Thursday 06/21/2012 by phishnet

PORTSMOUTH2 RECAP

By Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)

Phish hit the stage on their second night at nTelos approximately 50 minutes after the sun’s direct light caressed the Tropic of Cancer, thereby ushering in the true northern hemisphere Summer of 2012 and triggering the final 6-month countdown to the conclusion of the 13th Baktun of the Mayan calendar. The summer solstice would therefore serve as the ampersand uniting the first and second nights of the Portsmouth run in a grand cosmic joke that paid presumably unintentionally homage to George Lucas. The “Tijuana Tuck & Roll” in the long run may prove to be a pair of shows that at first glance (on paper) look great but after continued sittings may be found to be stuffed with nothing more than hay and cow shit. Put another way, much like the protagonist in the ZZ Top song “Zipper Job,” you should not judge a tranny by its cover... unless you are into that kind of thing. Before you get irate... I assure you that I AM into transformation...of any kind. Phish, much like the rest of humanity, is trying to make the change. Although transformation allows growth, it is sometimes painful.

Night two begins with the first show-opening “Sparkle” since 3/22/92, but really ever in a full Phish show (because that performance was as part of a four song opening set for Buckwheat Zydeco on the Mountain Stage radio show, subsequently rebroadcast on NPR). “Sparkle” was a great choice and represented an energetic continuation of the Rift-era tone of the previous night. When coupled with the vaguely malevolent “Ha Ha Ha” it also suggested the “Tuck-rule” hilarity of the previous night would continue. The perfunctory “AC/DC Bag” that followed and no-nonsense black muscle T-shirt Mike was rocking suggested otherwise... it was time to roll up our sleeves and get down to business.

Divided Sky” doffed its hat reverentially to the longest day of the year. It was well played, had an atypically brief pause and the elegiac jam which followed was timed to conclude precisely with the moment the sun sank below the horizon in Portsmouth. Despite what the first day of summer evokes in us all, for the next six months, the days will be growing shorter. If the Mayans are right, perhaps forever. So why spend time dwelling on such things? “Rage hard against the dying of the keg!” But watch your step. As there is no telling where that doggone dog done gone. YES! The first “Dog Log” since IT followed, no doubt in response to at least three signs requesting the soundcheck classic spotted in the first few rows. This version was nailed (especially the uptempo jazzy bridge) and featured a brief tease of “Light.” “Undermind” crushed the old school Phish groove but still satisfied with a funky but brief Page and Mike interlude that resolved into a downtempo fade.

Mike’s Song” never went anywhere, was marred by a sloppy conclusion to a truncated and largely uninspiring jam segment but then resolved into a palpably immaculate “Hydrogen.” The “Weekapaug” that concluded the trilogy was tight, incandescent, and veered towards “China”-”Rider” territory before skidding to a halt. “Cities” found a mellow groove that was not given the chance to wear out its welcome before it blead almost seamlessly into “Ya Mar.” Trey, perhaps sensing a flattening of the vibe as compared to the previous night, beseeched Leo to “play it!”...and play it he did. The first set concluded with another Jimi Hendrix tune, “Bold as Love,” perhaps an homage to the 43rd anniversary of Jimi’s LEGENDARY 1969 Newport Pop Festival show, and (as always) the best “Julius” EVER!

Set break for those of us catching the action at home featured the announcement of the Chicago 94 box set, available for preorder starting 6/21/12, and the tasty “Mind Left Body Jam” > “David Bowie” from the 6/18/94 UIC show that it will contain. Without question this snippet of the impending archival release surpassed anything played in the first set.

The second set opened with the expected punchline to the “Tijuana (“Mexican Cousin” was the key) Tuck and (Rock n) Roll theme of the nTelos stand. Although painfully brief, the “Rock and Roll” jam was luxurious, comfortable, and begged for an extendable cushion we could prop feet on and relax. Instead it gave way to an equally promising “Tweezer” that also unfortunately faded too soon. The “Free” that followed afforded another peek over the free-form jam precipice, but the band just refused to jump.

Lacking all the precision of Trey’s orchestral tour, “Guyute” ended up being slightly more menacing than is typical, with pregnant pauses between the concluding lyrics and demonic lighting to induce a heightened state of tension. “Birds of a Feather” was a scorcher and quickly gave way to “Harry Hood.” When the lights went out “Harry” devolved into a thick effects laden ambient groove singularity that segued very well but in the final moments somewhat jarringly into “What’s the Use?” Despite many wishes to the contrary, the “Hood” remains unfinished as “What’s the Use?” cascaded into “Wading in the Velvet Sea.” Set two concluded with “Possum.” Yes, it is overplayed, in this case misplaced, but ALWAYS welcome as far as I am concerned.

Lost throughout the entirety of this show (“Dog Log” notwithstanding) was the lighthearted comedy of the previous night. That is until the encore. Trey brought us back to that distant galaxy with a tease of the Star Wars theme before “Sleeping Monkey.” Shortly thereafter he lays down his Jedi axe, grabs Mike’s mic, and croons his way over to Fishman, before requesting a “final tuck.” Fish steps out front to send the monkey home on the train as Trey sits in on the kit. “Tweeprise” rages as it always does, features home on the train quotes from Fish, and concludes with Trey waving the OceDoc like a light saber. Jon Fishman, Jon Fishman “Moby Dick.”

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


Comments

, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten Accurate as far as I'm concerned. This has all been wonderful but...take more risks guys! I really felt this tour was going to get "out there" more after the phenomenal first show in Worcester.
, comment by marcoesq
marcoesq One of the best reviews I've read on here. Good job.

Phish, let's take it up a notch for this weekend. Burgettstown Ghost!
, comment by earth_bound_misfit
earth_bound_misfit Portsmouth2 Recap Recap

Jaded Vet^ trying to use vainglorious words. cool.
, comment by Real_out_casty
Real_out_casty it seems everyone is waiting for something that is not coming. these are old men playing (mostly)young music. fans want to hear the old shit, ive had several conversations with band members when i followed them (93-95) and they(esp. trey) were burnt way back then. i always had a request(usually an old song they never played)and trey told me on time that there's a reason they dont play certain songs, he didnt say why exactly but im assuming because they dont want to. despite all that they would usually grant me my request(aside from the occasional obscure cover). they are great guys, i just get the feeling that this(touring) is something they'd rather not do, but do it for their fans. ive seen a pattern developing over the past 20 years mirroring that of jerry's pressure to do the same in the 70's. i hope im wrong.
, comment by GAMEHENDGEPHONICS
GAMEHENDGEPHONICS Fans & money lol^. I'm happy to have caught Worcester, because I haven't heard anything better than night 1 yet. When they come back to the Midwest hopefully that'll give them some sort of spark.
, comment by Real_out_casty
Real_out_casty someone who's not "jaded" please tell me when the last(in ur opinion) epic face melting phish show was and please dont say they last one they played, the typical devoted fan answer, cause we both know thats not true
, comment by ericwyman
ericwyman @Real_out_casty Heady vibes brah, what was the band like in 1993?????

http://www.hulu.com/watch/147976?c=44%3A282
, comment by mterry
mterry jaded. catch a show. the mood in the venue and the feeling of those around me were night and day opposite of this review....hood, although unfinished went perfectly into wtu, and it was a good thing. all opinions are different. but for those reading this, your sediment is not the same as the majority of people I saw or talked to at the venue.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Marty Acaster everybody. Marty Acaster!
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @Real_out_casty said:
it seems everyone is waiting for something that is not coming. these are old men playing (mostly)young music. fans want to hear the old shit...
That's a pretty broad assumption. I think lots of fans want them to play (and write!) more new stuff. Where is Halfway to the Moon? Why did they stop exploring the BDTNL jam? They haven't played Steam yet this tour. What about Pigtail? Mike's band kills Sugar Shack... Why can't Phish?

I'm thrilled they haven't played YEM yet this tour. They haven't done anything original with it for years. By all means, play it every now and again (it's arguably *the* signature Phish song), but once, twice tops a tour seems about right the way they're treating it). Most of the so-called "jaded vets" I know want anything but a "greatest hits" show or even a "bust out"-centric show. They want Phish to play innovative, original music in whatever form that takes.
, comment by InsectEffect
InsectEffect
Good review, but I agree with @mterry that the venue vibe contributes enormously to the overall feeling of any night with The Phish, and should be at least mentioned in the Phish.net recaps. 'Couch' reviews of the music are welcome, but please consider including more 'field reporting' too.

