The June Debuts

Amidst a fury of covers last month, Phish also introduced five new original songs into the mix. Rumor had it that Trey and Tom were writing copious material before this summer, but if so, we have yet the hear fruits of their labor. Over the course of June, however, we heard three new Trey songs, one Page song, and one Mike song, and if we are looking at their potential for adding excitement to Phish shows, this is how I’d rank them.


1. “Halfway to the Moon” – debuted 6.19 @ SPAC

6.12.10 (M.Stein)

Page’s newest contribution to the catalog boasts a thick groove, a Pink Floydian feel, and potential for dripping psychedelia. One of few recent dark additions to Phish’s repertoire, “Halfway to the Moon” will unquestionably go places if Trey gives it room in the setlist. With well-written lyrics, a monstrous bass line, and built-in whaling, this menacing launch pad leads the pack of 2010 offerings, and it was a shame that it only showed up once in 18 shows. In its only appearance at SPAC, the band started to descend into a sinister rhythmic dungeon before Trey pressed the eject button like a doomed pilot, heading for the calmer waters of “Prince Caspian.”


2. “Idea” – debuted 6.15 @ Portsmouth, VA

6.12.10 (M.Stein)

Similar to Page’s newest effort, Phish debuted Mike’s “Idea” in the middle of Portsmouth’s second set, never to be heard from again. Emerging out of a murky “46 Days,” the verses of Mike’s newest song sound like quintessential Gordeaux-rock, and the galloping track breaks for two separate jams. The first piece of improv features a fast-paced, straight-ahead groove similar to the TAB favorite “Mr. Completely,” while the second is more thicker disco-funk exploration with serious potential. After Phish unveiled this inviting launch pad in only their fourth show, it seems absurd that it never resurfaced, considering no new songs truly entered rotation this summer. Countless songs that Phish routinely pound into their setlists pose far less excitement than “Idea,” so why did we only hear it once?


3. “Show of Life” – debuted 6.11 @ Chicago

6.12.10 (M.Stein)

Trey’s emotional ballad highlights his newest offerings with a combination of simple melody and sublime guitar work. A perfect exclamation on a dark set, “Show of Life” appeared at the end of tour’s opening night in Chicago and SPAC’s first show. Used tactfully as it has been, this song brings phenomenal closure to evenings, with a build that – if unleashed – could provide limitless waterfalls of catharsis. Another in the line of latter-day, heartfelt Anastasio pieces, this collaboration with The Dude of Life shines brighter than most.


4. “Summer of ’89” – debuted 6.18 @ Hartford

Oozing with pop sensibility and catchy melodies, Trey’s  well-crafted love song has grown on me with subsequent listens. However, its place in a Phish show still remains questionable. An intricate section of jamming takes a bit too long to reach through several repetitive, cheesy verses, and both appearances, in Hartford and Camden, did nothing for the flow of their sets. With a brief improvisational payoff, it will be interesting to see if this one sticks around as a first set song of summer. If nothing more, it’s a nice song to have on the iPod.


5. “Dr. Gabel” – debuted 6.22 @ Great Woods

Dr. Gabel?

The most bizarre debut of summer, this retro Brit-pop imitation didn’t do it for me or for anyone else I talked to this summer. Another likely musical documentation of Trey’s road to recovery, this song doesn’t really sound like a Phish song at all. I’m all about new experiments, but the likelihood of this one going anywhere seems slim. Trey says “Dr. Gabel” approximately 789 times in the seven-minute song, which he, self-admittedly, botched in its only incarnation of June. Something tells me we won’t be hearing from this one too much more.


Out of the five new songs debuted over  Leg I, Trey’s seem least significant for once; and I wonder if he will allow “Halfway to the Moon” and “Idea” to flourish as significant Phish jams. With more explosive potential in these two songs than Trey’s three, combined, one must hope that their debuts were mere introductions. But in an odd trend-reversal, Phish didn’t push their new material this summer, leaving us to wonder what role these songs will play in the future. “Show of Life” is a welcome addition to Phish’s live show and is certainly here to stay; but let’s also see some open-ended excursions in Page and Mike’s shiny new vehicles that are parked in the driveway begging for joy rides.


Jam of the Day:

Tweezer > Slave” 7.3.10 II

The transcendent high point of July 4th Weekend in Alpharetta, Georgia.



6.24.10 Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ < Megaupload

Official Camden Poster

The first night of Camden, featuring one of the strongest  first sets of tour, and the second set flows well despite a prematurely aborted “Crosseyed.” This show brought the first magnified version of “Twenty Years Later” that teamed up with “Hood” in a dark to light progression. But the dark horse jam of the show came in the opening set with a compact and experimental “Timber Ho.”

I: David Bowie, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Water in the Sky, Ocelot, Uncle Pen, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Gumbo, Timber Ho, I Didn’t Know, Birds of a Feather, Bouncing Around the Room, Reba, The Rover*

II. Down with Disease > Crosseyed and Painless > Nothing, Twenty Years Later > Harry Hood, Fluffhead, Julius, You Enjoy Myself

E: Bug

*Debut, Led Zeppelin

Source: Schoeps mk41> KC5> M222 > NT222 > Aeta PSP-3 > SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz) (Taper: taylorc)

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