Our continuing look at the outstanding musical exploits during Phish’s first leg of Summer Tour
“Drowned” 5.31 II, Holmdel, NJ
In my humble opinion, the most overlooked piece of musical mastery to come from summer’s opening leg is PNC’s “Drowned.” These shows were sandwiched between Bethel and the Midwest, and since the second night turned into a TreyDHD-fest, PNC’s opening night has been largely glossed over. But the “Drowned” in the middle of the second set should be hailed as a seminal piece of 2011 improv. Foreshadowing the type of sonic exploration featured in Super Ball’s hallowed Storage Jam, Phish dove into the abyss during this piece with gorgeous interplay—a track that must be on any legitimate Leg One playlist.
After the song’s straightforward launch, Trey pulled up his searing solo as if pulling the reins of a horse, and the band slowed into a murky texture almost immediately. Phish morphed into a spacey groove that featured Mike out front and delicate interplay between the entire quartet. Page offered a large effect as the jam grew increasingly ambient, transforming into an exploration of harmony, sound and tonal color. Though the jam reached uber-abstract territory, the band’s cohesion never wavered (much like the late-night Storage Jam). Trey dotted the band’s sonic backdrop with soulful melodies in a stunning convergence of four minds. Transforming into heart-tugging soundscapes, this emotive space jam provided some of the most enchanting music of tour while plunging the depths of experimentation. Spilling into “Maze,” this combo lit-up the middle of PNC’s hugely underrated opener.
“Bathtub Gin” 5.28 I, Bethel, NY
Phish punctuated the first set of Bethel’s Saturday night revelation with one of the show’s outstanding jams, “Bathtub Gin,” and this version was laced with something special from the get-go. Jumping directly into action as soon as the jam dropped, Mike’s chunky bass lines forged a path for Trey’s original melodies while Fish’s intricate beats—drenched with with stops and fills—guided the whole. As the piece began to blossom, Trey effortlessly tore off original licks amidst a slow and groovy milieu. From this juncture it became quite evident that the band’s communication was locked into the “On” position for the evening. Trey’s staccato licks pushed the band out of their comfort zone and the urged the jam into a more intense dimension. Gradually climbing into a cathartic peak of pure, top-shelf “Gin,” the band converged in masterful communication and musical annihilation. And this is where most versions of 3.0 have come to an end—but not at Bethel.
Following the peak, Trey immediately revved up a new sequence of uptempo grooves. Mike and Fish sculpted a speedy pocket that sounded very similar to “Golden Age,” but Phish soon uncovered their intentions. The band careened into a breakneck version of “Manteca” over these slamming rhythms and Mike began to pump furious, enveloped-filtered notes into the fiendishly addictive groove. And just like that, the band meshed back into “Bathtub Gin’s” theme with a tidal wave of energy, teasing “Manteca” all the way to the end of this spectacular set closer.
“Wolfman’s” is a song that saw Phish get more creative with it as the leg one continued, peaking with Super Ball’s sublime version. At Merriweather’s Sunday night show, Phish used the song as a vehicle for swanky grooves whose tempo moved a bit slower than usual. As the band was immersed in gooey textures, Mike played slowed-down bass lines that brought the music in a tangential direction. As the band reduced speed, Trey took the opportunity to introduce hints of ‘Boogie On’s” opening licks. And where the he might have obtrusively cut the jam off before, he patiently allowed the segue to develop into Stevie Wonder’s original. Usually, if “Wolfman’s” combines with “Boogie On,” “Wolfman’s will be the weighted half of the combo, but this night was different.
A song that generally does very little for the path of a show with generic funk grooves that—more often than not—go nowhere, this performance would be different. Instead of treading water in repetative, vanilla rhythms, Page initiated a full-on funk throwdown with a single, effected note in his clav solo. The band hopped on for the ride and took the cover into far more engaging territory. As Mike and Fish flipped the song’s rhythms inside out, Trey and Page began narrating a funkified tale over top. Laser-locked in this rhythmic exchange the band used “Boogie On” as a dose of mid-set adrenaline to satiate the groove junkies in the Columbia crowd.
“Slave to the Traffic Light” 6.19 II, Portsmouth, VA
Coming as the mid-set resolution for a dark opening combo of “Crosseyed” and “Walls of the Cave,” Phish unveiled a stunning version of “Slave to the Traffic Light” in their tour closer. A placid opening featured a shimmering beat and quiet, yet very active, whole-band interplay. Mike’s bass lines stood out in this mellow plane as Trey built his solo atop of his contours. After playing many stellar “Slaves” throughout the summer’s opening leg, the final version of June absolutely took the cake with pure musical exultation . The soul and energy pouring through the band’s instruments was staggering, as the music was as refined as any you’ll ever hear. Trey featured an extended “fanning” section throughout the jam’s peak, adding a dramatic dimension to the mountaintop. And it was good.
From Headcount.org: Trey Given Award By NADCP
Check out this powerful article about out favorite guitar player, his public support for drug courts on Capitol Hill and how he got, yet, another standing ovation!
Trey Anastasio headed to Washington, D.C. this week for a scheduled appearance at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Conference. The event featured celebrity speakers like Martin Sheen and Matthew Perry but from what we hear, Trey stole the show. Read on…