A Set of Sorcery

10/31/14 II. Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

10/31/14 II, Las Vegas, NV (Eric Battuello)

Well, they did IT again. Using Halloween as a platform for one of their most profound on stage achievements yet, Phish reinvented their own holiday tradition while playing a set of music pulled from our wildest dreams. Choosing to “cover” a Walt Disney album comprised only of sound effects and narration, the band wrote ten instrumental jams to accompany the record’s eerie vignettes in a complete blowout of the imagination. Morphing fantasy and psychedelia on a night scripted for such a mash-up, Phish played an absolutely masterful Halloween set, while pleasing every fan in attendance for—quite possibly—the first time in their 31-year career.

PBcoverNobody knew what to expect when handed a Phishbill that read “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.” A quick Wiki search informed that the album was a collection of sound effects from the vaults of Walt Disney. It had narration on one side but it contained no music?! It quickly became apparent that Phish would follow their own lead of 2013, and use Old Hallow’s Eve to debut a set of original music! But what form this music would take was anyone’s guess. And few could have imagined what would soon transpire.

As the lights came after the Halloween set, the most common thought heard muttered was, “What just happened?” Phish had dropped ten top-notch instrumental jams on the that were used to musically describe scenes set up by the Disney narration, and everyone was desperately trying to wrap their head around the pinnacle Phish experience that just went down. Via live sampling, Page incorporated the album’s sound effects and much of its narration into the set’s increasingly dancy jams, creating a hour-long mindfuck for the audience. Though most fans were mesmerized in a state that fused disorientation and disbelief, there was one thing that everyone knew in real time—“This was most definitely the shit!” The dark instrumentals grew funkier throughout the set, concluding in the non-stop dance party of “Chinese Water Torture,” “The Birds” and “Martian Monster.” Complete with dancing zombies for the first and last track and set in a faux graveyard, this was the band’s quintessential Halloween performance. Though their cover albums showcased a different kind of mastery, this year, Phish distilled the mystic and macabre nature of Halloween into a set of music like never before.

10/31/II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

And it didn’t take long after the show was over to realize what was possible with these composed jams. These “songs” were the polar opposite of Fuego’s largely jamless material—they were already jams—composed themes for the band to expound on in the live setting! Now, if the guys wanted to keep the music moving with no stops, instead of necessarily jamming towards another song they could now simply jam into another jam—and keep jamming! Phish proved on be on board with such thinking, for the next night they seamlessly moved from “Light” into “Dogs” from the Halloween set, and then improvised upon its theme for a stretch before dripping into “Lengthwise.” As illustrated by this immediate example, these Halloween jams represent motifs that the band can weave into their improvisational storytelling. They may have just changed the game—once again—right in front of our eyes.

Phish in Las Vegas has always brought something memorable, but “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” was on a whole ‘nother level. Combining their career-long penchant for spectacle with their unparalleled musicianship and sense of the moment, Phish executed one of their finest sets of music in a career loaded with staggering performances. Furthermore, this set typified the artistic ethos of the entire Phish project over the course of 31 years.  Never content with their laurels of yesteryear, the band has continuously infused innovative styles of music and performance into their live show throughout their career, leaving a legendary wake in the history of rock and roll.

10/31/14II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

 

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

 

10/31/14 II (Eric Battuello)

10/31 II (Eric Battuello)

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2,187 Responses to “A Set of Sorcery”

  1. gavinsdad Says:

    Minutemen are jazzy etc….what I meant to say

  2. tela's_muff Says:

    hmmmm Gdad – i’ve i wasn’t in a hurry to leave, i’d love to have this punk discussion with you. i’m with ya halfway.

  3. tela's_muff Says:

    next time you make it to Dicks i’ll steer you to my punk collection (it’s what started my record collecting obsession) and we can have some fun displaying staying power.

  4. MiA Says:

    I love Gdad’s description of the misfits.

    The lyrical phrasing of songs like Vampira and others … Vaudevillian.

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    word Gdad, what ive heard from the Misfits ive really liked. Danzig’s lyrics seem to stand out. I’ve heard i should listen to more BadBrains (some reggae in there?).

