For all the criticism I have dished out about Phish (mainly Trey) in the second leg of their summer tour, I would now like to put that all aside and focus on the exceptional parts of the tour–the parts that keep us following Phish. It is clear that the second leg focused less on new songs, bust outs and covers to focus more on set structure. It is clear that they were trying to make their sets interesting by creating high-energy first sets and well crafted, non-stop second sets.
Let’s take a look at OPT’s favorite Phish moments of August:
8/5 Down with Disease – The tour’s first piece of open ended improvisation. This version left normal song structure to form a mesh of interesting and dancable grooving featuring full band communication. It ended with an atypical and fun drumming segment from Fishman before heading into the common landing pad of Free.
8/5 Back on the Train – Unlike Alpine’s 10 minute dancathon funky version, this version take a page out of the 2010 Gin handbook. It boasts am impressive, energetic and fun linear jam towards energetic rock. While keeping to its roots of slower groove, Trey branches out by taking punctuating leads on guitar and reaches this particular version’s full potential before slowing down and ending the song where they started.
8/5 Thanks Paul! – Responding to a sign that read “stage banter”, Trey came out for the encore showing off the new guitar he had been playing all night for the first time. He said how Paul made this last guitar for him from a “magic piece of wood” that he had set aside. Trey seems to be in love with the guitar and so are many fans. The guitar pushes a more full and rounded tone than before–the finish on the wood is absolutely stunning, being a bit darker and with no white binding around the edge like its predecessors. The head also has the image of an ocelot which is why many have dubbed the guitar the Ocedoc.
8/6 Cities – Phish came out the second night of the Greek with a high-octane first set–3.0 Phish usually does. Rarely do you get a first set that isn’t engaging and energetic in 2010–however, what would be even more rare is if you get any form of unexpected improv in a first set this year–it happened in this set. Cities, like the rug that “really ties a room together”, anchored this fabulous set in place with its sheer depth and weight. This Cities grooooves, it’s sexy and it’s intimidating–in fact, I’m pretty certain some of the women at the show may have filed restraining orders against this bodacious beast. Somewhat similar to Hartford’s Sand, only far far dirtier, this Cities is strictly a Fish, Mike and Page jam. Trey steps back and fills some holes while he lets the rest of the band create a breathing body of dense music. Although the sun was still not fully set, Kuroda refused to be shut out of this one–the work he does with the lights is absolutely stunning (which is why I am posting the must see video below). And, unlike the Hartford Sand, Trey doesn’t get seemingly jealous of the rest of the band for taking the jam in their own direction–he politely let go of the reins and discussed going into Moma Dance before the whole band launched into it.
8/6 Simple – A song that was long over-due for a serious jam, Simple, finally got its game back in this bad boy. After the usual part of the song, the song sinks into poppy and goofy understated bass lines from Mike with Page playing in a dreamy way atop. Trey stands back in this jam too, allowing the jam to thrive under his simple string bends and high notes. Fishman eventually starts breaking it down with the blocks–this is when Mike starts almost burping his bass. Fishman needs to one-up him and starts absolutely rolling on his drums in a powerful manner. Easily one of 2010’s best open-ended jams–it leads into Number Line.
8/7 Light > 20 Years Later – This is probably my second favorite version of Light ever, next to the Gorge’s last year. This jam starts the same a lot of Light jams do–Trey sounding kind of lazy and distorted. However, just when you think the song is going to end it launches into a patient dreamscape of nighttime music. Trey shows incredible control and patience–something I am often critical of him for not doing in 3.0. As you start waking up from your blissful and dark adventure you find yourself landing into 20 Years Later–the best landing pad for dark jams that may have ever been written by Phish. This double header of new song nirvana took me back to the wonderful combo of the dark Number Line > 20 Years Later from Blossom earlier in the summer.
