A Bundle of Joy

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 4th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

Centered on a holy excursion in “Rock and Roll,” Saturday night’s show in San Francisco was otherwise comprised of feel-good songs with a straight forward flow. But when the band annihilates an all-timer to kick off the second set, the rest of the night truly becomes gravy. After the opening sequence of set two, however, the band dropped “Number Line” and never looked back, riding through the desert on a horse with no jams. The guys did, though, close the night with a bang, unleashing a monster “Slave to the Traffic Light” to cap a summer of spectacular versions. All in all, however, Phish made me eat words of yesterday, as Saturday night’s two-setter paled in comparison to Friday night’s lights.

8/3 Official (T. Stout)

8/3 Official (T. Stout)

But holy crow that “Rock and Roll!” Taking a back seat to only Tahoe’s “Tweezer,” Bill Graham’s “Rock and Roll” now stands as my second best jam of summer, and—easily—the best jam played in five BGCA shows. Scaling ludicrous spiritual heights via sublime whole-band voyaging, Phish scripted a cosmic rite that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. This was one of those jams that is hard to believe in real-time and sounds even better on listen back; “an instant classic of magnificent proportions. Purposeful, transcendent, and completely realized, fire up this second set opener as soon as possible and bask in the glory of Phish 2013.

When the band segued into “Steam,” it felt like the beginnings of a prime-time set of Phish, and when they tacked on a gooey funk jam on the back end of the song, things seemed primed to get wild. But then came the dreaded second-set “Number Line,” killing the flow of the set as if the band were clubbing baby seals on stage. This brutal vibe crusher took the psychedelia right out of the night and set show on course for a Saturday Night Special. Having bucked their trend of straight forward Saturday nighters with their best set of tour at the Gorge last week, Phish came back to earth last night, delivering a back two thirds of the set that really went nowhere. As much fun as I had all night long, once the band switched into jukebox mode, the music lacked any grit or direction.

8.2.13 (G.Lucas)

8.2.13 (G.Lucas)

Placing a classic “Mike’s > Hydrogren > Weekapaug” square in the middle of the set was a sign of how things would unfold last night, despite a standout “Mike’s Song.” Trey took a back seat to Mike’s lead as the jam dropped—a move he would mimic in “Slave”—creating a sinister groove that built a head of steam before Red swooped in to sculpt a scorching solo. “Weekapaug” didn’t pop as usual and the there was a lot of fluff before “Slave.” Honestly, though, this “Slave” was drenched in creativity from the get go and is a must-hear version.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to report on the improvisational front. Despite bustouts of “Alumni Blues” and “Lengthwise,” the first set dragged—especially through the impossibly slow segment of “Sample,” “NICU,” “Mound,” “Jesus Left Chicago” and “Driver.” Only to follow up songs later with “Bug” and “Possum.” Oy.

It now looks like Sunday night will be the keeper of this run much like last year’s Bill Graham extravaganza. Toning things down a notch from the monster sets of The Gorge and Tahoe, Phish has put on some tasteful shows in the Bay, but far from the seamless, exploratory beasts that some were expecting. With all sorts of launch pads still on the table for tonight, however, the second set could look like—“Crosseyed -> Light -> Piper -> Velvet Sea, David Bowie.” We shall see. Two more nights of this wild ride until a few weeks off. Enjoy every moment. And god damn, play that “Rock and Roll” loud and proud!

I: Grind, Weigh, Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues, Lengthwise -> Maze, Sample in a Jar, NICU, Mound, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Driver, Timber (Jerry), Axilla, Bug, Possum, First Tube

II: Rock and Roll > Steam > Backwards Down the Number Line, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Joy, Fluffhead, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Waste, Suzy Greenberg

8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

8.2.13 (Graham Lucas)

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Where Dreams Can Take Flight

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 3rd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

Improvising with a liquid fluidity while crafting a totally unique setlist, Phish dropped a high-quality, first-set heavy performance at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Friday Night to kick off tour’s final four-night run. Two outstanding excursions in “Down With Disease” and “Seven Below” anchored the second set, though the first set possessed a more fluid contour and better start to finish consistency in song choice. The band has reached a level of playing where everything seems effortless, and their level of communication is at a level we’ve never seen before. Since the Gorge, their reaction time has been negligible whereas someone need only suggest an idea and the other three members are on it immediately—inhuman skills that only come after thirty years of jamming together. Whether amidst a 37 minute “Tweezer” or second-set “Farmhouse,” the band’s attention to detail and intent to bring new ideas to the table is undeniable, and the result is nothing but the best Phish we’ve ever heard.

BGCA (AJ Masthay)

BGCA (AJ Masthay)

Bursting out of the gates in their first San Francisco set, Phish stoked an early fire with a rare “Free” opener and then with “Meat,” they started rolling out the rarities—but unlike in the past few years, the guys really got into things in each and every piece. “Vultures” popped with energy and precise interplay; Trey evoked the spirit of Jerry Garcia, one day after his birthday, in a cerebral, standout “Roggae;” the first “Sand” since Holmdel got into a jazz-fusion groove; “Mike’s rarity “Babylon Baby” added spice to an already kicked up scene; and the band finally slayed “Halfway the Moon” with improvisational beef. Basically, any guitar solo Trey takes these days—in any song—seems to have a thoughtful roadmap, adding infinite amounts of artistry to shows where wankery recently dominated.

