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)

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Three of a Different Kind

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

Atlantic City 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)

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

Atlantic City (A.Nusinov)

Atlantic City (A.Nusinov)

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

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

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

Atlantic City (G.Estreich)

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

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

11.1.13, Atlantic City (Jake Silco)

Hampton Coliseum (Jake Silco)

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The Diversity of 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on October 7th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

Back in 2009, most Phish jams possessed a common, well-worn course that began with guitar-led, rock textures, passed through a sparser section of percussive grooves and then ended with a quasi-generic, ambient outro. By the time fall tour ended, this formula had been beaten to death, for even many of the band’s better jams followed this path. Regardless of whether they sprung from “Disease,” “Piper,” “Rock and Roll,” or “Drowned,” 2009 jams tended to sound the same. Staggering improvisations were few and far between while the guys built their chops back, as they relied heavily on this formula to navigate their jams. Only come Miami did we see things truly begin to diversify.

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

Fast-forward four years to Summer 2013 and Phish has cast down a completely different improvisational paradigm. Over the past four years, from 2009 to 2012, we saw Phish gradually move away from the templatized jamming of ’09, while adding signature sounds of the present era. But this year, for the first time since their comeback, the band came out with a wholly renewed musical perspective that took their music in new and original directions. Blending styles from the totality of  their career, the band carved a new musical path this year, unrelated to the rebuilding process that—in all honesty—lasted until Dick’s 2012. Throughout this re-evolutionary process we saw flashes of brilliance that reminded us of Phish’s utmost capabilities. Jams like Albany’s “Seven Below,” Miami’s “Tweezer,” the Greek “Light,” the MSG “Ghost,” and the Gorge “Rock and Roll” kept us on the path, believing that the turning point was but a tour away. And then—building on the momentum of Dick’s and MSG—Summer 2013 happened.

It was apparent from the get-go that the band was determined to make things different this summer. Bangor’s sublime “Antelope” gave us the first glaring sign, and then confirmations came flooding in at SPAC with completely original jams  out of “Light,” “Split,” “Carini,” and “Disease > Ghost.” These jams were not only outstanding, they were stylistically diverse—a trend that continued all tour long. Diversity even existed within versions of a single jam this summer. Take, for example, “Light.” In 2012, each version of the song conversed with and built upon the previous rendition, coming to a massive peak in Colorado. Conversely, in 2013, Phish took “Light” in different directions that were wildly unrelated. To illustrate, let’s compare this summer’s first four versions.

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

At SPAC, Phish played a tightly wound, psychedelic tale that evoked the feel of 1995, with masterful command of musical tension  while releasing into a blissful outro that could only have been played this year. Days later at PNC, Trey anchored a dark horse, late-set version with stunningly emotive soloing. At Merriweather, Phish fused hard groove with a sort of free jazz to craft an explosive, avant-garde show highlight. Then, in Chicago, they dropped a third set “Light” that favored delicate, almost ambient, full-band interplay before blossoming into groovier, melodic textures. Four different jams that all sprung from “Light,” yet totally dissimilar—a microcosm of the summer’s improvisation in full.

The diversity of Phish’s 2013 jamming is also evident in looking at tour highlights. Tahoe’s “Tweezer,” Hollywood’s “Harry Hood,” Denver’s “Chalk Dust,” San Francisco’s “Runaway Jim,” the Gorge’s “Undermind,” San Francisco’s “Rock and Roll,” the list goes on and on. But at no point do these jams significantly overlap like so many jams did from 2009-2012; they all contained fresh ideas and unique directions. This is something new to 2013 Phish. Throughout the band’s glory days, they progressed in a very stylistically focused way, meaning that they—largely—concentrated on a single improvisational style within a single tour. Even in the hallowed tour of Fall ’95, one will hear far more stylistic consistency than in Summer 2013. And maybe that is the hallmark of Phish’s current Golden Age? While past eras can be identified by a homogenous musical style, 2013’s “style” is its musical diversity. The band is now able to step between improvisational feels better than ever before, an unquestionable result of thirty years in the trenches together.

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

So what does this mean for Fall Tour? Well, for the first time in three years, the band will be able to legitimately build off their accomplishments of summer. This, in itself, is huge. With the assumption that they’ve had to practice for their Halloween performance, one can assume the guys have been in close contact since Dick’s and are just as excited to hit the road again as we are. The band’s ability to hook up on stage—something that became second nature this summer—should be back in full force when they step inside Hampton Coliseum for the first time since their legendary comeback. But where the jams will go, however, is anyone’s guess.  Throw in a Halloween weekend, some tiny venues and some classic rooms, and considering how the band has been playing, this tour—albeit short—has to be the most anticipated of the era.

For the first chunk of their comeback, I often wondered what the band’s new stylistic focus would become. Would it be “plinko” funk?“ Storage” soundscapes? Maybe bliss jamming? No, it would be none of the above. The place to which the band was building has finally arrived—a comfortable peak where they can code switch between improvisational settings like a chameleon. The band can now reach into their arsenal and pull out just about anything, providing a new drama to modern shows. The intense creativity that once defined Phish is back in full, and the band is cranking out jams and shows at a level and consistency unseen in years. But instead of doing it with one style of jamming as in their peaks of the past, they are doing it with all the tools in their thirty-year repertoire.

BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

BGCA (Jeremy Renda)

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Phish, Almighty

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on August 1st, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

7.27.13 (Eric Battuello)

Dreams do come true. On so many levels. Last night Phish redefined what is possible in live music with their finest accomplishment of their career—the Tahoe “Tweezer.” But really it was the finest accomplishment in all of our careers, because the audience—the Phish community— was as much a part of this feat as any. Even the people that weren’t in attendance. I just respun the jam for the first time and Holy.Fucking.Shit! Tears streamed down my face as I listened back to the night of my life. That is the best thing that has ever happened on planet earth.