    Never really listened to the Minutemen albums but been to a few Minutemen cover bands shows put on by friends… At one point I had an idea to start an all girl (actually boys in drag) Minutemen cover band called the Minutemaid. just a cute idea, orange juice and all.

    but yeah, kinda need other people around who really love that music to expose me too more of it.

  6. little umbrellas Says:

    one last thing on the Phish tip from me at this point… We’ve all been frustrated by the infamous Tory ripchord. But i really feel like he’s not oblivious and has been way more ready to keep the jamz flowing this last tour.

    Im starting to come around to Dee Eff’s idea about the rhythm section being ‘at fault’ for the jamz dwindling. maybe they got too used to accepting short jamz cause of earlier Trey actions.

    There’s been sometimes, SB Tweezer as example, where it seemed like Trey was ready to keep jamming. I really think perhaps the stage change has effected Mike’s engagement/confidence. Like when everything is getting all trippy and Out(spacecamp)… Mike could be the one who keeps a deep bass line moving and repeating. ala 98/99 Mike.

    I want Gdad’s 98/99 Mike driven mixtape that he lost.

  7. MiA Says:

    i think fans project a lot into the motivations of the band.

    But I don’t agree at all about the rhythm section at fault for jams dwindling.

  8. dorn76 Says:

    Gdad and Tela’s “staying power” contest….

    3hr boner.

    #consultaphysician

  9. little umbrellas Says:

    word MiA. ‘i think fans project a lot into the motivations of the band.’ so true!

    … you didn’t have any intuition or feelings during Fall tour that Mike gave out with keeping a bass line before Trey or Fish were done? seemed to me this happened on a number of occasions.

  10. BingosBrother Says:

    Not tryin to bust your balls gdiddy. I feel you. It’s the brother rule. I can call my brother all sorts of names, but don’t anybody else try that shit. Same deal.

  11. little umbrellas Says:

    So in the SB Tweezer Trey is clearly teasing his guitar part in Your Pet Cat. He starts to implicate the same line with a single note instead of the chord but with the envelope’y mud tone..

    .. could be a projection but i feel like the rhythm section dwindles here and if they kept going Trey would have kept saying what he had goin. He seems to be still playing that one note as they fade away. Could find other examples.

  12. MiA Says:

    Trey seemed distracted both shows at SBB. But it just all seemed idealess. It did seem like previous eras where Mike just plays wonky scales and effects at times. But I thought that was just the anti-footbell. Trey was doing nothing so he just started plonking out small scales.

  13. Jamseeker Says:

    Year long lurker that’s used this site and board as a tool to get back up to speed on the band since college. 2.0

    Thought I’d defend miner as a return for turning me on to so many must hear jams this year…

    Fall 2013 is not only the best tour of 3.0 but one that rivals any era to my ear.

    As to this tour ; Two great twists, a fun halloween set and an amazing cdt-piper does not clear the bar for a good tour.

  14. MiA Says:

    I think they rhythm section is at times the only thing holding the band together.

  15. little umbrellas Says:

    yeah, i could see that. if i get this right, your saying that perhaps If Mike isnt down with what Trey is playing he’s not gonna forge ahead with a bass line. ?

    … and as for more examples from my part.. im realizing that playback probably wouldn’t provide the incite im looking for. perhaps webcasts though.. Im thinking about time when i was looking at their faces.

    ..moments when Trey seemed absorbed in the music and playing something (regardless of how ‘good’ it was or not) and Mike seemed out of it. Looking over at Trey and not really laying it down. in the five shows i saw of fall i remember seeing this a few times.

    Mike would seem done and holding out something on the high end of the bass, and Trey would be deep in whatever he was playing, but the music would peter out around him.

    …and hey, this is not something that I am sure about or saying im right about. Definitely just a theory. or a projection.. but one based on my experiences in house.

  16. little umbrellas Says:

    ‘I think they rhythm section is at times the only thing holding the band together.’

    ^ and I completely agree with this! and that could even be an understatement.. most of the time i might say.

    So maybe that’s just Trey being idealess in general, and whenever the rhythm section is deciding to lay it down, is when the jam is happening, or for how long the jam is happening. hence the jam dwindling when the rhythm section is done.