@Real_out_casty I hope you're wrong too. Honestly, I think they do it because they love it, and that it's largely because they so clearly love it that we keep coming back. But ditto @TwiceBitten, I hope we see more risk-taking and exploration of new territory this year. As @Doctor_Smarty said in this review: "Although transformation allows growth, it is sometimes painful." Still waiting...

, comment by LightsWentOut
LightsWentOut If you go to a Phish show expecting nothing but Type II jams and statistically "perfect" set-lists, you're gonna have a bad time. It's time people adjusted their expectations of what a Phish show is and what Phish, as a band, is accomplishing. These guys deliver. You just need to be there when the UPS man drops off the package.

, comment by Doctor_Smarty
Doctor_Smarty I'm far from jaded...I thought worcester and AC were both great. Portsmouth lacked any real "out there" moments and also backed off on the new style "in there" jamming where mike and page build ornate structures within the fabric of a song. The give in the venue is always great. The vibe on my couch is often better. I'm looking forward to SF and Dicks...plus going to see phish in Colorado.
, comment by Mikesgroover
Mikesgroover @LightsWentOut said:
These guys deliver. You just need to be there when the UPS man drops off the package.
It's also a fact that those deliveries come less frequently, and with fewer items in the box, than they did at earlier points in the band's career.

It's not that they're playing "badly" right now, but they're content with rarely taking risks. Playing it safe is not what earned them a devoted following and not what kept people coming back for years. Fortunately, there's a new generation of fans able to appreciate what is being played in person. Not having expectations is an excellent way to enjoy a show, but there's no denying that the band doesn't appear to be evolving any more, and they seem perfectly happy that way.
, comment by mafujon
mafujon I thought last night lacked energy imo. Especially this first set. I don't know if it's a factor of the band taking the songs in slower tempos but the first set barely grabbed my attention.
, comment by LightsWentOut
LightsWentOut @Mikesgroover said:

It's not that they're playing "badly" right now, but they're content with rarely taking risks. Playing it safe is not what earned them a devoted following and not what kept people coming back for years.
I think they are taking risks, it's just that people aren't seeing them because they aren't the kinds of risks that they are used to and are expecting.

I have a sense that the shorter jams we are seeing are being interpreted as being "safe". I don't see it that way. Long jams, even when performed by Phish, can be masturbatory and aren't always called for. There is a time and place. While I can marvel at an hour long Runaway Jim, in the end, it usually only stands out because it is an hour long. The band's move to more self-editing is the 3.0 version of risk taking. Look at the negative response this has been getting among some of the more heady wooks - especially recently. The first sign of a significant change in anything is the backlash it gets from the people it affects and risk, almost by definition, is a change. Risk is happening. Some of us just aren't seeing it as such. Some of us are blind to it because it isn't the kind of risk we want.

Others see this kind of risk as sign of musical maturity rather than of the band's decline. This is a band that is working toward playing the right note at the right time rather than trying out all the notes in every conceivable fashion. They've done a lot of that work already and are moving on to the next logical step in their careers as musicians. Now that they've explored countless areas of musical territory, it's time to make sense of that exploration and give it some kind of context. It is time for distillation and, as many of us know, distillation makes for a smaller amount of end product, but what is there sure packs a powerful punch.

I offer you the career of Miles Davis as a good example of an improvisor who took lots of risks throughout his career and if you follow the arc of his work you will notice that his playing seems to get more conservative, perhaps less innovative, but in reality, his focus simply changed. He was still working on getting better, but to him (and to many musicians) getting better didn't mean going full bore and balls-out all the time. He accomplished that. He was interested in the beauty of conservation, of playing the right note at the right time to achieve maximum emotional impact.

Phish, in my mind, NEEDS to go through this process or they will simply become a one-trick-pony or, even worse, a novelty act. In order to grow, they must hold back. In a world where most of your fans want you to do the exact opposite, this is a HUGE risk and is one they are already taking. Thank Jeebus for that.
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten I think what people (myself included) mean by "risks," is not playing the song exactly the way it's been played many times before. Much of Phish's playing since coming back has been excellent but they only seem to want to step off the ledge every handful of shows. A Phish show is always fun to go to, but I've only listened to a few 3.0 shows more than one time and I'm beginning to get the feeling like I know what they're going to sound like before I even press play. Playing the right note at the right time means good musicianship and I think we are all thankful that there is plenty of that floating around these days.
, comment by hova1
hova1 @LightsWentOut said:
I have a sense that the shorter jams we are seeing are being interpreted as being "safe". I don't see it that way. Long jams, even when performed by Phish, can be masturbatory and aren't always called for. There is a time and place. While I can marvel at an hour long Runaway Jim, in the end, it usually only stands out because it is an hour long. The band's move to more self-editing is the 3.0 version of risk taking. Look at the negative response this has been getting among some of the more heady wooks - especially recently. The first sign of a significant change in anything is the backlash it gets from the people it affects and risk, almost by definition, is a change. Risk is happening. Some of us just aren't seeing it as such. Some of us are blind to it because it isn't the kind of risk we want.

I think this a great point.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks I have a sense that the shorter jams we are seeing are being interpreted as being "safe". I don't see it that way. Long jams, even when performed by Phish, can be masturbatory and aren't always called for. There is a time and place. While I can marvel at an hour long Runaway Jim, in the end, it usually only stands out because it is an hour long. The band's move to more self-editing is the 3.0 version of risk taking. Look at the negative response this has been getting among some of the more heady wooks - especially recently.

Yours is a really good comment, @LightsWentOut, though I'd probably take a gentler line.

I think there are two sides to fans' noisy dissatisfaction with the relatively compact jams in 2009-12 Phish. (Let's be honest: a 14-minute rock tune is not a short tune!) For one thing, you're right -- change upsets people, especially when the thing that's changing is designed specifically to be a comfortable activity in a familiar atmosphere. And yeah, there's a dull-witted possessiveness and entitlement to many of our carping fellow fans. Pure lameass egotism: check.

I sympathize on this score -- but then, I mostly listen to new Phish and don't often dip into the old stuff these days. Maybe Smeagol-Wax is gonna defeat Gollum-Wax after all.

At the same time, there's the specific thing that's changing, the length/depth of jams. Phish's 1997-onward jamming has scaffolded a particular set of listening practices -- the longer a jam goes on, the more 'monotonous' it is, the more easily it fits a specific, kinda zoned-out, mellow, 'druggy' vibe. (I know 'druggy' is imprecise but it's the connotations of sluggish contentment I'm after.)

By way of example: 'Miner' at phishthoughts.com is always on about a second set's 'flow,' and is happy to denigrate otherwise superb performances on that basis -- the question seems to be, do the song choices interfere with the deepening, mellowing, expansive, dreamy feeling that so many of those late-90s sets generated? Consider his 'go-to' Phish Phish, like 6/14/00 and 4/3/98 and the 2/28/03 Tweezer, which have that specific hazy dreaminess to them. He loved last night's Hood > WTU, which I hear as a complete mess.

In general (since maybe 1994 but definitely 1997), the longer Phish's jams go on, the more they tend to outstrip themselves, to shed their moving parts and resolve into pure unself-conscious collectivity without formal complication. That's arguably the point! Think of the 11/14/95 Stash cooling out into a haunting, spare Dog Faced Boy, then loudly digesting itself and making room for that crystalline Stash finale. Or the lilting passage in the 7/1/97 Amsterdam Ghost giving way to a quick broad-brush finale. Same with that night's Limb by Limb, not to mention the masterful 16-minute Limb from the Great Went that summer, or the well-loved Went Disease, or that same night's maybe-best-ever 2001, or...

Think too of those wonderful Fall '97 Wolfman's Brothers: hush and bliss at the E Centre, the anthemic ending in Champaign, the multifaceted jewel in Worcester (that bullshit 'Heartbreaker' jam is the very definition of 'outstripping themselves')...

I guess my point is that if you love that very specific feeling of all complication falling away, leaving behind a pure, unaffected gesture -- 'space jams' on 12/6/97 and 11/22/97, quiet Quadrophonic madness at Big Cypress, the terrifying darkness of Halloween '98 III or the 46 Days from IT -- then it really is all about the long jams. In that case, the challenging density and compactness of recent Phish would be an authentic emotional hurdle to get over.

It's like learning to listen for one particular kind of energy flow or shift, and then finding out that the musicians who delivered that one blessed thing, night after night, no longer want it like you did (and do).

Honestly, I wish they played more like 1997 Phish. I love that music so much! But I imagine that's mostly because 1997 Phish is the stuff I learned on -- it's my listening-template.

