July 8, 2011

from - From The Road - Super Ball IX

This set is so sick, that even though I wasn’t there I want to write about it.

Friday, 7.1.11 – Super Ball IX
Watkins Glen, NY

Set II

Crosseyed & Painless ->
Chalk Dust Torture
Sand >
The Wedge
Mike’s Song >
Simple >
Bug >
Horse > Silent
Weekapaug Groove
Joy >
Character Zero

E: Show of Life

They played a lot of damn music this weekend. And, as the NY Times reported, “there aren’t many rock bands anymore that can play for 13 hours, 17 minutes and 22 seconds over three days and genuinely leave those fans wanting more.”  I know the feeling!  I would love to review all 8 (7+1) sets of IX, but I’m settling for just this one.

The Crosseyed opener is sickeningly hot. This alone would make the whole set worth getting. Especially the intro to it (and the intro into the Chalkdust, too! For a second there it sounds like “Light”). In fact, one might argue that the proper notation for all this is:

Set II

Intro Jam ->
Crosseyed & Painless ->
“Go away from the Light” Jam ->
Chalk Dust Torture

Great stuff!

Of course Mike owns the Chalkdust. Listen for some really key bass fills from him in the verses, especially right as they head into the chorus each time.

Sand was very Sand-y. This one was slow (which is just normal now, I suppose) and laaaaaaaaaaid back. Sometimes Trey really aggressively goes after those licks, but this time there’s more full-band interplay in-between the “…you can heal the symptom…” vamping, Even from Fishman! Mike & Page get really bluesy mid-way through the jam, and this thing straight up SWINGS! For a long time, I missed that this swing style was lacking (or less at least) from Phish Sand vs. the ’99 Trio Trey Band Sand. Great truly great, inspired jamming in this version, too.

Sand kind of bleeds over into The Wedge (certainly not “->” and not really a “>” even) and I’ll say it again — love this tune. They should play it every night. But only when I’m there.

By the way, I really like this Sand. I keep rewinding* to it over & over again.

*yeah, rewinding. I like to get the No Spoilers recordings sometimes, because I have to listen to the entire set uninterrupted. Can’t just skip back a track. Just like a tape.  Remember tapes?  (apparently, even Maxell does not remember them…) Plus, AUDs are really freaking amazing now! Maybe because the only people left taping are the superstars who are well-educated masters of their craft, and who love the hell out of taping shows. There was a pretty good (and really long) article on the phishnet blog recently which interviewed two veteran tapers.

Mike’s was short but solid (Trey performed the instrumental equivalent of kicking Mike in the nuts to bring an abrupt end to this jam).

Simple is a song that asks us that age-old question, once pondered by paleolithic hominids: “What IS a band without skyscrapers?” The answer, of course, is “shit.” That band would be complete shit. But Phish HAS skyscrapers, rather obviously, and is therefore rescued from that terrible fate. They are, in fact, THE shit.

Not all Simples are good.  This one is pretty good, though.

from - From The Road - Super Ball IX

Another reason AUDs are cool because you can really perceive a shift in the jam. During the Simple, for example, at one point Page hits a chord on one of his effects-laden keyboards (the Moog, probably) and you can hear the crown react. Then you can hear the texture of the jam really change, and build from there. I listened to the SBD for comparison, and there really is no comparison. The AUD is infinitely better for this perspective. (The portion I’m talking about here is what immediately precedes the really cool ambient jam in this song…also, the AUDs are also much better for hearing Mike’s own ambiance during both of these portions.)

This jam clearly ended before Bug started (“Simple, Bug”).

Horse>Silent was interesting because Page accompanied Trey for the Horse intro, instead of Trey accompanying himself.

Weekapaug sounded like it was awesome, as per usual. Joy sounded nice.

Zero’d. Apparently, great sets end with a Zero. Really, they’re just multiplying everything by 10 when they add a Zero at the end. It’s a good rule-of-thumb when your dealing with rock n’ roll. Nice grunting from Fishman before the vocals come back in. Zero is great live, just was never my favorite set closer. The festival-sized sing-a-long on the outro is pretty cool, though: “AH! AH! AHHHHHH-OH!”

Trey says “thanks” not once, but twice! That’s more talking than we sometimes get in a whole 4-show run! (but then the 1988 storage shed story came on Sunday, and hopefully changed all that…)

Encore: Show of Life. Good encore.

Great set! I guess I really like the first half better than the second, but you really can’t argue with the flow here! I feel like the Bug, Horse>Silent (and Encore) were really nicely placed for those at the festival…no sense blowing your whole wad on the first night. But they blew enough of the wad to let people know that they were freakin’ serious about playing their Big Balls off the rest of the weekend, too.

By the way, on a slight tangent, Sunday’s version Big Balls is hilarious. It was just priceless hearing Fishman sing those lyrics.

Nothing is better with this band than when they’re totally lose & having fun. Are they the cleanest, most precise rock band in the history of live music? Well, certainly not at these moments (see the Alpharetta Birdwatcher>Kung). And sure, I do wish that I could have both all the time. But this festival was just a crap ton of fun and you can feel it in the music. Especially during the moments in-between the songs! Sometimes there’s a >, and sometimes there’s a full-on ->, but sometimes you just want to label Song One>Jam, Song Two. That’s really the best, right there. This was also true of these last leg 1 shows, although it was a quite a bit more so at Super Ball.

I hope that makes sense…sorry, where was I?  Oh yeah:  It’s truly unbelievable the amount of good music that came out of this past weekend….

from - From The Road - Super Ball IX

“Not For Human Consumption”

June 25, 2011

Wow. Like, holy crap wow. This is the reason we love this band.

OMG, it's 34 tracks! OMG, it's over 6 hours of music! OMG, it's free!

The Live Bait series, if you are not familiar, is a collection of live recordings (SBDs) issued by the band to promote upcoming tours. Actually, at first they were released one-at-a-time to promote specific shows by releasing a track from a previous visit to the same venue they were about to play.  In preparation for Superball IX, they have released a compilation of past festivals, including the apparently misnamed Ian’s Farm 87 & ’89, Arrowhead Ranch and Amy’s Farm in ’91, and of course The Ball, The Went, ‘Wheel, Oswego, Cypress, and IT. They even managed to salvage something from Coventry (actually, that “blow off some steam” jam is pretty smokin’ hot!  Okay, so maybe that’s not fair to use the word “salvage”…there was a fair amount of good music at Coventry, but that’s the subject of someone else’s blog).

Now, Kevin Shapiro has outdone himself. Check this shiz out, man:

Live Bait Vol. 5 – Festivals

‎1. Party Time (2009-10-30 Festival 8, Empire Polo Club, Indio, CA)
2.Harpua > Bundle Of Joy > Harpua > Golgi Apparatus (1987-08-21 Ian McLean’s Party at Connie Condon’s Farm – Hebron, NY)  This Harpua is jammed out (!!) and has a pretty sick segue into Golgi that sounds like “Sneakin’ Sally” for a minute there
3. Run Like An Antelope (1989-05-28 Ian McLean’s Party at Connie Condon’s Farm – Hebron, NY)
4. Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > (1989-08-26 Townshend Family Park – Townshend, VT)
5. Fly Famous Mockingbird (1989-08-26 Townshend Family Park – Townshend, VT)
6. The Lizards (1989-08-26 Townshend Family Park – Townshend, VT)
7. Lawn Boy > (1990-06-16 Townshend Family Park – Townshend, VT)
8. Possum (1990-06-16 Townshend Family Park – Townshend, VT)
9. Reba (1991-07-14 Townshend Family Park – Townshend, VT)
10. Flat Fee (with The Giant Country Horns – 1991-07-20 Arrowhead Ranch – Parksville, NY)
11. David Bowie (with The Giant Country Horns – 1991-07-20 Arrowhead Ranch – Parksville, NY)
12. Gumbo (with The Giant Country Horns and Steve-o washboard – 1991-07-21 Arrowhead Ranch – Parksville, NY)
13. Divided Sky (1991-08-03 Amy’s Farm, Larrabee Farm – Auburn, ME)
14. It’s Ice (1996-08-17 The Clifford Ball, Plattsburgh Air Force Base – Plattsburgh, NY)
15. Fluffhead (1996-08-17 The Clifford Ball, Plattsburgh Air Force Base – Plattsburgh, NY)
16. Down With Disease > (1997-08-17 The Great Went, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)  Did you forget about this great 27-min Disease that precedes the Greatest Bathtub Gin ever?!?  
17. Bathtub Gin (1997-08-17 The Great Went, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)  Went Gin!!!  Great fade-out on this one, too
18. Brad Sands Announcement (1998-08-15 Lemonwheel, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)
19.Punch You In The Eye (1998-08-16 Lemonwheel, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)
20. Sanity > (1998-08-15 Lemonwheel, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)
21. Tweezer (1998-08-15 Lemonwheel, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)  Ahh, the Summer ’98 Funk–this Tweezer is full of it!
22. Bittersweet Motel (1998-08-16 Lemonwheel, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)
23. Runaway Jim > (1999-07-18 Camp Oswego, Oswego County Airport – Volney, NY)  24-min Jim with serious Type II stuff
24. Free (1999-07-18 Camp Oswego, Oswego County Airport – Volney, NY)
25. Mike’s Song > (1999-12-30 Big Cypress Seminole Reservation – Big Cypress, FL)
26. Simple > (1999-12-30 Big Cypress Seminole Reservation – Big Cypress, FL)
27. I Am Hydrogen > (1999-12-30 Big Cypress Seminole Reservation – Big Cypress, FL)
28. Weekapaug Groove (1999-12-30 Big Cypress Seminole Reservation – Big Cypress, FL)
29. Waves (2003-08-02 IT, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)           20+ mins!
30. Mountains In The Mist (2003-08-03 IT, Loring Air Force Base – Limestone, ME)
31. Split Open And Melt Jam (2004-08-15 Coventry, Newport State Airport – Coventry, VT)
32. Suzy Greenberg (with Sharon Jones, Saundra Williams, Dave Guy, David Smith and Tony Jarvis – 2009-10-31 Festival 8, Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA)
33. McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters – acoustic (2009-11-01 Festival 8, Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA)
34. Secret Smile – acoustic (2009-11-01 Festival 8, Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA)