7/31Official (J.Soto)

7/31 Official (J.Soto)

The reason I see Phish is in pursuit of what happened last night. Not only was it the best jam of the band’s career, it was “Tweezer”—my favorite jam by—oh—about infinity miles. “Tweezer” is Phish. The Freezer is our home. And home has never felt as special as right now. Anyone who has ever doubted that Phish would be back and better than before—put that in your pipe and smoke it. Sculpting a piece of music  far beyond anything they’ve ever done, the band wielded powers greater than we’ve ever dreamed last night. It was simply incomparable. And where the heck do we go from here?

Just the sheer numbers on the Tahoe “Tweezer” are ludicrous. Thirty-seven minutes and not even close to one single dull moment. The seventh longest jam of Phish’s career, and the longest since IT’s “46 Days” in 2003. But 37 minutes of 2013 Phish is unlike 37 minutes of music from any other era. There was no vamping, searching, or meandering—just straight musical genius encompassing Harvey’s like a fucking sharknado. ‘Nuff said. Staggering to the core would be the understatement of the century.

7.30 (E.Battuello)

7.30.13 (E.Battuello)

The thing is, beyond “Tweezer” and beyond Tahoe—the new apex of Summer ’13—the Phish universe is in a place of unparalleled glory right now. Things have never been this great. The band’s level of improvisation is off the charts and more proficient than at any time in their past—and they just keep getting better. Trey has not been shy about saying that right now is his favorite time in Phish history, and I whole heartedly agree. 2013 has brought us to a point in this arc few of us saw coming. Everything that has come before this—the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s—have been stepping stones to now—2013, the year that dreams come true.

After the first half of “Tweezer”—one of the more evil jams I have ever heard—wrapped up somewhere around the half way point, I took a bow, thanking the band for what they had given us, and thanking powers that be for allowing me to have been present for such a ceremony. But little did I know, things were just getting turnt up! Sitting in a sort of musical purgatory between the Hades-laced soundtrack we had just heard and the heavenly passages that awaited, the guys chilled out with no sense of unease or urgency to get anywhere at all. And that is the sign of a band that believes in itself and trusts that the music will take it where it needs to go. That is a band that has let go of their egos and bought into each other hook, line and sinker—forever. Pun intended.

7.30 (E.Battuello)

7.30 (E.Battuello)

When the band—on a dime and all at once—made a change for the skies above, nothing in the universe could hold them back. Playing the most inspiring music that we have ever heard, soon the crowd got involved, elevating the experience to a whole ‘nother level. As the band hit a break in the mind-bending jam, the crowd let out a “Wooooo!” The guys immediately picked up on this, altering the jam in order to create breaks for the crowd to respond—and the rest is history. The interplay between the band and audience reached a level unseen before, driving each other higher and higher into a cosmic and communal bliss. After a set of “Woos!” the band would tear into music so cathartic and inspirational that it will make you cry. This is IT like IT has never manifested ITself at a Phish show before. This was a whole new level for this psychedelic mind game called Phish. This was life like we’ve never experienced it before. Or was it a dream?

7.30 (E.Battuello)

7.30 (E.Battuello)

And then the band moved beyond this monumental and never-ending peak, capping “Tweezer’s” apex by jamming on Traffic’s “Dear, Mr. Fantasy,” a genius move considering the opening lyric of the song—“Dear Mister Fantasy play us a tune/Something to make us all happy.” Finally, in a move that obliterated whatever pieces of anyone’s brain they still had left, Trey coyly slid in the “Tweezer” lick back into the mix, bringing everything full circle with a stop/start cadence to facilitate a final set of  “Woos!” Forget about it.

At this point, the band melted into “Tela” and everyone exchanged hugs, looks of disbelief, and generally celebrated life before refocusing on the elusive bustout. At this point, it was all gravy. Nothing else mattered. But of course, Phish finished their set. In fact, it all flowed quite perfectly, as “Twist” emerged out of “Tela,” and the most impressive “Architect” to date shone brightly deep into the set. A beautifully placed “Bouncing”—a song that always surfaces when things really go down—set the table for a colossal, wide open “Antelope” to close things out. And then the “Woos!” returned! In “Antelope’s” post-jam segment, and then again in “Tweezer Reprise,” the band created breaks for audience participation, reminding us of the peak experience that just went down.

Sacred Space

Sacred Space

After the show, I took a photo of the asphalt on which I was dancing last night, for that was a place of unforgettable power—a few square feet I will never forget. And when every one has their own square feet of space, everyone can get down together. It’s simply the best when all your friends are together with enough room to openly take in the divine goods with a reckless abandon. The west coast is the best coast for this very reason, and Phish is showing how much they love the region’s wide open GA environs. But lo and behold, we are about to take this indoors! Are you serious? Bringing this larger than life music into the confines of Bill Graham is going to make for quite the intense experience. Are you ready? Because the band certainly is. Rest up folks, because who knows what’s next?

First Set Notes: Meh. But who cares.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Camel Walk, Sparkle, Back on the Train, It’s Ice, Brian and Robert, Yarmouth Road, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Ocelot, Stash

II: Tweezer, Tela > Twist > Architect, Bouncing Around the Room, Run Like an Antelope

E: Julius > Tweezer Reprise

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Ventura: An Glimpse Into the Glory Years—Pt. I

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 9th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

Since about 1999 or 2000, I’ve been a jams-only listener. The immense amount of full-shows I’d spun previous to that combined with the transition from analog tapes to CD-R’s (and eventually digital files) resulted in me excerpting shows’ highlights more and more for my listening pleasure. Through these mix tapes and simply pressing skip the in the car, my habits of listening to Phish gradually changed. I no longer needed to spin entire shows time and time again. Most often I had been there and witnessed the start-to-finish flow, but even if I hadn’t, I no longer needed to hear the straight compositions. When spinning shows, I wanted to hear the meat, the tracks with significant jamming. When I got my advance copy of the upcoming Ventura release, however, I decided to listen to both shows start to finish, and in doing so, I was able to put a finger on the central difference between the Phish of then and now—non-stop intensity no matter what. Within the Ventura shows of 1997 and 1998, the band is focused and fully dedicated to each and every song, not just the highlights, and it makes all the difference.

