Mixed Up in the Midway

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

In the Windy City on Tuesday night, Phish put forth a discombobulated effort that featured legitimate individual jams but flowed like a pile of bricks.  In a second set that didn’t really work, it seemed as though Phish had the pieces of a great jigsaw puzzle, but just couldn’t fit them together correctly.  Pulling out a random assortment of songs in no apparent order or connection, Phish played a second set that sounded more like a mix tape than a live show.  Not to take away from some of the higher moments of the night, they just happened individually with no real relationship to their neighbors in the set.  The jumbled effort will likely go down as the “weakest” show of summer’s second leg, but given what’s been going down the last few weeks, everything is relative.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

That being said, the band opened the second set with the most significant “Number Line” to date; a jam that built off the Gorge’s version, and went far beyond.  The band seems dedicated to using this as a consistent vehicle moving forward, and if the jams are like last night’s- that’s fine with me.  Taking the piece out into its most exploratory and uncharted psychedelic planes yet, Phish got into some slowed down, deeper grooves before this one was cut off a bit too soon.  Moving through the murkiness into more transcendent territory, it seemed that the “2001” that was hanging in Washington might emerge from this jam.  But as the music was passing through a mind-expanding canvas, Trey executed the jam with the ripping chords of “Carini.”  While it was awesome to hear “Carini,” the jolt seemed unnecessary given their organic jamming these days, and they could have gotten there far more creatively.  Nonetheless, as the bombastic song got going, the intensity was something to behold.  While not necessarily longer than normal, the peak of the long-awaited 3.0 debut was monumental- possibly one of those “you had to be there moments”- as i have not yet heard the tapes.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Just as abruptly as it started, Phish ended their dense, growling excursion with an odd switch into “Gotta Jibboo.”  Yet, once again, once the jam got going, Phish shredded it to pieces.  Boasting exciting dance grooves and soaring work by Trey, this rendition was yet another highlight of this awkward set.  The mid-set “Theme,” “Wilson,” seemed like we were briefly transplanted into some random first set, and after forgoing endless creative places to drop “2001” over the past few shows, Phish chose this bizarre, disconnected point to let it fly.  Yet when it did, the wide-open funk no-doubt brought some late set euphoria.  Blasting into an shredding late-set “Chalk Dust,” everything just seemed out of place- wait, have I mentioned that?

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

But as Phish started “Harry Hood” it was like a soft blanket catching us at the end of some strange trip, and as the band set their improvisational course, this one didn’t follow the norm.  Taking the jam on a more ambient, impressionistic path, Phish crafted a unique highlight at the end of an odd night on the South Side of Chicago.  While a Phish show is usually greater than the sum of its parts- this one wasn’t.  In fact, it was exactly a sum of its disjointed parts.  Without very little dramatic and flowing improv that we’ve all of a sudden gotten used to, the entire set felt choppy and poorly presented, albeit well-played.  But hey, all of a sudden, we are spoiled!

As we enter the last four night-run of tour, Phish is sure to turn things up a notch as they pull back into the Northeast corridor.  With four classic sheds hosting the last nights of a special summer, the final weekend is sure to be woven with tales of wonder.  Darien > Hartford > Merriweather > SPAC-  these should be heavy hitters.  I’ll see you there.

Set One Notes: In what was a virtual consensus for weakest set of tour, Phish never really got it going in the first frame.  The only real pieces of note would be the third song “Ocelot,” whose jam crept into familiar territory, and “The Curtain (With)” with another huge, standout version of “(With).”  For those of you counting bust-outs, the band played an early “Paul and Silas” for the first time in nine years (Worcester 11.29.98).  In addition, the band debuted a new Page song called “Windy City,” a slow-moving blues song that seemed like it wasn’t of Phish caliber.  A solid ‘Time Turns Elastic” closed.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Sample In A Jar, Ocelot, Paul and Silas, Windy City*, The Curtain (With), Train Song, Gumbo, Heavy Things, Time Turns Elastic

II: Backwards Down The Number Line > Carini > Gotta Jibboo, Theme From The Bottom, Wilson, 2001 > Chalk Dust Torture, Harry Hood, The Squirming Coil

E: Loving Cup

*debut

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551 Responses to “Mixed Up in the Midway”

  1. shpongleyez Says:

    If you were let down by the Gorge, you really shouldn’t be going to shows, methinks

  2. Mr. Completely Says:

    I like to dance and get stupid so I always liked Jiboo but then I wasn’t on tour in ’99/00 when they played it every 5 minutes

  3. andrewrose Says:

    Just catching up with the board now, as well. I basically just sat with those Red Rocks and Gorge shows for a few days and have been digesting them. Also finally, by some twist of crazy luck, going to see the boys again for the first time in 2009 (first since Coventry) at SPAC, in the 6th row. So needless to say it’s all swirling together in my head right now.

