Summer’s Second Set

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 18th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Red Rocks - 8.1.09 (A.Mccombs)

Red Rocks - 8.1.09 (A.McCombs)

Hot Damn!  That was the most enjoyable few weeks I’ve had in years.  From Red Rocks to SPAC, the second leg of summer brought everything back- there are no more questions.  With thirty shows under their belt, Phish is killing it and only getting better.  With leg two diverging so greatly from its June predecessor, one wonders what went down in those five weeks in between tours?!  As a community, we are now basking in a post-tour glow like none we’ve felt in years, and when thinking of what show to sit down and listen to, the options overflow.  August 2009 (with the tail end of July included) will go down as one of the most significant tours in the band’s career, re-birthing the wondrous creativity that put them on the map in the first place.  Nailing complex compositions, taking daring improvisational risks, engaging in stage antics and pulling out songs from throughout their career- the band we once knew is back again and poised to grow better than ever.

The Gorge (A. Headington)

The Gorge (A. Headington)

Combining a renewed musical ferocity that we haven’t seen since the mid-nineties with a re-discovered spirit of exploration, Phish’s music has literally been brought back to life, bursting with dynamic creativity throughout the entire run.  With a healthy, more mature perspective, the band has been having a blast onstage- an energy that permeated every evening.  Phish shows are Phishy again, a quality that was largely lost for the years of heavier drug use.  The same spirit that imbued the band in their earliest days has once again returned.  Listening to Trey go on a narrative rampage during Hartford’s “Icculus,” telling us once again to “Read the fucking book!”, it was like hearing that voice and feeling that energy that gripped you ages ago on that analog tape.  Say what you will about bustouts, but when the band is nailing some of their most revered and oldest compositions like “Forbins > Mockingbird,” “The Curtain (With),” “Fluffhead,” “Dinner and a Movie” and “Harpua,” there is an undeniable significance in the band’s willingness to closely identify with pieces that defined a different era, while still rolling out new songs simultaneously.  Throughout this tour, Phish has embraced the totality of their legacy and paved the way for a future that holds limitless potential.  I have no doubt that if all band members remain healthy, some of the their finest days lie ahead.

Hartford (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

One of the striking qualities of the improv from this tour was how well the band was listening to each other.  Carrying on tight musical conversations, the band members were responding to and building off of each other’s musical ideas with striking fluidity, resulting in some of the most unique jams we’ve heard in ages.  Throughout the tour, the band was so much more musically relaxed, allowing ideas to evolve instead of forcing them, and most often seeing jams through to fruition. Phish was back again- leaving everyone with a completely different sense of the future than we had only weeks ago.  The mystery and intrigue has also returned; that feeling of the unknown when the lights go out has grown more dramatic with the spectrum of possibilities having widened so much.  Building hugely creative pieces all over the second leg of summer, Phish has upped the ante of anticipation each time they step on stage- in short- we can feel the feeling we forgot.

Hartford (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

And that was just the first tour!  Whatever incarnation Fall will take, when Phish brings this energy inside four walls, things are going to get crazy.  Notoriously playing darker, more intense shows indoors, I- for one- can’t wait until our refueled band steps into the concrete confines of Madison Square Garden, The Knickerbocker, and beyond.  In the upcoming weeks, we will no doubt be going through the essential music of this past tour- and there is so much to discuss!  In only twelve shows, Phish put the pedal to the improvisational metal, creating so many highlights that I haven’t even listened to them all twice, (with Red Rocks 7/31 II being the only real exception.)  But now we have some time to kick back, relax, and digest some of the most significant weeks of the band’s career.  The “comeback” is now over- Phish has fully returned they and chapter three is already pages underway.

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.1.09 Red Rocks (Matrix) < Torrent

8.1.09 Red Rocks (Matrix) < Megaupload

Red Rocks Poster Series

Red Rocks Poster Series

Night three- many people’s favorite.  Two sets of fire. Matrix mix by Mat Guido.

I: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain (With), Mound, Gotta Jibboo, Guyute, Punch You in the Eye, Tube, Alaska, Run Like An Antelope

II: Rock and Roll > Down with Disease > Free, Esther, Dirt, Harry Hood

E: Sleeping Monkey, First Tube

AUD Source: B&K 4022 (ortf) > Sonosax > 744T (Taper – Craig Davis)

Tags: ,

The Only Rule Is It Begins

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 18th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Hartford (T.Salido)

The Gorge - 8.7.09 (A.Headington)

In a powerful final stanza of summer tour, Phish played a second set at SPAC that showcased some of their newest and oldest songs, weaving together their past and future in a musical tapestry.  Leaving us with one last summer memento, and reminding us that the current state of the Phish is one of pure joy, the band drew from the full spectrum of their bag of tricks.  From a masterful twenty-minute psychedelic exploration and a seamless segue, to a Summer ’09 anthem and an always-elusive bust-out, the band’s full repertoire was on display in summer tour’s closing show.

SPAC (D.Perrucci)

SPAC - 8.16.09 (D.Perrucci)

Following a musical dip in the road at Merriweather Post, Phish stepped up their game for the final night at SPAC, providing a triumphant conclusion to their tour.  Coming onstage shortly after a torrential thunder-shower drenched a good portion of the uncovered audience, the band opened with the roaring bust-out of “Llama,” instantly juicing the crowd before slowing things down with the laid- back “Moma Dance.”  A engaging combination, the two opening songs existed at opposite ends of Phish’s musical spectrum reached out to their diverse fan base right off the bat.  But after this bombastic opening, the set seemed to drag for a bit, featuring a string of songs that didn’t exactly pop.  The exception was a stirring rendition of Round Room’s “Anything But Me” in which the band showed ultimate control, painting a powerfully emotive picture with the introspective ballad.

Hartford (T.Salido)

Hartford (T.Salido)

The extensive first set picked up the energy with a mid-set “David Bowie” that, while solid, didn’t compare to Darien’s blistering version of three days earlier.  Yet the first set highlight came in the late set menagerie of the “Poscelope!”  Merging three of their animal-named songs to close the set, Phish played a bumping “Possum” that finalized a portfolio’s worth of versions played this summer.  Ironically, my friends and I had been joking about the “Ocelope” combo since the song’s debut at Fenway, and on the last night of tour, our inside joke came to fruition on stage as the high point of the first set.

