Deer Creek II: Cliff Notes

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 30th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.16.12 – Atlantic City (S.Lehrman)

I just got to Lake Geneva after an all-night drive, so tonight but I’ll go with the Cliff Notes version on a herky-jerky show that didn’t totally elevate. With a first set filled with fresh songs and bust outs, the band set the stage for a huge second with opening “Disease -> Sand.” As the band segued out of “Sand into “Twist,” it seemed like they were setting up an improvisationally-based five or six song stanza of dreams. Flowing like a river through the first thirty minutes of the main event, the band seemed primed to weave one of their sets of the summer, but all of a sudden, Trey got jumpy. Red bailed out of “Twist” with an insistent transition into another oddly placed, mid-second set “Rift” before the jam even got going. But when the guys cranked into an ever elusive second-set “Bathtub Gin,” things seemed primed to get nasty. But as they forged into an original and engaging jam, Trey got the idea that cutting the excursion for a second set “Fluffhead” was somehow a good idea. Though “Fluff” certainly popped off, the set that looked super-promising from the early jump off had dissolved to a disjointed ride. A late-set bust-out of “Ride Captain Ride” kept the energy high and was great to hear, and when Trey wove the piece into the “Antelope” intro and the jam, they formed a quality late-set couplet.

All in all, last night didn’t contain the coherency that has underlined most of the show’s of this summer. “Disease – > Sand,” however, is definitely another stellar segment of Phish that must be heard. The “Disease, in fact, flowed incredibly well, ballooning over the fifteen minute mark and was jammed to completion for the first time this summer. Flowing nicely into “Sand,” the band kicked down another rhythmic throwdown, in what is quickly developing into the leading “MVP” candidate for Leg One. Check out that segment for sure. Notable bust-outs in fun a first set included the third “Sweet Jane” ever, “Mound,” “Life On Mars?” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” A fun night of Phish, but the second set really coulda been a contender…

I: Crowd Control, Dinner and a Movie, Sweet Jane, Limb By Limb > Possum, Mound, Life on Mars?, The Mango Song > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Strange Design, Birds of a Feather, Halley’s Comet, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

II: Down with Disease > Sand -> Twist -> Rift, Bathtub Gin –> Fluffhead, Ride Captain Ride, Run Like an Antelope

E: Cavern > Sanity, First Tube

PS…I rescind my comment from the last review saying that the Deer Creek “Tweezer” is the “Tweezer” of the summer. It’s not.

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Heat at The Creek

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 29th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.28.2012 (Michael Stein)

In temperatures that topped 100 degrees and amidst sweltering humidity, Phish kicked off their classic Midwestern run of Deer Creek and Alpine with a smoking performance that touched on every aspect of the band’s game. Crafting a fresh setlist with eight summer debuts, the band dropped a monstrous opening frame in the now-developed Cornfields, and followed it up with a second half filled with innovative jamming. And when the band crushes from start to finish like they did on Thursday, everyone goes home smiling.

Official 6/28 Print (Brosmind)

If anyone was in the lot for any duration yesterday afternoon, I’m not sure how he made it through the first set—the weather was that unbearable. But when Phish hit the stage, they didn’t seem to mind at all, playing a first half that matched the temperatures with their own musical heat. The show fired off with six summer songs we’ve yet to hear this year, highlighted by a “Curtain With” jam that greeted the Indiana crowd with a kiss of majesty. Locked in jamming is but a given at this state of the game, and a three-day layoff showed no ill effects as the band got to work quickly in nailing their complex composition. And when they cut through the molasses-thick air with the opening of “With” it felt like that—at least for the moment—everything cooled down. Trey delicately painted their seminal opus with flowing licks of beauty that drew everyone’s attention away from their environs and into the ride. It was clear that it would be another special night.

The improvisational highlights of the set continued with another first of 2012—“Pebbles and Marbles.” I’ve always felt that once this song breaks, it might as well be another “Disease” jam, and last night fit that bill perfectly. Stepping into a torrid segment that sounds plucked from a first-set “Disease,” the band continued countering the summer heat with their musical momentum. And the set would only balloon from there. Stepping out of their string of debuts with “Chalk Dust,” things got far gooier with the following three-song combo—“Wolfman’s,” “Cool It Down,” and the second “Tweezer” in as many sets!

6.28.2012 (M.Stein)

This jammier sequence began with the second consecutive “swanky-not-wanky,” full-band take on “Wolfman’s Brother.” Diving, collectively, into music as thick as the air in which we swam, the band treated to us to a smorgasbord of grooves throughout this first set triumvirate. After a smoking “Wolfman’s,” the band began playing off the absurd temperatures with their song choices, first, “Cool It Down.” Marking the seventh summer debut of the set, the band snapped into a groovy sequence out of the Velvet Underground rarity, setting the table for an out of left field “Tweezer” bomb! Having just played the crowd favorite in Blossom’s second set, here we were stepping into the freezer amidst ungodly heat! And what a “Tweezer” it was. Quickly jumping to the forefront of Summer 2012 versions, this jam exploded in power-packed playing, erasing any thoughts of the inhuman environs. Though a Trey led-jam through and through, Red never dominated the four-man mix, allowing the groove to breathe as this band mates sat with him every step of the way. Altering his playing throughout the jam, when he finally went for the final build, he did so with utmost creativity, peaking the jam as if a rabid hyena. Cranking out an old school ending, the band supported the standout “Tweezer,” with “Tela,” a song that immediately brought memories of Summer ’96 in the same shed, before a surprisingly uneventful “Faulty Plan” closed the set.

