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.
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.