8/7 Suzy Greenberg, Jam – Whenever Trey starts the Suzy jam back up after playing the song, you know you’re in for a treat. Last time happening with the epic version from Festival 8 and only happening twice before that (1996, 2000), this version was a bit shorter but wasn’t short on fun–while F8’s stopped completely before launching into the jam, this one had Trey strumming out of the end. When Fish realized what was up he bust back into the jam. It’s always refreshing when Trey wants to go for it nowadays.
8/9 Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Summer of ’89 – Reaching out to the memories of playing in Telluride over 20 years earlier, Light Up was bust out–one of their very early anthems. Page belting out the classic Traffic lyrics took everyone back to when Phish was a tiny band starting their national career in this tiny mountain town. After the song ended, Trey spoke of a song he wrote about the year after first coming to Telluride–Summer of ’89. I didn’t put this song in the highlight list because of the song, but because of how pretty the song actually sounded in these stunning surroundings. It allowed everyone to take a breath and realize how much Phish history is really here. (and, yes, 10 minutes is still waaay too long for the song)
8/9 Tweezer -> Boogie on Reggae Woman > Piper – When Phish took the stage to the rabid crowd in Telluride for the first night’s second set, no one knew what to expect. It opened up with Sand that shook the Rockies to their core and eventually wound its way into an atypical Prince Caspian when the opening licks to Tweezer appeared out of the sonic murk. Everyone assumed that this was going to be the jam of the night–that was the farthest from the truth. This Tweezer is only 6 minutes long–that’s close to shorter than I even thought they could play the song if they wanted to. Despite its short life, the way Trey has a reggae direction out of the gates is fun–shortly, knowing what was going on, Fish switches his drumming over to accommodate and, before you know it, we are in the most improvisational version of Boogie On of 3.0. This jam goes past the normal structure of recent versions, with Mike on his foot bell and everything. Trey eventually leads the band into a hot version of Piper–so hot you could see flocks of birds scattering out of nearby trees in fear of certain death due to an impending forest fire.
8/9 Quinn the Eskimo – After not being played for 11 years, Phish felt like Telluride would be the perfect place to bust this fan favorite out. A lot of fans (including an OPT member) believe that this was played as a nod to Jerry Garcia’s death anniversary. I say probably not–if they wanted to really do something for the anniversary they would have either played a Dead tune or made a verbal statement. They were not shy to play Terrapin Station on 8/9/1998, and they have done nothing on the anniversary since. Regardless of why it was played, they got the crowd jumping and singing along with hands flailing in the air to Kuroda’s white lights on the audience. What a way to end a show on a high note.
8/9 Sol Chase – Sol Chase, Telluride’s local bluegrass 12 year old sensation, played after the Phish show (both nights, vid is from 8/9). He is energetic, hilarious and very talented. In the video below he is playing Sparkle, Poor Heart, Juke Box Hero, Rocky Top.
8/10 Divided Sky – Not a spectacular version musically–just visually. Obviously this is a stellar surrounding for this epic Phish ode to nature. I’m not even going to provide the video because YouTube is littered with cheesy videos of the clouds during this song.
8/10 Party Time, Mike’s Song > Crosseyed and Painless – Party Time seems to be what Phish plays when they, well, want to party. When they opened the second set with this song I became ecstatic, knowing that they were feeling the electric vibe in the mountains that night (I don’t use the word ‘vibe’, like, ever…so it actually means something when I say it). When Mike’s Song followed there was no doubt that it wouldn’t be a standard Mike’s Groove, and it wasn’t–they bridged the dark seas into Crosseyed for the first time ever from Mike’s Song. This is when I lost my mind–I had been telling everyone that I wanted Crosseyed to open up the second set, so when it came out of Mike’s I was even more excited. I remember turning to “The Sloth” and “Sally ” from this site and started screaming like I was being murdered. Despite it being relatively short, it still raged before settling down into a beautiful I am Hydrogen.
