UIC and Where Are We?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 15th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

8.6.11 - The Gorge (G.Lucas)

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.

8.8.11 (G.Lucas)

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.

8.11.11 (J.Crouch)

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

UIC '11 (R.Jerzy)

“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

UIC '11 (T.Ripey)

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

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Festival Phish

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 13th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

8.12.2011 - "Steam" (Eric Battuello)

Golden Gate Park—a locale like none other, and in many ways, the birthplace of the psychedelic revolution. But when Phish took the stage on Saturday night in San Francisco, there was little music of the mind to be heard as they showcased a long list of anthems for the Outside Lands audience. Powering through a veritable double-disc of greatest hits amidst a chilly fog from the bay, the band put on a glossy performance in the Golden City’s hipster haven, leaving a three-night blowout in UIC looming large.

Official Outside Lands Print

As the band favored “album-versions” of most songs, the improvisational highlights of the show were few and far between. Anchored by a thick “Tweezer” that swam amidst whole-band groove and saw the band peer into the storage shed momentarily, the first set also featured a set-closing “Mike’s Groove.” Call me a dreamer, but it feels like big things are to come from tour’s final “Tweezer” at UIC. The other segment of high-quality Phish-by-the-Bay came in the opening triumvirate of the second set in “Rock and Roll -> Steam > Piper.” A succinct jam in “Rock and Roll” set up a smooth segue into the long-awaited return of “Steam.” Bringing back their sole debut of summer for the first time since, Phish wove through the infectious groove led by a massive guitar solo by Trey. Before the jam had much of a chance to get anywhere, however, the band moved onto “Piper.” During “Piper” the festival audience got their only taste of open Phish jamming— something they weren’t afraid to let of the bag, in spurts, back at Bonnaroo.

When Phish moved abruptly from “Piper” into “Roses are Free,” they took the musical momentum of the set with them, taking the show home with ordinary song after ordinary song. Far more than a Phish show, this night felt like just an ordinary concert, but I’m not sure what crowd they were looking to please with this type of performance. I often think the band would be better served by showing up at these festivals and do what they do best—melt minds and faces. I can’t imagine there are too many converted Phish fans after last night’s show, and with a big pay day and nobody to impress, this festival slot seemed a bit phoned in. Sure, there were moments, and in the end, who expected much more? But more fundamentally, it is Phish’s approach to multi-band festival appearances that I am calling into question.

8.12.2011 (Eric Battuello)

The last couple mainstream festivals—Austin City Limits and Outside Lands—provided little musical substance for the masses to digest and take home with them. Back in ’09, however, the band dropped an experimental “Rock and Roll -> Light > 46 Days” on the Bonnaroo crowd, not to mention the most creative performance ever of “Kill Devil Falls.” When they filled in around these jams with anthems, their Bonnaroo performances felt very balanced. But last night, the balance was just not there. Song-heavy to the core, the Outside Lands show misrepresented the band to a slew of unfamiliar people ready to judge them and write them off. Well, one thing that indie journalists can’t accuse Phish of after last night is over-indulgent or unsuccessful jamming. The band just sidestepped that all together.

8.12.2011 (E.Battuello)

Perhaps for some, but not for me, the festival show had points of engagement, but not nearly enough to constitute an entire show—or even a single set. “Tweezer” will certainly get some spins over here, but I doubt I’ll be throwing this show into my listening rotation anytime soon. With straightforward song after straightforward song, the band didn’t truly offer the audience a glimpse into their genius, instead choosing a series of selections that resembled one long first set.

Following two shows that didn’t provide much lasting music, Phish is now primed for three big nights at UIC. The tour has gradually lost steam over the past week, having peaked with the Gorge’s first show. But something tells me that when the band steps inside in Chicago for the only indoor shows of 2011, that will all change. Hopefully, Phish will rev their motors back up to give the Gorge stand a legitimate bookend to the second leg of summer.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Wilson, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, Peaches en Regalia,  Sample in a Jar,  Possum, Tweezer > Mound, Suzy Greenberg, Axilla, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove

II: Rock and Roll -> Steam > Piper > Roses Are Free, Julius, Life on Mars?, Birds of a Feather, Fluffhead, Backwards Down the Number Line, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Chalk Dust Torture

E: Cavern > Tweezer Reprise

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Patience Is a Virtue

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 11th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

8.10.11 - Lake Tahoe (Eric Batuello)

After four consecutive shows that flowed naturally with jams routinely seen to fruition, Phish closed out their stand in Tahoe with a herky-jerky performance that had flashes of brilliance, but little cohesion. Ironically, the band played quite well and continued to present original ideas throughout the second set, but instead of allowing any of these jams to fully develop, Trey showed his first signs of impatience during leg two as he continued to push the setlist forward while cutting of several jams that had loads of potential. In a second-set filled with improvisational vehicles, the possibilities were endless. When all was said and done, however, the “mini-jams” strewn throughout the main event—some charted for the stars—were never realized and Phish left the Sierras with a high-energy set that possessed little continuity.