Stretching out “Ocelot” time it comes out to play, Phish sat into another jam session in the affable song.  And to the same musical degree that Ocelot is laid back, Antelope is not- providing a starkly-contrasting couplet that ended the set just as it began.  Both versions were legitimate, if not extended, versions that punctuated the set with a bang.  “Ocelot” followed its now-established bluesy path, turning into a well-phrased, guitar-led piece of improv.  A smooth “Antelope” closed the set with a relaxed and dancy vibe- more reminiscent of the west coast renditions than Darien’s scorching second-setter.

Merriweather (J.Arthur)

Merriweather (J.Arthur)

After the first half ended, there was definitely a sense that it was a tone-setter for something bigger to unfold in set two; and it most certainly did.  In a fitting decision, the band opened their last second set with “Backwards Down the Number Line”- the first new-school Phish song, which carries a thematic significance for this chapter of the band’s career.  Tom Marshall’s birthday poem to Trey about old friends reuniting has grown in stature from it’s Hampton debut to its emergence as an improvisational vehicle over the past couple weeks.  But last night’s version was a different monster all together- generating a supremely psychedelic excursion that provided not a standout summer highlight, but a preview of what is to come from Phish 3.0’s theme song.  Building the jam into some extra-terrestrial territory, Phish unfolded their final- and arguably their greatest- creative jam of of the summer.  A piece that continued deepening into the musical ether as it progressed, there were more than a few spine tingling segments throughout.  Completely fluid and one of the indelible memories from tour’s last weekend, this “Number Line” segued seductively from its concluding ambiance into “Twenty Years Later,” creating a set-opening suite of their newest material.  Breaking out their rarely-played new song, its placement was impeccable and the performance foreshadowed what could turn into a heavy jam come Fall.

SPAC (D.Vann)

SPAC (D.Vann)

As Phish concluded their escapade through their- soon-to-be-released music, they delved into their earliest archives with a mid-set “Halley’s.”  Based on the infectious energy of the show, it seemed like Phish would finally settle-into a looser, funk-based version of their college classic, but when the musical fork in the road divided, Trey ripped into a brief guitar solo before quickly switching to “Rock and Roll.”  Used in the old-school vein as opposes to as a jam, “Halley’s” nonetheless upped the adrenaline of the entire audience before spilling into one of Summer ’09’s standout songs.  In tour-closing shows, Phish often showcases their successful pieces of that particular tour, and this summer, the Velvet Underground cover certainly fit the bill.  After sparking Bonnaroo’s second set with one of June’s more interesting jams, the song expanded into a second leg highlight with a dose of heftier improv at Red Rocks and one of the summer’s defining pieces at The Gorge.  A certain nod to the song’s significant place in their tour, Phish once again leapt into the fray- locked and loaded- with dense and fiery playing.  Trey undertook some inspired leads that pushed the song out of its comfort zone into more collective improv.  Rooted to the songs quicker tempo, however, Phish explored the given textures without creating wholly new ones.

"I Kissed A Girl" (D.Perrucci)

"I Kissed A Girl" (D.Perrucci)

Sustaining the jam’s sonic residue, the band took a minute before stunning the New York audience with a last-set-of-tour appearance of “Harpua.”  Only days after playing “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” and “Icculus” in Hartford, Phish reached back into their early-history, un-shelving the ultimate bust-out and the “ever-evolving” saga of Jimmy.  Recounting a low point in Jimmy’s live, Trey told the story of how Jimmy discovered his Fishman-eqsue “spirit guide,” who floated in through his window to give him life guidance, delivering the “great truth of all time.”  At this point, Fishman came front and center for a cow-like rendition of Katy Perry’s global top-40 smash-hit, “I Kissed a Girl.”  The bizarre Fishman interlude seemed less than congruent within the flow of the set, but in the zany context of “Harpua,” anything is fair game.  As they entered the final segments of the song, the band was both physically and musically animated as they performed Jimmy’s fateful conversation with his dad and moved into the song’s ragtime ending.  It was warming to see Phish bask in their old-school wackiness again, something that was so noticeably absent from the post-hiatus years.

Official SPAC Poster

And to cap the tour, one last run through “You Enjoy Myself” after Hartford’s comedic, but musically-minimalist show closer.  The moment seemed right for a tour-ending “Mike’s Groove,” but nobody can scoff at a celebratory blowout of the band’s seminal piece.  Fitting in every sense of the word, Phish finished their summer comeback where it all began- with the song that Trey offered up a gonad to play five times a day for the rest of his life while coming to his post-rehab realization that Phish is IT.  The feel-good dance-session hit the spot, putting an exclamation point on a summer of dreams.

Who knew that on the thirteen-year anniversary of The Clifford Ball, Phish would be we at this point of re-evolution?  Over the course of one tour, broken into two legs, Phish has redefined themselves and the possibilities for their future- and to be honest, things have never looked brighter.  Engaging in their best playing in so many years, the universe now holds no barriers for how our musical super-heroes; and so many lives, souls, and imaginations have been revitalized in a summer where inspiration and mystery seemed to lurk around every musical corner.  Though it took a little while, things are finally back on course for the Phish from Vermont, and we are all blessed to be along for the ride.

I: Llama, The Moma Dance, Guyute, Anything But Me, Cars Trucks Buses, Chalk Dust Torture, Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie, Cavern, Possum, Ocelot, Run Like An Antelope

II: Backwards Down the Number Line > Twenty Years Later, Halley’s Comet > Rock & Roll, Harpua > I Kissed A Girl* > Hold Your Head Up > Harpua, You Enjoy Myself

E: Grind, I Been Around**, Highway to Hell

*debut, (Katy Perry cover) **debut (original; final track of Joy to be played live)

Tags: ,

46 Days and Lots of Bustouts

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 16th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
8.15.09 Merriweather (J.Arthur)

8.15.09 Merriweather (J.Arthur)

A night after playing a second set of virtually all improv in Hartford, Phish played their second to last show of summer centered around only one adventurous jam.  The entire show was popping with energy from note one, strewn with spirited and precise playing throughout.  The band played a great show from start to finish, but in the end, Merriweather will be remembered for its array of bust-outs rather than open-ended adventure.  The first set saw the band drop seven songs they hadn’t played this tour including the promising debut of “Party Time,” but the second second set featured only one blowout jam.  Following Hartford with a show of a completely different vibe, Phish played their last Saturday night of the summer.

