While daydreams of Indio’s idyllic pastures still dance in our heads, and we have barely digested the festival’s eight sets of music, next week Phish will take their show inside the cement confines of fall tour – the moment many have awaited since this comeback materialized. Summer shows are irreplaceable, but as days get shorter and nights grow longer and colder, Phish’s music has traditionally changed as well. Darkening with the season, Phish’s most cerebral and ominous music has sprung from these concrete battlefields of the mind. Thus far, aside from the Hampton comeback and the specialty shows in Asheville, Knoxville, and The F0x, Phish 3.o has been an outdoor affair. As we step inside this week, it will be quite interesting to see if the new joy-infused Phish will follow their old patterns of nature. My guess is that they most certainly will.
Throughout their career, the band has proven to be masters of infusing the vibe of their surrounding directly into their music. We have experienced this already in this era. Just recently at Festival 8, but also at Red Rocks and The Gorge. Wide open, slowed-down explorations defined the vast surroundings of these three venues. The band’s festival playing became more relaxed and bass driven, but perhaps the greatest modern illustration of this mood-matching phenomenon was the first show at The Gorge. The majesty of that evening’s music was summoned directly from the spirit of the Columbia River. But when Phish brings there show inside, another type of story will most likely be written.
Entering an arena is like entering the jaws of Phish – there is no escape. No running to the lawn to chill out if things get hectic, just concrete walls and and metal railings. When the almighty power of Phish’s is contained within four walls and a ceiling, things can get crazy. The sheer amount of energy bouncing around the room makes fall shows so much more concentrated and powerful than anything on the summer circuit. Richer in hue, even the lights seem more magical as they beams into every corner of the room rather, creating a more inclusive experience.
Space becomes more limited, making finding your happy place a bit more difficult; adding yet another step to your mission. Suddenly, mid-sentence the lights go off. And inside, it actually gets dark! The experience begins. Mike’s thumping bass lines envelop the room while swallowing your brain, as opposed to the summer, when they drift off into the evening air. Trey’s tales of darkness and beauty sound far more crystalline when captured indoors. Fish’s drumbeat pulsates at the heart of it all, instinctively driving the four-man symphony, while Page’s melodies and effects enrapture your ears. No cool breezes waft in from the side of the pavilion when things get hot – this atmosphere can turn more frightful than carefree summer nights – and Phish’s playing has always followed.
Phish would never play 12.28.98’s “Carini > Wolfman’s” at Deer Creek. One could not conceive of 12.29.94’s “Bowie” popping up on a sunny evening at Shoreline. The madness of 11.23.97’s “Bathtub Gin” doesn’t happen at Vernon Downs, and the Vegas ’98 “Wolfman’s” certainly could never make an appearance at any Verizon Amphitheatre in any state across the nation. Hampton ‘97 wouldn’t jive with The Gorge, and The Island Run didn’t carry the a tropical vibe; that mythical energy was born into two classic super-structures in Nassau and Providence. Needless to say, Phish has always played differently indoors. With more of an urgency and an intensity; their music has often approached a deranged underworld rather than the lucid dream states of summer tour. Following the course of nature, their music adopts a different feeling when escaping the biting Northeast November air and stepping into Phish’s lair; shedding layers of clothing into a big pile, preparing for the fire.
A proverbial sixth element, Phish’s music adheres to the earth’s rhythms. As each season has its place in the calendar, as does each style of Phish. As we careen towards our first New Years Run in six years, fall tour will provide the launching pad for Phish’s newest celestial excursions. By Charlottesville, we should have a much better sense of where the band is musically heading, as this tour will be the first with no pressure. Throughout 2009, Phish has returned to prominence and reached a comfort level unseen in ages. With these conditions in place and without any monkeys on their backs, their creativity is bound to blossom. These mysteries will begin to unfold in a matter of days, as fall tour has finally arrived. Step inside!
Jam of the Day:
A distinctly “fall tour” segment of improv from Worcester ’97.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.7.96 Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY < Torrent
11.7.96 Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY < Megaupload
A quintessential show from Fall ’96, this Midwest run was the time the tour really began to heat up. With the momentum of their Halloween run with Karl Perazzo behind them, the band headed west to forge grooves on their own. The “Bathtub Gin” is one of the jams of the tour, and anchors the entire show. This one is a keeper!
I: Chalk Dust Torture, Weigh, Rift, Guelah Papyrus, Stash, Waste, Guyute, Free, Tela, Character Zero
II: Suzy Greenberg, Bathtub Gin > Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, You Enjoy Myself