6.28.2012 (M.Stein)

And once things cooled down a bit, Phish came back with a flowing second half, in which a Fishman interlude didn’t even detract from the band’s overall musical focus. Opening the second frame with the unlikely combo of “Mike’s > McGrupp” for the first time since Nassau ’99, the guys remained anchored to “Mike’s Song,” but took “McGrupp” for the ride of its life. Morphing out from Page’s piano solo, the band infused their 2012 sound into the piece, transforming the jam into a minimalist groove that Trey dotted with tasteful  creativity. Merging back into the song with nary a hitch, they concluded the Gamehendge tangent and moved directly into “Back on the Train.” The darker vibe that Portsmouth’s version hinted at was fully during the improvisational centerpiece set’s opening half. As the band moved further and further away from the song’s template, Fishman maintained its beat far into this murky tale. Trey and Page came together atop the groove, nudging the jam further and further out of the box, and soon Trey was playing a tone-split solo over his own loops and an increasingly dense texture—and Fish kept the groove driving straight ahead. Finally giving way to his bandmates ideas, he began to ooze into subtler rhythms over which Trey, Mike and Page began to abstractly expound. Before one knew it, we were neck deep in an avant-garde, ambient soundscape. Moving slowly into the stratosphere, the band’s sorcerer’s cloaks came out as they collaboratively floated through sonic realms until they twisted gradually into “Hold Your Head Up” in a perfectly executed segue.

And when Fishman’s Syd Barret spotlight ended with his routine laps around the stage and Trey started up “Weekapaug” on the drums, instead of returning to his post, Fishman “tucked” and picked up Trey’s Languedoc! Playing twangy notes into the quickening jam, the band began coalescing around his off-kilter offerings. Turning, first, into a bit of sheer comedy, and then morphing to a very impressive dual-drum solo with Trey and Fish sharing the kit, the band’s antics never took away from the on stage musical narrative—another layer of polish to Phish 2012. When Trey finally rejoined his guitar, the band locked right into a blistering “Weekapaug” jam. Though when it ended, the most impressive sequence of the night began.

6.28.2012 (M.Stein)

Digging into “Prince Caspian” with varied leads and a different feel, Trey led this jam—unlike the equally beautiful Page-led AC rendition—and got super creative within an old classic. And when the song came to its ethereal settling point, instead of crashing into its ending chords, Trey ushered in a slithery segue into the long awaited summer debut of “Waves.” With each night there seems to be another timeless jam added to the 2012 playlist, and while the entire night was laced with fiery and creative interplay throughout, “Waves” is what the first night of Deer Creek will be associated with forever.

Unlike recent versions, the band didn’t reprise the lyrics after Trey’s guitar solo, instead launching in sequence of five-star Phish that stacks up to any of the masterful pieces we’ve heard this tour. Jumping off with a furious “type-II” groove, the band turned the creative juices on high and let them flow. Spinning a staggeringly coherent tale of original music, the guys covered a ludicrous amount of musical territory within a compact time frame. Gradually moving into more and more abstract territory within the open waters, the band landed in a outright futuristic sound-sculpture. I’ll let the music take this one away. Bringing the jam to an ambient head, Phish slowly dropped into “Bug,” a perfect landing point from the outer cosmos. The band brought the audience back to earth before dropping into a notably strong, show ending “David Bowie.”

Delivered in pre and post Fishman segments of music, each half of the second set stood out for its originality, the infusion of fresh, distinctly modern ideas, and outstanding musicianship. The first show of Deer Creek was a two-setter that holds up to any of summer, as the band came out swinging on the opening night of a ludicrous run of nine shows in 11 days to finish the tour. But if they keep playing them they have been, these next ten days are gonna’ be quite the spectacle. 2012 Phish….mmmmm…mmmmm…good! Catch em while you can!

I: The Birdwatcher, The Curtain With, Fuck Your Face, The Old Home Place, Pebbles and Marbles, Weigh, Chalk Dust Torture, Wolfman’s Brother, Cool It Down, Tweezer, Tela, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Mike’s Song > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Back on the Train -> Hold Your Head Up, Bike >Hold Your Head Up > Weekapaug Groove*, Prince Caspian –> Waves > Bug > David Bowie

E: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise

*w/ Trey & Fish drum duet

6.28.2012 (Michael Stein)


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Phish 2012—A New Age

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 26th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Portsmouth (Katie Loya)

I’ve had a couple days to kick back and spin the highlights from the first half tour, and—wowzers—talk about playback value! The current process of picking a show or set to listen to likens the old days—almost every show is worthy! And on top of that, one can just hit play at let things roll. Virtually vanished are the awkward jam abortions, the on-stage musical power struggles, and the routine setlists. Present are fluid transitions, fresh, cohesive jamming, and a spicy song selection that nobody can predict. This summer, the band has come to play, and thus far the musical highlight reel is dizzying. Last weekend in the Midwest put Worcester and AC in the rear view mirror and has the community drooling over the rest of summer’s open road. If the band continues at this rate—and they have shown no signs of slowing down—the amount of outstanding music we’ll be listening to come will be mind numbing.

Starting in Worcester on June 7 and carrying through Blossom on June 24, the band has maintained an incredibly high level of play for over two weeks—the longest such period in this era with no notably “off” show. Even in 2011—a year that upped the musical ante considerably—the night-to-night consistency that once defined Phish was still lacking. But this summer, those nightly blasts into original sonic dimensions have returned. With refined skill sets and a minimalist, “less is more,” philosophy, the guys have crafted countless highlights within the first two weeks of tour. The tightness, precision and adventure that so many fans associated with Phish throughout their career is back with a fury! Pulling elements from every era while adding new stylistic directions—all with the polish of matured musicians—the band sounds as good—if not better—than ever. They have stepped through another musical threshold—some have called it Phish 4.0—and the there seems to be no boundaries to where summer’s music may travel.

Atlantic City (Steve Lehrman)

Think about this. All of the following jams have happened in the past two weeks: Worcester’s “Carini > Taste,” “Ghost -> Boogie On,” “Roses Are Free,” and “Sandy Kane;” Bonnaroo’s “Tweezer’” AC’s “Birds > Back on the Train,” “Lighteca,” and “2001 > Reba,” Portsmouth’s “What’s the Hood?,” Cincy’s “Disease,” “Twist,” and “Sand -> Roggae,” Star Lake’s “Seventh Simple Light Groove,” and “The Golden Ghost”of Cuyahoga Falls! Innovative jamming all over the place—and that’s just the super-dope chronic shit! There are supporting jams all over these shows that stand out as well. Consider the results from following songs that have been in consistent rotation—“Bathtub Gin,” “Stash,” “2001,” “Tube,” “Stealing Time,” “Piper,” “Ocelot,” “Slave,” and “Tweezer.” Put all that together with an array of bustouts, laser-like precision, and a revitalized enthusiasm, and Summer 2012 is shaping up to be quite the season!

