Phish always make me happy, but when a Phish concert confronts me with the nagging question “can’t you live while you’re young?” by surprising me with such musical excitement, I remember just why it is I still follow this band as an adult. Last night’s concert was a typical 2015 show by every metric…until Mike’s Song was dropped in the middle of the second set.
A first set that was solid found its highlights mainly in the slap-happy, extra-mustard Wolfman’s and the Birds of a Feather complete with “THEY ATTACK!” and birds attacking sound effects. Trey was not only feeling loose but looking loose by wearing a breezy white polo shirt which, for some reason, just feels refreshing to me as a spectator. Soon Trey will hopefully bust out the cutoff shirts from the early 90’s.
The second set seemed like it was going to be a let down based on how it started–let me explain why. Because the band has unfortunately fallen into a formula with some of their concerts. The first sets are typically song-driven affairs with little room for improvisation and the second sets feature a monster jam for the opening song with another biggish song to follow and then songs usually shrink in both improvisation and excitement thereafter. So after a very bland Golden Age and a do-nothing Light, the chances of the second set regaining any sort of momentum were slim, even when the first notes of Mike’s Song rang out. I was particularly engaged during the beginning of Mike’s because I noticed Trey talking to Page for a while before they started the song–what could he possibly have to say to him about such a staple Phish song? Judging by Trey’s body language with his hands, it almost looked like “and then go back in”.
Wonder what they chatted about before mikes song
— Online Phish Tour (@OnlinePhishTour) August 5, 2015
Well, luckily, Phish fan Drew Hitz somehow got Trey’s ear before the show–perhaps at soundcheck, we are still waiting for the full story–and played for him the Mike’s Song jam from 7/14/2000. Why, you ask? Because of the coveted “second jam” Phish used to launch into after the closing segment of Mike’s Song not seen, according to most people, since this concert in 2000. He tweeted about it before the show:
I just played Trey the transition into the 2nd jam of the 7/14/00 Mike’s Song to refresh his memory. The rest is in God’s hands. #phish
— Drew (@drewphish) August 4, 2015
So when the band didn’t stop playing after the end of this powerful version of Mike’s Song, poop hit the fan. The place melted down with excitement, and one can only imagine what Drew was thinking the moment Trey extended the song…another tweet might offer a glimpse:
— Drew (@drewphish) August 5, 2015
At first it sounded like Trey was launching into Simple but then after a flurry of notes, Fishman kicked it back in with a driving beat. The high octane jam eventually segued nicely into a well played Piper with the tour’s first Crosseyed coming out of that. The Crosseyed didn’t stick around long though, with Trey seamlessly working Weekapaug Groove into the jam, eventually with the whole band switching over.
Taking a cue from the Atlanta Mike’s song less than a week ago, they decided to mess with the song’s tempo, slowing it down considerably. Trey found himself face-to-face with Mike center stage for a brief guitar lock-in before moving into a sort of heavy metal sounding jam, Kuroda accenting it with sharp white and red lights cutting and flashing through the air. The extended Weekapaug moved through some interesting sounds before Trey soloed into the end back on the original Weekapaug theme.
The night ended with one of the most beautiful Slaves of the era.
Last night shows us that the band can still throw the unexpected at everyone. They are still able to inject musical creativity into all parts of the concert (not just the beginning of the second set!). I hope they work do balance sets out as well as they did last night at the remaining concerts this summer. And most of all, I hope the #secondjam is here to stay!
Last night’s concert reached the levels of energy that only Phish can accomplish in a crowd, they can still chill and thrill us every day of the year–not just Halloween!