Wow, I did not expect to have this many wonderful things to say since my last Fall Tour Update. Phish continues on an upward trajectory since their appearance at ACL. When they came out for their festival set, the most noticeable difference in their playing was Trey. Trey wasn’t getting ahead of himself and stumbling, he was leading the way for his band once again. Trey has continued leading since that show.
With Trey’s dexterity and creativeness back, he can finally do things like executing a flawless segue or really grab a jam by its nuts and whip it around the arena. I know I have said it before, but words cannot describe how happy I am that this type of playing is back. I am so in love with Phish right now.
What follows are highlights of what we have experienced between 10.19 and 10.26.
– In this show Phish shows us that they have not forgotten about the Exile cover, “Torn and Frayed”. I’m happy about that since I don’t want to lose this song.
– The first differently structured Bathtub Gin of 2010. While every 2010 “Gin” followed the same formula of linearly going upward, this is one of our first true glimpses into their patented style of “hose” jamming that has been absent for quite some time.
– “Fuck Your Face > Mike’s Song > Fuck Your Face”; even though they did a “Makisupa” sandwich in Broomfield, this one shows us that Trey is really trying to be creative with songs. Although it’s a bit sloppy, the fact that Trey is finally trying to take some serious risks again is huge.
– “Reba” encore. Jeez, this did two things; The “Reba, Number Line” encore reinforced what I have been saying since Broomfield. Phish is getting more adventurous. They are placing songs where ever they feel like it. “Reba” encore (third ever), “Fuck Your Face” second set openers, “Tweezers” in first sets–anything goes now. The second thing this “Reba” showed was that they are going to start placing jams where ever they want. Up until this tour, songs like “Reba”, “Harry Hood”, “David Bowie” and Antelope” all contained similar, super-structured jams. Check out the clip of the type II jam that morphs within this “Reba”, leading to a heavy “Manteca” tease:
Obviously this show has already been analyzed to death–I am going to do so further.
– The entire first set. “Wolfman’s Brother” was arguably the best version since their return. A totally reworked jam section while snapping right into “Cities”, some awesome first set playing right there. Phish isn’t going to just use first sets to warm up anymore–we are getting their full attention from song one, now.
-Best “David Bowie” since Phish’s return, hands down. I go into depth over this “Bowie” here. I suggest you read it, because I’m not going to type all of that again.
– Best “Antelope” since their return; As I mentioned above, this contains an unusual jam for the song. Instead of shooting straight into hyperspeed, Trey brings this one into Outer Space before ripping into the end. Listen to the unusual jam below:
– Groove is coming back–“Sand”. While Hartford’s “Sand” certainly grooved, it was less because of Trey and more because of Mike and Fish. Until this tour, there seemed to be a battle of who was leading jams–Trey is the natural leader, but was less creative and played more poorly that usual. Mike was, and still is, on top of his game, and most of the jams that became anything in early 2010 were thanks to him. This “Sand” features full band interplay on the groove, especially by Trey and Fish towards the end. It’s a true improvisational gem, a real example of the fact that their multi-layered jamming is blossoming more impressively than ever before.
– “Melt > Have Mercy > Piper > Melt” was another example of them sandwiching a song, only this time it was huge. “Melt” has been pretty sub-par up until this one. It also contained a reprise of the “Birds” they played earlier in the set, showing that Trey is keeping certain themes running beyond single songs. Listen below:
– “Down with Disease”. Although it was just a quick, ten minute opener, this one reflects what they had done with the song at ACL–old school Trey shredding. Trey is really getting his chops back, using more than just his 3.0 ‘rolling’ lick he seemed to do in every jam.
– “My Problem Right There” seemed like it would be better suited as a stand-alone song at first, but as they play it more and more, it’s proving to be a song that can also serve as an interesting landing pad. After a summer of the typical “Free” being used in this situation, it’s refreshing to hear some new, up-beat material injected into the second set.
