Strutting Out of Stride

6.15.12 (Jesse Herzog)

Phish opened up their Atlantic City run with a scorching second set jam-packed with free-form improvisation, pushing the envelope even further on what is clearly a limitless summer of possibility. Another show—and another outstanding set that stands up to any of this era— later, the band has hit a plane of egoless interplay that we have dreamed they’d recapture since they stepped on the stage in 2009. And now with each passing show, this new found improvisational fluidity is blossoming in time-lapse in front of our eyes. Morphing elements of every style they have ever touched on—the guys are in the process of creating a vintage year of Phish—2012 —that just may wind up being the best yet.

Crafting a set with a distinctly Phish2k vibe in both song selection and stylistic lineage, the band attacked the music in the second frame like a synchronized flock of vultures with no doubt as to their mission. The way in which Trey laid back throughout the set—allowing Mike and Page to lead every jam—and then seeped into the fabric of the music with utmost subtlety was the stuff of Jedi mastery. Before you knew it, that little lick that Trey had eased into the background of a jam had grown to prominence and was the peaking the segment, tying entire episodes together with utmost coherence. When many had least expected it, the band has come out this summer at the absolute top of their game, on a seemingly star-crossed destiny.

6.15.12 (J.Herzog)

Such was the case with “Birds of a Feather,” the centerpiece of the entire show, and easily the most astounding music we’ve heard from the band in some time. Completely comfortable with the most wide-open jamming, the band crafted an incredibly dense tale of sorcery out of a song they hadn’t touched in eons. Launching far from song structure and into a pure, Phish-wonderland, the band carved out completely original, and incredibly dense music for what seemed like an eternity. At ease where he once winced, Trey laid notably back at the onset of this jam, allowing Mike to lead the way into unknown territory with an assault of sublime bass lines. As Page and Fish were totally enmeshed with the group, at this juncture Phish transformed into modern day shamans, invoking spiritual revelations to anyone who had an open ear. This is the stuff of legends, when the guys come together to create music that one could never imagine. Again, this is why we come. It seems that anyone who has put any time into this band in past couple years will be getting their payoff in droves this summer, as the guys are on a totally enhanced level of communication—only four shows into tour—than we have seen anytime recently. The music is flowing effortlessly again, and when the band is moving as one, like they were last night, nothing in the universe can stop them.

Official 6/15 Print (DKNG)

Somehow, “Bird’s” extended trip into paradise twisted its way into a seamless segue—completely out of left field—into “Back on the Train.” Much like Worcester’s “Sand -> Nellie Kane” transition, upon listen back, Trey began introducing elements of the song in the final stages of the jam, setting up Fishman to—on a dime—bring them into “Train.” After some stellar Trey soloing in “Heavy Things,” the next dive into deep water came in the classic song pairing of “Twist -> Piper.” Taking a fresh, and laid back tempo into the jam, the band really got creative with this version of “Twist” like they haven’t in some time. While never fully leaving the song, they created a spacy, soundscape in which all four members contributed equally and awesomely. But when they turned the corner and “wooed” their way into “Piper,” things took a turn for the outlandish again. Packing so many themes into a patient jam, not like so many breakneck versions of lore that just jumped down your throat, the band found themselves back in “Birds” jam territory as they dug into things. It certainly seems that Trey’s 2012 approach is a minimalist one. Weaving the most tasteful licks into this jam, Red continued to defer to Mike’s (and Page’s) leadership, picking and choosing his spots like a hawk. But the way in which his themes crept to the forefront of this jam is something to behold. Getting into some elevated and forceful, yet utterly graceful, playing, the band left countless jaws on Bader Field as they wound their way into a hypnotic ending before bleeding out into “Billy Breathes.”

Having sound checked the song earlier in the day, the band brought out their delicate ballad in a very appropriate spot, serving as a soft landing point for the free-form madness that had just concluded. Following the ballad, and after an extended silence, Phish pierced the summer air with a drop into “Sneakin’ Sally.” Entering infectious funk territory without falling back on any clichés, this jam entered original planes of gnar. With booming bass lines blanketing the field, the band broke into a late-set dance session that lit the crowd afire. This first outright groove release after a tenacious set of psychedelia felt as cool as the Nestea plunge on a 100 degree day. Juxtaposing styles at just the right moment, the band absolutely hit the spot with “Sally,” tuning the party out with a filthy episode. And as the band built the funk a bit further out, Fishman jumped on the opportunity to initiate the first “Bowie” of summer.

6.15.2012 (Jesse Herzog)

Splashing into the jam with an array of self-referential teases that rehashed many of the evening’s songs, the band’s playful side was on display within this serious set of musicianship. Taking a generally liner contour, the band carved an intense closer that fit the set’s vibe perfectly. And as the band crashed the final chord into the cool Jersey evening, I looked at my friends—it had been one of those nights again. One of those nights we’ll look back on in many years and remember fondly for the eternal music and memories within. And that “Birds” jam…whoa…that “Birds” jam!

