Viewing Phish tour as a quest for the transcendental unknown through improvisational portals, “Light” emerged as the unquestionable centerpiece of summer’s opening leg. The only song that routinely pushed the band into unique, uncharted realms, with each summer version came another risk into lush, textured psychedelia. During a month that didn’t focus on musical abstraction, “Light” routinely provided an experimental lens through which Phish explored the newest frontiers of their sound. On the heels of a stellar fall tour for the song, Phish’s philosophical anthem quickly became the springboard for the most profound jamming of summer. Each excursion surfed an emotional wave into an ever-darkening mystery, but what took place once the band got there depended on the evening.
6.11 II – Toyota Park, Chicago, IL
Making no bones about their where their focus lay, Phish opened up the summer’s initial second set with an expansive and abstract version of “Light.” Showcasing a fluid style of experimentation, Phish introduced their new sound of 2010. As Trey faded from soloing into his whammy-induced whale tone, the music transformed into an impressionistic canvas, and Phish became a musical Monet. As Mike and Fish locked into a groove, Trey abandoned his lead to become a part of this textured painting. He and Page continued to push the jam outwards, and soon Phish sat amidst a full-band exploration of the deepest variety. Moving into experimental waters to kick-start the tour, this version reached the essence of the “Light,” which, ironically, is quite dark. Chicago’s version passed through several gorgeous segments on the way to a summer-opening mind-fuck .
6.18 II – Comcast Theatre, Hartford, CT
This version, springing from a set-opening “Halley’s Comet,” remained a bit more contained than most “Lights” of summer. Page began to bring the composed jam outwards by alternating his piano leads with growling synthesizers. Trey kept this one anchored to structure with his insistent leads, before finally breaking form to join the band’s already developing patterns. Over a sustained effect by Page, Phish swam into a forward-looking milieu. Trey soon exchanged searing leads for choppier rhythm licks, while Mike and Fish formed an eclectic pocket. With Trey’s shorter offerings, the band briefly locked into a unique groove before pushing into an effect-laden outro and gently sliding into “Billy Breathes.”
6.22.II – Great Woods, Mansfield, MA
The third “Light” of summer came on a Tuesday night at Great Woods, and reached some serious full-band theatrics before Trey pulled the plug for “46 Days.” Coming out of “Sneaking Sally” via an abrupt segue, Phish launched into the jam with fury. Carrying a slightly faster pace than usual, Trey led the band’s composed jam with notably impassioned soloing. The band exited the shreddy section together, somersaulting into a “Timber-esque” palette. Page hopped on his Rhodes and Mike turned on his envelope filter, while Fishman’s beat became sparse and percussive. Trey began accenting the music from behind the scenes, and in front of our eyes, the band splashed into a completely new-sounding pond. Page took the melodic lead, as this version became subtly demonic, reaching more exploratory places by the minute. When the band settled in a mellow psychedelia, a point where they could have taken the jam to the next level, Trey disengaged, awkwardly cutting off the captivating excursion with “46 Days.”
6.25 II – Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ
Carrying colossal momentum from Camden’s Jackson-laced “2001,” the band launched into one of the more exploratory “Lights” of summer. A gorgeous composed jam, with notably less in-your-face guitar, descended into a secondary section of improv without compromising fluidity. Trey took his solo into calmer waters while the band molded a percussive backdrop. The music turned more abstract as Trey relinquished the lead and Mike stepped up to direct traffic. Turning in some slick leads over this increasingly ambient texture, Trey then began playing staccato, “Pong-esque” notes (reference 8.14.09), as he, Page, and Fishman locked into a rhythmic interchange. Over this texture, Mike unleashed resounding bass leads, spicing the groove with spontaneous dashes of melody. This version reached a deeper-than-usual psychedelia before releasing into “Possum.”
7.1. II – Walnut Creek, Raleigh, NC
In Raleigh, Phish unveiled “Light’s” defining performance of summer, weaving an intricate tale that flowed naturally from beginning to end. As the band entered the final four nights of tour, their finest musical trek of the south would transpire in their opening show. Whereas Trey had a propensity to layer his opening solos of “Light” atop the band’s groove, in this version he played very much within the music, giving the composed jam an enhanced feel of beauty. Fusing impressive lines into the musical fabric, Trey’s melodies carried more tasteful and creative phrasing, differentiating the onset of this rendition. As Trey began stretching his notes into sheets of sound – signifying a break from structure – the band was fully locked and moved together into the abyss. Page’s piano lines led a march into a mysterious, blackening brew, as Trey turned from Jedi to Sith, intertwining sinister sounds in this devilish trek. A stunning example of what Phish can accomplish with patience, this version represents the most cohesive jamming to stem from “Light” this year and certainly deserves consideration among the top jams of tour. Within this darkening context, Trey initiated a composed-sounding solo over a complex, thickening pocket, entering the most engaging musical plane of night – and, arguably, the most exquisite place reached by “Light” all summer. Trey’s soulful notes continued amidst an emerging ambience from the rest of the band. Finally, as his solo bled into the ominous soundscape, Trey brought back the song’s theme, coming full-circle in a mind-melting epic.
Jam of the Day:
This clinic in groove has been unduly overshadowed by Merriweather’s diabolical depths and the holiday version’s sublime partnership with “Slave.” Nonetheless, Hartford’s “Tweezer” presents the Yin to Merriweather’s Yang.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
Following the theme of Weekend Nuggets, here is the third Tuesday show from tour. “Sneakin’ Sally > Light” highlighted a second set that was book-ended by Phish classics, “Mike’s Groove” and “Slave.” The first set contained one of summer’s stronger versions of “Kill Devil Falls as well as the debuts of Rita Clarke’s “Lit O Bit” and the now-infamous “Dr. Gabel.” Enjoy looking back, because in a couple weeks we’ll be looking forward again.
I: Lit O Bit*, Camel Walk, Possum, The Divided Sky, Dirt, Sample in a Jar, Kill Devil Falls, Dr. Gabel**, Run Like an Antelope
II: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Light > 46 Days, Limb By Limb, Golgi Apparatus, Slave to the Traffic Light, Loving Cup
E: First Tube
*debut, Rita Clarke, **debut
Source: Schoeps MK41>KC5>CMC6>Sonosax SX-M2>Apogee Mini-me (aes out@24 bit/96khz)>COAX>Edirol R-44