The gem of the opening frame, however, was “Reba,” whose jam possessed a driving tempo, kicked up a notch by Jon Fishman. In this era, “Reba” jams have been lackluster, while generally characterizable as noodly, mellow and uninspired, but throw any jam into 2013 and things get serious! It felt like heaven to dance to a fast, purposeful “Reba” jam last night. This version sounds like a throwback to an earlier year but with a modern smoothness. If you’re reading this in the morning, start your Saturday with this “Reba”—you’ll be glad you did.

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

8.2.13 (Jeremy Renda)

The centerpieces of the second set—“Disease and Seven Below”—possessed vastly different jamscapes, but each popped original ideas and liquid fluidity. “Disease’s” jam contained thematic fallout from the Tahoe “Tweezer,” especially from Page who suggested a main piano melody from the epic piece. The band’s jamming was just as wide open and smooth as well, illustrating a comfort and confidence that could only come with three decades of playing. The level the band has reached at this point—in my opinion—is untouchable. They are simply better than ever. One may prefer a different style or era, but the band is peaking. Not for 3.0—for their career.

In fact, Phish is playing so well that they can control the entire room with “Prince Caspian” and “Farmhouse” in the two and thee slots of the second set. Though less than 1% of fans would have written this setlist, 99% of the audience was focused and engaged throughout the mellow, entrancing segment. Both versions stood out immediately, as Trey held a near minute-long note in tour’s first “Caspian,” while the entire band gave “Farmhouse” the patient, royal treatment.

The second main dish of the set—and the jam of the show—came unexpectedly in “Seven Below.” Migrating from the song’s thematic jam into a robotic, quasi-plinko realm, Phish then swam into segment of percussion-laced improv that carried over the deliberate breaks of Tahoe’s “Tweezer, ”though this time, the crowd’s “Woos”—a forced recurrence throughout the night—felt a bit contrived. When the guys dove back into the fray, however, the music took on a heavy, groovier feel, remaining that way for the duration. Another standout in a mind-bending list of Summer ’13 jams.

8.2.13 (Brian Thomas)

8.2.13 (Brian Thomas)

The show kind of took a setlist nosedive from here. An inspired “Harry Hood” weighted the final quarter of the show, but despite a loose, jammy version of “Stealing Time,” the set undeniably fizzled. The unique setlist construction of last night’s show, however, continued through the “Walls of a Cave” encore, and for the second consecutive version, the jam showed hints of being cut loose.

I’d imagine that we’ll look back at Friday’s show as the “weakest” of the Bill Graham run, and it was by no means a weak show. On the contrary, it was quite good. But due the second set’s choppiness and lack of flow, the evening didn’t truly elevate in full. It felt like we were primed for a scorching second set after a ballistic first, but the band choose the mellow route while still kicking down plenty of Grade-A improvisational meat. What a joy to be indoors for three of Summer’s final four nights, and this run is just heating up.

I: Free, Meat, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > AC/DC Bag, Vultures, Roggae, Sand, When the Circus Comes, Babylon Baby, Reba, Halfway to the Moon, Golgi Apparatus

II: Punch You In the Eye > Down with Disease > Prince Caspian, Farmhouse, Seven Below, Theme From the Bottom, Harry Hood > Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Squirming Coil

E: Walls of the Cave

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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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A Mountain Groove

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 31st, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.26.13 (Eric Batuello)

7.26.13 (Eric Batuello)

Damn, that was fun! On an idyllic afternoon in Lake Tahoe, Phish greeted their California-based crowd to a dance throwdown unlike any other on tour. From the opening couplet of “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Gotta Jibboo” through the encore of “Weekapaug,” “Character Zero,” every note seemed scripted to the dancer in all of us, as one groove after another emanated from Harvey’s stage. On a tour filled with inclement weather, a sun-drenched California dance party on a flat asphalt parking lot really hit the spot. Rarely does Phish play a show that carries a single vibe all the way through, but Tuesday in Tahoe, that’s exactly what happened, and it was grand.

7/30 Official (J.Soto)

7/30 Official (J.Soto)

Both “Wolfman’s,” and the first “Jibboo” of tour extended into standout versions, an early sign that this was gonna’ be a groove-laced afternoon. A cleverly placed “Cavern” and a ripping “Birds” both provided first set surprises that kept the energy high. “Cities,” though not leaving its form, burst with a fresh feel courtesy of Jon Fishman. His rhythm brought an urgency and a snap to this version that made it standout immediately.

The highlight of a non-stop opening set, however, came in “Bathtub Gin.” Phish has infused “Gin” with a newfound energy this summer, and this version grew in a unique direction as the band totally deconstructed the jam before building it back into a glorious peak. Shying from a groove until the jam’s arrival, this “Gin” stylistically diverged from other versions of tour and absolutely shone. Phish took all of this energy and channeled it into the final pairing of the set—“Tube” and “Walk Away.” The band had not closed a set with “Walk Away” since 1991, so it certainly felt a bit odd as they took their bows following the James Gang cover. The first set had smoked from start to finish while channeling an infectious vibe—a vibe that would be picked up upon with the first notes of set two.

