I Heard It Again (And It Was a Gas)

Seems like summer was a long time ago, doesn’t it? Yet it was just about a scant seven months ago–before the blizzards, before the NYE Meatsravaganza, before Little Feat, before Guyutica/Manch-Vegas and before (arguably) the real return of the band we know and love in all their glory–that the boys from Vermont embarked on a four night stretch through Camden and Columbia that defined Leg I of the Summer Tour. In the elasticity of Phish time, eons have passed, whole new species have evolved–such as the Ocedoc–while others, unable to adapt, have since passed on (R.I.P. whale). Thanks to JEMP Records and engineer Fred Kevorkian, the past and the future are no longer precisely divided, as 6/27/2010 Merriweather Post Pavilion comes roaring back to life with a beautiful remastered release.

The news of this release was uniquely exciting for me, as I had planned to attend the show with my girlfriend and her family and had to miss the entire four night stretch thanks to a multi-national sandwich corporation (they know who they are) jerking my chain and forcing me back to Los Angeles. After much crying and hand wringing upon first hearing the show, the now-famous “I Saw It Again”-fest, my girlfriend’s sister brought me off the ledge by describing it thusly, “Sometimes Phish plays an amazing show and those nights are special, and sometimes Phish decides they’d rather yell and act crazy, and those nights, in a different way, are also special.” And now, after hearing this new release, I have to agree. This was, for certain, a special show, as I’m sure those of you lucky enough to attend can attest, but musically it holds few surprises. Trey’s playing is still rough around the edges and Mike has to carry most of the load, creatively speaking. The piper jam, which at firstI admittedly thought was fantastic, feels somewhat sloppy now, especially when compared to the jams of the fall and NYE runs. The teases are fun and there are moments of brilliance throughout the show, of course–most notably the Ghost with its seamless “Jumping Jack Flash” segue–but the full band jamming and communication of the fall are still a long ways away.

What this show does have is energy and plenty of it. The energy is fantastic, and fantastically captured in this remaster, where the crowds cheers and chants of “I Saw It Again” are artfully mixed into recording to give it a real “3-D” sonic experience. The tonal separation is, of course, wonderful: LivePhish SBDs had the tendency to sound muddy at times over the summer and the remaster eliminates any trace of that. Notice the pop to Fish’s cymbals in the beginning of “Divided Sky” or the way Page’s piano stands out during Ghost and YEM.

Ultimately, while “Jumping Jack Flash” is still one of the best covers of the “Jukebox Tour” and I will always enjoy the energy and surprise of “Boy, Man, I saw it again!”, this show will remain more of a historical relic, much like the Red Rocks shows of 2009, when the band started to show glimpses of a potential not yet realized. Now, with that potential fully realized over the past seven months, we know what Phish 3.0 is capable of and can anticipate the bar being pushed even higher. I look forward to reliving the transformation over the other releases–7/3 & 2/4 from Alpharetta GA–as well as the releases coming in February–8/6 & 8/7 from Berkeley and 8/13 from Deer Creek, IN–and I’m glad that, at every juncture, the band continues to treat its fans to high quality remasters.

Finally, before signing off my first post for OPT, I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Zim. I am a young but longtime Phish fan living in LA and a graduate of USC with a film degree to fall back on if this blogging gig doesn’t lead to the fame and fortune I expect it will. I look forward to covering breaking news, shows and maybe some broader opinion pieces down the road, but mostly I look forward to interacting and sharing thoughts with the rest of the community. Good times a-coming!