8/10 Carini – When Carini popped his lumpy head over the mountain peaks I was surprised that this set was taking such a dark turn in such a bright and welcoming venue–I’m not complaining. Carini has been given a strong dose of CPR in the past two years–it’s always a treat to get this now. This version is particularly dark, with Trey screaming into his mic along with his guitar and Fish saying something to the extent of “one day I’m going to cut you into little pieces”. Heavy synth from Page, too.
8/12 Gotta Jibboo -> Bathtub Gin – One of the best segues Phish has pulled off in years. 3.0 and even post hiatus, in general, has not been too friendly with the segues. 2010 has been especially bad with a seemingly more impatient Trey than ever–however, when this off the wall Jibboo popped into Gin, it had me in the aisle going fucking nuts. Not only did they pull off the much missed smooth segue, they just dropped the now ever elusive second set Bathtub Gin (yes, this is the song I was escorted out of the pavilion during–whole story in my Deer Creek Review).
8/12 Encore – This is easily one of the best things I witnessed this tour, and possibly the best encore I have ever witnessed. Fee -> NO2 -> Kung > Fire…oh REALLY Phish? You’re just going to bust out that shit right there? Wow. The fact that, woah, what’s that…Trey used the megaphone for Fee in the first time in (I don’t even know how damn long) was epic enough to make me lose it during that encore. When Trey started doing windmills with the megaphone in front of the mic, making repetitive loopy sounds, we knew they were going to do something. Then, sure enough, Mike started up with his nightmarish dental chair adventure, leading into Trey belting off the chant of KUNGGG! Fire popped out of Kung, appropriately, seeing as they have now officially set this tour ablaze.
8/13 Ocelot – Ocelot really got taken up a notch in 2010. The song absolutely soars now. This is my favorite version because of the clean and brilliant peak Trey reaches with the sun still beating down on the sweat drenched fans. I know I have said it before, but, I only like this song in outdoor venues during the first set–so this version couldn’t be any more perfect. It was summer lovin’ at it’s finest. (because this video was taken under the pavilion, it looks like there is no sunlight out)
8/13 Meatstick -> Mango Song – Ok, was I excited by the Jibboo -> Gin segue? Because this one takes the cake–and then eats it. In a patient and well executed segue, Phish takes their sweet time to go into the Mango Song. Page even throws in a Dave’s Energy Guide tease. It’s like a hypnotic dream before you realize that we have landed in the bliss of a Mango Song.
8/14 First Set – Alpine’s first set of the weekend was well crafted, well thought and absolutely tore down the roof.
Alpine has always been known for the balls to the wall party shows this all-welcoming venue produces, so when Tube opened up the weekend, the place flipped out. Despite being another short and relatively funkless version, Trey let the end bleed into Oh Kee Pa–only the second time of 2010. When OKP comes out nowadays it’s a real treat. Suzy was short but featured some raunchy baby grand work by Page. The blazing hot Funky Bitch that follows is probably the best and most fierce version of post-hiatus Phish. With Mike having fun with the lyrics and Trey destroying peoples’ faces on guitar, I’ll welcome this song any time. Funky Bitch has become somewhat of a staple at Alpine in their post-hiatus stints. The Reba that follows is the best version of 3.0–it is delicate and keeps Trey patient before building it up. Obviously Fuck Your Face was unexpected and amazing. Alaska was wailing and always a blast to hear–certainly a feel good dance tune. To keep the dancing going, they launched into a 10 minute dancathon version of Back on the Train–funky and thick was this jam before Taste came out for a dose of daytime bliss in the Wisconsin hills. Taste bled into Circus, giving everyone a breath. After the antics of the silly Lawn Boy/Sparkle duet, was the old school the double header of Gumbo > Antelope to close the first set. This Antelope is about as hot as they are going to come in 3.0–Trey changed Marco “Esquandolis” to “Marco Benevento”, too.
8/14 Down with Disease -> What’s the Use? > Scent of a Mule – Wow, easily one of the highlights of the whole year. Down with Disease was highly improvised, digging into type II territory before segueing beautifully into What’s the Use?. Most at the concert had no idea that What’s the Use? was one of Phish’s more rare instrumental pieces rather than just part of the DwD jam. Scent came out of the end for a nighttime corn field mule duel for the ages.