Many people who only know my Internet persona think that I exclusively value Phish’s type II jams, and that I—for all intents and purposes—sit down and twiddle my thumbs for the rest of the show until they happen. Though such improvisation is unquestionably my favorite part of Phish—especially modern Phish—while listening to both Ventura shows, I realized why my take on 3.0 Phish can, at times, sound so type II centric—the band’s type I vigor is gone. Listening to Ventura ‘97’s “Chalk Dust,” I was blown away by the intensity and creativity contained in this piece of music that was bursting at the seams. Listening to Ventura ‘98’s “Makisupa,” I remembered that the song once had immense musical value beyond it’s current use as comic relief. The band is knee deep in dub grooves while Trey paints gorgeous melodies atop the irie textures. Listening to ‘98’s “Prince Caspian,” I was taken by how Trey annihilated his solo like it was a matter of life or death. And as I continued to listen to the type I jamming that dominates the ’98 show, I realized how glaringly the modern incarnation of Phish is missing this type of playing from their arsenal, causing shows—and particularly first sets—to drag when they aren’t engaged in type II jamming.

Ventura Liner Notes

Ventura Liner Notes

Phish can still weave freeform (type II) adventures as well as ever. They are master improvisers of the highest degree and have honed their craft over the course of 30 years. Anyone who doubts their improvisational acumen is fooling himself and needn’t look any further than the jams of Dick’s and MSG for proof. I fully see the band’s virtuoso jamming of the second half of 2012, to continue on an upward curve in 2013, but will the band pick up the slack from rest of their show? With members pushing 50 years old now, Phish reminds me of the crafty NBA veteran, think Kobe Bryant, who can play an awesome game at 75 percent and then go balls out in the fourth quarter and win the game. Phish now plays their contained (type I) jams with precision, but with very little intensity and creativity. Then they beast out in their open improv to save the show. To illustrate this type I fall off, think of songs like “Stash,” “Bathtub Gin,” “David Bowie,” “Reba,” “Mike’s,” “Weekapaug,” “YEM,” “Wolfman’s” and “Antelope”—ya’ know, the (former) goods! In the landscape of modern Phish, these songs are mere placeholders, reminding us of what used to be. No longer does the band even play quasi-memorable versions of any of these songs—only once in a blue moon. But with their improvisational skills at an all-time high, they drop pieces that steal the show and completely legitimize it. Think 12/28’s “Tweezer,” BGCA’s “Crosseyed > Light > Sally,” or 9/1’s “Golden > Caspian > Light,” or 9/2’s “Sand > Ghost > Piper.” Other than these segments, these shows, (with a 12/28 “Wolfman’s” exception) are pretty straightforward with little replay value. And this is why I most often focus on their creative jamming in my show reviews.

Ventura '98 Promo

Ventura ’98 Promo

If they played a “Chalk Dust” like Ventura ’97, I’d write about it! If they played a “Halley’s” like Ventura ’98 (which was run of the mill at the time), I’d write about it! Shit, if they played a “Cars, Trucks, Busses” with the zest of Ventura ‘97s, I’d write about it! But they don’t. Rarely is anything from a show worth chronicling other than type II jams and bustouts. As I’ve mentioned before, set crafting has gone the way of the wind, and without type I action, what else is there? To be clear, I absolutely believe Phish’s sublime improvisational passages make their shows worthy in full, but how great would it be if they could carry the rest of the show too?

To further my point, aside from the monstrous “Bathtub Gin” that opened the ’98 show and a “Drowned” jam that opened the second set, this show is dominated by type I jamming the whole way through—and it’s a great show! The band can’t pull that off any more (see 12/29/12). Their sustained intensity and type I creativity just isn’t there anymore (and setlists cannot carry shows no matter how outlandish). Worth mentioning, in a summer when laid-back funk ruled the scene, Ventura ’98 is a show that skirts the style all together—a complete and utter anomaly in a groove-dominated tour. “Gin” gets into a wee bit of danceable jamming, but after that, there is no funk, barely any open jamming’—and it’s a great show because Phish is utterly relentless, killing every single moment. They don’t cool down, they don’t lay back, they attack each piece as if it was the last they’d play, and the difference is as clear as night and day.

Quite obviously, my biggest take away from listening to these Ventura shows is their start-to-finish intensity; they pose such a stark juxtaposition to modern performances. Fans get so worked up about the amount of jamming that Phish does nowadays, many citing that they’d like to see more. Except in extreme cases, however, I don’t think that’s the main factor bringing some shows down. Unless we are comparing the band to the jammiest periods in their history, they are improvising at about the same rate as ever. But it’s what they are not doing in the rest of the show that cause modern Phish performances drag at times and make fans jones for the oncoming adventure. Maybe this summer, the year of their 30th anniversary, the guys will put it all together and play complete shows like the ones gracing their new box set? Their jamming will certainly be there, but what about everything else?

Tune in tomorrow for some more specific thoughts about the Ventura shows, themselves!

Ventura Liner Art

Ventura Liner Art

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Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Bathtub Gin” 7.20.98 I, Ventura, CA SBD

Here is a sneak preview of the release! This “Gin” paved the way for Riverport’s classic a week later, as the jam morphs through many of the same stages.

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VENTURA GIVEAWAY!

The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

I have three Ventura Box Sets to give away for free! If you’d like to be eligible for this contest, please write two haikus—one that captures the essence of each show. Email these haikus to mrminer@phishthoughts.com by Wednesday at 8pm Pacific and I will post the three winning entries on Thursday or Friday! Make sure you adhere to proper haiku format or your entry will be disqualified.

