Tuesday 06/19/2012 by bertoletdown

PORTSMOUTH1 RECAP

Summer’s here and the time is right to skip the preliminaries and get right to the action. So let’s!

The band takes the stage at nTelos Wireless Pavilion just before 8pm and warms up with a perfunctory “Sample,” which gives way to the oblong Delta rhythms of “Party Time.” During the jam segment, Trey introduces Carl “Geerz” Gerhard of Giant Country Horns fame, informing the audience that Gerhard now leads music instruction for all of America’s armed forces(!). “Geerz” blows a big old solo that brings the crowd to life before taking a bow and exiting stage left to the first notes of a rare but mostly unremarkable first set “Simple.”

A strong “Axilla” follows before Trey honors an audience request for “Tube,” which proves concise. The expected “Kill Devil Falls” appears next, but also stays well within itself, forfeiting the night’s second opportunity for some genuine improv. A brief conference then yields two originals that have not been played since last summer’s Lake Tahoe run – “Water in the Sky” and “Horn” – and each comes across quite rusty in its own way.

By this time, we’re fanny-pack-deep into yet another first set marked by directionless song choices and timid execution. Time for a change-up, which comes in the form of Phish’s second reading of Mike’s Moss original “Babylon Baby” – whose “Wedge”-like structure is very well suited to Phish. And lookie here, we have our first highlight of the night, as Trey unexpectedly sticks the landing before dipping into “Bathtub Gin.”

Several minutes into a subdued and even doped “Gin” conversation, Fishman suddenly pushes the tempo, gunning for escape velocity, and goading Trey to respond with a few bars of fleet-fingered chicken picking. But the pace proves too much for Trey, who cycles back into the main theme and sews a tidy button on the night’s first promising jam.

So close, and yet so far.

Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” peeks out from behind a curtain of noise to do what it most often does, and a hilariously left-field version of “I Didn’t Know” calls back “Party Time” when Trey introduces Fishman as “The Executive Officer of the Air Force” and admonishes him to tuck his muumuu into his boxers before honoring the troops with his vacuum solo. The set concludes with a light-hearted “Run Like an Antelope” that finds Trey substituting ad lib banter about Fishman’s dress (“For 30 years you’ve been leaving your dress untucked! Tuck in your dress man! You’re out of control!”) in lieu of the “spike” lyrics.

And with a crowd-pleasing finish to an uneven set of 2012 Phish, we’re out.

Still no “YEM” this year, as you might have noticed... will we see one in set two? Let’s find out.

Back on the Train” kicks off the third quarter and threatens to get nasty before Trey gamely steers into “Rift” – a song that has handcuffed Phish 3.0 frequently but comes off comparatively well tonight. With some wind in the sails now, Fishman introduces the year’s first “Split Open and Melt,” (or, as Trey sings in the first chorus, “split open and tuck”).

“Melt” benefits from the night’s first genuine collective risk-taking, with Trey painting in broad sonic strokes and making tasteful use of his Whammy pedal "whale call," which is more than welcome in safe doses. No thunderous peak or revelation of any kind, but instead a quick transition into “Mango Song,” which despite its spirited execution reinforces the first set feel of the early second set. Both “Backwards Down the Number Line” and “Limb By Limb” apex well short of orbit, though the latter tune features some brilliant work by Chris Kuroda on his new LED rig. The song-dense second set presses on with “Shine a Light,” the night’s very first excursion outside the Phish family canon.

Fishman steals the spotlight now with a tuck of his dress, and invites anybody within spitting distance to come up on stage for a tuck and a sway. Takers during “Lengthwise” include one of my good friends from Los Angeles, but the band’s judgment comes down harshly as they conclude that their fans “suck at tucking.” Tough audience up there on the stage! Trey asks Chris to dim the lights to feature a light saber he’s commandeered from a fan in the front row, and waves it about as he reveals that he is Fishman’s father. It’s 3-4 minutes of welcome whimsy that clears the mental decks for a unique and fiery installment of “Maze,” which features Trey playing his Languedoc with the aforementioned light saber.

The band offers up a pair of capable, cock-rocking set closers in “Cavern” and “Fire” (“Let the tucker take over!”) before Mike and Trey re-appear for the encore in sombreros to serenade the audience with “Mexican Cousin.” Finally, Mike and Trey doff the sombreros for a sober and elegant “Slave to the Traffic Light,” and that’s all she wrote.

In sum, the first night in Portsmouth proves a largely jam-free affair that nonetheless manages to entertain and even thrill at times. It’s worth remembering that this band still commands a deep repertoire of wonderful tunes, and can craft a night of music like few other acts around.

Until tomorrow!

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Comments

, comment by antipop20
antipop20 What the hell has happened to YEM? I didn't see at 8 shows last summer and we have yet to come across one this year. WTF? Just had to ask the question.
Aside from Albany 09 II (Seven Below> Ghost), will they ever go back into the void? Just a few things I miss at the moment.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown YEM will return. Left nut, etc.
, comment by lenuto46
lenuto46 YEM was rested last year and it looks like it is being given the shelf this year too. This is fine with me, it benefits from rest. I thought the 12/29 rare set 1 YEM was fun and more interesting than usual, which I credit the relative rest for. They played it half as many times in 2011 than they did in 2010.

