On a night nobody in attendance will ever forget, Phish played through one of the heaviest rainstorms of their career while matching mother nature’s theatrics with plenty of their own. The use of superlatives has become useless in this torrid Phish climate of Summer 2013, as the band is on a mission to thrown down the gauntlet on a nightly basis. The amount of tremendous music they have showered us with in the first week-plus of tour just saw another sharp spike with a monstrous second set that remained in a deeply improvisational space for the duration. Opening up the groove refinery in the main event, the band cranked out a filthy centerpiece of “Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge” in the middle of the second set—and all of that happened after a twenty minute exploratory “Rock an Roll” wound its way into “2001!” Yeah, it was a special night of Phish.
Historically, the band has responded to mammoth deluges with memorable shows—the most famous of which is the iconic date of 7.22.97 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Etched along side Antioch ’99, Columbus ’00, Darien Lake ’00 and Deer Creek ’09, history now has Jones Beach 2013. Things started out quickly as the band took the stage amidst a raging storm and punched out spirited takes of “Chalk Dust” and “Cars, Trucks, Buses.” But then Trey made some interesting song choices. “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing” matched the fury of the moment, but songs like “Ocelot,” “My Sweet One,” “Sugar Shack” and “Number Line” seemed to suck the energy out of a crowd that may have as well have just jumped into a swimming pool. When they started up “Number Line,” the vibe was so far off what was actually going on I looked up and realized that the band was bone dry on stage and playing a below average first set—with plenty of flubs—like it was a sunny afternoon at Great Woods. But then something clicked. Maybe Trey looked beyond the front few rows of dry fans to the thousands of others who were braving a biblical deluge to be there. When the band started “Reba,” the entire night turned around as quickly as the Dukes of Hazzard pulling a U-Turn to escape from Roscoe P Coltrane.
The rain had not let up one iota, but when the “Reba” jam dropped, it no longer mattered. The band launched into a stunning, multi-tiered rendition of their classic that saw Trey effortlessly tear off gorgeous arpeggios while bringing the jam to a monstrous peak. One had the thought that they might end the set with such a triumphant version, but instead they followed “Reba” with the most ferocious “David Bowie” we have heard in a quite some time. This 25-minute combo completely flipped the script on the evening and left the drenched amphitheater abuzz at setbreak as everyone fled for cover.
When the lights dropped after a welcome interlude, Phish wove yet another seamless set of non-stop action—all doused with original ideas while avoiding any cliché jamming whatsoever. This was the real deal Holyfield, Phish-meets-mother-nature, full-blown gauntlet. As soon as the main event kicked off with “Rock and Roll” everyone knew we were in for a treat, but little did we know we would totally forget about the inclement conditions for most of a 50-minute sequence that we will be listening to forever. “Rock and Roll’s” jam provided an interesting stylistic juxtaposition with PNC’s “Crosseyed.” While Holmdel’s centerpiece featured several staggering peaks with heart wrenching melodic work from Trey, “Rock and Roll” was more exploratory and expansive—like a freight train in your living room—without the monstrous peaks. Both jams are amazing and illustrate just how diverse and masterful the band’s jamming is right now.
The band’s relentless attack continued with a version of “2001” that served as both a landing pad for “Rock and Roll’s” voyage and a springboard into “Tweezer.” And when the “Tweezer” jam hit, the rain and wetness fell one stage deeper into our collective memory as the band threw down a groove session of monumental proportions in “Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge.” The band has returned to sculpting super-thick, gooey soundscapes this summer as Mike and Page are using more sounds than ever while dictating the course and the sound of jams as much as Trey. Fully locked, the band served up musical crack for the duration of “Tweezer -> Cities;” the type of music that offers salvation on the dance floor. This was the stuff the band had left behind in recent years; this was the candy-grooving of lore filtered through a modern lens; this was the type of rhythmic escapade hat leaves traces on your soul forever. This was utter bliss.
The band brought “Tweezer’s jam to an emotional, “Theme”-infused arrival, and as they slid out of this section, Fishman started up beat to “The Wedge.” It sure sounded like the band would merge these two songs, but instead, Trey started a rhythmic vamp and steered the band into “Cities.” Blowing out the “Cities” jam like no time since Atlantic City 2010, the band played one of the most infectious pieces of the night. And all the while, Fishman never give up. Continuing to lay down the “Wedge’s” beat in between verses of “Cities,” and then all over the song’s uber-infectious jam, he finally got the other guys to come along and they wound down their set-long chunk of sashimi grade Phish into the Rift era piece.
All of a sudden, Summer 2013 has taken on a very retro contour. And by that I mean that the band is serving up the goods night after night after night after night. Not since the late-90’s has Phish thrown down a week of shows soaked in the quality of improvisation than the one that has just transpired. And as many fans like to note, we are have only cracked the second week of tour!
See you in a few hours!
I: Chalk Dust Torture, Cars Trucks Buses, Ocelot, My Sweet One, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Water in the Sky, The Sloth, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Sugar Shack, 46 Days, Backwards Down the Number Line, Reba, David Bowie
II: Rock and Roll > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Tweezer -> Cities -> The Wedge, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Character Zero
E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise