As the second year of Phish 3.0 is approaching, there are many reasons to believe the music can only be better than 2009.
Phish is obviously excited to play this year–booking some of the coolest venues around this summer shows that Phish doesn’t want to do a ‘through the motions’ cookie cutter summer tour. They know and appreciate that their fans want to see them in special and/or intimate venues–nTelos, CMAC, Blossom, Greek and Telluride to name the standouts. They are perfectly mixing in the old standbys too–Tweeter, SPAC, Merriweather, Walnut Creek, Camden to name a few–and of course the summer classic Deer Creek/Alpine combo. Aside from the fact that they are again playing a disproportionate amount of shows in the Northeast, they are trying to make the tour as fun and memorable as possible for us.
This is the first tour year since 1999 that they are not releasing an album, allowing some of last year’s songs the ability to evolve and find their place in Phish shows. Backwards Down the Number Line and Light will probably be the songs that evolve the most. Light evolved a lot already in 2009, showcasing the improvisational potential the song has. Much like Piper, it’s short and completely open ended (after they dropped the ending segment to Piper), easy to segue both into and out of it. Backwards Down the Number Line was a glorious, Trey driven rocker. However, on two occasions they tested the improvisational waters with the song last year–Toyota Park and SPAC–probably foreshadowing what’s to come this year with the song.
Undermind, obviously not from Joy but relatively new, took on a whole new form in 2009. With it’s choppy funk at the end, the song has a lot of potential to be a jam monster (I really hope).
The song Kill Devil Falls is hard to know what to make of. It is certainly made to be a short rocker–a la Chalkdust Torture–but on at least two occasions Phish stretched the song, seeing what they could do with it. Bonnaroo’s and Red Rocks’ versions are both longer than normal. Bonnaroo’s certainly explores the most of the two, however I found it disappointing. It seems like they didn’t experiment with the song too much more after the summer, and I hope it stays that way. The song is fun and energetic–it reminds me of driving around seeing Phish last summer.
Phish has new covers to mess with this year, too. After playing Exile on Main Street last Halloween, Phish has played the songs Torn and Frayed and Shine a Light in normal shows since. Both of these songs are just wonderful. They are certainly a welcome new mix to their set lists.
On one hand the upcoming tour is extremely laid back, Phish got through their reunion year–now they can focus on just playing again and evolving as a band. The low demand of tickets will provide a lax environment, all while having in the back of the band’s head (mostly Trey’s) that they need to prove themselves to be the musically improvisational strong band they still can be (hopefully).
I think that a lot of factors are coming together to make for a ‘perfect storm’ of a tour–just not in a bad way, a good way. There is little leading me to think that this year will be anything but better than last year.
I more month!!!
There is not much more speculation I can offer on the upcoming tour. Unless any new news comes out, I will stick with other topics until the tour actually starts. Come here for all your day-after show reviews!!