7.27.13 (E.Batuello)

7.27.13 (E.Batuello)

Without having respun the show, my narrative process is somewhat compromised, but my overall memory of that second set is an absolute fucking explosion. Every single piece of the set popped with extra zest, forming an incredible whole—another monstrous frame of music from our beloved Vermont quartet. “Golden Age”—likely the jam of the show—opened the main event with a smorgasbord of grooves and then promptly transcended them in a sublime segment free form music. The guys brought this one deep, finally attaining the caliber of jam we all knew could stem from this new era cover. It’s taken them a few years to really get comfortable with “Golden Age’s” jam, as they had seldom moved beyond a standard groove, but Tahoe’s version provided the type of soul-quenching journey for which I’d been waiting.

When the band blended into “46 Days,” a song that can get real generic real quick, I thought we were in for a rocking interlude. I was wrong. Going absolutely buck wild on an additional jam segment, Mike Gordon led a disgustingly crunchy funk session that brought the house to its knees. This was real-deal molasses thickness, the music that envelops you from every side as your superhuman self spins through eternity. Jiving completely with the contour of the night, the opening sequence of Golden Age > 46 Days” blossomed into an instant classic. And that was only the beginning.

7.26.13 (E.Batuello)

7.26.13 (Eric Batuello)

They say all good things come in threes, and—honestly—the trifecta of “Ghost > Carini > Piper” was nothing short of exhilarating. Forming a dynamic contour over three jams, each also popped with a creativity all their own. Though the band connected pieces with less than precise transitions throughout the set, that’s about the only persnickety gripe one can poke at an inspiring night of music. Laying into a groove-based “Ghost” jam like they haven’t this tour, the band let things hang out on their elusive vehicle in version that I can’t wait to hear again. If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, this set possessed a torrid flow and an energy that gripped the audience and simply never let go. So naturally, the next song was “Carini.” Blowing out the jam into an uplifting triumph, the band gave their sinister anthem the treatment—like just about every piece they touched last night.

7.20.13 (WCProductions)

7.20.13 (WCProductions)

The hits just kept coming as the band capped their three-jam sequence with a full-throttle, melody-driven “Piper” that brought things to a rolling boil. This set really, truly had it all.  “Ghost > Carini > Piper” provided a magnificent centerpiece to the main event, especially considering the caliber of jamming we had already heard in “Golden > 46.” I can only imagine the replay value of this entire set, let alone the show as there never was a single lull.

Exhaling, momentarily, with “Wading in a Velvet Sea”—again placed impeccably—the band played the only slow song of the night before igniting once more in an awesome closing couplet of “Mike’s Song” and “Slave.” I couldn’t put my finger on what song would close things out last night, and “Mike’s” provided a welcome surprise, not to mention the out of nowhere move into “Slave” when it felt like a “Hydrogen > Weekapaug” was already in the books. Dramatically closing the set with “Slave,” a move we hadn’t seen since Chicago, the band added a final curveball to the night as they left “Weekapaug” hanging for the first time in ages. But not for long.

A fantastic night of Phish concluded with a swift run through “Weekapaug” and—of course—with “Character Zero,” Trey’s Summer 2013 nod to a smoking night of music. Being in the mountains of California for Phish is glorious on its own merit, but when the band is crushing like they are currently, everything gets turned up a notch—or ten. The difference between where the band was the last time we stood in Harvey’s parking lot and where they are now is astounding, and every part of Lake Tahoe looks a bit more beautiful given the current circumstances. Nature, Phish and friends…what could be better?

Nothing in the universe.

I: Wolfman’s Brother, Gotta Jibboo, Cavern, Birds of a Feather, Funky Bitch, Cities, Rift, Bathtub Gin, Tube, Walk Away

II: Golden Age > 46 Days > Boogie On Reggae Woman > Ghost > Carini > Piper > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Mike’s Song > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero

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Glory at the Gorge

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 28th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

Playing their best show of the summer—including a flawless second set—Phish raised the bar for 2013 on Saturday night at the Gorge. With a patience and a fluidity that has come to define their efforts at the Gorge, the band wove a stunning non-stop tale after dark, thick with virtuoso jamming and on point musicianship. With Phish as on point at they are right now, the variable of their shows is set craftsmanship, and last night they hit the nail on the head, sculpting a defining frame of music with nary a note out of place. It is nights like last that we will tell stories about for years to come. It is nights like last that bring us back again and again. It is nights like last that live forever.

7/27 Official (DKNG)

7/27 Official (DKNG)

The band eased into the early evening with the first ever “Architect” opener, working so much better than we ever did expect, and fitting the mood congruently. Dropping the first “Golgi” of tour in a surprise slot, the band had crafted an unmistakably afternoon vibe in only two songs. Expounding on this vibe with “The Curtain With,” the band treated the audience to an afternoon delight with a wide open, very slow take on the “With” jam, the unquestionable highlight of the show’s opening half.