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The Past Meets The Future

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on October 21st, 2010 by Mr.Miner

Official Utica Poster

In a show that shot us back in time both in setting and musical content, Phish played two unparalleled sets of music firmly rooted in history while stretching into the future, showing us that things are just beginning to hit stride for this era. Building off of their recent fall exploits, the band threw down a show that resembled none of this era in any way, shape, or form – an entire evening that felt plucked from the mid-’90s. With each passing night of tour it feels like we are witnessing a rebirth of Phish – the real Phish – the band that puts on mind-numbing shows like it’s their job. The one-brained, four-headed monster took the attack from moment one last night, creating two thematic frames of music that redefined what is possible in modern era Phish.

I’ve yet to tackle a show like this in words, and I feel like it may best be done without re-listening and simply giving my initial impression, because this one was an absolute shocker. Phish stepped in Utica Memorial Auditorium – the room MSG was modeled after – and took us on a journey that likened a night from ’94 or ’95 but with a completely modern musical vibe. With an eternally twisting path and white hot jamming throughout, Utica provided the two-set psychedelic adventure of everyone’s ideal Phish show. Navigating completely original improvisation with a retro feel, Phish took a huge step forward in this era last night, evoking their past mastery along the way. The present and the future came smashing together at Utica Memorial last night in what can only be considered a massive win for anyone with even a tangential care about the future of Phish music. So here we go…

12.29.09 (W.Rogell)

The night opened innocently enough with “My Soul” and “Stealing Time” before things turned crazy for the duration. Beginning with “Vultures” and ending with “Antelope,” Phish threw down a retro-style set full of  jamming, teases and transitions. Following a smoking rendition of “Vultures,” Phish cranked their creativity to eleven for the rest of the night, dropping into a “Wolfman’s” that transcended any version they’ve played this era. They didn’t just toy with loafing funk grooves, the systematically deconstructed the song in a series if mini-jams that brought the focus of the show squarely upon the band’s improvisation, a focus that would never waver in a game-changing night of music. Blending into “Cities,” the Talking Heads cover provided a splash landing of groove for their prior rhythmic acrobatics.

Utica Memorial Marquee

Once “Cities” ended, the thematic part of the set began with the shredding fall debut of “Guyute.” And from then on, the first set transformed into “Guyuitca,” as the anthem found its way seamlessly into each song for the rest of the frame. But more significantly, the music from here on out was on another level than we have seen this era. A mid-first set “Bowie,” (yes, you read that right) provided a ridiculous early peak to the show, and contained vicious improv. Morphing into segments of “Wilson-inspired” jamming, Phish blended the two songs in sinister fashion. During one of the sections, Trey repeated “Guyute’s line,”Bouncing Like A Newborn Elf” in an eerie tone over the groove. Phish was letting loose and we were only in the middle of the first set! Moving as one through criminally smooth soundscapes, Phish began the aural festivities early Tuesday night, but who knew where we were heading. Following the smashing rendition of “David Bowie” Phish dropped into the “Wilson” that had been teased throughout. And when the band got to the heavy metal part, Trey layered one of the peak lines of “Guyute” right into the mix. As this musical roller coaster moved on, we found ourselves in another rarity – “McGrupp.” A technically sound version captivated the intimate crown amidst this amazing first frame, and soon the band finished “McGrupp,” they started “I Saw It Again!” At this point the opening half was growing into an absurd spectacle – a trend that continued as Phish improvised out of “Saw It Again” into and ambient, “Guyute-laced” bridge into “Antelope.”

10.12.10 (S.Short)

I don’t know a how long its been since the band dropped an “Antelope” like they did last night. A song that had become predictable, always staying within its constraints, broke all boundaries in Utica as Phish took the jam into wide open, uncharted psychedelia. It sounded like we were safe and sound back in good ol’ 1995…but this was 2010! Phish is currently moving forwards and backwards simultaneously in some sort of time-space paradox, but it is happening right into front of our eyes – right now. Tearing apart “Antelope” like they haven’t in well over a decade, we were privileged to the set closer reestablish itself in full. When setbreak came people were fully freaking on the masterful nature of the opening frame, and there was nobody that disagreed. But if the audience was buzzing then, the second set caused a full on skull implosions for all in attendance.

10.12.10 (L.Hubbard)

“Drowned” ignited a fire in the second set as the palpable energy of the first half spilled right into the second set opener. The band engaged the audience with the uptempo piece as they set the table for quite the set of Phish. Pushing the thematic rock jam into a snarling percussive playground, the band carried a certain momentum through this jam, but as they were in full stride, Trey decided, coyly but abruptly, to change courses. But when that course leads into “Sand,” you’ll hear few gripes from me. Obviously liking what he heard in Charleston’s first set versions as much as we did, the band immediately inserted the song in the second set only two shows later. And boy did they give the groove vehicle the joyride last night, annihilating the rhythmic juggernaut in dynamic and diverse fashion. Boasting a subconscious communication throughout this jam, Phish brought a sweltering dance session to the already humid arena. Leading with confident and playful lead melodies, Red fully immersed himself in the the Mike and Fish’s thick pocket, creating a intense and jazzy feel to the driving piece.

A top notch “Theme” and a surprise “Axilla” set the table for an increasingly elusive “Birds of A Feather” that sparked the second half of the set. Each jam Phish dropped last night featured subliminally intricate interplay and was filled to the brim with dense ideas and high-speed collective improvisation. And “Birds” fit this description perfectly. After a short breath in “Tela,” Phish set up the sequence that sealed the deal in upstate New York. In a show defined by its unpredictability, when the band hit up another second set “Split,” they gave new meaning to the word.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Taking “Split” on a soul-searching odyssey, the band took the piece on a blissful escapade for the second straight time, but this one wound up quite differently than Broomfield’s highlight. Launched into the stratosphere with an ethereal jam that felt like floating through a fantasy, the music played the band as they took the piece on a spectacular ride landed quietly and unfinished in “Have Mercy.” (An extremely tactful use of The Mighty Diamonds cover as opposed to the last few times it has appeared.) The band surprised everyone as they moved out of roots vibe into another gorgeous piece of open jamming, begging the question if they would work their way back into “Split.” But with yet another curve ball, they gradually moved into the intro to another sonic jaunt, “Piper.”

