Alpine 2: A Dairy Land Dream

7.1.12 | Dave Vann

Keeping in line with the three previous nights, Phish offered the Midwest a platter of new-to-2012 songs among others, all were absolutely destroyed by Trey (in a good way) and a couple contained some serious jamming. Phish’s obvious attempt at trying to reach the 200-song mark this tour can be frustrating at times because it makes Trey preoccupied with cramming as many songs as possible into a show, but it also makes it exciting for show goers because no one knows what’s next. Could they put the first songs together a bit more clever? Sure, but they are sounding great right now and this is this summer’s “thing” like every tour seems to have.

After opening with the favorite, Soul Shakedown, a particularly fiery rendition of Lonesome Cowboy Bill popped up right before a sign-induced Vultures (just days after Trey jabbed at the sign holders). So far, the first three songs have all been new to the year. They play a comfortable, patient, and short Jibboo before slipping into a Dirt that reminds me of the gorgeous take on the song during the 2010 Mike’s Groove at the same venue.

A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing emerged for the first time since SBIX and a shredding one at that. Trey’s fingers were on point all of Deer Creek and Alpine, he’s been in complete shred-mode. However, Trey took a break from shredding for the simplistic chords and melodies of the fifth Access Me ever–returning it to its debut home.

The fourth Meat of 3.0 was greeted with enormous acceptance. Trey played some interesting and crazy sounds during some of the breaks and Mike, as always, was heavy handed. Just as we thought they were going into a second extended stop to the end of the song, Page quickly ran behind Trey’s monitors and pulled out the Keytar! Would he be using it for another Meat interlude? Nope. An incredibly rare mid-set Frankenstein, featuring Page swaying with Mike and Trey during Fish’s drum solo. Page was in full rock-star mode.

6.30.12 | Aaron B.

The year’s first Fee came out to play and what a version it was. It was the third longest song of the show, clocking in at 12 minutes! The usual spacey interlude stretched into a beautiful example of the band meshing flawlessly like a woven blanket of song–it dips right into type-II territory for much of the ending. The classic follow-up song Maze follows, but it’s unfortunate we can’t add a “>” to the setlist because they took a moment to stop and talk about it before the hi-hat popped up.

Page was the star of this Maze as Trey watched in near-awe, kicking his legs out as Leo took Alpine for a spin before ending the set with Squirming Coil and everyone leaving stage but Page. A perfect ending to such a Page-heavy set.

When Crosseyed popped up to open set two, memories were instantly shaken back to Alpine’s exciting 2009 version. This version featured a jam that’s slightly unique for the song. After the usual guitar-heavy intro to the jam, the jam starts rolling along over rollicking lick of Trey’s that slightly reprises the refrain, with the band chanting “still waiting” over eerie music. The heavenly outro led into the year’s first No Quarter.

The second set doesn’t really get moving until we enter the Light though. After years of having sub-par jams, it seems like 2012 is the song’s year. Every time it’s been played this year, we have been left with incredible and memorable jams. Last night was no exception. Easily the improvisational highlight of the night, and perhaps the weekend, Phish crafted a sublime piece of improvisation that really captures their new-found focus on listening to each other, mimicking others’ licks and playing off one another fluently. Mike digs in deep at on point during a portion of the jam where it sounds like Frankie Says almost. The longest jam of the night comes to a natural finish which brings us Ghost.

Steam | 6.30.12 | Aaron B.

This Ghost is short…but incredibly powerful. The tempo picks up and almost sounds like Bisco at one point (in a good way). The dancelicious grooves moved the crowd before coming into a powerful, Trey-driven ending that segued perfectly into the second Back on the Train in the four-night run–the only song repeated over the four shows.

Used simply as a landing pad, it ended quickly and gave way to the first Farmhouse of the year. A song perfect for the surroundings–literally surrounded by farms, cows, fields.

46 Days continued the song-driven effort and was absolutely face melting. Trey unleashed the full ability of his Ocelot on this hot summer’s night and brought the barn down with Fishman’s help. Everyone hoping for a YEM closer–the second of the tour–hopes were dashed when Heavy Things (without the loop), Joy, and a standard Julius closed things out.

The Meatstick encore featured people pulled from the pit, handpicked by Trey, to do the dance on stage just like at Blossum a week earlier.

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This show capped off their four-night run in America’s Heartland perfectly. While people might be upset that there were no Down With Disease -> WTUs, or Fee -> NO2 -> Kung > Fires, you know, over-the-top things that usually happen at these two summer sheds, the musical quality was incredibly solid and they packed a number of fantastic bouts of improvisation into small packages (you know, just like that special year 1993) — last night’s Light > Ghost -> BOTT, Fee, and 46 Days shows that perfectly.

Can’t wait to see what they bring over the Fourth of July at Jones Beach!

Meatstick | 7.1.12| Dave Vann