Phish veered from the beautiful tone they had set with the squealing intro to “Kill Devil Falls,” and though their playing remained sharp, all of a sudden the set got standard. There were, however, two aberrations, and one bodes incredibly well for the Phish universe. After “Roses,” the band played a bluesy Americana-sounding song that many assumed to a JJ Cale cover, as everyone expected the band to honor the late guitarist. But when a friend told me that it was a Gordon/Murawski original called “Say Something,” my ears tuned in on a whole different level. And before long the guys were knee deep in some dirty grooves, foreshadowing yet another new jam vehicle, this time of the Gordeaux vintage. The band’s tribute to Cale unfolded songs later in a blistering run through his classic, “After Midnight,” a cover with all sorts of Phishy implications. But the best was yet to come.

7.26.13 (John Crouch)

7.26.13 (J. Crouch)

With all of the heavy hitters on the table, the band chose to open the second set with “Down With Disease” for the second time in three shows—a seemingly odd move until I remembered that so many epic Phish tales begin with the classic spring board. Bouding to life with a creative narration, in retrospect—on respin—this “Disease” jam carried a rhythmic direction pointed towards “Undermind” from the get go. With no reason to consider this at the show, when listening back one can hear the band work towards “Undermind” for virtually the entire jam, creating one of the slickest segues of tour. Drenched in fresh ideas, and totally different from Toronto’s masterpiece, “Disease” opened the gateway to a mystical land.

If Friday night’s “Crosseyed” was one of the timeless jams we would leave the Gorge 2013 with in tow, last night’s “Undermind” was the other. As expected, when placed in the second set, this song was a lock for utter glory. Following up Dick’s 2012 all-timer (which actually closed the first set), last night’s second setter found the mountaintop and beyond in a one of the most profound jams of the season. Moving from the song’s playful rhythms and into soul-gripping music, the band rode Fishman’s celestial rhythms, elevating to catharsis and then stepping into the void with a spacescape that felt connected to the endless sky above. A dynamic jam that touched on so many musical elements of Phish, “Undermind” provided an improvisational centerpiece to the set, but the action was far from over.

7.22.13 (J.Silco)

7.22.13 (J.Silco)

The relentless flow continued with “Light,” an instant shot of adrenaline to any show—and we were already pretty damn high. Blasting into a tight-laced exploration, the band actually covered more ground than I remembered when I listened back, a certain case of musical density. And as the jam was chugging along, Trey initiated a back door segue into “Sneakin Sally,” a surprise move that blew the already imploded amphithetare to smithereens. But when then band dropped into the funk, things got pornographic. Kicking off a Gorge-sized dance party with a massive wah lick, Trey dug into his rhythmic playing and set things afire. It’s certainly great to be living in a world again where Trey wears t shirts on the regs and favors his wah pedal above just about all others. Yeah—life is good.

The best part about last night’s “Sally,” however, is that the guys didn’t stop at the funk, but transcended it with a driving, atmospheric passage of pure west coast Phish crack. This infectious segment morphed into a portal to “2001,” creating a dance pairing for the ages. Locking into the same groove they favored in Alpharetta’s version—a lick that emerged in last summer’s renditions—the band met their intergalactic surroundings with some music to match.

7.22.13 (J.Silco)

7.22.13 (J.Silco)

At this juncture, it was anyone’s guess as to what song would be next, and Trey collected from all bettors when he choose “Walls of the Cave.” The post hiatus song served as an introspective comedown from the monumental hour of music that had just unfolded, and just when you thought the band might play out some songs, they improvised out of the end of the “Walls” jam and segued into “Fluffhead!” Yup, it was that kind of night.

Once again placing their iconic composition in a perfect slot, it felt like they might let the feel-good anthem take us home. But surprisingly, they followed it up with a vigorous, open-air take on “Run Like an Antelope.” Boom. Punctuating, dare I say, a perfect set of Phish, this “Antelope” popped with both energy and creativity. On nights such as last, when the band bows in their post-show adulation, one can’t help but bow right back.

Whenever they are announced, it is all but assumed that Phish’s performances at the Gorge will be among the most special of summer. This year, however, these shows represent a new high water mark for the Vermont quartet as they begin their descent down the west coast for summer’s home stretch. Raising their game considerably from the Midwest, Phish has laid it on the line in the summer of their 30th year, and this final week should be something really special.

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

*debut

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The Great Northwest

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 27th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.26.13 The Gorge (John Crouch)

7.26.13 The Gorge (John Crouch)

There’s just no better place to see Phish than The Gorge. And judging by their music every time they step foot on the majestic stage, it’s one of the band’s favorite places to commune as well. Friday night provided another page in the amphitheatre’s storybook of legend, as Phish dropped a massive show, strewn with creativity from start to finish. Hitting the west coast like a well-oiled machine, the band dusted off several rarities, while crafting a fresh setlist for the largely fresh audience. The night, however, was centered on a monumental “Crosseyed and Painless” that threw its hat in the ring for jam of summer, while anchoring a fluid, hour-long second set sequence of dreamlike playing. Phish could do virtually no wrong in a smashing west coast debut.