(In high school I got in trouble at All-County Jazz Band rehearsal once, for playing my sax along with the band director's solo during an improv exercise. He stopped playing and told me never to play along with the soloist. I replied that I was trying to support him -- what else was he supposed to play against? I thought we were 'jamming.' For a long time after I was confused and frustrated by that expectation in straight-up jazz groups -- because after all, Page was always jamming right along with Trey, and that's what I knew. I get it now, of course. But for a while I didn't. I'd learned differently.)

--------

Anyhow my point in all this is simple: @LightsWentOut is right that the band is taking enormous risks -- and I'd add that the music is in some ways better than it's ever been -- but I do wanna take a minute to sympathize and empathize with the folks who are obviously having trouble letting go of the long 'Type II' jams of yore. (I guess I'll add here that keeping that stuff interesting is really hard, and the guys probably don't practice free improv as they used to. So maybe it's not so horrible, or indeed unexpected, that they're doing (well) what they practice.)
, comment by Doctor_Smarty
Doctor_Smarty The best analogy I have for the new style of jamming is akin to remodeling a house. The expansive days of yore Type II jam is the equivalent of bulldozing one or more walls of the house and then building an extravagant extension that eats up a lot of the parcel of land you own. The new style of renovation utilizes the existing framework of the given song (the house) but adds incredibly gorgeous musical tile inlays and splashguards, strips and polishes the old wood floors, repaints in vibrant new colors and thereby breathes new life into an old classic space. It's the same old house you've lived in for years but it is somehow new and inviting once more.
, comment by ericwyman
ericwyman @waxbanks said:
And yeah, there's a dull-witted possessiveness and entitlement to many of our carping fellow fans. Pure lameass egotism: check.
Do you have any people in particular you are referring to or are you comfortable with the sweeping generalization?

, comment by lenuto46
lenuto46 @Real_out_casty said:
someone who's not "jaded" please tell me when the last(in ur opinion) epic face melting phish show was and please dont say they last one they played, the typical devoted fan answer, cause we both know thats not true
I got my face thoroughly melted at Watkins Glen last year, but I would assess that the Chicago Run of August 2011 (particularly night 2 of 3) was pretty much the most recent off the chain, face melting, phish. Wish I was there to have experienced it in person.

Denver was great for Labor day, but the 2 wks off between it and Chicago proved to be momentum killing. Vermont was such an unexpected treat and so much fun to be at, but the atmosphere was all about reunion and PARTY, not really face melting. New Years run was also a great PARTY, and the sets were phenomenal, but these end of the year runs always feel like a coda to me, they are not a time to venture into the NEW, but more of an opportunity to recap the year, with the exception of 2009, where everything felt NEW and that four night run in Maimi was like a locomotive running away with it, particularly 12.30.09. Also, I would be remiss not to mention the spit service of 2010. The four shows leading up to the New Year were most certainly a coda to a really incredible year (IMO, 2010 is among the best Phish years ever along with 1994, 1995 and 1997), but the unexpected fifth show, the great experiment on 1.1.11 was in the New Year, and it delivered with a high energy, rocking, immaculate display of musicianship in set 1 followed by one of the best sets ever in set 2, just complete phish perfection there -- if you are not familiar with that show, get it!

This turned into more than you asked for. In summary, UIC 2011, Superball IX, 1.1.11, and pretty much all of 2010 (with particular highlights being Hartford, Camden, Raleigh, Charlotte, Alpharetta, Berkeley, Alpine, all of fall tour (but particularly Augusta, Guyutica, Manchester, and Halloween), and all of New Years.

This year they are still warming up. Warming up takes longer these days as they are not performing together as much as they used to and it takes time to feel the confidence needed to take risks, but they will, and it will be great. I am really looking forward to the NY run of shows starting with Jones Beach and ending at SPAC.
, comment by flave
flave @waxbanks said:
I have a sense that the shorter jams we are seeing are being interpreted as being "safe". I don't see it that way. Long jams, even when performed by Phish, can be masturbatory and aren't always called for. There is a time and place. While I can marvel at an hour long Runaway Jim, in the end, it usually only stands out because it is an hour long. The band's move to more self-editing is the 3.0 version of risk taking. Look at the negative response this has been getting among some of the more heady wooks - especially recently. Yours is a really good comment, @LightsWentOut, though I'd probably take a gentler line. I think there are two sides to fans' noisy dissatisfaction with the relatively compact jams in 2009-12 Phish. (Let's be honest: a 14-minute rock tune is not a short tune!) For one thing, you're right -- change upsets people, especially when the thing that's changing is designed specifically to be a comfortable activity in a familiar atmosphere. And yeah, there's a dull-witted possessiveness and entitlement to many of our carping fellow fans. Pure lameass egotism: check. I sympathize on this score -- but then, I mostly listen to new Phish and don't often dip into the old stuff these days. Maybe Smeagol-Wax is gonna defeat Gollum-Wax after all. At the same time, there's the specific thing that's changing, the length/depth of jams. Phish's 1997-onward jamming has scaffolded a particular set of listening practices -- the longer a jam goes on, the more 'monotonous' it is, the more easily it fits a specific, kinda zoned-out, mellow, 'druggy' vibe. (I know 'druggy' is imprecise but it's the connotations of sluggish contentment I'm after.) By way of example: 'Miner' at phishthoughts.com is always on about a second set's 'flow,' and is happy to denigrate otherwise superb performances on that basis -- the question seems to be, do the song choices interfere with the deepening, mellowing, expansive, dreamy feeling that so many of those late-90s sets generated? Consider his 'go-to' Phish Phish, like 6/14/00 and 4/3/98 and the 2/28/03 Tweezer, which have that specific hazy dreaminess to them. He loved last night's Hood > WTU, which I hear as a complete mess. In general (since maybe 1994 but definitely 1997), the longer Phish's jams go on, the more they tend to outstrip themselves, to shed their moving parts and resolve into pure unself-conscious collectivity without formal complication. That's arguably the point! Think of the 11/14/95 Stash cooling out into a haunting, spare Dog Faced Boy, then loudly digesting itself and making room for that crystalline Stash finale. Or the lilting passage in the 7/1/97 Amsterdam Ghost giving way to a quick broad-brush finale. Same with that night's Limb by Limb, not to mention the masterful 16-minute Limb from the Great Went that summer, or the well-loved Went Disease, or that same night's maybe-best-ever 2001, or... Think too of those wonderful Fall '97 Wolfman's Brothers: hush and bliss at the E Centre, the anthemic ending in Champaign, the multifaceted jewel in Worcester (that bullshit 'Heartbreaker' jam is the very definition of 'outstripping themselves')... I guess my point is that if you love that very specific feeling of all complication falling away, leaving behind a pure, unaffected gesture -- 'space jams' on 12/6/97 and 11/22/97, quiet Quadrophonic madness at Big Cypress, the terrifying darkness of Halloween '98 III or the 46 Days from IT -- then it really is all about the long jams. In that case, the challenging density and compactness of recent Phish would be an authentic emotional hurdle to get over. It's like learning to listen for one particular kind of energy flow or shift, and then finding out that the musicians who delivered that one blessed thing, night after night, no longer want it like you did (and do). Honestly, I wish they played more like 1997 Phish. I love that music so much! But I imagine that's mostly because 1997 Phish is the stuff I learned on -- it's my listening-template. (In high school I got in trouble at All-County Jazz Band rehearsal once, for playing my sax along with the band director's solo during an improv exercise. He stopped playing and told me never to play along with the soloist. I replied that I was trying to support him -- what else was he supposed to play against? I thought we were 'jamming.' For a long time after I was confused and frustrated by that expectation in straight-up jazz groups -- because after all, Page was always jamming right along with Trey, and that's what I knew. I get it now, of course. But for a while I didn't. I'd learned differently.) -------- Anyhow my point in all this is simple: @LightsWentOut is right that the band is taking enormous risks -- and I'd add that the music is in some ways better than it's ever been -- but I do wanna take a minute to sympathize and empathize with the folks who are obviously having trouble letting go of the long 'Type II' jams of yore. (I guess I'll add here that keeping that stuff interesting is really hard, and the guys probably don't practice free improv as they used to. So maybe it's not so horrible, or indeed unexpected, that they're doing (well) what they practice.)
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin I agree with some of what you are saying, @waxbanks but you (and @LightsWentOut ) seem to be implying that folks who are longing for 94-2000 style Type II jams (and I include myself in this number) are somehow deficient in their listening capability or closed minded or something like that. As if we are missing the point that Phish is trying to make with shorter, less exploratory jams. Why should we have to "let go" of those jams? The band is clearly capable of playing that way still - I submit the Bethel "Waves" soundcheck and the Superball storage jam into evidence.