If one word can sum up the difference in the band’s playing this summer, it is “patience.” Applying a minimalist approach to jams, no member is forcing ideas into the mix. Instead, each player is listening and tastefully adding their part to the whole. Obviously, the most significant change in this respect has been with Trey. Laying back in almost every jam, he is allowing others to steer the ship before striking strategically with his most creative playing in years. One need not look any farther than the aforementioned jams to hear the spectacular results. And, again, we are only one third of the way through the summer. If 2012 follows the contours of the previous three years, the playlist we’ll have at the end of the year will be heavenly.

Night in and night out, Phish have been executing their game plan. Crafting thematic shows based on different aspects of their repertoire, the band’s creativity is at a 3.0 peak. The level of excitement in the shows, on the lot, and in the community is palpable and growing with each and every throwdown. I can’t remember the last time such a widespread positive sentiment blanketed the scene. Everyone has jumped back on the train and we are in for a joyride like we never imagined.

Star Lake Pre-Show (Erin Loeb)

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The Legend Of The Golden Ghost

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 25th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Official 6/24 Print (Subject Matter)

Well, IT happened again. For the third straight night, Phish destroyed a Midwestern amphitheatre—this time in Cleveland, Ohio—with the type of dense musical drama that speaks to the psychonaut in all of us. Presented in three improvisational chunks, last night’s second set put a magnifying lens on groove, as each segment featured a different stylistic take on rhythmic playing. The band concluded their weekend run—and the opening third of Summer 2012—with a boldface musical exclamation point, and things couldn’t look finer in the universe of Phish.

A night after showcasing a new-school “plinko” symphony at Star Lake, Phish gave us an intimate look into the “Storage-shed” style of jamming, named after Super Ball’s fourth set phenomenon—specifically with the opening sequence of the second half. But before things got eerie, we hit the dance floor with the band’s best modern-era cover, “Golden Age.” Primarily used as a single instead of a jam vehicle since its debut, consider last night a win for the home team. Breaking out of the song, Trey crack-like rhythm playing—the style that has been fairly absent in this era—took over, and he sliced and diced the music in a way that got the pavilion pulsing. Able to step up with Trey’s minimalism, Mike’s bass lines bushwhacked a silky path for the music. Maintaining this addictive texture for the first part of the jam, Trey moved into some unconventional leads before hitting an effect pedal that signified the beginning of a gradual descent into an outright Storage soundscape. Crafting a collaborative canvas—simultaneously haunting and beautiful—the ambient music that emanated from the stage, for the second consecutive night, could only have come from this era. Drifting into deep space with delicate communication rather than overlaying copious effects, the band painted an avant-garde work of art before bleeding slowly into “Ghost.”

6.22.12 (M.Stein)

Placed in the wheelhouse of the second set, and paired with the previous excursion, “Ghost” was primed to explode for the second time this summer. As the jam opened, Trey cut into the groove with a snarling guitar lick that primed the intimate pavilion at Blossom for action. Completely demolishing the opening part of “Ghost,” Trey showcased fingers of fury as he tore off one spectacular phrase after another. Fish and Mike anchored the mix with a smooth-as-all-get-out pocket of liquid groove. Crushing this linear theme for some time, things would soon veer far off course into another portion nouveau Phish. After his scorching soloing, Trey—with Fishman—moved into more abstract territory, and within seconds the band seamlessly entered an alternate musical reality. Trey looped an effected drone pattern and began playing notes and other layers atop an intricate rhythm. Fusing Storage sounds into this abstract groove, the band crafted another distinctly 2012 jam. “The Golden Ghost”—another timeless sequence that we’ll be listening to for years to come—finished nearly 25 minutes after the band came on stage, providing yet another prime example of musical density. Navigating no less than four separate textural feels within this compact time frame, the guys astounded their audience once again. Tastefully twisting into Exile’s “Sweet Virginia” the band capped the opening portion of the set with the always welcome ballad.

6.20.12 (M.Stein)

Phish—but for a few measures—nailed a mid-set “Rift” that shocked and persuaded our souls to ignite for the monstrous dance throwdown that lurked around the corner in the form of “Tweezer.” Notably juicing the venue with its opening licks, the band hadn’t combined “Ghost” and “Tweezer” in the second set in ages. And with the band dropping all types of filthy grooves throughout the set, one had to imagine “Tweezer” would follow suit. But instead of opening the door to a gooey fantasy land upon the outset, the guys pounced directly onto a “Tweezer Reprise” jam! Usually reserved for the end of shows, this chord progression was far much more adrenaline-inducing knowing that a “Tweezer” jam was coming on its heels! Atop a robust rhythm Trey broke the “Reprise” jam with a seething guitar lick and then backed waaay off, allowing Mike to caress our ears with seductive, envelope-filtered leads. Over a groove as dancy as a Solid Gold, Trey chopped in with a series of staccato chords before playing a dark melody that began to resemble Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” Realizing the similarity, Trey adjusted his playing and stepped to the mic. But when nobody in the band knew the lyrics, this part turned into a comical mashup of “Tweezer” and “Under Pressure,” with Trey even giving a nod to Vanilla Ice’s ripped-off pop single “Ice, Ice Baby!” When Trey claimed that “This is obviously going nowhere!” he jokingly suggested bringing a bunch of girls to up to dance the “Meatstick,” in reference to their first-set closing antics. And on cue, the band moved into a “Meatstick Reprise.” Loose and having a blast, the band hand the crowd in the palm of its hand, and when they dropped back into “Tweezer,” the place blew up. Recommitting to the “Tweezer” groove, they guys gradually morphed the jam into “Walk Away!”

With a “Reprise”-esque jam already written into the modern-day version of the cover, “Walk Away” provided the band a chance to bring “Tweezer’s” tease-laced suite to a powerful head. And thus ended the second improvisational chunk of the set. “Horse -> Silent” provided an appropriate exhale before the Phish dove into the final part of the night with “Piper.”