Darien Lake (B.Ferguson)

Darien Lake (B.Ferguson)

As the band stepped onstage following an enticing first set, they deciding to open the second set with “Tweezer.”  In a tour that has featured memorable jams out of almost every second-set opener, and a long summer that has showcased the song, we had the recipe for an epic throwdown.  We were finally in for the “Tweezer” we had all been waiting for- the last “Tweezer” of summer would no doubt be a creative highlight of the season.  In a tour that opened with Fenway’s distant highlight, it was only proper to end the summer with a massive psychedelic exploration of the vehicle.  But Phish played a dud.  Where most every second set opener has had several pieces of original improv, this “Tweezer” had zero.  Sounding like they were merely going through the motions, the band loafed through a version that was completely forgettable.  Before it peaked- or even got going- the jam fizzled into “Taste,” creating an ’09 version of their classic combo.  But this time “Taste” far outshone the “Tweezer.”  Launching into a soaring and creative version, it was as if Phish had somehow refueled their tank onstage- a bizarre beginning to the set, no doubt.

Hartford (A.Mccollugh)

Hartford (A.Mccollugh)

After a slight lull with “Alaska”- a song that has no business in the second set- and “Let Me Lie”- a ballad that seemed to come at a time where none was needed, Phish entered, by far, the most engaging segment of the evening with “46 Days > Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Harry Hood.”  Taking “46 Days” off the shelf for the first time since Bonnaroo, the band launched the blues-rock composition into the stratosphere, birthing a multi-faceted psychedelic opus .  Letting things hang out for the only time in the show, Phish oozed outside of the composition, into a jam that left the crowd in awe- something Phish is, once again, doing nightly.  Beginning with some lighter funk and moving into a growling ambient groove, the jam quickly progressed into a heavier abstract psychedelia.  The band laced up their musical adventure boots and went to play.  Amidst a soft melodic ambient canvas, Fishman kicked a dance beat and the band was off and running into a second half of the jam that was pure hose.  Trey was absolutely killing the fast-paced jams with melodic lines that tugged on your heart mightily.  The band took a big musical risk  with this jam, and while the entire thing didn’t flow flawlessly, the payoff was pure Phish glory.  The clear highlight of the evening gradually slowed down as Page rolled into the opening notes of the tour’s second “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”

Hartford (A.Mccollugh)

Hartford (A.Mccollugh)

Once again, completely owning the cover, the band used the ballad as an emotive breath of air before the summer’s final version of “Harry Hood” rolled off the stage.  A song that has shined all summer since it’s opening incarnation at Jones Beach, Phish took one last swing at their revitalized classic.  Another creative masterpiece, the full-band interplay of the jam was typical of the band’s many awing renditions of the tour, and provided a fitting end to the chapter of Summer ’09 “Harry Hoods.”

Well, we have wound our way to the end of the road.  That elusive SPAC show that never seemed like it would come is today.  Set up to annihilate their final show in one of their favorite venues, tonight will surely be one to remember.  Final shows of tours have taken on an iconic status in Phish history, and the end of such a magical road coupled the band’s first visit to SPAC since the their final flashes of brilliance in 2004, tonight should be something special.

***

Hartford (A.Mccollugh)

Hartford (A.Mccollugh)

First Set Notes: The band came out of the gates, on the heels of Hartford’s epic night, with all sorts of energy.  Starting with the “Crowd Control” opener, Phish threw down seven songs not played this summer, including the debut of “Party Time”- one of the definite highlights of the show.  Written by Fishman, the polyrhythmic song that reminded me a Phishy take on a sort-of New Orleans funk riff.  Sure to be a huge part of fall tour, it was great to see the band begin to bring out their non-album new songs.  Look for a big “Party Time” to kick off Indio just a bit down the road.  Other notable well-played bust-outs were “The Sloth,” “Foam” and “Axilla.”  The set also featured a free-flowing version “Beauty of a Broken Heart” which is going to turn into some retro-Phish disco jams at some point soon.  Once again, the longest individual piece in the entire show was the set closing “Time Turns Elastic.”  Clocking in at just under 17 minutes, the song worked decently as a set closer, but at some point the piece just seems over-indulgent to continue playing in regular rotation.

I: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Axilla I, Foam, Esther, Ha Ha Ha, Party Time, Tube, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Strange Design, Time Turns Elastic

II: Tweezer > Taste, Alaska, Let Me Lie, 46 Days > Oh! Sweet Nuthin’, Harry Hood

E: Good Times, Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise

Tags: ,

Hartford Comes Alive

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 15th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
8.11.09 (C.Smith)

8.11.09 Chicago (C.Smith)

In a show strewn with Gamehendge allusions and non-stop awing improv, Phish wove one of their finest tales of the summer, tapping into the band’s age-old mythology throughout the entire evening.  The second set was a crystal river of creativity, taking us for a thrilling ride through the annals of Phish history.

Opening the show with a string of songs that could easily have been plucked from a late-‘80s setlist, Phish bursted off the starting block with “Punch,” “AC/DC Bag,” “NICU,” and “Forbin’s > Mockingbird.”  With an 8:00 pm ticket time that bled into darkness, we had ourselves a rare two-set outdoor show with no sunlight, providing the feel of two more serious sets.  Taking a dramatic tone early, Phish lashed through one of their best openers on the way to a second song “Bag” that popped with energy and stepped in some brief funk before ending in it’s classic guitar shrill.  But the most poignant first-set moment came after “NICU” as the band made the long-awaited drop into “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent.”  After sound-checking the song at The Gorge, we knew it was a matter of time before the band unveiled the Gamehendge saga for the first time in the modern era.  Clearly well-rehearsed, Phish moved through the tale with a methodical precision, as Mike’s bass forged the path up the mountain.  Yet, as the time came for the anticipated new-school narration, the band moved cleanly into an impeccable version of the elusive “Famous Mockingbird” allowing their playing to do all the talking necessary.

8.11.09 (C.Smith)

8.11.09 (C.Smith)

Concluding the opening segment of the set with the return of the their iconic tale, the entire venue was buzzing as the band dropped into the first “Birds” of tour.  Phish attacked the piece with the proper ferocity that often lacks with more standard versions.  With machine-gun accuracy, Trey led the band- chugging like pistons- through a nasty excursion that broke structure with some high-octane improv within a darker musical canvas.  The second-leg bust of of the Ghost-era song came in shredding fashion, juxtaposing the ’98 vibe with the Gamehendge-laced opening.