Darting and dashing with lightening quickness the band progressed through several planes of torrid psychedelia as “Piper” provided an angular sprint through multiverses of sonic texture. Blowing out another wide open jam, the band found themselves organically landing in a “Birds Reprise” which they promptly out of back into the peak of “Split.” Combining mindfucking improv with setlist trickery, Phish found themselves in the show of life last night, living the moment and creating an musical adventure unseen this era. Capping the show in idyllic fashion with a slowly building “Slave,” Trey worked a melodic theme early in the jam which he toys with all the way to the top. After a particularly ripping “Good Times, Bad Times” encore, the show couldn’t have felt any more refreshing. Most stood soaking with sweat after the retro-futuristic Phish set, and nary has an entire crowd felt like that in ages. It really felt like it used to on the most intense nights, and it was a magic that had yet to be felt this era. Utica was, by any accounts of the overused descriptor, an epic Phish show.

Fall 2010

Perhaps these signature nights are best defined by the looks on fans’ faces after the show. As people spilled into the miniature town of Utica, eyes glowing and smiles gleaming, people mingled around the venue genuinely lost in vortex of what had just gone down. Every single person I spoke to after the show was on the same page; this shit brought this whole 3.0 era to the next level. It was hard to believe, but that show had really just happened. This fall, Phish is starting to revisit the contours of shows from decades ago, but with an increased collective skill level with which they are simply making their best music in eons. And each night it’s only getting better. As we hit the halfway point of tour, Fall 2010 is certainly living up to any expectations and moving right beyond them. Catch ‘em while you still can!

I: My Soul, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother > Cities, Guyute, David Bowie*^, Wilson*, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Saw It Again* > Run Like an Antelope*

II: Drowned > Sand > Theme From the Bottom, Axilla > Birds of a Feather, Tela, Split Open and Melt > Have Mercy > Piper > Birds Reprise > Split Open and Melt, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Good Times Bad Times

* w/ “Guyute” quotes / teases, ^ with “Wilson” interludes

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What Happened To The West?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on May 4th, 2010 by Mr.Miner

The Gorge '09 (W.Rogell)

While some fans are willing to travel to the end of the earth to see Phish – from Copenhagen to Tokyo and Telluride to Prague – many simply can’t make these treks due to life circumstances and responsibilities. As Phish 3.0′s second year begins to unfold, Phish fans on the west coast are still left wondering why the band refuses to come their way, playing virtually no shows on the west coast and southwest since their return. While west coast swings used to be hallowed summer traditions, providing the most gorgeous drives of the tour, the band’s overwhelming focus on the eastern seaboard has left many Phish-less fans on the left coast out in cold.

Using this summer as an example, the only shows west of the Rocky Mountains are the three at The Greek, and everyone knows how hard those tickets have been to come by. Last summer, Phish graced the west coast for exactly the same amount of shows – one at Shoreline and two at The Gorge – and then returned for Festival 8, for a grand total of 6 out of 50 shows. While Phish hails from the east coast and have a concentration of fans, friends, and families there, they have seemingly forgot how many people long for them to come westward. Or maybe they just don’t care.

In Phish’s previous eras, the west coast always comprised an integral part of the summer circuit. Some of the venues changed and others stayed the same, but west coast Phish always provided one of the best segments of tour with notably laid-back atmospheres, less crowds, and stellar weather. A far cry from the overrun amphitheatres of the east, Phish’s music adjusted to the calmer settings, often taking a different direction than east coast jams. Thus far in this era, however, unless a west coast fan lives in the Bay Area, outside LA, or in rural Washington, they haven’t even been able make a reasonable drive to a Phish show.

Phish’s current family-based touring model must play a role in their lack of desire to travel far for shows. Only selecting the most choice venues, west coast shows are now reserved for “special events,” neglecting many fans across the region. With limited vacation days, a less-than-ideal economy, and more mature responsibilities, many core Phish fans can’t just drop things and fly across the country for a week; it’s no longer as feasible as it was ten years ago. Just as the band has changed and matured, so has their primary fan base, and one would think their routing would reflect this understanding.

Coors Amphitheatre - Chula Vista, CA

Throughout the modern era of Phish, the band has chosen venues and tour schedules according to their own desires, leaving fans to figure out ways to navigate smaller shows and harder tickets. In this golden age of their career, it seems that Phish will do what makes them happiest without caring about ease of access to shows or tickets, and they have certainly earned that right. Unfortunately, the lack of west coast shows fits right into this pattern, like it or not.

With an over-saturation of east coast gigs this summer, sixteen shows have, ironically, yet to sell out. Staple venues like Deer Creek, SPAC, Walnut Creek and Camden still have tickets on sale. Other shows with stubs still up for grabs include both Hartford dates, Charlotte, Blossom, and Chicago. And the reasoning is hardly a mystery. Without an expanding fan base at this point, Phish, largely, has a “set” number of fans who want to see them play. With so many opportunities within short drives for most fans on the east coast, many of these shows are not selling out because people are picking and choosing what shows to hit. With an aging demographic and no younger generation to fill in the holes, less Phish fans than ever are doing the entire tour – or even extended runs. With most fans seeing less shows in total, more tickets are left available.

Out West, Fall '95

Logic would have it that less shows in one area would cause them all to sell out, but by scheduling multiple two-night stands within a couple hours of each other every weekend, most fans don’t have the capacity – or need – to hit each one. I don’t think that there are less people trying to see Phish, but the same number are spread out over 16 eastern shows. If Phish cut that number to 10, I bet most tickets would be gone. We can theorize all day, but when it comes down to it, I don’t think Phish or Red Light much cares what we think. Phish paid their dues, playing every village, town, and city throughout the 80′s and 90′s, and this is their time to schedule their lives out of convenience, not necessity. They have their fans, they have their money, why do they need to play where they don’t want to play? I can certainly see their side of the coin.