"Disease" - 8.10.11 (E.Battuello)

When the band opened the second half with “Disease,” one had to think they were taking one of their favorite recent jams into the deep end. But when they had broken structure and engaged in serious improv, Trey decided to bring “Runaway Jim” to life at the cost of the “Disease” jam.” But when the guys opened up “Jim” for the first time in ages, it seemed like that decision would soon be forgotten. Coming out of a segment of growling psychedelia, Phish made a change and sounded like they might debut a new song. But when they took this idea and transformed the music into a sublime groove, it seemed like the band was on the brink of transcendence. But just as they hit full stride, Trey, inexplicably, bailed on the idea in favor of “Ghost” (a song he had already pushed earlier in the “Jim”.) At this juncture, Phish had embarked on two legitimate jams during the first two selections of the second set only to have them aborted by the big guy.

Though the “Ghost” jam, itself, was a straightforward rocker, once the band hit the peak, they dripped into an ambient excursion. As the guys added layers of abstract effect and melody to this burgeoning sound sculpture, the moments within were the most spiritual of the night. But once the band had locked themselves in the storage shed, Trey got claustrophobic and escaped this developing beast with the eject button in the form of “Golden Age.” Not to be repetitive here, but as soon as “Golden Age” got out its structure and into a palpable groove, Trey urged the band into an ambient fade out and “2001.” Letting loose a bit in the super-charged space funk, Phish crafted a sweltering late-set dance session, a vibe that would be furthered by a jamless “Sneakin’ Sally” and a wholly standard “YEM.”

8.10.11 (E.Battuello)

The meat of the second set would have to be considered the sequence from “Runaway Jim” through “2001,” but with little cohesion, the presentation of this music suffered. The set could have been huge. If Trey allowed one or two jams to grow—specifically, “Jim” and/or “Ghost”—the show’s eye-popping setlist would have sprung to life. But as it stood, though “Disease,” “Jim,” and “Ghost” all had moments of sheer genius, Trey’s continuous impatience didn’t allow the band to reach any musical breakthroughs. For the first time this tour, Phish didn’t drop a timeless, improvisational gem, but, instead, powered past a few passages of huge promise en route to their most discombobulated effort of August.

Unofficial Tahoe (Masthay)

Oddly, as tour has seemingly just started, it is now on the brink of conclusion. With one show at Outside Lands and three in Chicago, Phish will bid us adieu until Colorado—three shows that will likely be their swan song of 2011. And over these next four shows, I’m sure we will hear quite a bit more mind-bending music. Every tour has a speed bump, and last night certainly felt like the off night of this run—not such a big deal considering the goings on in the Phish universe over the past week. On to San Francisco. Next stop—Golden Gate Park!

1st Set Notes: The band played the first set straight as an arrow, favoring well-played songs though stringing together a lot of flat setlist choices. The show’s first signs of life came via a late-set “Stash” whose spiraling jam provided the first improvisational licks of the evening. The band built a little end-of-set momentum with “Funky Bitch,” and “Antelope,” but when the lights came on for setbreak, there wasn’t much music to discuss. The most notable talking point was the bustout of “Dogs Stole Things” to open the show, one of the last songs to appear in this era.

I: Dogs Stole Things, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Poor Heart, Alaska, Halley’s Comet > It’s Ice, When the Circus Comes, Ya Mar, Stash, Funky Bitch, Instant Karma!, Run Like an Antelope

II: Down with Disease > Runaway Jim > Ghost > Golden Age > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley, Guyute, Wading in the Velvet Sea, You Enjoy Myself

E: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times

"2001" - 8.10.11 (Eric Batuello)

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Left In the Now With a Wondrous Glow

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 10th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

8.9.11 - Lake Tahoe (John Crouch)

Phish continued their romp through the Wild West last night in Lake Tahoe with another standout second set, a solid first, and another psychedelic monstrosity for the record books. Following their opening night “Rock and Roll”—a musical journey of instant legend—Phish dove head first into another alternate reality last night in the centerpiece of the show—“Light.” Driven by Mike’s mind-bending bass leads, the band trekked far off the grid in a completely groundbreaking, next-generation piece of Phish. With plenty of other standout music to support this excursion into the unknown, the first night of Tahoe showcased the band’s creative edge, while it making four straight bangers out West for the hottest band on the planet.