Complementing “Birds,” as the other stellar first-set chunk of improv, was a delicate and extensive “Stash.”  Bookending  an organically grown melodic segment with fluid sections of darkness, this version capped a second leg that featured exclusively standout explorations of the murky jam.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

With the New England crowd floating at setbreak amidst an incredibly lax venue, everyone could sense an impending bomb coming in the second set.  But what form it would take was anyone’s guess.  When the band came out with “Down With Disease,” everyone sensed an impending journey, but little did we know that by the time we caught our breath, one of the greatest Phish sets of the tour would be over and our band’s revered history would be revitalized in a Phishy adventure for the ages.

As we exited the composition of “Disease,” the band dove into another stunning second-set opener, bursting with original ideas strung naturally together, upping the psychedelic ante with each musical shift.  Slowly delving into more transcendent territory, Phish continued to bring the music outwards in a stylistic journey that immediately leapt to the forefront of their most emotive and poignant jams of the summer.  Knitting a delicate web of psychedelia out of their anthemic vehicle, Phish carefully crafted an introspective tour highlight.  As the band wound the jam down, they landed in more Gamehendge culture with a ripping version of “Wilson.”  While not always suited for the second-set, it worked perfectly within the context of this show, giving the audience a raging landing point for some out-there improvisation.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

A set that flowed flawlessly, both musically and energetically, rolled surprisingly into a mid-set “Slave”- once again illustrating that any set-list conventions are out the window.  Placed under the mid-set spotlight, Phish molded an awe-inspiring piece that carried over the aura they had left in “Disease.” Fishman’s accented and gentle drumming meticulously framed the jam, while Page, Mike, and Trey wove their congruent offerings into a path of wonder.  This “Slave” was another second-leg version of a song that fully realized its essence; a majestic centerpiece of a set that wasn’t about to slow down.

Maintaining the upbeat and magical feel that had defined the set thus far, the band opened up another tour-highlight in a courageous “Piper.”  The most thematically developed version thus far in 3.0, this “Piper” saw the band undertake a full-on engagement, connected by a string of percussive segments that seamlessly built into one of the most exploratory jams of the night.  Landing in a section led by Trey’s quirky note-bending- a la Alpine’s version- the band’s musical reaction time was negligible as they continued to stretch out their excursion with uptempo rhythms.  The band was simply feeling it all night long, seamlessly segueing into “Water In the Sky” out of the wild escapade.  Its odd placement was supplanted by the fact that the band naturally ended up in the song, and it flowed seamlessly out of their virtuoso playing.

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Ending the segment, the band soaked up enthusiastic appreciation for the non-stop joy-ride we were amidst, but before we got a chance to revel in any grandeur, the band brought everyone’s focus sternly back to the stage with the opening chords of “Ghost.”  Finally revisiting the song that blew up at Red Rocks- it did so again- but in a wholly different fashion.  While Morrison’s highlight was defined by a looser, wide open rhythmic canvas, last night’s “Ghost” went for the jugular in a more guitar-rock rendition that brought fiery, rather than laid-back energy to the set.  Taking the rugged version to a ripping, yet linear, peak, at the top of the jam Trey slammed into some hard rhythm chops that within seconds transformed into Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer.”

Shoreline (S.Weiand)

Shoreline (S.Weiand)

Oddly enough, the song had played over the PA shortly before the show, and many fans had sung along with the house music.  Without knowing for sure, everyone had a hunch the band either heard or found out about the goings on and wove the nugget of the evening into their show.  Carrying an increase in adrenaline for everyone in the venue, the band crushed the cover, but just as it seemed they would sit into the song’s grooves, they dwindled their music into an amalgam of digital effects, creating a bizarre, and interesting musical texture.  Sticking with the odd soundscape, Trey took his guitar off and joked about dancing to this weird music, poking fun at someone’s continual front-row gyrations.  At this point, Trey’s joke got carried away as both he and Fishman took turns dancing to the layers of effects, while Mike and Page laughingly looked on.  After spending a few minutes bantering and dancing, Trey leaned to the mic and opened Phish’s lyric-poem, “Catapult.”  Always saved for innovative musical passages, Trey deemed this the right time to bring out yet another quirky piece of Phish culture, but the most epic bust out was yet to come.

Red Rocks (D.Vann)

Red Rocks (D.Vann)

Using the sustained musical pattern to connect pieces the of music, Trey turned his banter to the days of his youth- days before cell phones and DVDs.  Mocking our overly digital age, Trey continued, saying that he didn’t have video games as a kid- and he was around for the invention of Pong.  Continuing his assessment of present-day culture, Trey noted that no one any longer reads books.  With perfect timing, the band made the chord change into “Icculus.”  As they vamped over the chord progression, Trey continued his diatribe, telling people to break from technology, commanding people put down their “fucking iPhones and “DVDs” and to “Read…the…book!”  In a stirring rendition of the band’s legendary “non-song,” they announced that the spirit of Phish is alive and well, visiting their great and knowledgeable prophet for the time in ten years-since Oswego’s memorable final set.  Cementing the show’s special significance in the band’s increasingly memorable late-summer run of ‘09, this night had turned readicculus!

Sliding back into the digitally-looped theme from earlier, the band counted off the beginning to the only song that could have ended such a Phishy affair- “You Enjoy Myself.”  The band played an immaculate composed section and into the funk, but as Mike and Trey hopped off the trampolines to start the jam, Trey took off his guitar and decided to put his dancing shoes instead of playing, quasi-popping to a Mike-led groove.  In a small travesty, the guitar never came back into play and the likely-last “YEM” of summer fizzled without ever really happening.  It was for sure going to be a blowout to end all blowouts- capping a massively triumphant set- it had to be.  But it wasn’t.  Perhaps there was curfew issues, but I had heard they had none.  We will never know, but the expected groove-clinic was left for another day- and in all probability- another tour.

But with a show that carried such power and improvisational peaks, there were copious memories to go around.  This was one of those nights where things just clicked from note one, leaving us with a show that certainly  stands among the best of tour.  Bring on Merriweather for the last Saturday night of summer.

