A spirited run through “Weekapaug” concluded the meat of the Augusta’s second set, punctuating a “Mike’s Groove” that included a devastating northern “Light.” But aside from “Harry Hood,” the rest of the frame fizzled into a series of standard rotation songs. Front loading the set with plenty of music to carry the second half , perhaps the second-set imbalance contributed to what happened next. Returning to the stage for the encore – all but a formality on almost every evening – Phish had something else in mind.
Just before an overnight haul to Utica, the band unveiled an encore for the pages of history. Expecting nothing at all, when the opening notes of “Reba” bounced from the stage, looks of disbelief shot around the arena. For only the third time in its 21 year history, Phish employed their classic piece as an encore (most recently in Tucson, Arizona on 9.21.99 and before that in Berkeley, California on 3.31.91.) Given the band’s stellar playing in Augusta, this one had the feeling of something special from note one, and blossomed into something greater than anyone could have imagined. Navigating the multi-part composition with a precision and momentum rarely seen this era, all the pieces in fell into place as Phish set sail on an ocean of divine groove.
Splashing into the crystal waters, the band’s lush offerings began to sculpt a sonic oasis. Fishman played a slower tempo, creating a groovier pocket and leaving copious musical space for his mates to run free. Trey took the lead, initiating a golden thread of melody he would weave through the entire piece. After setting the rhythmic pace, Mike stepped up and engaged Trey in co-leadership of the fluid vessel. Weaving his own lines in between Trey’s never-ending song, the two guitar players achieved a symbiotic cohesion. And with Trey’s cash-money phrasing, this jam began to elevate – all within the context of a superior “Reba” jam. But with a delicate rhythmic breakdown by Fishman, the musical course veered into the uncharted.
Hopping on the abstract idea right away, all band members formed a levitating ball of exploratory sound. As Trey bent a single note amidst this atypical canvas, it signaled the onset of a whole-band exploration. Rarely does “Reba” depart from its blissful groove, but when they have, stunning highlights result (8.16.93 and 10.29.98 come to mind.) In Augusta, the band briefly returned to the theme en route to a tranquil and divergent rhythmic pool. Trey and Fish lured Mike and Page into floating moments of abstraction that bridged a filthy and aggressive whole-band groove. Carving a funky, hard-edged path, the entire band churned out atypical music that had nothing to do with its soaring foundation. Before long, they slammed into a bumping rhythm, sounding like they would flow right into “Manteca.” Based in the rhythmic template, these weren’t debatable Trey teases, but a solid foundation of the Dizzy Gillespie cover. Instead of taking Fish’s bait and diving into the cover, the band forged on in their experimental encore while Fishman coyly teased the song’s repetitive lyric over the sinful groove. Behind this vocal-play, Trey melted like butter back into “Reba’s” theme – a perfectly executed re-entry without hesitation.
Fully re-engaging “Reba’s” classic build, Phish sidestepped any shortcuts while pushing the piece to glorious heights. Trey led the troops to a monstrous peak, leaving all jaws hanging on the carpeted floor as Fish’s drum roll ended the jam. If there was ever a time to end “Reba” with its classic whistle and final verse, this was it. But in a move that made little sense, the band, i nstead, dropped into an awkwardly-placed “Number Line” to follow-up “Reba’s” spiritual quest that immediately jumped into any conversation about top-shelf versions – and I’m not talking about “in the modern era.” With a peak rendition for the ages, Phish left Augusta at the tip-top of their game with Utica less than 24 hours away. As we jumped into the mini-van with that internal fire burning and little care about how many miles lied ahead, Phish tour felt like Phish tour once again.
Jam of the Day:
Funked-out, first set fire from Utica.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.22.2010 Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, Rhode Island
Coming off Utica, Phish took one set to exhale before sparking a top-notch second half that was served in three courses. First came “Rock and Roll > Carini > My Problem Right There” and second came “Mike’s > Sanity > Groove.” Before the third course, Phish served an intermezzo of “Suzy” and another standout “Light,” before finishing with with the dessert course – “Character Zero > 2001 > Loving Cup.” Straight fire through and through, Providence’s second set seemed to set the table for a Mullins Center detonation that never fully materialized.
I: Down with Disease, Funky Bitch, Fluffhead, Roses Are Free, Rift, The Moma Dance, Ocelot, NICU, Sample in a Jar, Julius
II: Rock and Roll > Carini > My Problem Right There, Mike’s Song > Sanity > Weekapaug Groove, Suzy Greenberg, Light, Character Zero > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Loving Cup
E: First Tube
Source: Schoeps mk5> kc5> m222> nt222> lunatec v3 > SD 744t (Taper – taylorc)