Though Phish will only play three west coast shows this summer, rumors have started to swirl about a Fall run down the coast. I don’t have specifics, but we shall see. Murmurs of Indio being rescheduled for Halloween weekend have also surfaced, potentially coinciding with such a western swing. With west cost weather holding strong through the autumn months, an eventful run could be in the works; one can only hope. West coast Phish not only offers locals a chance to see shows without boarding a plane, it also provides a totally diverse live experience for those fans traveling from other parts of the country, balancing the clusterfucks of the east.

Portland '98

Hopefully, Phish will escape from the vortex of Verizon Wireless venues of the east, and figure out a way to unveil more western dates before the year is up; but without any real incentive, west coasters shouldn’t hold their breaths. For the time being, west coast fans will have to live with quality over quantity, as some of last year’s most stellar shows took place at The Gorge and Red Rocks, and this summer the band will hit up the Greek and Telluride. (Though let’s not pretend that Colorado is a west coast state.) With their roots firmly planted on the east coast, it remains to be seen how geographically diverse modern tours will become. But for now, west coasters, score those Greek tickets, keep your luggage accessible, and save those frequent flier miles, because who knows when Phish will be back on the left coast.

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Jam of the Day:

Wolfman’s > 2001” 7.24.98 II

The highlight of today’s Download of the Day.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

7.24.98 Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands, TX SBD < Megaupload

7.24.98 Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands, TX SBD < Torrent

Mitchell Pavilion @ The Woodlands

A dark-horse show from outside of Houston, along the Texas run of Summer ’98.

I: The Moma Dance, Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, My Soul, Taste, Golgi Apparatus, Loving Cup

II: Wolfman’s Brother > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Scent of a Mule > Ha Ha Ha > Scent of a Mule, Slave to the Traffic Light, Chalk Dust Torture

E: Character Zero

Source: SBD

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Hampton ’09: A Retrospective

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on March 4th, 2010 by Mr.Miner

3.8.09 - Hampton (Unknown)

As 2010 has quietly crept into March, this coming weekend represents the one year anniversary of Phish’s Hampton reunion. The dates of March 6, 7, and 8, 2009, will live forever in Phish history as the time things came back together again, for the second time. Reunited for the first time in five years in their adopted home of Hampton Coliseum, one of the live music’s most intimate arenas, everything we once loved sprang to life again. Unlike the lackluster comeback run over 2002-2003, these shows translated far better, and were much more focused and precise. Both the band and the crowd had the venue bursting at the seams with palpable energy. Hampton’s three-night showcase served as the perfect lauchpad for 2009. And when the opening notes of “Fluffhead” creaked out of the rafters of The Mothership, we were on our way home again.

Over the three-part dream, Phish played for nearly ten hours, running through no less than 84 songs of their notoriously vast catalog. From the very beginning of 2009, beginning with “Fluffhead,” and “Divided Sky,” one sensed things would be different this time around. Focused far more on composition and precision than jamming, the band got back to basics at Hampton, a trend that characterized the entire year for Phish. Without getting too crazy or improvisational, Hampton set up the rest of 2009, just as 2009 set up 2010; both periods representing building blocks towards high-level musical proficiency without too many risks. In essence, one can see the Hampton reunion as microcosm of 2009, a lot of structured playing leading to more adventure by the end.

Hampton (J.Volckhausen)

But more than any other shows in 2009, Hampton carried the vibe of a Phish recital. After a five year absence, every time the band played another song, whether “Guelah Papyrus” or “Tweezer,” it felt like we were being reacquainted to an old friend. This feeling resonated with everybody in the building, creating one of the purest vibes of any Phish show in memory. Everyone there knew exactly why they had made the trip, and everywhere you looked there was another friend, many you hadn’t seen in half a decade. In the end, Hampton felt like one big family reunion.

Hampton literally brought back that indescribable feeling I’d forgotten. Sure, I had memories to last a lifetime, but memories, however strong don’t recreate that special feeling inside of you. And when Phish dropped the opening licks of “Tweezer” in the second set of their comeback show, that feeling flooded my soul like Victoria Falls. My heart felt like it would pound right out my chest – it was all happening again – five years later, we were living and breathing “Tweezer” again! That tangible cocktail of adrenaline with a splash of bliss rushed up from the toes, through the heart, and spiked right into the brain. It was heaven on earth; we were finally at a Phish show again.

Hampton (M. Yates)

And throughout the weekend, the shows couldn’t have provided more fun and exaltation, regardless of the tame musical quality in retrospect. Phish played, and nothing else mattered. Clearly rehearsed and polished, the band played with a certain urgency and energy that was often lacking in the post-hiatus years, providing a feeling of musical purity many fans hadn’t felt in a long time. It didn’t matter that the music wasn’t adventurous, that’s not what Hampton was about. Hampton ’09 celebrated all that Phish once was, an unheralded legacy in modern rock and roll. A massive “Welcome Back” for the band and fans alike, and just hearing live Phish at all provided all the magic anyone needed. But by the third night, the band grew more comfortable and threw down quite an impressive show, including the one truly memorable jam of the weekend, “Down With Disease.”

And within one year, look how far we’ve come. As we enter 2010 on the heels of a spectacular New Years’ Run, the band, themselves have begun talking about reinventing Phish. In an interview with The Dartmouth Independent, on the brink of his solo tour, Mike prognosticated on Phish’s future:

Eventually, I think the idea is not just to keep playing old songs but really for Phish to reinvent ourselves just like we’re trying to reinvent the other aspects of our careers and find the uncharted territory. There’s been talk about trying to find ways to record differently than we have before and write differently, so that’s what excites me – the different possibilities.

With statements like these, it seems like Mike and the boys may be ready to enter that elusive “next phase” of their career we’ve been hypothesizing about. Phish have reinvented their sound multiple times throughout their career, continually changing their focus and direction, always shifting their way into uncharted territory. This quotation from Gordon all but confirms the theory that 2009 was but a building block for all that is to come. What excites Mike, and likely the rest of the band, is the same things that excite us – “the different possibilities.”