8/15 Tweezer Opener – Opening the for the second night with another song, this is the first time Tweezer started a show since Hampton 2003. This version was standard but it rocked Alpine to its core. What a way to start a show. Aside from it being cool that they opened with it, it was also fun to see it in the first set at all once again.
8/15 Ghost -> Theme > Big Black Furry Creature from Mars – Where do I start? Ghost hasn’t opened a set since 2003. I would argue that this Ghost is the best version of 3.0–I know everyone loves the Albany version, but I say Trey is completely disconnected from the band in that version. This one sticks to the song’s basic structure, but it builds and builds and builds. It boasts one of Trey’s cleanest and best peaks of, not only 3.0, but post hiatus. Shortly after the soaring explosion, Trey starts up an absolutely gorgeous Theme. They combined dark with light, similar to the Carini -> Mango from earlier in the summer, this duo of songs lit a fire under everyone’s rear ends. When BBFCFM started up, the place was shaking with rage! (check it below!)
8/15 You Enjoy Myself -> Piper – The first non-second set closer YEM of 2010, that’s a huge deal in itself because we know it doesn’t have to be rushed. This YEM is old school in that it features only blazing axe work from Big Red himself. The psychedelic vocal jam eventually contains Trey strumming the beginning to Piper. This Piper, unlike the red hot version from Telluride, started out hot and just went into outerspace–literally. Trey throws in a Close Encounters tease at one point. What a night!
8/17 Fluffhead Opener – Opening the third night in a row with high octane, this bad boy sent enthusiasm through the roof (if there was one at Jones Beach). The last time Fluffhead opened a show was, yep, Hampton 2009. Still holding close to their newfound love of the song, the end soars out of control–almost all of 2010’s Fluffheads are some of the best ever. This one is complete with the “Fluff went to New York” lyrics that surfaced at MSG last year.
8/17 Wilson (toy guitar) – During Wilson, Trey used one of those plastic toy guitars that makes sounds depending on what buttons you press. It’s hilarious, he holds the guitar up to his mic–sounds like a little baby Trey shredding it up. Fish even tried to jam with it the second time Trey busted it out.
8/17 Lengthwise -> Maze – Phish dug up an old school way to open a set–with a Lengthwise -> Maze. When the band took the stage with the moon high in the sky, Fish stood up at his kit and sang the always weird lyrics to Lengthwise, soon he started tapping his hi-hat. The Maze rocked the venue to it’s core. What a way to open a set. Keep the awesome set openers coming, guys–at this point it was 6 awesome openers in a row!!
8/17 Simple, Rock and Roll – The second well improvised Simple in the tour. Although not quite as impressive as the Greek’s version, this one sinks into a sonic abyss, holding together this monster set. The Rock and Roll that follows is one of the best of the year, too. In an era where Rock and Roll seems to be reserved only as second a set opener, Phish bust it out in the middle of a second set. Some of the other 2010 versions feel like the jams are almost forced, like Trey thinks “ok this is the second set opener, we have to jam this one out”, even if they don’t feel it. This one was relatively short and absolutely BLAZING. They weaved the the face-melting guitar work back into the end– “it was allll riiiight”.
Although I was upset about the fall tour being so concentrated in the North East again this year, after listening to all the highlights of this tour in order to write this post, I can’t wait to see Phish on a classic, crisp, New England fall night. After a summer of outdoor Phish, nothing seems more fun than a pitch-black arena to see Phish. Arena Phish is seriously nothing to mess with–I’m not joking, I took my girlfriend (at the time) to the second night of Cincy last year and she broke up with me just a week after because she couldn’t handle it. Not sure if it was because she saw me in true form of a Phish maniac or because Trey severely mutilated her face by melting it, I’m going to side with the latter.