Get it here or you can just stream it, instead.  Oh, yeah, and it’s freakin’ FREE, too.

Woah, Blossum

June 16, 2011

We’d stayed in Ann Arbor after the Friday night show, and the drive down to Blossom was nice & brief.  The Cuyahoga River Valley is a surprisingly scenic area, and as you approach the show you’re actually in Ohio’s largest national park.
It’s really hard to do side trips on Phish tour, but next time I am out that way I want to make a point of visiting the park itself & taking in some hikes.

We were tipped off to a “super sneaky and secret back entrance” to the venue, but weren’t given any specific directions. All we were told was to meet at the Winking Lizard Tavern on Rte 303 in Peninsula before 4 p.m.  We found the place all right, and there were just a few folks in there that looked like fans, so we had a beer, made friends, and got the scoop on the back entrance.  It turned out to be a total score, as we totally (as in COMPLETELY) avoided any hint of traffic into the show.  We drove about 10 minutes from the bar, through the national park’s winding back roads,  and into a side lot that bordered the rest of the traffic pulling in from Steels Corners Road.  Free parking at this venue, too, which rules.  It was a bit of a walk from our lot to the venue itself, but I figured what the heck–we’re in a National Park, we should be doing some hiking anyway.

Photo from the National Park Service -

This venue/lot/park is just a cool place. Walking through the lots toward the show, there are clearings with picnic tables along the way. It’s great for friends to meet up & gather before they head in…and I suppose it would also be great to have a picnic if you were so inclined.

The shed is kind of weird–it was built for the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. The sides are jagged, which can cause weird echoes, and the back of the pavilion slopes up then back down instead of up and out. Check out the picture below–it was taken from the back of the lawn, just right of center. The sound bounces around in there kind of strangely, and moving just a couple of seats to your right or left can make a big difference in what you hear.

Saturday, June 4, 2011
Blossom Music Center – Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Photo by B. Shrader

Set I
Kill Devil Falls
Fuck Your Face
Rocket in My Pocket
Back on the Train
Guelah Papyrus
Run Like an Antelope

Set II
Birds of a Feather
The Lizards
Sneakin’ Sally->
Harry Hood->
Have Mercy->
Harry Hood>
Character Zero

Slave to the Traffic Light

This show felt a little strange at the start.  Three great songs, but a bit of an odd mishmash.  Other shows later in the tour started off like this, too.  KDF is a nice opener, and supports what I was advocating for the previous night: shows should always open with a 10 min jam. Guyute is an odd song in the 2nd slot, and I’m sorry to have to say that it was embarrassingly sloppy. FYF is just an odd song in general…and how in the hell did I manage to catch two of these?? Then the set started to feel a little more normal when Foam started up on the heels of FYF. Ahhh… I like Foam, and I love how they absolutely freakin’ nail every single note when they play it now. Strange though, that out of all of their songs (i.e., Guyute, the ending of Taste, the pause in Ghost, etc.) Foam is the one they chose to polish & practice the hell out of. I’m not complaining, remember. You have no idea how psyched it makes me to hear Phish play the hell out of this tune like it’s 1992 again.

Getting into the meat of the first set, we got a string of ripping tunes. Not exploratory jams, but plenty of balls-out rocking. At the show, I thought that Ocelot felt unusually (even painfully) slow. But upon a second listen, I have to admit it was a bit of a rager. Not that this was one of those “better on the tape” type of performances, but while I was trying to dance (poorly…this is me we’re talking about) the tempo just felt like it really dragged. Then we got a taste of last Halloween with Little Feat’s Rocket in my Pocket. Very cool! I wasn’t really sure what we were hearing at first, but I knew I liked it. Back on the Train was actually kind of a rager, too. Good Type I solo, to be sure. And Guelah sure is fun, I have to say.

Then we went to Page’s HOUSE with a nice, superfunky (albeit shorter than 5 min) Tube, which quickly became a Tubealope. And that Tubealope ran down the Streets of Cairo. I believe I enjoyed this Antelope more than any other in the past 12-13 years. Please go listen to this now. There was another tease toward the beginning of the Antelope there, but I just could not place it. If it wasn’t a tease, it was one of those glorious melodies that sound to beautiful to have been composed right there on the spot. It could’ve been anything (or nothing)–I’ll bet Trey has more tunes/songs/melodies/themes floating around in his head at any given moment than I’ll learn in my entire life. Trey took a moment to mention “Mike-o,” “Fish-o,” and “Toph-o” Essscuaaaandoooooooooolas, complete with a light solo for Toph. Tons-o-fun! Sloppy transition there into the final gear, but hey man, “that’s Escuandolas” after all. Esssscuaaaandoooolas!

Setbreak was interesting.  As I was heading out of the pavilion, I noticed that the prime VIP seating section, the one dead center, had no one guarding it.  So, of course, I popped in and found a seat.  It was clear just by looking around that the folks in these seats were not your standard “VIP” types, so I felt at home and settled in.  A big thank you to the two dudes next to me from Pennsylvania who were so accommodating. Everyone there was able to hang out, undisturbed, for the rest of the show.

The place was pumped for Set II.  Birds was atypical. Which of course means awesome. More than just “unique.” I guess it was really typical in that they stayed within the structure, tempo, and other items that are pretty common to the song, but the jam was particularly inspired and the extended variations on the theme from Trey & Mike are things I always love to hear. Great jamming, even if the end seemed a little clipped by TreyDHD…Page wanted to sing another round of the chorus!  (Side note: Page got his chance to cut of Trey’s vocals the a few days later during the 7/15 Alpharetta Suzy–and it was most excellent!)

The Blossom Possum was a ton of fun as well. After your normal, “typical awesome” Possum-y circus-y blues soloing, the theme of the jam (for Trey at least) became “let’s bend every note by a ridiculous amount with ever-increasing intensity” and this idea bled over into the ending vocals, which in turn made for one of the most hilarious & enjoyable Possums I’m sure I’ve ever witnessed. Most of my other favorite Possums are ones I’ve never seen from ’92-93, like the one they just put out on the I-90s Bonus Disk with all the teases (5/17/92 – Achilles Rink, Union College – Schenectady, NY) but this one is right up there with the rest of them in terms of zany antics.

Steam is pretty flippin’ cool. When it first started, I thought it was 7 Below for about 3 notes, then I immediately thought, “oh cool, they’re playing ‘The Way I Feel’ from Treys solo band.” What it turned out to be was neither of those, but rather a debut of a pretty excellent tune that I would like to hear again as a landing point for killer jams. Slow & groovy with some cool lyrics and a very cool sound effect (which someone said was a china boy cymbal? I’ve heard those, and I’m not so sure that’s what this is…) The lyrics are maybe kind of medieval in that we’re hearing about horses and towers (castle towers, I imagine) and chasing wolves. I’m looking forward to hearing this song jammed out even more.