Of course Phish is under no obligation to play that way if they don't want to anymore. But those of us who prefer that style are under no obligation to like the fact that those jams are for the most part gone. It isn't entitlement or egoism to prefer a band's earlier work over its later work. Music hits people in intensely personal ways, who are we to judge their reactions?

If Phish and a listener have drifted so far apart that nothing Phish does pleases them anymore, then yes, posting non-stop criticism on the internet amounts to nothing more than trolling. But I firmly believe all of the recaps here are pretty fairly balanced, and in particular @Doctor_Smarty did a fantastic job reviewing this particular show.

I have had a great time at the few shows I have seen in 3.0, even when they have been maligned for lack of jamming (12/29/12, for example). I still love the band. There are still playing music every night that is worth hearing. But I'm not going to stop wishing that they play something as good as the Went Gin again just because people on the internet tell me that is a selfish thing to want. It isn't.
, comment by jwelsh8
jwelsh8 @hova1 said:
@LightsWentOut said:
I have a sense that the shorter jams we are seeing are being interpreted as being "safe". I don't see it that way. Long jams, even when performed by Phish, can be masturbatory and aren't always called for. There is a time and place. While I can marvel at an hour long Runaway Jim, in the end, it usually only stands out because it is an hour long. The band's move to more self-editing is the 3.0 version of risk taking. Look at the negative response this has been getting among some of the more heady wooks - especially recently. The first sign of a significant change in anything is the backlash it gets from the people it affects and risk, almost by definition, is a change. Risk is happening. Some of us just aren't seeing it as such. Some of us are blind to it because it isn't the kind of risk we want.

I think this a great point.
I am not sure I agree with this much at all. What is "risk taking" about muscling through songs and not taking chances? Change does not equal risk when they aren't challenging themselves. I think it would be different if it was apparent that they were practicing and simply nailing the composed sections -- that would be a trade-off for them closing their eyes and going "out there." But that does not seem to be happening.

I will say that the aborting of Harry Hood for What's the Use? was much more fluid last evening than the jarring forcing into Light at Bonnaroo. It's just unfortunate that WtU? was followed by Wading In the Velvet Sea, Possum. Maybe *that* was risky. Maybe the Ha Ha Ha in the first set was a sign of how they would end the second.

[There is mention of 14-minute songs. Looking at Live Phish, it appears as though there have been only three songs over 14 minutes that aren't written to be that length - one Ghost (by 30 seconds), one Down With Disease, and one Birds of a Feather. (The other two were Divided Sky and Fluffhead.)]
, comment by lefty
lefty Great thoughtful post that follows a great recap. Thanks guys.

@Real_out_casty said:
it seems everyone is waiting for something that is not coming. these are old men playing (mostly)young music. fans want to hear the old shit, ive had several conversations with band members when i followed them (93-95) and they(esp. trey) were burnt way back then. i always had a request(usually an old song they never played)and trey told me on time that there's a reason they dont play certain songs, he didnt say why exactly but im assuming because they dont want to. despite all that they would usually grant me my request(aside from the occasional obscure cover). they are great guys, i just get the feeling that this(touring) is something they'd rather not do, but do it for their fans. ive seen a pattern developing over the past 20 years mirroring that of jerry's pressure to do the same in the 70's. i hope im wrong.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert ". fans want to hear the old shit,"

I've been into this band for (What some would consider a 'short') 15 years and I go into every show wanting to hear Undermind, Round Room, Waves, Steam, Halfway To The Moon and A Song I heard The Ocean Sing.

This band might not be playing sets in a way that satisfies your expectations for how a Phish show should correctly flow, or improvising as much as you (or I) want them to, but there is a palpable passion to their playing and a joy that I didn't witness with the band from when I started seeing them in 1997 through the 2.0 era.

Right now they seem to be in a very 1992-esque state of mind, but with a more mature sense of jamming. IMO the improvisation has been spectacular recently, going back through last summer. There might not be enough of it for most of our liking but the glimpses they are showing us makes me feel like the old ESP is just as strong as it ever was and that this is simply a stylistic choice that they're making. 3 minutes of funk in the Atlantic City Tube lead to more joy than the absolutely spectacular version from Hershey Park in 2000 that shattered any expectations the song could have ever carried and then some.

However as to this comment 'While I can marvel at an hour long Runaway Jim, in the end, it usually only stands out because it is an hour long.'

I disagree. It's a stunning mission statement from Fall 1997 Phish where the name of the game was cohesion. They switch from movement to movement with such ease and conviction that it still stands out as one of the best things they've ever played to me. It's a shame that it got such backlash from people who just thought people were flogging it's length when plenty of people were utterly in awe of what they accomplished within that Jim.

And for what it's worth that Worcester Ghost is more "Type II' than a lot of stuff that people throw around when talking "Type II". It seems like some people just think that any spacey jam automatically means that Phish is playing without a net. There are just as many similarities amongst the vast majority of ambient/spacey jams as there are amongst the vast majority of rock/funk/etc jams. While it's true that Phish doesn't really have any songs that are *designed* to go directly into ambient jamming, i don't think a lot of people would consider Stash going into a funk jam to be considered "Type II" even though it would clearly be outside the framework of the song and the jam style that the song has mostly maintained throughout the years. The last version of Stash was very atypical IMO.

Lately it seems like the changes are subtle and if you told the band that they aren't taking risks they'd look at you boggle-eyed. Their improvisation is a force to be reckoned with right now, and I can't blame anyone's annoyance with the band if their complaint boils down to "I wish they were doing this amazing improvisational stuff more often"- the people who think the jams suck now are just plain offbase. And this is coming from someone who just called the 97 Jim the best thing he's ever heard and who jocks Random 2.0 jams that put 80% of Phish fans into a bad mood before putting them to sleep. I'm an improv junkie, and Phish- cockteases that they are, are as good at it right now as they've ever been. It's like their mixing the quick-change style of the early 90s with the groove based style of the late 90s/early 00s and making these subtly mutating masterpieces every time they step outside of the box- and that's happening a lot more than people want to credit. They're doing more in 2 minutes than they were doing in 10 minutes 10 or 15 years ago.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert And as for the last shows I thought were facemelters.

The second set of DCU 1 and AC 1 are both essentially flawless in my opinion. Before that the first night of UIC is my favorite show in the 3.0 era and one of the best put together 2nd sets of all time. First two nights of Bethel were outstanding. 12/28/11 was really good but probably the first one I'd put underneath the facemelter label.

But I get almost nothing out of the Superball shows despite hearing a bunch of songs I like.

I guess it's just that I think it's strange that they don't go super weird during the normal sets when they've got tens out thousands of people camping over a weekend to see a single band. IMO " Bug > The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Weekapaug Groove, Joy > Character Zero
Encore: Show of Life" was one of the worst ways to end a show ever. But I'm not mad about it. It's what they felt like doing.

I kinda wish they'd go back to putting thought into setlists. As much as I'm on Phish's jock due to their (IMO) amazing improv lately, I still feel as if they leave us with several head-scratching song choices every night. There's a difference between switching gears and pulling the emergency brake. Going from Simple jam/Bug/Silent to Weekapaug is a switch, going back down to Joy, then back up to Zero then back down to Show Of Life is like pulling the e-brake every time you reach for the gearshift. At least to me- just an idiot with an opinionhole.

, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @ericwyman said:
@waxbanks said:
And yeah, there's a dull-witted possessiveness and entitlement to many of our carping fellow fans. Pure lameass egotism: check.
Do you have any people in particular you are referring to or are you comfortable with the sweeping generalization?
I'm totally comfortable with this sweeping generalization. 'Pure...egotism' is a natural thing for humans, especially white males arguing online. As for possessiveness, entitlement, and dullness of wit: dude, just read any Phish discussion forum (phish.net included, though I think the phish.net fora are pretty positive overall). For that matter, read nearly any discussion forum on nearly any topic.

'Lameass' is me editorializing. :)
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @ColForbin said:
Why should we have to "let go" of those jams? The band is clearly capable of playing that way still - I submit the Bethel "Waves" soundcheck and the Superball storage jam into evidence.
No question, they can definitely go to that place when they want to. But that's one kind of band-band and band-audience communication, and the period when that was the main such form of communication is over. I think that's a neutral observation, right?

Of course Phish is under no obligation to play that way if they don't want to anymore. But those of us who prefer that style are under no obligation to like the fact that those jams are for the most part gone.
This is true. But I'll submit this counterpoint: if you listen to the band and aren't committed to finding the utmost pleasure in what's happening now, and keep holding the music against the standard of what they played 15 years ago, then yes -- 'egotism' and 'selfishness' are very precise terms for what's wrong (in my view) with that practice.