    First of all, any reservations I had about 3.0 Phish were laid to rest in that first Red Rocks set at the end of July, and completely obliterated by the time night one at the Gorge came along. Though they might not do it every set, or every show, these guys are capable of reaching some gorgeous heights, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the close of this tour. I get the feeling they’ll be headed back for a pretty spectacular peak ala RR, this is pretty common in terms of tour ebbs and flows, even if it’s on a smaller scale now. Lord knows I’ll be doing everything I can to send constructive and contextualized joy out to that stage and hear it filtered back. Mostly I can’t wait to see these old friends again, and I can’t believe it’s been 5 years (and half my life since I started seeing them in 94). For one night anyway, they’ll get away with playing any damn thing and I’ll be happy just to be back in that place. That said…. here’s my personal wish list for SPAC, realistic and unrealistic picks alike:

    TWIST – still hasn’t been played on this tour! Twist was a jam monster in 2004, and the last great Phish jam I ever saw was at SPAC on 6/20/04. (If you haven’t heard this Fall 97 style 4-song set, do so now!). Maybe they’re saving it?

    BATHTUB – if I had to pick one song, ONE song, one jam vehicle, desert island, this would be it. I’ve witnessed so many great ones over the years (8.17.97, 11.29.98, 12.7.99, 2.28.03), and all the great 97-98 versions made for some of my favourite listening over the years. Sooo glad that they stretched this back out after the tame June versions. The Red Rocks and Gorge versions are stellar, and I hope I get to see something similar.

    HALLEY’s – Also seem to have this one follow me around. Sometimes you just feel close to a song. Though I doubt anything will top the 12.7.99 version I saw, I’d love to be there when they decide to stretch it out again.

    GHOST – A nice long exploratory groove->ambient soar-fest sounds about right, maybe with a segue into…. UNCLE PEN – an old school bluegrass bustout! 😉

    PURPLE RAIN – I always thought this was an emotional AND hilarious Fish heavyweight, maybe due to how much I wore to bits that old 12.30.93 tape back in the day (THAT, people, is a tight Mike’s Song!). Henrietta, ladies and gentleman.

    PEACHES EN REGALIA – never seen one, in all my years. They open with this and I’ll piss myself.

    MEATSTICK – I love this song, always have. I also think it’s a great potential jam vehicle (see the 30 minutes 7.15.99 version). I was part of the crew up front that requested it at IT. I was so psyched at the time but remember thinking after it was so straight ahead “why did they kill that jam, the song has so much rooooom!” When was the last jammed-out Meatstick, anyway? That first set from IT is a keeper, by the way. Gorgeous long Reba, 18 minute Ya Mar that goes out there, 16 minute Birds of a Feather (where did this song go?).

    PSYCHO KILLER – Ok, so besides the fact that I love Talking Heads and the dam Bag->Psycho Killer from 12.7.97 slays … we got pulled over on the way to Worcester in Feb 2003 because I had a Psycho Killer sign in the back seat of the car that I was bringing to shows. In retrospect, probably not the best idea, especially with Canadian plates. I remember the state trouper being like “we’re in a war on terror, you know, I could take you in…”. He let us go without even a ticket and we made it to the show, and Nassau the night after, thank god. I retired the sign somewhere in good ol’ Limestone, ME later that summer.

    Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pumped.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    @shpongle that has been the gist of my response

    in a year I bet they’ll be telling everyone how awesome it was

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    re: Birds – that song is jealous ’cause Kill Devil Falls stole its jam

  6. Lycanthropist Says:

    i miss birds

  7. Wax Banks Says:

    Holy shit, what a weird ‘Harry Hood’ last night. It’s not a great show, and this isn’t a ‘great’ version in standard terms, but Trey starts going to a really strange whole-tone place in his solo and the boys end up just wailing away for a while – ending up with an eerie, unsettling final chord instead of the usual happy-spacey closing. Gorgeous and oddly powerful!