6.17.12 (M.Stein)

Superb song selection teamed up with airtight jamming on this night to deliver a set that just kept on giving. Resetting the improvisational palette, the band engaged in one more permutation of groove, this time of the uptempo variety. Blasting off in a hard-edged opening to the jam, soon Trey pulled back on his leads in favor of high-paced rhythm playing, encouraging Mike and Fish to switch gears into a percussive pattern. As Page played the Rhodes with prominence, the band coalesced into another quintessential style of Phish groove. When Trey came back over the top with a scorching lead, the guys upped the vigor of the piece into a rock-based groove before coming down into a distorted and demented ending and seeping into “Waste.” As Trey soulfully played one of many fan’s favorite ballad-based solos, one could see an oncoming “Antelope” as plain as day.

Always far beefier as a second set closer rather than at the end of the first, this well-placed “Antelope” blossomed into the fiercest of summer. Including teases of “Under Pressure” and “Meatstick” in the intro, the band was in an incredibly playful mood as they hit the night’s final jam, and their enthusiasm spoke loudly through the speakers. Dynamic and far livelier that usual, “Antelope” was underlined by intricacy and smoothness as well as force and power, providing a smashing conclusion to another amazing set of Phish.

6.17.12 (M.Stein)

With the band’s totally revitalized musical perspective and playing that is as dialed in as ever, Phish tour now carries the nightly consistency of lore. Every time the lights drop, the possibilities are both spectral and endless, and one can be fairly sure they will leave the show astounded. Excitement and overjoyedness—emotions that have come to define the current state of Phish—coarse through the veins of the entire community once again. And with the Midwestern Meccas of Deer Creek and Alpine on the horizon, I don’t think things are slowing down any time soon!

Set One Notes: The band is slaying virtually anything they touch right now, giving even standard first sets like last night’s an extra pop. Song selection plays a large part how much one likes these sets, and for the most part I dug last night’s opening frame. A short but super-charged “Tube” foreshadowed the theme of the second set, and though the band gave “Gin” a solid spin, the version didn’t necessarily stack up to the previous couple outings. “Limb” provided the jam of the first set with particularly active communication between all four members. The rarity, “Corrina,” graced us with a late set appearance before an antic filled “Meatstick”—in which Trey pulled no less than seven fans on stage at a futile, but funny, attempt to get the participants to do the dance—ended the set in comical fashion. Very tight and very clean, though improvisationally thin, the first set mattered little after Blossom’s second set bombardment.

I: Sample in a Jar, Tube, Axilla, Bathtub Gin, Roses Are Free, Limb By Limb, Free, NICU, Possum, The Wedge, Corinna, Meatstick*

II: Golden Age > Ghost > Sweet Virginia, Rift, Tweezer* -> Walk Away > The Horse > Silent in the Morning> Piper, Waste,  Run Like an Antelope

E: Loving Cup > Tweezer Reprise

* w/ crowd dancers on stage ** w/ “Under Pressure” teases/mashup

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A Whole New Ballgame

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 24th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Official 6/23 Print (D. Milllward)

Having just re-listened to Star Lake’s second set, I nearly shed a tear of joy upon the ending of “Slave”—this is the place I knew Phish would get to upon their comeback in 2009. Amidst so much skepticism, I believed that this band once would again blow our minds on a nightly basis. I had faith. In fact I knew it in my core. And in the mythical year of 2012, the time has finally come. Performing—what I can confidently say—is the best set of this era, Phish wrote another page of history in a venue of legend somewhere between Erie and Pittsburgh. Centering 42 straight minutes of connected, improvisational bliss in a second set that flowed like water, the band continues to set new standards for themselves this summer by the show. With stylistically innovative and self-referential jamming throughout the second set Star Lake provided a gleaming portrait of Phish 2012.

Following a standardish first set, and a fiery, though wholly regular, “Jibboo,” “Mikes” opener of the second, I thought we could be on our way to a “Saturday Night Special.” But when the band blossomed from “Simple” into the most engaging musical suite in memory, any thoughts of a glossy show vanished into the summer air. Easily the most astounding jamming we’ve heard all year took place in long form over the coarse of the second set, and it all started here…

6.19.12 (M.Stein)

Bubbling out of “Simple,” evoking memories of the Omni’s third set version in ’96, the band soon dissolved into a haunting sound sculpture that had “Storage Jam” written all over it. This four-piece mind-meld illustrated a desire to move beyond conventions, and as the piece was patiently floating further into the outer reaches of the Milky Way, Trey concluded the first movement with the opening to “Light.” One immediately felt that this jam would transform into the centerpiece of the show, and lo and behold, that is exactly what happened. Trey took an alternate type of lead out of the lyrics, favoring more notes rather than his usual pitch-bent melodies, a move that encouraged the rest of the guys to get involved early on. Transforming into an equitable and innovative conversation, this jam put a spotlight on the here and now with jamming that could only have come from 2012. With nobody in particular out front of the exchange, each band member patiently contributed exactly what needed to be played, forming a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. Over an eerie, beginning—driven my Mike’s envelope filter—Trey tastefully picked his spots with laser-like precision, dropping in the perfect rhythm chords to urge his bandmates into a fully-percussive exchange. Page used his clav to direct the jam into “plinko” land, and Trey responded appropriately, forming an aweing sonic tapestry. Picking up one of his own patterns and transforming it into a melodic theme, Phish had ascended into “plinko” heaven with the most forward-looking musical experiment we’ve heard since—well—the night before! As the band smoothly navigated the polyrhythmic exchanges, “Light” bent the boundaries of Phish music further than we’ve seen in a quite a while with some of the hippest, freshest interplay of the summer.

6.16.12 (S.Siegal)

And as the band wound down, Trey coyly strummed the intro to “Weekapaug” and the band immediately jumped into the intro to the song laced with the exact vibe of the previous “Light” jam. And as the band set smoothly on sail the seas of “Weekapaug,” they continued to reprise elements of the previous jam throughout, while pushing the song much further than we’ve heard in this era. I cannot remember a “Weekapaug” as engaging as this one since the Island Run—and though I may be forgetting a version or two—that’s saying a hell of lot. When it comes to the modern “Mike’s Groove,” “Weekapaug” has transformed into the new “Mike’s Song”— the half where the improvisation really goes down. And that was never truer than at Star Lake last night within “Mike’s Simple Light Groove.” Getting into wah-based stop/start jamming, amidst a multi-tiered escapade, the band was in robotic crush mode and could do no wrong. As they came to the end of “Weekpaug,” however, they weren’t looking for applause. Tweaking the final note with drone-like effects, Trey brought the band into a demented outro that kept everyone enraptured. Artistically connecting this ambient interlude with the intro to “Seven Below,” “Mike’s Groove” may have been over, but Star Lake’s Suite was still going strong.