    Hate to make out Trey as that inconsequential. but that could be it. he’s just up there for the ride. let ‘the band play’ as long as they want and that’ll be the jam.
    In which case it would be Trey ‘at fault’ for not stepping up to the plate and adding in his say to keep the improv afloat.

  17. MiA Says:

    Sanchez barely should be considered a professional football player

  18. dorn76 Says:

    Did we mention that it’s Trey mostly that gets jumpy? Didn’t read back…

    I KID.

    He played Sanity for about a minute before the fellas gave in.

    A neurotic Alpha Dog can mess up the whole system! Tela’s, chime in here.

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    Is Spacemen 3 not punk then GD? I was never sure about that fit anyway, but that’s how they got labeled at the time.

    X, nomeansno also a couple bands that have held up a bit for me

    Sonic youth was originally considered a punk band

  20. little umbrellas Says:

    yeah.. i guess i draw some line between the New Wave and Punk.. but there’s for sure a blur.

    Someone was trying to say to me the other day that the Talking Heads were punk in the beginning.

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    As a former frequent proponent of the rhythm section theory I gotta say that’s actually something else that has been less compelling overall this year. Fewer really outside Mike moments, and the Fish led jams seem fewer, shorter, and much less mind blowing than the prior year or so.

    I don’t mean to pile on negativity but I would like to plainly state what I hear. After a fair amount of relistening I definitely feel like the music I’m hearing (Halloween aside, which is a huge caveat) is one or two pretty big steps less compelling than it was, on some kind of average or overall basis, than it was from 2011-13 or so. Of course that is a subjective reaction but it’s based on something, and I’d like to figure out what it is.

    And right now I kind of think it’s everything but Page.

    I don’t want to overstate the “problem” but through those years -which I hope it is too soon to call the peak of 3.0 – I felt like they were regularly hitting very high levels and were actually on the brink of a new synthesis of technique and creativity that would have amounted to a real breakthrough. That was the feeling I had, like we were on the brink of something. Instead it feels like they’ve regressed. Not to the point of disaster or sucking or anything…But this year just hasn’t had that feeling for me…with one exception of course.

    The crazy thing is, of course, that the haunted house set might catapult them back to that threshold. But they need to step thirty game back up across the board if they really want that next level.

    My $0.02, again this is all just trying to work backwards from my subjective reactions

  22. little umbrellas Says:

    11/11/98’ing it. whole show.

    Caalll me If you Need a FoOL!

  23. gavinsdad Says:

    It’s a vast section of music with blurry lines and interpretations. It’s not everyone’s cup so I don’t go on and on about it. At the same time it was the core of everything I am in my life basically because that stuff converged with my skateboarding life as a kid and was so tied to that world.

    Proto punk has broad roots. Certainly the early punk got tied to attitude and all the seminal cbgbs bands in the mid to late 70s were considered punk. It’s more like the grandfathers of it.

    Then there is west coast stuff like germs, black flag, circle jerks, X, that have massive influence.

    Black flag are mega tho I just don’t go back to them. Husker du probably influenced college rock>alternative>indie more than any of the bands ill mention. 7 seconds way up there. DRI as well. And I hung my hat on lotsa brutal NYC hardcore (1st wave) like Cromags and Agnostic Front (who were later joined by Sick of it All, Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today etc etc.

    There’s a huge pile of this stuff. All I really meant was that The Misfits made a fairly unclassifiable thing that was called punk or what have you that now, 30 plus years later, smacks more of good old early rock n roll than anything else.

    Fun topic always happy to explore or break it down or talk around the fringes.

  24. dorn76 Says:

    First track off their first album.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jehl4mKb3Gw

    Funky. Punky? Sure.

  25. little umbrellas Says:

    nah C. call it like you see it. I felt that way listening to a lot of summer 14..

    but then when i got to the shows for realz my perspective changed. there was something overall strong about all the shows i saw. Big Jam questions aside.. but overall, the vibe was high, The tones were good. Type 1 stuff like Possum seemed to pop.

    perhaps they’re real’ing it in, trying to bring back attention to the parts of the show that aren’t Tahoe Tweezers.

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