I don't mean ego=you're a dick. I mean ego=placing your (my!!) expectations above the moment.

I have had a great time at the few shows I have seen in 3.0, even when they have been maligned for lack of jamming (12/29/12, for example). I still love the band. There are still playing music every night that is worth hearing. But I'm not going to stop wishing that they play something as good as the Went Gin again just because people on the internet tell me that is a selfish thing to want. It isn't.
The phrase 'as good as' is what's messing that paragraph up, for me.
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin @waxbanks said:
Of course Phish is under no obligation to play that way if they don't want to anymore. But those of us who prefer that style are under no obligation to like the fact that those jams are for the most part gone.
This is true. But I'll submit this counterpoint: if you listen to the band and aren't committed to finding the utmost pleasure in what's happening now, and keep holding the music against the standard of what they played 15 years ago, then yes -- 'egotism' and 'selfishness' are very precise terms for what's wrong (in my view) with that practice.

I don't mean ego=you're a dick. I mean ego=placing your (my!!) expectations above the moment.
I get what you are saying here, I really do. And maybe you are misunderstanding how I experience a Phish show. If I'm in the house, or even watching a webcast, I'm experiencing it in the moment, not analyzing it and comparing it to a jam from long ago. Like I said, I'm having a blast, and find great moments that take me to that next level even in the shortened jams that seem to be de rigueur nowadays. If I write a review of a current show I focus on the highlights, and I still find a bunch in almost any 3.0 show.

But in the cool light of day, when each and every historical Phish show is as available as another, it seems impossible not to compare and contrast shows, tours, years, eras, etc. It's part of what makes being a Phish fan fun for me - the institutional memory of the fan base is so amazing. I'm a scientist. I like analysis. And charts. And graphs. And for me and seemingly many other fans, there is just way more to really dig into in 1.0 and 2.0 Phish than 3.0. Ask yourself this (and this is not directed just at you, but all fans): if you are going to randomly download a show you haven't heard, is it going to be a 3.0 show, or a (post-93) 1.0 show? If you see a YEM in a 2011 setlist are you going to be as excited to hear it as one in a 1995 show?

Does this mean I think Phish should hang it up and quit playing? No way - there have still been moments in 3.0 that live up to the best of what 1.0 and 2.0 have to offer. But for me there are way fewer, and that's where my disappointment (after the fact, not in the moment) with the direction of the band comes in. Maybe it's unfair to the band and myself as a fan to feel this way, but I'm not going to pretend I don't. And I know I'm not alone.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks
I have had a great time at the few shows I have seen in 3.0, even when they have been maligned for lack of jamming (12/29/12, for example). I still love the band. There are still playing music every night that is worth hearing. But I'm not going to stop wishing that they play something as good as the Went Gin again just because people on the internet tell me that is a selfish thing to want. It isn't.
The phrase 'as good as' is what's messing that paragraph up, for me.
To clarify: the idea that they're not playing anything 'as good as the Went Gin' is, I would argue, a step back from the moment. The possibility. I can name a dozen '3.0' jams I strongly prefer to the Went Gin, most days. Are those jams 'better'? I've used that term plenty of times here, but increasingly I'm thinking that using such comparators prescriptively is a dangerous game. Maybe just not worth it.

Rankings are a retreat into abstraction, and though they're their own kind of fun (oh I know), the deeper wells contain pure experience. I aspire to really believing, all the time, that the best Phish show is the next one.

...

I guess I'm saying that there's deeper happiness to be had in really submitting to the best of the new stuff, rather than in finding new stuff that reproduces what we like about the old. Would I love a 20-minute funk jam from Phish this weekend? Yeah, probably. But on balance I think we're better off with something new -- even something that doesn't tickle our sweet spot in quite the same way. The old way. Probably that's healthier for the fandom. (After all, leaving aside what folks loved about pre-1997 Phish is what made post-1997 Phish possible.)

(I cut a bunch here. Hopefully this makes sense. I'm trying to mollify rather than inflame.)
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @ColForbin said:
Does this mean I think Phish should hang it up and quit playing? No way - there have still been moments in 3.0 that live up to the best of what 1.0 and 2.0 have to offer. But for me there are way fewer, and that's where my disappointment (after the fact, not in the moment) with the direction of the band comes in. Maybe it's unfair to the band and myself as a fan to feel this way, but I'm not going to pretend I don't. And I know I'm not alone.
Again (and more pointedly) -- your evaluative language is directed at the music, but it's really referring to your own feelings. It's not particularly important that you're disappointed with the band's direction: the point is that (again with the aspirational talk) we could all instead just work on not being disappointed at all.

As to hearing new-to-me Phish: the next show I download will be the next show. That's the whole point for me, at this point (in my own fandom).

Back later. Gotta watch Community!
, comment by phaultyplan
phaultyplan I was at the first show in Portsmouth, and I was there last year, the year before, and I saw a ton of shows in the late 90's and so on. I think a lot of people have missed out on the most important part of the shows. I had an absolutely great time. My friends had a great time, everybody I saw in the crowd was having a great time, the band seemed to have a great time and despite what has been said, it showed in the songs and the show. I guess I am somewhat lucky not to have the curse that many here seem to suffer from. Take it for what it is, enjoy, and relish every minute. They won't be here forever.
, comment by thinman11
thinman11 I think, and I believe this was mentioned earlier, artists generally take less chances as they age. Sometimes you can't reach back and recreate the same mood or atmosphere that led to those epic jams. Maybe the "cleaner" scene has contributed to it too. But I'd rather see what I'm seeing now then have it be like Jerry's last noodling years, or see the Stones show up just for the paycheck. They look like they're enjoying being out there, and that transfers directly to the crowd.
, comment by DrWilson
DrWilson Doctor Smarty is just negative for the sake of negativity. That's what I think. And on top of that he is obviously buddies with a bunch of folks who have logos by their names and that seems to get people to agree with him...

I watched last nights stream from Texas. I had a blast. It was awesome. It was a great show. Are there better shows in the archives? Of course. But if you can honestly tell me that you didn't enjoy last nights show from the couch or the venue, then my friend, you don't like Phish. Keep the negative vibes to yourself and let us enjoy the music.

I look forward to these recaps, but I hate it when some Mr. Miner clone gets a hold of the privilege to write it up.
, comment by weekapaugrooven
weekapaugrooven I honestly stopped truly diving into phan reviews about the time I got back to my house after 7/30/03.
, comment by Runaway_Tim
Runaway_Tim Spot on except for the possum. Not jammed well or thoroughly enough to end a second set (especially with how often it is played)
, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead How many of you play music? Play or played in a band? Touring band? Bar band? Garage band? just wondering...
, comment by beginners_ear
beginners_ear @waxbanks said:


Rankings are a retreat into abstraction, and though they're their own kind of fun (oh I know), the deeper wells contain pure experience. I aspire to really believing, all the time, that the best Phish show is the next one.

...

I guess I'm saying that there's deeper happiness to be had in really submitting to the best of the new stuff, rather than in finding new stuff that reproduces what we like about the old. Would I love a 20-minute funk jam from Phish this weekend? Yeah, probably. But on balance I think we're better off with something new -- even something that doesn't tickle our sweet spot in quite the same way. The old way. Probably that's healthier for the fandom. (After all, leaving aside what folks loved about pre-1997 Phish is what made post-1997 Phish possible.)
First of all, I want to thank waxbanks for elevating the level of discussion about Phish. I've been reading a lot of your stuff, and it makes me feel less guilty about spending so much time on this board. I honestly wish I could wake up in the morning after a show and read your thoughts on it, rather than that other guy's.

Enough fluffing though, it's that above point that really rings true with me, and has since...well, since before I even started listening to Phish and saw the same behavior in Deadheads. There's a contradiction in the fandom that's always stuck in my craw, and that's the dichotomy between the exploratory, "in the moment", nature of improvisational music (and the Phish experience) on the one hand, and the need to measure, rate, and analyze on the other. Like you say, I definitely understand it, but I also think it can go way overboard. There's a type of fan that is all about the stats, and listening to someone like that is about as enjoyable as listening to a Creationist. They're just looking for a comfortable structure to latch onto. It's the same thing with the tons of people I see that confuse the difference between a religious experience and a spiritual experience. Sure, it's great that you can go out and have your mind blown, but when your sitting there looking at the pieces of your brain scattered on the floor in front of you, it's about what you do when you start picking them up that really matters. It's a "map is not the territory" kind of thing. Phish provides a great starting point, but if you're really going to get out there, you've got to do it yourself. Otherwise, you're just out there re-creating the same experience night after night, chasing that first time, and not really getting anywhere. That's why, for me, the best show to listen to, is the one they just played.
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew I thought the Harry Hood > WTU was beautiful. Summer 12' is gonna be off the chain.
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew Oh, and it was an especially good show in light of the fact that they debuted 12 songs. tucktastic.
, comment by kipmat
kipmat I'm very grateful for an internet forum that allows for celebration and discussion of the band's history AND current offerings.

