Although the tour has started out with some serious playing within the first half of their shows, the shows seem to have been getting more and more predictable playing during their opening sets. Sure, there was the crazy Mule at Star Lake and the Shaggy Dog at Riverbend, but overall they have been saving anything truly interesting for the last half. The same goes for last night’s party at Blossom Music Center.
Blossom, one of the prettiest and most-relaxed outdoor venues in the country, provided shelter for one of the most musically fun sets of this tour so far. However, only after a set that featured songs at radio-friendly lengths and album-style playing. Tube has returned to its normal unimpressive 3.0 playing after there were glimpses of hope in Atlantic City’s version. Bathtub Gin was about as short as they come without any playing that stood out at all. Free didn’t come close to the depths of nTelos’ version–this sound like it was ripped right from the album. Possum didn’t blow up like a lot of 2011 and 2012 versions have, and after the only the third Corinna of the era, Meatstick closed with Trey calling fans on stage to do the Meatstick dance after saying that him and Mike messed it up. Still, nothing interesting musically.
The second set started with a spacey Golden Age. After the space subsides Trey starts up the second Ghost of the year. After the DCU’s impressive bout with improvisation before heading into Boogie On, the standard was high. The jam was more linear than DCU’s and settled down quick but was fun nonetheless and slipped into Sweet Virginia effortlessly. Rift followed for the second set-two version of the year, certainly not normal.
After Rift, everyone was anxious for something to bring the wooden roof town, after all, just look at the last two shows played at Blossom. When Tweezer rang out, the place freaked–as expected. Tweezers in the middle of a set are a lot more exciting than Tweezers to start the set after all! The solid Tweezer beginning teed up the beginning of the jam to soar. Trey opened up with a pattern of ascending licks, stirring feeling of something fantastic happening. During this Fish yelled out “how can you have your meat if you don’t have any pudding?”–a nod to Another Brick in the Wall pt. 1. The jam locked after that with Mike on the envelope. Soon, Trey started quoting “under pressure” and “ice ice baby” with Page subsequently teasing it on the piano. Trey tried to sign it but admitted he didn’t know any of the words, asking Page to sing it. Page, in turn, said “I think Fish knows the words”. After a few moments of verbal silence, Trey said “well this isn’t going anywhere, lets get some girls up here to dance the Meatstick!”, they went into a Meatstick jam and then popped back into the Tweezer licks. At this point I think people thought we were in for a monster jam, but instead they segued in to Walk Away for the first time since 7/8/00 at Alpine Valley.
Walk Away finished in an absolutely blazing fashion with Page and Trey rocking around each other in a whirlwind. Unfortunately any thoughts of Walk Away returning to the Tweezer jam that spawned it were daunted once Horse started. The Horse > Silent offered a break before they set out on another short but exciting jam. The bulbous licks from Mike’s Modulus bounced playfully off the all-wood interior of the shed. Page filled the jam with melodies before Trey started machine-gunning to the finish. The end became spacey and many were thinking 2001 was about to drop. Instead, Waste came out before they finished the set with Antelope.
The beginning of Antelope started with Meatstick teases that immediately made me think of 9/22/00’s Meatstick/Antelope mashup. The patient start of the jam turned frantic as Trey started working up the fretboard dramatically. Once the jam popped into the end, more silliness ensued with banter coming from Trey.
After the Loving Cup > Tweezer Reprise encore, fans went back to their cars, many smiling from the second set.
We now go into a three-day break before Phish return to stage in the middle of Indiana’s corn fields. Will we see the creative and improvisationally-keen band we saw at Star Lake, will we get the VH1 storyteller Trey from Riverbend, or will we get the completely silly Phish we saw the first night of nTelos? It seems like Phish is on the line between breaking into a totally new sound, much of which surfaced at DCU and Bader, and a jukebox band who is afraid of taking risks–they seem to be on the extreme of both ends lately depending on their mood. It also seems like the calmer, more in-the-mesh Trey playing of Bader and DCU has yielded to Trey’s louder and prominent playing of 2010 in many jams (not so much the past two nights).
Will Phish continue moving forward or decide to play songs rather than jams? I think the former, after all, the two most ‘summery’ venues of the country are about to be played. I always liked Mr. Miner’s description of the two venues: Deer Creek is akin to church whereas Alpine Valley is an everyone’s-invited party.