Phish @ The Gorge

The Relentless Communicator: What The Second Leg Will Hold

photo by John Greene

The second leg of Phish’s summer tour is set to kick off later this week at the Gorge.   From that picturesque setting the band will traverse the West with stops along the way in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Lake Tahoe before closing it out with three nights in Chicago’s UIC Pavilion.  Short and sweet, this second leg is much anticipated by fans ready to get back on the train. While that’s all well and good, here’s what we at Online Phish Tour think will transpire between the time the houselights go down and the roadies take the stage.

 

More of the same. Not meant in a derisive manner whatsoever, this simply means that I think that the song and energy heavy format that permeated the first leg and Super Ball will continue, at least for the time being. This tour has a herky-jerky feel to it, featuring three multi-night runs with the Hollywood Bowl and Outside Lands shows slid in between.  It seems to me that this format is best suited for the festival set, but will probably be utilized at more shows than not.

Some Jamming. While the shows will probably following in line with much of the summer’s offerings so far, that’s not to say that jams will be a thing of the past.  If anything, this summer’s experimental fourth set at Super Ball and the explosive offering in Detroit show that this band has still got it.  These days, however, “it” just doesn’t come out as frequently as it used to.  Looking ahead, my money’s on the tour’s bookend runs at UIC and the Gorge to be the most likely shows to turn into all out jamfests.  That said, the reason we love this band is because things can happen any time.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the band stretch their legs at anytime in August, I just don’t anticipate it happening every night.

New Tunes. To me, two things shocked me about the first leg of summer.  First, only one new original tune was debuted, the epic Trey/Tom composition, Steam.  Secondly, Steam is so damn good.  I would think that only one debut would point to a dearth of new material.  Instead, leg one’s debut is a second set monster, a tune that already has the fanbase salivating.  The scintillating Crosseyed > Steam > Light run from Merriweather is just one example about how good this new material is.  I just want to know, where’s the rest of it?  Trey has hinted at going back into the studio at the end of the year.  Barring a conscious, “writing in the studio” decision, some of those tunes have to find their way to setlists and soundchecks in the second leg.  Phans should be on the lookout for them.

Fewer “bust outs”. I don’t think phans will see a whole lot of eye-brow raising inclusions on the setlists this summer, if only for one reason: there aren’t many left.  With formerly long retired tunes like Destiny Unbound and Fuck Your Face making one or two appearances per tour these days, there really isn’t much left for the band to dig back up and re-animate.  While Prep School Hippie, Dear Mrs. Reagan and Lushington still gather dust on the shelf, I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any of those tunes dusted off for the second leg of this summer’s tour.

A whole lotta fun! While this tour is short on dates, it’s long on interesting venues.  Oftentimes, Summer Tours can turn into a seemingly endless line of sheds which can all blend together in the mind’s eye.  Phans making the trip out west this August will be treated to epic views at the Gorge, a festival set in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, a stop at the Hollywood Bowl and poker-chip filled stand in Tahoe.  Not enough?  Three shows inside to close things out, and remind phans that there’s no fall tour.  All in all, while this tour is spread out and short, Phish has continued on an upward arc since their return in 2009.  Each time the band hits the road, they prove once again that they are breaking new ground and boldy moving forward.  Anyone out there holding a ticket to any show on Leg Two is going to be in for a treat!