I'm weird. I enjoy when Phish is on tour, because I can read enlightening discussions about the current state of Phish.
, comment by 98ghostphunk
98ghostphunk Thanks Waxbanks AND Forbin... your comments in this thread have helped me understand 3.0 much more than I have thus far! Alot of what you've both said rings true. To combine a few thoughts from your posts:

I think we are compelled to love the MOMENT of any Phish show ("the show i download next is their latest show" ;) ...but AFTER the moment, we can have the "statistical" fun-- compare the show, and the 3.0 era in general, to the past. But practicing only one of these types of fandom would be incomplete.

For me, this philosophy put into practice looks like this: Had a great time at both Amherst 2010 shows... I was totally in the moment...but upon listening back a few times, they won't be in my listening rotation. Same with most of Superball (with a few notable exceptions).
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM I got over expecting 3.0 to be as amazing as 1.0 or 2003 sometime around the middle of 2009. It still irks me when they are about to hit stride and then some inexplicable segue comes in to take away our candy. But as for expecting 20 min jams to be dropped (at all, I mean, ever) that's just setting yourself up for some deep disappointment.

Right now, if I'm still going to have a good time dloading and going to shows, I try to set the bar waaaay lower and just take what I get for what its worth. Listening to the highlights of 1.0 and then expecting the band to sound *anything* at all like that now is just unfair to yourself and the band. I'm happy with the progress rather than the perfection that they have displayed each year in 3.0.

To my ears, this is reminiscent of the long climb into jamdom from 90-93. The difference of course now is that they are not going to play at that break-neck speed. That has already been done. So has funk turning to melodic enchanting mystical groove of 97-98 and the minimalism of 99. So has the darkly deep psychedelic was of 2003.

Phish is dancing around the brink of an entirely new sound that doesn't rely on plinko or whale calls. We're all not there yet, but this tour has already demonstrated more willingness to take risks than most of 2011 and all of 2010. They are not the same band putting on 80 shows a year and living out of the tour bus. It seems to me that if they simply tried to repeat past eras, then they truly would be a nostalgia act and we would really all have something to grumble about. If they went out there and played 25 min tweezers on a consistent basis they wouldn't be happy with the level of musicianship displayed, so they don't do that. And that's really for the best for all of us.

Disclaimer is that of course I would want to see them do so. I hope and pray for it every show and when it comes (like a sprinkling of diseases last year) it is like the holy fucking grail. Yet when they lock into those moments it is so glorious because it is the music pushing them there and they are simply following with open minds and hearts rather than forcing things.

DWD Alpine 10 restored my faith in their ability to do this. Pine Knob 11 showed that it can be done fully without a structure to regress on. And this was probably because it was reminiscent of the 1.0 style of pushing within the perimeter until there can be seen a tunnel leading to new fields.

The best jams, to me, are the ones that have an implied structure that is not the same as the launchpad. 3.0 rarely gets there, but when it does it is still the breathtaking majesty of phish from any era. I live for these moments and am such a phishcrack head that I'm willing to watch them go through the shows where this does not even come close to happening and still enjoy the abstract density of the 12 min jam. These jams come to an organic ending mostly, and even though *every* single time I'm screaming inside my head keep going keep going, I can still play it back and enjoy what I heard on its own merits.

I have def been accused of being a jaded asshole many times, but I really feel that the difference is understanding the reasons why we are not getting the lengthy earth-shaterring jams and just enjoying things for what they are worth.

Let me be perfectly clear though, this show did not deliver that kind of telepathic communicative jam. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable show with enough jamming to keep me interested and is entirely worth the dload.

HOWEVER, the show before it perfectly sums up a show that I don't need to see, hear, or even admit to myself that it actually happened. I know that sounds harsh but being a jaded asshole is more about hating on them when they are trying (like 6/20) then criticizing them when they deserve it. Theres a fine line between noob and jade and to me its just being realistically critical when they are clearly not even trying to go for much of anything (middle ground rational fan); fluffing the shit out of a show because of the *energy* and antics and challenging others on boards to a duel if they dare mention anything critical (noob); and sitting back with arms crossed shaking your head at the show because the BOAF was only 14 mins long and it didn't come from the island run (asshole jadery).

I guess through all the ramblings I just mean you can have it both ways. Enjoy it for what it's worth, recognize interesting newness when it comes, keep hoping for the big enchilada, and by all means when they deserve hyper-criticality speak your mind. Or even when they don't deserve it, I'm not a North Korean internet censor.
, comment by Uakari
Uakari "but I hate it when some Mr. Miner clone gets a hold of the privilege to write it up."

Best line I have read!

Going online to bash Phish is what people do,
when they review a show.
Nothing better to do with the time I guess?

The ten thousand people who loved it last night
despite the" hay and cow shit", did not
go online to write about how bad Phish
sucks these days.

, comment by jwelsh8
jwelsh8 @DrWilson said:
I look forward to these recaps, but I hate it when some Mr. Miner clone gets a hold of the privilege to write it up.
This makes me sad and laugh at the same time. You either don't pay attention when you read, or you are simply ok with inaccurate comparisons for the sake of appealing to a reader or two.
, comment by Lloyd_Dobler
Lloyd_Dobler "another peek over the free-form jam precipice, but the band just refused to jump"

This obviously sums up Phish nowadays in general but I especially felt it in set 2. There was something in the R&R jam and the ambience that followed that really got me excited that we were in for some serious exploration. The Tweezer that followed was SO promising that I started making comments like "jam of tour", etc but I was obviously way too presumptuous in doing so. It was cut off when it really could have become great and went into that run of the mill Free instead. I won't go into much more detail, this show has been dissected enough, but I will say that the Hood was special though I had no problem with the transition into WTU(Page and Mike had initiated a "space" section that almost demanded that transition). At the end of WTU there was no question that Fish started the high-hat and was ready for a "> Hood" but Page nixed that by hammering the Velvet Sea intro and that effectively ended the chances for some real exploration and improv IMO.

I am not a 3.0 complainer, I've come to the conclusion that "it is what it is" and we're just not going to get the type of jams that we became accustomed to in the past. This set, however, especially rankled me because it was SO promising. I felt Trey was ready to explore and they hit some spacy sections early that made me think we were in for an old-school set. It wasn't to be though, as the set turned into a typical (albeit above-average) 3.0 performance. It was disappointing but, like I said, it is what it is these days.
, comment by jwelsh8
jwelsh8 @waxbanks said:
@ColForbin said:
Does this mean I think Phish should hang it up and quit playing? No way - there have still been moments in 3.0 that live up to the best of what 1.0 and 2.0 have to offer. But for me there are way fewer, and that's where my disappointment (after the fact, not in the moment) with the direction of the band comes in. Maybe it's unfair to the band and myself as a fan to feel this way, but I'm not going to pretend I don't. And I know I'm not alone.
Again (and more pointedly) -- your evaluative language is directed at the music, but it's really referring to your own feelings. It's not particularly important that you're disappointed with the band's direction: the point is that (again with the aspirational talk) we could all instead just work on not being disappointed at all.
What is with the use of the pronoun "We"? It appears you have your enjoyment of Phish rationalized and all worked out. As you write later, "That's the whole point for me, at this point (in my own fandom)."

While your process/outlook may work for you, it clearly will not work for everyone. There is only so much music I can listen to (only so many books I can read at one time, etc.), with so many possibilities -- I do not feel this desire to simply take whatever is being played and be happy with it. (That is different, of course, than being happy that a band I love and has meant so much in my life is playing at all.) Decisions, approach to improvisation, song choices -- if they don't appeal to me and what I enjoy listening to, then I am not going to gloss it over and simply focus on that one moment out of three hours.

I actually enjoyed sitting at home listening (watching) the second night of Virginia. Looking back, I think there are more musical highlights than Bonnaroo (a show I attended). But that doesn't erase my (unfulfilled) desires and wants from the music this band has been creating for my 18 years of fandom.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @beginners_ear said:
...it's that above point that really rings true with me, and has since...well, since before I even started listening to Phish and saw the same behavior in Deadheads. There's a contradiction in the fandom that's always stuck in my craw, and that's the dichotomy between the exploratory, "in the moment", nature of improvisational music (and the Phish experience) on the one hand, and the need to measure, rate, and analyze on the other. Like you say, I definitely understand it, but I also think it can go way overboard. There's a type of fan that is all about the stats, and listening to someone like that is about as enjoyable as listening to a Creationist. They're just looking for a comfortable structure to latch onto.
Amen to your comment in general. I do want to bounce off this paragraph a little...