At the Winking Lizard...was the song that segued out of "Piper" a coincidence? I think not.

I would normally refrain from saying anything about the next song because I compare every Piper I hear to the 12/6/97 Palace version, but this Piper was actually pretty good and contains some Floyd-y meets Miles-y type stuff toward the end of the jam, just before they segue into The Lizards. Really, really good transition there (a real segue this time, by golly!) For a few moments there it sounds like the jam is going to land into Twenty Years Later. The Lizards is nice & long and impeccably played! A long pause after Lizards gave us…

Sneaking Sally thru the muthaflippin’ Alley! Man, this was sick. At times it sounds like something pulled straight from the best of the 2003-04 style jams (i.e. The Moma Dance from 6/17/04 Brooklyn). This jam dropped into Harry Hood, which some folks say has been getting better & better each version since 2009. This was a great Hood, and had some interesting stuff in the beginning, to be sure–but check out the 12/28/10 Worcester Hood for some truly fantastic, innovative stuff, though. As far as, “each one is better than the last,” I don’t think this one is better than that one (but, to be clear, I really, really like this one).  Have Mercy kind of floats in on its own…but then Hood kind of barrels its way back in. Have Mercy is teased…loosely…but, oh!  Trey pulls off a splendidly brilliant tease of Lizards on his way toward the final peak.

Then we got Zero’d. But they picked up with the pitch bending (in the style of the Blossom Possum) so that was cool. And this song always has at least 1.21 gigawatts of energy, so that’s cool too. And a Smoke on the Water tease at the end. Random, but pretty cool. Upon another listen while writing this post, I realize that Trey’s teasing Smoke on the Water within the jam, too…right before the pitch-bending part. So, cool again.

Slave is also cool. A perfectly placed encore at this show.

Lots of animals at this show: pigs, ocelots, birds, lizards, possums, tigers in lily patches, rhinos running from thunder, tubealopes running out of control, a fly that feeds arachnid, wolves & horses in Steam, red red worms, and you can even “see the zoo” on the encore.

I am kind of sad about the short Tubes (although they do pack a punch, which I really like, they are all pretty small, which is no good) and instaspeedy hypertempo Pipers.  On the other hand, I’m thrilled with the amount of pure, unadulterated FUN this band is having–as evidenced by the last half of the Possum, Sally vocal jam & ensuing madness, and the relaxed, beautiful & patient way they drifted from Steam into Lizards. That kicked some serious musical ass.

There’s more audience noise on these tapes then I can ever recall. Mics in front of Page & Fish pick up nearly everything said (okay…shouted) by those few people right next to the mics.  Calls on Saturday caught by the mics included Alumni Blues & Lushington.

Overall, a fantastic show with some odd passages, but then I realize here’s me calling a band that regularly covered Purple Rain with a 1967 Electrolux “odd.” I give it a 9/10. This show had just about everything I love about this band: fun jams (Possum), funky jams (Sally), jawdroping jams (Sally again!), at least one sublime segue (->Lizards, among others), great covers (Feat), new stuff (Steam!!!), “uncharted territory” (Piper), zany antics (Escuadooooolas!), bonus Phish (Hood Mercy sandwich) & raging rock n’ roll.  No filler tunes.  Even though it wouldn’t be my first choice to close Set II with, the energy of a raging, show-closing Character Zero is pretty much undeniable. And a perfect encore.

Half-way between Erie and Lansing

June 13, 2011

I love driving to Michigan.  I love it so much that I got up & got my kiddo ready for school early, headed out the door to the before school program at 6:45, and hit the road.  Once I got up around the lake, the colors seemed to grow deeper, or greener somehow. After a quick stop and rendezvous at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, we were on our way…but not to the show quite yet. We headed to a buddy’s house, then hopped a charter bus from downtown Ann Arbor.  Having done this only once before, I’ve decided that from now on every time I go to see Phish I want to have a bus take me back & forth from the lot.

photo by B. Shrader

So we got to the venue formerly known as “Pine Knob” in Clarkston, about 40 miles outside Detroit, around 5 p.m.  We had a DJ cranking music by buses but I struck out to find some friends and hand out copies of Surrender to the Flow, which is a fantastic publication by fans, for fans, about Phish, and you should check it out if you aren’t already familiar with it. (

Once inside the venue, I was lucky to find myself DFC in row E thanks to the help of Mr. Schwilly Williams.  His former roommate was there with us, and he was seeing his first Phish show.  The pit was just 5 rows in front of us, and it looked pretty full by the time the show was about to start.  Call me old, but I was happy to have a seat (or 2/3 of a seat at least).

The lights went down…I think…the sun was still up…  Man, I cannot wait for UIC.  Indoor Phish rules.

Friday, June 3, 2011
DTE Energy Music Theater, Clarkston, MI Pine Knob

Set I
Wolfman’s Brother
Funky Bitch!
Sample in a Jar
NICU happen to have a birthday today, Michael
Mike’s Song>
I Am Hydrogen>
Weekapaug Groove
Chalkdust Torture
The Wedge

Set II
Down with Disease!!!->
David Bowie!!
Also Sprach Zarathustra>

Good Times Bad Times

Sick Wolfman’s opener! I’m not sure who said it first, but it should be a requirement for shows to open with 10+ minute jams like this. Sweet squealing sounds of delight.

"Hey Page, what do you want to open Mike's birthday show with?"

This was a nice, slow, funky Wolfman’s that just feels “right” in a Summertime first set. Ajay-seeing his first show-commeneted that it’s cool how Phish does away with any opening act and just gets right to it, but that it’s really weird to see a show with the sun still up. And he’s right, but it’s also awesome having the real open-air, funky sounding, Summer vibe in that first set. Dancing is fun, even when you’re no good at it. Nice healthy jam to open the show.

More shredding in Funky Bitch–I thought it was above average but I was also pretty excited to hear this song, and pretty excited in general at this point. Sample was actually okay (or maybe I’m just being kind). I actually thought this was Divided Sky at the time it started. Funny how the mind plays tricks. I’d take Divided Sky in the #3 slot any day…just sayin. Cactus’ birthday was acknowledged during NICU, although I wonder if Trey threw it in one line earlier than he’d meant to, since he said it before “swim with the cactus and float with the stone” instead of replacing that line. Am I overthinking this? Probably. Following NICU, Mike’s Song surprised me, actually. I realize that I should’ve expected it after the birthday hi-jinks, but I didn’t see it coming. This old man’s losing his edge, I guess. The Mike’s was a nice tempo and had a good jam. That gets it like a B+ right there. The jam was not bad. Not bad at all. It was dark. Dark in the daytime. Hydrogen was nice, which in my book means not completly mutilated, and the Weekapaug was a rip-roarin’ good time! Great energy to this first set so far, to be sure.

Then came the fun part — Trey leans over and picks up a beach ball with a request written in large black marker, then he holds it out to the crowd as if to say, “what do you think?” shows it to Page who nods as if to say, “why not?” and after some more looking around and casual strumming of chords, Trey counted off Tela. Love. This. Song. And it seemed very nicely played from where I was sitting. Chalkdust always rages, and got the energy right back to ‘Paug intensity after the beautiful ballad. While this Chalkdust was no feat like the 20-or-so min Chalkdust from Camden last year (6/25/10) it was still smokin’. A real Detroit Rock City rager. The Wedge provided another “I love this song!” moment. I’m really not sure that I could ever get sick of hearing The Wedge, and I’m glad they’re playing it more. Overall, a this was great set, and it was only a first set! After listening to the shows on this tour so far, this could be 2011’s newest & best forte — the really strong first set.

photo by B. Shrader

When they came out for set II, an airhorn went off on the lawn, which was the signal to sing “happy birthday” to Mike. People were definitely singing, but each little pocket had its own tempo & pitch, so the result was questionable. It must’ve worked to some degree, because Trey came in partway through and played the last half of happy birthday on his guitar. Mike had rolled down his shirtsleeves and had put on a tie. I’d also noticed an older couple sitting (incredibly still) on the side of the stage throughout the first set, I’m assuming they must’ve been Mike’s parents. It was clearly a special moment and the anticipation was high for the opener…Down with Disease! Yes!  And as this one got going, it quickly became clear that it was going to be so awesome. Schwilliams turned to me mid-way through this DwD and said, “that was cool!” but I pointed out that it wasn’t over yet… About 10 minutes later DwD was still raging, and he concurred with me; it was definitely not over yet. I was lucky enough to catch the other epic DwD at Alpine last year, and what’s pretty incredible is that there’s a video of both, a DVD of Alpine and the HD stuff on LivePhish’s video channel of this last one. The “A Love Supreme” theme (alright, people–this is the 4-note theme from “Acknowledgement,” the first track on John Coltrane’s  seminal jazz album A Love Supreme) comes in about half way through was recognized by more than a couple folks. It was pretty cool to hear, and pretty f’n cool in general that it happened.