Official Tahoe Print (Kelly)

Launching the second set with the upbeat dance grooves of “Jibboo,” the band didn’t take long before dipping into their satchel of sorcery. Thrashing into “Light,” Trey’s atonal soloing set a passionate tone for the jam before the band, collectively, began to move outwards into dark and wide-open adventure. Migrating into a realm of spacey dissonance, the course was set for Mike’s absolute dominance of this jam. As he emerged as the commander-in-chief of “Light’s” psychedelic joyride, Trey laid way back, comping his leads with funk licks, a looped “plinko” sequence, and then a barrage of sonic weirdness. Mike embarked on a personal jihad and his band mates coalesced around him with a spectrum of abstract and eerie accompaniment. Together, the quartet crafted a piece of epic proportions. Reaching completely original realms of the likes Phish has never touched in their career, the band showcased their recent proclivity for jaw-dropping exploration. As Trey and Page focused more on Storage-based psychedelia than any sort of lead playing, the band put a magnifying glass on their newest improvisational style and came up with another absolute masterpiece. The jam only gets nastier as it progresses, and the merging of hard groove and dissonant alien encounters has shot this “Light” to the top of every fan’s Wednesday priority list.

8.8.11 (J.Crouch)

Moving from this exploratory madness into a combination of Phish anthems, “Chalk Dust and Slave,” the band’s creativity spilled directly into these pieces. Taking “Chalk Dust” in a completely original direction, not only did the guys integrate music from the Harry Potter movies (Dixie and Hedwig’s themes), they also moved from the song’s hard rock textures into a delicate and enchanting breakdown. Taking one of the most straightforward songs in the book and crafting a transcendent segue into a mid-set “Slave” is but another example of a band firing on all cylinders. And the “Slave” was magnificent. Whenever Phish places the piece in a central slot, more often than not they deliver a highlight version and last night was no exception. The full-band interplay came to a thrilling guitar-led peak and a high dosage of musical catharsis, thus concluding the meat of the second half.

A token “Free” set the table for a surprise and poignant cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” Page took lead vocals while also doing his best Elton impression on the ivories, and Phish notched another classic piece of rock history in their belt. Playing off the song’s reflective and emotional vibe, the band dropped into the first “Harry Hood” of tour. A pristine rendition brought the set home with power but for a seemingly gratuitous “Walls of the Cave” closer that didn’t really jive in context.

8.9.11 (J.Crouch)

Phish’s visit to Tahoe started earlier then usual, as the band came on stage just after 7 pm due to a 10:30 curfew. “Party Time” and “Oh Kee Pa > AC/DC Bag” got the show off to a quick start, but the meat of the first frame began with the mid-set “Punch You in the Eye.” An extended intro had the crowd popping off early as the band tore apart the grooves with added gusto. The bustout of “Meat” bled into a “David Bowie” that ran away with the first half thunder, following Mike’s lead through a delicate rhythmic journey. From there, however, the set petered a bit with a final foursome of “Bouncin,” “Horn,” Water In the Sky,” and “46 Days.”

Driven by “Light’s” improvisational odyssey, however, Phish is now a cool four-for-four in the second half of summer, with each show providing timeless highlights and a couple of them blasting us through portals to the future. Pushing down the doors of new musical galaxies as a matter of practice again, the band is back and—dare I say it— better than ever?

I: Party Time, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > AC/DC Bag, Mellow Mood, Rift, Punch You In the Eye, Meat, David Bowie, Bouncing Around the Room, Horn, Water in the Sky, 46 Days

II: Gotta Jibboo, Light > Chalk Dust Torture > Slave to the Traffic Light, Free, Rocket Man*, Harry Hood, Walls of the Cave

E: Bug, The Squirming Coil

*debut

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California Dreamin’

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 9th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

Hollywood Bowl - 8.8.11 (Graham Lucas)

Phish greeted a distinctly Los Angeles audience to a second set filled with action-packed adventure, following up their opening weekend at the Gorge with playing every bit as strong. With nary a moment to stop for air, the second set possessed a relentless flow, diverse jamming and an arrow set for the dark side. Following a well-played but straightforward opening half, the band got to business in second, highlighted by the opening sequence of “Carini > Crosseyed -> Twist > Piper.” With an impending flight to Tahoe in mere hours, let’s get to the video tape.

Official Hollywood Poster (DKNG)

After several contained “Carinis” over the opening half of summer, when Phish kicked off the nightcap in Hollywood with the dark anthem, one had the sense that it might go a bit further. And instead of dropping out into another song following a hard-rock peak, this time the band built naturally into a mid-tempo groove and right onto the spiritual plane. Flowing from the dark to sublime, “Carini” provided one of the beautiful passages of the night. Spilling into a spacey outro, the band wasted little time before dropping into “Crosseyed and Painless.”

Enhancing the composed jam with percussive and intricate interplay and seething fury, Phish had the Bowl eating out of the palm of their hands as they jammed on the song’s infectious theme. Mike’ bass lines stood out as a commanding force beneath this piece—and the set—as his eclectic ideas thumped loudly into the Hollywood hills. He and Trey shone together throughout this hard rock peak and right beyond it, as the band jammed into more delicate textures. Getting very quiet very quickly, Trey favored guitar scratches over an alien canvas produced by Mike and Page, while Fish backed them with shimmering cymbal. As the band moved deeper into this spaced-aged sound sculpture, Mike, again, took command of the eerie exploration. Trey whispered the opening of “Twist” over this context, and the non-stop highlights continued to flow.