The rankings, ratings, collections, comparisons, commentaries, and above all the bloody damned bitter arguing over identity...I've long been as enamored of that stuff as so many other phish.netters, and I think it's good to recognize that it's all a way of making sense of something that really can seem senseless. I don't even mean the music, either -- sure, song selection can be weird and OK that key change seemed to come out of nowhere and yikes Fishman's doing this just like thing right now HOW DOES HE, etc., but the even more unfathomable thing is our own relationship to the music. The investment, the incredible uplift, and yeah the disappointment and despondency and (most complex of all) the ambivalence that we all at times feel toward this music that is, after all, one of our favourite things in the whole world.

I mean, teenagers have to think their favourite band is the very best band because if they don't then the world is, after all, a contingent thing which exists independently of them and other people really are exactly as real and complexly human as we are, and their choice of favourite band is arbitrary and they will after all die just like everyone else. Yoiks!

That stuff carries on into adulthood in attenuated form. (If I hear another goddamn Red Sox fan babble piously about 'faith'...) I was very dependent on that kind of thinking for a long, long time, and still am to a much greater degree than I'd like.

The mythology of Phish -- America's biggest touring rock band, the hidden gem of 1990s music, the guys who can play anything, the smartest jammiest craziest blah blah blah -- really feeds into this identity-formation stuff. It's easy to incorporate Phish fandom into your ego. Hell, when I got into them they were still a reasonably well-kept secret in terms of mainstream culture, and I loved that.

Not a lot of stuff made sense to me then, but my Phish fandom could. Or it could make other things about me make sense to me, by contrast if nothing else.

Anyhow, I guess I'm trying to roll back the negativity in some of my earlier posts here, and say that these retreats into abstraction do get in the way of bliss (i.e. nostalgic comparisons don't explain why the new stuff isn't as satisfying, they cause the dissatisfaction), but they're sources of pleasure and sense in their own right, and I don't wanna throw the timers and setlist-bickerers out of the fandom or anything. I've been and continue to be that dude. I guess I just want the forebrain-heavy stuff to become optional; I wanna work with the music to enter into bliss. It's weird to ask Phish to respond in any way to my prejudices.

(Not that I don't.)

Sorry this is muddled. It's like a hundred degrees all week here! I am a dried out shell of a man right now.
, comment by InsectEffect
InsectEffect
I absolutely LOVE that this is *still* a band that prompts lengthy analysis, discussion and (see above!) full-on off-the-cuff essays, and I tend to take it all in the way @waxbanks (and others) have suggested here, as a means for deepening our appreciation of the music, the moment, the ever-imminent possibility of revelation. Phish.netters (and Phish fans in general) tend to be pretty respectiful --this ain't no flame-wars-- and I love that too. (Beautiful comments, @reynardMachine).

I'll add a note about the notion of "risk" and exploration. Its not *all* about the jam, though I do agree with much that's been said about that here, both in praise and criticism. At its best, Phish's current approach emphasizes subtlety and nuance, as seen in what I've starting thinking of as "micro-jams," those intricate and beautiful jam-segment developments that fall under the 10 minute mark (several 3.0 Pipers are good examples, Worchester Roses, etc). This is (slowly) re-conditioning fans to appreciate that length isn't everthing (insert Phish @ Dick's joke here).

But Phish has an enormous catalog of gorgeous originals and compelling covers, and I want to see more "risks" like those taken at UIC I, when newer songs were treated to geniunely innovative exploration in favor of "standard" set openers and closers. And the thematic nature of that set, man o man. Hook line and sinker, you got me. Here's hoping for more of the same...
, comment by beginners_ear
beginners_ear @waxbanks said:


Anyhow, I guess I'm trying to roll back the negativity in some of my earlier posts here, and say that these retreats into abstraction do get in the way of bliss (i.e. nostalgic comparisons don't explain why the new stuff isn't as satisfying, they cause the dissatisfaction), but they're sources of pleasure and sense in their own right, and I don't wanna throw the timers and setlist-bickerers out of the fandom or anything. I've been and continue to be that dude. I guess I just want the forebrain-heavy stuff to become optional; I wanna work with the music to enter into bliss. It's weird to ask Phish to respond in any way to my prejudices.
Just a quick note. I didn't mean to imply that there's anything wrong with analysis. Anyone who knows me wouldn't let me get far with that argument. I'm just questioning analysis at the expense of 'pure experience', which I am also guilty of. Also, I would never advocate for anyone being thrown out of fandom, or argue over the validity of one type of experience over another, but I would argue that there are more evolved levels of experience. Really I'm just expressing some of my own residual frustration over that kind of "forebrain-heavy" thinking. I came into the Dead in the late 80's and early 90s and I would hear similar things about them from old deadheads, so these thoughts have been formulating for a long time. That's it. Enjoy the show tonight folks. Looking forward to tomorrow's recaps.
, comment by phillfc7
phillfc7 I'm a fairly new Phan. Saw them for the first time in 2011. I've listened to a lot of 90's (mainly 94 and 97). It is certainly different, but Phish is still one of the 2-3 bands that gets me there. The Portsmouth shows had some really good moments that certainly got me there and made me extremely happy. Great moment to spend with my phriends.
, comment by weekapaugrooven
weekapaugrooven @InsectEffect said:
I absolutely LOVE that this is *still* a band that prompts lengthy analysis, discussion and (see above!) full-on off-the-cuff essays, and I tend to take it all in the way @waxbanks (and others) have suggested here, as a means for deepening our appreciation of the music, the moment, the ever-imminent possibility of revelation. Phish.netters (and Phish fans in general) tend to be pretty respectiful --this ain't no flame-wars-- and I love that too. (Beautiful comments, @reynardMachine).

I'll add a note about the notion of "risk" and exploration. Its not *all* about the jam, though I do agree with much that's been said about that here, both in praise and criticism. At its best, Phish's current approach emphasizes subtlety and nuance, as seen in what I've starting thinking of as "micro-jams," those intricate and beautiful jam-segment developments that fall under the 10 minute mark (several 3.0 Pipers are good examples, Worchester Roses, etc). This is (slowly) re-conditioning fans to appreciate that length isn't everthing (insert Phish @ Dick's joke here).

But Phish has an enormous catalog of gorgeous originals and compelling covers, and I want to see more "risks" like those taken at UIC I, when newer songs were treated to geniunely innovative exploration in favor of "standard" set openers and closers. And the thematic nature of that set, man o man. Hook line and sinker, you got me. Here's hoping for more of the same...
I agree with this wholeheartedly. I believe that the boys are having a really good time doing what they love to do right now, and I'm happy for them. I see and hear from so many people that are 1.0/2.0 vets (like myself) that they just 'don't sound the same', or 'don't take the risks that they used to', and I agree, they don't. They've been there and done that, and as much as i love my 1.0 Phish, it remains just that - 1.0 Phish. I have learned over the last three years to not expect what I heard in 97-98 or 03. But when I go to a show, I still love what they do, and they still blow my mind more often than not.

I believe that they are really hesitant to re-do a lot of the things they did in the past because this band has always been about trying things that are new and different. And no matter what, even if it happens less often, this band is still unpredictable! They can go from a mediocre run-of-the-mill show to something entirely mind blowing and visa-versa. The excitement, for me, is still all there. I just find myself waiting a little longer for it at times. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop going to shows.

And as for new songs versus old jams, I mostly look forward to Halfway to the Moon, Army of One, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Light, Bug, and ofcourse Pebbles and Marbles (my favorite Phish song). It gets me more excited when a newer track hits my ears because there is so much room for it to go into uncharted territory, and for something that has never been done with it before to happen.

A rant, I know. But I just felt like writing. So you all at Jones and SPAC.

, comment by NigelTufnel
NigelTufnel @AlbanyYEM said: "If they went out there and played 25 min tweezers on a consistent basis they wouldn't be happy with the level of musicianship displayed, so they don't do that."

This is a ridiculous statement. You're implying that the push required to get to "that place" in a jam is somehow bad musicianship. I disagree. Length is not related to musicianship in the least. Take the Worcester '97 Jim, an hour long masterpiece with several movements, played so tightly and together that it sounds composed. It's one of the most brilliant jams ever played at a level of musicianship that is so mind-bogglingly rare that it makes my brain want to take a nap.

