Brining the Camden Magic to Merriweather

The night after Phish played a bust out second set in Camden, they rolled into Merriweather Post Pavilion–and, for the second night in a row, Phish treated everyone in attendance to another stand out second set.

There is plenty to talk about in their first set.  Lately Phish have been putting together wonderfully diverse and fluid first sets.  You never know what they will open with or play in general–sometimes in stark contrast to their second sets (Rock and Roll opener again).  
After the Crowd Control opener, Phish dropped another Kill Devil Falls–this version features a jam that I find particularly stale.  AC/DC Bag, however, is anything but–although short, Trey finds the energy and piercing guitar notes to make another 2010 version a blast to listen to and dance to.  While I found all 2009 AC/DC Bags stale, 2010 has certainly found the songs explosive and fun roots, again.  Sugar Shack, although not played quite as well as 2010’s first version, features the reworked guitar.  
In yet another answered request, Trey drops a mid-set Tube on the audience.  This version, like many 2009 versions, is quite short–it is, however, an awesome version, finding their almost late 90’s funk style.  Playing yet another cover, Phish decides to branch out to the genre of Indie music.  They play a song by popular Indie   Rock band Neutral Milk Hotel–In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.  The song is a features a floating melody with Trey really testing his voice–keeping everyone in the crowd swaying along.

The biggest highlight of the first set, for me, was Stash.  I commented on how the last time they played it because the tension Trey created left me hopeful that they would once again find the song’s explosive tension/release roots.  This version moves a couple more steps in the right direction.  First off, the song is played wonderfully, I can’t believe how great Trey’s tone sounds again after so many years of it being off.  Trey, Page and Mike create even more tension than Hartford’s version, with far less distortion.  Trey comes to a mild release, if he only would have really let loose this version could have been close to perfect.  Regardless, after years of not caring about Stash, they are finally capturing my interest in the song again.
The first first set Backwards Down the Number Line pops up, too.  I am very intrigued by this song–it is clear that you never know what you’re going to get when they start playing it.  It can be an open-ended type II monster, or a 9 minute trip soaring over mountains before finally singing the end of the song.  This version is the latter, which is great.  Along with the Blossom 2010 and the Toyota Park 2009 improvisational masterpieces, my other favorite versions are from 2009 Red Rocks and Miami because of the way Trey gloriously makes his guitar cry before wrapping the song up in a neat little package.  Last night’s version, while not quite as good as the two just mentioned, is beautiful–out of the gates it almost sounds like it will go into an improvisational abyss by the way it drops off the edge, but soon Trey leads his troop out of the water to a beautiful ending.
One song that is moving away from the direction I thought it would go after seeing it in 2009 is 46 Days.  The versions in 2009 had me thinking that this was going to be a jam monster (along with the 40 min version at IT in 2003).  The versions played this year are far more structured, which is fine–the nTelos version and last night’s version feature Trey absolutely shredding.  Fishman so perfectly rolled up and down, providing a sort of track for Trey to ride–a musical roller coaster.
Closing with another short, yet most interesting version of the year, Suzy Greenberg had Trey reaching a song back into 46 Days by the way he shredded the first “breakdown” before the real jam.  The real jam featured Page on his baby grand.
I honestly don’t understand Trey’s thinking, assuming he is usually picking what songs to play, when he puts together such non-predictable first sets and then chooses to open the second with another Rock and Roll.  The second he started playing I was thinking “COMON” (GOB voice).  At setbreak does he tell Mike, Page and Fish, “hey, wouldn’t it be interesting if we opened another second set with Down with Disease–ah, let’s fool them and play Rock and Roll.”
Regardless, this version clocks in at about 18 min and features another stand out jam for the second night in a row.  While not quite as interesting or impressive as the Camden Chalk Dust Torture, this version proves that Phish is finally working on their improvisational communication yet again.  Not being type-casted into another Rock and Roll shred fest, this version features delicate interplay between Trey and Mike in an almost surreal journey into the sky.  Very airy and pretty before sinking into a clear Moby Dick jam.  When Trey starts teasing Moby Dick and the drums eventually switch over to it everyone in the crowd thought we were getting 7/11/00 v.2.0.  Alas, it was just a simple jam of the song and Trey starts up one of his favorite landing songs, Free.  In another short and relatively uninteresting version, Free leads us to the first Fast Enough for You of the year.
Assuming the jams might be done for the night after Rock and Roll, Trey started up the licks to the Third Tweezer of the year before Sparkle could finish.  This Tweezer has a mean spirited and off-kilter jam–Trey, as if on LSD, uses his guitar to mess with everyone’s head rather than shred.  Fishman also sounds great in this version.

The Wolfman’s Brother finally showed his face in the second set for the first time this year, although only ten minutes, still.  This version, I think, is the most impressive of the year.  Although it’s only 10 minutes long, the improvisation right out of the gates, after a small vocal jam (they seem to like doing that in 2010), the musical communication refreshes everyone.  Fishman listens to what Trey does in this guitar lead funk jam, all of them breaking down the song.  A dense and inspired version.

Before closing the show with only one Tweezer Reprise, Phish treated us to the best version of Slave in 2010.  Each version has been seemingly better than the last.  Last night Trey comes crying out of the jam’s quiet beginnings and comes to a soaring end–I don’t want to be negative, but just like Stash, if Trey went twenty seconds longer and really peaked this great version could be close to perfection.  It’s showing Trey is almost completely back on his feet again–and I couldn’t be happier.

Show of Life and a dedicated version of GTBT encored.

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Saturday, 06/26/2010 Merriweather Post Pavillion, Columbia, MD