Saturday night – there’s no other portion of the week that conjures up such images of spontaneous adventure and good times. And there is no other adventure and good time quite like Phish. Putting these two concepts together, you’ve got “Saturday Night Phish,” a party like none other. In this modern era, Phish has established their own way of musically celebrating their Saturday night shows by opening the second set with Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.” A trend that began in ’09 has held true for all four Saturday’s of 2010, giving even the most spun tour kid a weekly reference point. A cycle that began as a bit formulaic last year turned comedic this summer with each subsequent weekend . But as one of the band’s preeminent jam vehicles of this eras, “Rock and Roll” delivers eventful excursions more often than not. Once the band climbs out of the song’s rock stylings, anything goes when Phish breaks structure. Looking back on the four Saturday’s of Leg I, here are short capsules of the versions that that kicked off each second half.
6.12 II – Blossom
Phish launched into the first Saturday night of tour with their popular jam vehicle, and as they entered the “Cuyahoga Jam,” the band started to breakdown the piece into percussive grooves, a la 2009. Mike thumped a stop-start bass line that underlined the unique rhythm, while Trey spray-painted the groove with shorter patterns. As Fish held down a sparse breakbeat and Page backed the jam with layers of effect, all in all, the onset of this piece didn’t veer far from the many versions that speckled ’09. But as Trey began to solo out of these tendencies, Mike jumped aboard, beginning to differentiate Blossom’ s outing. At this juncture the jam grew far more abstract, as the band molded a segment of musical silk before morphing into a collective wall of sound. Trey reprised his solo melody over this drone canvas, providing closure to the jam before rolling into “Harry Hood.”
6.19 II – SPAC
Instead of dropping into a series of hackneyed rhythmic grooves, Phish built out of SPAC’s “Rock and Roll” into a bass-led psychedelia. The band latched onto Mike’s lines, as Trey mixed in a repetitive lick that led the band deep into the forest right away. Wasting little post-rock time, Phish quickly swam into a sparkling steam of melody, infusing the jam with an early dose of aural beauty. The piece increased in tempo as Mike drove the troops’ wild ride into darkness. Trey continued to offer cyclical, multi-note cries, in melodic support of a staggering soundscape created by Mike, Fish and Page. Towards the latter part of the jam, the band alternated between louder and softer as if someone was turning up and down the volume knob of the jam. Trey continued his role as supporting actor in this escapade, adding his piece to a more complex overall puzzle. The band descended into an abstract pond before splashing into “Free.”
6.26 II – Merriweather Post
While Merriweather’s second night presented the tightest set of Leg I, on Saturday night in Columbia, Maryland, Phish served up a jam that, arguably, surpassed anything from the weekend. In this set-opening “Rock and Roll,” Phish dove off a cliff, floating into the sky in a floral-ambient groove of bliss. Knitting some of the most transcendental music of summer, Trey and Mike spun their ideas together with sublime cooperation. As this segment progressed, Trey soloed as if he was emotively narrating a story to an innocent child. The band provided a magical, amoeba-like backdrop to this musical fable, morphing the jam into a soulful piece of spirituality. Concluding his tale, Trey came growling out of this hovering abstraction with leads that implored his bandmates to follow. Together they built dramatic whole-band tension throughout the latter half of the piece. Trey eventually layed down a slick “Moby-Disk-esque” line, and the band fell into a sinister groove session to bring their mission back to earth. Coming to an organic end, Phish bled into a brief, bass-led ambiance that hinted at “2001” before revving up the beginning of “Free.” Out of the four “Rock and Rolls” this summer, no other version even comes close; and this Merriweather rendition must be thrown in the ring for any discussion about the jam of Leg I.
7.3 II- Alpharetta
After dropping two stellar jams over the past two weekends out of the Velvet Underground cover, when Phish charged up the anthem to open up Saturday, July 3, it wasn’t far fetched to expect something big for the song’s tour finale. Though once the band got going, they simply rode the song’s theme, juicing it for all it was worth. Phish never even veered far enough from the original for LivePhish to label an “Alpharetta Jam,” something done to avoid paying royalties on original improvisation. With expressive rock soloing, Trey barreled through the straight forward jam that only broke form for a moment before moving into a pre-mature “Prince Caspian.”
Jam of the Day:
“Reba” 6.11 I
A gorgeous rendition from summer’s opening set.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
7.1.2010 Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, Raleigh, NC < Megaupload
Raleigh featured a bumpy setlist that featured some big-time bust-outs and one of the deepest dives of summer in the centerpiece version of “Light.”
I: Llama, Roses Are Free, Kill Devil Falls, Time Loves a Hero, Alaska, Water in the Sky, Runaway Jim, The Moma Dance, Divided Sky, Cavern
II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Halley’s Comet > Light, Fluffhead, Have Mercy, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone > Free, Wading in the Velvet Sea, The Squirming Coil, Suzy Greenberg
E: Boogie On Reggae Woman
Source: Schoeps mk41> KC5> M222> NT222> EAA PSP-2> SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)