Woven into the fabric of Phish shows alongside compositions and jams are moments—those instances where time stands still, everything goes into slow motion and the world explodes. Fall tour had many of these indelible occurrences that everyone in attendance will always remember. Here are a few of such moments from Fall—presented chronologically—that still give me goosebumps to think about.
Though there are several frozen moments from Hampton’s third show, none brought a more thunderous response than this one. As if an exuberant “Piper” to punctuate an outrageous jam sequence of “Tweezer > Golden Age” wasn’t enough, this impromptu move into “Taking Care of Business” was nothing short of genius. As soon as everyone in the crowd recognized the song they were playing, Hampton’s roof nearly blew off. People freaked out, and rightfully so, because Phish hadn’t only just executed a shrewd and seamless segue, they had laid down their mission statement for the next two weeks! They were as excited as we were to be on tour. If everyone didn’t already know that shit was on like donkey kong this fall, after this moment they certainly did.
“Drowned‘s” “Sitting in Limbo” jam—10.26 II, Worcester, MA
This one still blows my mind. The band was neck deep in an uptempo groove of the likes of “Guy Forget” when they—collectively—stopped on a dime and converged on one of the most surreal segments of music of the entire tour. As if they had this change preconceived, the guys were immediately on the same page as they bled into the infinite. Mike dropped some enveloped filtered notes that provided an aural cushion for this ethereal music. The band sat into a delicate, to-die-for groove for a minute or or so before Page (I believe) hinted at the chords of “Sitting in Limbo.” Trey picked up on the Chairman’s idea—as he so often does—and he, himself, offered the chord progression of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic. Trey had played “Sitting in Limbo” with TAB once, and I was sure he was about to step to the mic to sing the first line. Apparently, (from someone who actually watches the show) he almost did, but deferred, keeping the poignant nod instrumental. But damn if that change and subsequent jam isn’t one of the most sublime moments of 2013.
Trey’s final solo in “Disease“—10.29 II, Reading PA
There are moments and then there are moments. Ask anyone who was in the intimate Santander Arena on that Tuesday night about the end of Reading’s “Disease” and they may just turn away and blush. Yeah, it was like that. Following the meat of a solid, though unspectacular, “Disease” jam, Phish found their way into one of their now-classic, blues-like codas. This southern-laced jam was particularly significant on the brink of Halloween with all of the Allman Brothers talk in the air. The band actually worked their way into a jam around Eat a Peach‘s famed live track, “Mountain Jam,” and it was within this feel good context that Trey would make history. The guys had the room in the palm of their hands and were bringing the jam to a full-band peak when Trey reached back and unleashed the most spiritual, spine-tingling, and downright spectacular guitar solo of the past five years. Channelling his inner Duane Allman and harnessing every bit of his own soul, Trey opened his heart and out burst rainbows and Klondike gold. And this wasn’t just a short statement, he let it all hang out in a blissed out guitar solo for the ages. This is one we’ll be telling our grandkids about. (nb: I had continuous chills just recounting this tale without the music on.)
“Twist“ middle peak section—11.1 II, Atlantic City, NJ
One could sense during the first set of Halloween that Phish was more focused on the second. They had clearly practiced the Winsguit set and had a lot riding on the success of its songs. Thus, the first frame of Halloween didn’t amount to much, but with the pressure lifted in the third set, the band was clearly able to let loose and jam. Well, when they came back to Boardwalk Hall the next day after nailing their Halloween show, the guys were visibly looser and more comfortable on stage from the jump, tearing apart the show’s opening half. And that brings us to “Twist.” The band had played two versions thus far on tour, Hampton and Glens Falls—both bigger than any since Cincy 2012—and the second had built substantially from the first. Thus, when Phish opened the second set in Atlantic City with “Twist,” everyone knew we were in store for a treat. But midway through this jam, things got straight silly, and we stumbled upon another magical moment.
I’m not exactly sure just what transpired during this segment, but it was one of those instances where the energy of the moment continued building upon itself and informing the actual music onstage. Page and Trey had locked into an exchange that the other guys quickly latched onto, collectively forming a sort of anthemic vamp. This drew in the audience’s energies and this sequence gained series momentum before the band broke from this vamp into a high-speed, cathartic peak. Then, this moment truly crystalized as they continued switching between these two feels, creating a monumentally triumphant passage, both musically and energetically. This was one of those bigger-than-music metaphysical explosions that happen from time to time at Phish shows, and quite honestly, this was the most collective, in-show peak since Tahoe.