7/26 Official (DKNG)

7/26 Official (DKNG)

You knew shit was on when “AC DC Bag” popped with creativity right off the bat, and when the guys followed it up with a dense “Timber” jam and wide-open “Wolfman’s Brother,” the ship had set sail for glory. The only routine stretch of the show followed in “Funky Bitch” “Wilson,” and “Possum,” but the rest of the opening half was pure gold. The trifecta of “Tube,” “Secret Smile” and “McGrupp” made for the most unique, and dare I say, sublime stretch of the set. Hearing “Secret Smile” for the first time since Indio’s acoustic set during sunset at the Gorge was one of the more special moments of tour. The haunting ballad fit congruently with the psychedelic environs, sparking a magical early-show moment.

Seeping out of “McGrupp,” the band brought “Curtis Loew” off the shelf at a poignant juncture before dropping into a skull-crushing “Split Open and Melt” to close things out. The guys have been nailing “Split” all summer long—something to write home about in itself—but last night’s had extra mustard, and fused with the open air sound of the Gorge, it made for quite the spectacular exclamation point on the best first set of summer tour. In fact, after the “Crosseyed,” this “Split” is the second-in-command jam of the show.

7.26.13 (J.Crouch)

7.26.13 (J.Crouch)

Whenever Phish comes to the Gorge, they leave with at least a couple jams that stand up to anything they’ve ever played and could have taken place nowhere else. Friday night’s “Crosseyed and Painless” was one of these jams. Spanning incredible amount of ground and getting very dark and experimental, this jam leapt off stage with a different energy than any recent piece. Often, in peak experiences, I remember nothing of detail until I respin the show and it all comes flooding back—note for note–like Niagara Falls, so I will reserve the play by play for another day, but damn this shit got real. And something weird happened at the end. Most people heard “Roggae” and some heard “Ocelot,” but it was pretty evident that the band was on the cusp of a slow, well-thought out transition. But just as it seemed like the segue would transpire, Trey bailed out of it for “Twist.” Peculiar to say the least.

Maintaing the wide-open, liquid feel to their improv, the following 40 minutes of “Twist > Steam > Waves > Twenty Years Later” carried an unparalleled flow with gentle segues and powerful playing. Each piece moved unfinished into the next, all boasting plenty of action. “Steam” featured the first non-whale drenched jam of its life, and the song sprang to life in a way many thought it would two years ago upon its debut. I remember waiting to hear the band drop “Steam” at the Gorge 2011, thinking it was a perfect match of setting and music, and lo and behold, two years later, that very premonition came to fruition. This entire sequence carried Gorge energy through and through, and will garner many respins in the near future.

"Wilson" 7.26 (J.Crouch)

“Wilson” 7.26 (J.Crouch)

“Mango” and “Bug” bridged the set to another ferocious “David Bowie.” With all of the phenomenal “Bowies” we have heard this tour, the band has resurrected one of the greatest jams in their catalog, a jam that had been left for dead as another casualty of the modern era. But, this summer, the band has made sure that “modern era” won’t forever be a moniker for watered down Phish.

The final piece of a wild evening took place in “Character Zero”, when Trey asked Kuroda to shut the lights so they could jam to the moon. Immediately, all four band members began howling as they rocked out the end of “Zero”—Trey’s current closer of choice for big time shows. Capping the night with a divine “Harry Hood,” that provided the yin to “Bowie’s” yang, Phish put their John Hancock on another special night in the northwest. And then they shredded “Fire” to bits as if taking a victory lap before releasing the hounds into the gorgeous summer night—another night that could have only happened at the Gorge.

I: AC/DC Bag > Timber Ho, Wolfman’s Brother, Funky Bitch, Happy Birthday to You*, Wilson > Possum, Tube, Secret Smile, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Split Open and Melt

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Twist > Steam > Waves -> Twenty Years Later > The Mango Song, Bug > David Bowie, Rocky Top > Character Zero

E: Harry Hood > Fire

*For Kuroda

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Look, The Storm’s Gone!

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 24th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

Phish closed a totally surreal, weather-tortured weekend in Chicago with a high energy throwdown on Sunday night centered on both music and antics. The second set encompassed all of the elements that make up Phish—to-die-for open jamming in “Energy > Ghost,” a Gamehendge composition in “Lizards,” a prank within a “Harpua” narration, and a smoking contained jam in “Antelope” to close things out. Following a mediocre performance on Saturday, Phish capped the insane three-night run with a signature performance in the Midway.

7/21 Official (R. Kelly)

7/21 Official (R. Kelly)

Playing their second version of “Energy” in four shows, the guys opened up the jam considerably beyond Alpharetta’s revelation, pointing clearly to the emergence of the next preeminent jam vehicle in the Phish universe. And what a jam it is, containing a little something for everyone. Starting off in a wah groove, “Energy’s” path contains infectious rhythms while giving way to wide open cathartic playing and eventually ending with a spiritually haunting voyage into ambient space. Opening up a new galaxy of improvisational possibility, “Energy” is the best thing to hit the rotation since “Light” debuted at Fenway Park in ’09. By the end of the summer—and two more versions that diverge from structure—we will be looking at the new jump off for fall tour.