As the band precisely played though the song and dove into the minimalist jam, the virtuoso improvisation just kept unfolding. Trey immediately took the piece on a harder edged, yet melodic, course as the guys—particularly Page—responded with a delicate backing. As they momentarily settled, Page came in with a “Weekapaug” tease and the whole band jumped right on it, crafting a reprise of the jam and a legitimate mash-up of the two songs, bringing this monumental—and inseparable—musical sequence full circle with a stunning conclusion. Another fresh sounding and new-school jam blended perfectly back into the “Seven Below’s” theme, and Phish—finally—stopped playing for the first time since the start of “Mike’s Song” 50 minutes earlier!

6.19.12 (M.Stein)

In absolutely classic fashion, the band followed up their most complex musical sequence of the year with the song that lured so many of us towards this magical scene to begin with—“Boucing Around the Room.” Executed to perfection, this performance of the song reawakened me to how phenomenal the oft-maligned single really is. Part of the fabric of Phish’s essence—which is very much what this set was all about—“Bouncing” fit perfectly in the late-show spot. And following another slayed “Julius,” the band sealed the set with a cherry on top with a cathartic, heart-wrenching “Slave.” Building off the stellar versions from tour, this was the perfect slot for the soul-quenching anthem. Meticulously dripping into the ether, the words patient, refined and tasteful don’t begin to approach the utter majesty of this set-closing rendition. Peeking out of the mix, Trey’s final solo began climbing for the mountaintop and every open heart ascended with him. “Wow!” As the band left the stage, that’s about the only thought that crossed my mind. This was a whole new ballgame. This is why I kept the faith. This is why I believed.

6.19.12 (M.Stein)

To close the evening, the band came out and played the first song that ever hooked me—and at this point an absolute rarity—“Lizards.” How fitting that on a night that redefined Gamehendge as we know it, the band concluded the show with the song in which Colonel Forbin, himself, first discovered the mythical land. It’s 2012, and this is the Phish for which we’ve all been waiting. They have arrived, and the summer isn’t even halfway over. The adventures that still await us are beyond imagination, but I can’t wait to turn each and every corner with the most magnificent band on the planet.

Set One Notes: The first set, though nothing to freak out about, was certainly no slouch either. Stringing together some high-octane favorites to start the show, the band immediately set a high-energy tone and never looked back. The rarity “Scent of a Mule” featured a drawn out—first musical and then comical—“Mule Duel” in which the band stretched out the ending lick of the jam ad infinitum, even bringing Page’s Theremin on the stage so he could play the lick with abstract acumen. After a quick “46 Days,” the first “You Enjoy Myself” of the year finally rolled from stage, and the band closed the set with a laid-back jam session on their seminal opus. I’m all for infrequent “YEMs” if they routinely breathe and expand like this one. All in all, a solid, tight, rocking opening half.

Set I: Funky Bitch, Backwards Down the Number Line, Gumbo, Maze, Torn and Frayed, The Moma Dance > Scent of a Mule, 46 Days, You Enjoy Myself

Set II: Gotta Jibboo > Mike’s Song > Simple > Light > Weekapaug Groove -> Seven Below, Bouncing Around the Room, Julius > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: The Lizards

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Substituting Every Sound

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on June 23rd, 2012 by Mr.Miner

Official 6/22 Print (Status Serigraph)

Phish greeted the Midwest with a musical monsoon, dropping their strongest top to bottom effort of 2012 in Cincinnati Friday night, featuring a centerpiece jam that has immediately leapt to the forefront of summer offerings. One could tell the band had their jamming shoes laced tightly from note one as they dug into a “Wolfman’s” opener with far more vigor than usual. And when the band encored with a soaring “Fluffhead” for the first time since 1990, it likened a collective signature on a memorable night of music in the old shed by the river.

In stark contrast to most nights this summer, Friday’s show opened with pageantry. Trey laid down a fierce, bluesy solo over the opening groove of “Wolfman’s” before Page took over on clav and everything got far gooier as Trey, simultaneously, wove a palm-muted, “plinko” lead into the fray. Minutes into the show we were knee deep in whole-band funk and the guys sounded locked for a huge night. The band’s rediscovered patience of 2012 allowed this jam to grow into something significant right off the bat—and far more engaging that any version of the year. And on the heels of this show-opening throwdown came a bustout and a straight up rarity. Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” immediately juiced the audience, but when the band started “Shaggy Dog” for the first time since October 29, 1995, the third time since 1992, and only the fourth time since November ’88, the bust-out meter went off the charts! And the first set action just kept rolling with a more current canine tale—“Runaway Jim.”

6.19.2012 (M.Stein)

“Jim” saw the band stretch out the 2011-enhanced “plinko” section into a full-blown jam, giving the song two legitimate sections of improv. The tightness and cleanliness of the Phish’s current playing was on full display throughout this piece as Trey led the jam with dynamic and emotional playing. But, perhaps, the standout improvisational display of the first half came next, as the band dropped into the ever-elusive Traffic cover, “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone.” As soon as the lyrics ended, the whole band sailor dove into a laid-back groove that quickly built all sorts of momentum. Trey played ultra tasteful leads and infectious rhythm chords within a driving dance pattern that had the pavilion popping off. In fact, the pavilion hadn’t stopped popping off since the band hit the stage, and as they segued smoothly into “Wilson” another highlight was noted for many yet-to-be-made summer mix tapes. And the first set action wasn’t close to over.

Following a second straight standout and classically contoured “Stash,” humor dictated the setlist for the rest of the frame. As the band revved up “Poor Heart,” they quickly aborted it before and Fishman immediately stood up and took a bow, comically basking in his mishap. Then, as Trey began “Moma Dance” the band was but two measures into the song when it was also aborted due to a Fishman flub. Trey then suggested that it might work better if Fish started a song on the drums. Thinking for but a moment, Fishman led the band into a furious “Llama” which exploded the venue for the bust out, musical, and comic value. Trey suggested that the band play his favorite song that starts with a drum intro, “Buffalo Bill.” And the bust outs kept rolling—but with jams balancing out the set. The stanza concluded with two final drum-started songs, “Saw It Again > David Bowie,” and when all was said and done, Phish had dropped—easily—their best first set of 2012, setting up a second that was sure to please.