    Go listen if y’all haven’t – especially listen for how the rest of the band deals with Trey’s fucking weird ideas here. (The same thing is going on with all his seemingly-out-of-place flatted ninths and sixths in previously straight-up major-chord jams…they’re having to work things out on stage and it’s riveting.)

  8. Wax Banks Says:

    (A similar Hood-related oddity is the Jones Beach version from this year, which – after its beautiful ambient interlude – turns into a kind of Eastern-modal solo from Trey with the other guys just thrashing away under him. When they figure out to integrate these tonalities with their usual lockstep chord-building, something fucking extraterrestrial is gonna happen…)

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    ^^^^ yes agree, having been trying to figure out how to express that given my total lack of actual musical vocabulary and understanding

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    …finally placed it!

    The third phase of the Gorge Sally jam reminds me of a Spiritualized tune from Lazer Guided Melodies era

    not exactly or anything, but the feel

  11. larry bird flu Says:

    andrew i like your list quite a bit. id take any of those songs at any point over this next run

  12. larry bird flu Says:

    anyone know where the col. has been lately? im sure hes tying up loose ends over there as hes nearing the end of his tour. just hope all is well with him

  13. stnkyAxilla Says:

    haha ever since i heard birds in a national grocery chain it’s been a bit tainted for me would love for them to overwrite those memories…

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    he mentioned he has a harder time getting internet access these days so I wouldn’t worry – things have been a little hairy up where he is, which might make it even worse, but I’m sure he’s ok and will drop us a line when he’s able

  15. larry bird flu Says:

    i completely forgot they had blocked his access mr. c. thank you for reminding me

  16. energywillout Says:

    That chalkdust is like a mini stash. there is some really good playing in this second set!!

  17. cottle Says:

    SORRY FOR THE ALL-CAPS POST, BUT I NEED YOUR HELP. I’M LEAVING FOR HARTFORD TOMORROW NIGHT AND MY RIDERS JUST BAILED. DOES ANYONE NEED A RIDE/TICKET/HOTEL FROM THE RALEIGH, NC AREA UP TO HARTFORD>MERRIWEATHER? EVERYONE FLAKED OUT LAST MINUTE, I’VE GOT AT LEAST ONE (PROBABLY TWO) TIX FOR EACH NIGHT, AND HOTELS IN EACH TOWN. I’VE EVEN GOT A TWO-ROOM SUITE IN COLUMBIA, MD, AND IT LOOKS LIKE NOW I’M THE ONLY ONE IN IT. CALL (919) 614-2071 IF INTERESTED, OR PASS THIS INFO ALONG TO ANYONE YOU MIGHT KNOW WHO’S INTERESTED. I’D PREFER TO FIND SOMEONE LEAVING FROM RALEIGH SO I DON’T HAVE TO RIDE 12+ HOURS ALONE, BUT IF I HAVE EXTRA TIX WHEN I GET THERE, I’LL LET THEM GO AT THE VENUE. THANKS IN ADVANCE Y’ALL.

  18. Wax Banks Says:

    It’s definitely an interesting ‘Chalkdust’ too – you’re right, @energywillout. A fascinating show. Hell, even the ‘2001’ is worth listening to – Trey was overflowing with cool ideas last night. I can see why Miner gave this show short shrift, but it’s got a lot to offer.

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’m finally going to do the experiment and find out if this wordpress dealio used normal markup or some other thing.

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    how do ya do the indented quotes, Wax?

  21. whole tour! Says:

    well played chap! well played!

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    bold and strong are rendered differently – warms my little web designer heart

  23. energywillout Says:

    The Heavy Things>TTE is hot too, Trey gets really weird at the end of TTE. This may be the weakest show of the 2nd leg but it could be only because it is the most 2009 show of the 2nd leg. Does that make sense?!?

    a lot of people are going to like this show better after hearing it again.

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    Is this how you do the indention? It’s kind of old school.

    sorry for the spams here, been wanting to figure this out

  25. voopa Says:

    WISH I COULD HELP YOU COTTLE BEST OF LUCK

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