If Leg One of Summer was defined by bust-outs and covers, Phish got back to business during Leg Two by underlining their shows with quintessential exploration. Jumping outside the box right away, Phish returned the focus of their shows to improvisational exploits, laced with new-school twists. For the first off-season since the comeback, we now have plenty of next-level musical excursions to relive and dissect: refined and focused jams that stand up to standards of old on re-listen. This tour, all band members caught up to each other, and when that happened, Phish’s exploratory spirit took over and became a driving facet of their playing throughout August.
In three shows at The Greek, Phish blew open multiple jams, setting a clear precedent for the rest of the tour. Beginning with “Disease” and “Tweezer” and continuing with “Cities,” “Rock and Roll” and “Simple” during the sequel, the band grew more connected each night. Peaking in full bloom during The Greek’s final set – one of summer’s finest – Phish navigated an odyssey through “Light,” producing one of tour’s improvisational high points. Playing a Berkeley run during “Jerry Week,” there was a palpable buzz of a possible Dead cover, but Phish couldn’t have given a greater tribute to Garcia than this cerebral and intricate masterpiece that became the defining open jam of summer.
When Phish revved their cosmic launchpad as the second song in the second set, an impending sense of greatness hung in the crisp California air. Growing progressively larger throughout June, “Light” had left off in Raleigh with the tour’s best rendition. But when the band unveiled their current centerpiece in Berkeley’s mythical amphitheatre, it became quickly apparent that Phish would delve deeper than usual – and that they did. Steering a multi-dimensional journey through tapestries of sound, the band merged virtuosic ideas into cohesive musical themes, resonating universal frequencies in their stone surroundings. The pristine sound enhanced the quality of the ethereal experience, as the band set sail on a voyage into the heart of the unknown.
Phish burst out of the gates with a unique and scintillating composed jam in which Trey wove a beautifully atonal solo. But as opposed to June, he ran up and down the fretboard, accurately hitting every note of his melodies rather than altering his pitch with his whammy pedal. An increasingly twisting trail led the band through a darker passage that settled onto a fresh musical plateau. As if composed, Page began a melody that Trey immediately latched onto, shooting everyone directly into the spiritual realm without warning. As Mike backed their ideas with a low-as-possible bass pattern, Trey and Page wove a stunning tale of beauty with which Gordon quickly harmonized. Morphing into a soul-melting passage of sublime Phish, the band members tossed musical ideas around like a magical hot potato, subconsciously building off each other and stretching the music into the stratosphere. Losing all sense of time and place, the entire band rode a wave of blissful momentum, caring not where they might end up, but knowing that each and every moment along the way felt exactly right.
Showcasing their one-minded jamming, Phish took a swan dive into the void, coming up with their most profound musical statements in quite some time. Feeling no hindrance and pushing further into uncharted realms, the band narrated a sonic fantasy that enraptured the psychonaut in everyone. Darkening the jam with intertwining leads, Trey and Mike organically brought the piece into a section of underworld grooves, where the entire band adapted like chameleons to their changing musical surroundings, never missing a beat while continuing their path of wonder. Flowing into more abstract and tribal rhythms, Fishman urged the band into increasingly dramatic territory, and Mike and Trey responded with furious leads, bringing the jam to a head.
A monstrous piece defined by its non-linear, yet totally cohesive, journey, The Greek “Light” moved through four distinct sections without ever losing a micro-particle of momentum or flow. With all four members playing masterfully and connecting entirely, the result became an other-worldly piece of Phish music, regardless of era. As the band pushed their newest sound this summer, their most impressive jams stood up to any age in their past, a sure sign that the future is glowing. “Light’s” ornate excursion provided the first peak of tour, while Phish would hit a second high point a week later in Alpine Valley with “Disease > What’s the Use?.” And there were a plethora of surreal jams that surrounded these two behemoths. This week, we’ll look at the most significant musical moments that made Leg Two of Summer 2010 – The Tour We Made Contact.
Jam of the Day:
“Harry Hood” 8.7.10 II
Here’s The Greek’s regal version of Phish’s classic amidst a summer that completely revitalized the song. The band’s playing on this rendition set a modern precedent for “Hood” jams, furthering the elegant vibe of the final set in California.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
Deer Creek’s finale provided two more balanced sets than the opener, with the second divided into dark and light. The more sinister segment read “Light > 46 Days > Maze” and the lighter half was delivered “Meatstick > Mango,” “Fluffhead,” “Julius,” forming a yin and a yang to a well-played set. The modern era debut of “Walls of the Cave” and a serious “Stash” highlighted a solid opening stanza.
I: Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, My Sweet One, Axilla, I Didn’t Know, Walls of the Cave, Stash, Train Song, Backwards Down the Number Line, Ocelot, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Wilson, Possum
II: Halley’s Comet > Light > 46 Days > Maze, Meatstick > The Mango Song, Fluffhead, Julius
E: Contact, Slave to the Traffic Light
Source: Schoeps mk4v> CMR> Naiant PFA> Sonosax SX-M2> SD 722