I: Punch You in the Eye, AC/DC Bag, NICU, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Birds Of A Feather, Lawn Boy, Stash, I Didn’t Know, Middle Of The Road, Character Zero

II: Down With Disease > Wilson > Slave To The Traffic Light, Piper > Water In The Sky, Ghost > Psycho Killer > Catapult > Icculus > You Enjoy Myself

E: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Tags: ,

Lighting the Fuse

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 14th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Phish kicked off the final act of their summer circus under the tents at Darien Lake last night.  The amusement park atmosphere oozed into the amphitheatre as Phish crafted a festive show with a standout second set- combing diverse songs into a creative frame that included some of the most stunning improv of the tour.  Combined with a first set that carried its weight just fine, Phish offered a full platter last night in Darien, playing their fourth standout show of their career in the western New York venue.

Toyota Park, Chicgo (D.Vann)

Toyota Park, Chicgo (D.Vann)

After a strange and impersonal stop in a Chicago soccer stadium, Phish tour felt like home again in the intimate confines of Darien Lake.  Coming out for the second set to an already amped audience, Phish stepped up and played one of the best jams of the tour in an open-ended and adventurous “Drowned.”  Taking one of their favorite vehicles of the summer on a psychedelic odyssey, Phish gave a nod to the insane set-opening version of 2000 that made it to immortality as a Live Phish release.  Last night’s go-round featured the band’s revitalized jamming style, born at Red Rocks and on display throughout the past two weeks, stringing together creative ideas into a completely original piece of music.  Writing in the car on the way to Albany, I haven’t had the luxury of revisiting this magnificent jam yet, but my gut is telling me it is right up there with the company of The Gorge “Gin” and “Rock and Roll” in terms of exploratory risk-taking and success.  Connecting several passages of extremely cohesive improv, the band took us on a set-opening “roller-coaster of the mind,” to quote Trey, himself, from Darien Lake ’93.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

As the band brought the tour-highlight down into an ambient palette, they artistically passed into the intro of “Prince Caspian.”  Using the dreamy composition to resolve “Drowned’s” excursion, Phish placed the usual late-show power-ballad squarely in the the middle of the second set.  Exploding a focused and regal version of the fairy-tale saga, Trey took a glorious solo as the band chugged away, creating a continuing whole-band highlight.  Before crashing into the final chords of the song, Trey started the opening licks to “Rift” in another creative call that worked masterfully.  Taking up the opening rhythms, the band jumped atop the change and they were off and running into a blistering rendition of their mid-’90s classic.  Showcasing their precision all night long, this second-set “Rift” carried every bit of momentum of the previous thirty-plus minutes into a triumphant and shredding version of the song.  “Drowned > Caspian > Rift”- a Phishy combination of songs that flowed beautifully- and as the band landed on the last vocal note of the song with pride and a sense of musical arrival, the crowd greeted them with a heartfelt ovation.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Following the opening suite of the set, Phish moved from “Rift’s” first song to its last with a interlude of “Horse > Silent.”  And as the band subsequently cued up “Sparkle” in the middle of the set, you knew something big was coming next.  As the amphitheatre overflowed with energy, the band slipped into a centerpiece “Antelope.”  Taking the mid-set jam on a ferocious jaunt, the band got into some snarling patterns, putting the magnifying class on the frenzied improv.  Navigating the break neck music locked together, this jam embodied the narrative essence of the song- musically depicting a dramatic escape from an oncoming predator on the Serengeti.  The stand-alone mid-set version allowed “Antelope” to shine in a unique place, wrapping up a second-leg of versions that have re-upped the ante for the old-school song.

When the band dropped into “Suzy,” it had the certain vibe of a feel-good set closer, but as the band wound down the swanky funk textures, Trey delicately strummed the opening to “Fluffhead!”  Even though the song is “back in rotation,” every time it starts it still feels like a complete surprise; providing the same sensation last night when it was unveiled as the exclamation point on an energetic and unique set of Phish.  While sometimes “Fluffheads” can have huge emotional impact without impeccable playing, Phish crushed a virtual note-perfect version in a huge set-ending highlight of the night.  Bringing the show to an energetic peak, the band used their multi-part composition as a show-stopping closer on a tremendous summer night in New York.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Phish brought out the fireworks in the first set as well, featuring a second song bust-out of “Dinner and a Movie” that, with their re-found diligence, sounded awesome.  Following one song that almost everyone wanted to hear, the band rolled out a first-set funk-down with a thick and expressive “Wolfman’s.”  The liquid-groove session was bookended by another sinister bust-out in “My Friend, My Friend,” a song that converged with nightfall in a dark confluence of Phish and nature.  After a well-played “Sugar Shack” whose carnival-esque melodies gelled with the night’s surroundings, the no-brainer first set diamond came in the late-set “David Bowie.” As Phish dove into their psychedelic opus, they did it with aggression and meaning, bringing the delicate piece on mind-numbing journey into darkness with more than a few original passages of improv.  Molding arguably the heartiest “Bowie” of the entire summer, Phish was noticeably clicking as they careened into musical space. A version that was an experiential highlight of the entire show, I’m sure this one will hold up on tapes.

The Gorge (J.Doran)

The Gorge (J.Doran)

And just as band landed their intense voyage, ostensibly ending the set, they revved up a “Bathtub Gin” that immediately evoked memories of The Gorge’s other-worldly excursion.  This first set version, though, was much more contained, breaking structure with cathartic melody while remaining anchored to the song’s rhythm in an interesting and dichotomous version.  Before closing the set with “Golgi,” the band paid homage to the late Les Paul, who passed yesterday at 94, by playing a jazz standard popularized by the guitar legend- “How High the Moon.”

One down.  Three to go.  With a show that began summer’s last four nights in style, Phish still left plenty room to blowout the next three with endless possibilities.  Will they play another “Ghost?”  After a massive version on the first night of Red Rocks, we haven’t heard from the song again.  Will they drop a second-leg “Ocean Song”- maybe at SPAC- its improvisational birthplace?  Where will the end-of-summer “Tweezer” fall?  With their current “anything-goes” style, these next three second sets are as predictable as the the lotto, upping the anticipation for the conclusion of summer.  Act two comes tonight in Hartford, and we shall see what Phish has in store- you’re guess is as good as mine.

