the central Gamehendge tales of  “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” “Icculus” and “Lizards.” And amidst “Icculus,” Trey cut to the chase, instructing the audience in the ways of The Book, imparting the message of Gamehendge to a new generation on the most high profile night of the year. In another setting in another time, one might have taken move as being drenched in nostalgia, but as Phish has now reached a modern peak that few believed was possible, this message was an affirmation of all that was right in the land of Lizards as we crossed the threshold into 2014.

12.29.13 (A.Nusinov)

12.29.13 (A.Nusinov)

Beyond celebrating their unequaled past, however, this holiday run also kick-started the future as the band brought back most of the songs from their Halloween set. Phish interspersed their Wingsuit material throughout the four nights, highlighted by the dramatic placement of “Fuego” directly after midnight on New Year’s Eve. While all the other new songs were delivered in straightforward fashion, “Fuego” featured a tasty improvisational segment in a sure-fire preview of the next big jam in the Phish universe. Each new piece brought a jolt of excitement, as it evoked memories of Halloween while upping the ante of what is to come next summer.

To end their thirtieth year, Phish—finally—played a modern Madison Square Garden run that both upheld and paid homage to their prestigious past in the World’s Most Famous Arena. Scribing an unforgettable four-night chapter in their ever-expanding legacy, Phish—the four-headed, one-minded musical monster of Vermont—proved, once again, that it has no parallel in the history of live music.

12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

12.31.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

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Musings on MSG

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on December 10th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Madison Square Garden '09 (Brian Ferguson)

Madison Square Garden ’09 (Brian Ferguson)

Madison Square Garden is one of the most celebrated Phish venues in the land. Playing the Garden for five consecutive years between ’94 and ’98, the band continued adding shows to their stands in each year but ’96, topping out with a four night stand in 1998. Four-night stands at MSG seem commonplace in the modern era, however, as this upcoming holiday run will be the third in three years. No building has hosted Phish more times than MSG, and these upcoming shows will,  coincidentally, be their 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st at the World’s Most Famous Arena. And this year the band will have a full head of steam heading into New York! On the heels of a smoking fall tour and recording their next album, Phish’s momentum will have had little time to slow come December 28th, unlike the past two years in which the guys didn’t play between Labor Day and the New Year’s Run. Needless to say, the time is near, the mission’s clear.

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

12.2.09 (W.Rogell)

Though the band has played the Garden at least three times a year since their return, only a few of those nights have truly stood out—namely, 12.31.10, 1.1.11, 12.28.11, 12.28.12, and 12.30.12. If I had to bet, this year will be different. Does this year have the potential to go toe to toe with 1998′s hall of fame run, also a four-nighter at MSG? If the band plays their cards right and really throws down, perhaps we’ll have a debate on our hands. Wouldn’t that be something? It would have to be the best stand of the era, but coming off the hottest tour of this era, why not?

What used to define those legendary mid-to-late ’90s shows was a certain grit and grime that matched the old school arena congruently. This fall, with Trey laying back on rhythm more than at any time during this era, jams took on a far gritter and psychedelic feel than at any time in 3.0. If fall tour was any indication, and it always has been, we could be looking at the dirtiest MSG shows of a notably clean modern era. And wouldn’t that be the perfect way to cap a truly monumental year of Phish?

As a fun exercise, I ran through my memory and have posted my favorites of everything in MSG history. Enjoy!

Best show: 12.31.95

New Year’s ’95 was the peak of everything Phish had done in their career up to that point; a culmination of their career. Many fans view this show as the band’s finest night of music, thus is needless to say that it comes in 1st in MSG history.

Best Set: 12.29.97 II

This set delivers for the duration with not a singe lull. Jams for days, one of the best “Tubes” of all time and impeccable flow. The only weakness of this set is a fairly routine “YEM” that doesn’t quite do the rest of the set justice.

Down with Disease -> David Bowie -> Possum, Tube, You Enjoy Myself

Best Run: New Years 1998

Four outstanding nights of music, ending what I believe is their best overall year of their career.

Best First Set: 12.31.98

Nobody was quite sure what had hit them when the lights came up after this one.

1999 > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Ghost -> Ha Ha Ha > Cavern

Best Third Set: 12.31.95

One of the best “Weekapaugs” of all-time and monster “YEM.” Plus a couple rarities to cap things off.

Auld Lang Syne > Weekapaug Groove > Sea and Sand, You Enjoy Myself, Sanity, Frankenstein

Best Encore: 12.30.97

The best encore in history, regardless of venue.

Carini – > Black-Eyed Katy -> Sally Reprise > Frankenstein

Best Modern Show: 12.31.10

A colossal night of Phish with a second set for the ages

Best version of (parentheses represent close seconds):

Tweezer: 12.28.12 (12.30.94) 

Reba: 12.31.95

Mike’s: 12.31.95

David Bowie: 12.29.97

Wolfman’s Brother: 12.28.98

You Enjoy Myself: 12.29.98

Piper: 12.30.11

2001: 12.29.98

Antelope: 12.29.97 

Weekapaug: 12.31.95 (12.31.97)

Harry Hood: 12.30.95

Gin: 12.30.10 v. 12.29.12—pick em (only versions)

Twist: 1.1.11 (12.28.12)

Ghost: 12.31.98 v. 12.31.10—pick em

Down With Disease: 12.29.97

Carini: 12.28.98 (12.30.12)

Light: 12.2.09

Tube: 12.29.97

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Revisiting Rochester

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

Fall 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

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

Rochester Official (Fugscreens)

Rochester Official (Fugscreens)

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

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

Reading (A.Nusinov)

Reading (A.Nusinov)

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

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

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

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

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

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

10.22.13 Rochester, NY (Jake Silco)

10.22.13 Rochester, NY (Jake Silco)

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Jams of the Day:

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

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

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A Tour in (Moving) Pictures

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setbreak: part of “Fuego”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thinking Out Loud: The Flow of Ideas

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

10.29.13 Reading, PA (Andrea Nusinov)

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

Page to Trey:

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

Trey to Fish:

10.18.13 (J. Silco)

10.18.13 (Jake Silco)

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

Trey to Mike:

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

Mike to Page ?:

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

10.31.13 (J.Silco)

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

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Twist” 10.18 II, Hampton, VA

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

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