Well, the June we waited for so patiently has unfortunately come to an end. Kinda weird, isn’t it? For those of us that follow what Phish does every day during a tour, life seems eerily quiet after a tour-closing show. Fortunate for us, this we have SuperBall 9 coming up quick. The Fourth of July festival will give us plenty more to enjoy, review, and dissect until the second leg of summer starts up. Until then, we can focus on the 18 shows of Phish that we have just been fed.
This June was an amazing month for our band. There were more moments of creativity packed in this month than, arguably, the years 2009 and 2010 combined. Just as importantly, Trey’s guitar playing returned to the standard that makes it worthy of the Phish stamp of approval. Until this year, there had been large debates circling both within the community and among OPT contributors (see: Tales of Mental Tangle #8: Is Trey the Weak Link?). When Trey’s playing was the highlight throughout the largely-forgettable PNC shows, it was obvious that Trey wasn’t just unusually ‘on’ during the Bethel Woods run. After the wildly-successful Midwest run, we knew our favorite guitarist was back (see: A Feeling I Forgot).
The improvisational creativity that the band boasted during Bethel, the Midwest, Merriweather, and other moments during the tour was them telling us that every little thing was gonna be alright. That being said, it would be ignorant to ignore the fact that the first half of the month was more creative than the second. Despite the entire band’s musical ability being impressively strong throughout the entire month, their improvisational creativity’s consistence didn’t match–yes, I blame Trey for this. However, it’s nothing at all to dwell on.
Everyone was making the comparison of 2009 and 2010 to the early 90’s during the last couple of years–saying that they had to completely get back on their feet before extending songs and improvisation. While I agreed with the idea, I felt that they still weren’t ready for such a comparison; Fishman needed a lot of work in 2009 and Trey needed a finger workout throughout 2009 and much of 2010. Now, I feel like the early 90’s comparison works. Now that Trey and Fish are back on the wagon, annihilating everything in their path (along with Page and Mike being the best they have ever been in their careers), the runway is clear for anything their minds can come up with. This is why we don’t need to be worried anymore–the building blocks are now properly in place. If you were happy with the jams we were treated to this month, just think of what August holds.
Some will argue that the break between SBIX and August, Labor Day and the next tour (I’m saying NYE) is too long for them to stay this polished. I say that the long break between MSG and Bethel proved that they are able to stay tight after extended breaks. I was expecting a few shows for Trey to get his swagger-legs back–he proved me wrong the moment we experienced Wolfman’s Brother -> Walk Away.
I thought this month was extremely successful for Phish. While I think it would make the wait for SBIX more exciting if they took the jammy route, ala Pine Knob, towards the end of this tour (and probably help Watkins ticket sales), this first leg has me more excited to see them again than ever.
I want to see what the OPT readers think. I will keep the series of polls below open for about a week. Next week I will take the results and match them up to my thoughts, just like I did for 2010.