Hampton (Unknown)

A year ago, the heavens opened and brought back our dreamland; Gamehendge made a leap from our collective consciousness back into reality, all within one magical weekend. The music is all relative at this point, because what I remember more than anything is the energy, the feelings, and the emotions. I remember the faces, the friends, and the elation. Once I think about the shows, I recall what went down, but that weekend was far bigger than the music. Hampton brought a community back together; a community that had been dispersed for five years; a community united by the power of Phish. When I think of the music, I remember its tight and precise quality more than specifics themselves, as any musical achievements that took place in Hampton would soon be eclipsed in June. But everyone was surprised at how together they sounded, despite their well-publicized rehearsals, especially juxtaposed with our last memories from Coventry. The weekend became nothing short of enchanted, with nary a negative atom in the air. And after the third night, while walking back to the hotel, I glanced over my shoulder to the glowing panels of the retro space-aged coliseum, thinking, “So this is where it all begins again.” And so it did.

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Jam of the Day:

Down With Disease > Seven Below ” 3.8.09 II

The jam of Hampton’s reunion weekend.

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Hampton (Photo: Jeff Kravitz / insidecelebpics)

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

2.4.93 Providence Performing Arts Center, Providence, RI < Megaupload

Colorado '93 Poster

The second show of ’93 goes out via reader request to Jack G. Check it out. Included is the debut of “Sample In a Jar.” My desktop has gone from infected to fuct, so not torrents today. (Keep your torrents seeding as much as possible for the next couple days, as my computer won’t be seeding anything for a second.)

I. Axilla, Foam, Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Fast Enough for You, All Things Reconsidered, Stash, The Lizards, Sample in a Jar*, Glide, Run Like an Antelope

II: Chalk Dust Torture, The Wedge, Mike’s Song > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into YesterdayWeekapaug Groove, Lawn Boy, Uncle Pen, Big Ball Jam, Hold Your Head Up > Lengthwise > Hold Your Head Up, Harry Hood, Cavern >

E: Amazing Grace**, Good Times Bad Times

*Debut

** w/o microphones

Source: AKG 451

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2009: The Year That Was

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 12th, 2010 by Mr.Miner

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

Phish blazed quite the comeback trail in 2009. Beginning in early March and finishing on New Year’s Eve, the band played 50 shows as they marched their way back to prominence. As the months passed, Phish grew more and more comfortable with each other, enhancing their precision and improvisational chops along the way. Despite a few setbacks, 2009 represented a steep upwards curve for Phish 3.0, and will provide a solid musical foundation as they step into the future of Summer 2010. But before getting ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look back at the Phish’s comeback of 2009.

*****

Hampton: 3.6-3.8

3.8.09 - Hampton (Unknown)

The Reunion  – one of the most dreamlike Phish experiences anyone there has ever had. Out of five years of silence, the band stepped onstage with the magical notes of “Fluffhead.” Sending a message of musical dedication right away, the band started this era with the complex composition that eluded their post-hiatus years. In a marathon weekend of music, The Mothership overflowed with energy for over three hours every night. These shows carried the feel of a recital; a welcome back to the world of Phish as they ran through 84 songs in six sets. Culminating the three-nights with their first earnest jam of the new era, Hampton’s “Down With Disease” still holds up on tape when listening back to this magical weekend.

Shows: 3

Can’t Miss Jams: “Down With Disease”

*****

Summer Tour -  Leg I: 5.31 – 6.21

Jones Beach (W.Rogell)

Spanning 15 shows over three weeks, Phish hit the road for the first time in over five years. Moving from the northeast, through the mid-south, and up the Midwest, the band stayed out for three full weeks . Kicking off their touring season with Fenway Park’s stadium spectacle, things began to slide into full swing again. After some spotty performances at Jones Beach and Great Woods, the band finally clicked in Camden on June 7, for their first great show of the modern era, and, perhaps, the most outstanding night of tour. Taking this momentum on the road south, the band played solid stops in Asheville and Knoxville before stepping onto the biggest stage of the year at Bonnaroo. Over the course of two shows, Phish introduced the mainstream masses to their style, and with one of the strongest shows of the summer on June 14, Phish left no doubt who ruled the weekend in Manchester, TN.

After a much-hyped, but underwhelming show at St. Louis’ Fox Theatre, Phish finished up their first leg of summer by visiting their old haunts of Star Lake, Deer Creek, and Alpine Valley. The gem of these nights became the start-to finish, lightening-interrupted escapade in the cornfields of Indiana. Juxtaposed to the the all-too-common, linear rock jamming that characterized this tour, Deer Creek felt like a revelation with far more musical adventure. The final set at Alpine also provided a glimpse of some enhanced improvisation.

Shows: 15

Standouts: 6.7 Camden, 6.14 Bonnaroo, 6.19 Deer Creek, 6.21 Alpine Valley

Can’t Miss Jams: 6.2 “Hood,” 6.4 “Ghost,” 6.7 “Fee,” “Sand,” Tweezer,” 6.9 “Ghost,” 6.12 “Kill Devil Falls,” 6.14 “Rock and Roll > Light,” 6.19 “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Drowned > Twist,” “Tweezer > 2001,” 6.21 “Crosseyed > Disease,” “Piper”

*****

Summer Tour -  Leg II: 7.30 – 8.16

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Phish showed up at Red Rocks as a completely different band than we left in Alpine Valley. Perhaps due to their surroundings, or perhaps due to a transformative five weeks off, Phish played far more confidently and relaxed, quickly trumping anything from June with their June 31 performance. Over these four nights, Phish reinvented themselves from early-summer, taking musical risks and daring excursions all over the place. As fun as any four nights in memory, Red Rocks ’09 will live on forever; if for nothing else but its immortal “Tweezer.”