Atlantic City (Shelly Siegal)

Just as the first Midwest show in Detroit last year, Cincy’s second set opened up with a “Disease” that was bound for glory. As the band entered the jam, Trey immediately hit a thematic opening sequence that set the jam ablaze. His non-stop guitar creativity continued throughout the composed jam and right out of song structure, when he handed the baton to Mike. Without a moment of hesitation from any band member throughout, this “Disease” continued climbing into fluid Talking Heads-esque, percussive groove that had overtones of “Psycho Killer.” But as the Page began bringing the jam out into never, never land with a fluttery piano line, Trey—all of a sudden—got jumpy and chopped off what could have been something far greater with the opening of an out-of place “Guelah Papyrus.”

6.20.2012 (M.Stein)

A notably inspired guitar performance throughout “Kill Devil Falls” pushed what could have been a questionable call into a genuine highlight. Without exiting stage left, the band attacked the upbeat song, but at the end of the piece—amidst an ambient interlude—the band went through a metamorphosis. Hanging up their rock attire and donning their sorcerer’s cloaks, the guys slowly oozed into the intro to “Twist.” And when it was over, everyone there would be slightly altered from the bands sonic spells.

“Twist” has been an improvisational enigma this era, with few versions bending the song’s structure very far, let alone breaking it. Well, this was the “Twist” we’d been waiting for! Anchored to the theme throughout the initial segment, while Mike dropped bulbous bass grooves, it felt like this might be another standard”ish” version. It wasn’t. At all. Following this initial portion, Trey led the band through a wormhole with a high octave, descending melody that brought the band deeper into ambient drama. With wizard-like musicianship, the band immediately set the controls for the outer realms and they locked into sinister madness. Wholly patient and completely fucking evil, Phish delved into music that I dream about. Within this primordial mixture—where one can barely tell which psychedelic layers and loops are coming from who—Mike emerged with a sinfully sinister bass line. Trey soon picked up on Gordon’s nugget of wizardry and began to shred the same four-note pattern, as if a metal guitarist, over a dark mélange of effected layers and mind-numbing loop. This pattern became the drone theme to a large segment of the jam. Trey, eventually, loosened up with hard-edged licks over a rolling bass led groove, and when Fishman adopted the cadence of “Twist” behind all of this, it—momentarily—sounded like sounds like the band was building back towards the song. But, instead, they dove back into psych rock fantasy land. Trey, finally, signaled the end of the jam with a repetitive lick, and the guys wound up the greatest tale of dark magic we’ve heard in ages.

6.20.12 (M.Stein)

“Halley’s Comet” followed up this timeless jam, but before anyone could tell if they might jam it, the band stopped on a dime with a forceful change into “Sand.” The second late-set “Sand” in a row—another 8+ minutes of densely-packed paradise—morphed out of the typical groove into a melodic and smooth, full-band funk escapade with stylistic similarities to Worcester’s outing. Transforming into another criminal dose of pharmaceutical grade Phish crack, the band let things hang out, bursting with danceable rhythms. When Trey decided to move on, he calmly layered the intro to “Roggae” over the pulsating groove, setting up a seamless segue. “Roggae” transformed into a cerebral late-set dip into the sea of tranquility, as Mike rolling bass leads pointed towards home. Trey’s cathartic playing over this canvas provided an introspective sequence in which he seemed to be finding himself as much as any of us were.

But when Trey cranked up a late set “Carini,” nobody was sure what to think! Shying from his traditional guitar solo, much like Worcester’s standout version, Trey immediately joined the band in a darkening soundscape. As he added millennial sheets of sound and distorted growls over a driving texture, the band felt like they were taking us deep once again on a marathon night of jamming. But as “Carini” was entering another stage, on the verge of fully blossoming into another masterpiece, Trey—inexplicably bailed out with the grating chords of “Chalk Dust.” Even Page looked in disbelief over the obvious ripcord. Instead of choosing one additional songs to end the set and allowing “Carini” to breathe, Trey choose two, and we were graced with a “Golgi” set closer. But sometimes, that’s how it goes.

The first “Fluffhead” since November 3, 1990, sealed the deal on a very special night of Phish, and such a maneuver suggests that they knew it too. Midwestern Phish very rarely disappoints, and with last night being the first of only six shows in the region all year, it sure as hell seems like tour is beginning its second peak. Without a show in Star Lake since early 2009, this will be the first time a revitalized band will sink their teeth into a venue of legend. My prediction…a great time for all!

I: Wolfman’s Brother, Peaches en Regalia, Shaggy Dog, Runaway Jim, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone > Wilson, Alaska, Stash, Llama, Buffalo Bill, Saw It Again > David Bowie

II: Down with Disease > Guelah Papyrus, Kill Devil Falls > Twist, Halley’s Comet > Sand -> Roggae, Carini > Chalk Dust Torture, Golgi Apparatus

E: Fluffhead

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Stein’s Shots: Portsmouth

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 21st, 2012 by Mr.Miner

"Sleeping Monkey" 6.20.2012 (Michael Stein)


6.20.2012 (Michael Stein)


6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)


"Mexican Cousin" 6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)


"I Didn't Know" 6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)


6.20.2012 (Michael Stein)


Traveling Book Sale: I should have books with me on the road for the rest of tour. Hit me up via Twitter—@mrminer—if you’d like to meet up before or after a show to pick up a signed copy! This will be done somewhere in town rather than the lot. They are only $50 from me in person as there is no $15 shipping charge. Just letting you know…

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A Southern Scorcher

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 21st, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.20.12 (Michael Stein)

In stark contrast to their first show in Portsmouth, Virginia, on Wednesday night Phish threw down a heavy hitting, two-set affair with jams aplenty, several bustouts and a pair of well crafted sets. The ominous tone of the music provided balance to lighter feel of the first night, providing the yang to the latter’s yin. And where night one was light on improv, night two provided a coherent musical journey. Boasting flow from the beginning of the show the through the end, last night sits among the most robust overall performances of this young tour. Let’s take it from the top!