8.8.11 (G.Lucas)

With four-minded interplay within the theme of the song, “Twist” has become a modern-era piece of jazz-fusion, and this version stood out for its cohesive build from a cool beginning to a full-throttled peak. But the improvisational highlight of the show came next as the band paired “Twist” with its classic setlist partner, “Piper.” A vibrant example of musical density, the band assaulted the crowd with so many ideas and textures within this scorching-turned-blissful improv. Locked together and moving a mile minute through a jaw-dropping, wide-open jam, Mike and Fishman added a hard-edged pocket that continually pushed the piece to new and different places. And out of this original music, the band hit a sacred stride and finding some of the most transcendent places we’ve heard this tour. Though ending somewhat abruptly in “Mike’s Song,” this spectacular “Piper,” nonetheless, stood out as the gem of the show.

8.8.11 (G.Lucas)

A fiery “Mike’s” was out shined by “Weekapaug,” whose percussive interplay had reached an engaging plane when Trey put down his guitar and climbed behind the drum set. Fishman moved into the center of the stage and onto a mini-kit and the band seeped into Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” The quasi-comical take on the classic song added a new Fishman cover to his repertoire and added some lightheartedness to quite a serious set of music. Stamping the frame complete with “Character Zero” and “Quinn the Eskimo,” the band finalized another standout set of music.

Infusing their Hollywood showcase with creativity at every turn, the band left the City of Angels for Tahoe having dropped yet another bomb. Their stellar second set more than made up for any lack of adventure in the first, and the band heads for northern California as hot as we’ve seen them this summer. This one is a quick turnaround, so travel safe and I’ll see you there.

1st Set Notes: Well played throughout, the first set featured several songs just performed at the Gorge, though was highlighted by three pieces that weren’t—“Disease,” “Tube” and “Split.” The rare “Disease” opener always gets things going quickly, and this version kicks-started the show. “Tube,” though still short, just hit the spot as Trey comped Page’s solo with all sorts of funk sensibility. But the most outstanding piece in the opening half came in “Split Open and Melt.” More groovy than most recent versions, this version still reached those raunchy and dissonant places that define a great “Split.” In fact, much like Raleigh in June, the band got so engaged in their abstract improv that they had trouble building out of the jam as they botched the ending again. The other point of mention was the note-perfect rendition of Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia.”

I: Down with Disease, Cavern, Possum, Cities, Peaches en Regalia, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Tube, Back on the Train, Wilson, Axilla, Split Open and Melt, Backwards Down the Number Line

II: Carini > Crosseyed and Painless -> Twist > Piper, Mike’s Song > Joy, Weekapaug Groove > 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover* > Hold Your Head Up > Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero, Quinn the Eskimo

E: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Julius (*debut)

 

Hollywood Bowl - 8.8.11 (Graham Lucas)

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Gazing Into the Gorge

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on August 8th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

8.6.11 - The Gorge (Joe Iudice)

Over the weekend, Phish kicked off the back end of summer with a ferocious one-two punch. Pairing a psychedelic monstrosity on night one with a set of super-sized candy grooves on night two, the band delivered on every level, littering the Gorge with jams of all shapes and sizes. In each show, Phish set the improvisational tone with first set selections and then magnified that focus in the second set with some of their most impressive on-stage conversations of the summer. Adopting the classic exploratory-then-celebratory contour of so many legendary two-night stands, Phish fans couldn’t ask for anything more from their favorite band in the Pacific Northwest.

8.6.11 (J.Iudice)

In the tour opener, “Roggae” not only sparked the first set in earnest, the loose and free-form improvisation laid the groundwork for the monumental music that would take place in the following frame. On the second night, the band laid down a foundation of groove with “Moma Dance,” “On Your Way Down,” and “Wolfman’s,” and then laid down a dance clinic come set two. Stylistically diverse and musically focused, each night at the Gorge formed one half of a phenomenal whole.

And how about the music within? With only two shows down, the band is already stacking leg two highlights like chips at a poker table. Instead of plucking single jams as the standouts of the show, we can simply point to both second sets as the highlights of the Gorge (not to mention some first set gems). Playing all their cards just right, Phish dropped a spectrum of highlights that, collectively, spoke to all factions of their fan base. Inspired—as always—by the beauty and seclusion of the Columbia River Gorge, the band’s playing was defined by patient interplay and a willingness to take jams wherever they naturally flowed. As a result, each show and, specifically, each second set flowed from beginning to end.

