Fall tour contained more musical highlights than I can discuss in one post, but we’ve got plenty of time. Every week before the Holiday Run, I will spotlight a couple standout pieces from tour that haven’t been discussed in other articles. Today, we start with three. (Click the song title to download each selection.)
“Ghost” – 10.10 II Broomfield, CO
This exploratory entree of Colorado’s tour opener was delivered amidst the first “Mike’s Groove” of fall. Despite a solid first-set “Stash,” this “Ghost” brought Phish’s first real improvisational odyssey of the season. Progressing through several distinct sections of jamming, this multi-dimensional version started with Mike taking both the rhythmic and melodic leads, as Trey wove his minimalism around Gordon’s foundation. Emerging slowly within a melodic and groovy jam, Trey eventually wound up at the front of the pack, bushwhacking musical territory side by side with Mike. Offering abstract leads over a rolling beat that continued to gather momentum, Trey merged with both Mike and Page in a soaring tri-colored peak segment. On came Mike’s envelope filter, upping the overall juice, as Trey reached for the top in a dramatic climb. But after the band arrived at the climax, they didn’t bail for the next song. Instead, Phish rode a familiar-sounding, descending pattern down the back side of the mountain, landing in a sparse and fully connected whole-band groove. Getting into the funkiest section of this “Ghost,” Page offered a organ solo that led the music into a series of staccato hits that were soon encompassed by the ambient jaws of the Phish. This final shift transformed the piece into an awesome space-aged experiment.
“TweeZeppelin” – 10.30 II Atlantic City, NJ
After Phish played a verse of “Whole Lotta Love” within “Chalk Dust” in the 30th’s first set, the ploy could have gone either way. Perhaps the band was hinting at their chosen album, but more likely than not, they were poking fun at the hype around Led Zeppelin. But the band answered that question loud and clear in the second set when they got their Led out amidst the a twisting and turning last “Tweezer” of fall. Dropping into the jam, Phish immediately broke into a hard-nosed tease of “Whole Lotta Love.” But as Trey tore into his “Tweezer” solo, drenched with a hardcore vibe, it seemed Phish would launch into a super-charged jam. But their prank had hardly begun. Within no time, Trey brought the band into another Zeppelin anthem, “Heartbreaker,” fully crooning the first verse over the band’s interpretation. Dropping back into “Tweezer” for its most extensive mini-segment, the band had just entered a beautiful melodic framework when they dissolved into “Ramble On.” With each Zeppelin song came tidal waves of energy seething through Boardwalk Hall – easily the biggest surges of the weekend. Blasting the old-school structure with classic rock and roll, Phish had the crowd eating out of their hand like a puppy. Instead of Page, who killed the song back in ’98 at Vernon Downs, Trey sang “Ramble On,” not quite doing the piece justice. But this “Tweezer to Heaven” wasn’t about sharp musicianship, it was about energy, adrenaline, and unadulterated fun. Before stepping into the transcendent guitar solo of “Ramble On,” Page exchanged a joking look with Trey while he played the beginning of Zeppelin’s ballad, “Thank You;” and the band moved from one melodic song to another. Dropping back into “Tweezer” for only a moment, before anyone knew what had hit them, Phish was in the iconic final verse of “Stairway to Heaven.” One couldn’t help but laugh along with their musical gamesmanship as the Phish toyed with the audience while creating a spirited medley of Zeppelin classics; quite an enjoyable trick on the eve of the treat. And as we walked out of the venue that night, the 24-hour guessing guessing game commenced with Led Zeppelin crossed off the list.
“Stash” – 10.24 I Amherst, MA
With much-deserved praise going to the interstellar “Stash” from Halloween, the precursor to the holiday version came a week before in Amherst. And if Atlantic City’s version never happened, we’d all be talking how the Mullins “Stash” was the best of this era. Engaging in a dueling leadership from note one, Mike and Trey commanded the onset of this voyage as Fishman’s beats morphed into the effervescent percussion of lore. Trey’s leads began to encompass a melodic theme, pushing Page to join step up his piano work – a defining facet of this excursion. The band shifted into a major key, and the vicious textures transformed into rolling pastures as Trey’s melodic run never relented for a millisecond in some of his most impressive work of tour. While Trey signed his name backwards and forwards on this piece with numbing, non-stop leads, the rest of the band fully engaged in a crushing musical passage of the highest degree. Pushing and pulling the tension beneath Trey’s wizardry, the whole band played in sync, crafting a new-school, top-shelf version. Page’s piano work emerged as a highlight of this “Stash,” providing a retro feel in the retro venue. Reentry into “Stash’s” final build happened seamlessly and with roaring whole-band passion. Without a thought of hesitation, Phish narrated a cooperative tale of super-glued psychedelia.
Jam of the Day:
“Vultures” 10.20.10 I
This third-song appearance of “Vultures” was the first signpost along the road at Utica that pointed to special night. A smoking rendition, rarely do bust-outs come off the shelf with such zest.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.10.10 1st Bank Arena, Broomfield, Colorado
Fall tour’s opener contained the typical event-less warm-up set before the band put together a somewhat choppy second half that had some serious highlights. “Ghost” brought exploratory jamming while a top-shelf “Slave” made an powerful mid-set exclamation. Solid versions of “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” and a seemingly out-of-place debut of “My Problem Right There,” filled out the moments of note.
I: Chalk Dust Torture, Ocelot, It’s Ice, Bouncing Around the Room, Funky Bitch, AC/DC Bag, NICU, The Moma Dance, Horn, Stash, Golgi Apparatus
II: Mike’s Song > Simple > Ghost > Weekapaug Groove, Fee, Makisupa Policeman, My Problem Right There*> Makisupa Policeman, Slave to the Traffic Light, Strange Design, Julius
E: Loving Cup
Source: Schoeps mk4v’s(DINa)> kc5> m222> nt222> 744t (Taper – gotfob)