The DwD jam is huge & sprawling & multi-faceted (I later read that it’s the longest version of a single song they’ve played since the comeback), and I doubt I could do it justice without its own little mini-review. I will say that the way they just slowly (patiently) slipped into Fluffhead was one of the nicest segues I’ve heard from the New & Improved Ph3.0 Fluffhead was NEARLY flawless. Have you noticed how Fishman almost always sings in the “Bundle of Joy” segment lately? I thought that used to be a rarity, maybe not, but either way, I like it a lot. The transition into Bowie can’t really be called a segue, since Fluffhead had clearly ended, but it was also masterfully executed and created some great suspense. The Bowie was something else, indeed. Fun, scary, evil circus soundscape in the intro, and a fierce jam that really verged on going “somewhere else” for a few minutes there. Also Sprach>Cavern was fun, great, but was just a throwaway at that point. The first three songs made up the first 56 minutes of the set. Mike did sound pretty sick, though–especially some of the crazy bombs he dropped while sustaining the last note of Also Sprach. Please know that by using the term “throwaway” I do not mean to discount this perfoamnce. It was a typical, awesome, best-time-ever kind of Also Sprach>Cavern.

And a Good Times, Bad Times encore? Totally asskickingly raccous. This tune encored my first show (11/25/94) and I’ve loved it since. Phish covering Led Zeppelin must be what heaven sounds like. What a great time. I’m convinced that it was in playing this encore on Friday that they decided to play FYF the following night, because that is the only way to up the ante in fuckedfacedness. Fantastic show. Rager of a show, to be sure. Great opener & Funky Bitch for the one-two punch, fantastic Mike’s even if it was in the first set, raging Chalkdust, set-closing Wedge (second ever…the other one is 8/3/98 Deer Creek), a Bowie that hints at the potential greatness that can come in the weeks ahead, a slaying Zeppelin encore, and of course the jam of the tour/year/3.0/decade [you decide] to open the second set.  Definitely a 9 out of 10 type of show that became a 7 out of 10. Waste hurts…sorry. Some guy on the tape is yelling for “Let it Loose” the whole show, which would have been a much better choice for the slow set II song, but hey…I don’t get to write the setlists & neither does the yelling guy. In order to write the setlist, you have to bring a sign.

Is this the Island Tour?

September 3, 2010

Is this heaven?

…No, Shoeless Joe Wookie, it’s just Wisconsin…

With Tube & Tweezer openers, I guess it was pretty easy to mistake this for the Island Tour.  But when I realized that there was no 35-minute Roses are Free on Friday night, I figured we must be in 2010.  Phish 3.0 — the land of random repeated bustouts.

Oh yeah, I remember now that I always used to start these reviews with the setlist (because it was actually kind of difficult to find one back then…)

Set I:
On Your Way Down
The Divided Sky
Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
Water in the Sky
The Moma Dance
David Bowie

Set II:
Theme From the Bottom
Big Black Furry Creature from Mars
You Enjoy Myself
Also Sprach Zarathustra
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Character Zero

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’
Tweezer Reprise

The Tweezer opener was much better than Saturday’s Tube opener and featured a few musical ideas that actually developed in the jam section.  People were freaking out at the show starting this way (lots of folks clutching their skulls with both hands).  The theme that grew & matured throughout this version was brought to a complete fruition in a true “tutti” fashion (i.e., not just Trey playing a melody with a back-up band…although Trey’s playing was quite good, as were Page’s, Mike’s and Fishman’s).  And the old-school wind down was tons of fun.  Big grins from Big Red & Co. on this tune, too.

Bag was a nice way to get the show on the road, and it felt like we were really going somewhere tonight.  Trey actually teased the On Your Way Down lick a few moments before they played it — the Little Feat drummer had just passed that week, and this was a fitting tribute.  Although instead of featuring drums, it showcased excellent vocal work from Page (and Mike’s backup) and an incredibly firey solo from Trey.  Page’s vocals really struck me on this…as much as I like hearing Phish do The Rover, he’s much more well suited for this song & style than for Led Zeppelin’s.

Divided Sky was an actual experience — as silly/crazy/lame as this may sound, I actually got a little emotional during the part where Trey’s tone switches from the peaceful, idyllic sound to the more biting/driving sound during the long sustain (where Fishman kicks into high gear).  It happened to me during the first night of Hampton last year, too.  I know that there’s a sentiment out there that says this song is overplayed, or too much “the same” all the time, or whatever, but I couldn’t disagree more with those folks.   I have a strange emotional connection to this song, I guess.  It was probably the first Phish song I loved.  Love is weird like that.  Oddly, my wife later commented that this song was her favorite of the night, too.  My baby loves love.

Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan is a Pretty Cool Song but the Title is Awfully Long and it’s Hard to Write Down if You’re like me and Still Keep a Setlist when you go to Shows.  And “STFTFP” just doesn’t roll off the tongue like “YEM” or “DWD” nor does it even look cool like “MMGAMOIO” or “BBFCFM.”  That said, this was a standard, killer STFTFP.

I like the (still kind of new) Water in the Sky!  Moma Dance was siiiiick, brah.  I was waiting to hear it.  Fishman had a little false vocal start…he wanted to go into the verse immediately (even before all the cool rhythmic stuff).  And Mike — holy crap, MIKE! was all over this Muthaflippin Moma.

So Trey did a false vocal stumble on Reba on Saturday, then Fish did one in Moma.  Trey drinks coffee, so now Fishman drinks coffee, too.  Trey (true to any recovering adict) drank from a coffee mug after nearly every song, and I noticed Fishman walk out with a coffee mug & put it under his hi-hat.  He didn’t drink nearly as frequently as trey, but there’s some classic Bart/Milhouse behavior going on in this band here.

Well, in case you hadn't noticed by now, I didn't take any pictures at the show. So this is what you get.

Farmhouse was pretty nice.  And nice & pretty.  This song has cowbell — who knew?  The chorus came back in at the end, which was the first time I’d noticed it, but my friend tells me that this happens off & on.

Bowie brought the heat.  Check it out for sure.  (Is that a “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets” tease there at the beginning of the jam?)  There’s this guy who wrote a post about the way Trey doesn’t shred anymore, and he mentioned that the Bowie’s are all alike now.  I submit this one as evidence to the contrary.

Set II opened with Ghost.  Meeeee likey!  This was a fantastic Ghost — they were really locked in throughout the jam, and the peak was one of the best things that happened among all four nights.  Sadly, as I already railed about in my previous post, they cannot seem to count through the pause anymore.  Very frustrating.  GWAAAAH!!!!  But they laughed about it, and in general laughing on stage is a very good thing.  At one point in this jam there’s a nice long sustain from Trey that falls off…man, this new guitar sounds great.  The “Ocedoc.”  He kind of uses this as a signal that the jam’s about to take off — not to wild, but a really nice build & development.  There was a moment there where they could’ve ventured into 12.6.97 territory, and they definitely had at least one big “YEAH!” type of moment, but it never reached that next plateau of transcendental bliss.  Fishman…firing on all cylinders throughout this whole jam.  Solid, locked in, great rhythmic punches & outstanding work on all of his fills.

I’m not sure if this should be marked as a ->Theme From the Bottom or not.  The jam had reached its completion, and there was this kind of ambient sustain…everyone was waiting for what would come next.  In my mind, -> is reserved for those times when you’re surprised by another song starting.  As excited as I was to hear Theme (another song I was waiting to hear), I was not surprised by a new song starting.  So, actually, yeah–I’m sure.  It’s not a ->.  Trey attacked the beginning of the jam.  He & Page had a nice interplay throughout the majority of the jam, with Mike adding nice melodic lines below.  Again, there are moments in here that could’ve been cut & pasted from a Light jam.  I guess we’ll probably end up referring to this style as Type 3.0 Jamming or something.  At least, those of us who are uber-anal and like to categorize things will.