At the conclusion of “Energy,” the band dissolved into “Ghost,” finally dropping the second version of tour that had been looming since Merriweather. In terms of adventure, there’s nothing quite like Phish merging two open jams like they did last night. Instead of reeling the audience back to earth with a “landing pad” song, they kept everyone in orbit while amping up the intensity of the show considerably. The band continued to dish out the goods in this rhythmically dynamic “Ghost,” passing through beautiful and intricate sections, and sounding like they might follow Mike’s lead into “Seven Below.” Trey, however, steered the jam into “Lizards,” capping the opening triumvirate with the Gamehendge classic. And then things got silly.

7.22.13 (J.Silco)

7.22.13 (J.Silco)

With all of the crazy rain storms that have plagued Phish tour this summer, fans have been expecting to hear “Harpua,” with its iconic line “Look, the storm’s gone!,” for quite some time now. But Phish waited for the absolute perfect place to drop their elusive tale. Sunday night’s first set had to be cut short due to a torrential downpour over the city, and most fans waited it out in the unbelievable conditions. But believe it or not, deep into an extended setbreak, things started to clear up! Thus, when the “Oom Pah Pahs” signaled the first “Harpua” in two years, the place absolutely went bonkers.

And then came the prank. The band had planted actors in the crowd to look like fans, so when called up on stage during “Harpua’s” narration, everyone—for at least a bit—thought some fans were having a dream come true. The Second City troupe went on to tell Trey that they had actually been there for the Harpua versus Poster Nutbag fight, and that Trey had been telling the story wrong. At this point, I thought Trey had found the most tripped out fans on lot, but in the end the actors and the band had prepared an entire comedy act that provided a brief mindfuck at the same time.

7.20.13 (WCProductions)

7.20.13 (WCProductions)

The skit was funny and when the band brought back the “Harpua” music, fans began anticipating what might come next in this monster set. But then Trey passed the mic to Gordon. Launching into a second “Harpua” story, Mike wove a genuinely funny tale, but now the audience had been standing around for almost twenty minutes in the middle of the second set and things started to drag. When the guys finally wrapped up the sought after rarity, the crowd roared and the band responded with a second go at “Antelope” after the rains put the kibosh on the first set closer. Coming full circle in another smoking contained jam, the band sealed their most complete Chicago show with their favorite set closer of the summer.

Years from now, when fans think back on Northerly Island 2013 the predominant memories will surround the unprecedented weather that bombarded the shows for three days straight. Filled with enough moments over the first two to make them complete, the Friday and Saturday’s Northerly Island performances, were—creatively speaking—a step below the rest of tour. But on Sunday night in Chicago, the band bounced back with a vengeance in a memorable show that nobody in attendance will ever forget.

First Set Notes: The strongest first set of Chicago opened with the bust out of “Dinner and a Movie,” while containing superb versions of “Maze” and “Bathtub Gin.” These two pieces of improve—specifically “Gin”—anchored the set while high energy selections and sharp playing, less “Mound,” filled it out.

I: Dinner and a Movie, AC/DC Bag > Maze, Mound, Funky Bitch, Bathtub Gin, Wilson, Water in the Sky, Boogie On Reggae Woman,  Run Like an Antelope*

II: Energy > Ghost -> The Lizards, Harpua, Run Like an Antelope

E: Character Zero

*rains came and the band was forced off stage

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

7.22.13 (Jake Silco)

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Maple Leaf Lovin’

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 23rd, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.7.13 (Jake Silco)

7.7.13 (Jake Silco)

On a hotly anticipated night north of the border, Phish added a monumental piece to their Pantheon of Summer 2013 jams in Toronto’s “Down With Disease,” while supporting the centerpiece with a thrilling “David Bowie” and two fun and energetic sets of music. Finally playing a dry show in a truly summer environment, the band and crowd rejoiced amidst a cool Canadian evening at Molson Amphitheatre. With the band playing a rescheduled date from July 9’s postponement, even some of the most hardcore and familiar faces on tour were absent from the scene as Phish bombarded Toronto with their most complete show of the weekend.

7/22 Official (P.Hamou)

7/22 Official (P.Hamou)

The guys got right to business with a one-two punch of “Moma Dance” and “Chalk Dust,” reversing the usual order of the show opening couplet. Then out came “Undermind” for the first time since Dick’s. Though the band remained within the musical confines of the song, it sounded so damn good to hear one of the their countless amazing songs that have been left for dead this tour. Even in an out-of-the-way show in Toronto, the band stuck to their minuscule summer rotation that has quickly become a bit of a joke. But song choices aside, the energy exchanged between the band and their undersized audience was off the charts for the duration of both sets—and that a crucial aspect to an amazing night with Phish.

The highlight of the opening half came in a sunset rendition of “Stash.” Trey’s chops are so on point right now that every jam sounds interesting, whether contained or open. His uber-proficient chops graced so many ferocious “type I” jams over the rain-soaked Chicago weekend, and they took over this “Stash” as well. When Trey fires out creative melodies and licks, it raises the game of his bandmates as they must match their own creativity to jive with him—and vice versa. But never has this rang so true in the modern era as Summer 2013, where contained jams like “Stash” “Mike’s Song” “Bathtub Gin” and “David Bowie” pop with psychedelic contours. This is an element of the Phish of old that has rejuvenated considerably this tour.

