Phish has been on a roll of playing better music than I honestly ever thought they’d create together again. After the outstanding MPP shows, it seemed nothing could slow them down–nothing has. They continue to craft incredible sets that never slow down. They continue to mesh as a single unit finding new patterns and themes in even the shortest segment of jamming. It’s honestly hard to think that this is the same band from 2009 and 2010.
(Forgive my quick writing and lack of proofreading. I am in a rush today but wanted to get my thoughts about what we’re witnessing in 2013 out there.)
Even when Phish decides to treat us to a standard first set as seen on July 16, it’s like a bucket of fresh water over my head compared to earlier 3.0. Trey’s been using his older guitar (the reddish one from 1997-2004) and every single note sounds like the Trey I fell in love with again. No more screeching and scratching–I honestly hope he never plays the Ocedoc as his main guitar again. Not only Trey’s equipment sounding better, he is just playing with the smoothness and swagger we expected from Phish. Just take Moma Dance or Funky Bitch from the 17th–even the short, ‘cookie cutter’ versions of songs have a breath of new life in them. Trey isn’t embarrassed of Phish anymore or something.
The highlights of the Georgia stint are both song-related and jam-related. Tuesday night’s second set opened up with a Rock and Roll that laid down a dirty and thick jam that was short and segued effortlessly into Heartbreaker. The jam out of the unfinished Heartbreaker segued seamlessly into Makisupa. This is another thing about 2013: it’s as if their new ‘thing’ is making segues as perfectly as possible. I just can’t think of one thing that isn’t going well for them right now.
The Heartbreaker teases are sprinkled throughout the set from both Page and Trey. A mid-set CDT turned the groans into cheers once the jam broke structure and went into new territory, eventually not reaching the end of the song and moving through Wilson into one of the most impressive sounding jams of the year that is found in Tweezer. If you would have told me two years ago that Phish would play a 9 minute Tweezer into Silent in the Morning, I would have said “no thanks”. Everything this year is gold. Song lengths don’t matter, song choice doesn’t matter, song position doesn’t matter. The Tweezer jam becomes a multi-faceted psychedelic throwdown before SEAMLESSLY finding Silent in the Morning. I had never thought about the segue potential of the beginning of Silent until they stopped dropping The Horse from it–I think it opens up so many possibilities for the song, a song that everyone had though already found its place.
The second night featured a rocking first set and an awesome PYITE opener in the second set. Drowned quickly found its groove after settling down. The jam went into a piano-laced section of improv that SEAMLESSLY morphed into Water in the Sky thanks to Page. I mean, who would have ever thought about Drowned -> Water in the Sky being an insane second set combo? Energy found its way into Phish’s setlist for the second time, this time not ending after the lyrics. Trey kept repeating “e-lec-tric-ity” beyond the structured form of the song while Page and Mike kept the music rolling. The jam finds its way into a rolling waters with the entire band locked in and Trey using a bit of wah next to Page’s synth. Trey has NOT been afraid of his wah pedal this year–unlike 2009-2012; perhaps because he’s using the guitar that he’s so used to using it with.
Another normally groan-worthy song choice is the mid-second-set-Fluffhead. Not groaning in 2013 though! The segue into Fluff is worth the price of admission. The beautiful morph into the monster anthem reminded me of the insane segue of A Disease Supreme -> Fluffhead from Pine Knob on 6/3/2011. As Phish.net points out, this Fluff is also technically unfinished because the closing notes are absent after the rock peak at the end, instead, Trey goes right into Piper to show off some LSD rock. The beginning of the jam has Trey repeating the “e-lec-tric-ity” quotes from earlier in the set before Mike turns his bass into the engine that begins the psychedelic soup. Fishman, never sticking on a beat for more than a second, rolls and crashes all over this jam. 2013 has also brought out Fish’s best drumming once again–perhaps the new stage setup has something to do with this?
Proving that song-length means nothing, the 5 minute 2001 before the set-ending Mike’s Groove is absolutely and absurdly cool. Trey finds a theme that Mike can catch onto and Page was able to fill in the gaps. This pattern bled over into the 2nd composed section of the piece . Trey has been so creative since picking up his ’97 Koa. It’s as if the jams are absorbed in the wood and he just has to wring them out like a towel. The fierce Mike’s Song went into Wedge for the first time before going into a truly OLD SCHOOL version of Weekapaug. This summer sometimes I feel like we’re in 1992, sometimes I feel like we’re in 1997, sometime’s I feel like we’re in 2000, and sometimes I just feel like we’re on the moon in the future. They are able to throw down any style now seemingly–this ‘Paug is an example of them showing off their classic rock licks. Using nothing but Piano/organ, natural guitar, and slap bass (not just the intro), the band lays down a multi-speed rock platter before closing up the set and ending the show with Quinn.
I thought 2012 was good. I still do. 2013 is a whole new Phish. 2013 is gonna be one of “those years” that we talk about for a while. I’m no fluffer, but I can’t gush enough over what I’m seeing this summer. All I can do is pray that they have an extensive fall tour. They need to ride whatever they’re on right now.
Things to watch for in Chicago tonight through sunday:
Fish’s incredible drumming in jams
Fish busting out the Marimba in a big jam
Trey using his wah pedal more
Page playing more prominently
Trey’s rounded-off notes with his old Languedoc
A jam from a song that hasn’t been jammed this year yet
A new Phish song.
See you in Chicago.