Okay, Big Black Furry Creatures from Mars.  That was kind of odd.  Funny story about that though…A few seats over from us, there was a guy who we’d seen give himself a pretty sizable “puddle” before the start of the show.  My wife didn’t know the song when it started, and at the very beginning, when it’s just Trey playing (and it’s not too loud yet) I said “oh man, I feel sorry for that guy” meaning the puddle guy.  She asked “Why?” just as the song blew up.  “That’s why.”  Laughs all around when we attempted to dance to the alternating ragefest/hoedown that is this song.  BBFCFM makes this set so much better than just Ghost, Theme, YEM (which still would be awesome!)

You Enjoy Myself felt odd in the middle of the set.  I think its placement made the set feel long in general (not long in a bad way, just deceivingly so).  I thought Piper would be the end.  When Also Sprach started I said to my friend, “do they ever end sets with this?”  Then I thought for sure that WMGGW would be the closer.  Nope, bonus Character Zero.  This set just kept on giving.  But back to the YEM.  Trey took a solo (which is not always guaranteed), really digging in toward the end and giving us some fantastic facial expressions.  He kind of flew off the end of his solo, as in physically jumping up and bopping around.  The bopping around continued during the “bass & drums” segment, with Trey dancing around the stage.  A little guitar scratching leading into the vocal jam kept the high energy vibe going, and the vocal jam itself was pretty enjoyable (which is not always guaranteed).  Reminded me of the “donuts, I love donuts” vocal jam from 12.6.96 Vegas.

I'd also really rather not stare at this all day...

The chords to Piper started while the vocal jam was still in full force.  Contrary to other “aborted jams” that were prevalent on Leg I, this one sounded really good to my ears.  Maybe I put vocal jams in a different category than instrumental jams, perhaps because vocal jams are not as cool as ones with instruments.  Instruments are definitely prettier–I’d rather look at Trey’s guitar all day than Trey’s mouth.

When Piper started, I thought it would end the set.  It took off at a firey clip, and got even faster right away.  There’s not too much to this song anymore before it launches into the jam…and this fact has been discussed to death.  In fact, before the show on Sunday we were sitting in the lot listening to the Piper from the Island Tour and talking about how much this song has changed since its inception.  Still, this Piper was better than most I’ve heard.  Rather than just keep shredding at breakneck speed, the jam simmered down (after a few minutes of being a  good-old full-on ragefest) and Trey teased “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” during this passage.  The lights, the rumbling bass, and the Close Encounters tease all conspired to give that familiar feeling of impending liftoff that you get at shows sometimes, and after sustaining this feeling for quite some time, Trey said something to Mike, who passed it to Fishman…who did nothing for another several moments.  The spaceshipy feeling grew bigger & louder, then Fishman finally dropped the beat for Also Sprach.

When Also Sprach started, I thought it would end the set.  Call it what you want: 2001, Also Sprach, Thus Spake Zarathustra [sic], Dance Party USA, or Chris Kuroda’s Sandbox…this song is great.  It wasn’t very long, though.

When While My Guitar Gently Weeps started, I thought it would end the set.  It felt reaaaaaaaly slow, and Page tried adding some upper harmonies at times where he doesn’t usually sing, and…uh…it wasn’t always pretty.  But the solo (i.e. the majority of the song) was actually very pretty.

When Character Zero started, I knew it would end the set.  The highlight of the jam was another incredibly long sustain from Trey.  Did I mention how good his new guitar sounds?

The encore was more than I ever could’ve asked for.  Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ was beautifully played, and Page even got all of the lyrics right.   Cavern started on its heels, which was kind of a shock (not that I mean it was surprising, it just changed the mood/tone of things in a suddenly and in a big way).  Fishman had at least one “yeah!” in the “Give the Director…” part.  Not wanting the night to end, obviously, Trey started up Joy.  I was pretty impressed that Trey’s voice was holding up as well as it was.  This show was going LONG!  (or so it felt…Set II+E was only 92 min).  Tweezer Reprise really made for one helluva rollercoaster of an encore…when I called “Sleeping Monkey>Tweeprize” earlier I now figured at least I got half of the encore right (er…sort of).  I think that at one point during this song, Mike’s notes tore open a fissure in the Earth and up boiled the liquid hot magma.  But I can’t believe that they only played one Reprise.  What a ripoff.

All kidding aside, Sunday was a great way to spend my 150th show.  I really enjoyed every single song — and I don’t typically say that after a show!  I can usually find at least one tune to be critical about, but not this show.  I loved it all.  Except Character Zero.

And as one final thought, what’s up with wearing black shirts every single night?  Must be for consistency when they release the “Summer Tour 2010!” DVD.  Maybe I’ll have my 3D TV by then…

Set I:
On Your Way Down
The Divided Sky
Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
Water in the Sky
The Moma Dance
David Bowie

Set II:

Ghost >

Theme From the Bottom >

Big Black Furry Creature from Mars

You Enjoy Myself >
Piper >

Also Sprach Zarathustra >

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Character Zero

A Dude in the (Almost) Front Row

August 25, 2010

On Saturday night, my wife & I found ourselves in Row 2, right between Mike & Fishman.  Directly in front of us I was surprised to find a friend of mine from my hometown who I hadn’t seen in about a year.  I ask how he’d come by front-row seats, and he told me he’d simply put in his mailorder request.  So I guess sometimes the system does work!

The lights went down (yet it was still light out) and the place was pumped…seemingly more than usual.  Maybe everyone knew what was coming, or maybe the band fed off it, because the show started with a power-packed punch that would strike fast, strike hard, no mercy sir!  Tube, Oh Kee Pah>Suzy, Funky Bitch — and that pavilion was crazy.  For Tube, people were hyped up even before the first note was played.  Did you know that Phish plays 3 min songs?  Well, they do.  This Tube was over before it started.  That felt pretty odd, let me tell you.

Suzy  Greenberg found me shouting, “go Page, go!!!” then just a few moments later “damn, Mike, damn!!!!”  Trey was fired up, too, practically leaping back to the mic for the final verse.

Funky Bitch — perhaps to honor Son Seals’ hometown just a few hours away?  Perhaps not.  They did it at Alpine last year (in response to a sign from the night before) but now this song is back in pretty heavy rotation.  Which is good, because I like listening to it!  Mike did a nice little syncopated “got nowhere-got nowhere tuh go” which elicited a big cheer.  What a show off.

I thought that despite the shortness of the songs, the Tube, OKP>Suzy, Funky Bitch was a terrific triple-shot (or quadruple-shot, I guess) of energy that got the show off & rocking to a great start.  It certainly worked a lot better than Thursday’s opener of Jim, Sloppy Punch.

Mike sang a lot Saturday night!  Funky Bitch, Fuck Your Face, SOAMule, Mike’s, Weekapaug, Quinn…maybe not an overwhelming amount in retrospect, but at the time I certainly felt like he was getting extra vocal duties.  Others said it was “ladies night” with Suzie, Bitch, Reba, Lawn Boy (which is more FOR the ladies I guess), and Sally all in one show.  Are there other songs that Phish plays about girls?

Reba had a vocal false start from Trey.  Nice recovery though.  I like to air drum along in the final bars of the composed section.  No “space” from Fishman this time.

The Reba jam itself kept chugging along — sometimes there’s a noticeable slowdown right after the drum fill, but not tonight.  Even though Mike has been a lot less prominent this leg (versus June) it’s neat to hear him start taking over when Trey begins to sustain notes.

Speaking of…there’s virtually no whammy all weekend!  It’s like it completely vanished!  Honestly, I’m not sure if I like that.  A lot of people were cheering the absence of Trey’s pitch-bending technique, and I agree that it was overused during the first leg of this summer (or he “over-relied” on it, I should say), but it’s sudden disappearance was pretty noticeable and just a little bit disconcerting.  I wrote about this in yesterday’s entry, and it pretty much started with this guy holding up a sign at the 3rd night of the Greek in Berkeley…which is a pretty dick move if you ask me…but it resulted in 99.44% less of the controversial “whale call.”  A better sign would’ve been “Fishman, more cowbell!”

The ending of Fuck Your Face had a ridiculous jazzy flourish from Trey, which Mike answered, and they turned to each other as if they were going to go on with that…but instead they just laughed and talked about what to play next.

