Phish could have come to the Midwest, ended their tour with a two-night stand at Alpine Valley and sold exponentially more tickets than they will over the next three nights at UIC Pavilion. Instead of bringing 40,000 people per show to their staple summer shed, the band chose to return to a tiny venue that housed them five times during two very creative years of their career—1994 and 1998. Bottom line—they want to play there. Each of the UIC shows played over these two years were tour highlights, and I have an inclination that the next three could follow in this tradition. With the only indoor shows of summer and only the fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Midwest this year, the recipe is present for a musical explosion.
Even though this tour has been a shortened one, it has still had a contour. Coming out of the gates with a smashing performance at the Gorge, the band’s willingness to explore new places has steadily decreased, less a spectacular “Light” in Tahoe. When playing such an insane show on the first night of tour—one that honed in on an emerging style of “storage” jamming—it wasn’t crazy to think that it was only the beginning. But things haven’t quite panned out as I, and many others, expected.
Despite great shows—ones in which the band’s playing can’t be knocked—in the second night of the Gorge, Los Angeles, and the first night of Tahoe, Phish has only fully delved back into the storage shed one time in Tahoe’s “Light.” Playing as well as ever, when the band does decide to go deep, they inevitably come up with monstrous pieces of music. With “Rock and Roll” and “Light” topping the year’s—and era’s—list of highlights, one would assume we’ll hear a couple more musical cliff dives at UIC. Historically, however, when Phish discovered a new jamming style, they went at it almost every night, exploring their new fronteir. But other than the aforementioned beasts, the band has only further brushed upon their new style in Tahoe’s “Ghost,” and they seem a bit sheepish exploring the storage shed at all.
Theories will go round in circles forever as to the band’s motivations, so trying to understand them is futile. But, in short, their quasi-reluctance push forth into their newest style of psychedelic sorcery seems a bit strange. Hopefully, these next few nights at UIC, where the band and audience will be intimately connected, will prove this pattern to be temporary. Hopefully we will look back as this stand as the triumphant exclamation point of a second leg that maintained the level of musical progress on display during “Rock and Roll” and “Light.”
As Phish nears an assured break this fall and, likely, beyond, six shows remain between us an extended off-season. Back in historic territory in Chicago, the band seems primed for three-nights of memorable music. We’ll see in hours…
In other UIC News…
Da Mock Show: UIC
Tuesday, August 16, 2011—12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
400 S. Peoria Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Free & Open to the Public
“Da Mock Show,” an art exhibition staged in homage to the rock band Phish featuring 20 established poster artists from across the county, will take place just two blocks from Chicago’s UIC Pavilion on Tuesday, August 16 from 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm. The event is free, family-friendly and open to the public. “Da Mock Show” will feature artwork for viewing and for sale. Full of color, graphics, and music-based visual art, this exhibition will showcase some of the most collectible artwork from the music industry including Chicago’s own Jim Pollock, Jay Ryan, Steve Walters & Dan Grzeca as well as other accomplished artists such as Nate Duval (Massachusetts), David Welker (New York). All 20 artists will be present to discuss their works and their unique craft.
Artists: Isadora Bullock, Nate Duval, Drew Findley (Subject Matter Studio), Dan Grzeca, Justin Helton (Status Serigraph), Bruce Horan, Fred Hosman (Hosco Press), Ryan Jerzy, Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Lamb (Like Minded Productions), AJ Masthay (Masthay Studios), Ian Millard, Mike Ortiz (Like Minded Productions), Jim Pollock (Pollock Prints), Jay Ryan (The Bird Machine), Tim Ripley, Tripp, Uncle Ebeneezer, Steve Walters (Screwball Press), David Welker
The Mock Show has hosted exhibitions in Colorado surrounding Phish’s 2009 Red Rocks Amphitheater concerts, in Miami during the band’s New Year’s Eve run in 2009 and in conjunction with the 2010 Summer Camp Music Festival as “Mock Camp.” UIC will mark Mock Show’s fourth pop-up gallery installation. Through attendees support, Mock Show has helped raise funds for local and nationwide charities. Since its inception Mock Show has donated over $10,000.00 to various charities and non-profit organizations. For more information visit: http://www.amockshow.com