I: Sample In A Jar, Dinner and a Movie, Wolfman’s Brother, My Friend, My Friend Possum, Farmhouse, Sugar Shack, Brian And Robert, David Bowie, Bathtub Gin, How High The Moon, Golgi Apparatus

II. Drowned > Prince Caspian > Rift, The Horse > Silent In the Morning, Sparkle, Run Like An Antelope, Suzy Greenberg, Fluffhead

E: Joy, First Tube

Tags: ,

The Final Four

Posted in Uncategorized with the on August 12th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
The Gorge (G. Lucas)

The Gorge (G. Lucas)

If you’re a Phish fan, the summer of 2009 has been something of a fantasy; easily the most exciting season in years.  Beginning in Fenway Park on May 31st, we have whittled our way through a fascinating summer of band re-evolution, and we have finally arrived at those last four east coast shows that always seemed so far off in the distance.  Beginning tomorrow at Darien Lake, Phish will begin their four-night swan song on their historic summer tour.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Beginning with three weeks in June, Phish tour was once again a reality as we navigated the Northeast, Mid-South, and Midwest en route to a three-week return to the road.  With flashes of whole-show brilliance in Camden, Bonnaroo, Deer Creek, and Alpine, Phish was beginning to get there, but something was missing-  where was the band’s signature exploratory jamming?  As the first tour wound up in the Midwest, the band began to delve a little bit deeper, foreshadowing what was to come.

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

But over the course of four unforgettable nights at Red Rocks, the entire Phish 3.0 paradigm shifted.  In a caterpillar-to-butterfly-like metamorphosis, the band’s style was all of a sudden more relaxed, confident, and focused.  The contained playing of June was history, and Phish began creating unique and original jams at almost every juncture.  Like an eight-set suite, Red Rocks, alone, featured more musical exploration than three weeks in June.  Our band was back, and the tightness they had honed over the course of the year had merged with a renewed spirit of exploration, resulting in an asteroid crash in our collective reality.  Highlighted by an insane second set on July 31st, of the like we hadn’t heard yet, Red Rocks ’09 will eternally be remembered as the run that Phish got their mojo back.

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

Shoreline (W.Rogell)

After a mid-week stop at Shoreline that seems to be settling into the dark-horse and overlooked show of the second leg, Phish moved up to The Gorge for two of the most musically sensational nights of tour.  With two magnificent shows differing in nature, Phish showcased their full improvisational diversity in the Northwest.  Strewn with musical highlights and the most laid back vibe of tour, The Gorge will no doubt go down as two of the best nights of music this summer.

Chicago (C.Smith)

Chicago (C.Smith)

And after a one-night stop at the stadium setting of Toyota Park in Chicago, we have come down to the final four shows of summer.  You can be sure that this triumphant conclusion to Phish’s summer will blow up.  Back where it all began, with four shows in the northeast, the band will begin their final run tonight in the amusement park setting of Darien Lake.  With a true sense of excitement surrounding this "homecoming run," the band has much to be proud of after the past two weeks.  Over the course of a summer, Phish has fully returned to prominence, and these four nights are going to be a celebration.  And I have a hunch that some of the tour’s most incredible is about to unfold.  Check it out…

Mixed Up in the Midway

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 12th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
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

Tags: ,

On To Chicago

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 11th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
The Gorge (J.Doran)

The Gorge (J.Doran)

Sitting on plane on the way to Chicago, it’s hard to believe we are heading for the home stretch of summer.  One show in the Midwest and a four-night cannonball run up and down the east coast and that’s all she wrote until Fall (which is only two and half months away!)  Thinking back to where we were in June, it almost seems inconceivable that the band has come so far in such little time.  Though they had twenty years notched in their belt, their quick progress has still been astounding to watch.  The jaded fan thought they would never even get this far, and if one for thing is for damn sure, Phish is just beginning- again.

The Gorge (W.Rogell)

The Gorge (W.Rogell)

Taking June’s tour and kicking it firmly into distant memory, the western swing was nothing short of magic.  Over the course of seven shows, Phish completely reestablished their musical creativity with shows that we would have been happy to hear come year’s end.  Redirected and emboldened with confidence, we haven’t heard Phish jams this tight and unique since the late ‘90s.  Sure, post-hiatus had many amazing jams, but these just feel different.  There is an incredibly purity to Phish’s music right now, a vitality that had been absent during even the best moments in’03 and ’04.  No longer are things predictable- Phish can, and will, take any given song and take it anywhere.  Take The Gorge’s “Sneaking Sally” for example.  As soon as we thought we were getting a massive outdoor groove-fest, Phish took us in on of the most psychedelic rides of the summer, leaving any semblance of groove in the dust as they crafted an ominous, ambient soundscape.

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

The entire weekend in Washington was simply surreal; to be back at The Gorge and hear Phish play like they did was nothing short of an out-of-body experience.  The combination of the greatest natural backdrop in music and a band who is playing like nothing else matters made for two nights of indelible memories in the ongoing path of Summer ’09.  The band showcased contrasting styles over the two nights in George, WA, as the first night’s enchanting and psychedelic fairy tale was wholly distinct from Saturday night’s rock-centered odyssey, illustrating two aspects of Phish’s uncanny versatility.  Using new songs and old, Phish created a laundry list of highlights from The Gorge: “Ocelot,” “Stash,” “Sneakin’ Sally,” “Light > Taste” “Bathtub Gin > Hood,” “Tweezer,” “Wolfman’s,” “Antelope,” “Rock and Roll,” “YEM,” “Number Line > Piper;” the list goes on and on.

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

Between Red Rocks, Shoreline and the Gorge, the west has unleashed a fury in Phish that we wondered if and when would return.  They say the west is the best, and in the case of this summer ‘s tour, that maxim has never been truer.  With a week of shows that will go down as the return of the Phish we know and love, the hotly-anticipated run through the wild west will remembered as the time the band’s improvisational magic came back.  And not only are the band’s chops back in shape, they are having the time of their lives, imbued with the Phishiness that put them on the map- spontaneously crafting vocal accompaniment deep in their jams, telling jokes onstage, switching instruments mid-song, using hand signals to call out the setlist, and generally radiating a musical and personal happiness we haven’t seen from these four guys in ages.  And this energy has flowed from the stage right into the community, channeling the genuine joy we all feel for the current state of Phish.

"Slave" 8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

"Slave" 8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

And as we take a u-turn halfway across the country, meeting in Chicago tonight, the possibilities for the last five shows are limitless.  Bringing the spirit of the west into a soccer stadium and then four classic Phish amphitheatres, some of the season’s best moments are certainly about to unfold.  Buckle your seat belt, literally and figuratively, as this last stretch will contain not only crazy music, but crazy driving as well.  As we crisscross the northeast from Darien to Hartford, down to Merriweather and back up to SPAC, the east coast will get a several tastes of the rejuvenated Phish in a case of bizarre tour routing.  Nonetheless, we have five more to go, and there’s no telling what we’ll be talking about come next week; only time will tell, but I’m sure eager to find out!  See you tonight.