Alaska was decided upon, and it was standard, meaning that I really enjoyed it.  Back on the Train was standard, which apparently now means that it goes on for about 10 mins.  My wife tells me that every good jazz band has at least one song that sounds like a train. Did I mention that my wife maintains that Phish is a jazz band, not a rock band?  I’ll have to get her to explain that to me…especially now that she’s seen these two balls-out rocking Alpine shows.

The Taste jam was great but….okay, I need to say something here.  They need to practice certain parts of their songs.  Good lord, how many times do I have to listen to Trey fuck up the ending of the Taste jam?  Or see them fumble their way through the “I simply haven’t looked” pause in Ghost?  15 minutes one day, guys.  Just run these passages a few times.  That’s all it’ll take.  GWAAAH!!!

There — I’m done.  Sorry about that.

Look at that nice new shirt

In case you weren’t already sure, Trey effing LOVES playing When the Circus Comes to Town, even though it is a slow song.  Lawn Boy is another slow song.  Sparkle is a song that is not slow.

After Sparkle, the opening notes of Gumbo were a downright treat. I like when Mike does that sliding palm-thing (as the lyrics section is ending) — he didn’t do the similar thing that he usually does during the “Silent Trees” portion of Walls of the Cave on Friday, so this was like redemption in some sort of odd way.  I had that thought at the show, and as soon as I did the song was over & Page was playing the piano outro.  WTF?  Thanks for the infinitesimally shortass Gumbo, guys. I was excited to hear this one, and now it’s over.

I was so pissed I didn’t even enjoy Antelope.  Okay, that’s a big fat lie.  Antelope ruled.  Fishman had this little jazzy type of thing going on his snare during the early part of the build…that’s not a good way to describe what he was playing, but it was a pattern of light hits & accents, and it made the early part of the build really groove & flow along nicely.  There was also a nice part where Mike basically sat on the “2” of the chord (so, I guess if this is in E minor, they were all playing in F major temporarily) — it resulted in a nice, almost ethereal feel.  Plus, it makes the shift back to the root (E minor, assuming my example is correct) all the more dramatic and awesome. (And yeah, I know they do this all the time…) Nice shout-out to Marco Benevento, even if it was pretty random.  (I later learned that Marco is on a short list of musicians who’ve played with each member of the band individually, but have not sat in at a Phish show)

Sloth opener — yeah, that works pretty well!  DwD->What’s The Use? — uh, yeah, that works pretty well, too!  This was not a constant rager of a DwD, like many of the recent ones have been, but when it cooled down in the middle of the jam it kept a percolating kind of energy, then it was almost like various members of the band were subdividing the beat increasingly to give the illusion of moving faster & faster…or maybe they just sped up.  At any rate, this jam is great.

What’s the Use came without warning.  Although many fans seemed to be thrilled by this “bust out,” I’m find myself asking what’s the use of this damn song?  Not my favorite, by far.  It didn’t diminish the awesomeness of the preceding jam, and I’ll admit that the segue was pretty damn smooth to say the least, but I guess since this is my 10th time seeing the song (yes, I did have to look that up) it just doesn’t do it for me.

Hey look--Mike is STILL holding the same note

Scent of a Mule doesn’t usually do it for me, either, but I enjoyed hearing it on Saturday.  Wow…first in 68 shows — I guess Mule is a bust-out now, too, huh?  Page did his typical solo, but Trey started his by shredding before moving to the standard Russian dancer/kickline part.  Trey & Mike had a laugh trying to keep up with their mini side-to-side moves as the tempo moved to breakneck speed.  When Mike held the note before “hamba-dum-do walked into her cabin shack…” I thought he was going to pass out.  Seriously–no one should be able to hold a note for that long.  His body twitched while he was doing it, and when he finished he kind of put his head down & to the side to take a moment before the song continued.  Now THAT’s rockstar right there.

Hence, Mike’s Song was next.  Continuing the vocal fun he was having that night, Mike included the warble he sometimes does on “big dude in the doorway was blocking my waaAAaaAAaay.”  What does the chorus of this song mean?  I ask myself nearly every time I hear it, and I think I laugh (or at least grin) every time I ask myself.  Just one of those silly things from the mind of a 19 year old Mike, I suppose (see also: Fuck Your Face).  Trey quickly took over this Mike’s jam and wasted no time climbing to the screaming peak.  Some of Trey’s best work in this version was actually contained in the few measures following the peak — the last bit of the jam and the bits of solos in between the standard “pre-ending” chords (and I’m saying pre-ending as in the three ascending chords that repeat to signal the end of the jam…they come right before the rhythmic pattern that actually ends the song*)

*well, NOW it ends the song.  It used to just signal that the second 1/2 of the song, where the serious jamming occurs, is about to happen.  But now the song just ends.  And I’m not the only one who’s a little bit peeved about that, by the way.

Dirt took the place of Simple/Hydrogen, and I have to admit I really liked that!  Trey’s new guitar seems (to my ears) to have a bit more of an edge to it, and I loved the way the sustained notes in this song tore up the air and bled into feedback.

Sneaking Sally was a surprise also!  I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that the Mike’s Sandwiches are back, and getting more & more creative.  The Simple>Walrus sandwich from Canandaigua was astounding, and the Dirt>Sally one was an absolute riot.  Sally included some vocal creativity before the jam even started, as well as the (now traditional, apparently?) mid-song vocal jam.  Contrary to others (or the Gorge one at least…not sure if all of them), they kept playing their instruments under the vocal jam.  This was a song for Mike to solo all over.  It was neat to see Trey comping with the wah in a non-standard, non-repetitive, not-Fall ’97 way on this song.

Weekapaug is always a monster.  No one really led this jam, which is a GREAT thing!  And again, I could hear the piano through most of the song (sad that this has to be the exception a lot of times…but hey, the piano is not the loudest instrument up on the stage).

Bug closed the set.  We were heading up to the top of the hill (if you’ve never been to Alpine, it’s frigging immense and daunting) during the set closer-not feeling really well, I’m sad to say-so my “Bug” experience was more trying to swerve & dodge the spinners on the pathway than critically listening to the song.  But did I mention that Trey’s new (magic) guitar sounds really good?

We watched The Mighty Quinn from the top of the hill, and it was very cool to see a new perspective of the lights & the 3-humped Alpine shed and all.  I’d never watched a show from the top of the hill.  That place is huge — the stage seemed really, REALLY far away.  During Quinn it struck me, “wait…didn’t they just play this on Monday in Telluride?”  Like Destiny, Walk Away, Camel Walk-shit, even FYF apparently-songs take a 10-or-more-year hiatus then pop into a regular rotation.  I guess that’s cool…but it’s a little confusing when they play it the second time!  Your brain stops and says, “Yeah!  A bustout!  No, wait…IS this a bustout?”

You Ate My Fractal

August 21, 2010

If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s pretty funny.  ROFLMAO type of funny.


August 21, 2010

Friday the 13th at Deer Creek

(note: the 8/12 review is below, Hot Weather = Hot Show)

Driving to the venue (no more of that walking 0.7 miles garbage for us!) we avoided ALL of the traffic by driving counter-clockwise around to the Western entrance.  No lines at all, and we ended up in the VIP parking area.  I wanted something scary for Friday the 13th.  I asked for a scary Ghost or Stash, and got a Stash (even though it was not particularly scary).  Turns out that this particular day was a pretty lucky one.

Stereo cabinets are back!

Chalkdust opener!  And I can actually hear Page!  Hearing this song and bring at Deer Creek immediately reminded me of 7/11/00 (the Moby Dick Show, my 99th) which also featured the “Groovy Flashin’ Disco Cisco Chalkdust Preprise” as we called it that night back at the campsite.  But this Friday version did not include such antics — just a well-played, straight ahead, ripping Chalkdust opener.

Starting Guelah Papyrus, I wondered if the band has a penchant for putting songs that feature a Mike/Trey dance move in the No. 2 slot.  I’ve never noticed this as a trend before, but I’ll keep you posed.  I called Guelah for Friday, too.  I know…I rule all worlds.

My Sweet One was in response to a sign up front on Thursday night.  Other signs that were acknowledged at the Thursday show included “Kung” and “Looking for Owls?”  Signs that were not acknowledged at all included “Minkin” and “Peaches Please.”

One day, I’d like to hear Axilla I>Axilla II.  That would be fun. It looked like Trey laughed on “felt my loins dissolve…”  No flashlight jam this time.  In fact, I’m not sure the last time they actually did that (from Hoist: “hey…don’t shine that thing in my face, asshole”).