Every time they take those risks and succeed, they reach a new apex of musicianship. EVERY time. I fell in love with the band because of their ability to access unheard dimensions through jams, risk taking, and their unique musicianship (jamming, humor, teases, signals, etc.). If they played 25 minute Tweezers every couple of shows, it would signify their willingness to take the risk required to access their machine-like tightness. To speak conversationally at the subconscious level through playing. "That place". Can they do it in less than 25 minutes? Sure! But the length is telling of their comfort in the jam-space and their ability as musicians to make it work in the end.

Now, they can easily play a half hour jam where they don't connect at all, and they may walk away feeling like strangers in the musical dimension for a brief time. Or they could play a 3 minute Ghost that slides so smoothly in Makisupa Policeman that the segue washes over you like a blissful wave. The length doesn't matter entirely, but their willingness to risk-take does. Was the Ghost -> Makisupa a risk? Yes! Heck yes! And I applaud them for it - however, I am a fan who likes to hear them push the boundaries specifically in the jam segments of songs. That's why I follow them so closely. Nobody does it like them, nobody ever will. And I love every part of it.

Why don't they do it anymore (or on a consistent basis, at least)? Good question. I would love to know the answer. We all have our theories, but the band believing it to be a sign of poor musicianship is ludicrous.

I would like to add that I believe the band is at a new height of musicianship, especially so far on this tour. I love many of the jams that have been played. I can live with jams in the 12-16 minute range. But what's holding them back from deep exploration? Why do they get close and opt out to play Rift? That's the nature of my frustration: At this new height of theirs, the possibilities in the jamming realm are so infinite and GUARANTEED to be good, that I can't possibly understand why they refuse to go there. Baffling.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @phillfc7 said:
I'm a fairly new Phan. Saw them for the first time in 2011. I've listened to a lot of 90's (mainly 94 and 97). It is certainly different, but Phish is still one of the 2-3 bands that gets me there. The Portsmouth shows had some really good moments that certainly got me there and made me extremely happy. Great moment to spend with my phriends.
Dogg amighty if you haven't heard NYE95 and 6/17/94 it is SO VERY MUCH THE TIME

--wa
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @NigelTufnel said:
Why don't they do it anymore (or on a consistent basis, at least)? Good question. I would love to know the answer. We all have our theories, but the band believing it to be a sign of poor musicianship is ludicrous.
I know what your'e saying. But.

As I recall, back when the band was reassembling in early '09, one of them (presumably motormouth Trey) said in an interview that they were all on the same page about wanting to be the 'best' version of Phish they could -- the smoothly-practiced mid-90s prog machine, rather than the spacy dance band they became.

Admittedly it's a very specific sense of 'musicianship' in question here, but that's what I remember.
, comment by Dividedsky333
Dividedsky333 Hey everyone, it is SO awesome to finally find enlightened phans discussing our band. I was just reading the vile negativity on Livephish.com and got depressed for no good reason....

I listened to Junta in '98 and was immediately hooked. I didn't get to see my first show until '03 (Continental Airlines Arena, BB King sat in for almost the whole 1st set!!!)..... and I've been seeing them consistently ever since. That said, it drives me INSANE to hear so much negativity thrown at this band since they reunited. Most of the drivel can be found in the livephish.com comment section. I really don't see how hating on a band can coexist with loving a band.

Trust me, I'm dying to finally go to a show where the 2nd set consists of 1 epically long adventure off the musical cliff. 30-60 minute jams get me off. But I'm still consistently impressed by Trey's songwriting abilities. I almost cried watching the band play Billy Breathes to perfection at Bader night 1. Forget the jams for a minute, and appreciate how utterly rare it is for songwriters of any time period to produce such high quality material over such a long period of time. Trey doesn't get enough credit for his ability to craft songs as well as he does. What makes this band so much more enjoyable than every other jam band, and the reason they can be compared to the Dead, is that they actually have great SONGS! If they were just able to jam like gods but not write such great songs, they would still be popular, but they wouldn't be able to magnetically attract such a rabid fan base.

My point is......there is so much more to phish than the epic jam which has gone MIA in 3.0 era. These guys are national monuments. They are American History. And in my opinion, every now and then this band will spontaneously and singlehandedly discover a heretofore unknown realm of musical possibility --- and the last time they did this was during the Storage Jam at Superball. That jam sounds like the future distilled for an audience stuck in the present.

Long live Phish! I personally cannot wait for Phish 5.0 when the band will play their instruments while sitting in wheelchairs.
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM @NigelTufnel said: [quote]@AlbanyYEM said: "If they went out there and played 25 min tweezers on a consistent basis they wouldn't be happy with the level of musicianship displayed, so they don't do that."

This is a ridiculous statement. You're implying that the push required to get to "that place" in a jam is somehow bad musicianship. I disagree. Length is not related to musicianship in the least. Take the Worcester '97 Jim, an hour long masterpiece with several movements, played so tightly and together that it sounds composed. It's one of the most brilliant jams ever played at a level of musicianship that is so mind-bogglingly rare that it makes my brain want to take a nap.

Every time they take those risks and succeed, they reach a new apex of musicianship. EVERY time. I fell in love with the band because of their ability to access unheard dimensions through jams, risk taking, and their unique musicianship (jamming, humor, teases, signals, etc.). If they played 25 minute Tweezers every couple of shows, it would signify their willingness to take the risk required to access their machine-like tightness. To speak conversationally at the subconscious level through playing. "That place". Can they do it in less than 25 minutes? Sure! But the length is telling of their comfort in the jam-space and their ability as musicians to make it work in the end.

Now, they can easily play a half hour jam where they don't connect at all, and they may walk away feeling like strangers in the musical dimension for a brief time. Or they could play a 3 minute Ghost that slides so smoothly in Makisupa Policeman that the segue washes over you like a blissful wave. The length doesn't matter entirely, but their willingness to risk-take does. Was the Ghost -> Makisupa a risk? Yes! Heck yes! And I applaud them for it - however, I am a fan who likes to hear them push the boundaries specifically in the jam segments of songs. That's why I follow them so closely. Nobody does it like them, nobody ever will. And I love every part of it.

Why don't they do it anymore (or on a consistent basis, at least)? Good question. I would love to know the answer. We all have our theories, but the band believing it to be a sign of poor musicianship is ludicrous.

I would like to add that I believe the band is at a new height of musicianship, especially so far on this tour. I love many of the jams that have been played. I can live with jams in the 12-16 minute range. But what's holding them back from deep exploration? Why do they get close and opt out to play Rift? That's the nature of my frustration: At this new height of theirs, the possibilities in the jamming realm are so infinite and GUARANTEED to be good, that I can't possibly understand why they refuse to go there. Baffling.[/quote

Let me be absolutely clear. I in no way meant to say that taking 25 mins to get to a breathtaking moment in a jam is bad musicianship. In fact, I would prefer that every single time they enter a jam it go on that long so the music has a chance to breathe before it transcends it's structure to find new patterns awash in enchantingly mystical melody. This is my FAVORITE jamming and is the ENTIRE reason I started listening to phish in high school back in the 90's.

I don't mean to get into some kind of pt style flame war here but you somehow took what I wrote and derived the literal opposite meaning from what I said. Perhaps it was muddled writing cuz I did write that when I woke up at like 6 am. My user name is Albany yem. Not happy bouncin sparkle heavy things bro phan. If you know your history then you know that for whatever reason some of the best music phish has maybe ever played happened in Albany in Yems. 1993 one of the most exploratory jams of all time. 1995. The most amazing jam they have ever played to my ears. Read Charlie dirksens review on the old shool phish.net and try not to salivate. 1999. The summary of everything that was good about this year without any of the fluff. All with amazing sizable jam segments.

No offense meant but you couldnt have misunderstood my post more. I meant that phish these days for whatever reason doesn't feel comfortable going for that. It is a tremendous source of angst for me as a fan. Yet, when a band truly feel ready to lock into that kind of thing the results won't be up to their personal standards and they will be unlikely to go for it again. It would feel forced. I just mean enjoy the ride till the build up to the comfort level of being able to do that confidently. Which we all hope to god will be sometime soon at a venue near you.
, comment by sehnert
sehnert I had fun. Isn't that what its all about?
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM The author has removed all of the text from their comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Support Phish.net & MBIRD
Phish News
Subscribe to Phish-News for exclusive info while on tour!


Phish.net

Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.

This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.

Credits | Terms Of Use | Legal

© 1990-2018  The Mockingbird Foundation, Inc. | Hosted by End Point Corporation