– “Mike’s Song > Sanity > Weekapaug Groove”. While none of these individual versions stand out particularly high in their musical regard, the fact that they are going for completely different takes on “Mike’s Groove” is shining bright. They have not played a standard “Mike’s Song > I am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove” since the first leg of summer tour.
– “2001”; while South Carolina’s stands out as better (we already talked about that with the last Tour Update), it’s really obvious that they are trying to bring back the funky improv that this little instrumental became known for over the years.
– “Meatstick” opening the show was almost as crazy as “Reba” encoring one; another example of them being totally unpredictable.
– “Tweezer” being in another first set is huge. Without a doubt they are trying to bring back improvisational staples to their first sets. Out of the three first-set “Tweezers” they have played this year, this one has, by far, the most impressive and patient jamming. This is the best improvisation we have seen in a first set since the beginning of 2009. Well, other than Utica’s “Bowie”.
-Fishman songs–“Love You” was played, bookmarked by its usual “Hold Your Head Up” instrumentals.
– “Down with Disease”, played two nights in a row, but each totally different. This version was an improvisational masterpiece. It sets us up perfectly for…
– Seamless segueing evident yet again–the “DwD -> MFMF” segue and the “Price Caspian -> Halfway to the Moon” segues are almost as good as they come (until the “Ghost -> Mango”). Gone are the days of the forced Trey segue of 3.0, listen below:
– The come back of “Ride Captain Ride”. What else am I supposed to say.
– Doing something with “Time Turns Elastic”. Trey delicately turned “Fee’s” ambient outro into the beginning of “Time Turns Elastic”. Regardless of how you feel about “TTE”, the segue was nice. Listen below:
– First non-Father’s Day “Brother” since IT.
– 2.0 songs are coming back; with “Seven Below” the show earlier and “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing”, “Walls of the Cave” and “Access Me” in this show, we will hopefully be seeing some of their shelved 2.0 songs coming out more. In this show they perfectly mixed old songs (“Sloth”, “Alumni”) with the 2.0 songs mentioned above, along with 3.0 songs like “Light”. They finally are able to combine all their songs together as if they had always existed together–80’s songs, early 90’s songs, late 90’s songs, 2.0 songs and 3.0 songs, alike.
– Trey is finally stepping up and leading the band like he should. Trey was the driving force behind this whole show, and not once did he get ahead of himself. Finally, the band is trying to keep up with him, not the other way around.
– For one of the best segues, not only of recent years but of Phish history, listen to this “Ghost -> Mango” segue. Also the “Makisupa -> Night Nurse -> Makisupa”.
– “Weekapaug Groove”. Best one of 3.0 right here. Finally the broke that fuckin’ jam down and did something with it. Enough of the 5 minute noodle-fests. Trey dragged the entire band right into a “Llama” Reprise. This is what a Phish show is supposed to sound like. An adventure just around each note.
I know I sound like a broken record, but things honestly could not be going any better for Phish right now. For instance–many people, me included, were getting frustrated with the lack of longer songs. Last night’s second set contained only two songs that just barely reached over the 10-minute mark. But, since the band strung these songs together seamlessly and packed in such dense jamming, it never slipped in your (at least mine) head for a second that they were not jamming. We are going back to the early 90’s, only with fresh material and fresh style. Phish doesn’t need 40 minute jams (which will probably come eventually because they seem to be evolving as a band all over again). They did it right; pound out the basics of the songs until people are sick of hearing them played the the same way–then use that foundation of your music to expand on top of and fuse together.
Right now Trey can smash any two songs together he would like. Think of him playing “Weekapaug” over “Mango” at the end. He plays the “Weekapaug” theme for almost a minute over Page’s outro; right after the song finished, he kicks it into “Paug” in “Mango’s” key, Page comes frolicking in and they break it right down into “Weekapaug’s” key. If they can seamlessly do key-changes, they can do anything.
I am drooling for this weekend.