8.5.11 - (G. Lucas)

The first show likened a nuclear explosion with “Rock and Roll’s” era-defining excursion. The jams’ massive wake carried the guys right through another half-hour of top-notch jamming in “Meatstick” and “Boogie On.” The rest of the show felt like the natural fallout from such a paradigm-shifting explosion. Seamlessly integrating Storage-style psychedelia into “Rock and Roll,” Phish gave us an intimate and jaw-dropping glimpse into the their next evolutionary step. The second night resembled a heat-seeking missile, as the band honed in on a specific style and tore a thematic—and ballistic—show to smithereens. The groove fiesta came to a mid-set peak in a silky-turned-apocalyptic “Sand” that was a culminating version (to date) of the many standouts renditions of summer. In short, Phish succeeded in taking their weekend crowd, first, through an alternate reality and then through an all-night dance party—executing their weekend plan to perfection.

And the buzz of Phish 2011 continues to grow. IT started at Bethel. IT increased during June’s Midwestern swing. IT got a boosted during the last three shows of Leg One—Charlotte, Raleigh, and Portsmouth. IT ballooned considerably at Super Ball. And, once again, at the Gorge, Phish’s summer momentum continued snowballing. A weekend whose music was centered around an ground-breaking, improvisational beast of the likes we haven’t seen—well, ever— in “Rock and Roll,” showcased a band whose diligent focus and continual improvement evokes memories of a young, goofy-looking quartet from Burlington that toured in the ‘90s. But it’s 2011 now, and matured like a fine wine, Phish is moving forward in ways many had never imagined would happen again, and nothing could possibly be sweeter.

======

In other Phish Thoughts-related news…

The Philler: I mentioned last week that I was being interviewed for a cloudcast—The Philler—run by Robert Champion. After talking with Robert and his partner, Sammy Saltzman, at length, we decided that I would join them for a yet-to-be-named, weekly segment of Phish analysis during their broadcasts. Look for more news on this in the future, but you can now listen to our initial conversation embedded in the audio player below, and spiced up by Robert and the guys at The Sloping Companion with audio tracks from June and enhancements ranging from the musical to the comic to the bizarre. Check it out…

 

The Philler – Episode Four – Mr. Miner by The Sloping Companion on Mixcloud

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Dancing On the Altar

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 7th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

8.5.11 - The Gorge (Graham Lucas)

Taking a fantasy-like setlist and tearing it to shreds, Phish crafted a larger-than-life dance party on Saturday night in the greatest venue on Earth. Focused on wide open-dance grooves to match the Gorge’s vast surroundings, Phish threw down a rhythmic juggernaut on the second night of tour; a perfect yin to the exploratory yang of tour’s opening night. Anchoring the second set with two-massive dance excursions in “Tweezer” and “Sand,” the band threw down dueling crack-like groove sessions set that will need to be relistened time and time again to be fully appreciated. However, the entire second set deserves a full run down. so let’s get to it.

8.5.11 (G.Lucas)

After a rocking “Chalk Dust” opener, “Tweezer” cracked open the second-set fiesta with an carpet bombing of chunky grooves that, on the Gorge’s massive, open-air sound system, sounded like a slice of heaven. A sonic aura that can not be replicated by soundboards and only approximated by audience tapes, poured onto the crowd like nectar from the gods. Laced with phenomenal interplay between Trey and Mike, the band oozed with attitude and triumph through a throughout this soul-cleansing romp. Then—building off of this mountain of rhythmic narcotics—Phish morphed from a snarling exercise into a melodic, four-part exchange that added introspective intrigue into the mix. Taking their time to work through this section, the band built an eventual bridge into “Prince Caspian.”

Favoring the song’s classic, guitar-solo contour, Trey tore into this “Caspian” like he hasn’t in some time while the band has, more often than not, taken the piece in variant directions. Skirting the song’s final chords, Phish drifted into an ethereal texture towards that, surprisingly, merged with “Sand.” And at this juncture, we met our second sky-scraping dance escapade of the set.

8.5.11 (G.Lucas)

A rendition that fused “Sands” past and present, last night’s outing featured an amalgam of styles. Embarking on this ocean of rhythmic adventure, Trey likened refined jazz player, but by the end, he assumed his rightful position as the world’s greatest guitar assassin. Taking the band out with some of the most laid-back funk stylings you’ll ever hear, and drenching the music with a swanky, James Brown sensibility, Trey laid down a ridiculously infectious opening. The piece’s recent jazz-proclivity shone as it built, peaking in a series of atonal rhythm chords by Trey before he annihilated the “Sand’s” final sequence with a six-string assault. And then—at the top of the jam—Trey wove in the “Tweezer” lick and brought the band—legitimately—back into “Tweezer!” A completely head-bursting maneuver had the crowd in dribbles as the band slowed back into the chunky groove. But just as soon as they had pulled-off the unprecedented move and seemed headed for the Storage shed, they pulled the rug from underneath the experimental direction in favor of a heat-seeking “Birds of a Feather.”