Unofficial Portsmouth Print (Masthay)

When the band stepped on stage to start the show, they immediately rolled out six 2012 debuts, including sought after bustouts, “Ha Ha Ha” and a sign-induced “Dog Log.” The fresh setlist gave the show an energetic jump-start without needing a lick of jamming. Also included in this sequence was a mid-set rendition of “Divided Sky,” a song that provided far more of a treat with its diminished role in the rotation. But when the summer debuts ended, the band kicked into high gear with “Mike’s Groove.” A slowed pace and thunderous groove of “Mike’s” rattled the undersized environs and the show was off and running. “Weekapaug” provided the the first glimpse of the outstanding, full-band communication we’d see from all night as Trey tore off continuous melodies over a popping groove that was anchored by Fishman’s smooth work on the skins. The first set wound to a close with a four song run that included another two 2012 premieres in “Ya Mar” and “Bold As Love.” Trey wove the “Ya Mar” lick quite smoothly, albeit a bit early, into the liquid textures of “Cities” and the band switched into the summer favorite. When “Bold As Love” seemed like it would close an extended first set, the band punctuated the frame with a nuanced “Juluis,” a jam that Fish and Mike framed to perfection with a shuffle beat pocket. With such a pronounced first set, the second was sure to bring huge things. And it did.

6.20.12 (M.Stein)

Taking both “Rock and Roll” and “Tweezer” off the shelf for the first time since Bonnaroo, Phish combined the two crowd favorites in a fantasy sequence to spark the second half. Forging through “Rock and Roll’s” composed jam with notable rigor, the band was clearly locked and loaded for a big set. The progressed out of song structure with a slick, Trey-led, slowdown and passed quickly into an ethereal spacescape. Trey favored loops and effects amidst this elegant sonic mystery. Hinting at a Digital Delay Loop Jam, this segment painted a portrait of the universe’s outer realms before Trey slinked into the “Tweezer” for which so many on tour had been jonesing. Playing through the actual song with all sorts of bells and whistles, Phish revved their collective motor and prepared to enter freezer.

From the onset of the jam, Page assumed leadership, pacing the quartet with his piano chords and assuming the melodic lead as Trey remained in the background. Coiled like a viper behind the groove, Trey alternately raised his head and struck with accented licks, effected layers of sound, rhythm chops, and outright leads. All the while, Mike and Fish remained locked in urgent and powerful dance rhythms. Page hopped to his clavinet and brought the “Tweezer” into Crunchville with a filthy tangent, and the crowd responded to the change of texture with roars of delight. Snapping into “Tweezer’s” traditional build, Red brought the house down with a soaring final peak before the guys slid through an outro groove and smoothly into “Free.”

6.20.12 (M.Stein)

Used as a landing pad for the past three years, it seemed that is exactly what was happening last night. But, momentarily, things got very interesting. As the band seeped out of Mike’s bass solo, Trey began to slice and dice the jam like he hasn’t in years, including a short plinko line that seemed to be pushing the band into the first “Free” jam of 3.0! But he forgot to tell his bandmates. Having been programmed since 2009 to go right to the song’s final chord changes out of the bass solo, that is exactly what the rest of the band did. Trey’s attempt was in vain, but perhaps this illustrates a willingness to stretch out one of the band’s long lost jams of the modern era.

The unquestionable highlight of the night, however, had still yet to be played. The stylistically opposing “Guyute” and “Birds of a Feather” provided a mid-set buffer before the guys jumped of the deep end into a profound “Harry Hood.” Once again, Trey laid way back as the band joined forces, allowing Page and Mike to set an ambient tone to things from the jump. Trey merged with this idea, offering minimalist “Hood” licks to the collective, and then layering his own psychedelic offerings into to a thickening dreamscape. Utterly awing in every sense, the band built an abstract take on an old tale, captivating the crowd with their originality. This excursion reached planes that “Hood” rarely, if ever, touches, and provided a welcome improvisational diversion. And when things reached their most abstract, Trey coyly laid in the melody of “What’s the Use?!” The band all took heed and adjusted within measures, sculpting another staggering summer segue.

6.20.12 (M.Stein)

The Siket Disc instrumental blanketed the pavilion with its post-apocalyptic sound, though the band—not rushed at all—moved through the piece with a bit more tempo that usual. As “What’s the Use?” came to an end, Fishman made the obvious decision and moved directly back into “Hood’s” cadence—it seemed that the band would complete their early classic. But as Page took over with a piano solo leading away from the song, the band missed a golden opportunity for another magnificent transition. Page’s hijack took the set into “Velvet Sea,” which, given the larger musical circumstances, wasn’t altogether inappropriate. The stage seemed set for a monster “YEM,” but—for whatever reason—the band is holding back their seminal piece this summer and, instead, turned to “Possum” to close the second set.

The Final "Tuck" (M. Stein)

The encore provided thematic closure on nTelos Pavilion’s two-night stand as Trey came out and quietly played the Star Wars theme before the band launched into a final tucking” episode in “Sleeping Monkey.” During the song, Trey put his guitar down and serenaded Fishman, finally asking him to come out for one last “tuck.” And as you might guess, Fishman was more than happy to oblige. Torching the venue aflame with “Tweezer Reprise,” Trey stomped like a madman around the stage, pushing the 6,500 person crowd into a frenzy. And when the guys took their final bow of the night, everything seemed back on track in Phishland as they prepare to invade the Midwest.