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

7.14.13 (Andrea Nusinov)

But as fierce as the band’s structured jams are right now, when they let loose and unabashedly dive into the abyss this tour, they have created jams that stand up to anything in their career. Examples are SPAC’s “Light,” PNC’s “Crosseyed,” Jones Beach’s second set, and now Toronto’s “Down With Disease.” In this refined conversation of the most virtuosic degree, the band showcased why there is no possibility of comparing them to any act in the history of live music. No band manipulates music as if Play-Doh like Phish, and this set opening “Disease” is a case in point. Soaring into the most uplifting music of tour, the band reached a holy plane—and stayed there for what seemed like an eternity, spinning into a cyclone of bliss. This is the real deal, folks. This “Disease” reaches a place we dream of jam’s attaining, and the band didn’t rush out—in fact, quite the opposite. As if they had discovered a new planet, the guys extensively explored this sacred ground, one graceful note at a time, and the result was staggering.

When the band finally reached the end of this incredible peak, the crowd roared but the band kept chugging. Slipping out of this heavenly realm and into a filthy section of groove, the band completely switched gears on the fly, and this wasn’t just a casual denouement. Instead of ending the jam at their earliest natural chance, they took the piece smoothly into a darkening ambiance. Without jumping the gun, the band wove their set-opening masterpiece seamlessly into “2001.” Though this version remained succinct, it served as furious exclamation point to Phish’s newest adventure.

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

At this point, the second set—and show—seemed primed for all-time status, but then things got both songy and choppy. After a standard “Free,” the band tore into “Piper” with all sorts of urgency. Springing to improvisational action, the band locked into a jam that felt destined for greatness. The guys were very clearly keyed into each other’s ideas and were crushing it hand over fist when Trey jumped ship and started “Tweezer” with no warning whatsoever. Though as abrupt they come, who’s gonna argue a drop into a second set “Tweezer?” Not this guy. But the “Tweezer” that had been looming so large in the Midway over the weekend didn’t really elevate. Settling into a slow, quasi-routine “Tweezer” groove, the band played around the song’s theme for the duration of the jam, but this time the creativity wasn’t really there. Used as a song rather than a launchpad last night, the “Tweezer” that had Canadian fans buzzing in the lot before the show wound up being less than powerful.

Though the songs continued with “Silent In the Morning,” “Number Line,” and “Cavern”—three that have taken the beating of a red-headed stepchild this summer—there was still a closer left. As the band played “Cavern,” one might have anticipated the subsequent “David Bowie,” as the two songs often pair up to close sets. And this one straight exploded. Another jam that didn’t leave its road map but enthralled to the fullest, this “Bowie” featured a major key flip that anchored its direction while the band’s crazy chops took care of the rest. Toronto’s “Bowie” truly touched its set-closing essence with a fluid fifteen-minute exercise that rolled like a steam engine through the living room of your mind.

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

Treating their Canadian fans to a triple encore, Phish came back on stage with “Loving Cup,” the summer’s first “Squirming Coil” and a final good-bye in “Tweezer Reprise.” It’s safe to say that all who made it back to Molson Amphitheatre for the Phish show last night left home smiling, as the band dropped a real party show featuring a marquee setlist, a “lifer” in “Disease,” and plenty of supporting meat throughout. A northern fan base deprived of a home turf show since 2000 in the same shed, was kicked down a winner on Monday night, and I am blessed to have been there to share in the groove, eh?

I: The Moma Dance, Chalk Dust Torture, Undermind, Army of One, Halley’s Comet > Twist, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, Yarmouth Road, Tube, Ocelot, Suzy Greenberg

II: Down with Disease > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Free > Piper > Tweezer > Silent in the Morning, Backwards Down the Number Line, Cavern > David Bowie

E: Loving Cup, The Squirming Coil, Tweezer Reprise

 

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Incredibly Ordinary

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 21st, 2013 by Mr.Miner
7.20.13 (WCProductions)

7.20.13 (WCProductions)

When I woke up yesterday, I had a text that Phish had announced an extra set! In a tour filled with unprecedented events, including a postponement, a cancellation, now we had a random three setter! Not since 7/12/96 in Amsterdam had the band played a three set show that was not associated with a holiday and or a festival. July 20, 2013 would live in eternal Phish lore—and what a throwdown it would be! After a lightning-canceled Friday night’s show, the band was sure going to kick down the goods—or so we thought. When the dust settled on this surprise show, however, we had a Saturday Night Special spread over three sets. Favoring songs to jams and sticking with an obnoxiously tight song rotation, the band put on a good, though underwhelming show at Northerly Island.

7/20 Official (R. Kelly)

7/20 Official (R. Kelly)

When the band opened the night with “Prince Caspian” and slid into “Twist,” it felt as though the guys were picking up exactly where they left off and would play last night’s second set, then continue with two more. But that didn’t happen. Trey quickly returned the band to their first set flow as he combined “Ha, Ha, Ha” with “Possum” in a joke that was clearly on us. The band dropped a thick “Cities” that got kids moving, but quickly doused any momentum with “Lawn Boy” and “I Didn’t Know.” Though they were sharp throughout the first set, the band did nothing special or out of the ordinary in a situation that kinda called for it.

