Phish used their second night at the DCU Center to reiterate that their tour’s opening night wasn’t a fluke. They showed again that they have fresh chops at every turn. After three years of generally knowing what song would take the band where, 2012 is showing that Phish can still keep you on your toes and sound like a whole new band in the process.
Last year if you would have asked me how I’d feel about a Nellie Kane in the middle of a second set, my knee-jerk reaction would be “sounds like another ADD second set with no jams”. In 2012, not only are the jams there, but Nellie Kane is welcome to be part of the show’s centerpiece segment just as Down with Disease is. Cliche as it is, Down with Disease opened up the second set. However, the jam was anything but. Trey, using the chops he got back in 2011 and then some, mixed with a more patient and clean tone, soloed off the main riff before sinking into a funky abyss. Many don’t see the jam as anything that special, but I’d disagree. This relaxed, laid back, and slightly menacing take on the jam was beyond refreshing to me. As he did in Ghost the night before, Trey is showing that he doesn’t always need to be soloing over the jam, he’s finally learning to take a back seat to the rest of his peers by simply adding perfectly placed funky strums (think ’97 without the wah pedal…or drugs). While Trey started Sand after the jam, it wasn’t in the obnoxious and scratchy way he did most of 3.0.
Sand, while only about 8-9 minutes, continues where Down with Disease left off by packing an unbelievably chillax funkfest into its tight quarters. After awhile, Trey thoughtfully plays the opening lick to Nellie Kane and Fish seamlessly moves over to the bluegrass tune in lock-step with Mike–they kept the song slower than usual during the entire song. It’s jaw-dropping and completely unexpected! Since when does Phish perfectly segue into Nellie Kane from a completely funky jam? The transition reminded me of the 4/3/98 Mike’s Song -> Old Home Place.
While we’re talking about things that remind us of 4/3/98, here’s another one: A JAMMED-OUT ROSES ARE FREE. For the third time in Phishtory, the band took the fan-favorite ween cover and extended the ditty beyond its comfort zone with a totally free-form, organic birth (Ween recently broke up too). Stunning. This wouldn’t be the only unleashing of first-set improv, Gin closed the set. Gin has become so similar to the next in 3.0, it’s hard to remember dates of different versions. Well, this one will be remembered. Gin has become a faster-paced, linear rock jam in recent years. Trey didn’t want that for Gin last night and instead decided to keep the song slow from the beginning. He made sure the band kept the tempo slow even after the complete band stop/start just as they entered the jam. He allowed Mike to work the fretboard and Fish to add some interesting fills before Big Red started acting up. Trey was coming back into the mix and in a serious way! Trey started working the jam’s tempo faster and faster and at one point even started trilling his guitar as they came to a full-band peak. I think the song ends a bit abruptly after they peak, but it is a unique and fun version nonetheless–let’s hope Gin continues to evolve.
Even though the first two nights have been indoors, there is a lazy summer breeze that seems to have come over the band. It’s as if they finally have no pressure. It’s like the hot summer air has infected them in a way that keeps their songs slow, thoughtful, light-hearted, and gorgeous. I feel like Trey is at peace. He’s not trying to make everyone happy, he’s not trying to impress–which is ironic because this is the exact key to making everyone happy and impress everyone. Trey realized he doesn’t need to carry the weight of the band on his shoulders during every song. He can lean back and provide the mood lighting for the rest of his completely competent counterparts.
There are some other important things to point out from this show. It contained the second Free opener ever; a version that was exciting and not as dull as other 3.0 takes. Kill Devil Falls, while it still has the horrendously piercing beginning, came to a great peak that got the crowd in a tizzy.
POP QUIZ: What was unique about Theme from the Bottom? It was started by Page for (I THINK) the first time in 3.0. Until this year, Trey always awkwardly started it. I have commented time and again, “why the f*ck is Trey trying to force the beginning of this song?”. Phish is doing everything right. What happened?!
Mike’s Song features some incredibly ferocity from Treyman, sprinting both up AND DOWN the fretboard to reach his destination. During the first Mike’s Groove containing only Makisupa, Trey dropped a reference to ‘Sour Diesel’ which is, as I’ve seen it, a type of medical bud in [at least] Colorado. The Weekapaug that Fishman started during Makisupa’s trancy end was short but gorgeous. Trey reached a sort of plateau of soloing–it was completely impressive and satisfying. I was getting so sick of the two-dimensional rock solos with rolling licks Trey would pass off as true soloing.
Only interesting thing to mention about Wading in the Velvet Sea: it was longer than Weekapaug. However, what was longer than BOTH of them was the longest 2001 in 3.0! Summer’s laziness took over when the band dipped into this funkasaurus. Trey added licks akin to 2001s of yesterera (is that a word?). There is also a slight Mike’s Song jam during the 10-minute dance party.
Character Zero was absolutely slayed by Trey and Suzy was absolutely DESTROYED by Pageman. Holy shit.
I’m in a rush and can’t write too much more, but get this damn show and get PUMPED FOR THE REST OF TOUR!