A brief exhale of “Waste” made way for…“Golden Age!?” This time around, the band employed the base-song only as a set that featured one surprise after another still had one of its best yet to come—a unexpected late-set, left-hook in “Reba.” A delicate and majestic build matched the environs congruently as as Trey ripped off one enchanting, perfectly phrased lick after another. A cool breeze blew through the amphitheatre as if cued by Kuroda, enhancing an overwhelmingly blissful late-night scene.

8.5.11 (G.Lucas)

To wrap up a set of dreams, the band closed with a “medley” style “Antelope” into which “Reba,” “Tweezer,” and “Sand” were teased in the intro before “Antelope’s” ferocious jam passed through a “Golden Age” section, summing up all the major points of a spectacular set of music. Stringing together creative versions of their classic songs, last night turned into a cathartic celebration of Phish groove. And that exact vibe highlighted the opening set, taboot.

An syrupy, early-show, “Moma” immediately brought memories of the previous night’s musical pornography that was “Rock and Roll,” using the piece to artistically bridge both shows. At sunset, Little Phish came out to play with a thick version of “On Your Way Down” that featured a guitar solo for the ages. And then, upon the onset of night, came the opening half’s defining jaunt in “Wolfman’s -> Maze.” Another in the emerging series of “Wolman’s” jams that depart from funk grooves and move into unique explorations of their own, this rendition passed through a tease of Led Zepplin’s “Heartbreaker” and a subsequent staccato funk breakdown before passing through a darker realm and into a scorching “Maze.” Finishing the first set on the old-school tip, the band paired “Wilson” and “Fluffhead,” punctuating an impressive opening frame.

Each of the past two summer tours, the band has made monumental leaps from leg one to leg two, but after an incredible June run and Super Ball, I wondered if a similar quantum leap was possible in 2011. Well, Phish came right out of the doors and answered that question with, arguably, their two best shows of the summer—an explosive start that few could have imagined. But if there is one virtual-objectivity that we were reminded of after a year’s absence is that there is no venue on the planet that speaks to Phish like the the Gorge. But, nonetheless, I’m willing to travel south to see what this Hollywood Bowl is all about! Plus, we have plenty to listen to in the meantime.

I: Possum, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Limb By Limb, Ocelot, Poor Heart, On Your Way Down, Wolfman’s Brother > Maze, Wilson, Fluffhead

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Tweezer > Prince Caspian > Sand -> Tweezer > Birds of a Feather,Waste, Golden Age > Reba, Run Like an Antelope

E: Suzy Greenberg, Sanity, Tweezer Reprise

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A Stunner To Start Off

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on August 6th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

8.5.11 - "Rock and Roll" (Graham Lucas)

Without missing a beat, Phish stepped onto the Gorge’s stage—the grandest of tour—and played one of the magnificent shows of 2011. Building directly off of their white-hot momentum of Super Ball and a furious opening leg, the band showed us that the best part of summer is just beginning. Showcasing an improvisational patience that the Gorge always brings out of them, Phish never wavered—nor skipped a beat—for the better part of an hour in the second set, crafting a masterful sequence in “Rock and Roll -> Meatstick -> Boogie On” that jumped right onto the top shelf of summertime adventures. And with plenty of other standout music to offer, last night’s performance has to be considered one of the band’s defining nights of the year.

8.5.11 - Graham Lucas

At the center of this sequence, and the show, stood a gargantuan “Rock and Roll” that blended so many styles of Phish’s past through their razor sharp jaws of today and came up with music to behold. Infusing the exploratory gem with a hefty dosage of “Storage” jamming—including a stint with Page on Theremin—Phish stepped to Leg Two with the most compelling piece of music we’ve heard since Detroit’s “Disease.  But any musical comparisons would end there. This was a different monster altogether. This was the Gorge. This jam dropped into half-time—and into a distant universe. In this jam, Phish coyly crept upon menacing “Black-Eyed” teases amidst liquid textures, pushing minds to the brink of explosion. In this jam, the band actualized and integrated so much of what they have been honing in on stylistically—and then pushed right beyond it into new frontiers. Within this 20-minute jam, Phish realized so many aural fantasies of mine it would feel too intimate to go on much further. In short, this “Rock and Roll” represents a seminal piece of improv; a piece that on the first night of tour that stomped a new foot forward for a band that won’t stop making musical leaps and bounds in front of our eyes.

8.5.11 - The Gorge (Graham Lucas)

And they were hardly done there, segueing energetically into “Meastick,” Phish just kept bringing it, allowing their chops to take them where they may. Honestly, the songs seemed completely secondary at this point in the show, as the guys were tapped into IT on a stratospheric plane. Songs emerged as natural outgrowths of musical conversations, not because anyone cared about the setlist or curfew. This was Phish on top of the world again. And what better view of the band’s technicolor multiverse than the wide-open vistas of the Columbia River Gorge. Everything I dream of about Phish at the Gorge—patient jams where creativity is the only muse—took hold last night, and left the crowd with a show to be reckoned with to kick off Leg Two.

