Though “Piper” has been one of Phish’s central jam vehicles since their return with several stellar versions, the excursions that stem from the song don’t always ooze cohesion. Often likening a sawed-off shotgun spraying musical shrapnel in many directions at once, “Piper” jams usually click or meander, with little middle ground. Always representing a leap into uncharted territory, “Piper’s” most successful recent renditions have carried an enhanced sense of direction. And this summer, while tucked in the mountains of Telluride, Phish took “Piper” for a high-speed chase through a space-aged vortex in the song’s most impressive outing of the year.
Launching from the lyrical refrain, Trey kicked things into warp-speed by unleashing seething leads while Mike stuck with him, matching his creativity step for step. In no time, Phish shot into space like a musical rocket breaking through the stratosphere with a trail of blazing textures. Connecting his leads into intricate melodies, Trey stepped out front with Page, who sprinted up and down the piano as if running suicides. Fishman kept crazy-quick tempos like a metronome on speed, forming angular, driving beats.
Shifting gears, the band flew smoothly into series of fast percussive grooves with Page killing lead organ patterns. Trey adjusted with sparser rhythmic stabs as Mike moved a mile a minute in a section of lead bass. The two guitarists locked in, speed-racing through a nearby galaxy in a cosmic chase that reached an absurd intensity. Trey broke into some snarling melodies while his band mates were super-glued in collaborative musical mayhem. Page and Trey played as if on fast-forward bringing another colossal peak to this zooming show-stopper.
At this juncture, the band locked into a section of warp-speed annihilation where each member crushed IT harder than the next. Morphing into mind-bending landscapes that never lost cohesion, the four-headed beast transformed into a musical wrecking ball, demolishing anything in its path. This peak journey moved with complete fluidity into a second sequence of sparse rhythms as Fishman earned his paycheck behind the kit. Trey, Mike, and Page offered fiery melodies that combined into a psychotic brew so tight and directed it felt as though Phish knew exactly what notes to play before they started.
Trey initiated a pattern that Page and Mike echoed during the final stages of this cosmic blast off. The band never tapped the brakes for a second, shooting full-speed into the outer realms of consciousness. As the band collectively reached a final peak, they calmed the music through an extended and appropriate ambient outro comprised of the residual sonic energy lingering in the air. Patiently passing through this futuristic cleanse, the band emerged with “Mountains in the Mist.” The perfectly-placed ballad gained a greater poignancy with the jagged peaks of the Rockies looming overhead. The reflective piece provided a much-needed cool down from the intense voyage that had just concluded.
Over this week, we have looked at five peak jams from Leg Two which all differ in musical direction: The Greek “Light,” Alpine’s “Disease > What’s the Use?,” Jones Beach’s “Number Line,” The Greek “Simple,” and Telluride’s “Piper.” All of these are top-shelf pieces of improvisation, and their stylistic diversity speaks volumes on Phish’s renewed ability – and willingness – to explore any musical fabric. When the band took risks throughout August, more often than not, they met with astounding success – a factor that the band surely all noticed whether they talked about their shows or not. And these are but five pieces of music among the many experimental jams that dotted Phish’s brief, yet most significant tour of this era. With individual proficiency and musical communication no longer an issue, come fall, as Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Oh the places [they]’ll go!”
Jam and Video of the Day:
The improvisational high point of Phish’s time in Telluride.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
8.18.2010 Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY < Torrent
8.18.2010 Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY < Megaupload
Here is Summer 2010’s finale at Jones Beach, ending a two-pronged attack that saw the band progress by leaps and bounds. Featuring a non-stop second set with top-level playing from start to finish, every major song of Phish’s last set is a highlight. The first half also had peaks in “Ocelot” and “Bathtub Gin.” All in all, a fitting end to a transformative summer tour for the Phish from Vermont.
I: Down with Disease, Sample in a Jar, Guelah Papyrus, Poor Heart, Ocelot, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Tube, Destiny Unbound, Joy, Run Like an Antelope
II: Axilla, Timber Ho > Light > 46 Days > My Friend, My Friend, Harry Hood > Tweezer > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself
E: Suzy Greenberg, Tweezer Reprise
Source: Schoeps MK41> KC5> CMC6> sonosax SX-M2> apogee Mini-me (24bit/96khz)