Phish delivered the meat of the show in the second set in the sequence of “Golden Age > Waves > Piper > Slave.” Though this 40-minute segment boasted a quality flow, the only real highlight reel music went down in “Piper > Slave.” The band let things hang out for only one of two times during the show in “Piper,” sculpting an unrelenting jam that carried all sorts of groove. As Trey added some late-90’s wah textures to the mix, the guys got into some stop/start action as well, leading an incredibly danceable feel to the uptempo jam. Strong work by Page anchored the piece throughout, and Trey got into some minimalist rhythm comping to his organ work in final section that resembled a “Maze” jam for a bit. Bleeding into “Slave,” the guys capped the four-song sequence with another stellar version. All summer, the band has been capping big-time sets with magnificent “Slaves,” and while this set didn’t match any of monsters dropped during the first two weeks of tour, this “Slave” carried as much majesty of any short of SPAC.

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

7.14.13 (A.Nusinov)

When the band emerged for their marquee third set, “Tweezer,” “Ghost,” “Sand,” and “2001” all waited in the wings to form a potential monster, but Trey opted for “Meatstick,” “Birds of a Feather” and “Ocelot.” Nuff’ said. This third set reeked of repeats, and I am not one to ever care about such things. Though the band has been playing phenomenally this summer, their rotation is as tight as ever, and its starting to effect things. The guys turned things around for the ending of the set as they dropped another stellar “Light” and segued into another standout take on their other feel-good set-capper, “Harry Hood.” This “Light” veered from the others of summer, favoring delicate interplay in a very gentle, jazz-laced jam. The guys lit up  “Dave’s Energy Guide” in the beginning of this one before steering off course into a tasteful exchange that stole the third set spotlight outright.

All in all, Phish fell short of even the most minimal expectations given the situation at hand in Chicago on Saturday night. Dropping a mediocre show when the situation called for a banger, the band left Sunday open for a end-of-week extravaganza. Just about everybody expected something special from the guys last night, and they delivered a standard show with two high quality jams and one set to write home about. Though the show certainly had its moments, the performance was anything but nasty, gritty, and overwhelming—the stuff we’ve come to expect from Phish 2013. This one had its moments, but amounted to nothing more. And for the record, I had a fucking blast the entire time, just thought the band didn’t deliver. Massive amounts of fun, very little serious music. Hopefully Sunday night can salvage the weekend in the Midway. We shall see.

I: Prince Caspian > Twist, Ha Ha Ha > Possum, Cities, Lawn Boy, I Didn’t Know, Rift, Destiny Unbound, My Friend, My Friend, Kill Devil Falls, Cavern, David Bowie*

II: Back on the Train, Mike’s Song > Theme From the Bottom -> Weekapaug Groove, Golden Age > Waves > Piper > Slave to the Traffic Light

III: Meatstick, Birds of a Feather, Strange Design, Ocelot, Light > Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times

E: Shine a Light

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Really?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 20th, 2013 by Mr.Miner

In an unprecedented move that was hard to wrap one’s head around at the time, Phish and / or authorities called off the opening night of Northerly Island one song deep in the second set. After a sluggish opening half, the band dropped a spirited “Down With Disease” that ended far too quickly for a “Prince Caspian” that never happened. Page got up from his piano—a move many thought was in reaction to the ripcorded—to inform Trey that the concert had been called off. Lightening in the distance was the reason provided, but the massive storm that was coming never materialized. In fact, across town Pearl Jam took a two-hour set break and played until two in the morning. This is the second bush league fiasco of tour that could have been avoided with any level of forethought.

7/19 Official (R. Kelly)

7/19 Official (R. Kelly)

Everyone knew the storm was coming from early afternoon, but why should be last night be any different from SPAC, Jones Beach, Merriweather or Alpharetta? Phish has played through storms far more severe than the one in Chicago last night all tour long. And let’s be serious—this was no lightening storm. The show should have continued. By the time everyone had found their way home, the rain had stopped and Pearl Jam was taking the stage. Granted they had a later curfew, but these are the situations for which rock stars have millions of dollars. I can name at least ten shows off the top of my head that took place in for worse conditions than last night. Everything that happened on Friday reeked of poor form, and here’s what could have happened.

Phish announces—via social media—that are starting promptly at 7pm due to impending storms. The band takes the stage for real, not with a worthless first set, and plays—without a break—through 9:30pm and sends everyone home dry and happy. Instead, they waste the only time we had with meaningless music, take a setbreak, and come back as if all is progressing as planned. Who makes these decisions?

I don’t feel bad for myself or the kids on tour, they’ll see the rest of the shows. But what about the people who flew to Chicago for three shows? What about the people who could only come to last night’s show? One would assume Phish will come out with their biggest show of tour tomorrow night. They almost have to. How bout playing two improve based sets instead of one? How bout playing three sets tomorrow? Something? Anything? Buller? Bueller?

I: Suzy Greenberg, Wolfman’s Brother, Backwards Down the Number Line, It’s Ice, The Moma Dance , My Soul, Scent of a Mule, 46 Days, Limb By Limb, Julius

II: Down with Disease > Prince Caspian*

*aborted at least 30 minutes before any rain hit

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