8.5.11 - The Gorge (Graham Lucas)

And there was so much more. There was the dripping psychedelia of a stunning, first-set “Roggae” that saw the loose and exploratory vibe descend from overhead. There was the phenomenal “Bathtub Gin” that kick-started  the second half of tour, in earnest. There was the intricate and introspective “David Bowie” that brought nightfall to the Gorge. There was the gorgeous “Farmhouse” that resolved the second-set’s odyssey and was backed by bouncier basslines, giving the song a reggae feel. And then there was the cathartic “Show of Life” under a Washington heaven as Trey’s guitar solo likened a child reaching for a falling star. A crunching “Zero” put an exclamation point on a set that exists as “must-hear-now” for every Phish fan on the planet.

Something about opening nights of tours have always gripped me. Whether or not they turn out to be one of the best nights of tour, openers always seemed to possess gritty improvisational memories. Whether it be “Tweezer -> California Love” from Portland ’98, “Bathtub > 2001 > YEM” from the Palace in ’99, “Free” from Bonner Springs ’99, the “Stash” from Vegas ’97, openers have always shot improvisational daggers. But rarely in their history has Phish put together such a prolific set together to kick off a run. Building off Bethel’s summer-opening blowout, Leg Two has started with one of its own. But this one is only half way over…

I: Kill Devil Falls, The Wedge, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane, My Friend, My Friend, Cavern, Taste, Roggae, Walk Away, Funky Bitch, Roses Are Free > David Bowie

II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Rock and Roll* -> Meatstick -> Boogie On Reggae Woman > Farmhouse, Show of Life, Julius, Character Zero

E: Loving Cup

*Page on Theremin

Official Gorge Print (Brad Klausen)

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The Influence of Webcasts?

Posted in Uncategorized with the on August 3rd, 2011 by Mr.Miner

PNC- 5.31.11 ( (C.LaJaunie)

Phish announced yesterday that they will be webcasting their two sold-out shows from Lake Tahoe on Monday and Tuesday next week. Fans from across the nation—and the world—will be able to tune in to the twin bill for only $24.99, exponentially increasing the 7,000 person audience with a virtual cast of thousands. But is this a good thing for the integrity of the show? Does a show being webcasted alter the band’s performance? Does it change the way Trey arranges the setlist in his mind? Maybe so, maybe not.

One thing we know for sure is that thousands of Phish fans get to enjoy a pimped-out couch tour experience when Phish drops a webcast, and that is certainly a huge positive—that much is a given in this discussion. But is the show that fans watch on widescreens at home the same show that would have gone down were they not wired in? One would hope that the band wouldn’t “play to the webcast,” but at times, it seems that this happens. Often favoring anthems, bustouts, and a moving setlist, webcasts in this modern era don’t always translate to huge jams.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

The last two webcasted shows—Alpharetta’s two-night stand—didn’t turn out so great. Though the first night boasted some highlights, the only musical adventure over two shows came in “Disease,” and the only other jam that moved outside the box over four sets was “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” Fun shows? Sure, but dwarfed by most nights of tour. “What about MSG?,” one might ask? Well, there were some jams here and there, but other than “Tweezer,” “Sand,” “Ghost” and “Simple,” there wasn’t a hell of a lot left to go over. But in that case, the webcast and the inherently planned-out nature of a New Year’s Run, collided in some glossy—though entertaining—sets.

The issue with webcasted shows during this era of sobriety is that the band has yet to truly let themselves go—without caring what might come out—in front of a pay-per-view audience. Aside from 12/30’s “Tweezer” and 1/1’s “Simple,” just about every jam from MSG possessed a certain linear quality, only seldom flirting with transcendence. Trey, we all know, still battles his mind (and band members) cutting off jams through this past tour (albeit far less often). Do webcasts just add something else to think about, causing him to consider what the people at home want to hear? I don’t know, but when he cut “Tweezer” for “Julius” after a monsoon in Alpharetta, one had to wonder if he wanted to get in more songs and why.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Perhaps all of these conjectures have no bearing in reality. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that the past five webcasted shows weren’t exactly drenched in improvisational adventure. Or, perhaps there would have been a jam in the first or third set of New Year’s Eve were it not for the pay-per-view performance. Hopefully, the Tahoe shows will blow up and  dispel any connection between webcasts and mediocrity. I’ll be the first to admit it and cheering them on. But all of a sudden, the intimate 7,000 person Lake Tahoe shows don’t feel so intimate, especially when your buddies from the east coast blow up your phone with texts as they watch along with the show that you traveled across the country to attend.

Even if the webast never affected the music, does it not effect what is sacred about a Phish show? Shows are irreplaceable experiences that happen at one time in one place. Should people be washing dishes and putting babies to sleep at setbreak? Trust me, I support the inclusive feature of the webcast, but does it cut into what is cherished about a Phish show if kids across the country are ripping tubes while watching “Tweezer” with a soundboard feed? The technology of the future is great. Or is it?