IDK actually had a really good vacuum solo! Fish “scatted” along over the verse at the end instead  of walking back to his drum set.  You could see that Trey was eager to start the verses again (which was odd since the first verse was awfully out-of-tune) and apparently Fishman wasn’t quite ready to quit.

I’m reminded now of a great T-shirt in the lot:  it had a vacuum on the front and on the back a Polaroid of Mr. Redding with “Otis” written on the white part at the bottom of the photo.  I am a fan of these types ultra-incog lot Ts that only other fans would recognize.

Wait a sec…Chalkdust, Guelah, My Sweet One, Axilla, I Didn’t Know…did we wake up in 1994 or something?

(This pic is actually from Thurs the 12th. Shhh! Don't tell!)

Walls of the Cave was great to hear!  We’d been missing this song. My friend & I recognized it at the first piano chords.  The song was only slightly tweaked from it’s 2.0 version with a short light drum break and one other change that I can’t remember right now…  but I was absolutely thrilled to finally be hearing a 3.0 jam on this 2.0 song.  The jam seemed to end a bit early/abruptly, but it was great to hear this song again.

Stash is a song that when played well, it’s played really well.  Although it wasn’t scary like I wanted, and while never got really out there, they played it really well on Friday night.

Number Line, Ocelot, Wilson and Possum were all pretty standard.  Ocelot is made for Mike to own.  Which he does.  In fact, he often pwns it as well.

More laughing during Possum.  I like laughing.

Curtis Loew is a great cover.  At the risk of getting kicked in the nuts, I’d like to declare that I caught all 3 of them this year.  Thank you.

The vocal part in Halley’s (before the jam) didn’t end with an ecstatic “part of town!” and a screeching guitar part like it often times does.  Instead, it ended with Page singing “part of town…” as if he was then going to say “aww yeah.  We are cool as fuck, and that’s all there is to it.”  The jam was brutally brief, but did include a “Summer ’98 Funk Lick” quote.

Parts of the Light jam sounded an awful lot like a Light jam (this jam was really good, actually).  I like that Trey’s lick heading into the jam (3-4-5-3-4-5, etc — also called the “U2” lick, but perhaps only by me) is seemingly here to  stay.  There were a few early versions where Trey did not play it.  I think it was at Fenway last year where Page clearly remembered it & started to play it, but (no offense, Page) it just doesn’t sound as good on a Steinway as it does on a Languedoc.  Light-as in the song, not necessarily this version-has got to be the defining 3.0 jam vehicle.

46 Days and Maze provided a perfect ebb & flow at this point in the set, but without letting the energy die down one bit.  Funny thing — we’d actually watched the official video of Maze that Phish put on Vimeo that afternoon, so after the show I was a little bit confused as to whether we’d actually seen a live Maze that night, or if I was just remembering the video from the hotel.  Turns out, they actually played it.  And it was good.

Meatstick.  Yay.  However, the segue into Mango song was a YAY! moment for real.  This was extra long, like a ———- -> as one jam melted into another.  Good-nay, GREAT stuff.

Hey, remember when Fluffhead was a rare treat to hear?  Well good news…only the “rare” part is gone.  After moving away from the piano, Page had a pretty sweet little solo (on the Rhodes, I think?) before the “check this out…” section.  I think he usually does this on the piano, but it was a nice little textural change that my ears caught.

Julius should be a set opener, IMHo, not a closer/encore like it’s been used lately.  As soon as Trey lets me write the setlists, I’ll be sure to correct this.  We’ll also be hearing a lot more Led Zeppelin covers.

From 8/7 Greek - photo not goes to Dittiebug

Speaking of telling Trey what to do, I can’t believe this guy’s sign…although it seems to have worked!  The whammy has vanished.

Trey had some nice, non-standard creative playing during Contact.  Slave had some more non-standard creative playing in the middle section before Trey fell back into his familiar Slave-type build.  This encore really felt like a message, as if they were telling us to put rubber to the road, or we’d all be in traffic hell.  For those of you who’ve tried staying after the show, then waking up in Noblesville the morning that there’s a show at Alpine Valley, you know what I mean.  Doing that drive through Chicago on a show day is freaking brutal.  We high-tailed it all the way back home in order to sleep a few hours & have a nice drive up to Wisconsin.  Much of the soundtrack for the drive home was this awesome Summer ’93 compilation.

Hot Weather = Hot Show

August 19, 2010

Thursday, August 12
Verizon SomethingorOther Pavilion Deer Creek
Noblesville, IN

The day started with a nice enough drive through the cornfields of Indiana and checking into our sweet suite a few blocks away from the venue.  You could actually see the back wall of the lawn from my room (the same wall that replaced the infamous fence that gate crashers stormed in ’95…inspiring this song).  Wait–how did Keller Williams make it into this blog?  Sorry.  I’ll not do that again.

After relaxing a bit & meeting up with some friends, we started to walk to the show.  I figured that being that close to the venue would pretty much rule.  Apparently, I am not as young as the first time I visited Deer Creek because the 0.7 mile hike in 90+ degree heat wrecked me.  When Phish took the stage it was still well over 90 degrees, and I was glad to be in the shade of the pavilion.

The opening bass notes in Runaway Jim made me think that Mike was ready to rule the roost again!  Turns out that this is Trey’s band once again, though.  The Jim was a nice bouncing bit of joy, and did its job as an opener–get the crowd going.

Sloppy PYITE was next.  That’s all I remember about it…it was sloppy.  Luckily, though, this type of thing is the exception these days rather than the rule.

Roggae — Mike wasted no time getting started with exploring the jam section.  Nice peak in this song before the “power chords” section that takes us back to the closing theme.  Sample had a pretty sweet solo, actually.

Sugar Shack was great to hear, and I love that they are actually jamming on this tune a bit…in the 9/8 section no less!  Trey’s visible smile as he successfully navigated the first 9/8 section also made me smile.

Wolfman’s Brother was a quiet, reserved funk jam.  Well, sort of.  For the final minute or so Trey decided to blow it up.

Time Turns Elastic — Again, I love to listen to Mike (especially the few measures right before the jam where Trey & Page are singing the final lyrics section).   Pretty significant jam here, also–over 5 minutes following the composed section.

Drowned got a little dark… didn’t really segue, rather Jibboo started once the Drowned jam had reached completion.  Jibboo was like one long sustained peak–great time dancing. Once this wound down a bit, Trey started a lick that Mike quickly caught on to, and the ->Gin was seamless. Beautiful! This -> is pretty much what I go to Phish shows to see.

Gin itself was pertty magnificent.   Great peak!!  Full denouement back to the theme at the end.  My Friend, My Friend & Buffalo Bill were such rad choices as “filler” for the middle of the second set, even though the post-build segment (usually before the “MFMFHGaK” singing comes back) was a little botched–Trey started singing early (this happened more than once…more than messing up lyrics, Trey has been messing up the timing on the entrances.  It must’ve rubbed off though, because Fishman did this, too, during Sunday night’s Moma Dance).  According to, I’ve managed to catch the last 7 Buffalo Bills…I missed one in Worcester ’97 but have seen 8 out of 9 since it returned to some sort of standard rotation at the Great Went.

I know you were wondering…

Twist took a nice long time to get to the first verse.  Nice woodblocks from Fishman as the finish the intro.   My wife (also a percussionist) actually pointed out Fishman’s tasteful use of woodblocks several times at Alpine.   Heh. “Tasteful” and “Fishman” are 2 words I wouldn’t normally put together off the top of my head.  But come to think of it, his drumming really is fairly tasteful.  If nothing else, the man listens like a champ.

This Twist jam was nothing like 12.7.97. Totally un-aggressive. At several points (starting a little more than 1/2 way through) it sounds an awful lot like a jam from “Light.”  They’ve done that a lot recently–make a jam sound like Light. And some non-standard vocals (from Page?) as they came back to the outro.  Woo!

Horse>Silent was really Horse, Silent.

Melt.  Ruled.  Typical, foreboding, time-fracturing, awesome Melt.  I was pretty excited for Melt–I called it for Thursday night. Also the Stash on Friday, and Taste on Saturday. Theme and Moma Dance (and the Tweezer, along with everyone else) were calls of mine on Sunday as well. Meredith wanted to hear Gumbo, and she got it. Phish is so predictable now 😉

The Melt jam spun down to a spacy “Close Encounters” type of thing, and all of a sudden Trey was sing “I won’t spend a moment on the Dog Faced Boy…”  Did NOT see that coming… “Close Encounters” came again — as an actual tease at the end of Piper on Sunday night.