Gorge_Aug07_6

8.7.09 The Gorge (Photo: Graham Lucas)

Tags: ,

Hey, Another Saturday Night!

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 9th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
The Gorge (G. Lucas)

The Gorge '09 (G. Lucas)

In a more straightforward rocker, Phish closed out their mini-west coast run at The Gorge with a show that couldn’t quite hold up to night one’s triumph.  Thinking The Gorge would be exempt from the “Saturday Night Special”- the more anthemic rock and roll show catering to the weekend crowd- Phish nonetheless came with an upbeat rock episode that had many highlights, but left some majesty to be desired in a venue that defines the word.  Noteworthy jams came in both sets, while the band noticeably left the “2001” that had been looming all weekend long hanging for another day.  While not exactly my style of show, it was nonetheless presented quite well by the now-consistently-firing Phish.

Set I (G. Lucas)

Set I (G. Lucas)

The smoking eleven-song first set spanned the spectrum- from the return of “Mango Song” and the debut of a new Mike song, to an interesting “Tweezer,” a smoking “Wolfmans,” and a wide-open “Antelope.”  As the sun dipped below the gorge, Phish got the show started on a energetic note, opening with the 3.0 bust-out of “Mango Song”- a fitting summertime introduction to the evening.  The Gorge seemed like the ideal place to bust out the elusive favorite, and the song was greeted with open arms.  The band soon unveiled what is presumably called “Middle of the Road,” a new Mike song that brought his usual quirky songwriting into the mix with his second contribution to the new-school catalog.  When the band dropped the “Tweezer” lick for the first time since Red Rocks aural crack-out session, we thought we were stepping into a segment of deep northwest Yeti funk.  But instead of dropping into any heavy rhythm grooves, Trey continued building the jam with direct staccato picking, seemingly leading to a crescendo that would splash into some thicker territory.  His pattern of playing didn’t vary much, however, until he merged with the song’s natural build.  An interesting version- no doubt- but after Red Rocks, it just didn’t compare.  But if it wasn’t a musical masterpiece, it certainly was an experiential keeper.  Taking a “Tweezer” to the dome at dusk with a most psychedelic landscape engulfing your field of vision- well, there’s nothing I’d rather do in the world.

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

Phish brought back their lyrical tale of “Twenty Years Later” for the first time since it’s Jones Beach debut. An autobiographic tale about the experience of life over time, this song will close their new album of a similar theme.  After a bust-out of “It’s Ice” for the first time since Hampton, Phish played possibly the jam of the set in “Wolfman’s Brother.”  Getting into the dirty dance funk that “Tweezer” had sidestepped, this excursion brought a welcomed dose of thickness that was scarce throughout the show.  The other candidate for jam of the set came in the surprise post-“Zero” “Antelope.”  Taking the jam on a laid back, Gorge-esque path, the band infused some unique melodic work into the dark canvas, riding “Antelope” to its second unique jam in a row.  The band has certainly shot some revitalized energy into their old-school favorite that had long grown stagnant.  Punctuating a high-quality first set with a bang, the band left much for the imagination at setbreak.  With seemingly infinite songs to pull from, what they would bring on night two at The Gorge was anyone’s guess.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Opening a second-set with “Rock and Roll” for the second time this tour, this one went places the Red Rocks’ version could go only dream of.  Phish transformed the cover into a high-speed chase through the musical universe, taking crazy twists and turns while creating the no-brainer highlight of the show.  In what had to be close to twenty minutes of searing improv, the band moved from straight ahead rock and into several different sections of slower creativity, leaving many jaws firmly resting on the earth below.  When the dust settled on this jam, everyone was bright eyed and bushy tailed as the band drifted into “Makisupa,” which got the full second-set treatment.  Taking their time with the Vermont-style reggae rhythms, the band shaped a nice cool down session that included a Phishy twist at the end.  As the band settled into a basic pattern, Trey and Mike switched guitars for the end of the song and Mike played some great leads while Trey held down the bottom end.  This was but a small detail of the show, but it definitely bears a larger significance to the band’s state of mind and sheer enthusiasm for Phish right now, and with that shared enthusiasm, it was very fun to see.

(G.Lucas)Epic (G.Lucas)

The bluesy interlude of “Alaska” led to a high-spirited “Wedge” that was tended to with meticulous care.  At this point in the show, we knew the band was going big, and they decided to showcase a massive Gorge “YEM.”  Laying way back on this jam, the band played some fantastic lounge-like grooves in what was the second sharp and standout version in a row.  Bringing down the house with their quintessential opus, Phish had the crowd in the palm of their hand, manipulating energy like craftsmen.  If they were dropping the much-anticipated Gorge “2001” it was going to be now, but Phish started up “Number Line” instead, seeming to choose the less improvisational path.  Yet little did we know that the band was about to blow-up the song like never before.  Breaking its noodly pattern, the band got psychedelic on this piece for the first time ever, creating some hairy textures out of the usually vanilla jam.  As the band got further and further away from the song, we began wondering where this trip was taking us and that question was answered with a well-executed transition into “Piper” and the full-on, shred-session that followed.  Capping the show with a new combination of songs and two engaging jams, Phish ended their final set at The Gorge in dynamic fashion before stepping to the mic with the comedic a cappella conclusion of “Grind.”

(G.Lucas)

The Gorge '09 (G.Lucas)

A high-energy encore of “Good Times, Bad Times,” “Reprise” seemed to fit the vibe of the show quite well, topping off Saturday’s sundae with a bombastic cherry to complement the rocking affair.  If there is any better place to see a Phish than The Gorge, let me know.  Combining intense surroundings with intense explorations all weekend long, the band left their stamp on the Pacific Northwest mecca this year, reminding us what Phish at The Gorge is all about.  After a life-affirming west coast jaunt, we now have two days off before hitting The Windy City.  If you’re driving it, god bless and be safe, otherwise, enjoy your flights and we’ll meet down on a soccer field for a 30,000 person throwdown on Tuesday night.  Enjoy the much needed rest.