I: Sparkle, Ha Ha Ha, AC/DC Bag, Divided Sky, Dog Log, Undermind, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen >Weekapaug Groove, Cities -> Ya Mar, Bold As Love, Julius

II: Rock and Roll > Tweezer > Free, Guyute, Birds of a Feather, Harry Hood -> What’s the Use? > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Possum

E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

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Split Open and Tuck

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 20th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)

Throughout the modern era, it has been proven time and time again that sometimes the guys just like to play songs and have fun with out flirting with exploratory jamming. In what amounted to one long first set, Phish ran through 26 songs—crushing each and every one—with airtight interplay and obvious precision. The musical highlights of the night were weighted in the first set, while the random song generator was in full effect for the second straight second set of tour. Phish’s “Shuffle Mode” set in after the break and they spat out songs with no rhyme or reason. The set craftsmanship of 2012 that we saw on display in Worcester and for most of Atlantic City was nowhere to be seen in Virginia last night, as the show lacked any coherence, whatsoever. Laced with fun antics in the second half, the band seemed to decide on songs with little thought as to the nights contour—a very odd juxtaposition to first week of summer. But Phish will be an enigma to the end, and all we can do is enjoy them while they are here in whatever form they take. And we got that going for us, which is nice.

6/19 Official Print (Spike Press)

The first frame set things up quite nicely for the second with highlights of “Tube,” “Babylon Baby,” “Bathtub Gin,” Stealing Time” and “Antelope.” The band followed up AC’s standout “Tube” with another swanky first setter, as Trey got creative with rhythmic comps and palm-muted leads while Page went buck-wild on his clav. With Mike and Fish playing together as smooth as ever, the pocket was deep and the band came together in an early throwdown on a humid summer evening. The second appearance of Mike’s “Babylon Baby” also stood out as the band moved through its jazzy interplay with precision and urgency, upping the ante from UIC’s debut. This jam carries a fresh sound into the mix, and I think can it can really become a modern staple if the band allows it into the regular rotation. Check it out.

The set really picked up in audience energy with “Bathtub Gin.” The band palpably upped the crowd’s enthusiam as the jam concluded the hot summer day and brought us into the “cooler” evening. The music took an upward swing as Mike and Fishman shifted out of conventional “Gin” territory with a dancier pocket that carried Page and Trey into a jam that had a rocket on its back. Blasting through this sequence as if a one-minded beast, the band proved once again that their state of playing is clearly not an issue this summer. Annihilating this “Gin” and taking it to the top with a fury, they sustained the last note and splashed into yet another first set standout—“Stealing Time.” The band has finally added a jam to this song after two years of existence, and with each play it’s getting more and more engaging. In a crystallization of the post-hiatus sound, the band entered a dirty, sparse, and swinging groove while Trey unleashed his uncompressed growls within the jam as opposed to an overpowering solo—really quality stuff. Look for “Stealing Time” in a second set coming to an amphitheatre near you soon!

Fishman "Tucking" - 6/19 (M.Stein)

Of all things, a Fishman appearance set the tone for the rest of the show. During his vacuum solo in “I Didn’t Know,” he made a joke about tucking his dress into his underwear—and the proceeded to do just that as he played the Electrolux. Ridiculous to the core, the joke of “tucking” ran through the rest of the show, altering the lyrics of several second set songs, as well as the final chorus of a burlier-than-thou, first set closing “Antelope.”

When Phish came out for the second half with “Back on the Train” and “Rift,” it certainly seemed we had a case of “Jukebox Phish” on our hands. Things got far more serious in an instant, however, as the opening beats of a “Split” rang through the intimate pavilion. Coalescing in this jam like they haven’t in any recent “Split,” the band’s polished playing made this version pop with terrorizing artistry. A slowed tempo allowed the music to breathe, and the band to really be able to listen and respond to each other with intricacy. Fishman—perhaps the emerging star player of this early summer—held down this jam with alternating beats that kept the guys on their toes, without room a moment of complacency. This dark excursion ebbed and flowed with Fish’s leadership, and when all was said and done, the band had—easily—crafted the most menacing and cohesive “Split Open” of this era and the no brainer highlight of the night—must hear Phish.

6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)

But just like in the final Atlantic City show, here started the run of questionable second set song choices. While “Mango,” “Number Line,” “Limb” and “Shine a Light” are all stellar songs, stringing them together as the “meat” of the second set just doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. But one can’t criticize the playing of the band for a moment, and that is a lot more than we have been able to say over the past few years.

6.19.2012 (M.Stein)

The show got particularly funny when Trey picked up a light saber while Fishman invited any guys that were wearing a dress in the crowd onto the stage to “tuck” during “Lengthwise.” Well, the first “tucker” had absolutely nothing to tuck his dress into and wound up bare-assing the entire audience to the humorous dismay of the band. Then, as Fishman called a girl to stage, Trey began waving the light saber as a Jedi, while mimicking the voice of The Emperor saying “The force is strong with this one” while pointing at the second audience participant. Embracing his own Jedi mythology, Trey continued his Star Wars antics as the band slid into “Maze,” playing some parts of the intro with light saber on guitar. Needless to say, the “Jedi Maze” absolutely crushed, but it did little to salvage a second set that had been long lost.

Finishing the night with “Cavern > Fire,” and a “Mexican Cousin,” “Slave” double-encore, the band went offstage having played quite well from note one of the show right through the last, but without crafting any sort of flow in the second set, the first set of this show has far more playback power. But that “Split” is some truly demonic music from a song that hadn’t produced any in quite some time. When we look back at this tour, the first night of Portsmouth won’t be one of the shows that pops out as a highlight, but that’s totally due to song choice and placement rather than any lack of musicianship. Things are looking quite good in the Phish universe these days, now if we can just get the second set back in order, everything should progress just fine.

I: Sample in a Jar, Party Time^, Simple > Axilla, Tube, Kill Devil Falls, Water in the Sky, Horn, Babylon Baby, Bathtub Gin > Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, I Didn’t Know* > Run Like an Antelope

II: Back on the Train, Rift, Split Open and Melt*, The Mango Song, Backwards Down the Number Line, Limb By Limb, Shine a Light, Lengthwise* -> Maze, Cavern > Fire*

Encore: Mexican Cousin > Slave to the Traffic Light

^w/ Carl Gerhard of GCH on trumpet, * w/ “tucking” references

6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)


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Stein’s Shots From AC

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on June 18th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

6.16.2012 (Michael Stein)


6.15.2012 (Michael Stein)


6.16.2012 (Michael Stein)


6.15.2012 (Michael Stein)


6.15.2012 (Michael Stein)



On the way to the show on Saturday, I saw this tweet from @AlexDavis_says, but didn’t have time to check it out. When I finally listened, I was blown away! Much props guys, this is absolutely hilarious!

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