What worries me is the absence of Divided Sky. I tend to think DS benefits from being played more often. The more comfortable they are with it, the more risky the solo section gets.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd great review, thanks!
, comment by 5errr
5errr excellent well thought out review. thanks for taking the time. sounds like a 'fun' (super good) show. let's hope we get a mind blowing one tomorrow.
, comment by IamHIGHdrogen
IamHIGHdrogen No AC recap? Or did I miss it? I was there but I enjoy reading this blog.
, comment by forbin1
forbin1 Nice review...the shows antics definetly made up for the lack of improv, it has a few diamonds in the rough...I'll have to give this another listen though...I would like to think that N2 will be the complete opposite of what we got in N1...less antics and more imrov..
, comment by TennesseeJed
TennesseeJed Cheers! It is nice to see the instant recap is back. I love how passionate Phish fans are , but I hope this keeps the back and forth comments out of the Show Review section. (and that the reviewer doesn't take them personally).

I've been really bummed the past weeks thinking that I wouldn't be able to catch any shows in person this year but I managed to free up some time and I'll be able to make it to four shows.

To everyone who has an opinion, thumbs up! Keep on keeping on and let's all make it to the next show with our groove intact.

Cheers!
, comment by mgouker
mgouker I like what they are doing with Faulty Plan now. I think it has real potential to be a jam vehicle.
, comment by Pauggroove
Pauggroove I hope this turns out kind of like Charelston 2010 whereas the first night was pretty tame but fun and night 2 was a complete rager!
, comment by InsectEffect
InsectEffect
Very nicely done, keep the recaps coming! (None for AC?)

And ditto @mgouker, I'm hoping for a truly blazing Faulty Plan any show now...

, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Sorry about the lack of AC recaps. Not sure if now is the time to remedy that but we'll do our best to stay on these going forward.

I don't hear a lot of variation in STFTFP apart from Trey's throaty wah tone at the beginning of the jam. I do like that - always like that - but I wouldn't say it's ready to come untethered or anything.

Thanks for all the feedback.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert @bertoletdown said:
Sorry about the lack of AC recaps. Not sure if now is the time to remedy that but we'll do our best to stay on these going forward.

I don't hear a lot of variation in STFTFP apart from Trey's throaty wah tone at the beginning of the jam. I do like that - always like that - but I wouldn't say it's ready to come untethered or anything.

Thanks for all the feedback.
Did you hear the AC version? Seemed like they pushed it into the Character Zero dimension at the very least.
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin Nice recap, @bertoletdown I had a hell of a time watching the webcast, some of the tuck antics had me laughing so hard I could barely catch my breath. This is one thing I love about Phish, that they can just go ahead and do some zany shit once in a while, and I'm glad they haven't grown out of it.

But yes, the music was a bit straightforward, although like most 3.0 Gins this one delivered.
, comment by ericwyman
ericwyman @antipop20 said:

Aside from Albany 09 II (Seven Below> Ghost), will they ever go back into the void? Just a few things I miss at the moment.
I think going all the way back to 2009 is a bit short-sighted. Lots of good examples of them Pushing boundaries. Tahoe Light is an obvious example, there are dozens more.
, comment by antipop20
antipop20 @ericwyman said:
@antipop20 said:

Aside from Albany 09 II (Seven Below> Ghost), will they ever go back into the void? Just a few things I miss at the moment.
I think going all the way back to 2009 is a bit short-sighted. Lots of good examples of them Pushing boundaries. Tahoe Light is an obvious example, there are dozens more.
I don't disagree that there are plenty of moments where they are exploring-I do find plenty of jams these days still. It just seems that they are less likely to get comfortable in those spaces. They get there and quickly enough move out if it. I just don't find anything but YEM/DWD hitting a 20 minute mark these days-I wonder why the other songs don't get more attention, even if only occasionally.

I do respect your view as well as my own-thanks for your input.
, comment by GAMEHENDGEPHONICS
GAMEHENDGEPHONICS With all of the hilarity that occurred last night (the band looked like they were having fun) n I'm sure I would have had a blast if I was there...there is simply nothing worth a second listen from the show...an off night but still entertaining nonetheless.
, comment by Lloyd_Dobler
Lloyd_Dobler I was most impressed by the band's run through of a usually unremarkable cover, "Fire". I never have given this song too much attention myself but I have to say that Trey, for lack of a better description, tore this song a new one. It was classic machine gun Trey along with quality full band contributions, and I urge all of you to check it out if you haven't already.
One of the things about 3.0 I've noticed is that you have to pay attention to every song, you never know when the big moments will come. This was a prime example as Fire made a favorite like Tube sound completely pedestrian when the two songs are put side by side. Fire made Tube sound like Jennifer Dances on this night.
Anyway, listen to this Fire, it's impressive stuff.
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