I. The Mango Song, Chalk Dust Torture, Middle of the Road*, Tweezer > Driver, Twenty Years Later, Yamar, It’s Ice, Wolfman’s Brother, Character Zero, Run Like An Antelope

II. Rock and Roll > Makisupa Policeman, Alaska, The Wedge, You Enjoy Myself, Backwards Down the Number Line > Piper, Grind

E: Good Times, Bad Times

*debut

Tags: ,

Gorgeous

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 8th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
Phish at the Gorge Circa '97

Phish at the Gorge circa '97

Phish at The Gorge- there’s simply nothing like it.  In the first show back in five years, we collectively felt the feeling we forgot as Phish played a show that meshed seamlessly with the one of the grandest surroundings in live music history.  Playing two sets with highlights galore, the band crushed the first night of their two-night stand on the hallowed grounds of their Northwest home.  Smoking right from the start, the band never paused, writing an entire show worthy of many re-listens- though isolated from the internet in rural Washington, listening back is a pleasure I’ve not yet had.  What was once again evident was Phish’s spirit of adventure, taking any opportunity to tear off a unique piece of improv, and creating an all-out musical odyssey.

Shoreline 8.5 (W.Rogell)

Shoreline 8.5 (W.Rogell)

Popping off right from the start, the band shredded an opening “Disease” that spoiled any opener pools after they had just crafted a marathon version in Shoreline’s second set.  With some high-energy fireworks to spark the weekend, the band followed it up with an extensive, laid-back “Ocelot” that represented the furthest out Phish has taken the playful new song.  The 3.0 debut of “Pebbles and Marbles” reminded us of one of post-hiatus’ best compositions, but its “Disease-eqsue” jam seemed somewhat proximate in the set to its brother in the set.  Yet, the boldest improv of the first half came towards the end of the frame in the form of “Stash,” “Sally > Cavern”- and trust me, looks can be deceiving.  The second consecutive blowout of “Stash” saw Phish again transcend the song’s path with a jam that passed through foreign territory with a shining light in darkness deep.  Growing out some melodic jamming from the dark song for the second time this tour, the band again crafted an engaging highlight version.

8.5 (W.Rogell)

8.5 Shoreline (W.Rogell)

As the dramatic “Stash” came to a close, Phish launched into an apparent dance session with the bust-out of “Sneaking Sally.”  But what actually happened was far from what we expected.  As the band entered the jam, they didn’t go minutes deep into dance funk, but instead morphed the rhythmic textures into a “YEM-like” vocal jam.  However, unlike their popular opus, the band jammed out of the vocal mélange, crafting the grandest sound-scape we have heard from since the return.  Possibly inspired by nightfall over the vast landscape, Phish took the usual funk cover to uncharted psychedelia in one of the unquestionable highlights of the entire show. This jam illustrates the creativity of the Phish at this point in time, making musical mountains where you least expect them with purely original ideas that sound fresh to the ear and to the soul. This late set extravaganza sent ripples through the audience, giving the crowd a certain talking point for the break.

Shoreline 8.5 (W.Rogell)

Shoreline 8.5 (W.Rogell)

When Phish stepped onstage for the second set, there was one thing we knew for sure- it was gonna’be big- and big is certainly was. With a beautiful summer night as a backdrop, and with a perfect breeze, it felt blissful to be back at the Gorge again, and what better way to kick off the second set than with the earnest thickness of “The Moma Dance.”  Finally placed in the second frame, Phish gave the song more focused love, using it as a hearty, funkified splash into the second half of the show.  The rest of the set was almost purely composed of improv, as the band flowed through some of the most inspired playing of the tour.  Using “Light” to launch into an other-wordly excursion of the sort I’ve been dreaming of since Trey debuted the song in Brooklyn last summer.  Phish passed through many distinct stages of locked-in jamming before arriving in a stunning calypso groove that virtually sounded composed.  Strewn with more vocal accompaniment, this time layered atop the music, Phish’s creativity was again in full bloom, painting an ongoing portrait of a band renewed as they crafted one of the shows enduring memories.  This multi-textured jam is a must-hear highlight from a set that is filled with them.

Segueing into a soaring “Tatse,” the song’s ripping poly-rhythms were a fitting landing point for “Light’s” next-level improv, and carried the improvisational energy of the set into a surprise “Fluffhead.”  It was awesome to see the band showcase the old-school composition in the middle of the second set at the Gorge, as this version brought back echoes of the band’s first-ever show at the venue in ’97 when the piece took a similarly central role in the second set.

The Gorge circa '03

The Gorge circa '03

After a mid-set “Joy,” the rest of the night was the stuff dreams are made of.  With wide-open, patient jamming, the “Bathtub > Hood, Slave” just sounded like Gorge music.  Few venues influence the sound and style of Phish music like The Gorge does; you can go back through the years and hear the similarity in playing, regardless of the era.  And last night that tradition continued throughout the show, but particularly in these last three songs.

Just after “Bathtub” had taken a step into type-II territory at Red Rocks, the band slaughtered a mind-numbing exploration of the song last night.  Without having listened back, its hard to precisely recall the several connected realms that comprised one of the jams of the show, but providing a fantastic voyage central to the second set’s alchemy, “Bathtub Gin” shone as bright as than ever. Ending in an ambient space that sounded like we were morphing into “2001,” the band was foreshadowing tonight, because instead of launching into the space-funk, the band dropped into a cosmic cannonball of a different variety.  Building a monumental “Hood,” the band took their time to craft a defining moment of the night with the special life-force that only tremendous “Hoods” can channel.  Leaving the entire crowd blissed-out in a spiritually heightened state, this energy spilled into the majestic “Slave” encore.  One for the highlight reels, the band climbed patiently up the ladder, starting in near-silence in which you could hear a pin drop throughout The Gorge, and peaking the jam considerably later in an awing cascade of melody and harmony.

Another beautiful chapter in Phish’s Gorge legacy, last night’s tapped into the unique vibrations of the venue moreso than either post-hiatus show, returning the magical amphitheatre into our own Phishy wonderland once again.  And as the sun came up today, everything seemed a bit more exciting as the proposition of a night two “Tweezer” and “2001” come into play.  In mere hours- let the continuing mystery unfold!

I. Down With Disease, Ocelot, Pebbles and Marbles, Possum, Sleep, Destiny, Stash, Sally > Cavern
II. Moma, Light > Taste, Fluffhead Joy, Bathtub > Hood
E: Slave

Tags: ,