Beautiful Hood — more patient jamming.

Fee — okay. Enough with the police siren there. Sheesh. Like an 8 year-old boy with his new megaphone. There was a short-lived Fee chant up front before they started. Trey toyed with the audience, too, pretending (or maybe deciding…) to put the megaphone down, then pick it up…he repeated this 3 or 4 times, relishing in the alternating cheers & jeers from the crowd.

NO2>Kung — this is the part where people’s heads actually floated off their necks and exploded.

Fire — Cactus took over, all right.

8/12 was a great show, and Set II was especially phenomenal.  The encore was…uh…the English language is failing me…  Unreal?  Kooky?  Typical zany cornfield Phishysterics ?  Even if you’re a hater and you want to say “Silent & Boring” was the filler (instead of a pleasant bridge, which is how I see it) that’s 5 or 6 minutes out of the set, the rest of which did not suck one bit.

This is my Trey-man Review

February 22, 2010

As the snow started to fall in Chicago, a line of excited folks of all ages stretched around the corner of Racine & Lawrence–folks who felt lucky to have a ticket.  Prices in the secondary market were awfully inflated, which brought an unusually large tribe of scalpers to the Riv, and left many forlorn folks outside seeking extras.  Once inside, people found their seats upstairs or claimed their space on the floor, and the excitement started to build.  People were talking about the Milwaukee show the night before (also a tough ticket) and the rumored dates for Summer tour.

The crowd was pumped.  When Trey & Co. finally hit the stage, the place exploded — and the band was ready meet the audience with an equal amount of energy.

The opening notes of “Shine” were met with an enthusiastic response from the floor, and hands were thrown up in the air as we were all quite ready to “ride on” into the night with TAB.  Trey’s vocals sounded great on this opening number (as did Jen’s and Natalie’s)!  As I listed back to old Phish tapes, I’m often astonished by the vocals (uhm…not in a good way), and it’s striking to hear how much better he is singing now.

“Cayman Review” fed off the energy from the opener, and got everyone grooving left & right, back & forth (including Trey).  When “Push on til the Day” began, I saw Natalie turn to Jen with a look on her face that said to me that she was looking for a break…but the horns weren’t getting one just yet!

As the band kicked into high gear, Trey padded around the stage moving with more energy than I’ve ever seen.  The horns actually did get a break at that point, leaving the stage for the first time to allow an extended jam from Russ, Tony, Ray & Trey.

“Sweet Dreams Melinda” provided for a bit of a break, and the crowd swayed gently to the rock-a-bye beat.  I heard something akin to the New Orleans-style collective of improvisation toward the end of the piece, and that was a real treat.

When “Alive Again” started, it felt like it was moving a bit more slowly than usual.  Many of the songs had that feeling, but I’m not sure it was unique to Friday’s show.  The band seems to be taking a more methodical (someone else called it “mature”) approach to the songs, and to the jams as well.  TAB these days functions more like a jazz combo than it has in years past.  But don’t get me wrong: they are still beating with the heart of a true rock band.  To me, the best part of this song was everyone on stage (even Russ – while drumming – no easy feat!) singing/chanting/shouting “the time has come for you to be alive again!”  I also noticed a horn line toward the end (before the 2nd singing/chanting/shouting part) that sounded new to me.  I’m sure that the line wasn’t new for this particular show, but it might be new on this tour.  Don Hart’s new horn arrangements, in general, really do give a fuller & richer sound.
“Gotta Jibboo” of course was the dancing highlight of the first set.  Trey set up the infinite descending-pitch loops that we’ve all come to expect from this song, but TAB’s version on Friday felt a lot tighter & more succinct than the version we heard at Toyota Park last August.

After the triple-punch opener, bit-of-a-break ballad, horn feature, afro-trip, and dance number, we were finally ready for some reggae in the form of the first cover of the night, “Small Axe,”  where Natalie got another trombone solo.  “All that Almost Was” got the crowd rocking again, although the part that I found most interesting was the upward vocal inflection from the ladies while they echoed the end of the phrase, “almost was but can never beeee!”  There’s a fun little single-beat break in this song, too, and Trey very obviously loved the audience’s surprised reaction when the band nailed it.

“Alaska” again felt slower (this is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you), and featured Ray’s more subtle-but certainly no less interesting-take on the piano part.  By the way, that piano that he’s playing is a gorgeous piece.  It looks like a solid (and extremely heavy) chunk of wood that would be more suited to a desk than an upright piano.  I have no idea how they had it mic’d, but it sounded fantastic.  I’d never appreciated Ray’s role in the band as much as I did that night.

I was very excited to hear “Valentine.”  I really enjoy the addition of the horns to this tune.   “Tuesday” acted as a nice flow to the relative ebb of “Valentine,” and I figured the set was ending.  The following acoustic tunes were a nice bonus, and I managed to record two brief videos:

Sample in a Jar

Set II began with another we-want-you-all-to-get-up-and-dance number, “Dragonfly.”  My buddy told me that this was recorded late one night (at 4 a.m. or something) and Trey just sang whatever came to mind — hence, the nonsensical lyrics.  “Night Speaks to a Woman” is one of my favorite Trey tunes.  This was the first time during the night that I was able to really hear Natalie sing by herself, as she got the “like water on the breeze” lines as a solo…and DAMN!  That girl can sing.

“Sand” felt nicely placed and allowed us to shake the setbreak doldrums (as if the first two tunes hadn’t) and get back into the groove.  After a healthy dose of  dance grooves (which was, again, niiiice and slow, compared to Phish, anyway) “Let me Lie” served as a welcome respite.  Trey seemed to acknowledge the couple front & center, who at the end of Set I had held up a sign reading “Let Me Lie is our wedding song” — they’re getting married this April.  I think Trey honestly loves this kind of thing.

“Mr. Completely” is the tune to which I know none of the words, but it easily won the JoN (Jam of the Night) award.  This song featured a return to something I loved about the earlier versions of the band, like the Undectet, where Trey would conduct or compose on the fly.  He didn’t take his guitar off, but he’d dictate who was to take the next solo, and then tell the band which key to play in using hand signals.  This is where his genius shines, and where we see just how tight his band really is.   For Ray’s solo, Trey put 5 fingers up, which I can only assume means B major.  Then he pumps his fist, and the band drops into the new key.  Russ got 3 fingers down, for E-flat major, a perfect key for the alto saxophone.  Natalie got called to the stage with the “chainsaw” hand motion, and got her solo in B-flat (2 down), and Jen played her solo in C major (no fingers, I guess?!).  For Trey, 1 up, or G major during his solo, then 4 up (E major) for the ending.  Amazing…

The only segue of the night was into “Plasma,” which featured Russ on the flute once more.  “Birdwatcher” was downright hilarious.  With the ‘doc slung around behind his back, Trey took the microphone off the stand and croons to the crowd a-la-Lawn Boy, snapping along.  I’d never seen him overtly goofing around and mugging like this before.  Add in the girls doing a routine you’d think of more in the context of the musical “Annie” and you’ve got one heck of an interesting tune there in the middle of the second set.

“The Way I Feel” gave Tony a nice (albeit brief) turn in the spotlight, and set the stage for the energy to pick up again before the night was done.  “Last Tube” did just that, and then the entire band turned everything up to 11 with “Black Dog.”   Jen absolutely sang the hell out of this tune…even more than usual.  Trey introduced the band, noting that Jen called Chicago home until he’d “stolen her back recently.”

The encore began with only the 3rd cover of the night — in the earlier days of Trey’s solo tours, a lot more covers were played, but with so many original songs now there’s more of an opportunity to pick & choose.  As much as I would like to hear “Ooh Child,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” or “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” every night, the new tunes are really great.   I was honestly a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to hear more of them (“All That Almost Was” was all we got). 

Before the final tune of the night, “First Tube,”  Trey acknowledged Russ Lawton & Tony Markelis, saying that they’d started the band and giving them their due credit for writing so many of the tunes that the band plays (he mentioned “Sand” and “Jibboo,” I believe), and noting that they were about to play the very first tune that they’d written together.  It was nice to hear him say that, because so often I hear people refer to these as “Phish songs.”  It was great to see props being given to the original core trio that stated this legacy 12 years ago.