Turning the Corner

I am very happy to inform everyone that I am slapping myself in the face for my last review’s harsh tone.  Of course, right after I become the most vocal in my criticism over Phish and their jamming, they play last night’s show.  

With a second half that immediately rocketed Camden into outer-space, Phish played the most exploratory and loosely free flowing set so far this year.  Opening the show, and not to be overshadowed by any means, was the Phish Classic Alumni Blues> Letter to Jimmy Page> Alumni Blues–Alumni Blues being played last at Alpine Valley in 1999 (222 shows) and Letter being played last 7/15/1994 (587 shows).  Following one of the coolest bust outs of 3.0 (a lot of people in attendance probably were thinking it was a new song) was a day time stand-alone Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, very unusual–and cool.  Runaway Jim, standard, and what felt to be the real opener to the show gave everyone enough time to talk to their friends about what they had just seen Phish do–real fans talking about the last time Letter to Jimmy Page was played and newer fans wondering of that opening song was on Joy or Party Time.

Phish marked the halfway point of the first set with another first time cover, Free Man in Paris (Joni Mitchell).  Playing a new cover nearly every night so far in 2010, it will be interesting to see if any of these songs actually stick or are just going to be one-timers.  Regardless of what they choose to do with the songs, it’s awesome what they are doing.  Phish quickly answered a different question of mine by playing Summer of ’89 for the second time.  After the song’s debut in Hartford, I was wondering if they would actually play it again.  The song, which I don’t mind (don’t care for actually seeing it live, though), is very personal, obviously only about Trey, relatively long–and cheesy.  Like I said, I don’t mind hearing it while I’m working or driving–taking up over 10 minutes of a live show is another story.  I really don’t want to put the song down, but maybe they could cut the song to about 5-6 minutes.  I think that would be just perfect for the song.  The “and we danced all night” lyrics kind of make me cringe, though–sure seems like Page doesn’t want to be singing it with Trey.  Ok, I’m sorry I spent so much time talking about that song–moving along.

I am a fan of the very reliable and hard work Mr. Miner puts in his website.  However, in what I think to be one of the most glaring examples of his patented “fluffing”, “gushing” or whatever you would like to call it, he said this about last night’s Split Open and Melt

a fierce “Split Open” that fused groove and expansive sonic textures, resulting in a harrowing jaunt of interstellar experimentation. A true beast of a version”

Last night’s SOAMelt was in no way an impressive version–it’s another discombobulated mess that seems to be the norm for the song in this era of Phish 3.0.  The only version I don’t mind is probably last year’s in Cincy.  Last night’s version is actually worse than most, I feel.  Trey gets so out of it, Fish doesn’t know what the heck he should be doing going into the end.  Not even Mike, the go to guy when anything needs direction in 2010, could take this flop anywhere.  I don’t understand why Phish is unable to do anything impressive with this song anymore.  It’s such a wonderful classic and, because of the song’s unique structure, has the ability to have a structured rock jam, an explosive rock jam, an open ended jam, a funk jam or a dark jam.

In another 1st set exclamation mark, Phish played the first Sloth of the year!

Although I strongly disagree with Mr. Miner‘s opinion of SOAMelt, I will admit that I completely am in a mutual gush fest with him over the second set.

Chalk Dust Torture, which is the best jam of 2010 so far, immediately sinks into a chilling improvisational sea after they move past the composed beginning of the song.  After I had been so critical of the Phish opening second sets with Drowned, Rock and Roll and Down with Disease again this year, when they came out with Chalk Dust Torture last night I thought to myself, “OH COMON!” (GOB voice)–assuming that this was going to be another radio friendly greatest hits live album.  Like some of the 2003 and 2004 versions of CDT, this version reached almost 20 minutes, however, the jam’s direction and psychedelic warfare are out of any other’s leauge.  The jam starts slow, but once Trey loops a punctuated note and plays over it, the evil sister of Blossom’s Number Line jam takes off–only this one has even more direction and Mike, unfortunately decides to destroy even more faces…many more faces.  Click the play button below to hear the loop.

Although Phish never actually make this epic summer jam a type II jam (although I’m sure this will be debatable among the more serious fans), it’s stretched about as far as a type I can be stretched, just bordering type II territory.  After Mike knocks the entire audience on their sweaty asses, Fishman switches over to his hi-hat franticly drumming as if he is ready for Trey to bust back into the end of Chalk Dust.  Instead Trey decided to leave the ending of the song hanging–after the went so many miles away from the actual song, he decided to splash down into the water of Prince Caspian.  Although I’m not a huge fan of Prince Caspian, I must say, Trey’s selection for landing songs has been both interesting and fun this year so far–with Stealin’ Time out of Number Line at Blossom being the best and The Horse out of Sand  being the worst (like so bad I want die).

While Prince Caspian served as Chalk Dust Torture’s landing pad last night, Caspian landed in a great version of Heavy Things.  I find Heavy Things interesting; what was once a Bouncin’-esque pop-hit radio song has grown coming into the 3.0 era.  2009 contained the best versions of the song to date.  Toyota Park 2009’s clocked in at almost 10 minutes, I remember wondering if they were actually going to do something really special with the song–however, all 2009 versions were played with intense passion, showing off Trey’s quick fingering of his guitar’s neck.  In Miami 2009’s version, it segued out of Gotta Jibboo.  The song is  usually a stand alone song, and for a reason–you can usually tell when Trey is about to start Heavy Things because you will hear the “TINK, TINK” of his guitar before the song starts.  The “tink tink” is the sound you hear going through almost the entire song, all it is is Trey playing a high note and looping it before the song–listen to Star Lake 2009 for a good example.  

Next we got the second Alaska of the year and also the second totally different sounding version.  While the nTelos version was a 2 pronged attack on the entire genre of blues, last night’s had an interesting beginning with more Page and the jam was a bit more playful before eerily sinking into the full throttle return of 2001’s baller ass swagger.  When Henrietta popped into 2001 most, myself included, figured it would just be another 5 minute interlude to another song.  “3.0 has not blessed us with 2001s, so why would tonight be different?” The reason last night was different was because it was the 1 year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death.  Taking another idea from Lincoln, Nebraska’s 10/21/1995 show, Phish teased the King of Pop’s songs again (the reason I said “again” is because they played 2 Tweezer Reprises in a Tweezerless show in that concert).  You can hear Trey chanting from “Wanna be Startin’ Something” leading up to the first 2001 build up, making the crowd hit the roof–almost immediately after the sink back down into the jam, the bass line make a change unusual for 2001, thumping out Billie Jean.   After Trey picks up on this, and jams on it for a while, Trey lets out a screaming Thriller guitar quote.  It’s the longest 3.0 2001 and the best I can remember since 1999.  A must hear.

2001 leads into more obvious jam machine, Light.  The late show Light was short but improvisational and fun.  As it slowly sank down, it became cowbells, wood blocks, kick drums and guitar scratching–a la Hartford 2009’s Catapult.  Light goes into Possum nicely, however I wish it would have came out of Light with Page and Fish building up the intro to Possum before going into it, rather than Trey starting the song.  Possum is another ripping version with a Character Zero exclamation point.

Encoring with Shine, allowing the crowd to bask in the joy they had just endured for an hour and a half before, they let the audience “thank the Good Lord” for an outstanding set.


Friday, 06/25/2010 Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ

Encore: Shine a Light