Stopping for one show at Shoreline, Phish headed up to the Gorge for their most impressive two shows of the summer. Inspired by the vast natural landscape, Phish engaged in frequent and successful open jamming over these nights, crafting some of the year’s most indelible moments. Taking things eastward, the band’s  improvisation seemed tone down and tail off. Usually kicking down one or two jams per show, this east coast shows didn’t hold the same wide-open feel as those out west, and people could tell. The high point of this east coast swing became the Phishy night at Hartford, strewn with bust-outs, whole-band improv, and an homage to “Icculus.” The spirit lived on!

Shows: 12

Standouts: 7.31 Red Rocks, 8.1 Red Rocks, 8.7 Gorge, 8.8 Gorge, 8.14 Hartford

Can’t Miss Jams: Red Rocks: “Ghost > Wolfmans,” 7.31 “Split Open and Melt” and all of Set II, 8.1 “Rock and Roll > Disease,” 8.5 “Disease,” 8.7 “Sneakin Sally,” “Light,” “Bathtub Gin > Hood,” 8.8 “Rock and Roll,” 8.11 “Number Line > Carini > Jibboo,” 8.13 “Drowned,” 8.14 “Disease > Wilson > Slave,” “Ghost > Psycho Killer,” 8.15 “46 Days,” 8.16 “Number Line”

*****

Festival 8, Indio, CA 10.30 – 11.1

Festival 8 Pollock

Combining two of their most hallowed traditions, Phish threw a laid-back, hassle free, three-day Halloween festival. The diametric opposite of those magical cluster-fucks of lore, everyone had easy access to the Polo Grounds and the lavish resorts of Palm Springs. The stunning “Exile” set highlighted three blissful days of the sunshine, while Phish’s noontime acoustic set met with rave reviews. Indio brought so much joy to all, that rumors are already circulating about the band’s return to the west coast site this fall

Shows: 3

Can’t Miss Jams: 10.30 “Wolfman’s > Piper,” 10.31 The Exile Set, “Ghost,” “YEM,” “Suzie,”11.1 The Acoustic Set, “Tweezer > Maze,” “Mike’s > 2001 > Light > Slave”

*****

Fall Tour: 11.18 – 12.5

MSG (G.Lucas)

Stepping inside for their first fall tour since 2000, and their first all-indoor arena tour since February 2003, the band took a little while to get things going. Playing incredibly high-energy shows that featured only one or two legitimate pieces of improv per night, some began to wonder if Phish was satisfied putting on well-polished arena rock shows. Then Albany happened. On November 28, the band’s rediscovered their exploratory spirit, dropping 50 minutes of straight improv, riding their magic carpet far above any any previous heights of 2009 with “Seven Below > Ghost.”

Taking this momentum through the end of the tour, more risk-taking continued in spurts through Maine, MSG and Charlottesville, highlighted by three interstellar quests stemming from “Light,” two of which are no-brainer tour highlights. “Piper” finished off a standout regular season with particularly strong outings in New York and Virginia. Over the second half of fall, Phish had gained a musical head of steam, and Miami looked to be a blowout.

Shows: 13

Standouts: 11.20 Cincinnati, 11.24 Philadelphia, 11.28 Albany, 12.3 MSG, 12.5 Charlottesville

Can’t Miss Jams: 11.18 “46 Days, “Disease > Free,” 11.20 “Tweezer > Light,” “YEM,” 11.21 “Split,” “Rock and Roll > Ghost,” 11.22 “Drowned,”11.24 “Disease,” 11.25 “Birds,” 11.27 “Piper > Tomorrow’s Song,” “11.28 “Seven Below > Ghost,” 11.29 “Undermind,” 12.2 “Light > Slave,” 12.3 “Disease > Piper,” 12.4 “Seven Below,” “YEM,” 12.5 “Tweezer > Light > Piper”

*****

New Year’s Run, Miami, FL: 12-28 – 12.31

12.31.09 (W.Rogell)

What more can be said? Phish capped their comeback with their most impressive and spirited shows of the year. For detailed accounts, check out last week’s posts!

Shows: 4

Can’t Miss Jams: 12.28 “Stash,” “Hood,” 12.29 all of Set II, 12.30 “Get Back On the Train,” 12.31 “Rock and Roll > Piper,” “Ghost > NO2″

*****

2009 Regular Season Awards

Type II Jam Vehicles – First Team: “Down With Disease,” “Piper,” “Rock and Roll,” “Tweezer,” “Ghost”

Type II Sixth Man of the Year: “Drowned”

Type I Jam Vehicles – First Team: “Wolfman’s,” “Harry Hood,” “Jibboo,” “Stash,” “Slave”

Type I Sixth Man of the Year: “Bathtub Gin”

All-Rookie Team: “Light,” “Number Line,” “Ocelot,” Stealing Time,” “Joy”

Rookie of the Year: “Light”

Comeback Player of the Year: “Fluffhead”

Most Improved Player of the Year: “Harry Hood”

Bust Out of the Year : “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” 5.31 (8.2.93 – 625 shows) (discounting “Mustang Sally” and “How High the Moon”)

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Jam of the Day:

Tweezer > Fluffhead” 8.1.98 II

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One of the greatest “Tweezers” of the late ’90s.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

11.23.96 Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, BC < Torrent

11.23.96 Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, BC < Megaupload

Pacific Coliseum - Vancouver

Pacific Coliseum - Vancouver

Let’s start rolling out the readers’ requests! This one hails from the Pacific Northwest on the home stretch of an all-important fall tour.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, Cars Trucks Buses, The Divided Sky, Punch You In the Eye, Midnight on the Highway*, Split Open and Melt, Rift, Funky Bitch

II.  The Curtain > Mike’s Song  > Simple > Makisupa Policeman** > Axilla > Weekapaug Groove > Catapult, Waste, Amazing Grace, Harry Hood

E: Good Times Bad Times

*debut, cover
**“Woke up this morning, border guard in my bunk, turned the fucking dog on the bus, and found my dank.”

Notes: This show included the first Phish performance of “Midnight on the Highway,” which was learned while the band was stopped at the American/Canadian border.

Source: Unknown

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