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Jam of the Day:

Harry Hood” 9.11.99 II

Another Gorge highlight to bring us through the week.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/02-Track-02.mp3]

A Jamming Diversity

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , on August 1st, 2011 by Mr.Miner

7.3.11 (Dave Lavery)

Phish’s creative burst of 2011 has changed the face of the modern band atop a solid, two-year foundation. But their current jamming has been less-defined by a single sound or style than ever before. Each era of the band’s illustrious history is virtually synonymous with its style of improv. The “speedjazz” of ’93, the abstract space exploration of Summer ’95, the fast-paced, psych rock of Fall ’95, the groove explosion in ’97, the ambient movement of Fall ’98, yada, yada, yada. But looking at Phish 2011, the band’s revitalized jamming can not be pigeonholed into a single sound. Let’s take some standout excursions from Super Ball, alone, as examples—”Simple,” “Golden Age,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” “Piper,” “Disease” and “Light.” Looking at these songs as a microcosm of the band’s musical place in time, one can simply observe the diversity of music being cranked out by Phish right now.

5.31.11 (B.Ferguson)

Whether engaging in syrupy grooves and bass-led, rhythmic abstractions (“Golden Age” and “Disease”), using ambient sound sculptures to uplift the spirit (“Simple”) or to explore the dark side (“ASIHTOS”), dropping into intricate psychedelia (“Light”) or that of the driving variety (“Piper”), Phish’s game is razor sharp in every direction right now. The result of this jamming diversity is a completely non-homogeneous sound for the band—something that has been relatively rare in their career. There haven’t been many eras where Phish migrated between such vastly different improvisational textures from jam to jam. More often than not, jams of a certain era boasted “a sound” that couldn’t be stripped from that place in time, such as the break-neck virtuosity of Summer ’93, the Cowfunk of Summer ’97 or the meandering and murky explorations of 2003. But without a microscope on one specific style these days, the band has spread their wings and embraced the totality of their career, drawing elements from every era, while still pushing forward into original pastures.

The spectrum of territory covered in June spanned many new styles while evoking old ones along the way. Bethel’s “Waves,” PNC’s “Drowned,” Detroit’s “Disease,” Blossom’s “Sally,” Cincy’s “Tweezer,” Charlotte’s “Ghost,” Mansfield’s “Rock and Roll,” and “Bethel’s “Halley’s”—all beasts of completely different feathers—are jams that can stand up to any era of Phish, regardless of anyone’s personal preferences. (And we haven’t even discussed the precision and creativity infused in their contained jamming.) This is the time we have been waiting for, the time that Phish is moving forward again, creating original and masterful music on the spot without hesitation.The bravado of the band we once knew has bloomed under the summer sun in a way many never thought it would after Hampton ’09 was announced.

6.11.11 (Brian Ferguson)

It has been a popular catch-phrase these days for fans to say, “Sure Phish is back, but they will never be as good as… yada, yada, yada.” When I hear this I hear people longing for the past, longing for familiarity and nostalgia, a desire for Phish’s to reproduce a place in time that can never be relived—20 minute funk grooves or whatever their pleasure may be. But the past is just that—over; nothing but thoughts and memories. It often seems that so many people are caught up in what the music *isn’t* these days, that they are completely missing what it *is*—which is, quite clearly, the dawning of another peak era. And this time, there are less musical boundaries than ever.

7.2.11 (G.Lucas)

Phish just wouldn’t be Phish if they came back and were musically complacent. The quartet from Vermont has always been about pushing the limits of live music; stretching the walls of improvisation while redefining the relationship between a band and their audience. And now, with sober minds, blazing skills and unbridled confidence, the band will set sail on the back end of a transformative summer, and where their jams will go, nobody knows. And that, my friends, is the beauty of things.

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“The Philler” Talks With Mr. Miner: Airing Tomorrow!

The Philler is a Phish-related, weekly “cloudcast” created by three Phish fans, Robert Champion and his cohorts “Electric” Sammy” and “Stardog” Greg. The Philler brings on outside guests to talk about anything and everything related to Phish music and culture. They have recently covered Super Ball and are currently working on a Summer 2011 Leg One roundup. I have been asked to come on the program to discuss the history of this blog, my upcoming book, and about Phish in general. The interview will be streaming on Wednesday at TBA, so make sure to tune in for what should be a fun and interesting conversation.

Previous cloudcasts from The Philler can be found here. If you like what you hear then please feel free to follow the page to receive updates on new programs.

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Jam of the Day:

Tweezer > Fluffhead” 8.1.98 II

One of the seminal “Tweezers” of the late -’90s celebrated its 13th birthday yesterday, and here it is—from Alpine Valley— in all its soundboard glory.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/04-Tweezer-_-Fluffhead-1998-08-01-Alpine-Valley-Music-Amphitheatre-East-Troy-WI.mp3]
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