The band eased into their three-night run with a relaxed afternoon set that featured choice song selection and a couple notable high points. A loose and rhythmic “Tube,” far more developed than recent versions, got things moving in the daylight, and sparked a slinky triumvirate of “Tube,” “Cites,” and “It’s Ice.” But the standout jam of the set was, unquestionably, “Stash.” Laced with unusually intricate interplay, this version ran the sonic gamut, crafting a must-hear highlight. And the final piece of note in the opening frame was the set’s closing “Faulty Plan.” Finally opening the song up a bit, the band entered some raunchy, uncompressed “Zero-esque” jamming that served as an obvious harbinger of things to come form a song that has lied dormant too long.

Although it’s still the early goings, everything seems to be falling into place exactly like we’d all hoped it would. In fact, it’s almost as if the band has been eavesdropping on every complaint their fan base has had about them in recent years and addressed every single point. How did they do it? Well, that’s for them to know and us to marvel about. And from my seat, I like the view.

I: The Sloth, My Sweet One, 46 Days, Camel Walk, Tube > Cities > It’s Ice, Ginseng Sullivan, Stash, Simple > The Wedge, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Squirming Coil

II: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things, Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> David Bowie*

E: First Tube

* w/ “Stash,” “It’s Ice,” “Birds of a Feather,” “Simple,” and “Ginseng Sullivan” teases

6.15.12 (Michael Stein)

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338 Responses to “Strutting Out of Stride”

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  1. willowed Says:

    Fucking love it Miner

    Perfect

    Smiles all around yesterday

    AC Bitches

  2. willowed Says:

    you know whats funny…..going to bed around 4 a.m. or so. Thinking I got a nice chunk of sleep only to turn over and see the alarm clock saying 5:15 a.m

    Boooooooo

  3. willowed Says:

    My hotel breakfast had a waffle station

    #epicbreakfastwin

    That Sally jam was hot

  4. ThePigSong Says:

    Do I busy out the Phish app for this birds? I feel if I do the app will surely crash just as I get to the goodz.

    Great read! Sounds like fun was had by almost all.

  5. ThePigSong Says:

    and when I sai the Phish app would crash mid jam, I meant te Phish app won’t play a single note of music.

  6. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Agree with miner totally

    Grade A effortless improv, one dance peak after another….original planes of gnar indeed

    Stash simple faulty plan, the birds, piper, Sally the peak moments for me. Got downright scared for a few minutes in birds and piper

  7. chris Says:

    this is just an unbelievable show for any era. I’m blown away listening from my speakers this morning. I’m so pissed at my friends who cancelled on me last second. I’m just going to have to go myself tonight. I don’t see how the band can possibly play a show like this again tonight. Amazing birds, twist>piper, billy breathes. It’s like the band just let loose and had fun and the creativity shines through the music. Trey’s best playing in years.

  8. RoosterPizza Says:

    My app is working fine. I am just finishing the first set, and I am really impressed with Simple. Really soothing.

  9. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Oh and thanks to the many bb’s who made yesterday and last night an amazing birthday experience. We were about 12 deep all night

  10. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Yeah I could’ve used a lot more of that simple but trey really pushed wedge

  11. willowed Says:

    Dr. P

    Birthday show = winner

  12. chris Says:

    what are the chances, honestly, that phish plays two unbelievable shows back to back? I’m saying 50% and this is coming from someone who loves the band.

  13. dorn76 Says:

    ever hear of Worcester @chris?

  14. RoosterPizza Says:

    Wish I was down at the Board Wook right now.

  15. willowed Says:

    Chris the way that stage was set up, the way the boys have been effortlessly playing, tonight will be lights the fuck out.

    Definite Fest feel by the way. Beautiful set up

    Think of all the hot jams left

    Reba
    Wolfmans
    Light
    Waves
    Slave
    Tweezer

    and so many others

  16. RoosterPizza Says:

    ^Alaska!

  17. chris Says:

    sweetness ..thanks ..were there a lot of extra’s being sold last night ??

  18. RoosterPizza Says:

    I was just joking, but how funny would it be if they took Alaska off the deep end. That shit would be hilarious.

  19. chris Says:

    it’s about time they do something different w/alaska, at least ocelot

  20. Dr Pronoia Says:

    Perfect headspace for a birthday show with the perfect soundtrack

    Happy for those hitting more of this run – I squeezed all my fun into one day!

    Back on the road for a wedding. on later for more detailed talk after spinning the show

  21. RoosterPizza Says:

    It’s just a joke, man. I wouldn’t expect much. Reba, Wolfmans, Light, Waves, Slave, Tweezer, and Drowned on the other hand…a lot to be desired there.

  22. punkmug Says:

    Still no long composed pieces yet! Interesting. Not even a Divided Sky. Not complaining, just sayin.

  23. Oldskool Says:

    It’s Ice is a very composed piece

  24. ThePigSong Says:

    Yeah, the app no worky for me this morning. I’ll I’ll be home in a few hours to load this sucker up for some dog walkage and beer drinkage later.

  25. MiA Says:

    Trey is reading my posts. Gotta get the ol avatar back so I don’t confuse him.

    Glad the birds went big.

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