I’ve now fully dissected the entire Memorial Day Weekend Bethel run. I think it’s safe to say that this tour opener may be the most meaningful since the Fluffhead at Hampton in 2009. The playing over the three days was looser, more playful, and more exciting than we have seen from them in years.
I think the biggest improvements come from Trey and Fish. Fishman crushed his kit the entire weekend; listen to him in Wolfman’s Brother and Bathtub Gin. Trey played more creatively and patiently than he has in all of 3.0. He was extremely mindful of the other band members too–he played with them rather than over them. He also seems to be moving away from his directionless 3.0 noodling (that I discussed here) for a style that seems to have more of a purpose in mind.
Mike and Page were great too, don’t get me wrong, but they have been great all of 3.0. One thing to note is that Mike has been adding a lot of powerful licks within composed sections of songs–listen to the nasty lick from Mike in the beginning of Gumbo below–the entire weekend is laced with shit like this!
Since I have had more time to jam out to the recordings since I posted my day-after reviews– Night 1, Night 2, Night 3 — I have noticed some things that I looked over. The largest musical nugget that I looked over in my review was the Waves > Prince Caspian. The Waves featured impressive playing by Trey — it was beautiful and delicate. His playing wasn’t seen like that any where else in the run. It’s a perfect example of a Trey that has his touch back — he doesn’t always need to be loud. Phish posted the video of this Waves; it can be found in today’s Monday Morning Video Pick-Me-Up.
I looked over the jam at the end of Cities too — Trey sounds awesome in this. He just rips it a new one. Speaking of ripping, the David Bowie got me more excited for the direction of the song than Guyutica did. While Utica’s has an original jam, Trey’s dexterity in it isn’t impressive–he doesn’t try to melt my face. This weekend’s ended with a mean Trey–he injected a snarl that we won’t forget anytime soon. It’s probably the most important building block to bringing the jam back to the status the song once had.
While I mentioned the tension in the Stash in the review, I feel like I didn’t explain why this jam was a big deal. The tension Trey built was fantastic. Stash is a song that embodies the tension/release style jamming that they perfected throughout 1.0. While I think Trey’s releases need some work still, the tension was more ferocious than ever. Listen for the loop Trey throws in while building the jam up.
What this weekend comes down to is that Trey is getting his swagger back. I don’t wanna jump the gun by saying all this; the first three shows of 2010 got me over-excited. But this is different. These shows showcased a fundamental change in Trey’s playing in Phish. I bring up Trey more than the rest because he leads he band–he is the one that can push a jam farther or cut it short. Trey’s style in the Cities, Walk Away, Waves, and David Bowie made me drool once again.
The jams he extended during Halley’s Comet, Bathtub Gin, and Number Line show that he can improvise with the band once again. He seems to have a desire for improv again–after all, when is the last time we saw this much jamming in first sets in all of 3.0? I have no doubt that the Bathtub Gin will be one of the most memorable jams for years.
I often criticize 3.0 Phish by saying that there are very few shows that I’ll actually listen to ten years from now, when there are a ton that I still listen to from over 10 years ago. These first two Bethel shows will be listened to a long time by me.
I was on the fence about going to Dick’s later this summer. If Phish proves to me over the next week that these Bethel shows were not a flash in the pan–and I DON’T think they are–I’ll be seeing you all in Denver. See, Phish, you don’t need to do tiered pricing and offer “free” downloads to sell tickets, you just have to play like this! Kinda like the fat person that wants to take pills to lose weight instead of just doing the work to yield the desired results.
I have not been this excited for Phish since February of 2009.
All Photos in this article are from OPT friend, Jack Riley. You can view all of his wonderful pictures from Bethel and more at his site.